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: 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 Bookish Life of Nina Hill, Abbi Waxman

Author: Abbi Waxman
Book Name: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill
Release Date: July 9, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/Women’s Fiction

Blurb: The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.

1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.

Let’s do this one a little differently, shall we? All the normal review pieces to follow.

10 Things I Learned Reading The Bookish Life of Nina Hill:
(Please read the below with extreme levels of sarcasm and snark; in a shrill excited tone if you prefer)

1) It is absolutely just awesome to have a “gay guy” as a fun accessory. This isn’t seen as offensive at all because it is just so cute and adorable and trendy! This amazingness is magnified when you find out you are actually related to one of THEM!

2) Being pretentious and judgmental is so THE thing and it makes a person unique and quirky and oh so funny!

3) When meeting previously unknown family members, it is like running into a copy of yourself. You will have this amazing, instant connection and have EVERYTHING in common all because of genetics. Having that blood tie means you are instant besties. Even the nasty ones turn around eventually.

4) Don’t you know? Women are ONLY irritable when their period is impending or they have a brain tumor, silly! The brain tumor is preferable.

5) If you have any feelings at all that aren’t perfectly positive, then you just need to get over it. No need to sit and dwell on those things as they are unimportant and get in the way. Besides! It is just SO easy to do!

6) Of course millennials are drunks! Don’t you know that wine fixes absolutely EVERYTHING!?

7) Who DOESN’T relate to the most instantly recognizable and common smell ever? Hasn’t EVERYONE smelled the inside of dogs’ ears?!

8) If you want to fit into the Pompous American crowd, you must say things like “properly” to describe nearly everything and use phrases like “Fancy a cup of tea?” You aren’t properly Pompous if you don’t.

9) Women expecting men to want to actually get to know them for what is between their ears is so last year! It is absolutely okay to fall in love with a guy who can’t bother to listen to the words coming out of your mouth because they are so lost in their heads dreaming about anything and everything BUT what is coming out of your mouth. It is also okay to let go of any and all standards if they give great sex. *vigorous head nods*

10) Here is just the best!! (Feel free to drop the snark) Apparently it is okay to still write books in this day an age that disparages nearly every single subgroup that could in any way shape or form be considered “different” by dragging out the extreme levels of stereotypes and mocking them for being who they are.

Okay, that last may be a tiny bit of an exaggeration when I say every group, but it is still very applicable here. I’m not sure I’ve read a book that tried so exceptionally hard to be unique and quirky only to land as an extreme cliche’ instead. I also don’t think I’ve read a character that has come across as nearly so pompous and judgemental and disparaging of others, which is quite a feat as she had enough of her own issues, the last thing she should have been doing was pointing fingers at anyone else’s faults.

To summarize, I did not like this book. I didn’t find the humor funny, nor did I find the character the least bit cute or quirky. Even if I could take those things away (which was a huge chunk of the book), I wouldn’t have cared one tiny bit about the romantic aspects because they very nearly didn’t exist. A couple of conversations that contain less than a dozen words each and suddenly you “know” the other person. Uh, nope. Doesn’t work for me and made worse by the truly awful “make-up” ending.

I was only at about the 20% mark when I began really wondering what all the fuss was about and why on Earth so many people love this so much. I was ready to put it down, but I really wanted to figure it out so I finished it. I still haven’t figured it out. I get sometimes needing to just laugh at the world around you, but this really missed the mark for me.


Overall SPA: 2 Stars
2 Stars



Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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



Book Review: Chasing Shadows, South Shores – Book 1

Author: Karen Harper
Book Name: Chasing Shadows
Release Date: November 29, 2016
Series: South Shores
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/Suspense
Overall SPA: 2 Stars
2 Stars



Blurb: The dead still talk if you know how to listen… 

Every case that Claire Britten cracks is a win, not only professionally but personally. The forensic psychologist has spent a lifetime fighting a neurological disorder, and her ability to conquer it is a testament to her razor-sharp intuition.

Nick Markwood is used to winning in the courtroom, so when his latest case is overthrown by Claire’s expert testimony, he can’t help being impressed by her skill. He needs her on the team of his passion project—investigating unusual cases involving mysterious deaths. Her condition doesn’t deter him, and neither does the attraction that sparks between them…even if it should.

As they join forces to investigate a murder in St. Augustine, Florida, Claire is thrust into a situation far more dangerous than she’d anticipated, pushing her disorder to a breaking point. Just when she fears she can’t trust her own mind, she discovers Nick’s personal connection to the case—and wonders whether she can trust anyone at all.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 2/5 Stars
Believability: 2/5 Stars
Peeve Factor: 2/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 2/5 Stars
While reading this, I was smacked repeatedly with the lack of believably, both in the plot and the characters. You kind of get hit over the head with the abundance of truly ignorant characters. This is made worse when the main characters, those that are supposed to be professional, at least in some capacity, come across as though they are completely incompetent and ignorant. I’m not sure a single character wasn’t one of those Too Stupid To Live types, unless you count the child prop that is Claire’s daughter.

