Workman’s Complication by Rich Leder

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This is a super entertaining book! It is the story of Kate McCall, who basically will only admit to being a way off-Broadway actress, never mind the dog walking or being an apartment manager for a bunch of quirky people. At this moment, she is Farina LeBleu, star of Blood Song and Dance and vampire extraordinaire. Too bad her fangs make her sound as though she’s from another planet. She’s never done much acting beyond commercials that are only watched by insomniacs. Kate is informed that her father, Jimmy, has managed to be murdered by having both eyes shot out of his head. Always knowing her father was a do or die private investigator, Kate had feared this day for a long time.

When Kate attends the reading of the will, she finds her father’s interesting take on life in evidence. Jimmy leaves his blue suit to his cousin, in hopes he will one day get a job. His Volvo goes to his drunken Uncle Mike, although the keys are left with his wife. The house in the Pocono’s goes to his fishing addicted brother, Kevin. To his oldest daughter, who believes money is all there is to life, he leaves all his money, of course. To Kate, he leaves a box and an urn with what little of him there is left. Kate grabs her box and urn and heads home, wondering what she is going to do with her inheritance. The box can always go in the trash, but what does one do with an urn full of ashes?

Kate happens to be the live-in manager of a five-story walk-up brownstone, which she refers to as ‘The House of Emotional Tics.’ Her tenets consist of what you would call ‘different’ people. Edie wears evening gowns and her husband, Ray, likes to speak of the great results he gets with Viagra. Al Cutter complains of a backed up toilet and having to fill Gatorade bottles as a consequence. There’s also a Chinese assassin, who lives in the basement and does the maintenance. Unfortunately, he doesn’t deal with toilets. That is just the tip of the iceberg. There is plenty more for the reader.

This book is made to entertain and it succeeds from the very beginning to the very end. I found Kate to be a deep character with a sense of humor that doesn’t end. Even though she is shaken by the death of her father, she is constantly involved with her tenants and their strange ideas of how life should be lived. They are basically good people who are more than willing to help her find out who murdered Jimmy. I would not change a single one of them, even though she finds them to be a pain in her backside occasionally. I think Kate is right where she needs to be. People fill her life with their love and care, and she reciprocates by desiring to embellish the lives of everyone she comes in contact with.

The rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – Comedy/Suspense. Can these two be mixed? Reading age is adults, just because there is a lot of story.
  • Level of sexuality – Low.
  • Is there graphic language? Not so much that I noticed.
  • Did I cry? Certainly not.
  • Did I laugh? I certainly did.
  • Is this part of a series? Yes, the McCall & Company series.
  • Level of character development – Kate is a deep character to begin with. I don’t think she or her supporting cast need any help.

Naturally, this book has ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

Available here on Amazon

Available here on Barnes & Noble

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In Broad Daylight – A Jess Harding Novel by Seth Harwood

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This is a fascinating story. Jessica Harding is a FBI agent hot on the trail of a serial killer. Five years ago, she was in Anchorage, Alaska, chasing this same nightmare. It was her first time leading an investigation that contained crime scene after crime scene, and too few clues. After months, the scent grew cold and she was re-assigned to California. Now, the killer is back and so is Agent Harding.

This time around she has enough experience to put on a strong front for the benefit of her male colleagues, showing that she knows exactly how she will move this investigation forward. She’s sure something important was missed the first time around and she wants to backtrack as she moves forward, but not everyone thinks that’s a good plan for success. As Jess enters each scene, looking for the slightest psychological whiff of her murderer, she is disturbed to feel him so close. Some scenes raise the hair on the back of her neck, as she recognizes his games. He enjoys throwing off the hunters with meaningless words, phrases, or sentences written with the victim’s blood. He begins to list the names of his victims at the scene and soon Jess finds her own name added to the list. She decides not to report this fact and, although it gives her chills, she is determined to bring this monster down. Once again, the crime scenes start to add up.

Jess is a great character with a lot of drive for her job. It’s the most fulfilling part of her life. I appreciate that she is quietly aggressive and careful to protect her position, hopefully without offending. Also, she has the ability to make a friend when it’s not easy for her and not at the top of her list of priorities. I enjoyed the suspense and the portrayal of Jess as only human, instead of Wonder Woman. Jess is the main player, but there are others in the story that are interesting, even when they only have a small part. There is plenty here to mull over as the story moves on, and the suspense is high. There are a couple of ‘eww’ murder scenes, but the book is well worth the time and anyone who loves catching the bad guy will appreciate this one.

The rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – This is suspense for adults. I don’t know if a teenager would have the patience to wait out an investigation.
  • Level of sexuality – There is some sex. Overall, it definitely is not what drives the story.
  • Is there graphic language? The author conveys the character’s thoughts and actions with very little graphic language. Thank you.
  • Did I laugh? No.
  • Did I cry? No. I felt some sadness and anger for the victims. Their deaths were violent and meaningless.
  • Is this part of a series? Not that I can tell.
  • Level of character development – The characters were great. I didn’t at any time think someone needed adjustment to make this storyline work any smoother.

I give this book ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

Available here on Amazon

Available here in paperback at Barnes & Noble

Survive at Midnight by Kayla Krantz

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This is an amazing book to follow after the first two. Personally, I didn’t read either, but I didn’t need to. This is one book that gives you all the details you need to truly enjoy it. There was plenty of back story and the history was easy to follow. While I wish I had been able to start from the beginning, I’m still excited that I got to read this one.

Luna is probably the loneliest girl on the planet. Only a few years out of high school and pregnant with no friends. Why? Because mostly they are all dead. Murdered in numerous and vicious ways. Even the relationship with her mother, Rose, is painfully strained. She spends her days lamenting the loss of her loved ones and developing a connection with her baby. The father is her mortal enemy, so it’s not an easy thing to do, but she grows to love her baby immensely.

So much happens in this book that it is hard to discuss it without giving anything away. Suffice it to say that it’s a roller coaster of emotions and jumps from one “No way!” moment to the next. I wondered through the entire book whether what was happening was real. It seems her enemy is not exactly who she thought he was and that revelation has dire consequences. Chance, the villain from the previous books, did a marvelous job at isolating her and destroying everything of meaning in her life. He had a grand exit in the second book, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of Chance.

The story does an incredible job of taking someone who is despicable in every way and whose past behavior can only be described as pure evil, and turning them into someone human and a person to sympathize with. It is not a task accomplished right away, though. So much goes on that the reader must grow along with the character to get the real emotion behind it. At times it is very difficult to read and disturbing doesn’t quite cover it. The question is who is Luna really. Who is she becoming? Was she always destined to become an extension of Chance? Can she turn around from the path she has started down? The answers are only found at the end of the book, when your jaw is on the floor and you feel Luna’s pain and desolation.

From the very beginning I was sucked in. I couldn’t believe what I was reading and I only saw three ways out: prison, asylum, death. The author proved that I wasn’t thinking outside the box and I was relieved to discover that it had the perfect ending. The story remains consistent from start to finish and carries you through Luna’s journey as she evolves. There were several issues that caught my attention. The story is definitely not your everyday tale with realistic interactions, but the fantastic never bothers me. It was the little things, like Rose expecting her daughter to pull herself out of her grief in a matter of weeks, or an obstetrician doing house calls in the matter of fifteen minutes. If only that was true, then a pregnant woman’s experience would be much easier. It was only these moments of un-believability that interferred with the flow of the story. Keep in mind, though, that I’m a stickler and pay attention to the little things.

The grading:

  • Genre and general reading age – Paranormal for adults. Definitely not for teens.
  • Level of sexuality – None. Her pregnancy is already a done deal when the book begins.
  • Is there graphic language? Nothing that impacted me or my reading experience.
  • Did I cry? No, but I felt her sorrow and her confusion acutely.
  • Did I laugh? Absolutely not.
  • Is this part of a series? You bet. This is book three in The Rituals of the Night series. Book four is due out later this year.
  • Level of character development – Luna has a complete makeover. Throughout the course of the book she becomes an entirely different person. It is a fantastic example of how a character can start out as one person and, through internal and external forces, do a one-eighty.

This is a suprising and chilling tale. Do not approach this book lightly and prepare yourself for many shocking moments. I love Luna and the way she is torn between her old life and her new. At times it felt like Stockholm syndrome, but she ultimately chooses who she becomes. The ending is satisfying and this is a book that I would gladly read again. I was so engrossed that I cannot give it anything under ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars. Well done, Ms. Krantz.

Available here on Amazon

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.

Available here on Amazon

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