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.

 

 

 

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: Alone In The Dark, Romantic Suspense: Book 17

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

 

 

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

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

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

Blurb:

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.

 

Book Review – Mercy Dogs: Tyler Dilts

Author: Tyler Dilts
Book Name: Mercy Dogs
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Suspense/Family Life
Rating: Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:

How can a shattered ex-cop follow the rules when he’s no longer sure of them?

For sixteen years, Ben Shepard loyally served the Long Beach Police Department. Then he took a bullet to the head, and his life was shattered. No one expects much of anything from him anymore—except his father, an old man receding into a fog of his own. And except maybe his tenant, Grace, who’s been a warm and friendly constant in his and his father’s bleak lives.

Until the day she vanishes.

After an official investigation stalls, Ben moves forward on his own. But stepping into Grace’s past—and all she was hiding—is a dangerous move for a man who can’t trust his memories from one day to the next. The deeper he gets, the more he has to question whether he’s being driven by the gut instincts of a suspicious former cop or by paranoia.

Recognizing what’s real can save Grace’s life. If only he can trust himself to do it…

This book has sat on my TBR for a while now only because I just wasn’t sure what to expect. Once I finally did pick it up, it took me a bit to get into it because of the jumping around of events and they way things were presented. I completely understand the why behind this and actually ended up liking that, but it took me a bit to sink into because of that.

While you have the overarching story of Grace and what is going on with her disappearance, for me, what made this story so great was seeing the relationship between Ben and his dad and how they were both struggling to overcome some significant struggles. Both of them having major issues that make just getting through the basics of life incredibly difficult, yet still being there and doing what they could for each other made this a really moving story. It is both heartwarming and poignant.

Book Review – Dead Memories: D.I. Kim Stone, Book 10

Author: Angela Marsons
Book Name: Dead Memories
Series: D. I. Kim Stone
Order: #10
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Police/Crime
Rating: Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb: She ruined their lives. Now they’re going to destroy hers.

‘Someone is recreating every traumatic point in your life. They are doing this to make you suffer, to make you hurt and the only possible end game can be death. Your death.’

On the fourth floor of Chaucer House, two teenagers are found chained to a radiator. The boy is dead but the girl is alive. For Detective Kim Stone every detail of the scene mirrors her own terrifying experience with her brother Mikey, when they lived in the same tower block thirty years ago.

When the bodies of a middle-aged couple are discovered in a burnt-out car, Kim can’t ignore the chilling similarity to the deaths of Erica and Keith – the only loving parents Kim had ever known.

Faced with a killer who is recreating traumatic events from her past, Kim must face the brutal truth that someone wants to hurt her in the worst way possible. Desperate to stay on the case, she is forced to work with profiler Alison Lowe who has been called in to observe and monitor Kim’s behaviour.

Kim has spent years catching dangerous criminals and protecting the innocent. But with a killer firmly fixed on destroying Kim, can she solve this complex case and save her own life or will she become the final victim?

Oh, look! I’m writing about a book that isn’t mine!

The fact that this is book 10 in this series and that I’m still sticking with it is nearly miraculous, especially considering genre. Ms. Marsons has managed to keep me interested in these characters and these stories by ensuring that they stay feeling fresh and unique instead of falling into the trap of having similar (or even identical) plot pieces that make stores feel cookie cutter. That is one of the things I have loved about this series. Every story always feels like it is different from all the others.

For the first time in the series, though, this book brings in the concept for a second time of Kim being targeted specifically. The first time, it was sort of a secondary plot line in a larger story. This time, it is the focus. I did like that it brings up a lot of Kim’s history and we learn more about her as a character, but this book didn’t feel quite as unique as the others in the series.

I did really enjoy this story, but I wonder if it is an indication we are getting to that point where that uniqueness begins to wear off. I’d really hate to see that because it is one of the things that has kept me coming back book after book.

