Book Review: The Other Daughter – Shalini Boland

Author: Shalini Boland
Book Name: The Other Daughter
Release Date: November 5, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Nine years ago her daughter was taken. And now she’s back.

Two-and-a-half-year-old Holly is playing happily in a pink plastic playhouse, while her mother Rachel sips coffee and chats with a friend nearby. It should be an ordinary day for all of them. But, in the blink of an eye, it turns into every family’s worst nightmare.

Holly is taken by a stranger and never found.

Nine years later, Rachel is living a quiet life in Dorset. She’s tried to keep things together since the traumatic day when she lost her eldest daughter. She has a new family, a loving partner and her secrets are locked away in her painful past.

Until one afternoon when Rachel meets a new school parent Kate and her teenage daughter Bella. Rachel’s world is instantly turned upside down – she’s seen Bella before. She’d recognise that face anywhere – it’s her missing child.

And she will stop at nothing to get her back…

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

Even with my category breakdowns, I’m having a hard time rating this. Please note that the little bit I mention may be considered a mild spoiler, though I’m trying to be as vague as possible.

I struggled through the bulk of this book with the main character’s actions and choices in the circumstances as they were presented. So much of it just never rang true or as believable or realistic to me. If I had to rate this as it stood before the plot wraps up at the end of the book, this would have been incredibly low because of those issues.

The ending turned it all around. Things finally begin to work as you get to understand why those were issues, but I didn’t get genuinely invested until that point. It was difficult to keep wanting to read that far without just giving up on the story as being on the ridiculous side. I could almost give category ratings to the beginning of the book and the end of the book because of how I felt about the different parts.

I am glad I stuck with it because, in the end the story was interesting. It was frustrating to get there, but it was good.

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

 

 

Book Review: The Empty Nest – Sue Watson

Author: Sue Watson
Book Name: The Empty Nest
Release Date: November 1, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Psychological Thriller/Suspense/Mystery
Overall SPA: 2 Stars
2 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Kat remembers the days when her only daughter Amy wouldn’t leave her side. Amy was the baby who cried when you walked out of the room, the toddler who was too shy to speak to strangers, the small child who clung to Kat’s legs in the school playground.

But now Amy is grown up, and Amy is gone – to university in a town several hours away. Kat’s house – which once felt too full, too noisy, too busy – is deathly quiet, and Kat awaits the daily phone call to tell her that her beloved daughter is thriving and happy.

Until the day Amy doesn’t call, sending Kat into a panic. Her husband and friends say she’s being paranoid – surely Amy is just out, having fun? But Kat feels sure something is very wrong – she knows her daughter, and she would never just disappear.

As the hours turn into days, her fears are confirmed: Amy is missing. But there are secrets about her daughter that Kat doesn’t know about yet. And the truth about Amy’s whereabouts may be closer to home than Kat could ever imagine…

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 2.5/5 Stars
Believability: 2/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 2/5 Stars

I really wasn’t a fan of this one. You spend the bulk of the book inside Kat’s head with very little actually going on. The emotions she expresses go from one extreme to another, from one sentence to the next, enough to give the reader whiplash. This is basically a story about extremely unhealthy relationships, relationships between mother and daughter, between friends, and even between husband and wife.

I couldn’t find anything in any of the characters that made me feel much sympathy towards what they were going though because they all had some pretty horrible traits. I did feel something towards Amy, but that kind of gets killed when you get a good glimpse into her personality as well.

The specifics of the plot just felt really overblown and extreme from all aspects. The struggle with believability along with the lack of connection to  the characters made this not a good book for me.

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

 

 

Book Review: Traces Of Her – Amanda Brittany

Author: Amanda Brittany
Book Name: Traces of Her
Release Date: October 25, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: An unsolved murder.

Rose isn’t surprised anymore when her free-spirited step-sister, Willow, decides to disappear off somewhere without notice. But something feels different this time. When Willow sends her a mysterious package containing photographs of suspects in a cold case she is obsessed with solving, Rose realises she needs to find her sister before things get out of hand.

A missing girl.

With no sign of Willow to be found, Rose takes up the search for answers about the deaths that shook a small Cornish village eighteen years before. But what is the connection between Willow and the two sisters marked by tragedy?

