Didn’t Get Frazzled by David Z. Hirsch, M.D.

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Seth Levine has always wanted to be a medical doctor and his first year of medical school consists of equal measurement of intimidation and being overwhelmed. Wanting to be able to share the agony, his friends are mostly medical students who can relate. Sometimes they meet at each other’s homes for parties, sometimes it’s just drinking themselves almost beyond the point of recovery, and other times it might be a really strange club with people doing really strange things. Medical school means open your mind to the future and why shouldn’t that mean the same for entertainment? Spending four years of school together leads to their lives entwining to the point that they rely on each other for support, entertainment, and if someone needs a new special friend there is always a kind student waiting to introduce their rather unattractive classmate from high school. These students’ attitude seems to be ‘work hard and play harder’, sometimes with a little more joy than commonsense.

Seth has a mischievous sense of humor. For example, naming his cadaver Homer, after the Simpsons, and then feeling he has done him a disservice and claims that he’s named after the Greek poet instead. In another instance, he helps a patient get out of the hospital by telling her to simply repeat, “I want to go home,” over and over to her doctor. Guess what? It works and with enough of it, her doctor is more than willing to send her home. There’s also the first gynecological exam, which consists of examining the instructor with three other students as witness. Eww. There is plenty of amusing tales to keep readers’ minds running in circles.

Seth’s girlfriend, April, is his buffer between school and his reality outside of medicine. She’s a bit of a quirky gal, sometimes taking herself a little too seriously, forcing Seth to adjust to these moments. They’ve been together since college, and even though he knows they’re not the perfect couple, he figures they’ll probably go on forever. Gradually, it dawns on him that his friends are not hers and that she is finding companions of her own. As his life becomes consumed by medical school, he’s not surprised when April announces she has found another man, a smarmy one who will focus only on her. They decide to ride it out for a month, due to their lease. For Seth, it can’t be over soon enough, especially since he hates her new man, Dennis, enough to daydream about punching his face in until he’s just a smear on the floor. He also finds he can barely manage to be civil, when she announces a weekend away with Dennis. He already knows that life without her will be a big challenge and, of course, there is an unattractive classmate waiting in the wings.

This book is entertaining from start to finish. Even with down moments that come with life, these people go through medical school focused on success and the shenanigans that give them just the right amount of laughter, the reader too. This is the grease to our squeaky wheels of life. There are moments that I found hilarious and I read it in two days, happy to spend my time with this book. It is more than worth your time.

And now for the stars!

  • Genre and general reading age – Contemporary fiction for mature readers.
  • Level of sexuality – Miniscule. After all, they’re studying a lot of anatomy in class already.
  • Is there graphic language? Only in ‘medicine-ese’.
  • Did I cry? No, no, no!
  • Did I laugh? Long and loud!
  • Level of character development – Seth can’t help but mature. He has no other choice.
  • Is this part of a series? No.

I’m more than happy to give it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars!

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From the Mist by Alexa Dare

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The Hidden Cove Trilogy is the story of three women vacationing together. Due to fog, they pull off to the side of the road. Their first mistake is getting out of the car and deciding to take even a few steps begins a life changing adventure. This is the first book and is about Megan.

She finds herself so close to the ocean that she can hear the surf. When she calls to her friends to follow her, since she sees a light in the darkness, there is no answer, so she turns to look for the car. Suddenly, she realizes that both the car and her friends have disappeared. Megan stumbles along the shore, noticing that she is no longer wearing her boots, but is barefoot and her pants are now replaced with a wet, black slip that slaps against her legs. Hearing a dog howling, she is terrified to discover that it is tracking someone and it just might be her. Hoping to escape what sounds like a truly enormous dog, she runs right into the solid mass of a large man. One Everett Quin takes one look at her skimpy clothing and proceeds to kiss her passionately. Thus starts the steamy, lusty tale of Megan and Everett.

Everett happens to have an enemy, Captain Donovan, and they hate each other with a fiery vengeance. Although Donovan is actually hunting his runaway wife, one glance at Megan and he is suddenly ready to drop her in favor of this other beauty. He is always armed with a sword that he loves to wave about at Everett, so it’s no surprise that they clash swords every time they meet. Fortunately, they are all distracted by Donovan’s ship going down in a blazing fire. Soon, the chase is on and Donovan captures them in a lighthouse. He kidnaps Megan and leaves Everett to die without food or water.

This book is a difficult one to review. There is not a lot of meat to it. There is the instant lust, the graphic sex, and the hope of falling in love. Yes, there is a great deal of dialogue between Donovan and Everett, but Donovan’s unchanging state of hatred gets old fast. I’m not a fan of graphic sex; sometimes it takes away from the story and allows authors to get a little lazy in their writing. I understand that publishers, and readers, expect several of these scenes, but what was once alluded to has now become graphic and commonplace. Although, I think the storyline has merit, it’s rather repetitive and the so-called commitment between Megan and Everett seems to be based on lust. The author went so far afield, that there was even a sex scene in front of the ship’s crew. Wow. When she mentions they are being watched, he calmly replies that the other men are just jealous. Well, that’s a clever excuse.

