Review: All Hallows by Christopher Golden

       


Print Length: 336 pages
Publisher:  St.Martin's Press (January 24, 2023)

From Goodreads.com: It’s Halloween night, 1984, in Coventry, Massachusetts, and two families are unraveling. Up and down the street, horrifying secrets are being revealed, and all the while, mixed in with the trick-or-treaters of all ages, four children who do not belong are walking door to door, merging with the kids of Parmenter Road. Children in vintage costumes with faded, eerie makeup. They seem terrified, and beg the neighborhood kids to hide them away, to keep them safe from The Cunning Man. There’s a small clearing in the woods now that was never there before, and a blackthorn tree that doesn’t belong at all. These odd children claim that The Cunning Man is coming for them...and they want the local kids to protect them. But with families falling apart and the neighborhood splintered by bitterness, who will save the children of Parmenter Road?

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My Rating: 1 star out of 5

I have read other stories from this author and enjoyed them immensely, but (in my opinion), there were just too many problems with this one. To start, there were just too many characters and too many points of view that it was incredibly hard to keep up with who was supposed to be narrating what part. There were also some characters that stood out for all the wrong reasons (purposely acting a certain way and then being surprised when people judged them for it, or characterizing nearly every man in the book as a pervert). 

In my opinion, I would have liked to have seen more of the supernatural plot. Tell me more about these children (and really, did no one even care about them because it seem like they would show up and be seen, and people would then just go on about their day)? 

Tell me more about the urban legends surrounding the town. Do something that makes it interesting other than have more family drama than an episode of Jerry Springer. 

On the whole, I think with another round of editing (which, as I received an ARC of this book, there might have been), I think this story could still be salvaged. There just needed to be less drama and more horror for it to really live up to what it promised. 

DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not affected my review in any way. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are 100% my own.

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                                                 All Hallows is available on Amazon.com
                                         
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Review: The Prisoner’s Wife by Ali Blood

      


Print Length: 400 pages
Publisher:  Avon (February 2, 2023)

From Goodreads.com: Her first mistake was falling in love with a monster.

Her second was not running when she could…

Emma’s husband is in prison.
Emma’s husband claims he is innocent.
Emma’s husband is a liar.

And he’s not done with her yet…

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My Rating: 1 star out of 5

Based off of the premise of this book, I went into it with really high expectations. I love a well-written novel where the husband is incarcerated but still manages to wreak havoc on his wife's life, but this just wasn't it. 

To begin with, the plot moved about as fast as a snail going in reverse. I felt like I would read chapter after chapter and never really feel that the story was going anywhere or feel the tension that I think the author wanted us to feel. This was made even more upsetting by the fact that this story is told in dual timelines (the past, where Emma met her husband, up to him getting arrested, and then the present time with her dealing with the fallout of his conviction). 

I could have potentially overlooked that had all of the characters not been very flat and one-dimensional. Emma was a very "let me play the naive victim" type of character. Yes, she fell for the bad guy, but I felt like when she had options, she either did nothing at all, or made the worst possible choice ever. And then there was her husband, who, despite being every mobster trope thrown into one character, was ultimately laughable. Somehow he had access to a personal cell phone (sure, he had some officers supposedly on his payroll, but it certainly wasn't all of them), and he loved to throw his weight around and threaten her, but it was really just.... annoying. 

DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not affected my review in any way. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are 100% my own.

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                                 Her Lessons in Persuasion is available on Amazon.com
                                         
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Review: Her Lessons in Persuasion by Megan Frampton

      


Print Length: 384 pages
Publisher:  Avon (January 24, 2023)

From Goodreads.com: To Lady Wilhelmina Bettesford, the "game" of finding a husband is a competitive sport she wants no part of...until her much-younger step mama forces her to play it. So when her stepmother asks sexy barrister Bram Townsend to pretend to woo the amateur astronomer to boost Wilhelmina's popularity, it's up to Wilhelmina to navigate a fake courtship that will keep the family from forcing her into a marriage--any marriage--before she finally receives the inheritance that will allow her to live as she wants.

The trouble is every time Bram takes her in his arms she has a most difficult time remembering theirs is an act...the make-believe passion feels very real indeed.

