The Book Gourmet

Book reviews à la bookworm...The good, the bad, and everything in between.



Professional Reader Reviews Published

Hard Road by J.B. Turner

Hard Road - J.B. Turner

*** copy provided by publisher through NetGalley ***

I'm quite a fan of suspense/thriller novels (even without the romance aspect) if they're written well. Unfortunately this one wasn't.

The premise was good and at first it did look promising, but the overly descriptive narrative style ruined it. It was all about what the characters wore, what they ate, what roads they took...On and on and on it went until it got so bothersome it overshadowed the story.

Loving a Prince Charming by Danielle Monsch

Loving a Prince Charming  - Danielle Monsch

Prince Seth has been promised to princess Rosamund since his birth. He also promised her to save her from the curse and to never love anyone but her when he was thirteen...But life, love, and fate are fickle.

I didn't like this one. There was no development in the character voice (at least for Seth) between the first chapter (when he was thirteen) and the rest of the story (when he was twenty-five), making him sound juvenile and sometimes even childish.

The conflict dragged on for too long (and this is a short story), the characters had no real depth or personality, and the resolution was too perfect and way too easy.

Wonderful by Jill Barnett

Wonderful  - Jill Barnett

***eBook used to be available for free on Kobo***

She's been waiting for him for six years, two more than he promised when he offered for her. And to make matters worse, she's been waiting closed up in a convent!

But now he's back, and it's her turn to make him wait. And if he goes a little mad in the process...Serves him right.

This could've been a great story, a perfect mix of romance, drama, angst, and humor. Unfortunately, the heroine ruined it all for me. I guess she was supposed to be endearing, determined, and a little quirky, but all I saw was a bratty, self-centered, airhead who was too stupid to live.
At first, the antics were humorous, but the more the story progressed, the more the heroine grew annoying and her "antics" cringe-worthy.
I didn't even buy the romance, because Merrick (the hero) sure didn't come across as a moron who would fall for such a brat. Yet, inexplicably, he did, and I still don't know why. Through the story, as I got to read about him, understand him, I got the love from the heroine's side—the guy was protective, tender, caring, a brute when he needed to be...And a saint for putting up with the chit.
Her better qualities only appeared toward the end of the story, when it was already too late. I wanted the Welsh to sacrifice her to the dark gods by then.

In the Shadow of the Storm by Anna Belfrage

In the Shadow of the Storm - Anna Belfrage

***copy provided by publisher through NetGalley***

DNF @ 20%

This is supposed to be a historical novel with a romantic undertone, but except for it being set in the Medieval times and featuring a female and male protagonists, there wasn't much "history" happening.

There was an arranged marriage, a switch of bride with a husband not being very gentle on the wedding night because he thought his new wife wasn't a virgin, some wife-beating, jealousy coming out of the left field, inability to communicate, silent treatment...All in the first 20% of the book with the supposed historical environment and background conspicuously absent.

The hero was an asshole, most of the heroine's family were hypocritical bastards, the heroine was quite a shrinking violet, both protagonists were suddenly in love...And I was bored.

There was nothing really wrong with the narrative style (except for the rather jagged feeling in some scenes; it looked like there were pieces missing like they were ruthlessly edited without bothering to smooth out the edges), it were the characters and the story itself that were the problem, so I threw in the towel.

The Ones Who Got Away by Roni Loren

The Ones Who Got Away - Roni Loren

They were together in a janitor's closet on the night of their prom, where the majority of their class was shot dead, and then he left her alone, trying to save as many of their classmates that he could, leaving her exposed to the shooters.

Now they meet again, twelve years later, during interviews for a documentary. They're strangers, completely different from the boy and girl that used to make-out in secret, the experience having shaped them both, but the spark is still there...

Sometimes giving a new-to-you author a shot pays out big time. This book is one of those. I went in without expectations, and was blown away by the story and its characters. I'm not really a big fan of straight-up contemporary romance, but this one hit all the right notes, despite not having any real suspense or dangerous situations.

It's a lesson in life, really. How a tragedy can shape a person, influence their choices, and how much strength and stubbornness, it can take to get out of the boundaries of predictability and "safety" a life without risks offers. But that is only a half-life, as both Olivia and Finn proved with their story.

I liked their relationship, the reunion that showed there was still something there between them, but I loved how they tried to be just friends in the beginning, tried to ignore the big elephant of their attraction. And I loved how they made the decision to give it a go despite knowing it was temporary and it was going to hurt in the end.
Did I find the romance, the reunion, the reconnection somewhat too easy, too much like it was nicely tied with a bow? Yes, I did. It was too convenient and neat they way they found each other and slipped into a relationship, but it worked because it was so convenient. They've been through that night together, they knew the "pressure points", and they knew the drill. I don't think it could've worked without that experience and that "intimate" knowledge from twelve years prior.

