Book Review: Stranger in the Lake – Kimberly Belle

Author: Kimberly Belle
Book Name: Stranger in the Lake
Release Date: June 9, 2020
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
4.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: When Charlotte married the wealthy widower Paul, it caused a ripple of gossip in their small lakeside town. They have a charmed life together, despite the cruel whispers about her humble past and his first marriage. But everything starts to unravel when she discovers a young woman’s body floating in the exact same spot where Paul’s first wife tragically drowned.

At first, it seems like a horrific coincidence, but the stranger in the lake is no stranger. Charlotte saw Paul talking to her the day before, even though Paul tells the police he’s never met the woman. His lie exposes cracks in their fragile new marriage, cracks Charlotte is determined to keep from breaking them in two.

As Charlotte uncovers dark mysteries about the man she married, she doesn’t know what to trust—her heart, which knows Paul to be a good man, or her growing suspicion that there’s something he’s hiding in the water.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4.5/5 Stars
Believability: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 5/5 Stars

This was one twisty, bendy ride of a story. There are several layers to this, all weaving in and out of each other all the way through, making it really hard to pinpoint where it is going.

There are three distinct deaths that are the focus of this story. Sienna, Katherine, and Bobby. All years apart. All have questions surrounding them, but they aren’t all obviously connected, only Sienna’s and Katherine’s seem to be.

I loved how you are deep into the story before you are allowed to see if there are any real connections. Even when pieces come to light, you are still left wondering and questioning the whys behind each one and who, if anyone, was involved. There are a range of characters giving the reader lots of options to focus on without being overwhelmed with too many.

I often found myself thinking it was certainly headed one way, then I’m sent off in another direction, only to be brought back again or sent in an entirely new direction all together. It’s an aspect that I love about a good mystery when done well. A path that’s followed in a realistic, logical way, but one that still drags you all over the place.

This is something that Kimberly Belle is amazing at doing in most all of her books. She always keeps the reader engaged in what is happening on the page at all times.

And this one absolutely does that. All the way to the very end, just when you might think the story was in the wrap up and aftermath parts, you get another curve dropped in your path.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

**Featured in Envie! Magazine’s June 2020 edition.

Recommended Reads From May

Apparently May wasn’t a great month for me when it came to reading 4 or 5 star books. Granted, I did a whole lot of rereading in May and not a lot of new reads, but of those new reads, I also had more DNFs this month than I think I’ve ever had in a single month before along with a whole lot of “meh” tossed in. There is more to this I think, but my brain needs to let me untangle it all a bit. I’m sure there is a blog post about why in there somewhere, I just need to dig it out first.

 

My Kind of Town
My Kind of Town
Author: Shelly Laurenston
Book Name: My Kind of Town
Release Date: April 26, 2020 (reprint)
Series: The Long Island Coven
Order: 1
Genre: Fantasy/Urban/Romance
Overall SPA: 4
Reviewed: No

Stranger In The Lake
Stranger In The Lake
Author: Kimberly Belle
Book Name: Stranger in the Lake
Release Date: June 9, 2020
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 4.5
Reviewed: Yes (will post June 2nd – Envie!’s June Review)

The Stillwater Girls
The Stillwater Girls
Author: Minka Kent
Book Name: The Stillwater Girls
Release Date: April 9, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 4.5
Reviewed: No

Book Review: The Marriage Lie – Kimberly Belle

Author: Kimberly Belle
Book Name: The Marriage Lie
Release Date: December 27, 2016
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Even the perfect marriage has its dark side… 

Iris and Will’s marriage is as close to perfect as it can be: a large house in a nice Atlanta neighborhood, rewarding careers and the excitement of trying for their first baby. But on the morning Will leaves for a business trip to Orlando, Iris’s happy world comes to an abrupt halt. Another plane headed for Seattle has crashed into a field, killing everyone on board, and according to the airline, Will was one of the passengers on this plane.

Grief-stricken and confused, Iris is convinced it all must be a huge misunderstanding. But as time passes and there is still no sign of Will, she reluctantly accepts that he is gone. Still, Iris needs answers. Why did Will lie about where he was going? What is in Seattle? And what else has he lied about? As Iris sets off on a desperate quest to find out what her husband was keeping from her, the answers she receives will shock her to her very core.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

I was really excited to read this after having read Dear Wife and loving it (yes, even though this one came out first) hoping it was just as intense. Instead, this was kind of an emotional roller coaster of a story for me. It really pricked some of my personal emotions with regards to flying, so those aspects of the story were pretty profound and I loved that it was able to do that. I felt the same with the intensely realistic expression of grief. Those aspects of this were amazingly written. But those were counteracted by an extremely drawn out issue dancing around the believability at the core of this story.

