Category Archives: Rated B

Review: The Temptation of Adam by Dave Connis

Title: The Temptation of Adam by Dave Connis
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

Adam Hawthorne is fine.

Yeah, his mother left, his older sister went with her, and his dad would rather read Nicholas Sparks novels than talk to him. And yeah, he spends his nights watching self-curated porn video playlists.

But Adam is fine.

When a family friend discovers Adam’s porn addiction, he’s forced to join an addiction support group: the self-proclaimed Knights of Vice. He goes because he has to, but the honesty of the Knights starts to slip past his defenses. Combine that with his sister’s out-of-the-blue return and the attention of a girl he meets in an AA meeting, and all the work Adam has put into being fine begins to unravel.

Now Adam has to face the causes and effects of his addiction, before he loses his new friends, his prodigal sister, and his almost semi-sort-of girlfriend.

Review:

The Temptation of Adam is a young adult novel about addiction. While pornography addiction takes center stage,  Dave Connis also touches on other types of addictions as well.

Sixteen year old Adam Hawthorne’s expulsion from school from an undisclosed infraction sets him on the path for treatment for his addiction to porn. A benevolent teacher, Mr. Gratcher, intercedes on his behalf with his school principal and as a result, Adam must spend one on one time with his teacher in addition to attending meetings similar to AA. He also must join Mr. Gratcher and three other young men, Elliot, Trey and Mark in Knights of Vice meetings.  Like so many people who have addictions, Adam is not only completely in denial about his dependence on porn, but he is also quite unaware of the reason he relies so heavily on it.  With a well-rounded group of people supporting him, (including his romantic interest,  Dez Coulter, and  his older sister, Abby), will Adam finally open his eyes to the truths that Mr. Cratcher is attempting to show him?

Adam is a highly intelligent young man who was blindsided by his parents’ divorce. Now referring to his absent mother as “The Woman”, he lives with his dad who is physically present, but emotionally checked out. Adam adores Abby, but since she lives with The Woman, they are not as close as they were prior to the divorce.  Since he is deeply in denial about his addiction to porn, Adam refuses to accept responsibility for the incident that resulted in his suspension. He is extremely resistant to  Mr. Cratcher’s attempts to help him but with the threat of permanent expulsion from school hanging over him, he has no choice but to continue attending meetings and spending mornings with his teacher.

Adam’s realization that he is addicted to porn occurs at a realistic pace. He gradually beings to understand the reasons why he turned to porn and  despite this self-awareness, he is often powerless to fight his addiction. His romance with Dez also offers him a new perspective on his destructive behavior and  provides him with an added incentive to try to conquer his demons.  Unlike the young men Adam meets, Dez is a bit of a stereotype and it is rather difficult to take her addiction to addictions seriously.

The Temptation of Adam is an engrossing and insightful young adult novel about porn addiction. Adam is well-rounded character who is genuinely likeable and easy to relate to despite his flaws. The storyline is well-developed and Dave Connis’s handling of various addictions is exemplary as is his realistic depiction of recovery. All in all, a well-written novel that will appeal to readers of all ages.

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Filed under Contemporary, Dave Connis, Rated B, Review, Romance, Sky Pony Press, The Temptation of Adam, Young Adult

Review: Death in the Stacks by Jenn McKinlay

Title: Death in the Stacks by Jenn McKinlay
Library Lovers Mystery Series Book Eight
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Penguin’s First to Read Program

Summary:

In the latest Library Lover’s Mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Better Late Than Never, the library’s big fund-raiser leaves director Lindsey Norris booked for trouble . . . 

Lindsey Norris and her staff are gearing up for the Briar Creek Library’s annual Dinner in the Stacks fund-raiser. The night of dinner and dancing is not only a booklover’s dream—it’s the library’s biggest moneymaker of the year. But instead of raising funds, the new library board president is busy raising a stink and making the staff miserable.

Although Olive Boyle acts like a storybook villain, Lindsey is determined to work with her and make the event a success. But when Olive publicly threatens the library’s newest hire, Paula, Lindsey cracks like an old book spine and throws Olive out of the library.

