Book Review: Countdown by Michelle Rowen



Countdown by Michelle Rowen

Genre: YA Thriller

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Pages: 336

Published: October 1st, 2013

Links: Amazon |  Goodreads  |  Barnes & Noble

Author Links:  Goodreads  |  Website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook

3 seconds left to live. Once the countdown starts, it cannot be stopped.

2 pawns thrown into a brutal underground reality game.

Kira Jordan survived her family’s murder and months on plague-devastated city streets with hard-won savvy and a low-level psi ability. She figures she can handle anything. Until she wakes up in a barren room, chained next to the notorious Rogan Ellis.

1 reason Kira will never, ever trust Rogan. Even though both their lives depend on it.

Their every move is controlled and televised for a vicious exclusive audience. And as Kira’s psi skill unexpectedly grows and Rogan’s secrets prove evermore deadly, Kira’s only chance of survival is to risk trusting him as much as her instincts. Even if that means running head-on into the one trap she can’t escape.


COUNTDOWN begins as a fast-pace race against time but soon takes a well-traveled path.  It’s a matchup between the plot of THE RUNNING MAN and the ‘search for a loophole’ from THE HUNGER GAMES.  It’s lack of originality is hurt further by the fact that there’s very little world-building.  It would have worked if the characters remained in the game for the full duration of the novel, but it’s hard to believe that they can enter and leave normal society while still on a game level.

The only thing consistent about Kira is her will to survive.  She often backtracks on decisions she’s made whether physically or mentally (about others).    I’m not sure that her final decision was the right one for her, and I hope that this spontaneous decision doesn’t bite her in the ass in the next book (if there is one).

I was entertained by Logan, as it’s clear from the beginning that he knows way more than Kira can pry out of him.  He has dark secrets that won’t be revealed until it’s almost too late.  Truthfully, he should have been honest with her from the beginning and saved me a few hundred pages of reading.

I am a sucker for gaming, so I was entertained while reading the book.  The individual scenes are entertaining, but when I reflect on what I’ve read, it’s lacking.

Both the beginning and the end of this book worked for me.  It’s a shame that the meat of the novel felt as generic as Wal-Mart.

rating C

(I received a copy of this book from the publisher/Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.)

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Guest Post: Dead Dreams by Emma Right


Check out the other stops on the tour HERE.

guest post image


A haunting nightmare

by Emma Right

 The thing with dreams and nightmares is that it can haunt you long after you’re awake. I’ve had several of those in the past– and it came complete with that disoriented feeling when you first wake up and can’t even tell reality from your dream world. It’s so disconcerting, right? We’ve all had our fair share I am sure.

One of the scariest, or maybe I should say, disturbing dreams I’ve ever had left me waking up shivering. It wasn’t even as if I was chased by monsters, or had to go to a dirty public restroom without any shoes on–yes, I’ve had that yucky dream! No, those could be dismissed with less pain.

In this particular incident, as I awoke, after what felt like someone had pulled my legs and I’d jerked out of my sleep with a start, I sat up and stared at my dark surroundings. I couldn’t even figure out where I was. The one thing that filled my mind was the horror of the news I’d heard. My mother had just confessed that I was not really her biological child.

Even in the nightmare, which had seemed so normal and boring even, until she dropped the bomb on me, I couldn’t grasp what she’d said. Then it all hit me–I had another biological mother? Who was she? And then the realization that I was not who I thought I was all these past decades struck me, like a slap in the face and my world came crashing down around me. Have you ever felt this way? The power of a dream to obliterate all you’d believed in?

It’s interesting that even as an adult child, my connection to my mother, who lives too far away for me to visit each year even, was so powerful. What is even more troubling was the fact that the awful feeling I had when I awoke from my dream, persisted throughout the entire day after that–like a bitter taste that’s stays in your mouth even after you’ve drank tons of water or sucked on peppermint in an attempt to rid that horrible aftertaste.

