The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses by K.N. Smith

Publisher: Two Petals Publishing

Date of Publication: September 15th, 2015

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Adventure, Action, Urban Fantasy, Supernatural, Thriller, Mystery, Contemporary

Purchase Links: Amazon | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

Welcome or unwelcome. Fate has arrived.

A suspenseful incident in a forbidden preserve heightens the senses of five friends. Sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell become super-gifts that forever change the world. But furious battles confront the boys as they try to understand their sensory super powers in a race to save mankind. With light beings and mysterious strangers complicating their plight, can the boys defeat the evil Druth before it’s too late? Get prepared for the twisting and grinding of this award-winning, action-adventure story — an edge-of-your-seat narrative for young and mature readers alike.


First Line:

An alluring midnight seeped through the preserve, where huge, wavy leaves dances beneath the moonlight.

The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses by K.N. Smith

Fantasy has been one of my go-to genres to read since I was a child. I remember reading The Hobbit for the first time and thinking, “I like this!” But I wasn’t a contemporary or urban fantasy fan until I was a little older. And when I say a little bit, I mean in my late 30’s, lol. But, once I started reading them, I liked that subgenre. When I was approached to read/review The Urban Boys, I considered how I felt about the genre/subgenre and decided to accept the invite. I am glad I did because this book was a great read.

The Urban Boys had an exciting and somewhat complex plotline. Five boys acquire magical powers that affect their five senses. They also learn that they are responsible for keeping a peaceful alien race secret and protecting the human race from a being determined to enslave them. But it isn’t easy because the boys need to learn how to control their powers and work together. Can they do that? Can they overcome Druth and save the world?

The pacing of The Urban Boys went from fast to medium and back to fast. It didn’t bother me because I could keep up with the shifting pacing. Plus, when it did shift, it allowed me to take a breather (as a reader) and process everything that had happened up to that point.

I loved that there were five teenage boys (all of various ethnic backgrounds) as the heroes/main characters of the book. The author did something I considered difficult and gave each boy a distinct personality. So, if the book shifted to that character, I immediately knew who it was.

As stated, each of the boys acquired a heightened sense that turned them into superheroes (for lack of a better word). They are (in no particular order):

  • Hearing—Jordan
  • Sight—Kinsu
  • Touch—Chase
  • Smell—Rhee
  • Taste—Alex

I enjoyed reading as the boys discovered what had happened to them. It was interesting to read each boy’s response. The responses went from thinking it was cool to wishing they never had it.

The villain in this story was an evil person, but I felt terrible for him simultaneously. He felt neglected by his parents and forgotten by people that mattered to him. But, it doesn’t excuse what he did. He used the powers he was given by the Naculeans and exploited them. He turned that power into a weapon of destruction and used it to hurt countless people.

There were a lot of secondary characters in The Urban Boys. I did have a minor issue keeping them straight until I realized I could make notes of them on my Kindle (and so I did). The main secondary characters were The Dark Stranger, Mason, and Alina Alcaraz Olivas. The other secondary characters consisted of Druth’s main thugs, the Naculeans, the parents/guardians of the boys, and Alex’s girlfriend. They were all well written. Some I wished I had more info on, and others I wanted were more involved in the plotline. But all added an extra depth to the overall plotline. I will say that I wouldn’t have been as cool as the parents/guardians were when they found out the truth.

I do want to mention the Naculeans. I found them and their backstory fascinating. They were genuinely peaceful beings who tried to help humans. But, I liked that the author made them make mistakes. The big one was telling Druth a half-truth about his powers. They realized that and ensured they had the right people (the boys) before they again bestowed the powers.

There is a lot of action in The Urban Boys. It primarily centered around the boys learning about their powers and fighting Druth’s thugs. I did enjoy it because it showed the boys’ growth as people and as a fighting unit.

A substory line was running in the background of The Urban Boys. It involved the parents of a couple of the boys, Druth, Alina, and The Dark Stranger. I was wondering how the author was going to tie everything together. I wasn’t disappointed and was very surprised by what was revealed.

The end of The Urban Boys was interesting. I loved how the author resolved the main storyline. It was a classic good versus evil battle, and I was on the edge of my seat. Of course, there is a lead-in to the next book, which I can’t wait to read.

I recommend The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses to anyone over 13. There is violence, mild language, and some kissing scenes (otherwise, a clean book).


If you enjoy The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Fives Senses, you will enjoy these books;

Last Place Seen by Alessandra Harris

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing

Date of publication: September 6th, 2022

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

In the aftermath of her husband’s life-altering mistake, Tiana Williams grapples with lingering resentment while working full-time and raising their toddler. But when Jay becomes a person of interest in the kidnapping of ten-year-old Zoe Miller, Tiana is torn between trusting her husband and believing the growing pile of evidence. After she gets dragged further into the mystery and discovers her connection to the missing girl, the shaky ground beneath her crumbles.

With the odds stacked against him, Jay does everything in his power to prove his innocence. Racing against the clock, he must uncover the truth about Zoe’s kidnapping before he loses everything he loves—including his freedom.

During a sweltering heat wave and a raging California wildfire, Tiana and Jay will stop at nothing to find Zoe, even if it means tearing apart their marriage and risking their own lives in the process.


First Line:

A familiar ache gripped Tiana’s chest.

Last Place Seen by Alessandra Harris

When I read Last Place Seen’s blurb, I knew I needed to read it. A mystery/thriller/suspense set in California during a heat wave and with a wildfire going on? Sign me up to read it. I am glad I did because I couldn’t put this book down.