There are only so many times you can turn a character that is a potential suspect in a crime into someone that is worthy of suspicion and then attempt to twist them back into being obviously innocent before then going back to being suspicious before you stop being clever and just become annoying. And yet, every single character was both suspicious and obviously innocent numerous times throughout this book.

While all of those did a fun little jig on my peeve button, I was still resigned to finish this on a relatively decent note of being okay with this book. But what was an oddly placed side plot line got yanked at the last minute and turned this into utter ridiculousness. Not only are you given one hell of a cliffhanger, and one that is completely unrelated to the majority of the plot for this book (an attempt to drag readers into other books in this series), but you are given one hell of a level of crazy, over the top, unbelievable “what the hell?” kind of stupid. Sorry, but it was just way too much and pushed me straight into the “Nope!” range for me.

If you are okay with extreme levels of totally unrealistic (as in the author didn’t do much to make the reader believe the story), clumsy and unprofessional behavior from supposedly professional characters, hints at a really odd and potentially abusive love triangle, slightly clunky dialog, side characters that have zero set personality, or you are one of those people that loves the really bad scary movies so you can yell at the dumb characters, then this may be the book for you. If not… might want to skip this one.



Book Review: The Midnight Witness, Louise Rick – Book 1

Author: Sara Blaedel
Book Name: The Midnight Witness
Series: Louise Rick
Order: #1
Genre: Suspense/Crime Drama
Overall SPA: 2 Stars
2 Stars



Blurb: A young woman is found strangled in a park, and a male journalist has been killed in the backyard of the Royal Hotel in Copenhagen.

Detective Louise Rick is put on the case of the young girl, but very soon becomes entangled in solving the other homicide too when it turns out her best friend, journalist Camilla Lind, knew the murdered man. Louise tries to keep her friend from getting too involved, but Camilla’s never been one to miss out on an interesting story. And this time, Camilla may have gone too far…

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 2/5 Stars
Believability: 2/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 2/5 Stars
I didn’t go into specifics above because they are so much a part of the whole, they needed to just be addressed here.

I’m not certain if the major barrier for me here was the cultural differences in how other countries’ police forces operate or something entirely different, but I just could not get on board with this and the way any of the police officer characters were presented. I don’t think a single one came across as anything other than an amateurish, bumbling idiot. So many different officers with their hands in investigative pies and yet they don’t really know what those other officers or investigators are doing or what they’ve found out?! There was no clear process of procedure of things that would automatically, routinely happen in every investigation. The whole police side of this book just felt clumsy at all levels. It is kind of terrifying to think this is the way actual police departments may work in other countries.

The two major characters, Louise and Camilla, were kind of horrible. Louise’s character came across as completely flat. I never got any kind of sense of her personality other than she is rather cold and unemotional. Except we are told she broke down, so I guess that means she has emotional depth? Camilla. What do I say about Camilla? Um… she is that character in every scary movie that everyone watching is screaming at the screen, “DON’T GO IN THERE!” knowing they are actually going to be that stupid. Oh, and she is an emotional basket case, about as unstable as 100 year old dynamite.

Outside of being kind of blindsided by the lack of what I have come to expect in a typical police/crime drama (things like process, procedure, basic intellect and deduction rather than snap judgements and assumptions), I was bored. Almost exactly nothing of note happens in probably 80% of this book. The majority of that only happens in the last 10%. The plot was just really uninteresting. Probably because you spend most of it wondering where the actual, experienced police are.





Book Review: Before We Were Strangers, Brenda Novak

Author: Brenda Novak
Book Name: Before We Were Strangers
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/Suspense/Thriller
Overall SPA: 2.5
2.5 Stars




Five-year-old Sloane McBride couldn’t sleep that night. Her parents were arguing again, their harsh words heating the cool autumn air. And then there was that other sound—the ominous thump before all went quiet.

In the morning, her mother was gone.

The official story was that she left. Her loving, devoted mother! That hadn’t sat any better at the time than it did when Sloane moved out at eighteen, anxious to leave her small Texas hometown in search of anywhere else. But not even a fresh start working as a model in New York could keep the nightmares at bay. Or her fears that the domineering father she grew up with wasn’t just difficult—he was deadly.

Now another traumatic loss forces Sloane to realize she owes it to her mother to find out the truth, even if it means returning to a small town full of secrets and lies, a jilted ex-boyfriend, and a father and brother who’d rather see her silenced. But as Sloane starts digging into the past, the question isn’t whether she can uncover what really happened that night…it’s what will remain of her family if she does?

Cover: 3 Stars
One of the things that caught my interest on this book was the cover. I thought it was interesting and pretty. But… I don’t think it really fits the book as far as tone since this book really landed on a darker, uglier side.

