Book Review: Caged, Agent Sayer Altair – Book #1

Author: Ellison Cooper
Book Name: Caged
Release Date: July 10, 2018
Series: Agent Sayer Altair
Order: #1
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Crime
Overall SPA: 2 Stars
2 Stars

 

 

Blurb: FBI neuroscientist Sayer Altair hunts for evil in the deepest recesses of the human mind. Still reeling from the death of her fiance, she wants nothing more than to focus on her research into the brains of serial killers. But when the Washington D.C. police stumble upon a gruesome murder scene involving a girl who’d been slowly starved to death while held captive in a cage, Sayer is called in to lead the investigation. When the victim is identified as the daughter of a high profile senator, Sayer is thrust into the spotlight.

As public pressure mounts, she discovers that another girl has been taken and is teetering on the brink of death. With evidence unraveling around her, Sayer races to save the second victim but soon realizes that they are hunting a killer with a dangerous obsession…a killer who is closer than she thought.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

This was a decent book but it skirts all kinds of believability edges for me. When you start to cross those edges, I really start to lose interest.

Well over the first half of this book I was frustrated with this glaringly obvious thread that had me banging my head over the fact that everyone that should have seen red flags never did. It wasn’t until I was about 3/4 of the way through that I started seeing that for what it was and was kind of excited about where this was going to go. I’ll admit, there are some interesting twists that took me way too long to see. At the same time, it took way to long for this to pull itself out of that frustrating thread and into something I could really get into.

This only takes a brief detour into being more interesting before veering off into a pretty extreme level of unbelievable topped with a classic bad guy monologue. This is only slightly mitigated by the fact that police work and following evidence finally leads you to said bad buy, but you only get a point in that direction with zero reasons behind it before you get that monologue.

It is one thing to have multifaceted characters that have interest and depth. It is another to have a character that feels like an amalgamation of a wide range of disparate parts that don’t seem to fit together making them this incredibly, unbelievably complex person. It just seems like it is overblown and unnecessary. It feels like there is such an unbalance with all the other characters when you have one like that, making it even more glaring.

I spent too much of this book frustrated or even bored and the remaining small fraction in “Oh, come on!” mode over how unrealistic this was and how it was resolved. Toss in a random, slightly unrelated (at least to the main plot) cliffhanger and this manages to only graze okay for me.

 

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: What Doesn’t Kill You, Willa Pennington, P.I.- Book #1

Author: Aimee Hix
Book Name: What Doesn’t Kill You
Release Date: January 8th, 2018
Series: Willa Pennington, P.I.
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/Crime Drama/Suspense
Overall SPA: 2 Stars
2 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Favors are for suckers, especially when they lead you straight to a dead body

Willa Pennington thought that becoming a PI would be better than being a cop. She thought she’d never have to make another death notification or don a bulletproof vest again. She thought she’d be safe.

But she couldn’t have been more wrong, because Willa’s real problem is that she’s always sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong. And people really don’t like that.

Now, agreeing to do a simple favor has netted her a dead body, a missing person, and an old friend who just may be a very bad guy. If whoever is trying to kill her would lay off she could solve the murder, find the missing girl, and figure out if the person she’s trusted with her life is the one trying to end it.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 2.5/5 Stars
Believability: 2/5 Stars
Peeve Factor: 1.5/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 2.5/5 Stars

This one ended up being only an okay book, and just barely at that, for me for a couple of reasons. I really have a difficult time with crime/police drama books that disregard the most commonly known beliefs about police procedure and practices. This book seems to stretch, bend and break a lot of those. No, Willa isn’t a police officer, but she manages to get involved in this case and access to things that a non-police officer should never get. It doesn’t matter if she was a former police officer. She wasn’t even a detective, just a basic officer, which makes those breaches even worse in my opinion.

The other major issue was how utterly all over the map Willa’s character is. Is she a hormone driven idiot? Or is she this composed, put together professional? Does she have a moral core or does she have no compunction at all for breaking rules and laws to get the results she wants? Is she a bumbling amateur without two brain cells to rub together or is she a bit of a badass that knows her shit? All the different parts of her personality tended to contradict themselves, making her character seem flighty and difficult to like. I could never pinpoint how old she was supposed to be because her levels of maturity weren’t consistent. More times than not, she seemed like a willful, bratty teenager and not someone who was old enough to have ever been a police officer.

