Corey Reviews the Books of Sophia Kell Hagin

Every year since 2013, I’ve reread the last ten chapters of Whatever Gods May Be, starting with chapter twenty-three, which begins with “The instant she strode into the yard with the rest of the Red Cross team, Jamie noticed her, and noticed that she seemed to be a study in contradictions.”

Marine Jamie Gwynmorgan, a prisoner of war in a not-too-distant future conflict in Southeast Asia, meets Senator Lynn Hillinger. There follows non-stop action and consequences as Jamie leads a prison break and firefight through the jungle. The first twenty-two chapters of this book, by the way, are excellent as we follow Jamie from recruit to training to heart-breaking actions all the way to survival… to meeting Lynn. This novel isn’t a lesfic romance. However, Jamie has an undefined relationship with Lynn that is tender and love-centered and forged in crisis. There’s a moment when they first embrace that holds so much compassion that I cry alongside Jamie. This entire novel rests in my memory, but I seek out the book’s ending annually to re-live Jamie and Lynn meeting and persevering.

Then I re-read Shadows of Something Real cover-to-cover (or as we say these days, 0% to 100% on my kindle). In this middle book of the trilogy, I am flummoxed by how many women I love in this novel. Lynn and her wife Rebecca, their daughters Robin and Dana and Dana’s partner Lily, and Rebecca’s mother Mary. They all live together at Great Hill, a compound of very strong, smart, fierce women who are waiting for Jamie to realize she is family, too.

Shadows of Something Real is about the aftermath of war on 19-year-old 1st Lieutenant Jamie, the powerful corporations who underwrote the conflicts Jamie survived physically if not emotionally, and the battle for information intelligence and privacy that seems more true-to-life every year that I reread the book. What once seemed like paranoid future fantasy now seems like today’s almost reality, as if “near future” might be next week.

This novel is a thriller, but also a romance, so much the sweeter for Jamie after all she’s survived. Adele (Lily’s sister and just as bad-ass as the rest of the family) is the emotionally open woman Jamie needs. Thankfully, all these women are humanized by their flaws. Lynn admits to her own overconfidence and sometimes manipulations, Dana is briskly single-minded as she addresses security issues, and Jamie romanticizes Adele always being right in their relationship, when Adele is just as mistake-prone as us all.

This book is chock-full of evil politicians and corporations, high-tech gadgetry and life-and-death struggles. Highly recommended, even to folks who don’t tend toward massive woman crushes like me.

Which brings us to Omnipotence Enough, which has a killer of a set-up: 15 years after the events of Shadows of Something Real, Jamie wakes up in an unknown prison, subject to solitary confinement and at the mercy of armed custodian robots who use pharma and force to control her. Jamie’s been abducted off the street, and she has no idea how long she’s been imprisoned and if Adele and her family are close to rescuing her.

The point of view also switches in this last book to first person, as Jamie records her imprisonment into an audiostick. This ramps up the uncertainty and claustrophobia. I was equally delighted to return to Jamie’s world and fearful I’d not get to meet again Adele and Lynn and their family.

I don’t want to spoil the plot, but let’s just say that the themes of political evils-doers and powerful corporations continue from the previous books. What has changed is Jamie, a more mature and self-possessed woman navigating physical and mental recovery that’s all the more courageous for her shakiness.

Jamie survived so much over her life, and I so want her to find stable happiness. I think any lover of thrillers will enjoy Omnipotence Enough, but readers of the earlier books will feel a special investment in this last journey.

Well done, Sophia Kell Hagin. I look forward to your future novels, for the adrenaline and compassion and all the future woman crushes sure to come.

You can purchase or download samples of all of the books by clicking here.

Cheri Reviews The Breakdown by B. A. Paris

I enjoyed Behind Closed Doors quite a bit so when I saw the author had a new novel coming out, I immediately put in my request with NetGalley. Then, as always seems to happen, other things got in the way and I ended up listening to the audio book after publication. Yes, I know how ARCs are supposed to work… But on the bright side, I can say that the narrator did a great job. So there’s that.

