Review: Echoes in Death

Review: Echoes in DeathEchoes in Death (In Death, #44) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #44
Published by St. Martin's Press on February 7th 2017
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 400

FINAL DECISION:  A good mystery story, this book has some nice twists.  I miss the intensity and drama of Eve’s personal life.  She’s so settled now that it is a nice respite, but there is no doubt that the earlier books in the series were more compelling.

THE STORY:  NY Police Lieutenant Eve Dallas is driving home with her billionaire husband Roarke when a naked, disoriented and abused woman runs out.  Daphne Strazza has been held hostage in her home, abused and raped.  When Eve goes to investigate, she finds that Daphne’s husband has been murdered.  As Eve and her family and friends investigate, they find that someone is targeting couples.

OPINION: I first want to explain that I have been reading this series since the beginning — over 20 years.  I early await every new installment of the series.  I will also confess that I prefer the earlier books in the series where there was more conflict in Eve’s life.  That being said, after 40 plus books, I don’t expect the characters or their situation to remain the same.  Now Eve is more balanced, more centered and more peaceful.  As a result, there is less personal drama in the recent books in this series.

Without the personal drama, the story rests far more on the actual mystery/crime being solved.  This one is pretty good on that account.  Eve is investigating a serial rapist who always involves a couple. I thought the way the story evolved and revealed itself created a sense of tension and drama.  Longtime readers will know that sex crimes take a toll on Eve because of her past and her handling of this one demonstrates how strong and open she has become.  There is definite pleasure in seeing that development while readers who haven’t followed the entire journey can enjoy the mystery.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Usually I don’t find the mysteries in these books compelling (with a few exceptions).  This time I thought the mystery was well constructed and worth trying to figure out.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ECHOES IN DEATH is the forty-fourth book in the In Death (Eve Dallas) series.  The book has a self contained mystery and there is not much continuing storyline although a new reader would have to pick up on the world and the characters without much explanation.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Ruled

Review: RuledRuled (Outlaws, #3) by Elle Kennedy
Series: Outlaws #3
Published by Berkley on November 1st 2016
Genres: Futuristic
Pages: 368

“Life was so much easier when there was nobody around you to give a damn about.”

FINAL DECISION:  I think this might be the best menage book I’ve read.  There is a relationship between all three characters and I truly felt that these three had a real relationship by the end of the book.

THE STORY:  Rylan has done everything he can think of to attract Reese, the leader of a group of outlaws.  Despite an outlaw society that has no problem with meaningless sex, Reese won’t have anything to do with Rylan.  Rylan realizes that the key to Reese might be her second in command, Sloan.  Reese won’t give into her attraction to Rylan because she wants him too much and doesn’t trust her instincts with him.  Reese knows from experience the dangers of an attractive magnetic man.  She prefers to concentrate on her people and get her sex from meaningless encounters.  Sloan has stood by Reese’s side for years.  Although he has always wanted her, he knows that any hint of sex between them would destroy their relationship.  As Rylan, Reese and Sloan work to defeat the Enforcers that threaten the lives of the Outlaws, they are also drawn into a relationship that might destroy all that already exists between them.

OPINION:  Boy, this book is hot!  And even better, this book has a great emotional connection with all three of the menage partners.  Unlike the previous menages in the Outlaws series, this is not merely an extra sexual partner.  No, indeed, these three characters have an emotional connection to one another that leads to a true relationship between all three of them.

Reese was my favorite character.  She is a strong and dominant leader but her strength comes from her caring nature.  Reese is the matriarch of her people.  Reese puts her people above her own needs, which is one reason she has refused Rylan for so long.  Part of Reese’s journey is this book is finding out that she can be a whole person with relationships without it threatening her leadership.  In reality, her being whole can enhance her leadership.

Rylan initially seems like a happy-go-lucky fellow.  But he, as is true with all the Outlaws, has a darkness in his past.  Rylan is important in the story as the catalyst who changes the relationship between Reese and Sloan.  He is funny and sexy and the most outwardly emotional of the trio.  While he starts out wanting some good times, Sloan and Reese bring some needed stability and purpose to Rylan’s life. He’s a man who has hidden his caring under his devil may care attitude.