Time is running out.

Someone knows where Willow is and what happened all those years ago. And they will do anything to stop the truth from coming out.

Can Rose find Willow and the answers she needs, before it’s too late?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

If I could separate the events in this book between the current time’s events and the events that happened in the past and put them into two different books, I would have loved the book that focused on the past and probably would have DNF’d the book that focused on the present.

All of the events that focused on the past and Ava’s character, were great. That whole storyline was interesting and I was really invested in seeing how it all played out. Unfortunately there wasn’t nearly enough events from the past to balance out the fact that I had to do an awful lot of ignoring the events from the present to keep momentum going.

I struggled with how much I disliked Rose and her daughter, Becky, because they both fall solidly into that Too Stupid To Live category. Besides that fact, there is this really weird back and forth as to which one of the characters is the more mature one of the two. Considering Becky is in her mid-teens, that isn’t a good thing.

There were so many times where I got frustrated by how much Rose let Becky get away with, at her age, especially under the circumstances they were in. Becky even being there in the first place made absolutely zero sense from a parental standpoint and bothered me the entire way through the story. I cannot think of a single, decent parent that would think it was okay to drag their mid-teen daughter 5 hours from home to help look for a potential killer. Everything about that whole part of the plot kept yanking me out of the story because it seemed so ridiculous.

When you finally get to weave the past events together with the present events, things get a little crazy and over the top with how it all plays out. On the one hand, I didn’t entirely see it coming, though there were hints. On the other, it breaks a lot of believability barriers. When you combine that with how little I enjoyed the present events because of the characters, this falls down into the okay range for me.

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

 

 

Book Review: If Only I Could Tell You – Hannah Beckerman

Author: Hannah Beckerman
Book Name: If Only I Could Tell You
Release Date: October 15, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Family Life
Overall SPA: 2.5
2.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Audrey knows that life is filled with ups and downs, but she can’t help feeling like she’s been dealt more than her fair share as she’s watched her family come undone over the years. Her dream as a mother had been for her daughters, Jess and Lily, to be as close as only sisters can be. But now as adults, they no longer speak to each other, and Audrey’s two teenage granddaughters have never met. Even more upsetting is the fact that Audrey has no idea how to fix her family as she wonders if they will ever be whole again.

If only Audrey had known three decades ago that a secret could have the power to split her family in two, but ironically, also keep them linked. And when hostilities threaten to spiral out of control, a devastating choice that was made so many years ago is about to be revealed, testing once and for all Audrey and those she loves.

Is it too late for one broken family to heal and find their way back to each other…?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

This was a pretty heavy read. I wasn’t a huge fan of how heavy and how much focus was spent on the more negative aspects of how people can break apart when faced with grief. While plausible from the perspective that everyone deals with grief differently, I’m struck that I’ve found yet another book in which none of the characters deal with that grief in even remotely healthy ways. I struggled to care about the characters because of that. There is very little in the way of uplifting through this because of that focus.

The story is very well written and can wrench some strong emotions from a reader with some of the subject matter that gets presented here. It just leans too heavily on the negative side of the emotional spectrum for me.

 

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

 

Book Review: Good Girls, Amanda Brookfield

Author: Amanda Brookfield
Book Name: Good Girls
Release Date: October 8, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Overall SPA: 2 Stars
2 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Everyone that meets Kat Keating is mesmerised. Beautiful, smart and charming, she is everything a good girl should be.

Her sister Eleanor, on the other hand, knows she can’t compete with Kat. On the awkward side of tall, clever enough to be bullied, and full of the responsibilities only an older sibling can understand, Eleanor grows up knowing she’s not a good girl.

This is the story of the Keating sisters – through a childhood fraught with secrets, adolescent rivalries, and on into adulthood with all its complexities and misunderstandings.  Until a terrible truth brings the sisters crashing together and finally Eleanor begins to uncover just how good Kat really was.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 2/5 Stars
Blurb: 2/5 Stars

Believability: 3/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 2/5 Stars

I struggled to get through this one. The blurb on this simply does not match the story at all, giving you the sense at least that Kat is something of a perfect favorite and there would end up being some sort of intrigue or suspense surrounding that. It isn’t.