Now for the rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – romance for adults. Possibly, older teens because they are going to read whatever they want anyway.
  • Level of sexuality – Well, I think that’s been rather well established.
  • Is there graphic language? Yes, although it could have been much worse.
  • Did I cry? Only over the fact that I thought the book couldn’t end fast enough. Sex, sex, sex, and more sex.
  • Did I laugh? No.
  • Level of character development – None.
  • Is this part of a series? Yes, this is one woman’s tale of the Hidden Cove Trilogy.

I believe the author put forth a lot of effort, but it fell flat for me, so I give it ⭐️⭐️ stars.

Barking Madness by Ryan Hill

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Beautiful senior Rosetta and her family have recently moved from Florida to a town called Ashwood. The high school is small, so she causes quite a stir; there aren’t enough pretty girls to compete with her. What the boys don’t realize, is that Rosetta is quite capable of seeking out handsome boys.

The first day is an exciting one, because she meets Tommy, who happens to be the star quarterback. His rippling muscles and cute face convince her that he will be her new boyfriend. Soon, they are considered a couple and she accompanies Tommy everywhere he goes. Friday nights are officially party night, with lots of drinking and hopefully drugs. The cool kids meet at Brad’s house, but across the street is Phil’s, where the other few gather. They never start drinking until Phil does and begin to fantasize about what it would be like to be a part of that group. Following suit, their little get-togethers break up the same time as Phil’s.

One night, Rose and Tommy are too drunk to drive, so they decide to walk through the woods, trying to make it home before her curfew. As they are laughing and stumbling along, Rose realizes they are being followed. Tommy is too drunk to realize anything. Suddenly, a large wolf confronts them on the path with a menacing growl. Tommy protectively shoves her behind him, and is sadly consumed by the wolf. Seeing her chance, she escapes, screaming. She never has a chance, though, and the wolf is right on her, ripping into her shoulder.

Michael, a very shy senior who has talked with Rose, even though she hardly knows him, has just left the party when he hears her screams, as he is driving past the woods. He runs to her rescue, chasing off the wolf and helps her to a neighboring house.

After the attack, Rose begins to have dreams of a masked man who threatens her and her family. She cannot begin to understand the reasoning behind them. About this time, a girl shows up in her room, who looks exactly like Rose. She comes and goes, seemingly on a whim, and Rose continually stops her from giving advice for all of Rose’s problems. At the same time, Tommy starts appearing, too. Being dead and all, he seems to be hanging around just because he likes her and has nothing better to do.

Although Rose is traumatized by Tommy’s death, it doesn’t take her long to pick out her new boyfriend, Zach, who happens to be known as a bully, only Rose doesn’t have a clue. His favorite victim is Michael, but she feels obligated to him and agrees to go to the carnival with him. In reality, she’s indifferent to him and as they enter an attraction, she loses sight of him, not caring. Michael has been cornered by Zach and his friends, who proceed to beat the stuffing out of him. Believing that Michael abandoned her, she finishes out her evening with Zach. Frighteningly, Zach meets the wolf and joins Tommy as a ghostly spectre who haunts Rose.

Gradually, Rose begins to see the good in Michael and he is constantly amazed by her beauty and kindness. As time passes, she realizes that she has a secret that she doesn’t know how to share with him or her family. More students fall prey to the wolf and join the ranks of her ghostly friends.

Now, for my take on the book. Rose is quite arrogant and I found her hard to like. In fact, I couldn’t sympathize with her at all. She is overly involved in others’ appearance in regards to whether they are worth her time. She is mean to Michael, but he forgives her because he believes he is in love with her. She sneaks out at night to get drunk, party, and do drugs. I thought that she set an awful example for others, especially her little sister. Being grounded for her behavior never stops her from going out anyway.

Michael has a severe ‘savior complex’. He just has to throw himself into harm’s way to save everyone, which happens on more than one occasion. He is crazy for Rose, but she doesn’t warrant his devotion. Of course, Michael being tongue-tied half of the time, does not earn him brownie points.

Overall, the book was repetitive, long, and definitely YA. I don’t think adults will be too interested, but I think it is well put together. There is no wandering far off topic or getting lost in large groups of characters and their activities. The ending pops up all of a sudden, isn’t terribly exciting, and then it’s over.

For the rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – paranormal for young adults.
  • Level of sexuality – low.
  • Is there graphic language? Very little.
  • Did I cry? No.
  • Did I laugh? No.
  • Is this part of a series? No.
  • Level of character development – none.