I expected The Breakdown to be pretty much the same sort of book as Paris’s first but I was mistaken. Instead, it reminded me a lot of The Girl on the Train, which I also liked. I know. I hated every new thriller being compared to TGotT but this one really did have me thinking of it while reading. A murder and a woman trying to figure out what the hell is going on but can’t remember everything and doesn’t know who to trust. Not exactly the same but some of the same feel.

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

The story is told from Cass’s POV and Paris did a great job of really getting me into her head. There’s lots of information about what makes this character tick without big info dumps. Although there is a good chunk toward the end where some nastiness is laid out that definitely felt like dumping and I was disappointed with the way it was all put out there. I get why but it put an end to the action of the story for a while as I got caught up with what had been happening behind the scenes.

I nearly forgot to mention that I was very frustrated toward the middle of the book by the number of times Cass would fret and worry about whether she should tell various people what she knows or suspects but, ultimately doesn’t. There were a few times when I yelled at the narrator to either do it or just shut up about it. It was too much.

As far as what was going on plot-wise, I had most of that figured out early on. There were, of course, some red herrings that made me second-guess myself but, for the most part, I was in there. The very end, however, I didn’t get right and was happily surprised. I won’t give anything away but I was pleased with the way the book ended and had a big smile on my face.

So that’s two for two. Both Behind Closed Doors and The Breakdown go on my “yep, I recommend it” list and I eagerly await whatever comes next from the author.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this one.

You can download a sample or purchase a copy of The Breakdown by clicking here.

Cheri Reviews The 7th Canon by Robert Dugoni

When I saw a new stand-alone novel by Robert Dugoni on NetGalley.com, I couldn’t help but click “request.” I had already finished the first 3.5 (three novels and a short story) in his Tracy Crosswhite series and enjoyed most of them quite a bit. You can check out my review for the first in the series here.

The thing that I’ve discovered about Dugoni is that he can be very hit or miss with the execution of his stories. Sometimes they can be fast paced and intense and other times slow or have convoluted plots where detectives are able to deduce solutions out of what feels like nowhere. I’ve learned to be cautious with my expectations when it comes to this author. His newest release, The 7th Canon, was on the fast paced and intense side and it may be my favorite of the Dugoni books that I’ve read.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon if you care to read it:

In San Francisco’s seamy Tenderloin district, a teenage street hustler has been murdered in a shelter for boys. And the dedicated priest who runs the struggling home stands accused. But despite damning evidence that he’s a killer—and worse—Father Thomas Martin stands by his innocence. And attorney Peter Donley stands with him.

For three years Donley has cut his legal teeth in his uncle’s tiny, no-frills firm, where people come before profits. Just as Donley is poised to move on to a lucrative dream job, the shocking case lands in his lap, and he must put his future on hold while putting his courtroom skills to the test. But a ruthless DA seeking headlines and a brutal homicide cop bent on vengeance have their own agendas. Now, as he unearths the dirty secrets surrounding the case, Donley must risk his neck to save his client’s life…and expose the face of true evil.

I found myself liking Peter Donely quite a bit. He’s not the idealistic, young attorney out to save the world but a father and husband trying to figure out how to make a better life for his wife and toddler son. Once I got past the first few chapters, I struggled to put the book down because the story kept unfolding and I was completely caught up in not only the case, but learning about the lives of Donely and the private detective, Frank Ross, both of whom have dark days in their pasts that won’t let them move on.

At the end of the book, I was satisfied with the outcome of the case and where the characters ended this leg of their journey. If this ends up being a series, I would happily pick up book two. There is an audio version of this one but I’ve not heard any of it so I can’t speak to the narrator. I read this one with a combination of my eyeballs and a text-to-speech app.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

You can download a sample or purchase The 7th Canon by clicking here.

Cheri Reviews Cold to the Touch by Cari Hunter

Cari Hunter has done it again. I think this is my favorite of her works. I may say that after I read each book but it doesn’t make the statement less true. It means she continues to push the envelope with regard to the crimes and the characters and she does a fantastic job with it.

