Forbidden: Better Wear Your Flak Jacket by F. Stone

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October 2047. Eliza Ramsey is a paramedic, and although she has never been to the Republic of Islamic Provinces and Territories (RIPT), she is excited when she is asked to accompany a group of Americans traveling for Habitat for Humanity. At first, she doesn’t feel comfortable waiting at Samarra’s International Airport for the others to arrive and, unfortunately, as time passes she catches the attention of Security and spends a nerve-wracking time being questioned. Finally, she is informed that the rest of the team will arrive that evening.

After waiting for hours, she spots fifteen Americans. She introduces herself and they all toss their luggage into the back of a large truck and climb aboard their waiting bus. After her ordeal with Security and her long wait, she is exhausted and looks forward to a relaxing two-hour ride to their camp. She is jolted awake when the bus pulls into a gas station; time for snacks, drinks, and restroom breaks. Knowing this is a break in their expected schedule, Eliza feels uneasy and moves into the truck holding their belongings, hoping to calm her anxiety.

As the vehicles travel through Samarra, Eliza’s nervousness increases, noting they are off track. She is confused when they pull into the local police compound and soon after she hears loud voices and screaming. Deafening gunfire drowns out the screams and just when she thinks it is over, more shouting ensues and she realizes the police are in the middle of a gun fight. Racing from her hiding spot, she notes that none of the Americans have survived. It is in the midst of this chaos and fear that Eliza meets Captain Hashim Shariff, the police commander, and the one person who can ensure she survives her trip to RIPT.

This is a story of a Canadian woman and a Muslim man carefully feeling their way into a relationship in a tale ripe with action, loyalty, love, treason, and murder. I enjoyed this book immensely and it is definitely not a run of the mill romance. I remained on high alert throughout, watching for the next betrayal, murder, or finally the first kiss. The author presents a well-informed story of the morals, beliefs, and dress code of this Arabic society. It was utterly engrossing!

The grading:

  • Genre and general reading age – As I said, it’s not just a romance. This book is more suspense than anything else. The age is geared towards adults and there is a political aspect, many characters to juggle, and the need to understand how religion can engulf a people and their society, making this a more mature read.
  • Level of sexuality – Mild.
  • Is there graphic language? I think I have read too many books that have graphic language as a given, so I didn’t really notice it. However, the author warns of the violence and vulgar language, so I’m pretty sure she’s spot on. Therefore, she recommends 18+ and I agree.
  • Did I cry? No.
  • Did I laugh? No. Far too much suspense for that!
  • Is this part of a series? I have not heard of a sequel, but it does have a cliffhanger at the end, so I hope to see more.
  • Level of character development – These characters were highly developed and never let the story down.

It is with great pleasure that I give this book ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

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Fatal Destiny by David Delee

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Grace deHaviland is a bounty hunger and a very good one. Although, there seems to be a certain amount of chaos that happend to follow in her wake, which says something. This day, she is hot on the trail of Barry Keegan, an accountant for a pharmaceutical company. The CEO, CFO, and Keegan have been accused of securities fraud. When CEO Wainwright is murdered, Keegan is accused and Grace finds herself way too close for comfort.

Not everyone enjoys Grace’s acquaintance. She’s defensive, abrasive, and usually ‘all work’. Since everyone appears to be in pursuit of Keegan, Grace decides to keep as low a profile as possible, hoping info will jump into her lap. Finally, she meets Keegan’s wife, Molly, and their son, Sean. Molly is very protective of her husband and son. While Grace tries to talk Molly into encouraging Keegan to turn himself over to Grace, they are unpleasantly surprised by two thugs rushing into the yard and shooting at them. They want Keegan, but will settle for Molly and Sean. Good thing Grace is there to help them escape.

After putting them in police custody, Grace realizes that she is getting closer and closer to Keegan. When she finally catches up to him, he beats her soundly and threatens her life. He leaves Grace lying in a heap in the dust, wishing she didn’t have such a bad headache. Keegan is running from more than just Grace, and as she continues to delve into his past, she discovers that he has been a very bad man. She wonders if she can catch him and keep his family safe at the same time.

This is a fairly entertaining story. There’s plenty of action and good characters. However, I am a long time fan of Stephanie Plum books and this is far too similar for me to judge this book without wondering what bounty hunter Stephanie Plum would do. I also found that Grace could use a better sense of humor or maybe it is the author’s writing that could use some. It could be that this book is way better than I think, just because I cannot stop comparing it. I leave it up to you and encourage you to find out for yourself.

Nevertheless, here’s the grading:

  • Genre and general reading age – Action for older teens and adults.
  • Level of sexuality – Low.
  • Is there graphic language? Not much.
  • Was it sad enough to cry? No.
  • Was it funny enough to laugh? No.
  • Level of character development – None.
  • Is this part of a series? Indeed, it is. Grace deHaviland Bounty Hunter series.

Overall, I give it ⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

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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.