Which brings me to my point–that the most haunting nightmares do not even have to be about ghosts or ghouls–and I’ve actual encountered a couple of these, I kid you not. (I might write about these true stories some day.)  The things that touch us at the core are usually related to family and loved ones: People who have the power to invade our dream state and live in our subconscious, sometimes long after they have left this earth. Now that, to me, is real haunting.



Dead Dreams by Emma Right

Genre: Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Young Adult

Publisher: PUBLISHER

Pages: 250

Published: August 26th 2013

Links: Amazon |  Goodreads  |  Barnes & Noble

Author Links:  Goodreads  |  Website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook

Eighteen-year-old Brie O’Mara has so much going for her: a loving family in the sidelines, an heiress for a roommate, and dreams that might just come true. Big dreams–of going to acting school, finishing college and making a name for herself. She is about to be the envy of everyone she knew. What more could she hope for? Except her dreams are about to lead her down the road to nightmares. Nightmares that could turn into a deadly reality.

Dead Dreams, Book 1, is a young adult psychological thriller and mystery.

about author


Emma Right is a happy wife and homeschool mother of five living in the Pacific West Coast. Besides running a busy home, and looking after too many pets, she also enjoys reading aloud to her children and often has her nose in a book. Right was a copywriter for a major advertising agency during her B.C. years. B.C.meaning “Before Children,” which may as well have been in the B.C.era, as she always says. Please feel free to contact Emma. She’s always happy to hear from her readers.

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Book Review: Rasputin’s Shadow by Raymond Khoury (4 stars)

rasputins shadow


Rasputin’s Shadow by Raymond Khoury

Genre: Thriller, Historical

Publisher: Dutton Adult

Pages: 416

Published: October 8th, 2013

Links: Amazon |  Goodreads  |  Barnes & Noble

Author Links:  Goodreads  |  Website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook

An ingenious, fast-paced historical thriller from the author of the New York Times bestseller The Last Templar

On a cold, bleak day in 1916, all hell breaks loose in a mining pit in the Ural Mountains. Overcome by a strange paranoia, the miners attack one another, savagely and ferociously. Minutes later, two men—a horrified scientist and Grigory Rasputin, trusted confidant of the tsar—hit a detonator, blowing up the mine to conceal all evidence of the carnage.

In the present day, FBI agent Sean Reilly’s search for Reed Corrigan, the CIA mindcontrol spook who brainwashed Reilly’s son, takes a backseat to a new, disturbing case. A Russian embassy attaché seems to have committed suicide by jumping out of a fourth-floor window in Queens. The apartment’s owners, a retired physics teacher from Russia and his wife, have gone missing, and further investigation reveals that the former may not be who the FBI believe him to be.

Joined by Russian Federal Security Service agent Larisa Tchoumitcheva, Reilly’s investigation of the old man’s identity will uncover a desperate search for a small, mysterious device, with consequences that reach back in time and which, in the wrong hands, could have a devastating impact on the modern world.

Packed with the twists, intrigue, and excitement that Khoury’s many fans have come to expect, Rasputin’s Shadow will keep readers turning pages long into the night.

It’s okay to be fooled into thinking RASPUTIN’S SHADOW is a historical account into crazed mind of Rasputin, the man who infamously lead to the downfall of the Russian royal family.  About twenty percent of the novel is a fictitious account from Rasputin’s partner that has snagged enough loopholes in history to be both plausible and chilling.  Truthfully, the historical part of the novel was my favorite part.  I was (and still am) entranced by the magic behind Rasputin.

The other eighty percent is a modern day thriller with Cold War ethics.  It’s Russian vs United States and the body count is so high that some of the narrators don’t survive for more than a few chapters.  In the earliest chapters, the narrative switches are somewhat confusing due to an overuse of “he” instead of the narrator’s name.  By a quarter of the way through, the voices of the narrators are different enough (and the pronouns less) that there is no confusing.

