The One: A Novel by John Marrs

I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars and no, it was not self-published.

A simple DNA test is all it takes. Just a quick mouth swab and soon you’ll be matched with your perfect partner—the one you’re genetically made for. That’s the promise made by Match Your DNA. A decade ago, the company announced that they had found the gene that pairs each of us with our soul mate. Since then, millions of people around the world have been matched. But the discovery has its downsides: test results have led to the breakup of countless relationships and upended the traditional ideas of dating, romance and love. Now five very different people have received the notification that they’ve been “Matched.” They’re each about to meet their one true love. But “happily ever after” isn’t guaranteed for everyone. Because even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking than others…

This book is about five different couples and their experiences with “Match Your DNA.” Five different couples equal ten different names for me to keep track of and that annoyed me. Initially. I have problems remembering names in the real world, and I don’t need that kind of stressor during playtime. However, the author does such a great job of dropping gentle reminders that I was able to relax and enjoy the ride, and bonus, I didn’t need to worry about my notetaking skills.

These couples have different lifestyles and their stories cover the full spectrum of love, danger, and emotional fulfillment. Imagine falling in love with a serial killer or embracing love with the bookworm next door. This book will take you for a ride that is fun, disturbing, heartbreaking, and satisfying. Well, I am not going to spoil your fun, but this is a book that will keep you reading.

Word of caution! Do not skip chapters to find out what will happen to your favorite couple or you might miss a few surprises.

The characters are well-developed, the premise is plausible, and the plot moves in a steady pace. The ending is… well you need to read to find out.

Normal by Graeme Cameron

I try only to review books by self-published authors. However, once in awhile I come across a traditionally published book that sticks with me. This is the case with Normal by Graeme Cameron.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars and here’s why.

The story is written in first person which gives you a chilling view of how the killer thinks. He begins by telling you all of the things he learned about his latest victim prior to killing her.

“I’d learned some interesting things about Sarah. She was eighteen years old and had finished school back in July with grade-A passes in biology, chemistry, physics and English.

…That morning, Sarah had spent just under half an hour in the bath and just over five minutes cleaning her teeth. She had no fillings or cavities, but the enamel on her upper front teeth was wearing thin from overbrushing. She also applied toothpaste to the index and middle finger of her left hand in a vain attempt at stain removal.”

He ends the summary of this victim with, “Oh, and I knew three more things. I knew that her last hot meal was lasagna, her cause of death was a ruptured aorta and her tongue tasted of sugar and spice.”

How did he learn all of this about the victim? By talking with her, of course. He’s a cold-blooded bastard. No doubt!

The opening made me initially dislike and loathe this man. He was weird, showed no empathy for his victims, and I looked forward to the moment of his capture. As the story progressed, my feeling towards him changed. I had become fond of him. I desperately wanted him to live happily ever after with his newfound true love.

The story continues with the killer loading Sarah’s body parts into his van. He is discovered by Sarah’s best friend, Erica. The matter-of-fact and business-as-usual manner in which he abducts her is almost (but not quite) entertaining. He locks her in the basement in a cage with future plans to kill her, but he doesn’t because she fascinates him.

The author did a wonderful job of fleshing out this character and pulling me into the plot. There are several unexpected plot twists that I found blissfully entertaining, sometimes humorous, and always terrifying. I’m not sure what disturbs me more: the fact that I was entertained or that I liked this weirdly sinister killer.

The first-person narrative may be unsettling for some readers. Sometimes it reads (almost) like stream of consciousness. I loved it as it gave me a view of the killer that may not have been possible otherwise.

Normal is a dark and twisted thriller that perfectly blends humor, fate, and romance into a bizarre but fascinating read. I would have given this story 5 stars, but I am not a fan of its ending which is an abrupt cliff hanger that is concluded in the next book, Dead Girls. Nonetheless, I highly recommend to all fans of serial killer murder mysteries.

Where Sleeping Dragons Lie by Cristina Rayne

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Where Sleeping Dragons Lie by Cristina Rayne is an amusing story that is lost in an underdeveloped plot and an unconvincing romance.

Briana is a rare book collector and discovers an old book left behind by her late grandmother. She’s intrigued because it is written in a language that she has never seen before and has a picture of an unusual key. A handsome store patron, Taron Hildebrand, recognizes the book and claims that it is a lost family heirloom and offers a substantial amount for its return.