Hearing Evil: Cycle of Evil, Book 2

Author: Jason Parent
Book Name: Hearing Evil
Series: Cycle of Evil
Order: 2
Genre: Thriller/Suspense/Crime
Rating:  Good

3+stars

Blurb:

Michael Turcotte wants nothing to do with his so-called gift—the ability to see other people’s fates simply by touching them. Michael decides to spend his summer searching for answers about his past. He can’t rest without the sounds of forgotten tragedy echoing through his dreams, but reconstructing his memories will come with a whole new set of problems even he can’t foresee.

Detective Samantha Reilly has always looked out for Michael, but now that she’s taken him into her home, she fears her maternal instincts are lacking. When a brutal gang sets off a chain reaction of crimes, Sam struggles to choose between the two most important things in her life: her job and her new foster son. Fate intervenes when Michael is kidnapped, forcing her two roles to collide.

As Michael’s past meets Sam’s present, their bond will be tested while a city crumbles around them. They’ll need all their skills and a lot of luck in order to survive.

While the first book in this series deals with the concept of the paranormal, its focus leaned more heavily towards the crime aspects and the gruesomeness of those crimes. This book heads deeper into the paranormal and steps away from the gruesome and the crime. Personally, I was a bit relieved by that.

At the same time, I didn’t like this one as much as the first because that shift more towards the paranormal brings with it an even bigger leap into over the top situations and scenarios, losing some of its grip on reality and believability. It is incredibly difficult to marry paranormal with realism, especially if you are going to focus on things like crimes and police work. There has to be a solid foundation in reality to be able to pull that off in a believable way for a reader. I think this one took several of the scenarios too far out of the bounds of being able to suspend disbelief.

Top that off with a story line that seems overly complicated and disparate at times, I struggled to really get to the point behind a lot of what was going on. I understand that this book is built in such a way to create a foundation (and what seems to be a very elaborate one at that) for future books, but it all just got to be a bit too much for me as I’m just not a huge fan of those types of stories.

**This book was provided to me in exchange for a review.**

Seeing Evil: Cycle of Evil, Book 1

Author: Jason Parent
Book Name: Seeing Evil
Series: Cycle of Evil
Order: 1
Genre: Thriller/Suspense/Crime
Rating:  Really Good

4+stars

Blurb: Fate in plain sight.

Major Crimes Detective Samantha Reilly prefers to work alone—she’s seen as a maverick, and she still struggles privately with the death of her partner. The only person who ever sees her softer side is Michael Turcotte, a teenager she’s known since she rescued him eleven years ago from the aftermath of his parents’ murder-suicide.

In foster care since his parents’ death, Michael is a loner who tries to fly under the bullies’ radar, but a violent assault triggers a disturbing ability to view people’s dark futures. No one believes his first vision means anything, though—not even Sam Reilly. When reality mimics his prediction, however, Sam isn’t the only one to take notice. A strange girl named Tessa Masterson asks Michael about her future, and what he sees sends him back to Sam—is Tessa victim or perpetrator?

Tessa’s tangled secrets draw Michael and Sam inexorably into a deadly conflict. Sam relies on Michael, but his only advantage is the visions he never asked for. As they track a cold and calculating killer, one misstep could turn the hunters into prey.

One of the first things that stood out to me in this book was the author’s ability to write in such a way to make it incredibly easy to visualize a scene. For me, that maybe wasn’t such a good thing because there are some seriously gruesome scenes in this book that are told in minute detail. For lovers of true thriller type novels where the more gruesome the better, that is probably a great thing.

As someone who enjoys crime dramas, I also have a few peeves about them. Mainly that they fall into a believable range with regards to following actual police procedure (or at least a semblance of it). This kind of pushed those boundaries for me just enough to make parts of this feel a bit too much. Yes, you have a paranormal aspect to the novel, but that doesn’t mean everything else can be fantasy and unreal. That said, though, I think for me it was probably a good thing that parts of this were unbelievable, otherwise this would have given me nightmares.

I liked Michael as a character and how he was presented with his ability worked for me, but I struggled to really get a good feel for who Sam is which made it harder to connect with her. I can’t say that I disliked her, but I don’t feel like there was enough of her in the story to find something to like about her either. Part of that for me was that her lack of procedure following made it difficult to understand her as a police officer or what drives her and motivates her decisions.