To add to the pile of peeves, you get this weird, annoying thing where everyone in any authority gives her whatever she wants because she is apparently brilliant. More so than the actual police and federal agents working on the case.  See the above comments about her coming across as a bumbling amateur and you will see why this was an even more annoying occurrence. And why I really wasn’t a fan.

 

On My TBR – August 2019 Edition

The bare bones of my August TBR list, as always, I’ll probably read way more than this, but this is what is waiting to be read:

Shadow's Bane
Shadow’s Bane

Shadow’s Bane – Dorna Basarab #4 (yes, this one is a hold over from last month)

Genre: Fantasy/Urban

 

 

 

 

Fated
Fated

Fated – Book #1 Alex Verus

Genre: Fantasy/Uban/Paranormal

 

 

 

 

 

The Scribe
The Scribe

The Scribe

Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Crime

 

 

 

 

 

 

August’s Anxiously Awaiting Release:

The Blacksmith Queen
The Blacksmith Queen

The Blacksmith Queen – Book #1 in The Scarred Earth Saga

Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Comes out August 27th
Requested via NetGalley

 

 

 

 

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

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

Genre: Women’s Fiction/Romance

 

 

 

 

 

Caged
Caged

Caged

Genre: Mystery/Suspense

Book Review: A Merciful Fate, Mercy Kilpatrick – Book #5

Author: Kendra Elliot
Book Name: A Merciful Fate
Release Date: January 15, 2019
Series: Mercy Kilpatrick
Order: #5
Genre: Romance/Mystery/Suspense/Crime
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Raised by preppers, survivalist and FBI agent Mercy Kilpatrick has a deep-rooted need for a safe place. Her getaway in the Cascade Foothills is her secret. But when skeletal remains are unearthed—those of a murdered man linked to a notorious heist—Mercy realizes she isn’t the only one with something to hide.

Thirty years ago, an armored-car robbery turned deadly. The mastermind was captured. Four conspirators vanished with a fortune. One of them, it appears, never made it out of the woods alive. For Mercy and her fiancé, Police Chief Truman Daly, their investigation opens old wounds in Eagle’s Nest that cut deeper than they imagined. Especially when a reckless tabloid reporter draws fresh blood. It’s clear to Mercy that somebody in this close-knit community is not who they seem to be.

Some are still shattered by the heist. Some still have reason to be afraid. But which one will kill again and again to hide three decades of secrets? To land this case, it’s up to Mercy to unmask a familiar stranger before someone else dies.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

This series has always been interesting to me. I have really enjoyed the insight into the world and mindset of preppers, so I always look forward to seeing bits of that life in these books. This book didn’t really touch on that nearly as much as previous books.

The one issue I’ve had with the series, at least on a small scale, is that some of the plotlines get a little convoluted and unbelievable. That was the case with this one as it really felt a bit ridiculous at times, more so than most of the previous books. At one point, I honestly wondered how many characters were going to get shot or killed or have really bad things happen to them. If a character appeared on a page, I was pretty certain it was going to turn into something ugly or traumatic.

For what is supposedly a relatively small community, there is an extremely high percentage of bad guys that seem to all live there. There are also a somewhat extreme number of cases that overlap between the FBI and local police. I like Mercy and Truman’s characters, but there are only so many cases they can have intertwine so they work together before you’ve broken the realistic barrier, fiction or not. The fact that this is book 5 and all of these same issues showed up again frustrated me. Those aspects keep this series from being a really great one in my book.

 

 

 

Book Review: The Dead of Winter, Piper Blackwell Mystery – Book #1

Author: Jean Rabe
Book Name: The Dead of Winter
Release Date: July 1st, 2019
Series: Piper Blackwell Mystery
Order: #1
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Crime
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: In a deceptively peaceful county, a murderer hides in plain sight…

Fifty-eight minutes into her first day on the job, twenty-three-year-old Sheriff Piper Blackwell is faced with a grisly murder—the victim artfully posed amid decorations on his lawn. Drawing on former military training, Piper must prove herself worthy of the sheriff’s badge, and that won’t be easy.