Instead you get an incredibly slow and drawn out story about a variety of people living miserable lives and being kind of horrible to each other while they do it. There wasn’t a character in the entire book that was appealing to me. For the most part I was either bored or trudging through some rather depressing material with no real sense of things improving. I spent most of the book waiting for something interesting to happen or for the overall mood of the book to lift and it never really did, unless you consider the last maybe 10% of the book as a lift. I didn’t, so I really was not a fan of this one.

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

 

Book Review: The Secrets of Lost Stones – Melissa Payne

Author: Melissa Payne
Book Name: The Secrets of Lost Stones
Release Date: September 1, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Suspense/Paranormal
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Thirty-two-year-old Jess Abbot has lost everything: her job, her apartment, and—most heart-wrenching—her eight-year-old son, Chance, to a tragic accident. Haunted by memories and grief, Jess packs what’s left and heads for the small mountain town of Pine Lake, where she takes a position as caregiver to an eccentric old woman.

A rumored clairvoyant, Lucy is strange but welcoming and immediately intuits Jess as a “loose end” in need of closure. But Jess isn’t the only guest in Lucy’s large Victorian home. There’s also Star, a teenage runaway with a secret too painful to share. And the little boy with heart-shaped stones, who comes with a hope for reconciliation—and a warning.

Soon Jess learns that she’s not the only lost soul running from the ghosts of the past. She and Star have been brought together for a reason: to be saved by the very thing that destroyed them.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

This is a book with a lot of real life issues and emotions, but it is also threaded through with this sense of paranormal. I really enjoyed that balance between the two. At one point, I was a little worried that this was going to have a much darker ending than I prefer, but I was pleasantly surprised it didn’t go that direction.

I was surprised that I liked the majority of the characters in this book, because that is kind of rare for me. They were all really well written and well balanced with the layers they were supposed to have. I loved Lucy’s character and I would have loved to have gotten more of her history because she is so interesting.

This is just a really good, solid story all the way through. Because of the ghostly paranormal vibe, this would be a great book for a fall/Halloween read without being over the top scary.

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

 

Book Review: The Forgotten Child, D.E. White

Author: D.E. White
Book Name: The Forgotten Child
Release Date: September 27, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 2.5 Stars
2.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Lights blinded her in an eerie white flash. She yanked the wheel as she felt the impact from the car behind her. There was a sharp pain, and then a bang in front of her, and after that nothing but darkness.

Holly Kendal is trying to put her painful past and broken marriage behind her and focus on her beloved son, Milo. But while driving him home on a dark February night, Holly loses control on the rain-slicked tarmac, and her car spirals off the road.

When Holly regains consciousness, everything is silent and in the dark, she can’t see Milo. Desperately, she claws her way out of the car and forces the back door open.

To her relief, Milo is where she left him, injured but breathing – but then she sees something that makes her heart stop.

Milo isn’t the only child in the car. Next to him is another little boy, unharmed but unconscious.

And Holly has absolutely no idea who he is.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3/5 Stars
Believability: 3/5 Stars
Blurb: 2/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 2/5 Stars

When I read the blurb for this book, I was really intrigued and excited to read it. I loved this really unique situation that left me questioning how it could play out. There were so many directions this could go.

The way this started, made me think that it was going to be this really intense read, but it didn’t take long at all before I realized this book’s focus wasn’t about what you get in the blurb at all and I quickly became disappointed. The piece of the story that makes the blurb so intense and intriguing is only a very small thread through a very different story. This isn’t to say that the book itself wasn’t well written or interesting, because it was. It just wasn’t what I was expecting at all and ended up not being to my tastes.

There is a heavy thread through this that deals with criminal activities, organizations and the families that make those up. Those aspects were treated in such a blasé way, I wasn’t a fan. When combined with the difference in my expectations of what this was about, it made it difficult for me to enjoy the story.

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

 

On My TBR – September 2019 Edition

When I did the first one of these a few months ago, I thought for sure I wouldn’t end up being a fan and dropping it. Mostly because I am very much a mood reader and I didn’t think I’d ever really get through all the books on a TBR list. Oh, I’d read that number of books and then some, but not necessarily those specific books.

Now that I’m getting ARCs and requests from indie authors, this has actually been kind of helpful in keeping me focused a bit to ensure I meet my obligations. That and it has been kind of fun. So, I’m sticking with it.

