Review of Mind Games by Cara Malone

Mind Games

As most of you know I’m a huge fan of true crime and murder mysteries. So when I found out about Cara Malones book Mind Games I knew it would be right up my ally. Mind Games is a mixture of murder mystery, forensic files, and romance that will knock your socks off.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book: 

A rookie forensic investigator, a seasoned patrol officer, and a crime scene that just might be the death of them both.

 

 Kelsey Granger is meticulous and careful, determined to turn her OCD into an advantage in her new job at the coroner’s office. There’s just one problem – her boss doesn’t think she’s ready. When Kelsey arrives at her first death scene to find the responding officer contaminating the evidence, she starts to wonder if her boss was right.

 

 Zara Hayes hates death scenes. She’s been on patrol five long years but her chief won’t promote her until she can overcome her fear. So here she is, just feet away from a dead body while a pretty young investigator reads her the riot act because she thinks Zara screwed up her scene.

 

 With a killer on the loose, there’s no time to argue so Zara and Kelsey team up to solve the case. As they get closer to the truth – and to each other – they must confront the mind games we play… in life, in love, and even in death.

 

Mind games is the type of books that you will want to read in one sitting. As I have said before I’m a huge fan of all things true crime and murder mystery when you combine that with romance I’m all in. While the book focuses on the suspicious death of April Messner it isn’t the sole focus of the story. The main focus is on the budding relationship of Zara Hayes and Kelsey Granger who meet at the scene of the crime as members of law enforcement and forensics. Kelsey is not your average forensic investigator. She has OCD which makes her overthink every aspect of her job, it also is what makes her so good at her job. I appreciated how the book didn’t gloss over Kelsey’s mental illness. The book discussed what having OCD meant to Kelsey and her relationship and her relationship with Zara. When boundaries were crossed, they were clearly explained and corrected. 

 

One of the best parts of this book is the inclusion of bigger girls as one of the main characters. It isn’t often in lesfic that there is a truer to life main character. Normally they are rail thin and perfect in every way. It is nice to see a character that breaks the mold. Because everyone deserves to see themselves in a story. 

 

What stood out to me about Mind Games is the sex scenes. While Cara Malone has always written amazing sex scenes this book blew me away. They were on a whole new level compared to her past books. Maybe it has something to do with the amazing chemistry between Zara and Kelsey. 

 

The only flaw this book had is that the romance seemed to develop too quickly. I wish Zara’s rakish ways would have been shown more throughout the book. It seemed to be glossed over. Overall the book was a little low on angst. But that wasn’t a huge deal-breaker for me. 

 

I can’t wait to read the upcoming books in this series which should be coming out early 2020. 

 

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a steamy workplace romance.

 

Mind Games is available on Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.

Review of Rising from Ash by Jax Meyer

Rising from Ash

Rising from Ash is the latest book in the new Forged by Fire series by Jax Meyer. Jax’s writing has grown since her debut novel Dal Segno. I was shocked by how much I enjoyed reading this book. Once you get started reading it will be hard to put down.

Here is a short blurb about the book:

Phoenix Murray has had enough. Enough of her incompetent boss. Enough of her addict father always asking for money. Enough of the struggle to survive. So when her aunt offers her a job as a cook at the South Pole, she jumps at it. Even when she’s asked to avoid casual sex to keep the peace in the tiny community.

 

 Astrophysicist Ashley Bennett can’t wait for her year at the South Pole. Not only will it allow her to focus on her PhD research, it’s a key step in her plan to become a Mars colonist. Avoiding the complications of dating in a society that doesn’t understand asexuality is a bonus.

 

 When Phoenix and Ash meet, they can’t help but push each other’s buttons. Phoenix doesn’t understand that her confident sexuality puts Ash on edge while Ash’s curt formality triggers Phoenix’s insecurities about her upbringing. But living at the bottom of the world means there’s nowhere to run, and as they find common ground, their differences aren’t nearly the hindrance they thought.

 

 Rising From Ash is the first book in the Forged by Fire series, a slow burn contemporary lesbian romance that shows the power of intimacy to form a new life.