Chief Deputy Oren Rosenberg, Piper’s opponent in the recent election, doesn’t like her and wants her to fail. She doesn’t like him either, but she needs Oren to help catch the killer before another victim is discovered. Too late!

As Piper leads the manhunt, another crisis hits close to home. Her father, the previous sheriff, is fighting for his life, and she is torn between family and duty. Facing personal and professional threats, Piper has to weather a raging storm, keep the sheriff’s department from crumbling around her, and reel in a killer during the most brutal winter sleepy Spencer County, Indiana, has experienced.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

The bones of this story was good, but that was pulled down drastically by the characters. When your characters represent every stereotype of the small town, small minded, ignorant and egotistical police officer ever known, you’ve made it nearly impossible to enjoy the story beyond those characters.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the somewhat stilted and choppy writing style, especially when it got applied to the dialog. It made most of the characters voices sound exactly the same. The number of characters that had the same weird habit of repeating themselves, and not just phrases, but individual words back to back, amped up that feeling of sameness.

I did enjoy the ending of this, but that was mostly because you finally get to see Piper with a spine and lose the bland, wet noodle feel she’d had through the rest of the book. Even with the ending being a bit better than the rest, this was just an okay read.

 

Book Review: The Need – Helen Phillips: DNF

Author: Helen Phillips
Book Name: The Need
Release Date: July 9, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Sci-Fi
Overall SPA: DNF @31%

 

Blurb: When Molly, home alone with her two young children, hears footsteps in the living room, she tries to convince herself it’s the sleep deprivation. She’s been hearing things these days. Startling at loud noises. Imagining the worst-case scenario. It’s what mothers do, she knows.

But then the footsteps come again, and she catches a glimpse of movement.

Suddenly Molly finds herself face-to-face with an intruder who knows far too much about her and her family. As she attempts to protect those she loves most, Molly must also acknowledge her own frailty. Molly slips down an existential rabbit hole where she must confront the dualities of motherhood: the ecstasy and the dread; the languor and the ferocity; the banality and the transcendence as the book hurtles toward a mind-bending conclusion.

I’m going to make this brief. I DNF’d this because it was like trying to watch, or in this case read, the internal workings of another person’s head. While they were dropping acid. What the hell does “breezy dirty banana” actually smell like?

I don’t think I’ve ever attempted to read a more confusing and convoluted work. I have no clue really what happened from the beginning to the point I gave up other than it jumped all over the place and spent an inordinate amount of time focused on the explicit details of breastfeeding and some weird obsession with milk.

I couldn’t decide if the main character actually liked being a mother or if she was really insane and/or tripping on some seriously good drugs and getting ready to kill her kids. Maybe it gets better after the point I put it down, but I didn’t see that it was worth it to try and untwist the mess it was causing in my brain to get there. I don’t know if part of this was also because I missed the sci-fi genre tag (ticks me off when I miss those), but this was so not the book for me and not JUST because it is marked as sci-fi (I don’t think I really got to anything that fits that genre before dropping this anyway).

Book Review: The Body Keeper, Detective Jude Fontaine Mysteries – Book #3

Author: Anne Frasier
Book Name: The Body Keeper
Release Date: June 4, 2019
Series: Detective Jude Fontaine Mysteries
Order: #3
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Crime
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: A boy’s frozen body is found trapped in the ice of a Minneapolis lake. The horrifying discovery leads Detective Jude Fontaine and her partner, Uriah Ashby, to more bodies in the ice, all of twelve-year-old boys missing for twenty years.

Then, in one of the worst blizzards the city has ever seen, a four-year-old is abandoned on Jude’s doorstep. The child can’t tell them where he’s from, who his parents are, or how he got there. He doesn’t even know his name.

But in his unspoken language, Jude reads something horrifying—a connection to the dead boys. Now a four-year-old with no name may be the only key to a twenty-year-old, very cold case.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4.5/5 Stars

This is a series that I really enjoy, but has tiny bits here and there that keep me from loving it and keeps it off my favorites list. This book fits the mold of the previous two books.

I really love Jude’s character and seeing how her past trauma and damage shape who she is today and the choices she makes. It is one of the the things I like the most about this series. I like the fact that this book breaks down some of the barriers she’s put up in the past. It keeps her feeling very real and human.