There was only one book on last month’s TBR that I didn’t end up reading beyond the first couple of pages (really was not a fan of the writing and dropped it), otherwise, I had no problem getting to them all. I also only really put the books on this list that I currently have available to read or I’m expecting to release and pick up in that month, so it isn’t an excessively long list.

 

Anna
Anna

Anna
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Family Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evvie Drake Starts Over
Evvie Drake Starts Over

Evvie Drake Starts Over
Genre: Romance

 

 

 

 

 

 

September’s Anxiously Awaiting Release:

Archangel's War
Archangel’s War

Archangel’s War – Guild Hunter Book #12
Genre: Romance, Urban, Fantasy
Release Date: September 24, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

On Hold At The Library (should be in for this month’s TBR):

Brave the Tempest
Brave the Tempest

Brave the Tempest – Cassandra Palmer Book #9
Genre: Urban, Fantasy

 

 

 

 

 

 

NetGalley ARCs:

Good Girls
Good Girls

Good Girls
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Family Life
Release Date: October 8, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traces of Her
Traces of Her

Traces of Her
Genre: Mystery, Suspense
Release Date: October 25, 2019
*Putting this on the list because I have it approved, but may wait until closer to the release date to actually read.

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: The Blacksmith Queen, The Scarred Earth Saga – Book #1

Author: G.A. Aiken
Book Name: The Blacksmith Queen
Release Date: August 27, 2019
Series: The Scarred Earth Saga
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Romance/Humor
Overall SPA: 5 Stars
5 Stars

 

 

Blurb:  The Old King Is Dead
 
With the demise of the Old King, there’s a prophesy that a queen will ascend to the throne of the Black Hills. Bad news for the king’s sons, who are prepared to defend their birthright against all comers. But for blacksmith Keeley Smythe, war is great for business. Until it looks like the chosen queen will be Beatrix, her younger sister. Now it’s all Keeley can do to protect her family from the enraged royals.

Luckily, Keeley doesn’t have to fight alone. Because thundering to her aid comes a clan of kilt-wearing mountain warriors called the Amichai. Not the most socially adept group, but soldiers have never bothered Keeley, and rough, gruff Caid, actually seems to respect her. A good thing because the fierce warrior will be by her side for a much longer ride than any prophesy ever envisioned …

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

When I first saw this book was the start of a new series, I was a tiny bit concerned it wouldn’t follow what I’ve come to know and love about G.A. Aiken’s style. You never really know for sure what you’re getting into with a new series and the blurb doesn’t quite do this justice, falling on the more serious side. Fans of the Dragon Kin series will be happy to know this series is set in that same world. Though there isn’t any kind of crossover just yet, the potential is there for future books.

Everything I’ve always loved about a G.A. Aiken novel is in this one. All the over the top, effortlessly badass female characters. The phenomenal, irreverent snark and humor layered into those intensely grotesque battle scenes. I don’t know another author that can make me laugh so hard about someone getting their head smashed to a pulp. Those things really shouldn’t ever be funny, but because of the way she writes, I cannot read and drink anything at the same time.

I was really surprised this went the direction it did with Keeley’s and Beatrix’s relationship. At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it, but I really did. It felt different for this author (unless I’ve forgotten something or missed a book in the past) to go that route.

Even though this is the same world as the Dragon Kin series and you get to see similar beings (dragons, centaurs), they are still unique to the part of the world this book is founded in. So, while similar in setting and general feel, it still has the sense of newness that I thoroughly enjoyed. The next book in this series cannot come soon enough.

For those new to G.A. Aiken, no need to worry. You won’t feel lost. If you love a little magic, a wide range of interesting types of characters, battle scenes and lots of humor (the kind that gets everyone looking at you funny when you snort, choke or belt out your most embarrassing laugh), you absolutely should be putting this one on your TBR.

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

 

Book Review: His Secret Family, Ali Mercer

Author: Ali Mercer
Book Name: His Secret Family
Release Date: September 11, 2019 (ARC)
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Family Life/Mystery
Overall SPA: 2.5 Stars
2.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: It’s a beautiful day for a wedding. White roses scent the air and the summer sunlight streams in. A spoon chimes against a champagne flute and the room falls silent. And there he is – my husband – getting to his feet to propose a toast. He’s still handsome. His new wife is next to him, gazing upwards, oblivious.

