June Book Reviews, Part Two

I’m back again with the second half of my reviews for June. If you missed part one, you can find it here. Summer is a huge reading time for me, with pool season the perfect opportunity to float on a raft with a paperback or my Kindle (have to be extra careful it doesn’t fall in the drink). These are the books that rounded out the second half of the month for me. To read the official blurbs and learn more about each, just click the Amazon link below each review.

book cover for Primal Waters by Steve Allen shows diver in scuba gear about to be swallowed in the open mouth of a mammoth sharkMeg: Primal Waters
By Steve Alten

Book three in the Meg series launches with an intriguing premise. It has been eighteen years since Jonas Taylor last crossed paths with a colossal Carcharodon megalodon, a.k.a. “Jurassic shark.” At sixty-four, he’s the father of a soon-to-be eighteen-year-old daughter and a slightly younger son. Along with his wife, Terry, he’s juggling family and mounting bills, when he gets an offer he can’t refuse—doing commentary on a reality TV survival show called Daredevils.Taking the job means going to sea for six weeks, his daughter in tow, along with a film crew and an adrenalin-fueled cast of thrill seekers. But all is not on the level, and there is more than one Meg haunting the Pacific, presenting separate challenges for each member of the Taylor family.

Once again Alten knows how to ramp up the excitement. The book starts off with a slow burn, the reader knowing there is more behind the Daredevils offer than meets the eye.

There are also plenty of opportunities for various Megs to answer the dinner bell. The Daredevil characters—good and bad—are all well drawn, and the reality TV angle adds a great edge. I particularly loved when Jonas intentionally flubs the name of the show’s airhead host after she repeatedly goofs his. Small things like this add flavor to the book, especially given the high-octane action scenes. I do wish Jonas and Terry weren’t always fighting off unwanted sexual advances (a theme in the last two books), but those small distractions aside, this is summer popcorn reading at its best. More than one Meg invades the Pacific. Give those sharks 5 stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Suspense Action Fiction > Sea Adventures Fiction > Fantasy Adventure Fiction


Book cover for Red Eyes in the Darkness bu D.L.Finn shows a wash of black and grays with tree branchesRed Eyes in the Darkness
By D.L. Finn

This is another entry in the author’s evildwel series, which addresses the balance of good and evil across mortal and supernatural realms.  Retirees Will and Cass, along with their two dogs have a comfortable life—until murder hits close to home, and they suddenly find themselves the prime suspects.

Finn does a great job building tension with “It” watching and stalking them, their own daughters falling into the mindset of suspicion “It” has orchestrated.

This is a short story rife with tension that steadily builds as Cass, then Will, come to realize the evil which has infiltrated their lives. I didn’t expect the twist at the end. On a side note, I love how the author always includes pets in her stories, crafting yet another aspect that makes her characters feel like neighbors. 5 stars

Amazon Link
Genre: Paranormal and Urban Fantasy > Short Stories


Book cover for The Sheriff Meets His Match by Jacquie Biggar shows man huge red stiletto high heeled shoe with man in jeans and untucked shirt leaning against heel, with arms crossedThe Sheriff Meets His Match
By Jacquie Biggar

After reading Summer Lovin’, part of Biggar’s Wounded Heart series set in the fictional town of Tidal Falls, I immediately wanted to read The Sheriff Meets His Match which tells the story of Jack and Laurel, hinted about in Summer Lovin’. Laurel is a transplant from the sunshine state of Florida who takes the job of secretary to Tidal Falls hunky sheriff. Their attraction is quick and flirty, but complications arrive in the form of Laurel’s charismatic Uncle Max, and her cousin’s lowlife ex-husband.

As guaranteed in any Biggar novel there is plenty of heartwarming moments, including Laurel bounding with Jack’s teenage daughter, and the introduction of a cuddly lost kitten. Every time I read one of these novels, I am amazed by how effortlessly Biggar brings her characters to life with spot-on POV, snappy dialogue, and fleshed out descriptions. This is an author who knows how to set a stage for maximum effect. Each and every book screams “Hallmark movie.” 5 stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Holiday Romance > Short Stories


Book cover for To Hunt a Sub by Jacqui Murray shows submarine breaking water with focus on large conning towerTo Hunt a Sub
By Jacqui Murray

Wow! This book delivers a complex mix of academia, covert ops, terrorist plots, and artificial intelligence. Once started, I couldn’t stop reading. Murray populates her espionage tale with a roster of characters that include an ex-Navy SEAL–now college professor–two brilliant grad students, an eccentric mathematician, and a Middle Eastern terrorist with deep pockets to name just a few of the highly diverse cast.