Sloan is the quiet rock of the trio.  He has stood by Reese being her right hand man while desperately wanting her.  He knows that any hint of sex between then would destroy their relationship. Sloan is not willing to risk what he has.  He is self-sacrificing, willing to do anything to help Reese even if that means denying what he wants most.

This book does a great job of balancing all the relationships.  Most menage books I have read focus on one couple or the woman’s relationship with each of the men.   This book is a perfectly balanced triangle.  Rylan’s introduction into the group allows the relationship between Reese and Sloan to develop even as Rylan creates his own relationship with Reese and Sloan.  The emotional and sexual relationship develops between all three of these characters — there is no emphasis on one part of the trio.  I got the real sense that these three need all of them in order to work.

The hotness of this book just keeps on:  Reese with Rylan (Hot!), Reese with Sloan (Hot!), Rylan with Sloan (even hotter!), Reese and Rylan and Sloan (blistering hot!).  What I liked best was that all the hot sex was really grounded in the emotions that developed between these characters.  All three of these characters have experienced pain and loss but in their relationship, they find happiness and completeness.

I loved this book and can’t wait for more Outlaws books.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This is a true menage relationship with both an emotional and sexual relationship between all three of the participants.  This book has MFM, MM and MF.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  RULED is the third book in the Outlaws series.  The book can be read as a standalone but there is an overarching story that is richer if you have read the other books in the series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book in order to provide a review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.


Review: Apprentice in Death

Review: Apprentice in DeathApprentice in Death by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #43
Published by Berkley on September 6th 2016
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 375

“It would be the first kill.”

FINAL DECISION:  Eve Dallas and her band of friends and investigators take on a sniper killing in New York.  This book fits the pattern of the most recent books which focuses more on a crime.  Eve is more balanced and well adjusted and as such there is not much drama there.  An interesting story although there is not much drama in the whodunnit rather it is a “how do we capture the killer” book.

THE STORY: In January 2061, four people are shot at an ice rink in Central Park.  Police Lieutenant Eve Dallas is called to the scene.  She quickly realizes that the murders were committed by a sniper and fears that this is just the beginning.  With the help of her fellow officers and her billionaire husband Roarke, Eve must find the motive and the murderer and stop any further killings.

OPINION:  This is a fast paced mystery story.  The action in the book takes place over only a few days and as a result, the book constantly feels in motion.  I prefer the slower paced, whodunnit type stories, but this one is a quick paced suspense story.

On the positive side, I like the reappearance and reliance upon relationships.  Eve has changed tremendously over this series and this book shows how her development actually aids her ability to do her job.  She is clearly a more effective detective and a more well balanced person now.  While the angst has been reduced, the humor has been retained.

This book allows us to return to the wacky and brilliant way that Eve’s mind works as she solves the crime.  I especially enjoy how Eve is able to place herself in the varying positions of criminal and victim.  She understands and that is her talent.  What has changed in these books is that Eve is able to have a space for her own life.

I don’t want to give anything away, but the mastermind of this case is frightening to consider.  The story is creepy in its own way and fascinating.

If you like the In Death books, this one follows much of the pattern of the recent books and so if you liked them, you should like this one as well.  For a new reader, I still recommend that you start with the first book in the series NAKED IN DEATH which is simply fabulous.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Bella’s first birthday party and redecorating.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  APPRENTICE IN DEATH is the forty-third book in the In Death series.  While the mystery in the book is a complete standalone, there are relationships and overarching stories for the series.  While these do not prevent a new reader from starting here, new readers must recognize that there is a history behind this book.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Illuminae

Review: IlluminaeIlluminae (The Illuminae Files, #1) by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 20th 2015
Genres: Futuristic, Young Adult
Pages: 599

Observations on a Unique Young Adult Futuristic/Sci-Fi/Romance Book


I don’t read many physical books anymore preferring the convenience and instant gratification associated with ebooks (plus I don’t have to find a way to store all those books).  ILLUMINAE cries out to be read in its physical form, however.