Taron then suddenly abducts Briana when an unexpected visitor arrives at the store. Once outside, he turns into a dragon and flies away with Briana clutched in one of its claws.  

Eventually, they end up at Taron’s castle in England where he explains the origins of the book and reason for abducting her. Briana discovers that she is descended from a powerful witch and Taron is a dragon prince banished to her world through a secret portal.

Although the book kept me entertained, there were times that I chuckled at its absurdity. The plot needs to be expanded to soften the paranormal transitions.  For example, Briana and Taron are calmly discussing the book and its contents when Taron suddenly kicks the door shut, abducts Briana, transforms into a dragon, and flies away with Briana clutched in one of his claws. She calmly accepts that dragons are real and soon after finds herself lusting after his naked torso. Too much, too fast, becomes too silly.

The courtship was unfulfilling and not what I expect from a paranormal romance. It felt more like a crush than a love story.

I rate this book 3 out of 5 stars. This book has a lot of potential that is lost in an immature plot and undeveloped romance. It also fulfills one of my biggest pet peeves: a novella being sold as a full length novel.

First Kiss of Freedom by Nichole Wolfe

Whitemoon Warriors

4 out of 5 stars:

This is a fun read that I couldn’t put down.

The story begins in a vampire household where vampires rule and humans are slaves.

Charlie returns to his maker’s household after being gone for ten years. Upon his return, he recognizes Nessie as the 8-year-old little girl that he had befriended years ago. He is urged to drink from her by his maker and obliges as he knows it will be worse for Nessie if he refuses. Upon tasting her blood, he is stunned to discover that she is his destined mate. As the story continues, Charlie is forced to choose between saving her life or ignoring her fate so that he can fulfill his plans of vengeance upon his maker. 

The page-turning twists and turns outweigh the amateur dialogue and world-building flaws that initially plague the story. After a few chapters, the author gets her groove on and the story unwinds into an intriguing adventure that concludes with a satisfactory ending. It’s a refreshing change to read a story that does not end with the annoying cliffhanger that has become the norm in many self-published serials.

There are a few annoying clichés such as “god-forsaken” and “thank you very much.” Additionally, some of the word choices sound forced and interfere with the flow of the story.  But overall, this is a creative, fun story that does not rely on overused themes that frequently plague the paranormal genre.

I enjoyed this story and give it 4 stars. I look forward to reading the third book in the series.

 

Queen of Swords by L.A. McGinnis

Banished Gods: Book One

Genre: Paranormal/Fantasy Romance

This book is a quick read and will help pass the time if you can get past the first chapter.

I gave this 2 out of 5 stars.

Loki and the other Gods have been banished to earth where they have been tasked with protecting humans from hordes of demons sent by Hel, Loki’s daughter.

Morgane, a human, devotes her life to killing demons after her mother and sister are killed in a vicious demonic attack. She is later discovered by Loki seriously injured after battling some demons. He saves her life and the story continues as they band together to stop Hel from destroying the world. The story has various twists and turns that involve a few other Gods and demigods.

I gave this book 2 stars. The opening chapter did little to move the plot forward and was tedious to read. The real action begins with Chapter Two. An injured Morgane returns home to clean her wounds after a grueling battle with demons. Since humans are unable to see demons, Loki is surprised to discover that a human girl has been killing demons. They are immediately attracted to each other and have a physical relationship later followed by declarations of love.

I found this book disappointing for several reasons. The characters, Morgane, Loki’s love interest, and Hel, Loki’s daughter, are severely underdeveloped. These two characters are important to the plot and theme. Morgane’s character was static throughout and her character never evolved past the angry girl who lost her mother and sister. An explanation of Hel’s sadistic nature would have helped understand her fascination with torture. The lack of character development left the plot severely handicapped. Additionally, the love affair between Morgane and Loki falls flat and seems “glued together” as an afterthought. There was no buildup that one expects of a successful romance. Finally the story as a whole lacked originality. Plots based on Gods such as Loki and Odin are common themes in many paranormal books.

 

Critical Evaluation
I begin all reviews with a 2.5-star rating out of 5 stars. I then add and subtract stars based upon Character/romance development, plot, creativity, world-building, and grammar/punctuation.