I don’t typically like straight up thriller/horror. There is a reason I don’t watch scary movies (nightmares are NOT something I enjoy). I love a good crime novel, suspense, mystery and even thrillers that run more towards the psychological rather than the straight up gore and terror, which made this one a little harder to review because, on a personal taste level, I didn’t enjoy those parts of the book. I even stopped a couple of times to mention to Hubby how sick something was. I do know that much of what I wasn’t a fan of would be pure gold to someone that loves that kind of thing.

**This book was provided to me in exchange for a review.**

Pretty Girls Dancing: Kylie Brant

Author: Kylie Brant
Book Name: Pretty Girls Dancing
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Okay
3+stars


Blurb: 

Years ago, in the town of Saxon Falls, young Kelsey Willard disappeared and was presumed dead. The tragedy left her family with a fractured life—a mother out to numb the pain, a father losing a battle with his own private demons, and a sister desperate for closure. But now another teenage girl has gone missing. It’s ripping open old wounds for the Willards, dragging them back into a painful past, and leaving them unprepared for where it will take them next.

Bureau of Criminal Investigation agent Mark Foster has stumbled on uncanny parallels in the lives of the two missing girls that could unlock clues to a serial killer’s identity. That means breaking down the walls of the Willards’ long-guarded secrets and getting to a truth that is darker than he bargained for. Now, to rescue one missing girl, he must first solve the riddles that disappeared with another: Kelsey Willard herself. Dead or alive, she is his last hope.

*Potential Spoilers*

For probably the first half of this book, I was pretty interested and enjoying the story, but it kind of started falling apart for me after that.

There is a lot of jumping between character POVs throughout the whole book. That didn’t bother me so much, but there were a couple of times that I was wondering why we were even getting that POV as it didn’t really seem to add much to the story.

I have two bigger issues with this though. One is the fact every single male character in this book was portrayed in a less than stellar light. All had aspects of sliminess to them that made them not very likable. All the women came across as extremely emotionally fragile and weak. When you pair those two together in ALL characters, it didn’t leave much to like other than the actual events of the story and figuring out the “who dunnit?” part.

That leads to my biggest problem with this story and the potential spoilers. Yes, I was a bit surprised by the end. No, I seriously didn’t like it, nor did I believe it. There was such a heavy emphasis throughout the whole story on making connections between the victims, trying to find the common ground in an effort to figure out why they were the ones taken. After all those threads get pulled, making some solid links and pointing in some real directions, you are suddenly tossed in a completely unrelated direction for the killer, leaving all those threads dangling and unresolved. When you finally get the bad guy reveal, you are never actually given that why or shown those links as to why those victims. All that had been brought up before? Apparently a bunch of nothing burgers dangled in front of the reader’s nose, not even important enough to close up to round out the story. The bad guy? Made no sense.

There were so many dangling threads that never got explained or resolved and the lack of tie in between the victims and the bad guy made the ending feel as though the reader had been cheated. It felt like the bait and switch of expecting a luxury sedan and you got a flashy, but cheap economy car instead.

The story concept was actually really good, but I didn’t like the character portrayal and I really didn’t like the ending, so… just okay on this one.

Dying Truth: D.I. Kim Stone, Book 8

Dying Truth
Dying Truth

Author: Angela Marsons
Book Name: Dying Truth
Series: D. I. Kim Stone
Order: #8
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars


 

 

Blurb: How far would you go to protect your darkest secrets?

When teenager Sadie Winter jumps from the roof of her school, her death is ruled as suicide – a final devastating act from a troubled girl. But then the broken body of a young boy is discovered at the same school and it’s clear to Detective Kim Stone that these deaths are not tragic accidents.

As Kim and her team begin to unravel a dark web of secrets, one of the teachers could hold the key to the truth. Yet just as she is about to break her silence, she is found dead.

With more children’s lives at risk, Kim has to consider the unthinkable – whether a fellow pupil could be responsible for the murders. Investigating the psychology of children that kill brings the detective into contact with her former adversary, Dr Alex Thorne – the sociopath who has made it her life’s work to destroy Kim.

