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: Stolen Things – R.H. Herron

Author: R.H. Herron
Book Name: Stolen Things
Release Date: August 20, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Police
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: “Mama? Help me.”

Laurie Ahmadi has worked as a 911 police dispatcher in her quiet Northern California town for nearly two decades. She considers the department her family; her husband, Omid, is its first Arab American chief, and their teenaged daughter, Jojo, has grown up with the force. So when Laurie catches a 911 call and, to her horror, it’s Jojo, the whole department springs into action.

Jojo, drugged, disoriented, and in pain, doesn’t remember how she ended up at the home of Kevin Leeds, a pro football player famous for his on-the-field activism and his work with the CapB—“Citizens Against Police Brutality”—movement. She doesn’t know what happened to Kevin’s friend and trainer, whose beaten corpse is also discovered in the house. And she has no idea where her best friend Harper, who was with her earlier in the evening, could be.

But when Jojo begins to dive into Harper’s social media to look for clues to her whereabouts, Jojo uncovers a shocking secret that turns everything she knew about Harper—and the police department—on its head. With everything they thought they could rely on in question, Laurie and Jojo begin to realize that they can’t trust anyone to find Harper except themselves . . . and time is running out.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

There were so many pieces to this story, it was really hard for me to separate out what I liked and what I didn’t. For the most part, I really did enjoy this and I was invested in watching all the events unfold as the story moved along. If I had attempted to write this immediately after reading it, I might have given it at least another half a star or more just because my adrenaline levels were way up there by the time I got to the end.

Taking the time to really think about it, though, I realized that there were pieces that bothered me. The obvious, and one that I kept pinging on as I was reading, was the utter disregard for procedure throughout the entire book. When I run into this issue in a book, it makes it incredibly difficult to believe in the story I’m presented with. There is at least the attempt to justify that disregard in some areas, but others had no justification and I struggled with how certain things were allowed.

I also really struggled with the extreme levels of corruption presented and the type, the fact that so many people were involved or knew about it. Then throw in how it was being handled and that really broke the believability barrier for me. Really kind of smashed it to pieces. I had to really fight to stay in the story and not let that yank me out.

Those are all important pieces to the story, but I felt like a bigger piece of the story was that of Laurie’s relationship with her daughter Jojo and the concept that a mother will go to all kinds of extremes to protect her child. While this was done really well in almost all parts of the book, there were a couple of places that made the mom in me screech that a mom in that situation would NEVER let that happen.

The final issue I had with this is the fact that a lot of side pieces to this story get left undone and you don’t get resolutions or answers to them. The main piece is resolved, but there are so many other smaller pieces and characters that I really want to know what happened after the point where this ended. I just prefer a cleaner ending.

I do think this was a good book, though. For anyone that does a better job of overlooking things that tend to bother me, then this is probably a great book.

 

Book Review: Fast Women – Jennifer Crusie

Author: Jennifer Crusie
Book Name: Fast Women
Release Date: May 1, 2001
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/Mystery/Humor
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: When a down-on-her-luck divorcée meets a determined-to-dominate detective, they find out that falling in love can be murder. . . .

Nell Dysart’s in trouble. Weighed down by an inexplicable divorce and a loss of appetite for everything, Nell is sleepwalking through life until her best friend finagles a job for her with a shabby little detective agency that has lots of potential and a boss who looks easy to manage.

Gabe McKenna isn’t doing too well, either. His detective agency is wasting time on a blackmail case, his partner has decided he hates watching cheating spouses for money, and his ex-wife has just dumped him . . . again. The only thing that’s going his way is that his new secretary looks efficient, boring, and biddable.

But looks can be deceiving, and soon Nell and Gabe are squaring off over embezzlement, business cards, vandalism, dognapping, blackmail, Chinese food, unprofessional sex, and really ugly office furniture, all of which turn out to be the least of their problems. Because soon, there are murders. And shortly after that, Nell and Gabe start falling in love. . . .

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

I picked this one up based on a recommendation for something on the funny side of things (thank you nananoyez!). The first 1/3 or so of this absolutely did it’s job with that and was exactly what I was looking for. Nell’s breakdown was just absolutely epic and I loved every second of it.

After that point, things start to level out and you get less of that humor and a bit more serious as the story begins to focus more on the relationships and the background mystery. I wasn’t a huge fan of how Nell and Gabe treated each other for the bulk of the story, so the romance part of this fell a little flat for me. There is a whole lot of toxic going on there and with every relationship in this book, but since this is more than just a romance, I was able to look past that enough to still enjoy the rest of the story.