The night of the fund-raiser, Lindsey dreads another altercation with Olive—but instead finds Paula crouched over Olive’s dead body. Paula may have secrets, but Lindsey and the rest of the crafternooners know she’s not the one who took Olive out of circulation. As the plot thickens, Lindsey must catch the real killer before the book closes on Paula’s future . . .

Review:

Death in the Stacks by Jenn McKinlay is a well-plotted and entertaining cozy mystery. This eighth installment in the Library Lovers Mystery series easily stands on its own.

Briar Creek Librarian Lindsey Norris and the rest of her staff including Paula Turner are about to host their annual fundraiser when newly elected library board president Olive Boyle begins issuing a plethora of unreasonable commands. She is planning on instituting a dress code, demands numerous staff changes and announces her decision to fire Lindsey.  Needless to say, Lindsey is upset by the disagreeable woman’s high-handed decrees but with the fundraiser to set up, she tries to ignore the unpleasant woman. The night of the gala, Lindsey, her staff and the other attendees are stunned when Olive takes to the stage and proceeds to defame the library staff. At the end of the night, Olive is murdered and it appears Paula might be her killer. Lindsey is certain Paula is innocent and despite her earlier promise not to become involved in any more murder cases, Lindsey and her friend Robbie Vine begin their investigation in an effort to clear Paula’s name.

Lindsey really tries to keep her word to her boyfriend, Sully, not to endanger herself by investigatng Olive’s murder. However, when police chief Emma Plewicki has no choice but to consider Paula a suspect, Lindsey cannot sit on the sidelines waiting to see whether  or not her co-worker will be arrested. Unfortunately, since Olive was a particularly mean and vindictive woman, the list of suspects is vast.  With Robbie at her side, they begin their quest for Olive’s killer with her posse of mean girl friends, Amy, LeAnn and Kim. When it appears the trio have rock solid alibis, Lindsey and Robbie then turn their sights to Olive’s ex-husband Kyle and his current wife, Molly. Once again they hit a dead end, so they then question Olive’s sister, Margaret, where they discover the reason for the sisters’ estrangement. Quickly clearing Margaret, Robbie and Lindsey find themselves at somewhat of dead end. However, in a sudden turn of events, they are certain they know murderer’s identity, but are they on the right track?

With an endearing lead protagonist, a cast of quirky yet likable characters and an intriguing murder to solve, Death in the Stacks is a fast-paced mystery. The plot is interesting  and easy to follow despite a bit of confusion due to the sheer number of characters introduced early in the story. The mystery element is well executed and  Jenn McKinlay  does an outstanding job keeping the murderer’s identity and motive for the crime under wraps until the novel’s exciting conclusion. This rather light-hearted addition to the Library Lovers Mystery series is sure to appeal to fans of cozy mysteries.

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Filed under Contemporary, Mystery, Rated B, Review

Review: Darkness at the Edge of Town by Jennifer Harlow

Title: Darkness at the Edge of Town by Jennifer Harlow
Iris Ballard Series Book Two
Publisher: Alibi
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length:360 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

A complicated, charismatic forensic psychologist tries to rescue her brother from the clutches of a maniacal cult leader in this edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller from the author of Beautiful Maids All in a Row.
 
After catching an infamous serial killer, Dr. Iris Ballard has become a TV sensation. Exhausted from her appearances on the talk-show circuit, she’s looking forward to some quality time with Luke Hudson, her former FBI partner and on-again, off-again lover. The last thing Iris wants is to get pulled back to her dying Rust Belt hometown, but after the frantic call from her mother, she doesn’t have a choice.

Iris is a disgrace in Grey Mills, Pennsylvania, but her twin brother has gone and outdone her. Billy has abandoned his fiancée, drained their checking account, and quit his job to join a cult called the New Morning Movement. Expecting to find something sinister at play, Iris is eager to destroy the quixotic hold they have on her brother. And that means outwitting the cult’s cunning, sadistic founder, Mathias Morning.

Iris has logic and reason on her side. But Mathias doesn’t play by society’s rules. Just as Iris begins to lose hope, her investigation leads her to cross path with the DEA. And now she needs to save Billy’s life before they’re both caught in the crossfire.