 

 Note: While Rising from Ash features a character on the asexual spectrum, the story does include physically intimate scenes. However, none are gratuitous.

I was really blown away by Rising from Ash. Phoenix’s character pulled me into the story with her struggle to settle down and commit to one person. When Phoenix meets Ashley Bennett, she is drawn to her in a way that she has never experienced before, even though they push each other’s buttons. Being stuck in a tiny community of the South Pole for a full year Phoenix doesn’t want to ruin her career chances by sleeping around and causing drama. So when Phoenix meets Ash she is forced to take things slowly and develop a deeper connection than she has with any of her past hookups.

Ashley Bennett is an interesting character. I have never read about an asexual character before. It is refreshing to see different types of identities explored in romance novels. Ash’s character helped to give me a better understanding of asexuality from someone on the asexual spectrum. Ash considers herself demisexual which means that she is unable to form a sexual connection with someone until an emotional connection is already in place. Phoenix and Ash snuggle to find a happy medium between Phoenix’s allosexuality and Ash’s Asexuality.

Even though one of the characters is asexual the sex scenes in Rising from Ash stand out. Rising from Ash has one of the most intimate sex scenes I have ever read. While there is quite a build-up to sex once it happens, there is no holding back. Phoenix and Ash have amazing chemistry.

The book ends with more of Phoenix and Ash’s story to be told. I’m excited for the next installment in the Forged by Fire series.

I would recommend this book for people on the asexual spectrum as well as anyone who enjoys a slow-burn romance.

Rising from Ash is available on Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.

 

 

 

Review of Forget Me Not By Melissa Tereze

Forget Me Not

Forget Me Not by Melissa Tereze is different than most of the books I read for my blog. While it is a romance novel, I would say that it focuses more on overcoming grief and learning to trust again than a traditional romance. I was really pleased with how well it tackled the difficult emotions surrounding loss.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

Jess Edwards’ life could be better. Six years ago, her world was turned upside down when she lost the love of her life to London. In the years that followed, she found herself preparing for the inevitability of losing her grandfather, too.

 

Word around town is that her first love is back, leading Jess to question the decisions she’s about to make, but nothing is as it seems. Jess may be known to have a heart of gold, but is she prepared to have it broken once again?

 

Amber Powell has returned home after receiving devastating news from her sister. Now within reach of her ex-girlfriend, she tries to remain invisible. Over the years, that had worked well for her, but with the potential of heartbreak just around the corner, will Amber realise that the only woman she ever needed… is standing right in front of her. A story of life, loss, and ultimately love.

 

Forget Me Not really hit home for me. My grandmother passed away two years ago from complications from dementia. I could really empathize with the grief that Jess and Amber were feeling as they dealt with the loss of their loved ones to Alzheimer. Forget Me Not mainly focuses on Jess’s coming to terms with her life after her grandfather’s death. She is struggling to get back to normal and when Amber comes back into town with a new fiancée. Jess has never forgiven Amber for hiding their relationship and ultimately leaving her.

Amber slowly realizes that she needs Jess in her life. Jess helps Amber though her mothers Alzheimer diagnosis.

 

I thought Jess ability to overcome her own pain as she relives the effects of Alzheimer was moving. It showed that she was willing to overcome her own past to help the person she loves. It was beautiful. At the beginning of the book, Jess seemed very harsh but that was because she was dealing with a lot of emotions and didn’t know how to express herself. I really enjoyed seeing her growth throughout the book.

 

The book also has a very cute dog named Beau. I’m a huge sucker for dogs in books and this book is no different.

 

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys second chance romances.

 

Forget Me Not is available on Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.

 

Interview with Caren J. Werlinger

Author-photo-with-dog-300x225

Who or what inspired A Bittersweet Garden?

I have truly loved The Quiet Man for decades (my wife has graciously watched it 26 times with me, 27 coming up for St. Patrick’s Day!). When we finally got to Ireland and Cong in 2015, it was a dream come true for me. Everywhere we went in Ireland, it was as if I could hear the ghosts whispering. This story just grew from that experience.