This was a poignant story with wonderful, nicely-developed, layered, scarred characters (supporting cast included, and I cannot wait to read the other three girls' books), filled with friendship, snark, humor, and topped by a sometimes bittersweet, sexy second-chance romance.

Speaking of humor...

“Do you need us to get you anything, sweetie?” Kincaid asked, sitting on the opposite side of the bed from Finn. “Water? A pill? A former football player in his underwear? Because we’ve got the last one covered. And I can make the first two happen.”
Liv looked up at that, registering the fact that Finn was shirtless and his thick hair was sticking up every which way. Her gaze drifted down to his black boxer briefs. “You’re in your underwear.”
“’Fraid so,” he said. “Good thing I don’t sleep naked.”


“We’ve got to up our game. Liv’s about to tackle a letter item and her football player. She’s officially become my patron saint.”


“Hey, erect is a perfectly proper word. I can’t help it if your mind was in the gutter.”
“I’ve been celibate for two years. Assume it’s always there. I’ve set up shop and built a little gutter town. We’re about to elect a mayor.”


“You’re allowed to have fun. You’re allowed to have a fling with an old boyfriend and not feel like it’s some big life decision or an unhealthy coping mechanism. Be smart about it, but don’t deny yourself some simple life pleasures. Taking your photos. Hanging out with your awesome, amazing, super-wise friends. And hot cop penis.”
A real laugh burst out of Liv this time, and she quickly pressed her hand over her mouth to staunch it. “He’s FBI, for the record.”
Federal cop penis,” Kincaid corrected. “That’s top shelf. It has authority across state lines.”


“They sell engagement rings at the airport?”
“Yep.” He smirked. “Next to the Cinnabon.”

Edge of Darkness by Karen Rose

Edge of Darkness (The Cincinnati Series) - Karen Rose

Adam Kimble has been slowly crawling out of the dark hole that's been his life for the past year or so, ever since he witnessed a little girl slaughtered live, on his computer screen. He also desperately needs Meredith Fallon (in more ways than one), but has been keeping his distance in order to actually deserve her. Then someone makes her a target, and Adam will do anything to keep her safe, to keep her alive...Even if his year "of atonement" isn't over yet.

Another intense, thrilling, gut-wrenching book in Karen Rose's opus. This is what she does best, really. This perfect mix of thrills and chills, twisted suspense, and emotionally (and sometimes physically) scarred characters that somehow manage to find one another when the time is right, and then have to keep each other safe in order to have a shot at the life they deserve.

This story concludes (I think) the Cincinnati arc of this interconnected series with the big loose end left from the previous three books, namely the kingpin, the elusive supposed cop that terrorized a young girl instead of helping her.
Turns out, this person really exists, is even more evil than everybody thought, has fingers in more pies than previously believed...And the reveal of this person's identity is both a shock and a relief to at least one person involved in the investigation.
I must say I figured out who it was a little over halfway in, but I didn't mind. I was looking forward to seeing how they'd catch the bastard, and what would happen at the climax. Yes, Ms. Rose does her suspense well.

Her other forte are her characters. People you both want to hug and smack around at the same time. Flawed, layered, with real-life issues...I knew there was something off with Adam from the start, but I never suspected it ran so deep. Yet his issues were rather well-balanced with the issues of his heroine, Meredith. What a coincidence these two characters, that were so adept at wearing masks to hide what was truly going on, both having deep psychological issues, found each other and turned out to be perfect for one another.
Yes, the fit was a bit too cookie cutter perfect, but the romance still worked out nicely, because of the similarities and their "shared issues". And yes, in the end, I was glad they found one another.

Turns out the only uncoupled characters are Sloan and Dolores, Dani and Diesel (as star-crossed romances go, this one takes the trophy), and agents Troy and Quincy. I really hope Ms. Rose revisits the Cincinnati characters in the future (as she did with most of her Chicago crew in this book, which was a bit much, if you ask me), so we get to see these "loose" characters get their shot at happiness. :)

Yep, I liked this one, despite the overabundance of characters. They were mostly old friends, and well, the story itself was strong enough to sustain it.

Monster in the Closet by Karen Rose

Monster in the Closet (The Baltimore Series) - Karen Rose

A monster killed the mother of two little girls, Jazzie and Janie with Jazzie being witness to who the killer was. Unfortunately, the kid hasn't spoken since that terrible day...Until she meets equine therapist, Taylor Dawson who's come all the way from California to enter the internship at Healing Hearts with Horses at Daphne Montgomery-Carter's stables.

Taylor also has an ulterior motive for being where she is...She wants to know her real father, the man she'd been taught to fear and hate by her mother, Clay Maynard, since her mother had confessed that the fear and hate had been based on a lie on her death bed.