The Last Place Seen had a fascinating plotline. It starts with a 10-year-old girl getting kidnapped at a local Walmart. The missing child investigation focuses on Jay, who happened to be there at the same time the girl went missing. Jay, desperate to prove his innocence, scrambles to find evidence to show he didn’t kidnap her. The book then zooms in on the life of Tiana and Jay, a married couple going through hard times.

On the other hand, Tiana has her world blown when long-held secrets are exposed, and her marriage to Jay crumbles. Will the girl be found? Will Jay be able to hold onto his family and his freedom? And will Tiana make the right choice?

The Last Place Seen had a fast plotline that alternated between Jay and Tiana. The author didn’t slow down for a second during the book. I loved it!!

There were several twists in the plotline that I did see coming. It didn’t take away from my enjoyment of reading or lessen any anxiety I felt while reading.

I liked Jay a lot. He was a convicted felon struggling to find work, which made him feel awful. He did help out around the house and watched Marcus (Tiana and his son) while Tiana worked. He had his issues (some major ones that were detailed in the book). I got mad on his behalf quite often while reading. The author touched a nerve with me when Jay was taken in for questioning. I got angry and then felt sadness because you know that this same scenario plays out in police departments around the United States. I was rooting for Jay the entire book, and I felt he got his comeuppance at the end.

I liked Tiana, but she annoyed me. I get that she was still low-key upset with Jay over his incarceration. But I wouldn’t say I liked seeing her being petty about it. Also, I wouldn’t say I liked that she immediately ran to Devon once things started to blow up (Jay being brought in for questioning, the two huge bombshells dropped on her). Also, I didn’t particularly appreciate that she didn’t believe Jay when he said he was innocent. All because of what Devon was saying (which, by the way, I saw right through). There were other instances where she annoyed me too. Like at the rally, when she saw her father and was loud about what she found out (not the time or the place). But, towards the end, I felt she got served a piece of humble pie. She got to feel what Jay went through when he was arrested, and she was forced to interact with her dad/her dad’s mistress.

The suspense angle of Last Place Seen kept me reading. I was wondering when everything would come together. I also wondered if/when Zoe (the missing girl) would be found. The author did a fantastic job with that.

As I mentioned above, I did figure out most of the mystery angles reasonably early in the book. A couple of them were just good guesses on my end, and I was surprised when I was right. Still, figuring them out early didn’t take away from my enjoyment of reading the book.

The thriller angle of the book was great. Like the suspense angle, it kept me glued to the book.

The end of Last Place Seen was one of the best I have ever read. Not only did the author keep me guessing if Jay would ever find the evidence to exonerate himself, but I wondered if Tiana would figure out what was going on. She eventually did but not before being served a piece of humble pie (as I stated above). The last chapter was very bittersweet but showed Tiana’s growth as a character.

I would recommend Last Place Seen to anyone over 21. There is violence and language but no sexual situations.

Shadowed Spirits (The Guardians: Book 4) by Reily Garrett

Publisher:

Date of publication: August 19th, 2022

Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

Series: The Guardians

Shadowed Horizons—Book 1 (review here)

Shadowed Origins—Book 2 (review here)

Shadowed Passages—Book 3

Shadowed Spirits—Book 4

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

One man’s curse is another man’s weapon.

Genetic engineer Neah Haversham thought unlocking the code to her psychic gift would ease the way to blocking it, something she’d wanted since puberty.
Unable to turn off heightened senses means experiencing life on a different level. Shiya, her golden retriever, is the only companion tolerated.
Within months of finishing her studies, she learns the life she planned has vanished with the rescue of a sarcastic, hardheaded teen with an unprecedented ability.
Ouray Bernard is a healer and warrior, a Native American who uses his skills to train other uniquely talented individuals. When called to help the woman invading his dreams, he can’t refuse.
Loyalties collide as each defends their position in the battle against a secret society determined to dominate them all.


First Line:

Concrete is porous. Most people think it’s the same as cement.

Shadowed Spirits by Reily Garrett

I was immediately sucked into the book when I started reading Shadowed Spirits. I was thrilled that Ouray was getting his HEA, and I couldn’t wait to see who Neah was and what abilities her character would have. I wasn’t disappointed!!

Shadowed Spirits are the 4th book in The Guardians series. Technically, readers could read this book as a standalone mainly because the author does go over what happened in the previous books in the beginning. I would, however, strongly recommend reading the first three books before reading this one.

As noted in the first paragraph, Shadowed Spirits are the love story between Neah and Ouray. This book starts shortly after the last book’s events and introduces Neah. Neah is a genetic engineer coming close to cracking the code of not only her psychic gift but everyone like her psychic gifts. But Neah is on a mission from her mentor when the book starts. That mission is to rescue a gifted teenager from people who wish to harness her ability. But that mission goes sideways, and Neah finds herself joined to Ouray’s group. Determined to keep the teen safe and finish her research, Neah doesn’t have time for romance. But as she gets to know the group, Neah realizes that maybe her research wasn’t for the greater good and was selfish. When her research is stolen, and the teenager kidnapped, Neah must put aside everything she thinks about her gift and use it. Will Neah and the group be able to rescue the teen? Will Neah come to terms with her gift? And more importantly, will Neah and Ouray recognize their feelings for each other?