Blurb: 4 Stars
The blurb is interesting and fits the story for the most part.

Characters: 2 Stars
Pretty much every single character in this book danced all over my peeve button.

Plot/Themes: 2 Stars
It is really had to separate this out from the character group, because that aspect kind of overwhelms everything else. If you take them out of the equation, the plot is really convoluted.

Uniqueness Factor: 2 Stars
Again, difficult to separate out, but I honestly don’t see much that hasn’t already be done before and what is there isn’t handled in any kind of uniqe way.

Problem Free/Editing: 4 Stars
Nothing jumped out at me for this.

World Building: 3 Stars
This ties in too closely with the Believability group to separate.

Believability: 2 Stars
There was so little I felt realistic and believable in this.

Peeve Factor: 1 Stars
Where to start. Not a single character in this entire book had a single redeeming quality. You get the trope of “true loves” being separated for years, come back together everything between them is exactly the same (more below). Grown adults that come across as hormonal teenagers rather than mature adults. Truly awkward sex scene. Oh and the random kid that is used as a prop and doesn’t actually play a real part.

Personal Opinion: 2 Stars
I really didn’t like this book, which was sad because I was really hoping for something… entirely different than what I got.

Every single character in this book was written in a way that makes them ridiculously impossible and mostly horrible. No, seriously! If there had been a postman, he would have never delivered the mail on time so you’d be late with the bills or a sacker at the grocery store that made sure to sack the bananas on top of the bread after dropping your eggs on the floor, every single time. If a character could be terrible in one way or another, they would, and that would be pretty much all they were.

The two main characters, adults, acted like hormonal teenagers with a maturity level to go along with that. Originally, Sloane wasn’t too bad, but the farther into the book you get, the less adult she seemed. When pared with Micah, there is an attempt to portray them both as the good guys, but this falls flat because they still act like stupid teenagers.

Paige’s character… holy crap! I don’t think I’ve ever truly hoped a bad guy would come along and take out a character that wasn’t the actual bad guy, but her character certainly did just that because she came across as such an ugly, hateful personality. Hell, even the missing mom comes across as somewhat ugly and vengeful when you do get glimpses of her.

I get it. There are bad people and ugly people and crazy selfish people in the world, but every single one of them lived in this town at the same time. Everyone has an agenda. Everyone wants to either do bad things to other people or are willing to do bad things to other people for some pretty lamely selfish reasons. The characters alone killed any ounce of believability for me because they are more caricatures rather than actual people which makes it impossible to get emotionally involved in the story, unless you count despising every character being emotionally involved.

Every bit of what happens in this is also over the top. Sloane just leaves at 18 without a word to anyone. There is no explanation anywhere in the story that gave any justification for why she had to do it that way. She wasn’t in immediate danger. There were no indications that she should have walked away in silence without talking to anyone, especially Micah to explain what she was doing and why she needed to do it. She just up and left, it never made any sense. It was unnecessary drama that could have been written in a way that did make sense, but wasn’t.

Then, because he was so overwrought by her leaving, Micah immediately sleeps with her best friend and they end up married with a kid out of the deal? Something said “friend” orchestrated? Even with all that and the fact that they are divorced by the time Sloane returns, Micah and Sloane are still perfectly in love. Everything is forgiven without even a single honest conversation about everything that happened over 10 years. Apparently neither one of them grew as people and became something different as an adult to what they were at 18. This is kind of a major peeve of mine in writing. People CHANGE. To portray them as having not at all other than in appearance, which is apparently so much better and not worse, is kind of taking the easy way out as a writer because you don’t have to deal with that kind of character growth as an issue you need to overcome.

The fact that Micah and Paige share a kid, but neither one of them ever really interacts with that kid or, at least in Paige’s case, considers that kid in the things they do is another massive peeve of mine. The few times they do, it is to add a little something to a scene rather than to show any kind of actually relationship or character depth. Kids shouldn’t be used as a prop.

The way every single person in town did what Ed said without question, without push back was just straight up messed up and so over the top EVIL VILLAIN level yet he could get any woman in bed with him, no matter how horrible of a person he was. Again, so many ways you may have made this work, but didn’t is astounding.

I need to point out that if you are going to write a sex scene… holy crap! DO NOT make it something completely awkward unless you are attempting to go for humor or to make it clear that the people having sex aren’t actually compatible. The one attempt to bring a semblance of reality to this book and you do it in the sex scene? Talk about yanking a reader out of a story in a really bad way. It was awkward to read and I just wanted it to be over.

I won’t give away the ending, but lets just say… Nope. Convoluted, crazy, so completely unrealistic and unbelievable and tied with so many twists and turns and coincidence that I call BS even though the reader could see at least one part of it a mile away. It was the cherry on top of an unbelievably ridiculous sundae.


SPA Note: If I had to give this an overall rating instead of an SPA, this would have been a solid 2, so I definitely need to figure out a way to tweak the new system.