Review: “Noah’s Rainy Day” By Sandra Brannan

I received a copy of this galley via NetGalley from Greenleaf Book Group. While it was provided to me at no cost, I am under no obligation to give a positive review.

When I agreed to read this, I didn’t know it was the fourth book in the series. But sometimes, it can be good to pick up a book several books into a series so you can see how polished the book is. If it’s sloppy and ugly by the fourth book, chances are you don’t want to pick up the first three.

Alright, on to the review. The main character of this series is Liv Bergen who, as of this book, is fresh out of Quantico and ready for her first assignment with faithful bloodhound Beulah by her side. And boy, does it come with a vengeance.

Little Max is flying from New York to California to spend Christmas with his mother, who is estranged from his father and certainly not on good terms with him. Max is accompanied solely by an employee of the airlines and, once the employee is distracted by an argument with his girlfriend at Denver Airport, Little Max disappears. His parents are quite the celebrities, which brings a lot of local and national media attention to the case, only adding to the pressure on the investigative team.

Agent Bergen must work along with agents Streeter Pierce and Jack Linwood, the latter her current beau. Naturally, there’s a little bit of triangle chemistry going on to provide an additional subplot.

In the midst of this storyline is my favorite character, Noah Hogarty, a twelve year-old who would love to be a spy one day. He has a terrific mind for analysis and details, enjoying when his Aunt Liv comes by to discuss cases with him. They even work small cases on their own when mysteries appear.

Noah knows what happened to Little Max and is more than willing to share that information, but he has one sizable roadblock: Noah has severe cerebral palsy. This means he is unable to communicate in an easy manner, relying on cues such as smiling for a yes answer or using the five-finger method of working through the alphabet with his sister. Consequently, Noah can only answer questions if he’s asked. But if they don’t know to ask him……..

As the story develops, the story gets too close to home for Liv, and Noah gets taken by Max’s kidnapper, placing both boys in mortal danger. Will Agent Bergen figure out the clues? Will Noah’s family pick up on the cues he’s trying to give them? Can both boys be returned safely to their respective families?

Overall, I really enjoyed the storyline, especially because of Noah, as I previously noted. As the parent of an adult with special needs, I see a lot of Noah in my older son, even though he doesn’t have CP like Noah does. Following an email exchange with the author, I now know some of the backstory which allowed her to give such detailed depth to Noah’s character, and it’s no surprise he is such a strong character.

My only beef about the book is the location of the kidnapper is just a little too convenient. Sure, it needed to be that way to move the storyline along in the direction the author wanted, but it felt a little forced. It also allowed me to figure out much of where the book was going at only 21% into the book (I read a digital edition, so I didn’t really pay attention to pages). However, none of that works as a spoiler for the story; it just weakens it somewhat.

That said, I would definitely recommend this book to others, and I have already acquired the first three books from Amazon so I can catch up on Agent Bergen’s past stories.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Review: “River Road” By Jayne Ann Krentz

I received a copy of this book via Penguin’s First To Read program, so many thanks to them for making it available. While it was provided to me at not cost to myself, I am not obligated to give a positive review.

Somehow, I have managed to not read anything by Krentz before, whether it be as Krentz or under a nom de plume such as Amanda Quick or Jayne Castle. I know she’s perceived as writing romantic suspense, but that’s not why I haven’t read anything by her before. Simply put, I just haven’t.

That said, I didn’t really know what to expect with this offering. But I always give things a fair read, otherwise, how would you discover new authors?

This story opens with our protagonist, Lucy Sheridan, being saved from a potentially bad situation at a party by Mason Fletcher, a young man who’s a few years older and who always seems to be the one to stand up for others and rescuing them. Lucy is, like many teens, not so understanding or grateful to her rescuer. Mason, after returning Lucy home, confronts Tristan, the spoiled rich brat who had hoped to take advantage of Lucy, instructing him to leave Lucy alone. Shortly after, Tristan mysteriously disappears, and his body is never found.

Fast forward to thirteen years later, when Lucy’s aunt has passed away, leaving Lucy with the inheritance. Lucy returns to Summer River to find that much has changed. What used to be a sleepy little town has now been swallowed up by the wine industry. Vineyards surround the town, and the people too have changed. And not all of them are happy to see Lucy again.