I liked Neah. From the minute she was introduced in the book, I was fascinated with her. Her gift was unique, and I could sympathize with her frustration with it. It must have been not very good to live with heightened senses. I understood why she went into genetic research. She wanted a way to turn it off. It made sense to me. She mildly annoys me when she refuses to listen to reason with her research (it could put people like her at risk). But other than that, I enjoyed her character.

I was super happy that Ouray got his love story. A little of his background was released, and I wish the author had released more of his background. He was a stabilizing force with Caspar and Neah once they overcame their initial distrust of him. Plus, he trained them (which they both needed). I enjoyed his character a lot.

I wasn’t expecting Caspar and her abilities. Just for the record, Caspar is not her real name. She got the nickname because of her ability. Caspar can phase through inanimate and animate objects. She reminded me of my almost 17-year-old daughter: headstrong, spunky, and with a heart of gold. She cared more than she let on. I also was in awe of her ability. The more the author released, the stronger it got. She phased through a mountain to escape the bad guys while holding Neah in one memorable scene. In another memorable scene, she could phase her hand through a chest and grab a heart in her hand as an intimidation tactic. I cannot wait to see where her story ends up.

The romance angle of Shadowed Spirits was very slight and almost overlooked. I didn’t feel Neah and Ouray liked each other that way until nearly the end of the book. And that was only after Christine’s vision that Neah saw herself with a black-haired toddler boy.

There were zero sex scenes in Shadowed Spirits. Ouray and Neah kiss, but it is towards the end of the book. Honestly, I liked it like that. I felt that sex would have taken away some of the storylines with everything going on.

The author very well wrote the plotline regarding Neah, her research, the two groups helping her, and the group kidnapping people with abilities. Some of those scenes were gripping, and I couldn’t put my book down. I also loved what happened with Pandora towards the end of the book. Let’s say that she deserved what she got.

The plotline centered around Neah; her background and her abilities were interesting. I did figure out who Neah was related to by the middle of the book. But, I was still surprised when the author made the grand reveal at the end. It did make sense.

The plotline centered around Caspar, her background and her abilities were well written. I enjoyed watching her character flesh out during the book. As I mentioned above, I was in awe of her abilities. She was one of the more powerful, gifted people I have read in the series. Her background is revealed at the end of the book. She found out where she came from and how she ended up in the foster system. The only thing that the author didn’t release was her true name.

The end of Shadowed Spirits was terrific. The author wrapped up Neah and Ouray’s storyline and part of Caspar’s. But she left all the rest open and threw in a shocking bit of information that made my mouth drop. I have a feeling I know who the next couple will be, but I’m not going to say.

I would recommend Shadowed Spirits to anyone over 21. There is no sex. There is language and violence. There are also scenes of people being held against their will and drugged and kidnapped.

The Diseased (Paige Hanson: Book 1) by S. M. Thomas

Publisher: A.R. Hurne Publishing

Date of publication: September 2nd, 2022

Genre: Dystopia, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Series: Paige Hanson

The Diseased—Book 1

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo

Goodreads Synopsis:

Where is your husband?

Since waking up from the accident Dr Paige Hanson has been asked that question over and over. By the hospital staff, by her mother in law and by Government officials.

As she struggles to grasp the wisps of memory returning to her Paige learns that there’s more at stake than Leo’s whereabouts.

Turning towards the teachings of the one person she swore never to become she begins to realise that some questions are best left unanswered.


First Line:

“We were drowning. That’s the last thing I remember.”

The Diseased by S.M. Thomas

I like books that keep me guessing what will happen as I read. I also like books that do not fit into what you think a specific genre would be like (if that makes sense). But, most of all, I like books that suck me in, don’t let me go, and make me want more after the ending. Those reasons are precisely what The Diseased did to me as I read it.

The Diseased is the first book in the Paige Hanson series. And what a first book it was!! Seeing that it is the first book, I won’t tell you if you need to read the series first or if it is a standalone.

The Diseased is the story of Dr. Paige Hanson and the mystery of what happened to her husband the night their car drove into a lake. Paige has very fuzzy recollections of what happened and almost none of what led to the accident. Paige, a brilliant scientist, is released from the hospital only to be kept under surveillance at all times. What happened that night? What are Paige’s secrets? Paige realizes she isn’t the only one keeping secrets, but her secrets could kill her.

Paige was a highly complex character which, in my eyes, meant she was complicated to get to know and like. There were several different sides of Paige that were gradually introduced. They were: Paige the scientist; Paige the mother; Paige the wife; Paige the daughter-in-law; Paige the friend; and Paige the daughter/child. The author did a fantastic job of building up each side of Paige and then merging them towards the end of the book. At first, I wasn’t her biggest fan, but the author was able to change my mind about her during the book.

What surprised me the most about this book is that it doesn’t take place on Earth. Nope, the entire story takes place on a planet called Earth 2. There was a disaster on Earth 1, and a lottery was set up to select people to travel to Earth 2. Paige’s mother was one of those who had won the lottery. Nothing else was mentioned about the original Earth, except that it was burning. I figured everyone else died. The new planet was very similar to Earth 1, except there were already intelligent, human-like creatures who occupied it. Those creatures kindly allowed the settlers to build settlements. But, humans doing what they do best and started abusing the original lifeforms, which struck back. When the book begins (about 50 or so years after touching down), there is an uneasy peace. This information was told by Paige, remembering what her mother-in-law and mother had told her about her journey from Earth 1.

