Sandman

– by Tammy Bird

 

One word. Sandman. On the book cover. The text almost translucent, as if trying to hide in plain sight with its colour melding into the sandy beach with an ominous-looking sky looming above the troubled waters.

What is Sandman?

When I first heard about Tammy Bird‘s debut novel, “Sandman,” I was immediately curious. First, the cryptic title, which set my mind whirling trying to ascertain its meaning or symbolism. The aesthetically unsettling cover closed the deal for me. SOLD.

Then, the fact that the revealed plot from the blurb was twofold – a search-and-rescue effort post-hurricane and what was lurking in the sand dunes. I thought that was a fascinating approach to writing in the crime thriller genre in lesfic. Needless to say, I utterly enjoyed the story as a whole. I was glad to discover that there were more than met the eye, beyond the twofold-plotline blurb! Truth be told, I actually didn’t read the blurb before I read the book because I was so intrigued by the title that I wanted to find out for myself including what the case would entail. I must say, I was surprised when I went back to read the blurb afterwards when I saw the revelation of the title’s meaning! I wish the blurb didn’t mention that, though. Oh well, it didn’t affect me because, thank goodness, I didn’t read the blurb before delving into a book this time!

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Blood Of The Pack (Wolfgang County Book 3)

– Jenny Frame

 

I was looking forward to reading the third installment of Jenny Frame‘s Wolfgang County urban fantasy series, “Blood of the Pack,” so obviously when it dropped on my lap, I devoured it at no time at all! As expected, I absolutely loved everything about it, most of all, when the story took it to the majestic highlands of Scotland!!! Frame had revealed about the Scotland angle where we’d be introduced to another pack, Wulver, cousins of the Wolfgang Pack, who would play an important role in the series, and she delivered and then some! YES!!!

As mentioned, “Blood of the Pack” is the third book of the series, continuing the story of the Wolfgang pack of werewolves led by Dante, the pack’s Alpha and her mate, Eve, the Mater. Before I proceed with this story, I strongly recommend reading the series chronologically because there’s a serialised story arc that acts as a backdrop of every installment. Although, if you’re not particular about following the overall arc, then the books can be read as a standalone since every installment features a new romance between two new MCs within the Wolfgang County universe. In any case, as usual, the MCs from the previous installments made appearances in this installment, with Dante, Wolfgang’s Alpha, essentially being this story’s lead secondary character, as she should since she’s the leader of the pack after all. If you’ve read the previous books, you’ll also recognise their respective MCs – Caden and Lena, Kyra and Ripp, plus Eve, Dante’s mate, the pack’s Mater amongst a few others, as they were all part of the Wolfgang Pack linked to the overall story arc which served as a backdrop of this 3rd installment.

This book began with an intro of a new character, Kenrick (Rick), a Wulver wolf from Scotland, paying a visit to her cousin, Dante. The Wolfgangs and the Wulvers were cousins and their families had been each other’s close family and ally since the beginning. Meanwhile, Dante and her Wolfgang pack were still reeling over what happened at the end of Book 2 where Dante’s arch enemy, Leroux, the Lupa pack’s Alpha, led her pack of Lupa wolves to a full-on attack on the Wolfgang pack with deadly consequences. So whilst Dante and her Wolfgang pack regrouped and getting ready for any eventuality when it came to Leroux and her Lupa gang, Frame introduced the reader to Zaria, a Lupa who’d been running and hiding from her pack since she was 16.

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Return To Doll Island ( Book 2 – Sequel To The Curse Of Doll Island)

– by Ocean

 

Honestly, with THIS cover, could there BE any doubt that this one was gonna leave me panting to catch my breath after?! And that blasted doll!!! Christ, Ms. Ocean!! Now you’ve done it!! Aaargh!!

This sequel…. *ok, honestly, if you haven’t reading Book 1 “The Curse of Doll Island,” do it now before reading this or you’ll be sorely disappointed you’ve missed the crackin’ genesis of all “Return to Doll Island” is offering, not to mention, those bloody dolls!*

…. err, where was I?

Oh, this sequel, right. This one LITERALLY started right after the end of Book 1. So no time for breaks for our MCs, Rosie and Devin! Ocean has definitely hit the nail again with “Return to Doll Island,” a non-stop, heart-pounding, pulse-racing, fast-paced, mad-dash action-adventure that would suck you into the vortex of FUN, THRILLS, and WHIRLWINDS of twists and turns that went from 0 to 60 right from the first page, not to mention BUCKETS of laughter, as Rosie and Devin raced against time to redeem what they “accidentally” LOST by the end of Book 1! Oh yeah, I’m still catching my breath in my mind as I type this! What a wild and absolutely bonkers ride, indeed! And I LOVED every moment of it!!

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Deadeye (Luce Hansen Thriller Book 3)

– by Meredith Doench

 

After having read Books 1 and 2 of Meredith Doench‘s utterly engaging “Luce Hansen Thriller” crime series, which I thoroughly enjoyed, obviously I HAD to read its 3rd installment, “Deadeye!” Speaking of Doench, it was thanks to Jeannie Levig who first recommended her series to me when we talked about dark lesfic crime thrillers. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have known and would’ve missed an opportunity to explore Doench’s brilliant crime writing style and plot weaving in lesfic! For me, her style is reminiscent of James Patterson and Thomas Harris’, which is my cuppa tea. Needless to say, Doench’s 3rd installment continued to showcase her crime/thriller writing skills in crafting yet another intriguing case, not to mention, her insights into the ongoing development of Hansen’s emotional and psychological journey as she continued her efforts to juggle her work with her personal life better this time. One swift read later, yup, this one’s my favourite installment of the series, yet.