The pieces I’m not a huge fan of are the extreme levels of evil that the bad guys always seem to hit. That and the crazy, twisty levels of coincidence take a bit of a ding for me when it comes to rating. This book had just a few too many. The story is really great without those coincidences, could have definitely stood amazingly on its own without them and I would have absolutely loved it, but the addition of those took a bit of the shine off in a couple of areas.

The one coincidence and twist I saw coming from the beginning and I’m good with that one. It is going to make things interesting moving forward and getting to see how Jude copes with it.

 

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: A Stranger on the Beach – Michele Campbell

Author: Michele Campbell
Book Name: A Stranger on the Beach
Release Date: July 23, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Thriller
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: There is a stranger outside Caroline’s house.

Her spectacular new beach house, built for hosting expensive parties and vacationing with the family she thought she’d have. But her husband is lying to her and everything in her life is upside down, so when the stranger, Aiden, shows up as a bartender at the same party where Caroline and her husband have a very public fight, it doesn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary.

As her marriage collapses around her and the lavish lifestyle she’s built for herself starts to crumble, Caroline turns to Aiden for comfort…and revenge. After a brief and desperate fling that means nothing to Caroline and everything to him, Aiden’s obsession with Caroline, her family, and her house grows more and more disturbing. And when Caroline’s husband goes missing, her life descends into a nightmare that leaves her accused of her own husband’s murder.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

Based on feedback from other bloggers raving about this book, I was really excited to pick this one up. I don’t think I got the same things out of this that they did, so I’m definitely in the minority on my reaction.

I found myself, really early on, not liking characters I was probably supposed to and liking ones I wasn’t. I’m the kind of reader that needs some form of connection with characters, or to feel a certain sense of relatability and those early impressions made that difficult.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the whole “If I’d known” lines that get dropped all through the beginning of the book that seemed to give away what was going to happen later. They were like glowing neon signs screaming “Look HERE!” I understand the purpose, but they bugged me.

The dual perspective through the majority of the book, giving you vastly different versions of what is going on throughout the story, kind of fell in the middle of like and dislike for me. On one hand, it was interesting seeing the way this was presented, but it took me a little too long to not have those different versions be jarring. When I finally get used to those disparities and come to expect them, a new character’s perspective gets tossed into the mix.

While there were a lot of things going on, it took way longer than it should have to actually settle in and get somewhat invested in how the story played out.

If you are the kind of reader that picks up on small details, the ending won’t be a shock to you. There are definitely a range of possibilities by that point, but, for me, this story could have gone in any of those directions and I wouldn’t have been surprised, though the path to get to any of them is a bit over the top and twisted along the way. In all this was a decent read, but I didn’t love it either.

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

 

 

On My TBR – July 2019 Edition

I normally don’t have a set TBR as I tend to pick up and read what I’m in the mood for at the time. I do have several lists in various different genres that I’ll use to pick from when I’m in the mood for that particular genre or I just go dig through new releases or new additions to my local library.

Now that I’m getting ARCs and picking up more books based on what I’m seeing other bloggers reading, I’ve decided to try and keep an actual TBR. These are the books I’m looking to read in the near future. Knowing me and my reading habits, this list is likely to change drastically within a week or two, but we will see how it goes if I shoot for a full month. I seriously doubt these will be the only books I read this month and there is a chance one or two get the procrastination shove to the bottom of the list, but it is a place to start.

So, what is currently on my shelf:

A Stranger On The Beach
A Stranger On The Beach

A Stranger on the Beach

Genre: Women’s Fiction/Thriller/Mystery/Suspense

*This is an ARC

 

 

 

The Need
The Need

The Need

Genre: Thriller/Mystery/Suspense

 

 

 

 

 

The Place On Dalhousie
The Place On Dalhousie

The Place on Dalhousie

Genre: Women’s Fiction/Family Life

 

 

 

 

 

The Road She Left Behind
The Road She Left Behind

The Road She Left Behind

Genre: Women’s Fiction/Family Life

 

 

 

 

 

Shadow's Bane
Shadow’s Bane

Shadow’s Bane – Dorna Basarab #4

Genre: Fantasy/Urban

 

 

 

 

 

Winds of Fate
Winds of Fate

Winds of Fate – Valdemar: Mage Winds #1

Genre: Fantasy

Book Review: The First Mistake – Sandie Jones

Author: Sandie Jones
Book Name: The First Mistake
Release Date: June 11, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 2 Stars
2 Stars

 

 

Blurb:

THE WIFE: For Alice, life has never been better. With her second husband, she has a successful business, two children, and a beautiful house.