I wasn’t surprised by how the ruling government was. The original leaders of Earth 2 decided they didn’t want what happened on Earth 1 to happen again. They decided to remove the settlers’ customs and fundamental rights to make a more cohesive and obedient population. I was terrified and fascinated as I read this book.

I wish the author had gone more into Earth 2’s original occupants. All I knew was that they were human-like, could procreate with humans, and were pissed about what the settlers were doing. There was mention of an influential family with which Paige’s mother was involved, but that was it. Hopefully, in the next book, the author will explain more.

The mystery angle of The Diseased was well written. The author had a stranglehold on where Leo was and why they ended up in the lake. Her remembering those events was terrific and shed so much light on everything!!

The suspense and thriller angles of the book were just as well written. The author kept me in suspense about various plotlines (main and sub) that were going on throughout the book.

The storyline with Regina, Paige, and Franklin was very intense. As a mother, I could see both sides of the coin. I could see why Regina was pushing Paige to remember, and I could also see why Paige was protective of Franklin. Of course, a massive twist in that storyline took me by surprise. It made me rethink Regina (I was not too fond of her actions over most of the book).

The storyline with Paige, Leo, and the mystery of what happened that night was one of the most amazing ones I have read. The author kept me guessing about what happened to Leo and why Paige was driving. She let little details trickle down, gave slight hints, and got everything under wraps. So, when the author revealed everything, I was surprised.

The storyline with the pandemic and Paige hit a little too close to home for me. I did like seeing Paige’s process to develop a vaccine, but at the same time, I kept flashing back to quarantine.

The storyline with Paige and her mother was raw and difficult to read. It was tough to read because of Paige’s emotions. I could see how torn she was between wanting to have a relationship with her mother and, at the same time, she wanted to denounce her. I liked seeing her eventual realization that maybe her mother was on to something and waiting for her mother to do something at the trial.

The end of The Diseased was interesting. I was a little miffed that it ended on a cliffhanger, but it did its job!! I say that because of where Paige ended up and what she did after talking to her friends. I need to read book two and see where Paige goes next.

I would recommend The Diseased to anyone over 21. There are no overtly sexual scenes. But there is violence and language. There are scenes where a baby drowns, a man gets hanged, and another man is forced to denounce his sexuality.

Once and Always (Blackhawk Security: Book 6) by Margaret Watson

Publisher: Dragonfly Press

Date of publication: August 2nd, 2022

Genre: Romance, Suspense, Mystery, Thriller

Series: Blackhawk Security

With One Breath—Book 1 (review here)

Once Removed—Book 2 (review here)

Once Burned—Book 3 (review here)

Fool Me Once—Book 4 (review here)

Just This Once—Book 5 (review here)

Once and Always—Book 6

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

Zoe was still in high school when she saw her father shot dead by a classmate obsessed with her, and then still a kid, witnessed the killer’s sentencing. A horrible tragedy, but now, thirteen years later, she’s thoroughly rebooted her life.

She’s the CEO of her own cyber security company, a celebrity in her field, and a speaker in high demand.

She’s just the kind of strong, self-reliant woman who can take care of herself in any situation.

Except the one she’s in.

She’s got a stalker.

And she already knows he’s a killer.

Given her background, Zoe knows instantly that she needs protection and she knows how to get it—her sister Mel’s the owner of Blackhawk Security.

But trust Mel to send Spence Flynn, the one agent Zoe can’t be alone with, but not because they don’t get along. It’s because attraction sizzles between the two of them like runaway electricity. And because they both know the last thing a body guard should do is get into a relationship with his principal.

It’s unethical and dangerous.

But how are they supposed to fight this thing? Spoiler: Good intentions suffer a knockout in the first round. And then, to the delight of the reader, the earth moves in the most delicious way.

Meanwhile, Zoe’s stalker is still sending her charms from a bracelet he stole from her thirteen years ago, the scariest being a heart he’s had engraved with both their names. Unnerving enough– and then he starts dropping off lunch for her, tailing her in a white Subaru, and trying to break into her condo.

Spence has his hands full in more than one way. And Zoe has a public appearance coming up. The perfect time for a stalker to strike.


First Line:

His heart racing, Ethan Davies slowed his steps as he neared Zoe’s locker.

Once and Always by Margaret Watson

If you have been following my blog long enough, I have a few authors I review regularly. Margaret Watson is one of them. I am a big fan of her books, and I always accept the invitation to review them when it comes to my email. When the invite for Once and Always appeared in my inbox, it was a no-brainer that I would accept.

Once and Always had an exciting plotline. At 18, Zoe witnessed her father killed by an obsessed classmate, and then she had to go through a trial. Thirteen years later, she has moved on with her life until she starts receiving packages. Those packages contain charms from a bracelet she lost around the time her father was killed, and only one person could have it—Ethan, her former stalker who killed her father. Contacting her sister, who owns Blackhawk Security, she is assigned a bodyguard until Ethan is caught. But when she sees who it is, she is slightly concerned. Zoe has been thirsting after Spence since he helped Nico the year before. The feelings are mutual, but Spence is there for a job: to protect Zoe from Ethan until he is caught. Will that happen? And will Zoe and Spence give in to their mutual attraction?

Once and Always is book 6 in the Blackhawk Security series. Once and Always can be read as a stand-alone book. But I suggest reading the first five books before picking this one up. That way, you know who the secondary characters are that are mentioned in Once and Always.