Bram Townsend is a man on the way up: living for his books and his beliefs. Squiring Lady Wilhelmina through London's dusk-to-dawn social whirl is hardly an ordeal--she's beautiful, bright, and bold, everything he finds tempting in a woman. Their deal means he can meet the "best" people while she keeps her family at bay. The challenge is he quickly finds himself wanting her to say "yes" when she's so determined to say "no." She persuaded him to make this impetuous bargain, but how can he convince her to make it real?

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My Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

This one was exceedingly hard for me to get into, and more often than not, I found my attention wandering to other things. I don't think this is a fault in the story as the writing is solid. I enjoyed the banter between the characters (even if I felt they were better off as friends and didn't really feel any sort of romantic spark between them); I just think it was a little too slow going for my tastes. 

And while I enjoyed getting to know Bram's group of friends, I had a hard time telling them apart as they seemed to be interchangeable with one another. I get the feeling though, that we were only introduced to them because they will be getting their own stories in the future, which I might be compelled to check out if the synopsis sounds interesting to me.

All things considered, while this one wasn't a favorite for me, I do think others will enjoy it more than I did. 

DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not affected my review in any way. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are 100% my own.

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                                 Her Lessons in Persuasion is available on Amazon.com
                                         
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Review: Compel by Rachel Van Dyken & Patti Stanger

     


Print Length: 293 pages
Publisher:  Matchmaker Press (January 24, 2023)

From Goodreads.com: Compelled to seduce, designed to kill.
What do you do when your love destroys the only person you are designed to be with?

For centuries I've been trapped in a curse with my soulmate, only she has no idea… until history finally repeats itself.

The Matchmaker of the Fae felt wronged when we both chose our own destinies, and now, we're forced to relive our fate over and over again.
I try like hell to fix the curse, but I remember nothing after each death, only that I'm lonely and heartbroken.

The small town of Orca Cove, Oregon, doesn't help matters.
Filled with paranormal lore from all over the world… if anything, they're just as trapped as I am.

My only help is the large library on my estate.
If I can just find the notes I know I would have hidden, along with texts, maybe this time will be different.

The house groans with need for its mistress.
My heart breaks with sorrow that she doesn't recognize me until it's too late.
Her blood will always be on my hands, just like her heart is in mine.

The path to your soul mate isn't a fairytale—at least ours isn't.

My Fae queen thinks she's nothing more than a normal college student. She believes that the world is just as she sees it, without a clue that the darkness lurking in the shadows, the man she'll fall for once again, the man who will be her demise…
Is me.

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My Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Let me begin by talking about something that I rarely talk about. This cover. I get it, the authors don't want to give anything away, but I'm one of those people who, if I was browsing for a new book, wouldn't even have clicked on this one. Because the cover is just not interesting. There is nothing to make it stand out, whereas the synopsis of this story does. 

On the plus side, while this story was written by two different authors, it so seamlessly blended together that I was unable to point out which specific parts were written by which author. I also found their take on fated soulmates to be an interesting one (especially cursed ones as these two were). There were also some interesting secondary characters and additional lore (such as a sea witch) that made this unlike anything I've read before. 

However, even with all of that, I just couldn't stay invested in this one and that is 100% on me as I'm not a fan of paranormal romances. I just can never get a real feel for what makes the characters not-human (for example other than amber eyes and green hair the Fae I'm assuming still look human)? There were also a lot of contemporary things mentioned which I get it was done to purposely remind us that we are living in the now with characters who have been around for centuries, but I could have done without all the reminders of Twilight. 

All things considered, while this one wasn't a favorite for me, I do think others may enjoy it more than I did. If this seems like your cup of tea, then I encourage you to look over some other reviews before you decide. 

DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not affected my review in any way. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are 100% my own.

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                                                      Compel is available on Amazon.com
                                              (for free if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited)
                                         
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Freebie Friday!

 


Every other Friday, I will be sharing a (small) collection of books that I have added to my to-be-read pile. At the time of posting, all of these books will be FREE from Amazon (but I highly encourage you to double-check the price before you purchase, as we all know how quickly these things can change). 

I don't know about you, but the first thing I notice about a book is the cover; if the cover doesn't catch my eye for one reason or another, I won't even bother looking for more details. In the spirit of this - all books will be linked BY their covers; simply click on one if it catches your eye to be taken to the appropriate link on Amazon. 

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Review: What Happened on Floor 34 by Caroline Corcoran

    


Print Length: 336 pages
Publisher:  Avon (January 19, 2023)

From Goodreads.com: My name is Rose, and I work for one of the country’s biggest newspapers. I was the Day Editor. Will Frost was the Night Editor.