 

Who or what inspired you to start writing?

I was one of those kids who would lock myself up in my bedroom and spend entire weekends writing stories. I continued writing until I got into physical therapy school, and then stopped for several years. When I took creative writing back up in the mid-90s, it was ten years before I was able to get that first novel published… just in time for the recession and the mass closure of bookstores. Perfect timing!

 

Who is your favorite character from your books and why?

Oh gosh, that is so hard. All the characters become a favorite (even the not-so-likeable ones) while I’m immersed in their lives, but if I had to choose overall, I would probably pick my two girl characters: Connemara from Miserere and Caymin from The Dragonmage Saga. I loved their spunk, their integrity, and their determination to do what’s right.

 

How do you approach writing a new storyline?

It partially depends on where the story comes from. I keep a book of story ideas and, so far, one or another has always bubbled to the surface to turn into my next book. I let it percolate in my head for a while, jotting down thoughts as they come to me. Every book has an “Ideas” document or an actual physical file, where I keep maps, research articles, lists of names, etc. I refer to it frequently while writing. I just found a page with all of my handwritten notes with Irish translations of terms for the Dragonmage trilogy.

 

Where do your inspirations for characters and their lives come from?

It varies. Miserere was totally inspired by an abandoned farmhouse we looked at when I was about nine. We didn’t move in, but I always remembered that house and wondered what kind of stories it could tell. Neither Present Timehad two inspirations: another house, an old mansion, and an inscription in an old book.My own experiences in religious life inspired In This Small Spot. Turning for Home was inspired by a note someone slipped to me when I was traveling years ago. Inspiration comes from many sources!

 

Where is your favorite place to write?

I bring my laptop to work with me every day, and take advantage of my breaks to get bits of writing in during the week, but weekend mornings—when my wife and the dogs are all still sleeping—that’s my favorite time! I’m very much a morning writer. My brain is shot creatively by afternoon.

 

What is your writing process?

I used to write my first drafts longhand, but I don’t tend to do that any longer. I still keep a notebook where I can jot down scenes and ideas as they come to me. I am one of those writers who finds it a struggle to get the first draft completed, and then I love editing, rewriting, polishing that draft!

 

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

When you’re writing your first book, it’s like a secret—just you and the characters. All of your gratification comes from the act of writing. I think that can’t help but change a bit after you publish. I still think I could only write what I love, what I would want to read, rather than write for a market as some are advised to do. But some of the gratification becomes more external, things like sales/royalty figures, reviews, etc. Some authors have said they’re going back to writing fan fiction purely for the love of it, so they don’t focus on those external factors. As to my actual process, I am much more confident now with how to spool out character traits and plot points, and I don’t panic when I realize I need to delete entire scenes because they’re just not working.

 

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

The best money I have spent isn’t necessarily related to writing, but to publishing. Hiring an incredible cover artist and a professional formatter who are both willing to work with me to make my books as beautiful as (I think) the words are is one of the best moves I’ve made. I love it when readers comment on those details because I agonize over them!

 

What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?

Gosh, there have been so many. I’m very fortunate that so many of my books have resonated with readers on a deep level. A reader who’d received a recent diagnosis of cancer told me she found a lot of comfort and strength from Looking Through Windows and In This Small Spot. A couple of readers—single, closeted women living captive lives as dutiful daughters in conservative families—wrote to tell me how much Cast Me Gently meant to them. Year of the Monsoon has connected both with women who gave babies up for adoption and women who were adopted (as I was). In This Small Spot has also touched many women who were in religious life, and they’ve taken the time to write and share their experiences.

 

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

The book that influenced my life more than any was In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden. It influenced my own exploration of a vocation and religious life, and Ms. Godden sort of became my writing mentor. I wrote to her when I was sixteen, and she very kindly wrote back. I treasure that letter.

 

Do you have any new books coming out? If so, what are they about?