HER HUSBAND: Alice knows that life could have been different if her first husband had lived, but Nathan’s arrival into her life gave her back the happiness she craved.

HER BEST FRIEND: Through the ups and downs of life, from celebratory nights out to comforting each other through loss, Alice knows that with her best friend Beth by her side, they can survive anything together. So when Nathan starts acting strangely, Alice turns to Beth for help. But soon, Alice begins to wonder whether her trust has been misplaced . . .

The first mistake could be her last.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 2.5/5 Stars
Believability: 2/5 Stars
Peeve Factor: 2/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 2/5 Stars

This book was told in three separate parts. The first part is the present with Alice. The second was from Beth’s perspective of her history. The final part is back in the present.

Part one of this book was interesting, but I didn’t get very far into that before I was already getting a pretty strong impression of where this was going. Nor did I get very far before Beth became annoying. I was still mostly enjoying this by the time I got to part 2. Alice came across as sympathetic at this point and I was interested in how her story was going to play out.

The second part with Beth didn’t do a thing to make me feel any better for her. This is where the story starts bouncing on my peeve button because Beth’s character starts shouting that she wants to be that Too Stupid To Live kind of character, being oblivious to things that are insanely obvious to the reader. While you do get a few bits and pieces that are essential to the overall story, the majority of this part of the book dragged for me and I was anxious to get to a point where it felt like the story was progressing.

The final part is noted as being both Alice and Beth but you only get it from Alice’s perspective. While you get a little bit of an unexpected twist in here, the overall end game is what was given away in the first part of the story. That end game was also incredibly and inexplicably convoluted. There was no reason for the setup other than to create drama and just didn’t make a whole lot of sense. The reasons behind the various motivations and character actions, given in an overly dramatic info dump, were completely unbelievable and based entirely on petty cruel motives that just seemed unbelievable.

By this point, Alice has also fallen into that TSTL category that Beth owned earlier in the story. I had a couple of moments as parts of her story were revealed where I couldn’t help but think “Really? THAT is how this is being played? WHY?” Mostly because it turned what was a decent story into one that really wasn’t anymore.

And for the final note to make this not a book I could enjoy, it had to end in a really, unnecessarily ridiculous way that was completely unsatisfying as so much was left just hanging out in the open, which is a rather big peeve of mine. While I don’t always need everything perfectly tied up, I cannot stand vague, especially when it is intentionally vague and only for the purpose of attempting to create a high level of drama that doesn’t do a thing for the story.

When it is all said and done, this fell between the okay and didn’t like range for me.

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

Cover: 3/5 Stars
This is getting only a 3 star mention because, while it is an attractive cover, it really has no relation to the story itself. The images of the broken apart pieces of roses evokes a sense of a broken relationship which isn’t what the bulk of this story is about. That is also a little offset by the bright colors, so you lose the feeling you should get of this being a darker story. For me this cover has more a feeling of sadness rather than the actual emotions this story is designed to generate, so I don’t feel like it fits the book all that well.

 

 

Book Review: A Family of Strangers – Emilie Richards

Author: Emilie Richards
Book Name: A Family of Strangers
Release Date: June 25, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/Suspense/Family Drama
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Could a lifetime of memories…be a lifetime of lies?

All her life Ryan Gracey watched her perfect older sister from afar. Knowing she could never top Wendy’s achievements, she didn’t even try. Instead Ryan forged her own path while her family barely seemed to notice.

Now Wendy shares two little girls with her perfect husband while Ryan mourns the man she lost after a nearly fatal mistake in judgment. The sisters’ choices have taken them in different directions, which is why Ryan is stunned when Wendy calls, begging for her help. There’s been a murder—and Wendy believes she’ll be wrongfully accused.