I give this book ⭐️⭐️ stars. Good effort. Some strong points. Not for me.

Available here on Amazon

Available here on Barnes & Noble

Cirque: Acts 1 & 2 by Ashleigh Giannoccaro

These books really have to be reviewed together. Both are fairly short and create a perfectly written piece of art. I read each one in one sitting, unable to put them down. A huge warning for all readers out there: this series takes dark to a new level. I’ve read dark romance and dark suspense. This is first person perspective of broken and twisted minds that make you feel emotions you may not be comfortable with. I loved every minute of it, even the ones that made my skin crawl.

From the very get-go, you know it is not going to be an easy ride. It is disturbing and I had to force my way through that brief intro, but I was desperate to know where it was going and who all the characters really were. I knew they had to tie together in some manner and I’m happy to say that it took me a while to figure it out. Most books give it away in some form early on; this book kept me guessing.

It starts with Sivan, a man with a clown in his closet. Instead of a skeleton, his secret is his desire and desperate need to be a clown. This clown in his mind is like an infection that he tries to control, to appease, but when Imogene comes along, he no longer has the upper hand. For some reason, both Sivan and the clown have an intense need to be with her and/or own her. The situation spirals out of control in ways I never saw coming and I was constantly dreading the moment his clown would be exposed. Book one deals more with this, but each one left me crying for more.

Sivan is kind and gentle. He has created a facade that he believes he wants to be, someone he thinks others want him to be. He has lived the Sivan front for so long, he’s not sure where he begins and the clown ends. The clown side of him takes creepy to a whole new level. People who are afraid of clowns might want to steer clear of this one. Aside from Stephen King’s It, I’ve never felt one way or the other, but this set has changed how I think of clowns for the rest of my life, both good and bad.

While I warmed up to Sivan immediately, Imogene had to grow on me. She has the circus in her soul and that part of her calls to Sivan’s, but she is incredibly broken, which leads to instances where I didn’t care much for her. Her backstory is so painful, that it is no surprise that she becomes who she is or why she is just as obsessed with Sivan as he is with her. When bad stuff goes down, she becomes a mix of her inner tormented child and the adult who tries so hard to survive. It wasn’t until the second book that I felt more emotion for her.

There are a few side characters who play important parts, but are not paid much attention and I often forgot they were even there. Their roles might be vital, but the lack of detail concerning them took away from the story, which was focused mainly on the couple. Imogene’s devastating past is given a lot of detail that I had to force my self through. Often, it was painful to read, but important to understand where she was coming from and why she found comfort in her box, both physically and mentally. Sivan’s own devastating upbrining is referenced, but I wish it had been given much more detail. His clown did not appear overnight; there was a definite reason for his need to become the clown. It was explained, but in my opinion, it just wasn’t quite satisfying.

Even with the weaknesses, I loved this story. It had true love, true fear, real torture, and fractured souls. It has the mixings for an incredible story, and it is. It passes quickly and the pace never slows, making you eager to find out what happens next. I was slightly disappointed by the semi-ambiguous ending, but I think of it as Inception; the real ending is left to the reader’s imagination and that is part of its strength. There was an annoyingly high amount of typos that would normally put me off entirely, but the story was so riveting that I took mental note and quickly moved on. Prepare yourself for a lot of double-checking as you progress, though.

For the rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – it’s a super dark romance and even I had trouble reading some of the scenes. It’s safe to say that only adults who are prepped for a disturbing read to take this on.
  • The level of sexuality – was very high and left me cringing on more than one occasion.
  • Was there graphic language? There was some, but it was not overwhelming. In fact, it was quite low-key considering the content.
  • Did I cry? I got choked up repeatedly over the hardships that each character had endured and continued to struggle with.
  • Is this part of a series? Acts 1 & 2 are it. They create a seamless story.
  • Did I laugh? Not at all.
  • Level of character development – Sivan and Imogene were very well-done and easy to relate to. His mother, her father, his best friend, and his sister, were all pivotal characters, but they lacked any development. They were there simply to drive the story forward.

I’m so glad I read this series. I will never forget it and will be anxiously waiting for more from this author. I cannot recommend it more for individuals who want something very dark to read. If it had developed the side characters more and spent more time discussing Sivan’s abusive childhood and how it led to his clown, it would be a solid five stars. As it stands, I gladly give them a collective  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

Act 1 Available here on Amazon    Act 1 Available here on Barnes & Noble

Act 2 Available here on Amazon

Project Killer by J.L. Beck

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I’m honestly not sure how to describe this book. I’m not even sure how I feel about it. I read it in one sitting, so that says a lot. I was hooked from the very beginning, dying to know what the outcome would be.

