Book Review: Anna – Patricia Dixon

Author: Patricia Dixon
Book Name: Anna
Release Date: June 4, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/Women’s Fiction/Family Life
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Against the odds, can you learn to trust and love again? 

Set on the coast of Portsmouth and the beautiful Loire Valley, this is the story of Anna. A married mother of three, the unremarkable rock of her family is content with her life until she discovers that Matthew, her husband of 22 years, is having an affair.

Consumed by hurt and tainted memories, Anna’s life is turned upside down by first betrayal and then loss. Her confidence totally destroyed, she is tormented by the spectre of Matthew’s unknown lover. Whilst keeping the secret of his affair from her family, Anna must find her way through the pain alone.

With one son on the other side of the world, another about to enter a war zone and her daughter off to university, Anna’s life gradually begins to crumble until someone from her past appears.

Can Anna find peace and learn to love again?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 2.5/5 Stars

Trying to rate a book like this is incredibly difficult. There are parts I really enjoyed and parts that I really didn’t and it is kind of difficult to separate them in the end because they are all tangled together.

If I look at the basic story line and the realistic nature of the characters, I can say that for the most part, I really enjoyed those pieces. There are points where the emotions are really drawn out and these points sucked me in and I was anxious about how it was going to move on. But if I look at the execution and how most of that was presented, there were a lot of times where I struggled with my own personal reaction to some of the situations and this frustrated me and  made me not like certain aspects of Anna’s character.

Those really good parts were also like bright spots in a very long and very drawn out story. According to Goodreads, the page count for this book is 470 pages, which is way too long for a story like this. There are so many parts that are deeply detailed that could have so easily been removed and you still would have had a really good story.

This gets exacerbated by the number of times the reader is subjected to Anna having to rehash what she knows about Matthew’s affair. After about the third time, I was done with it and the emotions surrounding it all, but we get it again. And again. And… it was too much and started to lose the emotional impact and just slowed things down.

I kept thinking I’d hit a point where it looked like the story was winding down and wrapping up only to look down and I was only at 50% or 70% or still not even close to being done. When that happened yet again, I suddenly hit a point marked “Book 2”. I think it is an epilogue or something, but it really isn’t an actual break in the story, just a continuation of the exact same story so I was really frustrated and confused by the entire point of that break. And the fact that it wasn’t actually the end of the story yet.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike this story. I think the basis and the bones were really good, but the sheer length of this with all of these little pieces and oddly arranged timeline bounces of looking back when you really didn’t have a purpose to do so in probably 90% of the instances made this drag. It is the kind of book that I really wish someone would have just stepped in and said “all these bits here really don’t add anything to the overall story, you should consider cutting them”. It would have kept the emotional flow going, uninterrupted, and allow the story to move forward without distracting the reader. By the time I got to the actual epilogue, I kind of no longer cared and only skimmed it.

 

 

Book Review: No Time To Say Goodbye, Kate Hewitt

Author: Kate Hewitt
Book Name: No Time To Say Goodbye
Release Date: September 27,02019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Family Life
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Nathan West loved his wife Laura with all his heart. But now she’s gone, taken from him in a seemingly random act of violence. Laura was the glue that held their family together. And for Nathan, life without her feels almost meaningless.

As he tries to find hope in the darkness, his three young daughters express their grief in different and challenging ways – with one set on a path of self-destruction that could devastate their family all over again. Desperate to understand his own heartbreak better, he reaches out to others who had known Laura. Including her new friend Maria, whose light and warmth are exactly what their grieving family needs, and who is soon helping out and providing emotional support for them all.

But the picture Maria paints of Laura is unfamiliar to Nathan – of a wife who felt ignored, a mother who felt she couldn’t do enough – and he struggles to reconcile it with his own memories of the woman he loved. Is it possible he didn’t know his wife after all? And can he trust Maria? He can’t escape the feeling that she’s keeping something from him.