Naturally, when Lucy returns to Summer River, she reconnects with Mason again. He’s pretty much the same, wanting to do things for her, and not surprisingly, Lucy’s the same way, not wanting to be helped. Some things never change. At least at first. As the story develops, so does their romance. But of course, we pretty well knew that from the opening scene. It just seemed natural they’d find their way back around to each other, right? 🙂

As Lucy begins preparing her aunt’s house for sale, the renovations uncover something interesting that pulls folks related to her aunt and Tristan into their lives. And as I noted earlier, they aren’t too happy to see she and Mason poking around.

So the story develops and moves along, Lucy getting into hot water, Mason having to save her, or Lucy saving herself. Reluctantly, she begins to see his worth, and hey, his good looks don’t hurt his cause any.

So what really happened to Tristan? Was the car accident that killed Lucy’s aunt and friend really an accident? Who’s got the secrets to hide and why?

I really liked the way that Krentz developed this story. I’m not opposed to a little romance in my suspense, although perhaps a bit less in this case. But it’s not overbearing at all. It’s not like it’s a romance novel with suspense as a subplot. Certainly, Krentz has published enough books, and successfully so I might add, in different genres that she knows how to craft a good story.

As noted earlier, I haven’t read any of Krentz’s other novels to know if they are formulaic, but I will certainly let this story stand on its own for the time being. It was, at its core, a well-crafted romantic suspense novel with enough twists and turns to keep the reader wanting to turn the page. What more could you ask for in a book?

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Review: “Mirror Of The Nameless” By Luke Walker

Via NetGalley, DarkFuse was kind enough to provide a copy of this book for the purposes of reading and reviewing it. While it was provided to me at no cost, I am under no obligation to give a positive review. It should also be noted this review is on an advanced copy of the book, which is not scheduled for publication until later in September.

This is the story of a dystopian world, presumably in a parallel universe as there are dates and events with a correlation to actual timelines. In this world, there are three evils gods, Naz Yaah, Segoth and Gatur, who are worshiped even though they rain down unspeakable horrors on their followers. Those killed are presumed to have been offered as sacrifices, and anyone who questions their existence or otherwise doesn’t pull their own weight in society are likewise offered as “sacrifices” by a heavy-handed police force and the occasional freelancers.

The readers feel the presence of Segoth and Gatur the most. The former is a 200-foot zombie whose falling flesh further infects those it comes in contact with, and the latter is a green mist which cause all in its presence to turn homicidal to all those around them, even loved ones. Once the mist lifts, parents are often found to have killed their children, lovers have killed their significant others, and of course there is plenty of random violence against anyone who happens to be nearby.

Enter into this mess, which is primarily set in England, Dave, who is looking for his missing daughter Ashleigh, and Tom, her boyfriend of about 18 months. Both want to find her as it appears she has convinced herself, through a now-deceased author’s writings, the gods are not to be believed and are not the true gods. As such involvement would certainly lead to Ashleigh being “sacrificed”, the two men set across the country to locate her and bring her to safety before harm can come to her.

Along the way, the men both witness and commit unspeakable horrors to those around them, not to mention being on the receiving end themselves. Will they find Ashleigh in time? Is the mirror she’s looking for the salvation of mankind or something else? Is there a way to stop these evil gods?

I enjoyed this novel primarily because it had a bit of a Lovecraftian feel to it, especially with the pure evil of the gods. Even their names seem to be a nod to Mr. Lovecraft. The flow and action is almost constant, and the short chapters made this a very quick read. It does seem like there could be a bit more of a backstory, although enough is revealed at the end to give the reader a glimpse at the origin of the gods. It seems there could be more character development as the only one that really feels fleshed out (with apologies for the term due to the presence of a zombie-like god in the story) is Dave himself. Tom is in love with Ashleigh, but we really don’t learn that much about him. Ashleigh is also the focus of the men’s pursuit, but we know little of her other than her being a free-spirit who is committed to her cause. A little more depth in this area would have helped.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Review: “Finding Sheba” By H.B. Moore

I received a copy of this book via a blog tour promotion sponsored by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer for the purposes of reading it and giving it an honest review. The final book is not in publication yet, so this should be considered a review of an advance copy of the book.

Ancient history has always fascinated me, to the point that for a while as a youth I wanted to become an Egyptologist, even learning a fair amount of hieroglyphics. So when I had the opportunity to read a book alternately set in the tenth century B.C. as well as modern times, trying to uncover the past, I definitely jumped at it.

The author, having earned a major in Fashion Merchandising and a minor in Business Management at BYU, might not seem the best qualified to write such a novel. But she actually lived in the Middle East for several years. Combine that with being raised by a biblical scholar, and this story likely had quite a bit of time to germinate.