I will put a trigger warning on this review. The author did take great care to show sympathy and understanding for Ethan and made several references to mental illness reform (mainly about the facility he was held at for five years) and knowledge. There are mentions of attempted kidnapping. There are also talks about Ethan’s mental illness, and the author does show how he spiraled back into his delusions after his mother died. But, if these trigger you, I suggest not reading this book.


I did not expect to find sympathy for Ethan. The villains in most books are pure evil. But Ethan, well, he was different. The things he did to Zoe were terrible; there is no question about that, but knowing that he suffered a relapse after his mother’s death did soften my stance on him. The scenes in the cabin only cemented my opinion of him. I also liked that Zoe and Spence understood that after the fact. Their actions at the end of the book (which was discussed after the cabin) were proof of that.

I liked Zoe. She was a strong, opinionated, outspoken woman who knew her worth. Being a tech company CEO in an industry with few women shaped her. What also shaped her was what happened to her as a teenager. How could it not? I loved reading her scenes because she was always on point. She wasn’t afraid to share her feelings, even if she knew that the other person didn’t return them (the scene with Ron comes to mind, and a scene with Spence towards the end of the book).

I liked Spence, but I wanted to smack him at various times during the book. He was great at his job and would do anything to keep Zoe safe. But he wasn’t too good with personal skills or sharing his feelings. I did agree with him that they (him and Zoe) needed space, but I didn’t agree with how he phrased it. Also, I didn’t particularly appreciate how he treated Zoe after the scenes at the cabin. I talked out loud to the book and said, “Dude, you seriously didn’t say that to her!!” Spence had a lot of baggage he needed to lose, and I was afraid he would miss that ship with Zoe.

The secondary characters did make the book. These secondary characters flushed the book out and made the plotline more interesting to read.

I enjoyed the romance angle of Once and Always. There was a bit of Insta Love, but it was easy to overlook. It was an easy romance to read, and I liked knowing (well, for the most part) how Zoe and Spence would end up.

The sexual tension between Zoe and Spence was immediate from the beginning. It didn’t take long for them to end up in bed. The author raised the pressure by just having them look at each other. I loved it. I was a little meh about Zoe being a screamer during sex. She made Spence’s ears ring the first time she climaxed and every time after that. All I could think was, “What was her downstairs neighbors thinking” and “I hope the apartment is soundproof”….lol.

The mystery angle of Once and Always was also well written. It wasn’t too much of a mystery about who was sending the charms and why. The mystery, to me, was if Ethan would grab Zoe and when. The author gave several false leads, and I was kept on edge, wondering if it would happen.

The suspense angle was intertwined with the mystery angle. The author did a great job of keeping guessing at when (and if) Ethan was going to capture Zoe. I also was kept on edge by Spence and his decisions.

The end of Once and Always did bring tears to my eyes. While I was sad about how it ended, I loved how Zoe and Spence brought awareness to mental illness. I loved how the author wrapped up Zoe and Spence’s storyline. I am not sure who will be featured in book 7 (if there is a book 7), but if I had to guess, it would be Mel and her business partner. Either way, I am looking forward to it.

I would recommend Once and Always to anyone over 21. There are graphic sex, language, and violence. There are also the trigger warnings that I posted above.

Black Tide by K.C. Jones

Publisher: Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tor Nightfire

Date of publication: May 31st, 2022

Genre: Horror, Science Fiction, Post Apocalyptic, Thriller, Dystopia, Speculative Fiction

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

It was just another day at the beach. Then the world ended.

Mike and Beth were strangers before the night of the meteor shower. Chance made them neighbors, a bottle of champagne brought them together, and a shared need for human connection sparked something more.

Following their drunken and desperate one-night stand, the two discover the astronomical event has left widespread destruction in its wake. But the cosmic lightshow was only part of something much bigger, and far more terrifying.

When a lost car key leaves them stranded on an empty stretch of Oregon coast and inhuman screams echo from the dunes, when the rising tide reaches for their car and unspeakable horrors close in around them, these two self-destructive souls must fight to survive a nightmare of apocalyptic scale.


First Line:

My mom once accused me of being a human car wreck, I laughed in her face when she said it.

Black Tide by K.C. Jones

Black Tide was the first in a series of books I had seen on other blogs that I wanted to read. So, like everyone else, I added it to Goodreads and prayed to the book gods that I got an invite. The book gods blessed me because I got every single book I had put on my Want to Read list. I was pretty stoked about getting it and couldn’t wait to read it. I am glad I did because this book scared the everliving out of me!!

Black Tide is a fast-moving horror story on the Oregon coast. Beth is a woman who has gone through a lot but is turning her life around. She is pet sitting for a wealthy couple and enjoying it. Then one night, she meets Mike. Mike owns the house next door and is a bit of a mystery. When Beth sees him drinking champagne on the deck of his house, she invites herself over. That turns into a drunken one-night stand with Beth having a strange, almost vivid dream and Mike witnessing a meteor shower like none he had seen before. When Beth wakes up, Mike is on the beach with Jake (the dog she is pet sitting), and Mike has disturbing news. There is no power, and he cannot get a hold of anyone over the phone. He also has a strange pod on the beach that turned up (along with several others). Deciding to leave and try to find a person of authority who knows what is going on, they drive until they find a bunch of people parked on the beach and the road. What happens next is almost unbelievable, and Beth drops the keys to the car in a rush to get out—stranded and with high tide coming in, Mike and Beth need to figure something out fast before they end up like the people with them on the beach. What happened on the beach? Will they get out? Will they find out what happened?