*Potential Spoilers Below*

If Will was alive, how did that work? How did he know that plane would crash so he could use it as his cover? Those bits never quite made sense and there were so many questions tied around this issue that I struggled with belief throughout this whole story. It kind of tainted pieces for me. One of the biggest questions is that if anyone truly believed he was alive, then why did not one single character ask or even bring up the possibility that Will caused the crash? This issue and all the potentials and questions surrounding it do get wrapped up at the very end of the story. But by then it felt more like a plot hole than an unresolved issue because it was left open and unaddressed for so long, even if it really wasn’t. Even the resolution you get feels flimsy at best.

I was torn in all directions on how Iris was reacting to everything  surrounding what she learns about Will and her choices about how to deal with that information. For the most part, it works for me because that confusion is understandable from a human emotion standpoint, but it was still difficult to take some of that extreme emotional chaos in when it lasted the entire length of the book.

The way the story wrapped up, with a sort of resolution with gaping holes because we are left in this single moment and nothing past that to fill those final holes, was really unsatisfying. Especially after an already emotionally tumultuous story. No, you don’t always have to wrap up every thread and answer every single question, but I really prefer cleaner endings than this one so I’m left with a story that only hits the good mark, rather than the really good or great mark.

Other areas of note (not included in the SPA rating):

Cover: 4/5 Stars

There is something about the stark simplicity of this cover that is just really appealing to me. It’s a great example in the form of cover art that sometimes, less is more.

 

Book Review: Dear Wife – Kimberly Belle

Author: Kimberly Belle
Book Name: Dear Wife
Release Date: June 25, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 5 Stars
5 Stars

 

 

Blurb:

Beth Murphy is on the run…

For nearly a year, Beth has been planning for this day. A day some people might call any other Wednesday, but Beth prefers to see it as her new beginning–one with a new look, new name and new city. Beth has given her plan significant thought, because one small slip and her violent husband will find her.

Sabine Hardison is missing…

A couple hundred miles away, Jeffrey returns home from a work trip to find his wife, Sabine, is missing. Wherever she is, she’s taken almost nothing with her. Her abandoned car is the only evidence the police have, and all signs point to foul play.

As the police search for leads, the case becomes more and more convoluted. Sabine’s carefully laid plans for her future indicate trouble at home, and a husband who would be better off with her gone. The detective on the case will stop at nothing to find out what happened and bring this missing woman home. Where is Sabine? And who is Beth? The only thing that’s certain is that someone is lying and the truth won’t stay buried for long.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 5/5 Stars
Believability: 5/5 Stars
Uniqueness Factor: 5/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 5/5 Stars
I am gushing over how much I loved this book! I don’t normally gush, and I don’t think I ever have over a mystery/suspense book, but I am gushing because this was everything a mystery/suspense novel is supposed to be. It is also the kind of book that you really don’t want to know a whole lot about before you read it. You want to go in mostly blind and without any opinions or expectations to get the full impact of the story, so I’m doing my best to keep it really general.

This started out with the best first chapter I’ve read in a really long time, if not the best first chapter ever. Talk about getting sucked in. I was a little worried that with that strong of a start, there was no way it would continue that strong, but it absolutely did.

The entire story is told from three different characters’ perspectives, Beth, Marcus – the detective looking into Sabine’s disappearance, and Jeffery – Sabine’s husband.

I won’t say that I loved all of the characters in this book, but you don’t normally love the bad guy in a story. That said, I did really enjoy the way the bad guy was written and presented.

It was also impossible not to feel sympathy for Beth, her pain and her desperation, even if you have doubts about her character at times. I was emotionally invested in her and Sabine’s story from the start.

The storyline throughout this felt really unique and not something recycled from a dozen other similar novels, which is a huge thing for me, especially in this genre.

I cannot say enough how well this story flowed. I loved how when I thought I knew what kinds of connections existed, or at least suspected, something gets revealed that makes those assumptions less sure. Or you know there is no connection and you are given a piece that shows, maybe there really is. You are just never entirely sure. I was really deep into the book before some of the larger puzzle pieces started to be visible and it wasn’t a picture I was expecting. All of those hints and reveals are done in incredible, subtle ways. Subtle enough that there were a couple I didn’t pick up until another small piece was uncovered.