Obviously, I have to comment on the captivating book cover! Feast thy eyes: A scope target. Fixed on a Celtic cross. Red all over. Interpretation: Danger. Insidious. Deadly. Sniper. That’s the story. Right there. Staring at me. Who wouldn’t be curious? Well, I was! And as I explored the story, I was immediately struck by its symbolism. Well done!

Because Doench also included Hansen’s private life which she first developed in “Crossed” (Book 1), continued growing in “Forsaken Trust” (Book 2), including her romantic relationships/entanglements, there was no reason she wouldn’t further advance Hansen’s relationship with her current partner, Bennett (first introduced in “Forsaken” not merely as Hansen’s love interest but played a major role in investigating and solving the featured case), in this installment. So, even though, like other crime serials, the Luce Hansen series is a procedural, meaning each installment can be read as a stand-alone, I’d personally advise readers who haven’t read the previous two books, to do so, IF you’re also interested in the chronological development of Hansen’s private life besides the case-of-the-week plot.

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Burn It Down

– by K. Aten

Well! As if K. Aten hadn’t had enough genres to play with for her infinitely inquisitive mind that houses her incredible writing and storytelling talent, now she’s done it with yet another genre – “Contemporary Fiction!” And, dare I say, she’s hit the nail on this one, too, with her latest deeply emotional, intensely personal endeavour in “Burn It Down.” Well done!

When Aten promised tears to be had when reading this book, I told myself that it ain’t gonna happen with me. No tears! No way! Yeh, my rebellious nature always rears its head, sometimes at my own peril! Nonetheless, I was determined to fight it! Until I was immersed in the depths of the protagonist’s journey of agonising pain, suffering but ultimately healing in this book… Bloody hell! As I found myself unexpectedly choking up, literally fighting back tears (ffs!)  in not one but two gut-punching, heart-wrenching moments, I was literally dumbstruck by the sheer power of Aten’s words and expressive narrative. Awestruck. It was then that I raised my white flag fervently to the creator of these soul-stirring words in welcoming defeat. Ms. Aten, you won. Respect. I devoured the book in no time at all. By the end of the ride, I was emotionally drained, physically knackered, but filled with an encompassing sense of cathartic euphoria, exhilaration, and pure joy….. for Ash, who came to life as well as every other character that Aten vividly described and authentically portrayed. I felt like I knew all of them by the end of the roller-coaster ride, from the depths of darkness to the jubilation of light, literally wishing them well like I would if they were standing in front of me IRL.

I have so much to say. So, so much… My mind is still reeling even as I write this with the steady, hypnotic sound reverberating in my stream of consciousness…

ching-clp ching-clp ching-clp…

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Secrets Of The Last Castle

– A. Rose Mathieu

 

After having SO much fun with “Sins Of Our Fathers,” obviously I HAD to continue the A. Rose Mathieu way with her sophomore effort and sequel to “Sins,” “Secrets Of The Last Castle” immediately or I wouldn’t be able to go on with other titles! First off, sequels, in general, are hard to write mainly because of all the pressure of trying to top the success and quality of their originals, aren’t they? Hence it’s not commonplace for sequels to fair better than their predecessors because most often than not, creators tend to go overboard (with few exceptions, obvs!). But Mathieu not only succeeded in nailing another top-notch sophomore story but also succeeded in crafting a sequel with flying colours! Perhaps even surpassing the overall quality of the writing and storytelling of the first one, imho! In fact, for me, “Secrets Of The Last Castle,” was just superbly remarkable and extraordinary!

You know how sequels tend to be bigger and more elaborate than the first, right? Like Randy Meeks said in “Scream 2,”: “There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to create a successful sequel. Number one: the body count is always bigger. Number two: the death scenes are always much more elaborate — more blood, more gore. Carnage candy.” Mathieu did it. With remarkable effect. The plot was bigger, more sinister and infinitely more dangerous, Elizabeth and Grace’s relationship was more expanded, deeper, their roles in the plot more intricately entwined, stakes couldn’t be higher.

I was beyond ecstatic that I had the opportunity to take that fabulously thrilling ride with Elizabeth, Grace and the rest of the pack from “Sins Of Our Fathers” in this highly entertaining, superlatively weaved, darkly subversive piece of crime/mystery thriller! This time, Mathieu took her innate skill in weaving a truly splendid tale and elevated it to another level of brilliance! In this sequel, Mathieu delved even deeper into the many intertwining events and stories that formed this tale. A cerebral, intelligent, clever, ingenious plot that just kept getting more intricate at each developmental stage of the story, the characters, primary and secondary alike, the ever-changing situations and warping circumstances.

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Mine To Keep

– by Wendy Hudson

 

I know I should have read this book earlier especially with an irresistible cover like this one (more about this and the title later!) and because I thought “Four Steps” was a brilliant debut effort by Wendy Hudson, which put her on my radar in the world of lesfic reading. But for some reason, I thought I’d read it all this time until I happened to review my reading queue and surprise sur-bloody-prise, “Mine To Keep” was still sitting there staring at me with that bloody mesmerising cover taunting me! Gobsmacked, I was! Bloody hell! Reckon me mind’s done for! Too many books, too little time! Grrr!  Anyway, by this time, I’d read her 3rd and latest book, “Meant To Be Me,” already. But just like everything else, things happen for a reason, don’t they? And timing is everything, innit? Won’t bore you with the deets about what it means except I can firmly attest that “Mine To Keep” is now my favourite Hudson book! Her best one, thusfar, as far as I’m concerned! Hence, this book has effectively renewed my continued interest in her writing and creativity whose craft I’ll always be looking forward to exploring! Well done, Ms. Hudson!

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