Maria is hiding a secret with the power to rock Nathan’s family to its core. Because it is about what happened the day that Laura died…

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3/5 Stars
Believability: 3/5 Stars
Peeve Factor: 3/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars

This was an emotionally impactful story in the sense that you really get a feel for the loss and the grief this family is suffering and the steps they have to take to move forward after that loss. Unfortunately, the blurb really leads you to believe this is going to be a story about much more than just that and it mostly isn’t. There really isn’t that sense of suspense you might expect from the blurb other than waiting for something suspenseful to happen. Maria’s setup in the blurb just doesn’t quite match up to the actual story either (which is a peeve of mine). These points took a bit away from the emotional context of the story for me because I was constantly looking for something that didn’t end up being there.

I also struggled a bit with feeling the ages of the girls. Both Alexis and Ruby felt a lot older than their stated ages. Ruby especially with her actions and words. Ella at times felt much younger and others much older, feeling as though her age wasn’t solidly established. While these are on the minor side for me, it made it difficult to connect with their level of grief or their behaviors at different times. If these had been my only issues and this had been presented in the blurb as just a dramatic story about family, then I’d have rated this higher as it is a good family drama. The expectation that there was going to be a suspenseful line threaded through this that I didn’t get left me a little disappointed that the only bit of that you get is at the very tail end of the story.

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

Book Review: Fated, Alex Verus – Book #1

Author: Benedict Jacka
Book Name: Fated
Release Date: February 28, 2012
Series: Alex Verus
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Uban
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Alex Verus is part of a world hidden in plain sight, running a magic shop in London. And while Alex’s own powers aren’t as showy as some mages, he does have the advantage of foreseeing the possible future–allowing him to pull off operations that have a million-to-one-chance of success.

But when Alex is approached by multiple factions to crack open a relic from a long-ago mage war, he knows that whatever’s inside must be beyond powerful. And thanks to his abilities, Alex can predict that by taking the job, his odds of survival are about to go from slim to none…

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3/5 Stars
Believability: 3/5 Stars
Uniqueness Factor: 2.5/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars

I’m really on the fence with this one. For the most part I enjoyed it. Alex’s character was interesting. So was Luna’s issue with her curse. I just don’t think there was anything in particular about this book that made it stand out from any other urban fantasy out there.

I wasn’t a huge fan of how ugly every side of the magical community was portrayed (both Light and Dark), leaving Alex and maybe Luna to be what seem to be the only decent people in that community. There was plenty of focus on the actual magical parts of this, though little to no explanation of how it all works. There were also lots of action and fights for those that need loads of that in their books.

In all, this was a decent read, hitting slightly above “just okay” in the “good” range.

 

Book Review: What You Did, Claire McGowan

Author: Claire McGowan
Book Name: What You Did
Release Date: August 1, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: A vicious assault. A devastating accusation. Who should she trust, her husband or her best friend?

It was supposed to be the perfect reunion: six university friends together again after twenty years. Host Ali finally has the life she always wanted, a career she can be proud of and a wonderful family with her college boyfriend, now husband. But that night her best friend makes an accusation so shocking that nothing will ever be the same again.

When Karen staggers in from the garden, bleeding and traumatised, she claims that she has been assaulted—by Ali’s husband, Mike. Ali must make a split-second decision: who should she believe? Her horrified husband, or her best friend? With Mike offering a very different version of events, Ali knows one of them is lying—but which? And why?

When the ensuing chaos forces her to re-examine the golden era the group shared at university, Ali realises there are darker memories too. Memories that have lain dormant for decades. Memories someone would kill to protect.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 2.5/5 Stars
Believability: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars

This book has left me really torn. How do you like a book, but not like any of the characters? That isn’t to say they weren’t well written, because I think they were amazingly written. I just thought that there wasn’t really a decent human in the entire mix. Every single one was self-absorbed and self-serving to one degree or another, some being exponentially worse than others. This includes the kids. If I had to say that one character was at least partially likeable, it would be Bill, but even he had issues.

I had originally liked Ali, or at least felt a sort of understanding for the position she was put in, but as the story moves forward and she begins to make certain choices, I really soured on her and her self-serving motives.