Desperate to catch the killer, Kim finds a link between the recent murders and an initiation prank that happened at the school decades earlier. But saving these innocent lives comes at a cost – and one of Kim’s own might pay the ultimate price.

Almost always, no matter the genre, by this point in a series an author has lost me for one reason or another. This one? She isn’t even close to losing me yet. I have literally JUST put this one down and I can’t wait to gorge myself on the next one.

I have always loved how this author tackles the different issues she brings up in the books in this series and this one is no different. There is an awesome balance of looking at those issues without falling into preaching or judging from either side. In this case, the focus being on the privilege of the moneyed and elite.

Kim’s character is still riding the edge of being a broken human with mountains of baggage, but still being compassionate and dragging herself forward one step at a time. This book continues to keep every character interaction solid and realistic within the team. Though I will say, without spoiling much, that I really wasn’t ready for how this ended. I was deeply shocked, but again, the author handled the whole situation in an awesomely realistic way.

As awesome as this book was, it is keeping this series solidly on my “buy on release day” list.

Our Little Secret: Roz Nay

Our Little Secret
Our Little Secret

Author: Roz Nay
Book Name: Our Little Secret
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Suspense/Thriller
Rating:  Really Good*/Didn’t Like*

4+stars

2+stars


 

Blurb:

Our Little Secret is a twisted tale of love, pain, and revenge that will stay with the reader long after they turn the last page.

They say you never forget your first love. What they don’t say though, is that sometimes your first love won’t forget you…

A police interview room is the last place Angela expected to find herself today. It’s been hours, and they keep asking her the same inane questions over and over. “How do you know the victim?” “What’s your relationship with Mr. Parker?” Her ex’s wife has gone missing, and anyone who was close to the couple is a suspect. Angela is tired of the bottomless questions and tired of the cold room that stays the same while a rotating litany of interrogators changes shifts around her. But when criminologist Novak takes over, she can tell he’s not like the others. He’s ready to listen, and she knows he’ll understand. When she tells him that her story begins a decade before, long before Saskia was in the picture, he gives her the floor.

A twenty-something young professional, Angela claims to have no involvement. How could she? It’s been years since she and H.P., Mr. Parker that is, were together. As her story unfolds, it deepens and darkens. There’s a lot to unpack… betrayal, jealousy, and a group of people who all have motives for retribution. If Angela is telling the truth, then who’s lying? 

Yes, I have two different star ratings on this. It was nearly impossible to rate this because I have two very different opinions on it.

This was truly very well written and well developed. The problem? I didn’t like it. Not because of poor quality or that it tripped any of my pet peeves, but because by the time I finished the book, I felt as though it had left a stain on me.

There is not a single likable character in the book. Again, not because they were poorly written, but because they all touch on some of the ugliest aspects of humanity , the ones that are subtle and insidious. At one point or another in the book, each character just felt as though they were coated in slime. Not necessarily evil, but ugly.

The story is interesting and intriguing, but along the lines of watching a train wreck. There is just not a single, genuinely positive thing that happens in the entire book. The tiny bits that seem to be good/happy/positive as you read them become tainted as the story moves along. Combine that with the truly unlikable, nearly vile characters, and no, I really didn’t like this, though I won’t completely ding the rating because of my personal tastes as this author is talented.

For those that enjoy that kind of a story, you will probably love this book. It just really wasn’t for me.

Butterfly Kisses: Detective Damien Drake, Book 1

Author: Patrick Logan
Book Name: Butterfly Kisses
Series: Detective Damien Drake
Order: 1
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Crime
Rating:  Didn’t Like

2+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: His hands are bound behind him, a crude butterfly drawn in blood on his bare back. He isn’t the first.

When a drug addict finds the body of a man in the basement of an abandoned warehouse in New York City, Detective Damien Drake is called in to lead the murder investigation.

The victim was a philanthropist, father, doting husband, and wealthy junior partner in one of the cities most respected law firms.

He seemed to have the perfect life.

Yet when Damien probes deeper, he realizes that this man isn’t the first. His investigation soon connects this murder with another in Montreal, both of which were emblazoned with the same bloody butterfly.