First off, half the story is told in flashbacks. I understand the need for them in this particular book, but they are not something that I relish. Due to the main character’s loss of memory, it was important to have memories pop up that would clarify some of the actions of the characters. The fact is, there was hardly any action, though. Girl loses the teenage love of her life to cancer, she becomes obsessed with his memory and trying to find a cure at an evil corporation, PGI, she then finds out that he is, in fact, alive! So far, not surprising, and it is followed by a whole lot of memories before a quick dash of suspense at the very, very end.

Here’s where it gets interesting: Killer, aka Maggie’s great love, formerly known as Diesel, (yes, apparently his real name is as cool as the name he earns) is part of the evil corporation who claimed to be curing his cancer. Instead, they faked his death, cured him, and turned him into an uncontrollable killer, hence the name. It’s not told how, but a bunch of these men who were tortured in the name of science, escape and hunker down in some enormous building. I was confused throughout, because they seem to be free of PGI, yet there are little bits of PGI still in their lives, such as nurses and drugs. Perhaps, I was so busy rushing through in my excitement that I missed what exactly their bunker was and how they got there, but I doubt it. The second book’s blurb alludes to many secrets and blurring of the truth, so I just accept the fact that I am confused and everything will be resolved later in another book.

The predictable moment when these teen lovers meet again would be typical and boring, except he doesn’t remember her and tries to kill her. The leader of their so-called band of violent, abused men, Gauge, decides to bring her back with them to their hideout. Since he doesn’t know that she works for PGI, I assume he was able to see that she recognized Killer, otherwise, there is no explanation as to why they would drag her along. After all, Killer leaves dead bodies in his wake everywhere he goes. What is one unconscious woman in a club?

Gauge decides that he is going to use Maggie to try to force Killer to face the memories that keep trying to break through the barrier, and to get back in touch with his emotions. Currently, Killer feels rage and want-to-rip-your-heart-out-through-your-rib-cage rage. He’s just one ball of murderous anger. Putting them together does spark memories, so it turns out to be a solid plan.

The flashbacks are a mishmash of Diesel and Maggie being brutalized by evil Roger, who coincidently takes over for his father at PGI and makes Maggie’s life hell, and Diesel continually telling her to leave him alone. He claims that Maggie only brings Roger’s wrath down on them both. There are many instances given in the book that make me choke up a bit; there wasn’t an easy moment. Even when they “made love” the first time, after she was almost raped at the prom, it was far from sweet or romantic. I came to the conclusion that I only liked Diesel for the few times he was able to protect her before dying and that I only liked Maggie for loving Diesel enough to endure his adamant, unkind rebuffs of her affections. Both were trying to protect each other, but they did a crap job. As adults, Killer is no longer Diesel and Maggie is still a doormat.

The story is quick and written with a low-level of details. Surroundings and physical characteristics are basically skipped. She’s beautiful, he’s hot, the compound (whatever you want to call it) is immense, and there are a ton of buff, deadly guys. Details would have been a welcome break from the intense emotions that bombard the reader from one page to the next. Instead, it’s one bumpy ride without reprieve. I’m not even sure how to categorize this, because it has elements of love, but they are mostly past tense and what she clings to. There is a bit of action, some of it through flashbacks, and the majority of the book is the two of them sitting together while he remembers. It’s dark, not steamy, not action-packed, creates uncomfortable sensations, and has more than a touch of “What the cuss is going on?”

For the rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – I’m not sure. Like I said, it has a touch of romance, action, violence, mystery. It’s almost in a genre of its own. This is definitely for adults only. I’m a grown woman and there were scenes that made my skin crawl, so teenagers are definitely out.
  • Level of sexuality – they think about it and there is one memory of actual sex that is not joyful at all. In fact, the scene made me grimace, but I don’t think that was the intention. There were a few references to sex that left women bleeding and begging for these monsters to stop, which increased the “eww” factor and those were done on purpose.
  • Was there graphic language? He kills almost indiscriminately and was abused horrifically. It’s a given that there’s some swearing.
  • Did I cry? My throat tightened a few times during her memories of losing him to cancer and his memories of torture. I was able to suck the tears back up into my tear ducts before they could fall, though.
  • Is this part of a series? This is book one in the Project Series.
  • Level of character development – I feel that Killer and Maggie are written fairly well. The lack of details took away from the overall sense of who they are, but the memories are enough to get a good feel for them as people. Roger is just evil, in every way possible, from teenager to adult. He’s one-sided, but it’s doubtful that he’s anything other than nefarious. Every single other character was like a ghost who appeared when needed and then vanished. I basically forgot they were even there, until the need arose.

This book has a lot of strengths. It also has some drawbacks that could have made this a really solid story. It’s dark, it’s disturbing, it’s addicting. I give it  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars. For anyone who wants a book that is a very quick, intriguing read that is a bit disturbing, this is the perfect book.

Available here on Barnes & Noble

Available here on Amazon