The mystery part was decent if a little over the top. I’m not certain if I missed pieces or there just weren’t any hidden indications for the reader to be able to figure it out along the way, but the end and wrap up was a bit of a surprise.

The time frame of this story is around the early 2000s, so just a heads up to anyone that hasn’t read this that there are a few points with some dated references that tripped me up a few times because for some reason I expected this to be set in the current decade. It didn’t impact how I felt about the story, it just threw me a bit.

In all, the humor threaded throughout this story is what makes the book in my opinion. Since that was exactly what I was looking for, this hit the spot.

 

 

Book Review: Bone Music, The Burning Girl – Book #1

Author: Christopher Rice
Book Name: Bone Music
Release Date: March 1, 2018
Series: The Burning Girl
Order: #1
Genre: Suspense/Thriller/SciFi
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Charlotte Rowe spent the first seven years of her life in the hands of the only parents she knew—a pair of serial killers who murdered her mother and tried to shape Charlotte in their own twisted image. If only the nightmare had ended when she was rescued. Instead, her real father exploited her tabloid-ready story for fame and profit—until Charlotte finally broke free from her ghoulish past and fled. Just when she thinks she has buried her personal hell forever, Charlotte is swept into a frightening new ordeal. Secretly dosed with an experimental drug, she’s endowed with a shocking new power—but pursued by a treacherous corporation desperate to control her.

Except from now on, if anybody is going to control Charlotte, it’s going to be Charlotte herself. She’s determined to use the extraordinary ability she now possesses to fight the kind of evil that shattered her life—by drawing a serial killer out from the shadows to face the righteous fury of a victim turned avenger.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

I was skeptical about picking this one up , so I’m a little bit surprised at how much I ended up enjoying this. I think I kind of expected something that leaned a little heavier towards the gore or horror side, so the fact that it didn’t was a big positive for me.

Even though I’m not normally a big science fiction fan, this one really only kind of touches on that genre (doesn’t even show as being in it in most locations), so that also added another little bonus for me because that touch is interesting.

The base nature of the story annihilates the believability boundaries, but what you are given is presented in a way that all the parts surrounding it work well even outside those boundaries. I liked how the drug in this is presented because it has a different kind of impact than what I’ve seen in stories based on that “exposure to something toxic or experimental” trope in the past. It brings it back into the realm of possibility.

I think I kind of expected to not like this because it isn’t exactly my norm, but I really did. I’ll be grabbing the next book in the series to see if it can live up to the first.

 

Book Review: No One’s Home – D.M. Pulley

Author: D.M. Pulley
Book Name: No One’s Home
Release Date: September 1, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Suspense/Thriller/Ghosts
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Margot and Myron Spielman move to a new town, looking for a fresh start and an escape from the long shadow of their past. But soon after they buy Rawlingswood, a foreclosed mansion rumored to be haunted, they realize they’re in for more of the same…or worse.

After a renovation fraught with injuries and setbacks, the Spielmans move in to the century-old house, and their problems quickly escalate. The home’s beautiful facade begins to crumble around them when their teenage son uncovers disturbing details of Rawlingswood’s history—a history of murder, betrayal, and financial ruin. The Spielmans’ own shameful secrets and lies become harder to hide as someone or something inside the house watches their every move.

As tensions build between the family members, the home’s dark history threatens to repeat itself. Margot and Myron must confront their own ghosts and Rawlingswood’s buried past before the house becomes their undoing.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

This definitely has a creepy vibe, but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting.

This spends a lot of time bouncing between time periods and the families that owned the house during those periods. While you get those ghostly elements throughout, the focus is more on the family dynamics of all of these really dysfunctional people and how ugly humans can be to each other and themselves.

If you are like me and need to find connections to characters, you may find this difficult because there really weren’t too many that were very appealing. That said, you aren’t exactly supposed to like most of them for this story anyway.

I think this was pretty well written and lovers of the creepy, sort of scary types of stories may get more out of this than I did.

 

Book Review: Evvie Drake Stars Over – Linda Holmes

Author: Linda Holmes
Book Name: Evvie Drake Stars Over
Release Date: June 25, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: In a small town in Maine, recently widowed Eveleth “Evvie” Drake rarely leaves her house. Everyone in town, including her best friend, Andy, thinks grief keeps her locked inside, and she doesn’t correct them. In New York, Dean Tenney, former major-league pitcher and Andy’s childhood friend, is struggling with a case of the “yips”: he can’t throw straight anymore, and he can’t figure out why. An invitation from Andy to stay in Maine for a few months seems like the perfect chance to hit the reset button.