What dark secrets is the NYC lawyer hiding? And what is the significance of the butterfly?

As Damien inches closer to uncovering the truth, the killer is closing in on him… and those close to him.

Damien’s last case cost him his partner’s life. This case threatens not only his job, but his sanity, as well. And this time, the killer may even be smarter than he is.

One thing for certain is that if he doesn’t catch the killer soon, more people will die. The only question is, will the next victim be someone close to Detective Damien Drake?

Apparently I’m going to start the year off with a good old book bash. And not in a good way.

First off, if this book had an editor, they probably need to be looking for a new job. There were so many mistakes, glaringly obvious ones that should have been caught at even a rough read through, that I was constantly tripping over problems and forced to go back and reread sentences to try and figure out what was actually being said. There was no way I was going to sink into this book with those problems. I hate to harp on edits because mistakes get made, even with good editors, but when it is as bad as this, it kills the story.

Both of the main cop characters were horrifically bad. Drake was the stereotypical bad, drunk cop that truly had nothing at all likeable about him. He broke just about every single rule with regards to investigation and interviewing, to the point there is zero chance a reader is going to buy him as a cop who still has his job. Chase’s character isn’t any better, different issues, but equally bad. The bumbling of both of them killed what was left for me after I waded through the errors.

The basic idea behind the story is decent, but the follow through falls flat.

Close To Home: Tracy Crosswhite, Book 5

Author: Robert Dugoni
Book Name: Close To Home
Series: Tracy Crosswhite
Order: 5
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Crime
Rating:  Okay

3+stars

 

 

 

Blurb:

While investigating the hit-and-run death of a young boy, Seattle homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite makes a startling discovery: the suspect is an active-duty serviceman at a local naval base. After a key piece of case evidence goes missing, he is cleared of charges in a military court. But Tracy knows she can’t turn her back on this kind of injustice.

When she uncovers the driver’s ties to a rash of recent heroin overdoses in the city, she realizes that this isn’t just a case of the military protecting its own. It runs much deeper than that, and the accused wasn’t acting alone. For Tracy, it’s all hitting very close to home.

As Tracy moves closer to uncovering the truth behind this insidious conspiracy, she’s putting herself in harm’s way. And the only people she can rely on to make it out alive might be those she can no longer trust.

And there is my wall. Dammit! I was really hoping this author could pull it off and keep me going with a series, but this one fell down for me. I was actually kind of bored until about the 60% mark, which is a bit of a shock after how well I’ve liked the other books.

The biggest issue I had with this book was it felt horribly repetitive. It kept going over and over the exact same information on the case again and again. Once we are presented with something during the reveal of the crime, we don’t need it then talked about again in detail, then presented in court with the same level of detail and then talked about again between different characters, IN DETAIL. If you remove all the times the same stuff was presented here you would have a decent book that was about one third of this.

I’m also seeing a trend with the character or setting descriptions throughout the series. I get that you want to be able to say each book is a stand alone, but for readers that have been reading the series, we don’t need the… wait for it… exact same details (see a pattern there?) and descriptions every time one of those secondary characters or locations come into play again, especially when you see those same characters in nearly every book, sometimes more than once.

This also reached my max believability meter with the main character, yet again, being put in a life or death situation. EVERY BOOK. I’ve been able to swallow it because the author made the scenarios believable enough to work (mostly) up until this point, though I was pushed in the last one a bit. This time, the situation was just over the top ridiculous.

The finial part that dropped my rating way down on this one was the overly PSA/preachy feel to it. It was like reading medical journal article on opioids, addiction and their history. It was made worse by the blatant regurgitation of the popular, but false, belief that pot is a gateway drug. While I actually enjoy learning something new that I’d never run across before, I don’t need to be preached to or have your personal opinion pushed down my throat. It is one way to have a character have certain beliefs or a stance as that makes it part of that character, but to work it in as general facts in the book is preaching.

So, no. I wasn’t much of a fan of this one and that is just disappointing.