When I got to the office, Will had already left. When I left, Will arrived. We were two sides of the same coin.

Last week, Will disappeared from floor 34 without a trace. Now I am the Night Editor.

And I have a feeling I’m next.

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My Rating: 2 stars out of 5

This was a difficult story to get through for a couple of different reasons. To begin with, Rose was a hard character to like, never mind being able to empathize with. She never seems to stand up for herself, not to her boss, not to her fiance, not even to her so-called friends. She also drinks to the point of getting blackout drunk, claiming it's "just what journalists do." Now I get it, she has unresolved trauma and PTSD after an incident that happened after she had had too much to drink, but instead of facing it, of dealing with it, she just continues to drink and push people away. Now I'm sorry, but if something like that happened to me because I had gotten black out drunk, I would stay away from alcohol altogether. But Rose isn't me. 

I was also put off by the way the detectives were portrayed in this one. They never seem to get anywhere, instead they harass Rose at every turn even though she has told them time and again that she has nothing to tell them. She knows nothing. She has remembered nothing. I get that they have a reason to look at her, but leaving her voicemails telling her it's getting ridiculous that she hasn't returned their calls and demanding she calls them back ASAP is just over the top, especially when you consider the fact that Rose works the night shift meaning she is asleep during the day when they are trying to get in touch with her. 

Another problem I had with this story was the way the author tried (and failed in my opinion) to build suspense by leaving the reader with a bread crumb trail instead of immediately revealing what they wanted you to know.  One such example of this comes from this passage "We said his name. We nodded at each other. Yes. That was him. We had our guy."  The thing is, the author never reveals what name they said. Instead you have to keep reading in order to be told who it was. Only to have even more twists added to the story that while interesting, came too little too late to save this one (although the last one was a doozy).

All things considered, while this one wasn't a favorite for me, I do think others may enjoy it more than I did. If this seems like your cup of tea, then I encourage you to look over some other reviews before you decide. 

DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not affected my review in any way. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are 100% my own.

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                                 What Happened on Floor 34 is available on Amazon.com
                                         
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Review: An Earl to Save the Diamond by Harriet Caves

      


Print Length: 321 pages
Publisher:  Harriet Caves (November 23, 2022)

From Goodreads.com: Lady Ellen is a Diamond of the first water, sister to the Duke of Grant and she must always follow a strict list of dos and don'ts. But most important of all, she is fed up with her suffocating life.

As her brother pushes all her suitors away, Ellen ends up being the laughingstock of the Ton. Until she stumbles upon the rakish Earl of Ridlington and he has the gall to ensure that he fulfills the very first item on her list: Never kiss a rake.

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My Rating: 1 star out of 5

This was the book that just didn't end. And sadly, even with that, I felt like there was no real depth to anything that was going on, nor was there any realism for the time. 

To begin with, Gerard and Ellen are constantly doing things that would absolutely not be allowed without absolutely ruining her reputation. One thing that comes immediately to mind is when they wandered around London unchaperoned at night (including going into a pub for a drink). The author claims that the "cover of night" kept them safe and that people were free to be themselves after dark, which may be true, but it was also forbidden during that time period. They would have been spotted, recognized, and forced to marry. There is no other way around it. Also, in my opinion, even though Ellen's friend Marjorie was considering her "radical" for her thinking that men and women should be equal, she too knew how society worked. I found it unbelievable that she would just allow Gerard and Ellen to go off on their own, considering she had been the one with Ellen up until that point. 

I will say I enjoyed Andrew and Marjorie's banter a lot. Still, there was nothing to indicate the extent of their relationship, so while I enjoyed the twist involving them, I didn't find that to be particularly believable either. 

And while I enjoyed Gerard's Grandmother, The Dowager Countess of Bath, I couldn't stand Andrew and Ellen's mother, The Duchess of Grant. If anyone ever was a candidate for Bedlam, it would be that woman. I get it, she was supposed to be the villain and the impediment to the happiness of the main characters, but this woman was just too much. Nothing her children did was ever good enough for her; in fact, when Ellen finally started standing up for herself, she was not only scolded for having thoughts of her own but she was also belittled. And for reasons that were never made clear (other than her "radical thinking"), she also hated Marjorie. This woman was so bitter and stuck in her hatred that she died without making amends to her children or accepting their marriages (even though with Ellen especially, she pushed for marriage until Ellen told her who she was marrying). 