While Wendy lays low, Ryan moves back to their hometown to care for the nieces she hardly knows. The sleuthing skills she’s refined as a true-crime podcaster quickly rise to the surface as she digs for answers with the help of an unexpected ally. Yet the trail of clues Wendy’s left behind lead to nothing but questions. Blood may be thicker than water, but what does Ryan owe a sister who, with every revelation, becomes more and more a stranger?

Is Wendy, who always seemed so perfect, just a perfect liar—or worse?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

This book surprised me. In good ways and on a couple of different levels.

Initially, I got frustrated because I wasn’t seeing what the blurb had led me to believe this book was about and I thought it was beyond time to start seeing those things. That’s when I noticed I was only at like 15-20% and I was a bit shocked. So much had already happened, I felt like I was much farther along than I was, so it wasn’t unreasonable I hadn’t hit those things. Once I realized that, I let go of the impatience and settled into the story.

One of the things I really liked about this was that there were lots of threads in this story, but they are all mostly tied together and related. The only real exception is Ryan and Teo’s back story, which you get in drips for a while (one of the points of early frustration and my one real irritant). The connected threads all fit smoothly together.

I loved how those threads all developed. Even as the story seems to get complex and convoluted, the author does a good job of making it all work, of making it believable. There are several “surprises” along the way. Most I could see coming, but I still liked how they came about. One that I saw, the author managed to distract me enough I’d forgotten about it only to have it pop back up when I wasn’t looking (LOVED that).

The very few negatives I’d have to mention are all mostly centered around Ryan and Teo’s relationship. Those early drips of their back story did annoy me as there didn’t seem to be any real purpose to the slow doling out of that part of the story other than to add a level of suspense, which was unnecessary with so much other stuff going on. The one piece I struggled with believing was how their previous relationship ended. That part really didn’t get wrapped up until deep into the story and it felt a little weak, as though there had to have been a lot more to it than there was. It wasn’t enough to do too much damage to how much I enjoyed the rest of the book, though.

Overall, I really enjoyed this and once I got over myself and my impatience, this kept me intrigued all the way through.

 

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

Cover: 4/5 Stars
Just wanted to point out that the cover was one of the things that got me to look closer at this book. It sets the perfect tone and backdrop for the story.

 

Book Review: Sister Dear – Laura McNeill

Author: Laura McNeill
Book Name: Sister Dear
Release Date: April 19, 2016
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Family Drama
Overall SPA: 2.5 Stars
2.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Convicted of a crime she didn’t commit, Allie watched a decade of her life vanish – time that can never be recovered. Now, out on parole, Allie is determined to clear her name, rebuild her life, and reconnect with the daughter she barely knows.

But Allie’s return home shatters the quaint, coastal community of Brunswick, Georgia. Even her own daughter Caroline, now a teenager, bristles at Allie’s claims of innocence. Refusing defeat, a stronger, smarter Allie launches a battle for the truth, digging deeply into the past even if it threatens her parole status, personal safety, and the already-fragile bond with family.

As her commitment to finding the truth intensifies, what Allie ultimately uncovers is far worse than she imagined. Her own sister has been hiding a dark secret—one that holds the key to Allie’s freedom.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 2/5 Stars
Believability: 2/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars
The overall storyline in this is good, but I really struggled with both the lack of depth in the characters and with believability. Probably because the two are pretty closely tied together.

One of my biggest issues with believability comes into play with the utter lack of support that Allie has from her family. Supposedly a young woman who really plays by the rules and doesn’t rock the boat, with one exception and that exception does not translate into someone capable of or willing to commit murder. It just feels like every single person in her life just washed their hands of her as soon as she was convicted; friends, family, the entire community; with the exception of Emma and the rare moment with her parents. This does not work for me at all.

Allie herself is someone I struggle to connect with. With her history, you’d think it would be easy to create some emotional investment from the reader, but you never get that. For me it was partly because she is so willing to just accept the lines people are feeding her with regards to that lack of support. The fact that she just swallowed whole that her 5 year old daughter couldn’t visit her because she broke out in hives and had major panic attacks (which is later in the story somewhat contradicted) really bugged me. Same with every single time her daughter came up after she got home and it was always some sort of an excuse to keep Allie from working on rebuilding their relationship. This is exacerbated by her own parents not doing everything they could to keep that relationship in tact.