Stillhouse Lake: Stillhouse Lake, Book 1

Stillhouse LakeAuthor: Rachel Caine
Book Name: Stillhouse Lake
Series: Stillhouse Lake
Order: #1
Genre: Suspense/Thriller/Mystery
Rating:  Really Good*
4+stars


 

Blurb: Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom.

With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.

But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop.

Seriously?! Cliffhanger?! GRRRR!!!! I hate those with a passion! This book is a lesson to me to do a little deeper research into a book before I read it. I saw that this was a part of a series, but I didn’t really think about it for some reason (I normally dig when I see that) or I would have realized there was no way for this book to be self contained. I also didn’t realize (again, lack of research) that I’d read this author before with her Weather Warden series and found it beyond frustrating and never finished the series. If I’d known those things, I don’t think I ever would have read this.

That said, I did think this was a really great book. It pushes to just past the line of believability, but it makes up for it in the crazy, twisted, well thought out way the rest of it is written. I loved Gwen. She is kind of a badass. I want to be that kind of mom when I grow up. Really, if you look past the ugly, twisty that is the surface of the story, that is really what this book is about, the love of a mother and what she is willing to do to protect her kids. That is what I loved the most about this book.

See the little * next to my “Really Good”? The only reason I’m giving this book that high of a rating is because it is well written. I saw signs throughout this that ticked some red flags for me, but wasn’t until I went to start doing my links for my review that I realized the author and her connection to that other series. The main reason I quit reading that one series is because it became this never ending, bleak, hopeless mess of crazy. Every single time the MC got knocked down and then stood back up, they got knocked down again before they could even take a single step. Over. And over. And OVER. I seriously hate books/series like that. I saw an awful lot of potential with that in this book, but know that there really aren’t a ton of authors that go that route and overlooked it and let it go. Now, as much as I liked this, I’m seriously worried that this is going to do the exact same thing and I really don’t want to waste my time reading books that frustrate the hell out of me. If that is your thing, cool, but I just don’t enjoy books/series that suck every last drop of hope out of a reader. They are too damn depressing. I honestly don’t know that I will read the second book.

 

 

The Ghostwriter: Alessandra Torre

The GhostwriterAuthor: Alessandra Torre
Book Name: The Ghostwriter
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Literature, Suspense, Family
Rating:  Excellent

5+stars

 

 

 

 Blurb: Four years ago, I lied. I stood in front of the police, my friends, and family, and made up a story, my best one yet. And all of them believed me.

I wasn’t surprised. Telling stories is what made me famous. Fifteen bestsellers. Millions of fans. Fame and fortune.
Now, I have one last story to write. It’ll be my best one yet, with a jaw-dropping twist that will leave them stunned and gasping for breath.

They say that sticks and stones will break your bones, but this story? It will be the one that kills me.

Damn! Just… Damn! This was really frickin’ amazing. Probably one of the best books I’ve read this year. It is bursting at the seams with emotion. It is beautiful and messed up and sad and gut wrenching. If a book can drag tears out of you, then the author has done something really right. Let me tell you, there were lots with this one and that is never fun when you are already congested with a cold.

Books like this are hard to read because of the emotional gut punch, but that is kind of one of the things that I like. This is incredibly intense and beautifully written. I had a kind of love hate relationship with the main character all the way through. It is also the kind of book that is best read with as little information about it beforehand as possible.

The Kinfolk: Eliza Maxwell

The KinfolkAuthor: Eliza Maxwell
Book Name: The Kinfolk
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Literature, Suspense, Family
Rating:  Really Good

4+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: Along the banks of the Neches river, surrounded by the dense piney woods of east Texas, where the humidity makes even the mosquitos go a little soft in the head, there’s a pack of liars, thieves, and fools that Mimosa Mabry reluctantly calls family. After a lifetime spent trying to put the place behind her, the kinfolk have come calling, and they want her home.

Against her better judgement, Mo returns, but finds the answer she’s searching for—the truth about a child named Lucy—slipping further from her grasp than ever. Because in deep east Texas, at the mercy of your kin, truth is relative. As enigmatic as a carnival shell game. And the game is rigged.