Even though I didn’t like the characters, the story still worked well. There were directions I saw the story going and it did go there. Then there were a couple of twists I did not see coming at all, which I really enjoyed. I think I probably would have been perfectly content to say that this was a really good book until I hit the final chapter. That felt like it was just a bit too much and pushed me into eye roll territory because it didn’t feel necessary and took away from all the drama that had just occurred.

Please note, anyone that has issues with rape will probably find this a difficult read. Not because it goes into graphic detail or glorifies it, but just with everything that surrounds it and the ever present attitudes towards victims.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

Book Review: Close To Home, Sawyer’s Ferry – Book #4

Author: Cate Ashwood
Book Name: Close To Home
Release Date: June 11, 2019
Series: Sawyer’s Ferry
Order: #4
Genre: Romance/LGBTQIA
Overall SPA: 3 SPA Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb:

Witt:
I excelled at two things: systems engineering and going completely unnoticed.
The engineering took work and determination. The invisibility came naturally. Until one day, the wrong person noticed me. Battered and broken, I fled, escaping to Sawyer’s Ferry and the only friends I’d ever had.
Now, I just needed to figure out what I was going to do next.

Mason:
Life was good.
I had a great job, good friends, and a family who loved me. Even my roommate was decent. At least he was until he let his nudist brother come to visit. The opportunity to house-sit and help an injured friend couldn’t have come at a better time.
All I’d needed was to avoid an awkward situation for a few days, but I got more than I bargained for when my entire uncomplicated life flipped upside down. The last thing I’d been looking for was love, but it wasn’t until Witt that I realized just how much I’d been missing out on.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Series Expectations: 3/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 2.5/5 Stars

This started out really good and I connected with Witt’s character right away. I liked Mason right away as well. I liked how their story was unfolding. But… this ended up being this really long and drawn out story where not much actually happens for the bulk of the story. Then, in the last 10% of the book, the reader gets steamrolled with big stuff going on, Mason and Witt going from taking this snail slow pace to being in love, followed by a huge time jump that wraps it all up in a bow. It started out good, then started to drag and then you hit light speed right before you hit full stop. It was like there was this great story idea but there wasn’t a specific path to a finish. The end felt jumbled and rushed which clashes with the much slower pace of the earlier parts of the story making this fall more into the “Okay” range for me.

 

Book Review: A Merciful Fate, Mercy Kilpatrick – Book #5

Author: Kendra Elliot
Book Name: A Merciful Fate
Release Date: January 15, 2019
Series: Mercy Kilpatrick
Order: #5
Genre: Romance/Mystery/Suspense/Crime
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Raised by preppers, survivalist and FBI agent Mercy Kilpatrick has a deep-rooted need for a safe place. Her getaway in the Cascade Foothills is her secret. But when skeletal remains are unearthed—those of a murdered man linked to a notorious heist—Mercy realizes she isn’t the only one with something to hide.

Thirty years ago, an armored-car robbery turned deadly. The mastermind was captured. Four conspirators vanished with a fortune. One of them, it appears, never made it out of the woods alive. For Mercy and her fiancé, Police Chief Truman Daly, their investigation opens old wounds in Eagle’s Nest that cut deeper than they imagined. Especially when a reckless tabloid reporter draws fresh blood. It’s clear to Mercy that somebody in this close-knit community is not who they seem to be.

Some are still shattered by the heist. Some still have reason to be afraid. But which one will kill again and again to hide three decades of secrets? To land this case, it’s up to Mercy to unmask a familiar stranger before someone else dies.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Believability: 2.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars

This series has always been interesting to me. I have really enjoyed the insight into the world and mindset of preppers, so I always look forward to seeing bits of that life in these books. This book didn’t really touch on that nearly as much as previous books.

The one issue I’ve had with the series, at least on a small scale, is that some of the plotlines get a little convoluted and unbelievable. That was the case with this one as it really felt a bit ridiculous at times, more so than most of the previous books. At one point, I honestly wondered how many characters were going to get shot or killed or have really bad things happen to them. If a character appeared on a page, I was pretty certain it was going to turn into something ugly or traumatic.