I’m not supposed to be here. All these years in the same town and I had no idea until I saw his name on the seating plan. He lived with me, once. Loved me. Small-town memories are long, but the people in this room don’t want to remember.

They say the healing is in letting go, but after what he did, he needs to know we haven’t gone away just because he’s shut his eyes.

So I take Daisy by the hand and step forward from the shadows. He notices us and his eyes widen. The champagne glass falls from his hand and smashes. Then he sags forward, making a terrible sound – a sort of strangled scream…

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 2.5/5 Stars
Blurb: 2.5/5 Stars

Peeve Factor: 3/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 2/5 Stars

*Potential Spoilers*

Looking at the name of this book. Reading the blurb and the first piece in the book (noted as the foreword in my copy) and you get the impression that you are going to get a pretty intense and potentially emotional book. I was really excited about this when I read the blurb. Getting it and reading that first section, which is sort of an expansion on the blurb, made me feel like I’d made a really good choice.

Once you get into the book, you get chapters that cycle through 4 different character perspectives. Ellie, Ava, Jenny, and Paula. None of which are the one name that was noted in that first piece that drew you in. I can see how this may create a deep sense of mystery for some readers, but for me, it was more frustrating trying to understand what that first bit had to do with anything at all as it seems completely unconnected to what is going on immediately after that.

I don’t mind the alternating character perspectives. That is something I normally enjoy, but with the 4 you get in this book it felt a bit too much. Ellie, Ava and Jenny’s timelines all run mostly concurrently with tiny bits of overlap in events here and there. Paula’s is more fluid and doesn’t run in line with the others, creating an additional level of confusion for the reader when attempting to make connections because you don’t know that her timeline isn’t running the same as the other characters. It takes a very long time before you see that and any of the pieces begin to fall in place.

There is this small thread through the story that runs more along the lines of paranormal. I really enjoy paranormal stories, but that isn’t what this story is about and it feels out of place.

Ellie and Paula’s characters were probably the most well rounded and interesting. Their perspectives were the pieces I liked the most throughout the story. I did not like Mark at all as he was a self-absorbed narcissist to the core and I have issues with characters like this (yes, they are realistic and human, but this is a personal thing for me). I didn’t see him as redeemable in any way. Getting his perspective for the final chapter bumped into one of my peeves as I’m not a fan of that kind of perspective inconsistency in a book. When you already have 4, you really, really don’t need one more at the very end. Ava wasn’t too far behind Mark in being the self-absorbed, often bratty teenager. The teenager thing being the only reason I was willing to overlook some of her personality, but she seemed to get worse as the book went along. Jenny was a character that I just couldn’t find much of interest in. While she wasn’t entirely selfish, she did seem to be the type that was easily blinded by materialistic things.

Overall, I didn’t feel like the book really lived up to the dramatic, intense blurb or the title. I love situational drama. I love emotional drama. I do not love manufactured drama and that is where most of the drama is derived from in this book, through those differing timelines and the dragging out of events followed by a 10 year time jump towards the end. The actual events weren’t that dramatic. The big secret isn’t really a secret, either to the reader or to the characters. What little bit you do get at the end feels anticlimactic because, as the reader, you see it all unfold. The character reactions to it compound that feeling as it ends up not being any kind of an issue for them either. The pieces of this story that should have been sort of emotional volcanoes for me, just weren’t. I don’t know if it was because of a lack of connection to the characters or if it was the way those pieces were written, but it sort of felt like even the characters were experiencing the events they were going through from a distance rather than directly.

I do think it should be noted that some readers may find they have problems with how some issues were presented and dealt with in this book. If you have problems with cheating, you may have issues with this book. If you have problems with how people on the Autism spectrum are sometimes viewed and treated, you may have issues with this book. If you have problems with how mental illness is sometimes viewed by some people or some of the ways it was treated historically, you may have issues with this book. These aren’t normally things that stick out for me, but I found I really disliked many of the situations surrounding these issues and how they were presented in this book.

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

 

 

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.