Don’t miss Jennifer Harlow’s first electrifying Iris Ballard thriller:
BEAUTIFUL MAIDS ALL IN A ROW

Review:

Darkness at the Edge of Town by Jennifer Harlow is a mesmerizing mystery with a unique premise. Although this latest release is the second novel in the Iris Ballard series, it can be read as a standalone (but it would be beneficial to read book one since prior events are frequently referenced).

Dr. Iris Ballard is riding a wave of sudden fame when her mother calls her to tell her that Iris’s twin brother Billy has joined a cult.  Despite her reluctance to return to the dying town of Grey Mills, she nonetheless drops everything to check out the cult and ensure Billy is alright.  Infiltrating the New Morning cult is her best way of uncovering the truth about whether or not the charismatic leader Mathias Morning is on the up and up, so Iris immediately begins her investigation. With sympathy for the cult members warring with her instincts that Mathias is a cunning grifter, Iris asks her former mentor Sheriff Tim Hancock to unofficially help her find out the truth about Mathias and his followers. Despite her best efforts to keep her activities hidden from her friend, FBI Agent Luke Hudson, he discovers what Iris is up to and insists on joining her when her investigation unexpectedly becomes complicated.

Iris is a very complex and flawed protagonist with a rather tragic backstory. However, she seems to have finally overcome many of her issues in the aftermath of her encounter with a psychopath.  Her return to Grey Mills shows her just how much of her family’s lives she has missed in recent years and she freely accepts the blame for the chasm. However, Iris cannot help but feel a twinge of pain when she realizes the depth of resentment and anger directed towards her from her loved ones. Just as she is trying to deal with her complicated familial relationships, she is also trying to untangle her feelings for Luke. Their history is a jumbled mix of professional and personal and Iris is extremely leery of opening herself up to heartbreak and the possibility of wrecking their friendship.

Concentrating on finding out the truth about Billy, Iris quickly insinuates herself into New Morning where she immediately notices several red flags about the cult.  Knowing she runs the very real risk of someone recognizing her due to recent publicity, she works quickly trying to identify the people she meets.  With Sheriff Hancock’s assistance, many of Iris’s suspicions about the members are quickly validated but she cannot help but feel compassion for them since she fully understands the psychology of how cult leaders ensnare their followers. She remains frustrated by her lack of progress in learning Mathias Morning’s true identity and just as Iris is on the verge of giving up on bringing Billy safely home, her investigation takes a shocking turn.

Darkness at the Edge of Town is an unusual but thoroughly captivating mystery.  Iris is fully aware of her faults and weaknesses and she definitely continues to be a work in progress as she tries to rescue her brother from Mathias’s clutches. Luke is level-headed and very concerned for Iris’s safety once he learns the truth about why she is in Grey Mills. Jennifer Harlow’s portrayal of how cults attract and keep followers is chillingly realistic. The novel is a bit of a slow burner but the story quickly gathers steam and hurtles to an action-packed and exciting conclusion.  Old and new fans are sure to enjoy this second installment in the Iris Ballard series.

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Filed under Alibi, Contemporary, Darkness at the Edge of Town, Iris Ballard Series, Jennifer Harlow, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Suspense

Review: Sugarplum Way by Debbie Mason

Title: Sugarplum Way by Debbie Mason
Harmony Harbor Series Book Four
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

“Heartfelt and delightful!” -RaeAnne Thayne, New York Times bestselling author

Romance writer Julia Landon knows how to write a happily-ever-after. Creating one for herself is a whole different story. But after a surprising–and surprisingly passionate–kiss under the mistletoe at Harmony Harbor’s holiday party last year, Julia thought she might have finally found her very own chance at true love. Until she learns her Mr. Tall, Dark, and Broodingly Handsome has sworn off relationships. Well, if she can’t have him in real life, Julia knows just how to get the next best thing….

Aidan’s only priority is to be the best single dad ever. And this year, he plans to make the holidays magical for his little girl, Ella Rose. But visions of stolen kisses under the mistletoe keep dancing in his head, and when he finds out Julia has written him into her latest novel, he can’t help imagining the possibilities of a future together. Little does he know, though, Julia has been keeping a secret that threatens all their dreams. Luckily, ’tis the season for a little Christmas magic.