For having an abundance of characters, Raymond Khoury still manages to breathe life into his male narrators in the span of mere paragraphs.  Each character, no matter how minor their role in the story, establishes a life history, personality, and agenda without ever detouring from the fast-pace plot.

There are only a handful of female characters in the story and unfortunately none of them stood out.  The believable chemistry between Daphne and Sokolov was enough to salvage her character for me, though Larisa’s character had no male counterpart to enhance her plot role.  In fact, her storyline was the only one that felt incomplete and sloppy.  There simply was not enough development between her introduction and the ending to justify her importance to the plot.

But what sells the story is the author’s ability to transform facts about both historic and modern Russia into a thriller that raises as many questions as DA VINCI CODE.  Could the events in RASPUTIN’S SHADOW come true?  How did Rasputin’s magic really work?  RASPUTIN’S SHADOW is enough of a genre-bender to attract fans of magical realism and historical fiction, while still captivating enough for those who crave government conspiracies, fast-pace action, and a hero worth routing for.

B rating plus rating

(I received a copy of this book from the publisher/BookTrib in exchange for my honest review.)

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Review: The Twisted Window by Lois Duncan (4 1/2 stars)



Genre:  YA Suspense/Thriller/Mystery

Publisher: Open Road Media

Published: Originally published May 1st, 1991.  Republished August 28, 2012

Pages: 183

Links:  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Goodreads

Author Links:  Website  |  Goodreads  |  Twitter  |  Facebook

The new guy at Tracy’s school is handsome, intense, and desperately needs her help–but there’s something about him that isn’t quite right

High school junior Tracy Lloyd is unsure about the new guy in school. Brad Johnson is attractive, smart, and polite, but Tracy can’t help but feel he watches her too closely. Then one day Brad confides in Tracy a horrible secret: His little sister Mindy has been kidnapped by his stepfather, and he needs Tracy’s help to get her back. But even as Tracy commits to a plan to help her vulnerable new friend, details emerge that suggest nothing is what it seems.

The Twisted Window is a zigzagging thriller that keeps readers guessing up until the final page.

There’s a trend in YA fiction about unhealthy relationships and the characters are blind to how abnormal the attraction is between a girl and a boy.  When we’re first introduce to Tracy and the guy watching her, THE TWISTED WINDOW seems to follow that trend.  Then the book switches to his point of view and he exhibits all signs of a sociopath.

Run.  Tracy.  Run.

Tracy doesn’t run, but she does have some hesitation about getting to know him.  He seems to know too much about her. He shows up at her house unannounced, follows her in the street, and obsesses over getting her to do what he wants.  He convinces her and us in his POV that he’s not a completely bad guy.

But soon enough, I wanted to scream at her and tell her over and over again to get away from him.  There are clues everywhere, minuet yet chilling, that what Tracy thinks is happening is something entirely different.

The book twists, turns, and drives the plot into places so cleverly hidden that you don’t know what’s going on until it happens.  With unreliable narration, complex characters that have their own lives off-screen, and parents that actively influence the plot and both Tracy and Brad’s decisions, this is one mystery both you and Tracy will figure out too late.  I’m not a fan of mysteries, but I am a fan of Lois Duncan now. (4 1/2 stars)

rating A minus rating

(I received a copy of this book from the publisher/Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.)



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Review: Halo of the Nephilim by Dina Rae

Be sure to check out my other reviews of Dina Rae’s books:  Be Prepared Be Paranoid (short story), Bad Juju (horror novel), and Halo of the Damned (#1 for this series).  My review is spoiler free, however the book description is not.

halo of the nephilim dina rae

Halo of the Nephilim (#2) by Dina Rae

Genre:  Paranormal Thriller/Horror

Publisher:  Eternal Press

Pages: 244

Links:  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Goodreads

Published:  May 1st, 2013

Can a fallen angel, his band of broken souls, and his nephilim children change the world?