 

 

Getting Into The ARC Swing & Questions

Since the whole ARC book thing is still so new to me, I’m still learning what to expect. I kind of thought I’d understood it with the first 3. One was an already released book (by a couple of days when I got it). One was a couple of days ahead of release and another was a little over a month out from its release date.

The one I just started reading isn’t due out until October. I started reading expecting a similar experience to the first 3 books. Uh… nope. This one is actually still pretty raw, at least with regards to formatting. I’m talking RAW.

It was bad enough that I struggled
to
get through that f irst couple of
chap
ters. I’m talking it was nearly impossible to f igureout what went
where. Where a
para
graph ended and where one began. Where one speaker started and another one stopped.

See that lovely mess above? Yeah, that is what I’m talking about. Every word that started with an F had a space after the F making it stand out from the rest of the word. Some words were split and on different lines. There were lines with only a single word. Basically, it was extremely difficult to read. I had to constantly stop and reread lines because it wasn’t flowing easily and my mind kept wanting to stop at those obvious breaks.

I honestly didn’t know what I was going to do. I didn’t want to not finish it. I loved the premise or I wouldn’t have requested it in the first place. That and not finishing a book can really ding you on requests (at least that’s what I’ve seen). But I also wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep it up for the entire book in the state it was in. I went and looked to see what others had written about their feedback and I didn’t see a single comment about formatting, so I didn’t know if this was just a thing that ARC readers have to be able to see past or what. It was never an issue with the other books I read.

I did manage to plow through and it looks like the following chapters are 1000% better. There are still a few things that are bugging me, but they are things I’m not entirely sure are a stylistic thing or an editing/formatting thing. Since this is something that can potentially change, how does that impact a review? This is something that has been kind of wiggling around in the back of my mind since I figured out a bit more about ARCs.

If what I’m seeing in this book is common for an ARC that is that far out, how can a reader provide an honest review if they are forced to overlook problems that could potentially still exist in the published copy? Like I said, I didn’t not have a problem with the first 3 books I read, but this one has been a struggle and I’m only about 20% in.

Book Review: Child’s Play, DI Kim Stone – Book 11

Author: Angela Marsons
Book Name: Child’s Play
Release Date: July 11, 2019
Series: DI Kim Stone
Order: #11
Genre: Crime/Police Drama, Suspense, Mystery
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
4.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Finally we’re playing a game. A game that I have chosen. I give one last push of the roundabout and stand back. ‘You really should have played with me,’ I tell her again although I know she can no longer hear.

Late one summer evening, Detective Kim Stone arrives at Haden Hill Park to the scene of a horrific crime: a woman in her sixties tied to a swing with barbed wire and an X carved into the back of her neck.

The victim, Belinda Evans, was a retired college Professor of Child Psychology. As Kim and her team search her home, they find an overnight bag packed and begin to unravel a complex relationship between Belinda and her sister Veronica.

Then two more bodies are found bearing the same distinctive markings, and Kim knows she is on the hunt for a ritualistic serial killer. Linking the victims, Kim discovers they were involved in annual tournaments for gifted children and were on their way to the next event.

With DS Penn immersed in the murder case of a young man, Kim and her team are already stretched and up against one of the most ruthless killer’s they’ve ever encountered. The clues lie in investigating every child who attended the tournaments, dating back decades.

Faced with hundreds of potential leads and a bereaved sister who is refusing to talk, can Kim get inside the mind of a killer and stop another murder before it’s too late?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 5/5 Stars
It isn’t easy writing about characters when you are deep in a series. This one is an exception because, even though it is ongoing, you will ALWAYS get new characters, at least from the perspective of the bad guys. We again get bad guys that are truly bad, but still allow the reader a sense of pity or understanding.

Series Expectations: 4/5 Stars
If I had to compare this to others in the series, it isn’t my favorite because it isn’t quite at the same level as far as the separate storylines (but only slightly less), but I still really enjoyed it.

Believability: 4/5 Stars
Pretty much no matter what scenario you get with a Kim Stone book, or how over the top it may be, it still always works. This one is no exception. The crime aspects may be a little over the top on the believability chart (though I think a lot of truly horrific crimes IRL would fit that the same way), the way those are presented and handled by the characters works well.