But father and daughter might not get a long reunion, since the killer is now gunning for Taylor in fear of what little Jazzie might have seen...And said.

First of all, the blurb is off. A lot.

Second of all, I wasn't that convinced by this book. Yes, the suspense was good, but unfortunately we knew who the killer was from the start, removing the aspect of anticipation and guessing. And the motive was rather flimsy.

And we got to revisit old friends, from J.D. to Clay, and even Deacon made an appearance (along with the character traits that made him Deacon and were so conspicuously missing in his own book). It was nice seeing them all again, revisit their dynamics, learn some news, and have a really good time in their company. Yet the new addition to the "family" didn't convince me.
Taylor Dawson, Clay's long-lost daughter, left me rather ambiguous. I didn't really like her, and I didn't really not like her. She was an entity, an additional character to the story, a catalyst for the suspense, and features heavily in more weepy scenes (which tugged at the heartstrings and caused some leakage mostly because of the others involved in the scenes), but that was pretty much it.

The fact she was proficient in hand-to-hand and was a good shot felt more like a deus ex machina moment than the result of the big lie her Californian family has been living. And her so-called budding romance between her and Ford (Daphne's son) was more than flimsy. It felt more like getting-back-on-the-horse for Ford and exploring-new-territory for Taylor.
At least they decided to take it slow and see how it goes (after only knowing each other a couple of days) instead of going down the completely unbelievable route of being in love for life.

The Fifth Element by Terry Bisson

The Fifth Element: A Novel - Terry Bisson

I found this in my local library (not in the best of conditions) and read it without checking it out.
To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.

Yes, the plot follows the movie religiously (it is a screenplay novelization after all), but it looks like the author couldn't be bothered with doing anything more with the story than what there was. Some expansion of the universe and plot would've been welcome, especially since I know what the movie is all about.

There are screenplay novelizations that I loved ("Season 1" and "Season 2" of El Príncipe, for example), this one stands firmly on the other side of the scale.

Every Deep Desire by Sharon Wray

Every Deep Desire (Deadly Force) - Sharon Wray

***ARC provided by publisher through NetGalley***


I felt like I needed another book before this one, just to make sense of it all. There was too much going on, too many characters, too many agendas, too many mysteries...It was convoluted and over-complicated with characters that just didn't resonate.

I felt disconnected and lost, and as no explanations were forthcoming, just more twists and turns, I grew bored. This book simply wasn't for me.

Untamed by Nora Roberts

Untamed - Nora Roberts
Jovilette "Jo" Wilder has spent her entire life in the circus. She knows no other life, and she wants no other life...Until the new owner shows up after inheriting the circus from the father he's never met.

This story sure didn't age well. The story itself could work in any time setting, but the characters and their actions and reactions don't fare well in this day and age.

First of all, the story is written in third person, but from the heroine's perspective. Since said heroine, despite being twenty-two (or so we're told) comes across as childish, immature and rather self-absorbed, so we don't glean much about the hero or his possible inner workings from the narrator.
Because we're not privy to the hero's inner voice, his character and his intentions remain (mostly) a mystery, and the final revelation about his true feelings doesn't really work and seems rather unbelievable or implausible.

What the Dead Know by Kylie Brant

What the Dead Know - Kylie Brant

Keira Saxon left her job as a homicide detective in Chicago when her father had taken ill, and then took over his position as sheriff when he was killed in a bear attack...Then nine months later she receives his diseased liver in his own little cooler, and she knows he wasn't attacked by a bear, but by the most dangerous beast of them all—a man.

She also received a severed finger alongside her father's liver, so she knows she has another victim to take care of. Weary of Michigan State Police, since they failed to notice her father wasn't attacked by a bear, she enlists the help of Raiker's Mindhunters and gets a twofer (forensic pathologist and investigator) in a single person, Finn Carstens.

Together they'll hunt a hunter that's drawing them deeper into his own game of cat and mouse.

Yet another disappointing installment in this series. While it started off great—the mystery was intriguing, the glimpses into the killer chilling, and the danger was lurking just underneath the surface of the story—it all fizzled out just after the half mark.
As soon as the scenes from the killer's point of view winked out of existence and the procedural and investigation kicked up a notch, the sense of imminent danger, the urgency, the intensity, and the intrigue were gone, replaced by a plodding tempo, a poor excuse for attraction (I won't deign call it romance) between the two protagonists, and a very dull rest of the plot that was not saved by the reappearance of the killer and the reveal of his identity. It was a revelation, but it failed to surprise, since I was beyond caring at that point.

Maybe it should've been shorter, or maybe it should've kept the killer more in the foreground...I don't know.