Basically, this was awesome. If it isn’t on your TBR yet, it absolutely should be.

The Ones We Trust: Kimberly Belle

The Ones We TrustAuthor: Kimberly Belle
Book Name: The Ones We Trust
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/Suspense
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  A moving and evocative exploration of grief and guilt in the wake of one family’s devastating loss

When former DC journalist Abigail Wolff attempts to rehabilitate her career, she finds herself at the heart of a US army cover-up involving the death of a soldier in Afghanistan–with unspeakable emotional consequences for one family. As the story of what happened comes to light, Abigail will do anything to write it.

The more evidence she stumbles upon in the case, the fewer people it seems she can trust, including her own father, a retired army general. And she certainly never expected to fall in love with the slain soldier’s brother, Gabe, a bitter man struggling to hold his family together. The investigation eventually leads her to an impossible choice, one of unrelenting sacrifice to protect those she loves.

Beyond the buried truths and betrayals, questions of family loyalty and redemption, Abigail’s search is, most of all, a desperate grasp at carrying on and coping–and seeking hope in the impossible.

Review:  After reading The Last Breath and loving it so much, I had pretty high expectations for this one.  While it came close, it just didn’t quite reach the same level.  This is still a really good book, but it was missing some of the depth of emotion in its characters that was one of the reasons I loved the other book.

There were a couple of events in the story that I didn’t quite understand the point as they weren’t explained.  We know where the tail came from (I think), but we never understand why.  What was the purpose other than to create a level of suspense?  There is also the unknown point of the key, something that doesn’t get addressed.  I can take a guess that it is there to point out that not everything needs to have an answer and that it is okay to let some things go, but it kind of bugged me that it was even there if there wasn’t going to be something more with it.  There was enough else that was going on at that point, that I didn’t feel that it had a purpose.

One of the hardest things in reading a great book from a new author (new to you or to writing) is knowing that everything else that you read from them from that point on is going to be held up to that first book.  If it measures up, awesome! That is exactly what you want and expect.  If it doesn’t, even if only by a little bit, it is disappointing.  I hate to say that I was truly disappointed by this book, but I was hoping for something on the emotional and plot level of what I’d read before and this slid in just under that.  Considering how much I loved the other one, that is pretty telling, even with the things that I’m nit picking.

 

 

The Last Breath: Kimberly Belle

The Last BreathAuthor: Kimberly Belle
Book Name: The Last Breath
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/Suspense
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars

 

Blurb:  Humanitarian aid worker Gia Andrews chases disasters around the globe for a living. It’s the perfect lifestyle to keep her far away from her own personal ground zero. Sixteen years ago, Gia’s father was imprisoned for brutally killing her stepmother. Now he’s come home to die of cancer, and she’s responsible for his care–and coming to terms with his guilt.

Gia reluctantly resumes the role of daughter to the town’s most infamous murderer, a part complete with protesters on the lawn and death threats that are turning tragedy into front-page news. Returning to life in small-town Tennessee involves rebuilding relationships that distance and turmoil have strained, though finding an emotional anchor in the attractive hometown bartender is certainly helping Gia cope.

As the past unravels before her, Gia will find herself torn between the stories that her family, their friends and neighbors, and even her long-departed stepmother have believed to be real all these years. But in the end, the truth–and all the lies that came before–may have deadlier consequences than she could have ever anticipated….

Review: Truly well written and emotionally gripping, you cannot help but get emotionally involved in this book.

Every single one of these characters were compelling.  Some you loved from the beginning to the end, like Gia.  Others, you liked then hated then liked again or the other way around.  There were so many layers to each one it was easy to connect to them.

The plot had so many variables that you just didn’t know for sure which way it was going to resolve.  Sure, some potentials were stronger than others, but there was just enough doubt to not be absolutely certain how it was going to end keeping the door open on several possibilities.  At the same time, there wasn’t so much that it was bloated or overwhelming.  It was a perfect balance.  For this type of book, that is extremely rare.

Not only is there a wide range within the plot, but also within the emotional responses this book generates.  It may be intense, but it has its lighter funny moments that have you laughing at the characters as well as the softer sweet parts that give you warm fuzzies.

I seriously loved this book all the way around.