Having read The Grave Tender, I had extremely high expectations for this book, which doesn’t usually bode well. While I think this was still extremely well written, it didn’t have that extra layer of “wow” or that sense of being extremely disturbed and enjoying it at the same time that I got from The Grave Tender. Because of that and being unable to not compare the two even though they aren’t related in any way other than being written by the same author, I just didn’t find that I liked this as well as I would have if I’d read this first. That said, this was still a really good book.

Broken Bones: D.I. Kim Stone, Book 7

Broken BonesAuthor: Angela Marsons
Book Name: Broken Bones
Series: D. I. Kim Stone
Order: #7
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars


 

Blurb: The murder of a young prostitute and a baby found abandoned on the same winter night signals the start of a disturbing investigation for Detective Kim Stone – one which brings her face to face with someone from her own horrific childhood.

As three more sex workers in the Black Country are murdered in quick succession, each death more violent than the last, Kim and her team realise that the initial killing was no one-off frenzied attack, but a twisted serial killer preying on the vulnerable.
At the same time, the search begins for the desperate woman who left her newborn baby at the station – but what at first looks like a tragic abandonment soon takes an even more sinister turn.

When another young woman goes missing, the two investigations bring the team into a terrifying, hidden world, and a showdown puts Kim’s life at risk as secrets from as secrets from her own past come to light.

As Kim battles her own demons, can she stop the killer, before another life is lost?

Even though I know I haven’t necessarily rated all the books in this series quite so high, the D.I. Kim Stone series is one of my top favorite crime drama series and this one is no exception. For me, that is a bit surprising because most authors this deep into a crime series tend to lose me with too much repetition or similarity between the themes in the books. You absolutely get something new with each and every book in this series.

Like with most books in this series, there are several different plot lines and threads woven throughout. The way Ms. Marsons manages to pull that off every time without being too much is one of the things I think I like the most about these books.

If I have really anything negative to say it is that I wanted to spend more time with Kim’s character, but we got a pretty large balance across the board with the rest of her team in this one. I like the team and their dynamics, but I love Kim and want to see her hog the pages and get only sprinklings of the others.

 

Say You’re Sorry: Morgan Dane, Book 1

Say You're SorryAuthor: Melinda Leigh
Book Name: Say You’re Sorry
Series: Morgan Dane
Order: 1
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Crime, Romance
Rating:  Okay

3+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: After the devastating loss of her husband in Iraq, Morgan Dane returns to Scarlet Falls, seeking the comfort of her hometown. Now, surrounded by family, she’s finally found peace and a promising career opportunity—until her babysitter is killed and her neighbor asks her to defend his son, Nick, who stands accused of the murder.

Tessa was the ultimate girl next door, and the community is outraged by her death. But Morgan has known Nick for years and can’t believe he’s guilty, despite the damning evidence stacked against him. She asks her friend Lance Kruger, an ex-cop turned private eye, for help. Taking on the town, the police, and a zealous DA, Morgan and Lance plunge into the investigation, determined to find the real killer. But as they uncover secrets that rock the community, they become targets for the madman hiding in plain sight.

I think that this book is a good example of “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” There are so many sub-plots and side-plots, you nearly need a flow chart to remember which characters are which and who is doing what and to follow along. A few of those don’t ever even get fleshed out, so serve no real purpose.

I JUST wrote in another review about how it drives me crazy if an author puts their main character in life or death peril over and over again throughout the series, making it completely unrealistic and unbelievable. This book takes it to a whole other level, putting the main character, Morgan, in peril in what seems like nearly every other chapter. I’m talking full on gun in her face, getting shot at, knife at her throat, life threatening peril. If this were some sort of a combat drama, maybe that would work, but this isn’t. And this is only book one of a series featuring this same main character?

While there were parts of this that I really enjoyed, it was a bit too much and why this is only an okay/good book for me. I don’t know if there was enough that I liked about this to make me pick up the second book.