I’m working now on a book set in 1983 in central New York. I don’t have a working title yet, but it’s flowing nicely, so I expect it to be out before the end of the year if all continues on pace.

 

How do you take your coffee?

Ha, I am a straight-up coffee drinker! No sugar, no cream, no flavors. Just good, strong, and black.

Review of A Bittersweet Garden by Caren J. Werlinger

A Bitter Sweet Garden

Caren J. Werlinger is one of my all-time favorite authors. Her books have always shocked me by how well written they are. A Bittersweet Garden is no exception. It is a beautiful written paranormal romance that will suck you in from the very first page.

Here is a short blurb about the book:

Nora McNeill has always dreamed of exploring her Irish roots. When she finally gets the opportunity to spend a summer in the village where her grandparents grew up, the experience promises to live up to her very high expectations. Except for the ghost that is haunting her rented cottage and is soon invading her dreams.

 

Briana Devlin has arranged her life the way she likes it: a good dog, good mates, and work with horses. There’s no room in her life for a relationship. Especially with an annoyingly clumsy—and attractive—American who is only going to be around for a few months.

 

The weeks fly by, and Nora’s ghost becomes more demanding, seeking her help in solving the mystery surrounding her death. Briana watches as Nora becomes more wrapped up in the past, seeming to fade away before her eyes.

 

Past and present are on a collision course, leaving Nora and Briana caught in a ghostly intrigue that could cost them not only their chance of a future together, but their very lives.

 

A Bittersweet Garden is like nothing I have ever read before. It is a mixture of ghost story and romance novel. I was sucked into the history of the cottage and its past inhabitants. The haunting of the cottage is so interesting it really sucked me into the book. I wanted to know what had happened to the past inhabitants. But I don’t want to spoil any of the story so I will stop here.

 

The romance aspect of A Bittersweet Garden is great. Briana is the strong silent type. She might come across as hard and uncaring but that isn’t the case at all. She is just very selective about who she lets in. Nora on the other hand never really thought that she deserved love. She was used to being everyone’s second choice. When they come together their chemistry is amazing.

 

I really loved the side characters in this book. Eve is one of the most interesting characters that I have ever read. I can’t say too much about her because it would spoil the story, but she is my favorite character. As most of you know I love the addition to pets in a story and Shannon, Briana’s wolfhound, is a great addition. The way she reacts to the haunted room and protective nature make Shannon a great addition to the book.

 

The one thing I wish was different about this book is the lack of an epilogue. I think it could have really added to the book. I would have loved to know what happened to everyone at the end of the book.

 

If you are looking for steamy sexy scene this book might not be for you. The sex scenes are all fade to black. But there is some sexy build up to where there would be sex.

 

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves paranormal romance and to anyone who likes a good ghost story.

 

You can purchase a copy of A Bittersweet Garden by clicking here.

Review of Sandman by Tammy Bird

Sandman

As most of you know I’m a huge fan of thrillers. When I was given the opportunity to read Sandman by Tammy Bird I jumped at the chance. I mean who doesn’t love a strong group of lesbians fighting against time to bring a serial killer to justice.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

Katia Billings, EMT with the Emergency Medical Services of Buxton Beach, NC, is one of the first to respond after a hurricane rips through the small island community. As she helps search for survivors, she and her fellow responders discover a secret that will haunt Katia the rest of her life.

 

Lurking beneath the sand dunes is an evil that no one suspected.

 

A sandy grave not connected to the storm leads investigators to uncover the tomb of a serial killer, literally beneath their feet, hidden for years from the residents of the tight community.

 

For Katia, it’s personal because she knows one of the killer’s victims. She enlists help from K-9 search expert Paige, and Katia’s on-and-off lover, Zahra, in her determination to find the killer, dubbed Sandman, and stop him from killing again.

 

What small-town secrets will they unearth in their pursuit of the truth? Will the three women survive the physical, emotional, and psychological attack being waged against their small slice of sand? Or will they become the next victims of Sandman?  