The basic premise is very simple: various factions are in a race to find the true resting place of the Queen Of Sheba, who makes an appearance in various historical texts, including the Bible, Qur’an, the writings of the Roman historian Josephus, who specialized in Jewish history, not to mention Yemeni and Ethiopian texts. Each country represented as possible burial sites for the Queen have a stake in the matter. And each country has some representative involved in the search for the truth. Add in a group of pirates interested in monetary rewards rather than national pride, and the plot thickens. Throw in a murder or two, a human sacrifice, and an assassination attempt on the Coptic pope, and it gets really interesting.

Moore drops in a couple romances to smooth out the rough edges from all the political intrigue, and they seem to flow fairly naturally, albeit predictably. They do provide a foundation for future novels involving the protagonist, Omar Zagouri, as well as some of his supporting cast.

There are a couple of continuity questions I have, especially a “Why didn’t…” question, but it’s not one that breaks down the whole story. Also, if you’re familiar with the historical Queen Of Sheba, some early details about her contemporary story are very telling about which direction the author will take the Queen. But for the average person, I presume that tell will be overlooked.

Overall, I really enjoyed the story. A true indicator for how much I like a story is if I’m willing to keep trying to read it, even when I’m dozing off and dropping my eReader on my face. Eventually the pain and re-reading gets frustrating enough that I will reluctantly continue reading the next day. 🙂

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Review: “Sorcerers Of The Nightwing: The Ravenscliff Series #1” By Geoffrey Huntington

I was provided a copy of this eBook by the marketing department at Diversion Books for the purpose of reading and reviewing it. They are re-releasing the first two books of this series at present and, this fall, will be releasing the third book in the series for the first time in English.

Devon March is the fourteen year old son of a single dad who has known from a young age that demons are indeed real. They are in his closet, they are under his bed, and on occasion, they pop out to try and disrupt his life. Devon’s father has always prepared him for the battles, telling Devon he’s stronger than any of them. This works for Devon.

Then, Devon’s father dies. Curiously, Devon’s custody is given to Amanda Muir Crandall, the mistress of Ravenscliff Manor, someone Devon never even knew he existed. The neighboring town is antagonistic toward the Muirs, given the family and manor has a long history of ghosts, trouble and unexplained behavior.

Into this mess Devon is thrown, upon which supernatural activity suddenly picks up in the area. Suddenly Devon must deal with a long-dead Muir trying to release demons upon the world, call Devon and his latent powers to the dark side, and generally serve a cold dish of revenge upon the remaining Muirs. Throw in that Devon suddenly has a budding romance with Cecily, who may or may not be related, and there are plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader interested.

Overall, I found this a very fascinating read. A true litmus test for me is when I have more than a single chapter to complete the book, and I forego sleep to do so. It’s meant to be a YA novel, and I think it’s pretty close to that. I was amused at the mix of “safe” cuss words while a few uncensored “B.S.” bombs were dropped.

My only beef with the book is that there are times throughout it when I speedbumped on a particular word or phrase. It could be the wrong word (“puss” instead of “pus”), a missing word or incomplete sentence, or some other anomaly that made me re-read a passage. It wasn’t enough to cause major problems, but considering the book was originally written in 2002, you would have hoped such errors would have been caught by now.

I will definitely be hunting down the second book in the series as well as the third, when it’s finally released in English by Diversion Books this fall.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Review: “Death Ain’t But A Word” By Zander Marks


I was sent this book by the author for the purposes of reading and reviewing it.

This book is the story of Wilkin Jones, a crackhead who doesn’t really act like a crackhead. He seems to be able to turn it down whenever he wants. He does odd jobs for extra cash. And oh yeah, he can see the dead. Chief among these is Humphrey, Wilkin’s best friend who was killed when he was seven years old. Things start to get interesting when Humphrey’s murderer shows up after 23 years, intent on destroying any evidence of Humphrey’s remains, which happen to be buried under a seedy motel. As Wilkin runs, Humphrey’s skull in tow, the story travels across several states before its paranormal conclusion.

All that said, I really like the story of Wilkin. I like the premise of the book and where Marks went with it. My biggest frustration was with writing style. Too many repetitive sentences starting with a pronoun (He, She, It, etc.) or a character’s name. I think some variety would have made it more fluid and less choppy.

I also had some issues with the portrayal of dream scenes, where dialog is all in italics, but with no differentiation between one character’s lines and another’s. None of them had quotation marks. I found myself reading and re-reading those sections for context.

The format and plot were a bit predictable, but overall I really like the story. I would definitely recommend it for people who like edgy fiction.

Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5)