Review:

Sugarplum Way by Debbie Mason is an endearing holiday themed romance.

Julia Landon is upbeat, positive and always has a smile on her face. With the holidays fast approaching, she is stretched to her limits as she frantically attempts to get her latest novel turned in on time. Juggling many duties, she nonetheless never tells anyone no when they for help. For rather mysterious reasons, Julia is determined to ensure everyone in the Gallagher family is blissfully happy and she has her hands full trying to ensure her last matchmaking attempt succeeds.  She is also doing everything she can to make sure her secret crush Aidan Gallagher has everything he needs to win custody of his daughter Ella Rose. Unfortunately her attempts to secure his future with the Harmony Harbor Police Department run into numerous problems with the police chief, but Julia is undeterred as she continues her attempts to “fix” things for Aidan.

Aidan is extremely suspicious of Julia which has resulted in quite a few inauspicious run-ins between them.  Despite knowing she is keeping secrets, he is also very attracted to the quirky, perky darling of Harmony Harbor.  But with his divorce behind him, Aidan is concentrating on improving his relationship with Ella Rose while also trying to gain custody of her.  Although he is frustrated by Julia’s interference in nearly every aspect of his life, he is also charmed by her.

Despite feeling a little lost due to not reading the previous novels in the Harmony Harbor series, Sugarplum Way is an enchanting holiday love story. Julia is a likable character despite being just a tad too perfect. Aidan is realistically depicted and it is wonderful watching his scenes with his daughter.   The romance between Aidan and Julia is slow moving and peppered with witty banter and laugh out loud humor.  Although the storyline is rather busy due to several story arcs, Debbie Mason beautifully weaves the various threads into a cohesive and entertaining novel.  Readers of the previous books will enjoy this latest addition to the series whereas newcomers will most likely feel confused by the first few chapters. All in all, a charming love story with a few mystical (and magical) elements.

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Filed under Contemporary, Debbie Mason, Forever, Harmony Harbor Series, Rated B, Review, Romance, Sugarplum Way

Review: Dead of Winter by Wendy Corsi Staub

Title: Dead of Winter by Wendy Corsi Staub
Lily Dale Series Book Three
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Supernatural, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Just as a murderer dumps his corpse into the lake across Valley View in Lily Dale, Bella Jordan happens to be at her window, not quite realizing what she’s seeing. Unbeknownst to her, the killer spots her silhouette and prowls straight to her door. That is, until he’s interrupted by a black cat. A superstitious gambler, he takes off, but Bella’s seen too much, and he vows to return.

Jiffy Arden, a neighborhood kid looking for the black cat and stumbling across the killer, begins to have premonitions of being kidnapped during the season’s first snowstorm. Sure enough, when it strikes, he vanishes, never arriving home from the bus stop. While her son, Max, believes Jiffy has been kidnapped, Bella is convinced he’s just wandered off as he typically does… until a body shows up in the lake.

Now everyone is pulling out all the stops to find the missing child, identify the victim, and collar the killer. And fast, because he’s coming for Bella next in Dead of Winter.

Review:

Dead of Winter by Wendy Corsi Staub is a leisurely-paced cozy mystery set in the psychic/medium enclave of Lily Dale. This third installment in the Lily Dale Mystery series can easily stand on its own, but I recommend the other novels in the series as well.

The day after observing a curious light on the lake and hearing an ominous scream, innkeeper and non-psychic Bella Jordan finds a corpse washed up on shore. The widowed mom of six year old Max is shaken by the discovery and when Max’s friend Jiffy Arden goes missing, she is very worried about the little boy. She has little in common with his mother, medium Misty Starr, who is not the most attentive of parents. Although Bella empathizes with the young mom’s concern for her missing son, she is also frustrated by Misty’s reliance on her mystical powers to find Jiffy. When another victim is found and Misty also vanishes, Lieutenant John Grange hopes Max and Bella can help with the investigations.