I very rarely get frightened by books. I lost the ability to do that when I read The Stand and It in middle school (I was a precocious reader). But this book scared the ever living out of me. But, at the same time, while I was scared to death, I also couldn’t put it down. I 100% attribute that to the author keeping me hooked and wanting to see if Mike, Beth, and Jake (along with another person who appears later in the book) would get out alive. I was left feeling breathless during certain scenes. The author also ramped up my anxiety.

I could relate to Beth on certain levels. Who hasn’t felt like a car accident waiting to happen during specific points in their life? Who hasn’t hit rock bottom and has to claw their way out? I know I have. I loved seeing her character grow. She went from being this self-absorbed drunk to a woman willing to do whatever it took to get out of her situation.

I wasn’t too sure about Mike when he was introduced. I kept feeling that he was hiding something (which he was, and it was very sad when it was revealed). But his character also transformed throughout Black Tide. He was pulled out of his depression and realized his life was worth living. I thought he was perfect for Beth, and he complimented her towards the end of the book.

The author very well wrote the horror angle of Black Tide. During the scenes in the car (while the tide was creeping in), I did get some Cujo-like vibes. That didn’t take away from how much I liked the book. Instead, it added to it. And as I said above, the author stoked my anxiety during pivotal scenes.

The science fiction angle of the book was well written also. I loved the imagination the author had with the aliens. They were so monstrous that I had no issue imagining them in my head (which added to my anxiety).

The end of Black Tide left me with conflicting emotions. I was upset over some things, but I understood why they happened. But at the same time, I was overjoyed over other things. I was also sad because of what they realized after leaving the beach. The book didn’t end with a HEA. Instead, without going much into it, I left the book feeling pessimistic about Beth and Mike’s future.

I would recommend Black Tide to anyone over 21. There is violence, language, and nongraphic sex/sexual situations.

The Favor by Nora Murphy

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books

Date of publication: May 31st, 2022

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Contemporary

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

A gripping debut domestic suspense novel, The Favor explores with compassion and depth what can happen when women pushed to the limit take matters into their own hands.

Staying is dangerous. Leaving could be worse.

Leah and McKenna have never met, though they have parallel lives.

They don’t—ever—find themselves in the same train carriage or meet accidentally at the gym or the coffee shop. They don’t—ever—discuss their problems and find common ground. They don’t—ever—acknowledge to each other that although their lives have all the trappings of success, wealth and happiness, they are, in fact, trapped.

Because Leah understands that what’s inside a home can be more dangerous than what’s outside. Driving past McKenna’s house one night, she sees what she knows only too well herself from her own marriage: McKenna’s “perfect” husband is not what he seems. She decides to keep an eye out for McKenna, until one night, she intervenes.

Leah and McKenna have never met. But they will


First Line:

The key is to go to a few different stores.

The Favor by Nora Murphy

Thrillers, mainly psychological thrillers, are some of my favorite books. I love having my mind messed with by the book (not so much in real life, though). So, any invites that publishers send me that are immediately accepted. The Favor was one of those invites.

The Favor had an exciting plotline. Leah is a lawyer becoming an alcoholic after getting fired from her job. She sees McKenna at her favorite liquor store and immediately feels a connection with her. Following her home, Leah realizes that McKenna is in a similar situation because she is married to an abusive spouse. Leah starts stalking McKenna, and one night does the unthinkable. That starts off a series of events that will affect Leah and McKenna for the rest of their lives. Will Leah and McKenna be able to get away with what they did? Or will the police tie everything together?

I am going to throw a content warning up. Usually, I don’t give warnings, but I will in this case. Sexual (spousal rape), physical, emotional, and psychological abuse are featured. There is talk of and scenes of domestic violence. So, if you are triggered by this (and honestly, who wouldn’t be), I highly recommend not reading this book.

Leah was a hot mess. I felt awful for her when Liam started alienating her from her family, friends, and finally, her job. I didn’t blame her for turning to alcohol to dull the pain. But, when she witnessed what McKenna was going through, she decided to act. It was after helping McKenna that her true colors started to show. She was probably the strongest person in the book.

I liked McKenna, and my heart broke for her. She had it so much worse than Leah. Those scenes with her husband (the one where he found her birth control broke my heart). What broke it even more, was that she knew what she felt that she couldn’t get out. But, like Leah, she was a powerful woman.

I liked Jordan but felt that his character was almost added in as an afterthought. I got why the author included him-she wanted a view from the police’s POV. Still, I was not too fond of it. It served as a distraction to me.

The plotline with Leah and McKenna was wonderfully written. I was kept on the edge of my seat, wondering if the police would catch them. I was also wondering if McKenna would return the favor for Leah.

The plotline with Leah, McKenna, and Jordan kept me glued to the book. I spent the book wondering what Jordan knew and who he would arrest for Liam and Zachary’s murders.

The psychological thriller angle of The Favor was well written. I loved not knowing where this book would take me and with whom.

The end of The Favor was a complete surprise. But it was the twist in the epilogue that got me!!

I would recommend The Favor to anyone over 21. There is language, violence, and sexual situations. There are also scenes of domestic violence.