For what is supposedly a relatively small community, there is an extremely high percentage of bad guys that seem to all live there. There are also a somewhat extreme number of cases that overlap between the FBI and local police. I like Mercy and Truman’s characters, but there are only so many cases they can have intertwine so they work together before you’ve broken the realistic barrier, fiction or not. The fact that this is book 5 and all of these same issues showed up again frustrated me. Those aspects keep this series from being a really great one in my book.

 

 

 

Book Review: The Dead of Winter, Piper Blackwell Mystery – Book #1

Author: Jean Rabe
Book Name: The Dead of Winter
Release Date: July 1st, 2019
Series: Piper Blackwell Mystery
Order: #1
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Crime
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: In a deceptively peaceful county, a murderer hides in plain sight…

Fifty-eight minutes into her first day on the job, twenty-three-year-old Sheriff Piper Blackwell is faced with a grisly murder—the victim artfully posed amid decorations on his lawn. Drawing on former military training, Piper must prove herself worthy of the sheriff’s badge, and that won’t be easy.

Chief Deputy Oren Rosenberg, Piper’s opponent in the recent election, doesn’t like her and wants her to fail. She doesn’t like him either, but she needs Oren to help catch the killer before another victim is discovered. Too late!

As Piper leads the manhunt, another crisis hits close to home. Her father, the previous sheriff, is fighting for his life, and she is torn between family and duty. Facing personal and professional threats, Piper has to weather a raging storm, keep the sheriff’s department from crumbling around her, and reel in a killer during the most brutal winter sleepy Spencer County, Indiana, has experienced.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 2.5/5 Stars
Believability: 2.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

The bones of this story was good, but that was pulled down drastically by the characters. When your characters represent every stereotype of the small town, small minded, ignorant and egotistical police officer ever known, you’ve made it nearly impossible to enjoy the story beyond those characters.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the somewhat stilted and choppy writing style, especially when it got applied to the dialog. It made most of the characters voices sound exactly the same. The number of characters that had the same weird habit of repeating themselves, and not just phrases, but individual words back to back, amped up that feeling of sameness.

I did enjoy the ending of this, but that was mostly because you finally get to see Piper with a spine and lose the bland, wet noodle feel she’d had through the rest of the book. Even with the ending being a bit better than the rest, this was just an okay read.

 

Book Review: A Stranger on the Beach – Michele Campbell

Author: Michele Campbell
Book Name: A Stranger on the Beach
Release Date: July 23, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Thriller
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: There is a stranger outside Caroline’s house.

Her spectacular new beach house, built for hosting expensive parties and vacationing with the family she thought she’d have. But her husband is lying to her and everything in her life is upside down, so when the stranger, Aiden, shows up as a bartender at the same party where Caroline and her husband have a very public fight, it doesn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary.

As her marriage collapses around her and the lavish lifestyle she’s built for herself starts to crumble, Caroline turns to Aiden for comfort…and revenge. After a brief and desperate fling that means nothing to Caroline and everything to him, Aiden’s obsession with Caroline, her family, and her house grows more and more disturbing. And when Caroline’s husband goes missing, her life descends into a nightmare that leaves her accused of her own husband’s murder.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3/5 Stars
Believability: 3/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars

Based on feedback from other bloggers raving about this book, I was really excited to pick this one up. I don’t think I got the same things out of this that they did, so I’m definitely in the minority on my reaction.

I found myself, really early on, not liking characters I was probably supposed to and liking ones I wasn’t. I’m the kind of reader that needs some form of connection with characters, or to feel a certain sense of relatability and those early impressions made that difficult.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the whole “If I’d known” lines that get dropped all through the beginning of the book that seemed to give away what was going to happen later. They were like glowing neon signs screaming “Look HERE!” I understand the purpose, but they bugged me.

The dual perspective through the majority of the book, giving you vastly different versions of what is going on throughout the story, kind of fell in the middle of like and dislike for me. On one hand, it was interesting seeing the way this was presented, but it took me a little too long to not have those different versions be jarring. When I finally get used to those disparities and come to expect them, a new character’s perspective gets tossed into the mix.