In The Clearing: Tracy Crosswhite, Book 3

In The ClearingAuthor: Robert Dugoni
Book Name: In The Clearing
Series: Tracy Crosswhite
Order: 3
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Crime
Rating:  Excellent

5+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: Detective Tracy Crosswhite has a skill, and a soft spot, for tackling unsolved crimes. Having lost her own sister to murder at a young age, Tracy has dedicated her career to bringing justice and closure to the families and friends of victims of crime.

So when Jenny, a former police academy classmate and protégé, asks Tracy to help solve a cold case that involves the suspicious suicide of a Native American high school girl forty years earlier, Tracy agrees. Following up on evidence Jenny’s detective father collected when he was the investigating deputy, Tracy probes one small town’s memory and finds dark, well-concealed secrets hidden within the community’s fabric. Can Tracy uphold the promise she’s made to the dead girl’s family and deliver the truth of what happened to their daughter? Or will she become the next victim?

Initially, after reading the blurb, I was worried this was going to fall into that repetitive, beginning to be totally unbelievable zone where the main character is forever in a constant battle for their life. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Yes, we have a point where a very real danger presents itself, but it isn’t like the other books in the series where it is a major part of the story. So, while it brushes up against that line, it doesn’t cross it, staying solidly on the side of being believable.

I love that this book touches on the concept that one situation that is totally unrelated to another can spark a light bulb moment to make the other one more clear. This is something that happens to me all the time, so it was kind of cool to see it here.

All in all, I’m still loving this series.

 

The Roanoke Girls: Amy Engel

The Roanoke GirlsAuthor: Amy Engel
Book Name: The Roanoke Girls
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Suspense, Family Saga
Rating:  Really Good

4+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: “Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.”

After her mother’s suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran…fast and far away.

Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.

As it weaves between Lane’s first Roanoke summer and her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart.

This was kind of hard to rate. Not because the book isn’t good or incredibly written, because it really is, but because it is seriously sick and twisted. It is hard to say, “Yeah, I really liked it” when it is that dark and heavy.

This isn’t something that has harsh jumps or revelations. You pretty much know from very early on what the ugliness is in this family. In a way, this story is more about Lane. How she deals with it all, her own personal growth through it and where she lands in the end.

So, yeah, I liked it. I can’t love it, it was just a little too dark and twisty for me to love, but it is incredibly well written. So much so, I liked pretty much all of the characters, even the ones that I probably shouldn’t. Fair warning, though. This is a book that can be way too ugly for some readers.

Lost Child: D.S. Butler

Lost ChildAuthor: D.S. Butler
Book Name: Lost Child
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Suspense, Mystery
Rating:  Didn’t Like

2+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: She only turned her back for a moment but that was all it took.
Two years ago, Beth Farrow turned her back on her three-year-old niece, Jenna, for just a few seconds. She disappeared without a trace.
How does a three-year-old go missing from a crowded summer fete without anyone noticing?
When Beth leaves the country to try and escape her guilt, someone sends her a photograph from an anonymous number. It’s a photograph of Jenna. She’s older, but Beth is sure it’s her niece. She is determined to do what the police cannot: Find Jenna and bring her home.
But someone isn’t pleased when Beth returns, and they will do what ever it takes to get rid of her. This time, for good.

*Potential Spoiler*

One of my peeves with regards to books is a blurb that either gives too much away or is completely inaccurate and doesn’t match the story it is supposed to describe. For this book, it is the second part that applies, because this…

“But someone isn’t pleased when Beth returns, and they will do what ever it takes to get rid of her. This time, for good.”

NEVER actually happens. Based on the blurb, you’d think the book is something where the main character has things happen that would potentially harm her, or scare her away or that someone is actively trying to do her harm. Nope. Doesn’t happen. If you want to get technical, there is one event in the end, but it doesn’t fit with the blurb. It isn’t about Beth coming back and trying to find out what happened and the bad guy trying to stop her from doing so, but rather about her actually finding it out and the bad guy wanting to try and get away with it.

Besides the fact that I kept expecting something different, I could not stand Beth’s character. She came across as completely stupid, making asinine decisions all over the place as well as being horrifically judgemental. I didn’t like any of the characters, really. None of them ever made much sense as they all seemed unnecessarily nasty or suspicious.

So no, this one was not my cup of tea.