Consisting of texts and emails, official reports, observations and recorded dialogue, ILLUMINAE tells the story of Kady Grant, a teenager who lives on tiny planet in the year 2575.  On the day where the worst thing that should be happening is that Kady breaks up with her boyfriend of a year Ezra Mason, her planet is savagely attacked.  Kady and Ezra end up fleeing the planet with other refugees and end up a part of small group of space craft fleeing for their lives.  Tracing the story of what happened and what is happening and the complicated relationship between Kady and Ezra.

The odd format where the story is not told in a linear fashion will not be every reader’s cup of tea. The disjointed nature of the narrative demands that readers engage intellectually with the material rather than just sliding into the story’s narrative.  As is true when relying only on written documents, there remains much that is hidden from the reader as the narrative is constrained by documents themselves which allows much to be hidden from readers.  That literary device works beautifully allowing the story to build to an exciting and surprising conclusion. This is not a book to read the ending of too soon because the puzzle of the book is part of its appeal.

The first half of ILLUMINAE is an intellectual struggle — not because the book is poorly written (it is not) but because this book demands active reading and puzzling from its reader.  Once a base of knowledge is achieved, however, the pages of the book begin to quickly slide by.  I am a big fan of disjointed narrative books.  Whether it be Faulkner or Morrison or the postcards and letters of the Griffin & Sabine books by Nick Bantock, I enjoy the intellectual and then emotional connection that these books bring.  That being said, these books are not for everyone.  If you enjoy reading primary documents, historical letters or just want a mental challenge, give this book a chance.

What especially appealed to me was that while I began this book as an observer, the format eventually became one where the characters felt more real, less filtered.  When the characters face pain and desperation, I felt it keenly.  What began as an intellectual challenge became a deeply emotional connection with the characters.  Even the romance worked for me although it is non-traditional.

Why, you might ask, don’t I speak more about the plot?  I feel that the more a reader knows about the story going in, the less enjoyable this book will be.  The book’s format and how the narrative unwinds is an essential part of building the emotional conclusion to this book.

When I finished this book, I immediately began flipping back through the pages discovering what I had missed in the narrative. The secrets that are revealed are so neatly woven into the documents provided that this book almost feels like a good murder mystery. Only on reflection and review do the clues become obvious.

ILLUMINAE is the first of a trilogy of books which tell three different stories about the same event.  The next book will focus on other characters.


Review: Illusion Town

Review: Illusion TownIllusion Town (Ghost Hunters, #13) by Jayne Castle
Series: Harmony #13
Published by Jove on July 26th 2016
Genres: Futuristic
Pages: 340

FINAL DECISION: Enjoyable read, but not the best of this series.  The characters were more engaged in the storyline than any personal relationship and I prefer my books the other way around.

THE STORY: Hannah West wakes up lllusion Town married to her client Elias Coppersmith but neither of them can remember what prompted them to marry.  But they do remember that someone was after them.  The two end up retracing their steps to discover who was trying to capture them and what is threatening them.  On the planet Harmony, these two high talents need to solve the mystery and also manage to discover whether their marriage of convenience might be something more.

OPINION:  I have been a Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle/Amanda Quick/etc, etc. fan for many years and have read everything she has published.  For me, while this book was a good read, there was nothing about the book that would compel me to read it again.

I’ve loved these paranormal stories since she was writing the Arcane series that crossed her various pen names.  The Harmony series has been fun and sexy and have some of my favorite books.  While this book has many of the elements that I have enjoyed in this series, I didn’t think this book is one of the better ones in the series.

I prefer my books to be about the characters rather than the mystery or the story. While I want a good story to propel the characters arc, I prefer to know about the characters emotions, feelings and thoughts.  When the story is the focus, the characters often feel interchangeable, unimportant and I can’t get engaged in their romance because the characters remain cyphers.  Unfortunately that is the case here.  While I enjoyed the book as a whole, I never felt any connection with the characters and thus their story just didn’t matter as much to me as I want.