This episode of The Dark Peak series has Sanne, Nelson, and the rest of the crew chasing down a vicious serial killer. A killer who doesn’t get much media play until a more prominent member of the community is taken out. Meg is also dealing with some serious family issues and our favorite non-couple have their own set of problems that need to be worked out. Speaking of the romantic parts of the book, I swore at and declared my strong dislike for one character in particular several times. Ok, maybe two characters but I have to say that I was pleased with the way the book ended. That’s not giving away too much, is it?

I enjoyed the case, the characters, and the relationship. I liked it all. Combine that with the author’s fantastic writing skills and the superb editing and proofreading and it’s a winner! I was surprised, though, by just how bloody and graphic it was. I know that all of Hunter’s books have some blood and guts in them but this one seemed to take it to a new level. It wasn’t anything that I’d not seen loads of times in mainstream crime novels or thrillers but I guess I wasn’t expecting it. Honestly, it made me appreciate the writing just that much more. There were no parts of any crime scene descriptions that felt intentionally over the top or gratuitous and Sanne’s reactions to them were easy for me to relate to.

That’s probably one of the best things about this series: I can relate to the main characters and feel for them on a level that sometimes takes me by surprise. I like Meg and I can feel for her and understand her as a character but Sanne… Sanne moves me emotionally. I want to hold her and comfort her and protect her. I could go on and on but I won’t. What I will do is tell you, dear reader, that if you enjoy mysteries or thrillers or crime novels, you won’t be disappointed.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley.

You can download a sample or purchase a copy of Cold to the Touch 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.

Cheri Reviews God of the Internet by Lynn Lipinski


I don’t normally read books about terrorism but one about cyber-terrorism sounded like something I could sink my teeth into. Here’s a copy of the blurb from Amazon, if you want to read it:

When a hacker known as G0d_of_Internet hijacks millions of computers to do the bidding of an Islamic jihadist group, their first act is to disrupt the water treatment systems in Boston, Dallas and Los Angeles. Next, the power grids go down. Is this the start of a digital world war?

The only thing standing between the terrorists and their goal to weaponize the internet is a small band of white hat hackers, including cybersecurity guru Mahaz Al-Dossari and his wife Juliana.

The search is on for a couple hundred lines of code and a global hacker network before they can make good on their ultimate threat to divert money from the world’s banks. But G0d_of_Internet has been tracking their every move. And it’s Juliana, a PR manager lacking in technical skills, who may hold the key to unmasking the hacker.

I just re-read that for the first time since I started the book and I have to say it’s sort of misleading. Particularly who was involved with the white hat hackers and that anyone but the black hat hackers knew what the threats actually were before they happened.

It’s going to be hard to give a complete review of this book without giving spoilers so I’ll have to stick to impressions instead of specifics.

I was pretty involved and happy with the first several chapters. The story was compelling and the characters kept me interested. I made my first prediction as to who G0d_of_Internet was at the 25% mark but figured it was too obvious and looked forward to getting more clues. I thought I’d change my guess a few more times before the real bad guy was revealed. At 52% I was really hoping that my first guess was a drawn out red herring because no other suspects were being brought forth. By 96%, I was thoroughly disgusted by how easy everything fell into place and by the fact that so much had to have been going on for so long and the people closest to the bad guy never had any clue. There is so much I want to say about this but I don’t want to give away anything more. I checked a few minutes ago and this book is getting really good ratings and reviews so maybe it’s just me.

I thought the book had a lot of promise but the overwhelming number of things that didn’t make sense or that were just too easy made me happy to be done with it. I think if someone’s looking for a quick, easy read, this would be fine but anyone looking for a complex plot and characters with depth will be disappointed.

I received God of the Internet from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

You can download a sample or purchase God of the Internet by clicking here.

Cheri Reviews Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon


More and more of my reading time has been devoted to mysteries, thrillers, and suspense novels. I’m one of those readers who loves to try to solve the mysteries quickly and note somewhere exactly where in the book I think I figured it all out. Try Not to Breathe was great fun to try to puzzle out. I won’t give anything away here, though, so don’t worry.

