CAB Reviews Vagabond Heart by Ann Roberts

Let’s start with the blurb:

Contractor Quinn O’Sullivan has traveling in her blood. Her aunt is a famous travel writer while Quinn herself moves from one apartment complex to the next as her team remodels them.

When dear Aunt Maura kicks the bucket on her beloved Route 66, she leaves a dying request for Quinn—to take her on one last adventure.

Suda Singh is the total opposite of risk-taker Quinn. As an emergency room doctor, Suda is calm, methodical, and intuitive. But most of all, Suda is safe.

When the two women are thrown together by Quinn’s latest injury, Suda offers to accompany Quinn on the adventure of a lifetime.

Can Quinn and Suda find love, three cats, and the mysterious woman named Rain, all on America’s fabled highway—Route 66? Join Ann Roberts on this adventure of a lifetime in Vagabond Heart.

I’m going to admit that I am pretty negative when it comes to the “Romance” genre. Maybe it’s because I’m old and lately they all seem to be cut from the same cloth. The author looks up Romance Formula #127 and follows it. The character names change but, otherwise, it is what it is. So you’re asking yourself why did I even attempt to read this one? It was the sentence in the blurb: “When dear Aunt Maura kicks the bucket on her beloved Route 66, she leaves a dying request for Quinn—to take her on one last adventure.” Yeah that one; it grabbed my attention so I threw caution to the wind and said I’d read it.

I am so very glad that I did.

The story starts off with a bang and kept my interest all the way through. It’s been forever since I picked up a book that I had trouble putting down. This one could easily make it into my read again pile.

Reasons why:

Both Quinn and Suda are interesting characters and their interactions didn’t feel scripted or overplayed.

The author managed to weave in several real life xenophobic /bigotry issues which just made the characters feel like they were operating in real life without detracting from the story. In fact, I’d say it enhanced the story because we need to call more attention to these things.

I’ve never been on Route 66 but based on the descriptions and the adventure it’s on my bucket list moving forward.

I’d easily give this story 4.5 out of 5 stars. I could have given it 5 but I hated the character Rain.

This book was read in exchange for an honest review.

You can download a sample or purchase Vagabond Heart by clicking here.

CAB reviews The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond

Here’s the blurb right off:

“Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice’s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.

The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact. And most of its rules make sense.  Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter. . . . Never mention The Pact to anyone.

Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples. And then one of them breaks the rules. The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life. And The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule. For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.”

 

Let me be blunt; if you’re about to get married and someone offers you the opportunity to join “The Pact” run away.  Run away as quickly and as far as you possibly can, and then run a bit further.   Unless it’s an ice cream pact, that might me ok, but a Marriage Pact: No, just no.

This book is creepy and engaging, like watching an episode of the old TV series “The Twilight Zone” or “Tales from The Darkside”.   If you’re old enough to know what I’m talking about and you enjoyed those shows, this book is up your alley.  If you like twisted and unexpected, it’s probably also up your alley.

The story itself is told from Jake’s point of view.  I was a little worried that style would be grating as I find that type of POV doesn’t usually hold my attention.  However, in this instance it worked well and kept the story flowing.  After completing the book I was surprised to find that I really didn’t like Jake. I found his motives throughout the story suspect and multiple times I thought he was kind of a tool.

As for the ending, no spoilers but I’d be willing to guess that there will be some who find it a bit ambiguous as it leaves an opening for the reader to interpret what happens next.  Usually, I find that frustrating but, again, it works with the story line.

I picked this book up from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

You can download a sample or purchase The Marriage Pact by clicking here.

CAB Reviews A Kind of Justice by Renee James

Book blurb:
“Against all odds, Bobbi Logan, a statuesque transgender woman, has become one of Chicago’s most celebrated hair stylists and the owner of one of the city’s poshest salons. She is finally comfortable with who she is, widely admired in her community, about to enjoy the success she deserves.

Then her impossibly perfect life falls apart.

In the space of a few weeks, the Great Recession drags her business to the brink of failure, her beloved ex-wife needs help in facing a terrible tragedy, and a hateful police detective storms back into her life, determined to convict her of the five-year-old murder of John Strand—pillar of the community—and a sexual predator.

As the detective builds an ever more convincing case against her, both of them will be shaken by revelations—about themselves, about their own deeply held secrets, and about the bizarre ritual murder of John Strand.”

I didn’t realize this was the second book in the series, despite it clearly stating that in the title. Although, I don’t think it’s necessary to have read the first in the series, I did find myself wondering about the details of Bobbi’s back-story. As a result, there is a strong possibility that I will go back and read “Transition to Murder.” Having said that, I was sucked into “A Kind of Justice” from the outset. Bobbi Logan could have been written as a caricature of a stereotypical transgender woman. However, the author takes the time to make sure Logan is a well-developed and interesting character, juxtaposed against Detective Wilkins who is vulgar, crude, and obviously bigoted against the LGBTQ community. As the reader, we get to see the story develop from two distinct points of view: Logan’s and Wilkins’.