While there were a lot of things going on, it took way longer than it should have to actually settle in and get somewhat invested in how the story played out.

If you are the kind of reader that picks up on small details, the ending won’t be a shock to you. There are definitely a range of possibilities by that point, but, for me, this story could have gone in any of those directions and I wouldn’t have been surprised, though the path to get to any of them is a bit over the top and twisted along the way. In all this was a decent read, but I didn’t love it either.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

Book Review: Alone In The Dark, Romantic Suspense: Book 17

Author: Karen Rose
Book Name: Alone In The Dark
Series: Romantic Suspense/Cincinnati
Order: 17/2
Genre: Romance/Suspense/Crime Drama
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Homicide Detective Scarlett Bishop has seen enough bad guys slip through the cracks and too many innocent victims go unavenged to know good doesn’t always prevail. So far she’s been able to lock away her rage and her vigilante fantasies. That lock is about to break.

Former Army Ranger Marcus O’Bannion is a fierce champion of victims’ rights. His secret past gives him good reason. He believes he’s seen the depths of human depravity, but then his investigation into the murder of a young girl who once asked for his help lures him and Scarlett down a dark, dark road—and straight into the crosshairs of a dangerous, powerful underground ring that deals in human trade. To stop them, Scarlett and Marcus have to be just as cunning and just as ruthless. But first they have to make it out alive.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
This could have been a slightly higher rating if every single bad guy in the book wasn’t so extremely “bad guy” cliche, and there are a whole lot of bad guys, with the good guys being a tiny bit too good.

Believability: 3/5 Stars
This ties in with the characters because rarely do people fall into such stark black and white ranges. Even the events in the book all fall into extremes, which kind of breaks some believability lines.

Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars
Overall I enjoyed this book, but there were a few too many pieces that fell on the over the top side of things to make me really love it.

Every bad guy in this book, and there were an abundance of them, either directly related to the plot or indirectly via character histories, were extreme levels of bad guy making them all charactures. They all also had a level of stupidity that made you question how they managed to get where they were and not get caught before.

There is also a nearly black and white level of extreme difference between those bad guys and the good guys, though the good guys did have a few things that might be considered gray areas. Even those are still very much held on the “good” end of the scale. Those extremes push the believability of the entire story, especially when you add in all the actual events.

How many times can one person be shot or shot at in a book before the reader is getting eye strain from all the rolling going on? Marcus is a great example here. When you add in his LONG, extremely dramatic backstory, it makes what is on the surface a likable, human character, into something nearly superhuman because all those parts that make him up are so unbelievable.

Scarlett is a little bit better, but some of her personal issues and struggles that made her interesting lost some of their luster when they got neatly tied up and fixed when a misunderstanding is revealed later in the story. It was one of those easy solutions that tied her up in a pretty bow.

The neat little bow tying can be applied to a lot of the secondary lines threaded throughout this book. While I do appreciate not being left in a cliff hanger or having random threads just left unfinished, I’m not a huge fan of everything being perfectly fixed, especially when it happens in an extremely unlikely and unbelievable way. That is just those little side threads. The main plot was resolved in a somewhat predictable way as the reader is given neon hints along the way.

Reading this reminded me that while I can enjoy a Karen Rose book, I’m not going to love it because all of them tend to be on that over the top/extreme side of things, which I’m not a huge fan of.

 

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

Cover: 3/5 Stars
This was a nothing special cover for me and so similar to other covers that it just didn’t do anything for me either way.

Uniqueness Factor: 2.5/5 Stars
While the themes of good guy vs. bad guy are pretty standard, the background story and history of Marcus’ character is interesting, if not a little extreme.

Peeve Factor: 3/5 Stars
A couple of aspects brushed up against my peeve issues in this book. The characters border on unrealistic because they tend to range on the extreme ends of the spectrum. For the most part, those extremes were handled in a way to not be obnoxious, but it was enough to drop my overall enjoyment. I’m also not a huge fan of hormonal hornies popping up at the most ridiculous times between characters. It takes away from the seriousness of what is going on in the story.