Personal Opinion: 5/5 Stars
There are very, very few authors that are capable of keeping me interested in a series this deep into it. Ms. Marsons has proven yet again, that she is more than capable of keeping a series feeling new and fresh.

If I had one small thing to nitpick, and it is small, is that you don’t get to see Penn interacting with the rest of the team in this one. As a newish character and one taking the space of a character that was incredibly difficult to lose, both as the team in the story and as a reader, I would have liked to have seen more of those interactions in this book. I do think that we get an even better feel for him as a character in this, even if it isn’t through his interactions with the team.

I will never get tired of that team and how they work so well together. It is one of the things I love about this series. While you don’t spend huge portions of the book on personal dramas for those characters, you absolutely know who they are as individuals, which makes them so very real.

The two different storylines in this are kind of classic for this series and is one of the many things that I love. One of those threads is the one Penn is working on and the other is the main thread the team is working on. I liked getting to see a new face, similar to the last book, and I’m wondering if those are hints at the team growing in the future.

I always wonder when I get to the end, where the next book can go that is going to feel new, that things are going to start to feel stale. The fact that this is book 11 and not one of them has ever gotten even close should tell me I don’t have anything to worry about any time soon.

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

 

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

Cover: 4/5 Stars
I liked this cover from the beginning as it sets the tone for what is inside. I always like to look at them again after I’m done reading a book to see if I still feel the same way. I love it when I can things in it that only really aren’t noticeable until after you’ve read the book. This has notes of that hinting it it.

 

 

 

Moment of Gratitude

I had this moment of realization yesterday when I was contemplating writing my review for my first ever ARC. I am kind of living in this moment of fantasy right now. I am at a place in my life I never dreamed I’d be outside of those “Wouldn’t it be nice?” kinds of thoughts. Yet, here I am. And I am astoundingly grateful for it.

I have now gotten a second ARC approval and it is another book on my list of “I’d LOVE to get, but probably never will.” This was part of that moment of realization. Yes, it is only two books, but… I am now getting books for the express purpose of reviewing them before most people get their hands on them. That is an amazing thing to me.

I have also actually done something I never thought I’d EVER do: I wrote and published my own book. And it is selling. It is making the kind of impact with readers that I’d hoped for. It may still be very much on the tiny scale of things, but it is on the scale. This is also stunning to me.

As a person that has spent the bulk of their adult life focused on being Mom and struggling for years with who I am outside of that role, these things are massive for me. I am in awe that these are now facts in my life, that they are a tangible part of that life. It is though I can feel how these seemingly small things are cementing their place in who I am.

There have been so many things over time and throughout my life that have been damaging and hurtful. Because of that, I have actively spent the last several years trying to find the positive things, the things that bring me joy and most days, I’m good at finding those things. Photography has been a huge part of that for me. So have my kids and my Hubby. But these things? They feel different. They feel healing in a very different way. They make me feel a little bit more solid in who I am.

And I am massively grateful.

Book Review: War, House War: Book 8

Author: Michelle West (Sagara)
Book Name: War
Series: House War
Order: #8
Genre: Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
4.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: The eighth and final book in the epic fantasy House War series closes this chapter in a beloved world of magic and political intrigue, where new threats are stirring.

When the Sleepers wake.

Once, that phrase meant: never. The Sleepers were a myth, part of a story told to children. But in truth, the Sleepers, ancient princes in the court of the Winter Queen, were imprisoned in slumber by the gods themselves—in the cold, dark ruins of the ancient city that lies buried beneath the capitol of the Empire. And that prison is fraying, at last.

They are waking.

The gods no longer walk the world. There is no power that can stand against the princes when they wake—and the city that has been Jewel’s home for her entire life will be destroyed when the Sleepers walk. There is only one person to whom they owe allegiance, only one chance to halt them before they destroy everything in their ancient rage.

But that person is the Winter Queen; she is not, and has never been mortal. Jewel carries the last of the surviving saplings that might usher in a new Summer age—but all of the roads that lead to the court of the Queen are closed.

Jewel ATerafin has faced the Oracle’s test. She has control of the prophetic powers that she once considered a curse and a burden. She will find her way to the Winter Queen, and she will ask—or beg—the Winter Queen to intervene to save her kind, her House, and everything she loves.

