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

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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

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