Kali Delamagente has invented an AI to track the evolution of prehistoric man. But “Otto” is capable of much more. In the wrong hands, Kali’s cutting-edge technology can decimate U.S. submarines. She attracts the attention of a mysterious unseen donor who funds her research, as well the FBI. Enter Dr. Zeke Rowe, ex-SEAL and Navy Intel officer who pursued a career in academia after a failed mission left him with permanent injuries.

Working together, Delamagente and Rowe struggle to remain one step ahead of a terrorist network that has infiltrated most every aspect of Kali’s life. Friends and colleagues are not always who they seem. As the stakes grow higher, Kali’s lab is broken into, her dog vanishes, a new friend is abducted, and her son is kidnapped. The book rockets to an explosive end, but the journey there is alternately a slow burn and a roller coaster of twists and turns.

The research that obviously went into the book—from the origins of prehistoric man, to the workings of submarines, intelligence agencies, and military protocol—is mind-boggling. I’ve already purchased book two of the Delamagente/Rowe espionage thrillers and look forward to three when it is released. 5 Whopping big stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Technothrillers > Action Thrillers


And that rounds out my June reading. I hope something I’ve shared intrigues you. I’ve already got my nose buried in July books and look forward to discovering more titles. I love when I find new authors to add to my auto-buy list and discover fresh gems from authors I love. Here’s hoping your reading is every bit as inspired and satisfying!

 

June Book Reviews, Part One

Happy July! It’s a new month and that means new book reviews! I should have broken this post into a mid-June post, followed by one the latter half of the month. But I didn’t do a lot of reading the first half of June, expecting to come up short at the end—then my reading unexpectedly exploded. Throughout the month I managed to devour a host of awesome books. I’ll be sharing part two of my reviews tomorrow. In the meantime, I hope some of the titles below intrigue you.

To read the blurb and learn more about each book reviewed below, just click the Amazon Link. Here’s hoping something strikes your reading fancy.

Book cover for The Trench by Steve Alten shows a shari's dorsal fin cutting through waterThe Trench
By Steve Alten

An excellent follow-up to The Meg, this book is an equal dose of deep-sea adventure and personal drama. Jonas Taylor and Terry (from book one) are now married, but Jonas’ obsession with Angel, the pure white albino “Jurassic shark” contained in a Sea World type establishment has taken a toll on their marriage. Not to mention Jonas’ reoccurring dreams of being trapped in the Mariana Trench with Terry on the cusp of death and Angel bearing down on them like an avenging…well, Angel.

I thought I’d run out of boo-hisses for bad guys in book one, but the villains in The Trench (male and female) put a whole new spin on obnoxious. While I didn’t like Terry and Jonas being separated for the bulk of the book and found Terry’s predicament with a gazillionaire psychopath and a Russian hoodlum at times tedious—not to mention a blonde piranha after Jonas—the underlying theme of shark vs. man kept me flipping pages.

Some of the diversions—a wedding party on a tall sailing ship, and kayakers hoping to catch migrating whale pods on camera—had me biting my nails when Angel threw a dangerous wrench into their plans. As for the end—OMG!!!—the last quarter of the book had me on the edge of my seat. Did the story deliver? Big time! Talk about an explosive pay-off. A little of down time here and there, but Alten knows how to deliver adventure, especially when creating mayhem with a colossal-sized shark. 4.5 stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Sea Adventure Fiction > U.S. Horror Fiction


Book cover for Mixing It Up With Mortals by Judi Lynn shows young attractive woman in black robe with hands held openMixing It Up With Mortals
By Judi Lynn

I am addicted to this series! Take a cozy murder mystery and cast all of your characters as supernatural beings—a demon enforcer, a powerful witch, shifters, vampires, Fae, druids, even voodoo priestesses, and you’ve got the intoxicating mix that is Muddy River. The people who populate Lynn’s vividly imagined town feel like buds you could sit down and have a beer with. Each is unique, with their own special gifts. They often gather at the local tavern to rehash the day’s events or put their heads together while trying to solve the latest “big bad” to infect their town.

In this book, it’s an incubus, a particularly nasty demon who’s been sucking the life from mortals outside of Muddy River. Matters get even more interesting when it’s discovered each of the victims is a “whistle blower” of some sort, and a mortal may be involved in ordering their deaths.