On a personal note, I found it interesting that I assumed based on Wilkins attitude that he was white, when in fact he is black. This made me re-evaluate my own point of view/prejudice. I was also happy to see Wilkins’ character development throughout the storyline. The author was able to move him from being a completely bigoted arse to a somewhat sympathetic character in a manner that felt natural.

Overall, I was impressed with the flow of the story and the characters themselves. I’d give this 4 stars and I will definitely keep an eye out for new stories coming from Renee James.

I picked this book up from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

You can download a sample or purchase a copy of A Kind of Justice by clicking here.

CAB Reviews Imperfect Truth by C. A. Popovich

Full disclosure, I picked this book up from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This following is the book blurb:

“Debra Johnson learned a valuable lesson when her pregnant lover left her for a man: Protect yourself at all costs. She made a list of requirements in a lover and uses it as a shield to protect her heart. At the top of her list is openness and honesty.

Alex Reed has to keep the secret of her federal witness protection program or risk her and her sister’s lives. She longs for a meaningful loving relationship but fears exposing a lover to danger.
Alex and Debra meet at a lesbian meet up group with intentions of only finding an event companion. Their undeniable attraction keeps getting in the way of that intention as Debra struggles to protect her heart and Alex her life.”

I admit it; I really wanted to like this book. I was intrigued by the premise but it turns out that was the only thing that was interesting. The pacing of the story is so slow that at the 50% mark I was contemplating ways to put myself out of my misery. Not to give away the plot but without exaggerating halfway through, all of the action consists of Debra consulting her “list” of requirements to be her friend let alone to date her. So when she’s not consulting the list to figure out how Alex is getting past her defenses, she’s complaining to anyone who will listen that Alex doesn’t trust her enough to tell her everything about who she is. A broken heart will make you whiney.

On the other hand you have Alex, who is in witness protection, and therefore unable to tell Debra about her past. She spends the first half of the book being paranoid and worrying how she can make any friends let alone meet a partner. Primarily worried about slipping up and sharing too much information.

At the 70% mark there was FINALLY some movement on the intrigue part of this story but by then I hated both characters and the only thing I found fascinating was the fact that I hadn’t clubbed myself to death with the book. I value my kindle too much to damage it that way. Ultimately, I invested more time into forcing myself to read this than I wish I had. What I find sad is I know I have read at least one other book by this author and it was a pleasant, easy beach read. This one seemed to lose its identity, torn between a romance and a thriller not quite making it on either front.

You can download a sample or purchase Imperfect Truth by clicking here.

CAB reviews The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza


This is the first in a series of crime novels. I picked this up because I was intrigued by the cover art and the description on the jacket. Perhaps not the best way to pick a book but there are probably worse ways to go about it.

Here’s the description from Amazon:

“Her eyes are wide open. Her lips parted as if to speak. Her dead body frozen in the ice…She is not the only one.

When a young boy discovers the body of a woman beneath a thick sheet of ice in a South London park, Detective Erika Foster is called in to lead the murder investigation.

The victim, a beautiful young socialite, appeared to have the perfect life. Yet when Erika begins to dig deeper, she starts to connect the dots between the murder and the killings of three prostitutes, all found strangled, hands bound and dumped in water around London.

What dark secrets is the girl in the ice hiding?

As Erika inches closer to uncovering the truth, the killer is closing in on Erika.

The last investigation Erika led went badly wrong… resulting in the death of her husband. With her career hanging by a thread, Erika must now battle her own personal demons as well as a killer more deadly than any she’s faced before. But will she get to him before he strikes again?”

Let me just put this out there. I liked the book. I’d give it 3 1/2 stars because it held my attention and I was intrigued by the crime. I’ll admit the prologue set the scene really well and I was sucked right in. That doesn’t mean there weren’t issues.

When we’re introduced to Erika Foster and you know “something” is going on. The other police officers are more disrespectful than I would think if it were just because she’s a woman. There is also an edge to Erika that seems odd. So much so that I immediately felt like I was missing a huge back story, which prompted me to put the book down and do a quick search to make sure I hadn’t missed a prior book. I’ve done that before and in this instance it felt like I was missing some vital piece of information about the main character. Turns out you are, and although you get bits and pieces throughout the story it never fully resolves. If I’m honest, I wish THAT story had been the 1st in the series.

Then there is this weird dynamic between Erika and her boss, Chief Superintendent Marsh. He brings her onto the case and it seems they are friends and yet they don’t seem to respect each other. That and every chance she gets, Erika is disobeying orders. Funny enough, I found it pretty easy to gloss over this relationship as inconsequential and focus on the crime solving.

Finally, there is the POV. I was good with the writing the POV except when we see the murderer, the POV changes and I felt like there was this weird voice over happening. For example the author writes “The figure edged closer, amongst the packed-in crowd… ” Then anytime we are seeing the murder, “The figure” is referenced. Oddly, of all the things that could bother me, that one stuck out like a sore thumb.

Would I read the next in the series? When I was 3/4 of the way through this book, I would have said yes. At the end of this book they gave us a snippet of what’s to come with Erika Foster and I don’t know. It looks like it might be more of the same. That said, go ahead, read this one. Some of the language alone was entertaining.

You can download a sample or purchase The Girl in the Ice by clicking here.