But she is mortal, and time has never been her friend. The demons are waiting to bar her way, bringing battle to the hidden ancient paths on which she must travel. To win, she must face the true meaning of the Oracle’s test, and risk sanity and life to make the choice that has always lurked at the heart of the firstborn’s test.

And even then, it might be too late.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Series Continuity: 5/5 Stars
I don’t have much to note specifically here other than to say this book definitely stayed true to form, but this does play a huge part in my overall opinion.

Series Expectations: 4/5 Stars
As usual, this exceeds expectations in most areas. Some I saw coming and others I was surprised by in a way I’m still torn on.

Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect with this book as the end of the House War series. Because this is so intricately tied with The Sundered, The Sacred Hunt, and The Sun Sword series, I didn’t know for sure if this was the LAST, last book, or just the last House War book. It doesn’t feel like the end of the much larger universe and story arc that ties all those other series together.

There is so much that happens in this one book, I’m not sure how to unpack it all. Many threads that have been introduced throughout this series (and some of the other connected series) get tied up in this book, which was to be expected, but they don’t feel completely done. There are other, much larger, storyline threads outside of the House War series that are still left unfinished.

I wasn’t entirely surprised by the end result of Jewel’s journey. I am a little surprised at the specific events that get her there. I was honestly expecting different events or circumstances would be the catalyst that brought about her decision, a kind of emotional upheaval, but these weren’t. I am by no means disappointed, just… it came about differently than I thought, leaving me a little torn about my response to the actual events.

There is a conclusion to the storyline about The Sleepers, but I feel like this takes a bit of a backseat to Jewel’s story. Since she is essentially the focal character in this particular series, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think I would have liked to have gotten a better glimpse of their interaction with Meralonne, though. But that is the problem with any great character in any book, you never feel like you get nearly enough page time with any of them.

In typical fashion, I get to the last page and I wasn’t ready for it to BE the last page. There are still lots of threads left unfinished, even the threads of many of the focal characters in this series. There are still so many characters in this series that I’m not ready to see the last of. This book, even being the end of the House War series, means that I don’t have to see the last of them just yet. I’m hopeful that means we will still get more of the specific characters in THIS series, wherever the larger storyline takes us.

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

 

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

Cover: 5/5 Stars
I have to be a bit giddy about this cover. I have loved the art on ALL the covers of this series. They all hold an extremely consistent look and feel and this blends in perfectly with the rest. I cannot get over all the detail and how deeply this (and all the other covers) reflect the events in the book.

World Building: 5/5 Stars
It is probably obvious if you were to look at my favorites list that this falls into one of my favorite series. It is because of the world building in this series that I love it so much. Fair warning, though! You’ve GOT to read the books in order to truly understand what is going on, that means the books across all the different series. You may be able to pick up one of the series and not feel entirely lost if you read from the beginning of that series, but you would be missing out on some of those finer details and underlying pieces that are so essential to the whole.

There is so much detail and intricacies woven throughout this as a whole. I honestly don’t think I’d want to ever be in the author’s head. To be able to hold it all together and keep it in line and consistent is kind of astonishing.

 

 

 

Fangirl Moment of SQUEEE!!!

HOLY CRAP!! I’m kinda freaking out at the moment. I’ve JUST started requesting ARCs via NetGalley, not really expecting to actually get approved. I’ve even gotten a rejection, so it kind of confirmed for me that I probably wasn’t quite in the position that publishers are looking for when it comes to handing out ARC copies for reviews and that I needed to do some more work towards getting there. Apparently…

Not only did I get an ARC book, but I got one that I never in a million years expected to get approved for but thought, “What the hell! Can’t hurt to ask!” and requested it anyway. It is my first ever ARC and I’m over the moon giddy over it and what book it is.

Now, I’m not 100% certain on ARC etiquette and how to handle this awesomeness. Do I get to scream about the fact I got an ARC and the book it is? I know about the writing a review piece, that should be the easy part, but there are more things I think that I don’t really know and now I need to dig in and do a bit more research so I don’t goof and this ends up being the only one I get.

If you are an ARC reviewer, please feel free to chime in and give a newbie some much needed advice! Now I’m going to go try to bust my family’s ear drums with some more screeching and freaking, then I’m going to calm down and get to reading.