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Heir of Thunder by Karissa Laurel

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When Evelyn Stormbourne finds herself on the run with her deceased father’s horse master, Gideon, she discovers she has nothing to lose but her life. Her inheritance, the throne of Inselgrau is destroyed by rebels, her home is lost to a fire, and the servants she has known all her life are stripped away, as they run for their lives. All she can do is rely upon Gideon, who claims to have promised her father to protect her, if the need ever arose.

Evie comes from a long line of Stormbournes. Their incredible skill is that they can control thunder, lightning, and rain. For Evie, at seventeen, her father had just begun her training when he dies. So, she has a power that she can’t always control; when she’s angry a storm soon appears and she can direct lightning only if she concentrates. Unfortunately, there is a lot more to her power that her father had not touched upon. At the age of eighteen, Evie will come into the full extent of her power, but is ill-prepared for it.

Evie and Gideon have a wild ride across country, followed by her father’s traitorous armed guards. Gideon has warned her to never reveal who she is and at one point sends her ahead to find an inn, while he stays to fight. He arrives at the inn, obviously wounded, but prepares as quickly as he can for the last leg of their journey, which is a seaport in Braddock, where they will sail to Dreuth. Gideon has finally explained that she has family there that her father failed to mention to her.

During a storm, Evie falls overboard and is quickly lost. In time, she is pulled from the sea, sunburned and dehydrated. Her rescuers speak a language that is foreign to her, but she gets the gist when she is pushed into a cage and finds several other women in the adjoining ones. Her heart sinks, as she realizes her rescuers are actually slavers. The story only builds from there, as adventure ensues and revelations are brought to light.

I highly enjoyed this book. It is well-written and there is never a dull moment. In the beginning, I thought Evie would jump into Gideon’s arms and basically I would have a very long story to read. Not so! There is continuous action and she proves to be a very resourceful young woman. I definitely recommend this book even though it is YA. Adults will enjoy this adventure, too.

Now for the rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – Young adult, but it’s good for everybody.
  • Level of sexuality – very low.
  • Was there graphic language? None.
  • Did I cry? No.
  • Did I laugh? No.
  • Is this part of a series? It is the first book in the Stormbourne Chronicles.
  • Level of character development – Evelyn’s character matured a lot.

Overall, I give this book ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

Available here on Amazon

 

Book of Spells by Bill Lucas

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This is one book that has a lot of things going on, all the way through. Pete Marsh appears to be a normal, young man working in a bookstore for the elderly Mr. Benson, and living with his girlfriend, Kate. He is completely enamored with books and has no desire to do anything else.

One day, Mr. Benson passes away, leaving the bookstore to Pete. It is a labyrinth of hallways, stairs, rooms, and the occasional locked door. Along with the store, he inherits Gotluk, a hobgoblin. I didn’t have any idea what it was, other than a small man about four feet tall, who can throw magic hither and yon.

The store has a back door, which allows the Fae, nice people with plenty of magic, to come and go from their land of magic into Pete’s world, which has none. He and Gotluk have the occupation of protecting the door from all the bad and strange beings that could possibly enter, if it is left unprotected. Pete’s good friend, Nigel, and several of the Fae, want to see Pete be successful at protecting the door, but it’s no easy task. Soon, everyone will know that the door has changed hands and will be waiting to attack him and take control. Unfortunately, the first thing to happen is for Kate to be kidnapped by the equivalent of the Wicked Witch of the West, which leads to a whole slew of repercussions.

There is a lot of action in this book and a certain amount of suspense. The fact is, this book is chock full of stuff happening constantly. There is fighting, plotting and planning, chasing the bad guy, being chased by the bad guy, escaping the bad guy, helping the Fae, and being helped by the Fae. It was non-stop and there was never a dull moment.

I really liked the characters and found them to be fairly well-developed. The only thing the book lacked was good editing. Occasionally, a paragraph would suddenly change tense. Many, many times I found words misused, sole instead of soul, head instead of hit, advisory instead of adversary, but the strangest of all was Kate hopping back and forth between being his girlfriend to his wife. There were hardly any typos, just the odd usage of the incorrect words. Unfortunately, since I am a stickler for these things, I did a stutter-step of annoyance every time I read one of these errors.

I think anyone who enjoys fantasy and action will enjoy this story. The main characters are very nice people, so I was quite startled the first time someone stuck a sword in a nasty individual. From that point on, I knew that the characters meant business and would do whatever necessary to protect the door and save Kate. Up until that point, I thought this was going to be a sweet story with a lot of talking and that everything would be resolved nicely. Not a chance! This is all out war. Due to this, I enjoyed it a lot.

For the rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – Fantasy. Adults and teens will enjoy this story.
  • Level of sexuality – None.
  • Was there graphic language? No.
  • Did I cry? No, it’s not that type of book.
  • Is this part of a series? Not yet, but the ending feels like there is a sequel coming.
  • Level of character development – fairly high. They were well-done.
  • Did I laugh? Yes, I found it quite entertaining.

Overall, I give it ⭐️⭐️⭐️stars. Good story, poor editing.

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