There wasn’t any serious conflict between the characters or even within the characters.  All the conflict was external with the situation and thus the characters remained generic and their romance was rather banal.  The biggest plot twist — waking up married was quickly defused as a plot point as the two almost immediately determined what had happened and moved on.  I was disappointed that there was not more to that part of the story.

That being said, the book was well written and I enjoyed the overall story.  I just want more romance in my romance books.

WORTH MENTIONING:  There is a nice reunion of dust bunnies and humans towards the end of the book.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ILLUSION TOWN is the thirteenth book in the Harmony series.  It can be read as a standalone with the caveat that the book does assume some knowledge of the Harmony world.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 stars.


Review: Addicted

Review: AddictedAddicted (Outlaws #2) by Elle Kennedy
Series: Outlaws #2
Published by Signet on June 28th 2016
Genres: Futuristic
Pages: 368

“I go where you go.”

FINAL DECISION:  Friends to lovers story that is emotionally complicated, sexy and a great second book in the Outlaws series.

THE STORY:  In the post-world outlaw world, Lennox and Jamie have known one another almost all their lives.  They are the closet of friends — almost family. After the events of the first book in the series, CLAIMED, the two have moved into the Outlaws compound.  Jamie has a crush on one of the Outlaws, but Lennox knows that she will always return to him.  Jamie loves her hot friend, but what she is not willing to do, however is risk giving into the strong sexual attraction between them because their friendship is more important than sex.  When Jamie realizes that her crush is futile, she turns to her best friend and things seriously heat up between them.  The two have to discover whether it is possible to be the best of friends and the best of lovers.

OPINION:  If a hot sexy, erotic romance can depict a hard violent life and yet have a sweet romance at its core, this book it is.  Lennox and Jamie have a long relationship that they have kept as friends, but sexual attraction has been an underlying factor for a long time. The two have a deep relationship and understanding of one another.  Once they begin their sexual relationship, they discover that no matter their hopes, things are different and they must learn to navigate their new feelings and desires.  I thought the shifting relationship between Lennox and Jamie was particularly complex and subtle.  These two love one another but learn to be in love with one another.

I was impressed with how Lennox and Jamie dealt with their sexual history with others (you have to accept that these two had sex with other people while in the same room) with such equanimity.  I also loved how these two highly sexed people come to realize that they are so possessive of one another that they don’t want other people involved in their sex life at all.

This book begins to flesh out more the overarching story of the series. I have a great fondness for storylines which span a series.  I believe this gives the books more depth and reward readers, like me, who like to commit to reading multiple books.  This book doesn’t pick up that story right where CLAIMED left it (and if you haven’t read claimed, you can figure out all the pertinent points in ADDICTED).  Instead, ADDICTED gives a new viewpoint and a new set of problems that I expect with intersect at some point with the events in the first book.

Finally, this book managed to surprise me. I didn’t expect the death of a character.  I like it when writers can do the unexpected.  I ended up liking this book better than the first one because the romance and conflict felt much more cohesive.  I may even end up liking the first book better because the world these characters inhabit is becoming more familiar. I can’t wait until the next book (the romantic conflict begins here).

WORTH MENTIONING: The book depicts both the hero and heroine having sex with other people before they get together and a couple of MMF scenes including the hero and heroine together.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ADDICTED is the second book in the Outlaws series. While a reader of the first book will be ahead in knowing about this world, ADDICTED can be read as a standalone since all the relevant information is given here.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book at the RT Convention from the publisher in order to write a review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

We are also having a giveaway for a copy of CLAIMED, the first book in the Outlaws series.  Enter here by 6/30. Claimed Giveaway


Giveaway: Claimed by Elle Kennedy

by Elle Kennedy
Genres: Futuristic

In anticipation of ADDICTED the second book in the Outlaws series which will be released on Tuesday, June 28th, we are giving away a paperback copy of the first book in the series.  If you haven’t tried the series, check out our recent review of Claimed.