 

I was drawn into Sandman from the very start. Katia is everything I love in a main character. She is cool in the face of danger and willing to do anything to help protect the ones she loves. When a hurricane rips through the Outer Banks of North Carolina Katia’s life changes forever. The woman who was like a mother to her growing up was found dead in the dunes with her throat slashed. This gruesome discovery leads the team of investigators to find several more bodies and the discovery that there was a serial killer in their small town.

 

Zahra is an investigator on the case of the Sandman serial killer. She is also Katia love interest. Before the story starts, they had fooled around a little bit but nothing serious. The case brings them closer together. I liked that the romance element didn’t overpower the thriller aspects of the book.

 

The book uses points of view from all of the characters involved. For me, this really made the book interesting. It really transformed the story into something spectacular. Marco was one of my favorite points of view. Marco is Katia’s brother and is non-verbal autistic. Marco knows who the killer is, but he struggles to communicate who the killer is.

 

What really made this book standout is that you never truly know who the Sandman is until the very end of the book. When I found out who the Sandman truly was my jaw dropped. It was such an amazing twist. It is by far my favorite book of the year so far.

 

 

I would recommend Sandman to anyone who likes mysteries and thrillers.

 

You can purchase a copy of Sandman by clicking here.

Interview with Amanda Kayhart

Amanda

Who or what inspired Shipped?

My wife and our honeymoon in the Caribbean. There’s lots of little Easter eggs in the story about her and our trip together. We celebrated our 13thwedding anniversary this month, so it was fun to reminisce about that time in our lives as I wrote it.

 

 

Who or what inspired you to start writing?

My high school English teacher, Mrs. Bahrenburg. She had a contagious passion and energy about writing and books and poetry. She read Mary Oliver’s Wild Geesein class (I can still hear her steady, soothing voice in my head to this day), and hypnotized me with those revered lines. Words were never just words after that. They felt supernatural, almost. And I wanted to be a part of the magic.

 

Who is your favorite character from your books and why?

I can only pick one?? But I don’t want the others to be mad at me LOL I think I’ll have to go with Avery from my first book, Running the Tides. She was the first fictional character I ever wrote, and because of that, she’ll always have a special place in my heart.

 

How do you approach writing a new storyline?

Obsession and curiosity. I enjoy picking a setting or profession or topic that I’ll need to research. Something that fascinates me to the point I know I’ll get nerdy obsessed with, and get excited about to learn more and write about.

 

Where do your inspirations for characters and their lives come from?

I pull a lot from real life acquaintances, or people I’ve encountered in life, maybe even for a very brief period of time, who really left an impression on me.

 

Where is your favorite place to write?

My answer will be probably odd, but it’s in the woods. I live in Vermont and there’s an abundance of hiking and nature trails here, and I find my best writing and plotting is done, not sitting in front of my computer, but outside where my mind can wander as freely as my feet.

 

What is your writing process?

I’m a pantser, so it’s messy and disorganized. I start with a real crappy and careless first draft, followed by several rounds of meticulous edits I obsess over until I break down and cry into bowls of ice cream. *shrugs* It seems to be working fine LOL

 

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

I learned to relax. I was very nervous and uptight my first time around, freaking out over minor details. Now, I let the mistakes happen and not let the imperfections in a story take away from the fun of writing.

 

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Taking writing classes. Being a part of a small writing community, and learning, not only the craft and mechanics of fiction, but also how to take and use criticism productively.

 

What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?

Olivia, one of my MCs in Running the Tides, is bisexual, and a reader thanked me for having positive bisexual rep in my story. I want my books to be, not only inclusive to all identities within the queer community, but done so in a welcoming and affirming way. Their message to me really meant a lot.

 

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

Winter Jacket by Eliza Lentzski. It was the first lesfic book I ever read and inspired me to start writing my own stories and start my author journey.

 

Do you have any new books coming out? If so, what are they about?

Fire and Water. It’s an age-gap romance set in Vermont, between a college professor and a glass blower. There’s a nice sprinkling of ice queen thrown in there too.

 

How do you take your coffee?

Preferably iced