Coming up on the one year anniversary of her husband Sam’s death, Bella is busy getting ready for the holidays and trying to finish up the renovations she is doing for extra money. She keeps a rather close eye on both Max and Jiffy after her shocking discovery of the murdered man but she is distracted the day Jiffy disappears.  Although somewhat skeptical of her neighbors’ supernatural abilities, Bella cannot help but take some of their vague warnings to heart in the aftermath of Jiffy’s kidnapping and Misty’s troubling disappearance. Can the answers to the recent events in town somehow be related to the unexpected phenomena Bella is suddenly experiencing at the inn? Is Jiffy’s disappearance related to the unsolved murders? And even more worrisome, where is Misty?

Despite the rather unhurried pacing, Dead of Winter is an engaging mystery with a cast of quirky yet likable characters and a clever storyline.  Bella is a wonderful protagonist who continues to evolve as the series progresses.  The mystery element of the storyline is well-done and Wendy Corsi Staub brings the novel to an exciting conclusion. This latest release is another entertaining installment in the Lily Dale Mystery series that old and new fans will enjoy.

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Filed under Contemporary, Crooked Lane Books, Dead of Winter, Lily Dale Mystery, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Supernatural Elements, Suspense, Wendy Corsi Staub

Review: Alone by Cyn Balog

Title: Alone by Cyn Balog
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

This must-read for lovers of Stephen King’s The Shining will leave readers breathless as Seda and her family find themselves at the mercy of a murderer in an isolated and snowbound hotel. Get ready for what Kirkus calls “A bloody, wonderfully creepy scare ride.”

When her mom inherits an old, crumbling mansion, Seda’s almost excited to spend the summer there. The grounds are beautiful and it’s fun to explore the sprawling house with its creepy rooms and secret passages. Except now her mom wants to renovate, rather than sell the estate—which means they’re not going back to the city…or Seda’s friends and school.

As the days grow shorter, Seda is filled with dread. They’re about to be cut off from the outside world, and she’s not sure she can handle the solitude or the darkness it brings out in her.

Then a group of teens get stranded near the mansion during a blizzard. Seda has no choice but to offer them shelter, even though she knows danger lurks in the dilapidated mansion—and in herself. And as the snow continues to fall, what Seda fears most is about to become her reality…

Review:

Set in an isolated and disquieting mansion during a snowstorm, Alone by Cyn Balog is a suspense-laden young adult mystery that keeps readers on the edge of their seats.

Seda Helm is not at all pleased by her mom’s decision to remain in the creepy home she inherited. Despite her plans to sell it, she keeps rejecting offers for the onetime hotel turned murder mystery mansion. Cut off from the outside world due to no cell service, internet or landline, no one has heard from Seda’s dad since he abandoned the family months earlier due to his frustration with his wife. Seda’s much younger siblings still take great delight in the rundown mansion, but Seda is more than ready to return to Boston.  When a group of teenagers are stranded at the decrepit home during a blizzard, Seda’s mother stages an elaborate murder mystery scavenger hunt that takes a deadly turn.

Seda is a bit of an unreliable narrator who spends a lot of time in her own head.  She is great with her younger siblings despite the fact she feels a little overlooked by her parents.  The longer she and the rest of her family remain at the mansion, the darker Seda’s thoughts become. She also misses her dad and she is growing increasingly irritated with her mom’s refusal to return to Boston.

When the teenagers find themselves stranded following a minor car accident, Seda reluctantly allows them to remain on the property as long as they stay out of sight of her mother.  The group’s leader, Heath, ignores the edict and her mom ends up not only welcoming the teens with open arms, she convinces them to take part in a clever murder mystery. Seda is initially a reluctant participant in the game, but since she is paired up with the very attractive Heath, she eventually becomes more invested as they figure out what the clues mean. Slowly but surely, the hunt becomes more sinister and after she and Heath make a startling discovery, Seda makes a shocking admission.

Although a little slow paced in the beginning, Alone is an engaging mystery that readers of all ages will enjoy. The storyline is entertaining and the characters are interesting.  Although observant readers will most likely pick up on few subtle clues that hint at some of the upcoming plot twists, Cyn Balog brings the novel to an absolutely jaw-dropping conclusion that will take readers completely by surprise.

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Filed under Alone, Contemporary, Cyn Balog, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Sourcebooks Fire, Suspense, Young Adult