Here’s the blurb:

Some secrets never die. They’re just locked away.

Alex Dale is lost. Destructive habits have cost her a marriage and a journalism career. All she has left is her routine: a morning run until her body aches, then a few hours of forgettable work before the past grabs hold and drags her down. Every day is treading water, every night is drowning. Until Alex discovers Amy Stevenson. Amy Stevenson, who was just another girl from a nearby town until the day she was found unconscious after a merciless assault. Amy Stevenson, who has been in a coma for fifteen years, forgotten by the world. Amy Stevenson, who, unbeknownst to her doctors, remains locked inside her body, conscious but paralyzed, reliving the past.

Soon Alex’s routine includes visiting hours at the hospital, then interviews with the original suspects in the attack. But what starts as a reporter’s story becomes a personal obsession. How do you solve a crime when the only witness lived but cannot tell the tale? Unable to tear herself away from her attempt to uncover the unspeakable truth, Alex realizes she’s not just chasing a story—she’s seeking salvation.

Shifting from present to past and back again, Try Not to Breathe unfolds layer by layer until its heart-stopping conclusion. The result is an utterly immersive, unforgettable debut.

That pretty well sums it up. But it gives the impression that we’re only getting Alex and Amy’s POVs and that’s not actually true. We also regularly hear from Jacob, Amy’s old boyfriend who has never really gotten over her and spends quite a lot of time with her in the hospital, to the detriment of his marriage.

I want to say right off that I truly enjoyed this book. The characters – Alex, Amy, and Jacob – were fairly complex and realistic. I think the author did a fantastic job with Alex. The detail with which her alcoholism is discussed and the manner in which it’s presented to the reader helped to bring the character depth and life. She was flawed and real and I cared for her. Amy’s progression was also interesting and I shuddered a few times thinking about what it would be like to be her. And Jake, poor Jake, I wouldn’t describe what I felt for him as heartbreak, but something close. I don’t think anyone could not feel bad for the guy.

The mystery, itself, I thought was well-done and I wasn’t certain who the bad guy was until I hit 83%. There were a couple red herrings thrown in for good measure but, ultimately, I found the way the story played out very satisfying. There was enough focus on the individual main characters to make us care about them and hope for their success but not too much as to take away from the reason they’ve all been brought together. The balance felt just right to me.

While I definitely recommend this book, it certainly wasn’t perfect. There was one character given a POV for two or three chapters who I don’t think needed to be included. It felt jarring to move between Alex, Jacob, and Amy steadily only to be dropped into this other character’s head when it didn’t seem to add anything to the plot. I don’t recall any information given that couldn’t have been provided in another way or that was truly necessary.

There was one thing that Amy did several times that I found unbelievable and made me grimace each time: she referred to the mystery man as “my secret.” As in, when she would have said or thought his name, she replaced it with “my secret” or a variation of that. If she were talking to someone else, maybe, just maybe that would fly but I cannot imagine anyone who would be thinking to themselves replacing a proper first name with something like that. It’s just not how we think – at least not how I would ever think of someone I knew. It felt unnatural and simply a way to avoid using a name which would have, obviously, given away the bad guy.

I also found the penultimate chapter a bit flat and somewhat of a let-down. Once I figured out whodunnit, I wanted to steam on through to the end and have justice done in a blaze of glory or some other exciting climax and that just didn’t happen. Yes, everything was wrapped up in a way that was pretty unique, I think, but not very thrilling.

Even with the slow wrap-up, I still found this book a great read. I was engaged the entire time and actively working to solve the mystery. I only wish I would have had access to the audio version. With the right narrators, I bet it’ll be great. Also, the end was left open to a possible series – I hope I read that correctly – which I would definitely be interested in. This is the author’s debut novel and I can only imagine how good the next book will be.

A big thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

You can download a sample or purchase Try Not to Breathe by clicking here.