Sexy demon enforcer, Raven, and his partner, the powerful witch Hester, team with Meda, another member of Hester’s coven, and the half-human shifter, Brown—who happens to be a sheriff on the mortal side of things. The plot is twisty with a number of supernatural battles and vendettas—old and recent—plus everyday problems. Meda is attracted to Brown, but he seems clueless. This is a secondary plot, but it’s delightful, offsetting the more intense moments of the story. Like the big supernatural battle at the end. And if the reader thinks Raven and Hester are going to get a break, think again. Lynn sets up the closing with yet another mystery to lead into book three. All I can say is “bring it on!” If you love urban fantasy, supernatural elements and cleverly-plotted cozies, this series is gold! 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Cozy Mystery > Werewolf and Shifter Mysteries > Witch and Wizard Mysteries


Book cover for Girls Night Out shows light shining into dark waterGirls Night Out
By Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

Natalie, Ashley, and Lauren have been friends for twenty years, but ugly fissures have taken a toll on the foundation that once glued them together. Ashley and Lauren haven’t spoken for a year after a tragedy drove a knife between them, and Natalie and Ashley are on opposite ends of a major decision. The two friends are also business partners, their once start-up company now mainstream with a buyout offer from Revlon. Natalie wants to sell, Ashley is opposed. Each has hidden personal reasons for their stance.

In an effort to repair their friendship, Ashley invites Natalie and Lauren on a vacation to Mexico—sun, beaches, margaritas, and good times. But once they arrive it becomes apparent how far apart they’ve drifted. Toss in an enigmatic stranger who takes a shine to Ashley and offers to act as a personal tour guide and the three friends find the minimal glue holding them together quickly deteriorating.

The book starts with Natalie waking up on the beach, after a night of partying, her clothing soaked, with no memory of what happened the night before. One thing is apparent, however—Ashley is missing. Told from multiple viewpoints and moving back and forth between the present and the nights leading up to Ashley’s disappearance, the reader becomes privy to how this vacation—meant to heal relationships—went very wrong.

I was hooked on the dynamics of the three women, their backstories, and their efforts (and non-efforts) involved in salvaging their friendships. The book lost me a bit when it delved into Mayan beliefs and made a major player out of Marco, the mysterious local who beguiles Ashley. This is one of those books where everyone is flawed, capable of doing despicable things. Most of the book holds up well, keeping the mystery intriguing, although the ending fizzles a bit. Could have been better, but still entertaining, and an easy read. I can see the movie in my head. 4 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre:  Psychological Fiction > Women’s Psychological Fiction


Book cover for Lizardville: the Ghosty Story by Steve Altier shows old factory with smoke pumping from smoke stacksLizardville, the Ghost Story
By Steve Altier

During a thunderstorm when the power goes out, John Malone entertains his two young sons by telling them a story from his childhood. When he was a kid of 13 or 14, John and his five friends spend a summer night camping out in the woods, fishing, and telling ghost stories.

One of those tales is an old legend about a triple murder/suicide and a woman whose restless spirit refuses to embrace the grave.

This is a great book for tweens or anyone who wants to immerse themselves in childhood memories of riding bikes, collecting soda bottles, and shooting rapids on the local creek. It brings back memories of camping out, chasing fireflies, and toasting marshmallows around a campfire. But there is also a dark side that involves a secret puzzle box, a malevolent spirit, and a friend taken by the darkness. Some of the formatting is a little rough and there are a few grammatical issues, but the story is entertaining, and the characters well developed. I loved the reference to Middleswarth chips! 3.5 stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Children’s Scary Stories > Children’s Spine-Tingling Horror


Book cover for Summer Lovin' shows three tier wedding cake, bride on top tier with groom jumping from tier, two red dice belowSummer Lovin’
By Jacquie Biggar

This is a positively enchanting story about second-chance romance. Five years ago, Rebecca Sorenson and Mitch Taylor said “I do” in Vegas after partying in a night club. They’ve been separated ever since and now Rebecca is one step shy of signing divorce papers. Does she love Mitch? Of course—if she’d only wise up and admit her feelings. Does he love her? He never stopped, but she walked out of his life.

Part of the fun of this book is watching this made-for-each-other couple go through a tug of war of feelings. But there’s far more to Summer Lovin’ than an HEA romance. Biggar layers her book with a subplot involving two young boys remanded to the custody of their alcoholic and abusive uncle. When Rebecca’s life becomes entwined with the boys, danger follows close behind.

One thing you can always count on from this author is a heartwarming story that leaves you with a warm glow long after you’ve finished the story. She knows how to tug heartstrings and create characters who feel like friends and family. Male and female characters are handled with equal ease and the writing is breezy and polished. I had to re-read several passages just for the enjoyment of the author’s clever turn of phrase. This book is part of a series but is also perfect as a stand-alone. A thoroughly entertaining read. 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Romantic Suspense > Short Stories


That’s it for today. I hope you found something to entice you. Come back tomorrow when I share the remaining books that helped round out my June reading list.You can never have too many titles on your TBR!

A Book Lover’s Tag

In a few days I leave for a nice long vacation to sunny beaches and dockside restaurants with good seafood and drinks sporting tiny umbrellas. I’m taking a few books with me that I’ve had on my read list for a while. Top of the list is The Life She Was Given followed by Everything We Lost. If I make it through those, I’ve got plenty of others in the wings. Plane flights and beaches are great for disappearing into good fiction.