When Dean moves into an apartment at the back of Evvie’s house, the two make a deal: Dean won’t ask about Evvie’s late husband, and Evvie won’t ask about Dean’s baseball career. Rules, though, have a funny way of being broken–and what starts as an unexpected friendship soon turns into something more. But before they can find out what might lie ahead, they’ll have to wrestle a few demons: the bonds they’ve broken, the plans they’ve changed, and the secrets they’ve kept. They’ll need a lot of help, but in life, as in baseball, there’s always a chance–right up until the last out.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

After having read a few reviews of this book, I think I was expecting a much lighter read than what this is. While there are definitely moments of humor and fun, they almost all happen at a time when they are trying to cover up much heavier emotions in the characters. This isn’t a bad thing, just not quite what I’d expected.

I also had a hard time connecting with Evvie’s character. It took a really long time to figure out that the lack of emotion from her had a purpose. By the time I was able to really get into that and understand it, I was already pretty deep into the book. I absolutely got it then, but it just took me too long to get there. I think this lessened the emotional impact for me, even though I could very easily have stood in similar shoes in my own experiences.

I also wasn’t a huge fan of the ending as it is a bit too much like a typical cookie cutter romance ending. This was still a good book, but it fell a little short for my tastes.

Book Review: Anna – Patricia Dixon

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Can Anna find peace and learn to love again?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Book Review: Stand In Place – Mary Calmes

Author: Mary Calmes
Book Name: Stand in Place
Release Date: July 17, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/LGBTQIA
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: One summer won’t be enough….

Kaenon Geary was done fighting the small minds in his sleepy Texas town when he made his escape and never looked back. But now, for the first time in more than a decade, he’s returned to Braxton to spend the summer with his beloved grandmother—her final summer—and no longer recognizes the home he’d left behind all those years ago.

Everything has changed.

Everything but the man he’s never stopped wanting.

Brody Scott was the local football hero who became a gridiron champ, but he retired from the fast lane to forge a new life as the Chief Constable of Braxton. He longs to put down roots in the community he is now sworn to protect. Though he’s not at all sure he can protect his heart from the quiet, earnest boy he once knew. The boy who has come back a man.

Starting something would be a mistake. Kaenon plans to fly away at summer’s end, but his love is something Brody desperately wants to have…and to keep. Their days together are numbered. Unless some simple hometown magic can make all the right things bloom and show them the true definition of love.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 3/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

This was a really sweet and warm read. I loved Kaenon’s character and the allusions to magic and the occult, though it isn’t technically a fantasy. As much as I enjoyed this, there were a few things that I had issues with.

One is more of a personal buttons kind of issue with regards to forgiveness and acceptance of past wrongs. There are some pretty horrific past wrongs in this book that end up just being wiped away as though they were nothing and I really struggled with that.

Slightly tied into that is how quick Kaenon and Brody got together. It just felt like there should have been more there, more discussion or working through some of their past issues.

I was also just a bit thrown with how and where this book ended. It wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t what I was expecting, which left me a little torn on how I felt about it. Again, it felt like there should have been more to it.

This was a really good story and most of my issues with it were more of a personal taste thing than anything.

 

 

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: Shattered, Max Revere- Book #4

Author: Allison Brennan
Book Name: Shattered
Release Date: August 22, 2017
Series: Max Revere
Order: #4
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Crime
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Over a span of twenty years, four boys have been kidnapped from their bedrooms, suffocated, and buried nearby in a shallow grave. Serial killer or coincidence?

That’s the question investigative reporter Maxine Revere sets out to answer when an old friend begs her to help exonerate his wife, who has been charged with their son’s recent murder. But Max can do little to help because the police and D.A. won’t talk to her—they think they have the right woman. Instead, Max turns her attention to three similar cold cases. If she can solve them, she might be able to help her friend.

Justin Stanton was killed twenty years ago, and his father wants closure—so he is willing to help Max with her investigation on one condition: that she work with his former sister-in-law— Justin’s aunt, FBI Agent Lucy Kincaid. Trouble is, Max works alone, and she’s livid that her only access to the case files, lead detective and witnesses depends on her partnering with a federal agent on vacation. She wants the career-making story almost as much as the truth—but if she gets this wrong, she could lose everything.

Haunted by Justin’s death for years, Lucy yearns to give her family—and herself—the closure they need. More important, she wants to catch a killer. Lucy finds Max’s theory on all three cases compelling—with Max’s research added to Lucy’s training and experience, Lucy believes they can find the killer so justice can finally be served. But the very private Lucy doesn’t trust the reporter any more than Max trusts her.