And why in the world would any loving, caring, intelligent parent be willing to turn over a 5 year old child to the care of the kid (adult or not) that was ALWAYS the one breaking the rules, getting into trouble and making pretty heavy mistakes? There is no discussion at all as to why Caroline ended up being taken care of by her aunt, Emma, and it is really a pretty huge hole in the story.

Emma’s character is nearly a cliche with the jealous, hateful sibling thing. The problem with this is that it just isn’t sold all that well. She comes across as lacking enough intelligence and too full of self interest to pull off the whole relationship with Caroline. That level of narcissism is rarely capable of making the supposed sacrifices she made.

The details of the crime Allie was convicted of along with all the reasons why a jury looked at that information and were able to come back with a guilty verdict are extremely thin, which was just one more mark against being able to fall into this story.

All of these character and plot issues could have been developed in ways that made at least some sense. ie: The adult parents weren’t actually loving and caring, but were very much absent. Emma having some specific, definable motivation for making the sacrifices she did. Or something, anything, that made the pieces of this story more believable or just work better, but those things are missing.

The ending was overly convenient and overblown. Couple that with the fact that you don’t get any hint at all of any kind of reparations to Allie for being wrongly convicted, not even a single line stating that her conviction has been overturned, just that the real bad guy was going to be prosecuted, and the story utterly fizzled out for me.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Dear Wife – Kimberly Belle

Author: Kimberly Belle
Book Name: Dear Wife
Release Date: June 25, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 5 Stars
5 Stars

 

 

Blurb:

Beth Murphy is on the run…

For nearly a year, Beth has been planning for this day. A day some people might call any other Wednesday, but Beth prefers to see it as her new beginning–one with a new look, new name and new city. Beth has given her plan significant thought, because one small slip and her violent husband will find her.

Sabine Hardison is missing…

A couple hundred miles away, Jeffrey returns home from a work trip to find his wife, Sabine, is missing. Wherever she is, she’s taken almost nothing with her. Her abandoned car is the only evidence the police have, and all signs point to foul play.

As the police search for leads, the case becomes more and more convoluted. Sabine’s carefully laid plans for her future indicate trouble at home, and a husband who would be better off with her gone. The detective on the case will stop at nothing to find out what happened and bring this missing woman home. Where is Sabine? And who is Beth? The only thing that’s certain is that someone is lying and the truth won’t stay buried for long.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

Personal Opinion: 5/5 Stars
I am gushing over how much I loved this book! I don’t normally gush, and I don’t think I ever have over a mystery/suspense book, but I am gushing because this was everything a mystery/suspense novel is supposed to be. It is also the kind of book that you really don’t want to know a whole lot about before you read it. You want to go in mostly blind and without any opinions or expectations to get the full impact of the story, so I’m doing my best to keep it really general.

This started out with the best first chapter I’ve read in a really long time, if not the best first chapter ever. Talk about getting sucked in. I was a little worried that with that strong of a start, there was no way it would continue that strong, but it absolutely did.

The entire story is told from three different characters’ perspectives, Beth, Marcus – the detective looking into Sabine’s disappearance, and Jeffery – Sabine’s husband.

I won’t say that I loved all of the characters in this book, but you don’t normally love the bad guy in a story. That said, I did really enjoy the way the bad guy was written and presented.

It was also impossible not to feel sympathy for Beth, her pain and her desperation, even if you have doubts about her character at times. I was emotionally invested in her and Sabine’s story from the start.

The storyline throughout this felt really unique and not something recycled from a dozen other similar novels, which is a huge thing for me, especially in this genre.

I cannot say enough how well this story flowed. I loved how when I thought I knew what kinds of connections existed, or at least suspected, something gets revealed that makes those assumptions less sure. Or you know there is no connection and you are given a piece that shows, maybe there really is. You are just never entirely sure. I was really deep into the book before some of the larger puzzle pieces started to be visible and it wasn’t a picture I was expecting. All of those hints and reveals are done in incredible, subtle ways. Subtle enough that there were a couple I didn’t pick up until another small piece was uncovered.

Basically, this was awesome. If it isn’t on your TBR yet, it absolutely should be.

Book Review: Chasing Shadows, South Shores – Book 1

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Book Review: 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.