Secrets of the Dead by Kylie Brant

Secrets of the Dead (The Mindhunters Book 7) - Kylie Brant, Mary-Theresa Hussey

Someone is gunning for Jaid and Adam Raiker's adoptive son, Royce and after a failed kidnapping attempt, Raiker knows he needs to be proactive if he wants to keep his family safe. Enter Declan Gallagher and Eve Larrison posing as a married couple disgruntled with Declan's "former" employer, Adam Raiker.

This story was a disappointment. Too leisurely paced (nothing really happened and there was no real sense of urgency until almost the very end) with rather bland and dull characters and a very sorry excuse of a romantic side-plot.

Buried Truth by Jannine Gallant

Buried Truth (A Siren Cove Novel) - Jannine Gallant

DNF @ 11 %

The heavy-handed exposition, uninteresting characters and puerile writing made me cringe too much.


Dark in Death by J.D. Robb

Dark in Death - J.D. Robb

A young actress is killed with a ice pick in a darkened theater while watching Psycho. There's no motive, no real suspect...It looks like a random killing, yet Lieutenant Eve Dallas feels the victim was carefully selected.

Then an unexpected source, a mystery writer friend of Nadine's, offers a seemingly outlandish explanation...And everything suddenly makes sense. Someone is plagiarizing the author's work, but with deadly results...

It was a real pleasure (after a streak of not-so-good suspense/mysteries) to revisit this favorite series of mine, its characters, its relationships, and its mysteries.

The story didn't disappoint. It had its slow moments, and a false climax to boot, but it packed the punch I come to expect from an In Death novel.
The investigation was intriguing, keeping us guessing, trying to outthink the killer alongside the characters, the pacing, especially toward the end, was nicely pumped-up, and the killer was a psychotic beauty to behold.
The final confrontation in the box, when it's all revealed, struck somewhere between annoyance, disgust, and sympathy for the pitiful creature the killer truly was.

The main characters were wonderful as always, their interactions and relationships realistic, the tempo almost perfect, the voice consistent and known, and the plot with all its elements and twists engaging.

Scene of the Crime: Bachelor Moon by Carla Cassidy

Scene of the Crime: Bachelor Moon (Mills & Boon Intrigue) - Carla Cassidy

FBI profiler Sam Connelly is on a forced vacation in a Louisiana B&B when someone targets the B&B owner. The secret admirer has been leaving the single mother and her daughter little gifts, but now he's escalating by leaving her a murdered would-be competitor accompanied by a creepy phone call.

Sam knows they're dealing with yet another monster, and he's willing to do anything to keep mother and daughter from harm.

Formulaic and rather predictable with a myriad of coincidences (the admirer escalates right when Sam starts his spoiler
). The only thing I didn't see coming was the identity of the crazy admirer, since there were no real clues with red herrings leading everywhere else but there.

This time it was the hero's turn to be scared of loving anyone due to "what was hidden underneath" (eye roll, please), the heroine fell for the guy too quickly, I didn't really buy the love-thing from the hero...
The only remotely decent part of this story was the suspense, which was unfortunately overshadowed by the botched-up and rushed romance.

Scene of the Crime: Bridgewater, Texas by Carla Cassidy

Scene of the Crime: Bridgewater, Texas (Mills & Boon Intrigue) (Harlequin Intrigue) - Carla Cassidy

A killer struck in the small town of Bridgewater, Texas. But he made a terrible mistake choosing his victim. Because FBI agent Jenna Taylor will stop at nothing to find the man who killed her best friend and make him pay. She will stop at absolutely nothing, not even stepping on local sheriff’s toes. And it’s clear Matt Buchanan doesn’t want her there. Stepping on his toes.

His wishes and wants soon change, when the killer strikes the second time. Matt knows the third kill will "establish" whether they’re dealing with a serial killer or not, but he doesn’t want to wait until the third strike. He asks Jenna for her profiling help and she says yes…But she is working on something all on her own. She decided to be the lure and the killer has taken the bait.

These Harlequins are very repetitive, the been-there-read-there variety. An emotional-baggage-laden heroine, a widowed hero, that’s decided to let go of his past and take another shot at love and the heroine is just the person he turns to, a lot of angst and drama when she decides a lasting relationship is off limits and he decides to prove her wrong…And a killer gunning for the emotional-baggage-laden heroine who sees what she's missing and what she really wants from life when it's almost too late.

Well, this story was no different, except for the fact the hero, ex-homicide detective turned small-town sheriff has a scar, and the villain's identity came rather out of the left field without any clues and loads of red herrings that didn't lead anywhere.
The heroine was a pill with mommy issues, the hero was as one-dimensional as he could've been, the "romance" felt rushed and unbelievable...And the story lost two stars on this re-read.