It was at this point that I thought that I was done, but no, there was still apparently chapters of diagloug, and other bullshit to be read. But a this point I had checked out. Our main characters were together and I didn't need to know anything other than that. 

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                                  An Earl to Save the Diamond is available on Amazon.com
                                              (for free if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited)
                                          
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Review: The Fire Killer (DI Barton #5) by Ross Greenwood

     


Print Length: 358 pages
Publisher:  Boldwood Books (May 30, 2022)

From Goodreads.com: When DI Barton is asked to investigate a seemingly innocuous fire that kills, he believes it's either children fooling around or a worrying racially motivated crime.

As he delves deeper into the case, he soon realises that there is a history of similar blazes spread out over many years, all within a close area. And after an idea is suggested by pathologist Mortis, Barton suspects he has the arsonist’s motives wrong.

When a night worker comes forward with a tip, Barton narrows down the suspects. Yet all of them act suspiciously and he knows for sure that one or more of them are lying. And when a huge house blaze shocks everyone, Barton fears the killer has lost all control.

Who is The Fire Killer? What will be next to burn?

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My Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

I have been a fan of this author for the entirety of this series (although, yes, I did read this novel out of order). And sure, they can absolutely be read as stand alone novels, however I think for the full experience of getting to know the team they should be read in order. 

There are a couple of reasons why I enjoy these books, and why I think they work so well for the majority of audiences. To begin with, I very much enjoy the fact that these stories are always told from dual points of view; one being DI Barton and the other being the killer. I think it helps as a reader to get that insight into what the killer is thinking and why they are doing what they are doing. The second thing is that these characters are written as authentic people without being cliche. DI Barton is a happily married man who is trying his best to balance his career with his home life (even when it doesn't often go the way he planned) . His team is each written in a way that makes them stand out as people instead of just background players. They have lives, they have goals, and some of them have past trauma that they are trying to deal with while still doing the best they can at their jobs. 

Instead of calling these thriller novels (although I can see where others might think that), I choose to call these books police procedurals. That means you are right there, "boots on the ground" with Barton and his team as they conduct interviews, meet a variety of suspicious characters, and hit dead ends. For me, these novels can be a bit slow going at times, but I feel that is the nature of real police work. It isn't always kicking in doors and arresting bad guys; it's all the little steps in between. 

What didn't work for me with this novel was the secondary storyline. I can see where in a couple of instances, it was used to move the main narrative along, but on the whole, I found the entire thing to be a bit distracting. There were a couple of twists, some of which I saw coming, others I didn't, that I feel are also worth being mentioned (also kudos to the author for putting a later scene first to build suspense, although I later found myself skipping said scene when I got to its chronological place in the story). 

That all being said, I am sad that this series will be ending, but I look forward to seeing what this author does next. 
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                                           The Fire Killer is available on Amazon.com
                                         (for free if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited)
                                          
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Review: Her Lovestruck Lord (Wicked Husbands #2) by Scarlett Scott

     


Print Length: 246 pages
Publisher:  Scarlett Scott (November 14, 2017)

From Goodreads.com: She married him for his title…

Maggie, Marchioness of Sandhurst, is trapped in a loveless marriage of convenience. Her husband refused to consummate their union, and she hasn’t seen him in over a year. But she has a plan to win back her freedom. All she needs to do is create the scandal of the century.

He married her for her fortune…
Simon, the Marquis of Sandhurst, vowed he’d never touch the wife he didn’t want. When he seeks pleasure in the arms of a masked siren at a wicked country house party, he’s shocked to discover the woman in question is actually his marchioness.

Will their marriage of convenience become a love match?
As the truth unravels, husband and wife are estranged no longer, spending their days and nights exploring the desire burning hot between them. But when Simon’s past comes back to haunt them both, their newfound happiness could be forever dashed.


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My Rating: 1 star out of 5

If you like smut with barely any plot and horribly written characters, than look no farther, this is the book for you! God, I hardly know where to begin with just how bad this one is. And a part of me hates saying something like that because I know how much work goes into writing a story, but this was just a trainwreck of epic proportions. 