My Wife is Missing by D.J. Palmer

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of Publication: May 10th, 2022

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Contemporary

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

A family vacation turns into a nightmare for Michael Hart when he discovers his wife and two children have disappeared from their New York City hotel room. Horrified, he fears they’ve been kidnapped. Michael’s frantic search to find them takes a shocking turn when he discovers that his wife, Natalie, appears to have left quite willingly, taking their children with her. The police want to know why, and so does Michael. But there may be a reason why Natalie ran, something Michael can’t tell the police — the truth about his past. While untangling his deceptions might be the key to locating Natalie, Michael knows it could also be his undoing. To find his wife, he must now turn to the one person capable of exposing all that he’s been hiding. Natalie thinks she has Michael all figured out and has hatched a plan to escape from him permanently. One detail, though, threatens to derail her efforts: sleep — or more accurately, the lack of it. Since the moment the shocking revelations about her husband came to light, Natalie’s insomnia has worsened to the point that she now suffers from delusions. Are her fears about Michael valid — or a symptom of her condition? With her children’s lives at risk, the stakes for Natalie could not be higher. On her own, running low on energy and resources, avoiding increasingly close calls with Michael — who is on the hunt and closing in fast — Natalie needs someone to turn to for help. But who can she trust when she can’t even trust herself?


First Line:

As Michael Hart rounded the corner to his hotel room, he saw a small, lifeless shape lying on the floor of the hallway.

My Wife is Missing by D.J. Palmer

My Wife is Missing is a fast-moving psychological thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Natalie and Michael have some martial/personal issues, and they decide to take a trip to New York City to reconnect. While Michael is out getting dinner, Natalie takes the kids and disappears. Michael is confused, angry, and concerned. Why? Because Natalie has had insomnia, and he fears the lack of sleep has made her irrational. What Michael doesn’t know is that Natalie has discovered some of Michael’s long-buried secrets, and those secrets have scared her enough to run. But hindering her is her severe insomnia, and she begins to wonder if what she saw and discovered were hallucinations brought on by it. Can Natalie trust herself to get to somewhere safe? Will Michael find her? Will she find out if what she saw/found out is the truth or hallucinations?

I was immediately intrigued by the blurb of this book. I don’t think I have ever read a book where insomnia was a huge and prevalent part of the plotline. I didn’t realize that severe insomnia could result in hallucinations/delusions.

Natalie was such an unreliable character, and I loved it. Her insomnia started when she realized Michael was cheating on her, and it kept getting worse throughout the book. I loved reading her detective work into Michael’s past and his affair. I also loved that when she decided to make a move, she made up her mind and did it. I was cheering for her as she out maneuvered Michael time and time again (even as exhausted as she was).

I wouldn’t say I liked Michael. But, he did gain a little bit of my respect with his detective skills. Even though Natalie was one step ahead of him for 90% of the book, he was close enough to get her a couple of times.

The storyline with Natalie, the kids, her insomnia, and being on the run kept me on the edge of my seat. I was internally cheering her on and wanting her to get to her final destination without Michael finding her. I was a little disappointed with how it ended, but my disappointment was short-lived. It was because the author brought this storyline and the storyline with Michael’s cheating/his past together, and it EXPLODED!!

Michael’s storyline, cheating, and past were well written. Again, it kept me glued to my Kindle. A twist to the cheating storyline and the story about Michael’s history took me by surprise.

The twists in the storylines made the book. I was not expecting either of them. When they both made their appearances (one towards the end and one at the very end), my mouth dropped open. I couldn’t believe that the author went where he did with both twists.

The end of My Wife is Missing was good. The author was able to wrap up all of the storylines in a way that both shocked and pleased me. I was happy to see that at least one of the main characters would have a happy life. But at the same time, I wish the author could have redeemed the other main character somehow. That would have made the book so much better for me.

I would recommend My Wife is Missing to anyone over 21. There is violence, language, and some mild sexual situations.

Dark Circles by Caite Dolan-Leach

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books

Date of publication: May 10th, 2022

Genre: Thriller, Fiction, Mystery, Suspense

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | Google Play | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

An embattled actress turns to podcasting when she becomes entangled in a dark conspiracy at a spiritual retreat in this absorbing mystery about fame, violence, and our morbid fascination with murder–from the acclaimed author of Dead Letters.

Olivia Reed needs a break. She doesn’t want to think about her name plastered on tabloids or be reminded of her recent meltdown on a Manhattan street. Her micromanaging publicist has just the thing in mind: a remote retreat in Upstate New York–the House of Light. It’s not rehab; it’s a spiritual center, a site for seeking realignment and personal growth. There will be yoga and morning meditation, soft bamboo-blend fabrics and crystals to snuggle.

But Liv will soon find that the House of Light is filled with darkness. A prickly local, Ava, informs her that something twisted is lurking behind the Light’s veneer. There have been a series of mysterious suicides committed by women caught in the Light’s web, and no matter who Ava talks to, no one believes her. To get the truth out and put her celebrity to good use, Liv starts a podcast, seeking to connect the dots and expose the Light’s true intentions. Because beneath the glowing skin of the Light’s inhabitants lie rotten souls, and Liv starts to wonder if anything–even her own life–is how it appears.

Caite Dolan-Leach brings her tantalizing voice, gift for atmosphere, and a cast of delightfully devious and absorbing characters to this riveting novel of suspense.


First Line:

The thing my goddamn manager doesn’t understand is that I don’t need to go on a retreat.