Claimed (Outlaws, #1) by

US only apologies to international friends.

Use Raffllecopter to enter the giveaway leave a comment below as to what one book you would want to have if the world fell apart and following us on Twitter by 11:59 pm PST July 1, 2016. Good luck!

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Review: Claimed

Review: ClaimedClaimed (Outlaws, #1) by Elle Kennedy
Series: Outlaws #1
Published by Signet on October 6th 2015
Genres: Futuristic
Pages: 368

“Didn’t anyone ever tell you that you can’t always get what you want?  I think someone even wrote a song about it once.”

“I don’t care.  I still want to come with you.

“Sorry, sweetheart, but this is a boys-only club.”

Her agitated expression gave way to indignation.  “Wow.  So you’re rude and sexist.”

FINAL DECISION:  A mixed bag that started out slowly but won me over by the end with its intriguing characters.  By the end of the book, I liked this book enough to want to continue to read the series.

THE STORY: In a dystopian future, the world consists of an authoritative government which tightly rules cities and outlaws which exist without rules and without resources hunted by the enforcers of the government.  Hudson Lane, a privileged woman from a city, runs when an unwanted marriage is going to be forced upon her.  In the outlaw world, she finds Connor Mackenzie who leads a small band of men.  Hudson begs Connor to give her refuge.  Despite his reservations, Connor agrees to show Hudson the ways of the Outlaw world which is violent and intensely sexual.  Hudson, however, has secrets which will cause Connor to distrust her.

OPINION: This book was mixed bag.  Sometimes a first book of a new series that involves world building can feel uneven as too many things have to be accomplished in the first book.  That is true here.  For me, the book started out slowly as the numerous characters from the series are introduced and the highly sexual, violent world is introduced with its particular rules.  During these pages, I found it difficult to get connected with the characters — especially Connor.  In a way, the beginning mirrored some of the worst of erotica, with sexual encounters more about titillating with body parts and multiple partners rather than any emotional connection.  By the end of the book, I decided that some of the emotional disconnect is purposeful as it reflects the emotionless sexual encounters that are common in the outlaw world.

Once Connor and Hudson began to emotionally connect, the book got much better for me.  I genuinely began to care about the characters and their journey.  The pace of the story also began to pick up at that point as the drama of Hudson’s secret became more relevant.

Women and men in the Outlaw world are fiercely independent and both have sexual autonomy without moralistic constraints or restrictions.  Just about everything goes in the Outlaw world.

I also liked that this first book leaves some questions about what is going on with the enforcers and what the future holds in this world.  I especially like that the series seems to be created with an overarching storyline.  I prefer my series to truly be connected rather than just having completely separate storylines.

By the time this book ended, I wanted to read more about Connor’s men and this world.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a lot of sex combinations in this one.  MMF with depictions of MFF.  The hero and heroine have sex with other people during the book both with and without the other present.

CONNECTED BOOKS: CLAIMED is the first book in the Outlaws series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received a free copy of this book from the publisher at the RT Convention. I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.


Review: Brotherhood in Death

Review: Brotherhood in DeathBrotherhood in Death (In Death, #42) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #42
Published by Berkley on February 2nd 2016
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 388

Dennis Mira is Adorable

“Time doesn’t heal, whatever they say. It’s how we use the time that can heal.”

FINAL DECISION; Perfectly adequate, this book is best in its character moments. Eve and Dennis Mira’s relationship develops here. Also, Eve and Roarke continue to deepen their relationship. The mystery had too many players to interest me as much as the personal stories.

THE STORY: Dennis Mira goes to confront his cousin over the house they inherited together when Dennis gets hit over the head but not before he sees his cousin tied up. When he awakens, his cousin is gone. He calls for Eve to help investigate. Eve has always had a soft spot for Dennis Mira and she is determined to find out what happened. This leads her to look into the expensive real estate that the cousins were bickering about but then something else happens that turns Eve’s investigation in a new direction.