Let's start by discussing the characters. In a typical historical romance trope, Simon needed the biggest dowry he could find, and Margaret (Maggie to her close friends and family who also happens to be an American) was "sold" by her father for a title. Where this book differs from others of the same trope, is that instead of trying to find some common ground, Simon leaves his new wife immediately after the wedding to go back to his mistress (who while she was the woman he loved, she was also married to another peer of the realm). Not only did he abandon his wife, but he even refused to consummate the marriage, saying that he never would because if he couldn't marry and have children with his mistress, he wanted neither. 

Fast forward A YEAR. Yes, for an entire year, this man played house with another man's wife and apparently, no one batted an eye. At least until the mistress "was summoned back home" to her husband because he wanted an heir. Heartbroken because she left him, Simon takes himself off for a weekend of debauchery at a house party known for two things. Masks and anonymous sex. Unfortunately for him, his abandoned wife has decided to attend the same house party in order to cuckold her husband which she hoped would force him into divorcing her. Unfortunately for them, after a year of being apart, not only can they not recognize each others with the masks on, but they don't remember how the other sounds either because they end up sleeping together. Random stuff happens and they end up making an agreement. For the next month they will live together as man and wife. And because the only thing they have between them is disike, hurt feelings, and apparently amazing sex, at the end of the month they will go their separate ways. 

Except two weeks into this arrangement, they begin to think they might like having sex with each other enough to stay together (to be fair we are told they start to like each other, they open up to each other, and we do get a glimpse of that potential here and there, but honestly its just more pages of them having sex at every available opportunity without actually forming a believable relationship outside of it). In fact, Simon seems to make it a point to remind her that he didn't want her as his wife. I kid you not at one point he asks her point blank "why are you being so good to the man who never wanted you?" 

But of course, just as these two decide that the sex is enough (because I've still not seen anything that makes me think their relationship goes beyond this no matter what the author tries to portray), the mistress shows up. Apparently things did not go well with her brute of a husband and she needs a place to stay. And of course, Simon allows her to stay at his home. 

To save you the trouble of reading, Elenor (the mistress) tries things with Simon in his bed-chamber, Simon kicks her out. But not before Maggie overhears "voices" in his room. She can't make out what is being said and she's too cowardly to burst in and see for herself what is happening. Instead, she lets the hurts fester. For his part, Simon gets drunk, Maggie confronts him and is too stupid to realize that her husband is now drunk on top of stupid, and believes that what she sees is his turmoil over still being in love with his mistress (which to be fair he IS, but Maggie doesn't know it as he swears to everyone including himself that he's not). Elenor then approaches Maggie and gives her the love letters that Simon has written to her over the years (although they aren't dated because why would anyone date a letter?). 

Obviously, this upsets Maggie and she does the first sensible thing of the story and leaves his sorry ass. But of course, Simon can't have that, and he not only finally, I mean firmly, ends things with Elenor once and for all, he takes off after Maggie DEMANDING (and yes it is important to note that he DEMANDED) she come home. Only once they arrive they find out that Elenor has killed herself on his estate. Which of course sends Simon into a tailspin (even though by this point he has come to supposedly realize that not only was she not the woman he thought she was, but they he had come to have feelings for his wife).  I think the worst part of this novel is when during all of this Simon tells his wife "I chose it for her. I left her. My God, if I had realized how delicate she was, I never would have gone."

If you had realized your EX would kill herself because you chose your WIFE over her, you would have let your wife leave you in order to stay with your ex? I'm sorry, this was supposed to be a romance right?"

It was at to the point he not only yells at and berates Maggie (who is only trying to comfort him despite his harsh words and her once again broken heart), that he also shoves her to the point she "trips and falls" (her words not mine). Of course this makes him realize he's a monster because he might hurt Maggie, so after he orders her to leave him (and she goes to bed), he then leaves her. 

For a month. No communication. She had no way of knowing if was was okay, much less if he was coming back to her. But then in true this author makes me worry for her mental health if she thinks this is okay, Simon barges in on the place where his wife is, gives her more half-assed apologies, claims to be in love with her, then has sex with her. So of course, even though at first she holds out against him, his superior prowess in the bedroom wins out and I'm supposed to believe they live happily ever after? And fell in love?

I need to remember to add this author to my do-not-read list. As this is the second time I've been taken in by a decently written synopsis just to have trash to read.


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                                          Her Lovestruck Lord is available on Amazon.com
                                              (for free if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited)
                                          
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