Dark Circles by Cait Dolan-Leach

Dark Circles’ plotline was interesting. Olivia is an actress who has found herself in a bit of a pickle. After a very public, very drunken/drug-fueled temper tantrum, her manager/best friend has decided to send Olivia to a retreat to sober up and maybe come to terms with what set her off. The treat is in Western NY, called House of Light, and seems to be where Olivia can sober up. But, on the first day, two things happen. One: Olivia meets a local who insists that the HoL is behind several suicides/murders in the area. Two: A body washes up on the retreats beach, and it is a former retreat member. Becoming intrigued with the unsolved murders/suicides, Olivia starts a podcast. But, as she goes down the rabbit hole, Olivia becomes obsessed. When she finds a connection between her missing mother and HoL, Olivia starts questioning everything she has been told. But the truth is more terrifying than Olivia knows. What is the truth?

I was not too fond of Olivia at first. She was self-absorbed and couldn’t care less about her harm to other people. Her public meltdown in Manhattan showcased that. She was also reckless and didn’t think things through, which was shown repeatedly during her investigation into the HoL. But, I did start to like her after the first few chapters. She went from what I thought would be a 2-dimensional character to a fully fleshed-out character.

I also liked the secondary characters in Dark Circles. They were a perfect blend of creepy and quirky. They also added that extra oomph that rounded out the book.

I liked that the author chose to incorporate the podcast into the story. From the cheesy ads (don’t we all love listening to those, lol) to the comments after each episode. I loved how they tied into the main storyline. This, too, added an extra depth.

The storyline with the HoL and the murder/suicides was wonderfully written. I was kept on the edge of my bed (because I read Dark Circles in bed). I did not expect it to go the way that it did. The twist in that plotline made my mouth drop.

The secondary plotline with Olivia’s mother was sad. I had a feeling about what was going to be revealed. But the author did an excellent job at distracting me from figuring it out until the end of the book.

The end of Dark Circles was your typical mystery ending. Everything was wrapped up and explained.

I would recommend Dark Circles to anyone over 16. There is violence, language, non-graphic sexual situations, and drug/alcohol use.

The Shadow House by Anna Downes

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books

Date of publication: April 5th, 2022

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Horror, Fiction, Suspense, Gothic

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

Extraordinarily tense and deliciously mysterious, Anna Downes’s The Shadow House follows one woman’s desperate journey to protect her children at any cost, in a remote place where not everything is as it seems.

A HOUSE WITH DEADLY SECRETS.

A MOTHER WHO’LL RISK EVERYTHING TO BRING THEM TO LIGHT.

Alex, a single mother of two, is determined to make a fresh start for her and her children. In an effort to escape her troubled past, she seeks refuge in a rural community. Pine Ridge is idyllic; the surrounding forests are beautiful and the locals welcoming. Mostly.

But Alex finds that she may have disturbed barely hidden secrets in her new home. As a chain of bizarre events is set off, events eerily familiar to those who have lived there for years, Alex realizes that she and her family might be in greater danger than ever before. And that the only way to protect them all is to confront the shadows lurking in Pine Ridge.


First Line:

The bones came first. A gift, nothing wanted. Next, a doll, a likeness, a promise. And the blood marks the choice. It finds a face, and then you know.

The Shadow House by Anna Downes

I wanted to like The Shadow House. I am a big fan of thrillers/mystery/suspense, and from what I read, this book was something that I would like. Then I read it, and I was let down.

The Shadow House did have an exciting storyline. Alex is a single mother of two, and she is on the run from the abusive father of her youngest child. Finding Pine Ridge was perfect, and Alex felt that she could make a fresh start for herself and her children. But things start to go sour when she receives weird gifts and overhears a bizarre rumor about a witch living in the surrounding woods. The more she digs into the secrets around Pine Ridge, the more unwelcoming the townspeople become. Can Alex figure out not only who is sending the gifts but why? And will her perfect refuge stay that way, or will it become tainted? And are the rumors about the witch true?

I hate to say this, but I was not too fond of Alex for about 90% of the book. She had a massive chip on her shoulder. She had gotten herself into a bad situation with her ex. Nobody deserves to be treated that way. But my pity was overwhelmed by my dislike of her.

I also didn’t care for Renee when the author switched to her POV. She knew that her husband was abusive toward Gabriel, but she didn’t do anything. Her son was crying out for help/attention/both, and she turned a blind eye. I get that she was dealing with her stuff (overbearing, uber-religious parents and her overbearing husband). It’s a problem when your kid locks himself in his bedroom for hours upon hours and refuses to come out. So, yeah, I didn’t pity her (Gabriel, on the other hand, oodles of concern for him).

I did think that The author very well wrote the mystery angle. I liked seeing Alex’s detective work and where it led her. A couple of twists took me by surprise, and one of those twists was a big one.

Several minor storylines were used as a filler. The one with Ollie and his school was heartbreaking, and considering how the author tied it into another secondary character, it broke my heart even more. Of course, that too was a surprise, and I feel that it got overshadowed by everything else.

The thriller angle was a little “meh.” I wasn’t sitting on the edge of my seat, waiting for the next thrill to show up with bated breath. It was barely there. If there, I should have been glued to my Kindle. Instead, I was putting my Kindle down and getting bored.

I was a little surprised by the end of the book. I was left feeling “meh” about it. I wasn’t expecting Renee/Alex’s storyline to be resolved the way it was. The author made it so that almost everyone had a happy ending. It just didn’t sit right with me.

I would recommend The Shadow House to anyone over 21. There is nongraphic sex, mild violence, and mild language.