Max and Lucy must find a way to work together to untangle lies, misinformation, and evidence to develop a profile of the killer. But the biggest question is: why were these boys targeted? As they team up to find out what really happened the night Justin was killed, they make a shocking discovery: Justin’s killer is still out there … stalking another victim … and they already may be too late.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 3/5 Stars
Series Expectations: 3.5/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

I had a few issues with this book in comparison to the other books in this series. My first and biggest issue was the fact that this really isn’t a Max Revere story. It is so much more a Lucy Kincaid book, which is a different series by the same author, and one I haven’t read.

It was probably meant to be something of a crossover between the two series, which I may have enjoyed, but this didn’t even give an equal split, or something even resembling that, as far as page time between Max and Lucy. It only gives lip service to any kind of actual partnership. This is the Lucy show. So much so, that Max is rendered nearly useless and placed in the role of a background character. There was so much Lucy on the page, you get massive amounts of background information about her all through this story. Some of those pieces are potentially even spoilers for that other series, so if you haven’t read any of those books, this one could be problematic.

This may not have been a huge issue for me, but the characters are VERY different. I enjoy the Max Revere books for a reason and there was very little of those reasons in this one because you saw so little of her. One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed those books is because she has always come across as realistic and human. They are also a slightly different view and take on a classic crime drama because she is an investigate reporter, rather than in law enforcement. Lucy on the other hand, along with her entire, massive brood of a family, border on the nearly super human with their brilliance and skills, and fall all over the map of the law enforcement range. The introduction to her and her family pushed all kinds of believability buttons for me, which, until this book, really hadn’t been an issue.

If I could push past that and look at just the story outside of the Lucy piece, this was still a good book and I really enjoyed those pieces of it. I can’t say that it did anything at all for me as far as encouraging me to pick up any of the books from the Lucy Kincaid series. I am a little curious about all the little bits that get dangled in front of you in this book, but I can pretty much tell before I ever pick up a book that I will be constantly battling that believability wall and will have a hard time liking them.

I will still be picking up the next book in this series, but I really hope that this isn’t any indication that it is going to go a similar route to what I can see with the other series.

Book Review: Fated, Alex Verus – Book #1

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

 

 

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

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

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars

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

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

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

 

Book Review: What You Did, Claire McGowan

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Book Review: The Marriage Lie – Kimberly Belle

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

 

 

Blurb: Even the perfect marriage has its dark side… 

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

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

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

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

*Potential Spoilers Below*

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

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

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

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

Cover: 4/5 Stars

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

 

Book Review: The Road She Left Behind – Christine Nolfi

Author: Christine Nolfi
Book Name: The Road She Left Behind
Release Date: June 11, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Family Life
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Crushed by guilt over the car accident that killed her father and sister, and torn apart by her mother’s resentment, Darcy Goodridge fled her family estate eight years ago and hasn’t looked back. Now an unexpected phone call threatens to upend what little serenity she’s found. Her nephew, Emerson, who was just a baby when his mother died, has gone missing. Darcy must return home and face her past in order to save him.

Once back in Ohio, Darcy realizes there’s more to Emerson’s disappearance—and to the sudden retirement of her mother, Rosalind—than meets the eye. As she works to make inroads with Rosalind, Darcy begins to unravel a decades-old secret that devastated her family and forced a wedge between her and Michael Varano, the man she left heartbroken when she vanished after the funeral. After carrying the scars of that fateful night for almost a decade, Darcy is determined to find closure, healing, and maybe even love where she lost them all in the first place—right back home where she belongs.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

This is an emotional book about family, which is one of my most enjoyed types of books. It is also the type that, for me, needs to have a really strong level of believability for those emotions to be evoked. There were bits and pieces that were a stretch for me to believe and is the only reason I didn’t rate this higher because it was a really good story otherwise.

One was the background behind Darcy leaving in the first place. It isn’t something that is really ever addressed. We know the events leading up to it, but you are never given the final match that lit the fuse that forced her to leave. The reader is lead to believe it was something specific that Darcy’s mother said that forced her away, but you aren’t ever shown that event in any way. It was only ever eluded to, so it left that piece feeling weak.

The other was the whiplash like change in attitudes and personality that come about when certain things are revealed. Yes, people can change, but they don’t do so overnight just because some long buried secret comes out, especially when it kind of isn’t much of a secret.

While those things didn’t play a huge part in how I felt about the story, they did lessen the overall emotional impact of the story, though it was still a good book.