OPINION: This book revisits a little of the angst of Eve’s personal journey. I appreciate that while she has largely resolved her personal issues regarding her past, she still has moments where the past wells up in her. This book is largely about the past and how a person can choose to heal and move on or dwell endlessly in the past and thus be subsumed by it. For me, the books in this series work best where there is overlap between Eve’s personal journey and the crime she is investigating. I read these book because of the characters — not because of the mysteries. This book allows both Eve and the reader to see how far Eve and traveled and what can happen when one does not allow time to heal.

WORTH MENTIONING: As a sign of how Eve has changed, she is now wearing a silly knit hat because it was given to her as a gift.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BROTHERHOOD IN DEATH is the 42nd book in the In Death series. It can be read as a standalone although there are long running characters developments that transcend the one book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Down the Rabbit Hole

Review: Down the Rabbit HoleDown the Rabbit Hole (In Death, #41.5) by J.D. Robb, Mary Blayney, Elaine Fox, Mary Kay McComas, R.C. Ryan
Published by Jove on September 29th 2015
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 432

Weird and Fun Collection of Five Novellas

This collection is of five novellas that have as a starting point Alice in Wonderland. The stories are not retellings of Alice in Wonderland but rather have some thematic connection to that novel.

WONDERMENT IN DEATH by J.D. Robb — In number 41.5 in the In Death series, Lieutenant Eve Dallas is investigating a murder suicide. She takes the case because the victims are close to her friends Dr. Louise and Charles. Once Eve begins to investigate things become strange. Although the case should easily be explained away, something bothers Eve. Her investigation leads her to the Mad Hatter and a man who believes death is his domain. I didn’t think this novellas was as strong as other novellas in the series. The mystery is given away from the beginning and there is little intriguing interaction with Eve’s supporting cast to sustain the story. I prefer stories focusing on Eve and Rourke, but this one is mostly case investigation. Rating: 4 stars.

ALICE AND THE EARL IN WONDERLAND by Mary Blayney — This is a companion novella about time travel. This is the story of the Earl Weston and his love Alice Kemp who are transported from the 1800s to present day. Alice has refused to marry Weston because her parents are divorced and thus she will causes scandal. Weston is determined to take this opportunity to convince Alice to marry him. This story wan’t that interesting to me. The whole story is about the two finding out that in modern times things are different about women’s roles and divorce. I didn’t feel any connection between the characters and found the whole story pretty dull. Rating: 1.5 stars.

ILOVE by Elaine Fox — Jeremy Abott and Mary Serafini breakup because Mary thinks Jeremy pays more attention to his cellphone than her. Jeremy gets sucked into an alternate world where he is trapped within the Wonderland of his cellphone. He needs to have a true relationship in order to escape. Can he convince Mary to give him another chance? This is a strange little story. It has in interesting premise but it reads more like a complaint about cellphone addiction than a romance. Rating: 2 stars.

A TRUE HEART by Mary Kay McComas — Elisa is a woman who is guarding herself from fears of being hurt and disappointed. She has just broken up with Max who she liked but was unwilling to risk herself. When she steps into a costume shop, she falls into a world where with the help of a costume guide she uncovers what is actually in her heart. I really liked this story. Really a story of self-discovery, with a touch of a Christmas Carol, this novella tells the story of a romance from a different perspective. Rating: 4 stars.

FALLEN by R.C. Ryan — Beth Campbell, a lawyer, is sent by her aunt’s firm to negotiate the sale of a piece of ancestral property from Colin Gordon in Scotland. On the way there, Beth hits her head and falls into a whole and awakens in the past amongst the Highland clans. In a magical world where people transform and dangerous plots emerge, Beth learns about what is important to her heart. This was my favorite of the anthology. It is romantic and clever with a lot of story and romantic connection in the short novella. The story ultimately resolved differently than I expected and I like when a story can surprise me. The story has a dreamy fairy tale quality to it. It also manages to be sad and then resolve so perfectly that I walked away from the story with a smile. Rating: 4.25