Which brings me to today’s post. D. Wallace Peach ( a lovely blogger who you should follow 🙂 ) tagged all her followers with the Book Lover’s Tag, and I was so intrigued, I had to play along. Who doesn’t like discussing books and reading habits? You’re already interested, right? 😊

Consider yourself tagged should you like to play. Just answer the questions on your own blog, but while you’re here I’d love to know your all-time favorite book. Yeah, I know it’s a tough question, but Diana posed the same one and I made myself chose a single title.

Before we get to your answer, take a look at my reading habits:

Soft cuddly tabby cat lying in its owner's lap enjoying and purring while the owner is reading a bookDo you have a specific place for reading?
Not specific but I do have a favorite. I’m happy to read anywhere, but my regular way of unwinding each night is to read in bed before I fall asleep. It’s the perfect way to end each day. Bonus points if my cat, Raven, decides to snuggle.

book mark for author Mae Clair with spooky house at top, eerie inside setting at bottom Bookmark or random piece of paper?
Normally a bookmark. I had my own created for swag, so I normally grab one of those when I’ve got a paperback or hardback. I’ve always been someone who likes colorful bookmarks, so even before having my own, I always had something artsy, usually bought from a bookstore. I still have a collection. Of course, these days, a lot of my reading is done on my Kindle. When I e-read I don’t use the bookmark feature.

Do you eat or drink whilst reading?
Most of my reading is done before I go to bed, so no. If I’m reading at other times (camped out on my deck or on the living room sofa), I always have something to drink and occasionally something to munch.

Music or TV whilst reading.
Occasionally, I’ll play soft instrumental background music when I read, but other than that, any sound is a distraction that must be squashed immediately!

One book at a time or several?
Only one. It’s the way I write, too—one story at a time.

Do you prefer to read at home or elsewhere?
Most of my reading is done at home but books are so easily transported, I have no objection to reading elsewhere. I never go on an appointment (doctor, dentist, hair stylist) without taking a book along.

Read out loud or silently?
Usually silently, but sometimes when I’m caught up in a story I “whisper read” without even realizing it. I’ll also do that thing where your tongue forms the words against the roof of your mouth but your lips stay closed, Weird, I know.

Do you read ahead or skip pages?
I read page by page unless a section really drags. When that happens, I’ll skim the pages that follow until the story picks up again. Not really reading ahead, just skimming. With a great book, however, I am riveted word by word right up until the close.

Break the spine or keep it like new.
If it’s a nice fat paperback, I have no qualms about folding the cover back which usually results in a creased spine and pages that waffle upright into a fan. If it’s a hardback, I’m far more careful. I’ll remove the dust jacket to preserve it, and take care not to break the spine.

Do you write in books?
Only if the book is non-fiction. I normally read those for research (or because the subject fascinates me) and then I write all over the pages, highlight passages, draw arrows and gleefully post sticky tabs for easy reference. If it’s a work of fiction, the pages stay pristine. 😊

What books are you reading now?
I’m just finishing up Keeper of His Soul by Lauralynn Elliott, a paranormal tale with a conflicted vampire—the best kind. After that I’ll be reading the books I mentioned above, The Life She Was Given and Everything We Lost. They’re going on vacation with me.

What is your childhood favorite book?
book cover of Planet of Death by Robert Silverberg
There were two books that made a huge impression on me as a child. Planet of Death by Robert Silverberg which I read in fourth grade. The vivid cover sucked me in, and decades later, I still remember it as an adult. The book was my first experience with science-fiction and I was enthralled.

The other book is The Wicked Pigeon Ladies in the Garden by Mary Chase, also read when I was in elementary school. It opened my eyes to magic, spooky houses, Victorian ladies, and a bit of time travel. Once again, I was enraptured. Those two books, coupled with my own imagination, and encouragement from my parents, really opened the door to writing.

Book cover for THE TERROR by Dan Simmons which shows an old clipper ship without sails surrounded by ice and glaciersWhat is your all-time favorite book?
This is such a hard question and my favorite has changed over time. I have a number of favorites, but if I have to chose a single title, it’s The Terror by Dan Simmons. I’ve never read anything like it—a blend of historical fact, folklore, mystery, horror, even a bit of romance. Simmons penned a fictional account of Sir John Franklin’s doomed expedition to find the Northwest Passage and did it in manner that is haunting, lyrical, gruesome and brutal. It’s a mammoth tome topping 900 pages, but well worth the journey.

That’s it! You’re all tagged. 🙂
Remember to share your favorite book in the comments with your reason why.