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.