Armaros the Cursed, Satan’s favorite of the Fallen, falls once again after breaking the rules. Fearing an eternity of punishment, he desperately attempts to save himself by sending a bird to his island. The SOS message is received by his beloved congregation. They prepare the great Armaros’ kingdom for his return. Can his loyal worshipers rescue him from the pit?
Halo of the Nephilim is the sequel to Halo of the Damned. The story begins with Armaros’ arrest. Reporters are duped into believing he was gunned down while awaiting trial. Declared dead, his only known surviving daughter, Joanna Easterhouse, proves her relation and inherits everything. She catapults her career from an entry-level advertising assistant to the head of Armaros’ advertising empire. Life couldn’t be better: a windfall inheritance, real power within a major industry, a loving relationship with a former demon, and a baby on the way. She should be on top of the world, but knows everything good must come to an end.
Joanna’s sister, Kim Easterhouse, becomes Kim Slattery after marrying Sean, her dead mother’s probate lawyer. Joanna generously includes them as key players in her advertising chain. They, too, have much to smile about, but a string of events leads them back to old family secrets.
Wickedness looms over the Easterhouse family once more, forcing them into an unlikely showdown filled with page-turning excitement. Like Halo of the Damned, Halo of the Nephilim is filled with conspiracy and angel lore taken directly from scripture and other ancient writings. Nephilim meander the earth in confusion, constantly questioning who they are and where they stand in terms of good and evil. More mind control themes top off this tale of doom. Dina Rae delivers the darkness in the most entertaining light

Reading HALO OF THE DAMNED, the prequel to HALO OF THE NEPHILIM is an absolute must to understand the storyline/plot and character histories.  It’s been 9 months since I read the first book and it took me nearly half of the second book to understand what happened in the first book.  So be certain to read both books in a timely manner to understand and appreciate everything happening.  As opposed to HALO OF THE DAMNED, this book read like a paranormal thriller and not a horror novel.  It’s dark and the characters are genuinely evil, yet it lacks the gore of a slasher and creepiness of a psychological horror novel.  I’d say it be the equivalent of a Brad Thor novel, only with a sinister paranormal backdrop.

There’s a half dozen storylines and a dozen characters to keep track of.  The author does a fantastic job of giving each character a consistent and unique personality.  Not once did I mix up the characters or felt like something was done for plot purposes only.  The characters propel the plot forward at a heart-racing pace.  If you are a thriller junkie, then this is your dark fantasy come to life.  The lines between good and evil are blurred.  There’s multiple groups of people merging and separating throughout the story, so it’s near impossible to predict the ending for any of the characters never mind the book.

I’m not an expert on bible passages, but I did find the alternate history plausible.  Basically, the fallen are to blame for most of the rifts between God and man, including Noah’s flood.

Expecting a horror novel, I was slightly off-put by the genre.  I’m not generally a fan of thrillers so because of that, I’d give this book a solid 3 1/2 stars.  Eliminating my bias opinion and this is easily a four star novel.  (B-)

B rating minus rating

(I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.)

about author

Dina Rae is a new author here to stay.  As a former teacher, she brings an academic element to her work.  Her three novels, Halo of the Damned, The Last Degree, and Bad Juju weave research and suspense throughout the plots.  Her short story, Be Paranoid Be Prepared, is a prequel of sorts to The Last Degree, focusing on the James Martin character.  Dina also freelances for various entertainment blogs.

Dina lives with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs outside of Chicago.  She is a Christian, an avid tennis player, movie buff, and self-proclaimed expert on several conspiracy theories.  She has been interviewed numerous times in e-zines, websites, blogs, newspapers, and radio programs.  When she is not writing she is reading novels from her favorite authors Dan Brown, Anne Rice, Stephen King, Brad Thor, George R.R. Martin, and Preston & Childs.

Website | Blog | Twitter: @haloofthedamned |  Goodreads

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