Book Review: Stranger in the Lake – Kimberly Belle

Author: Kimberly Belle
Book Name: Stranger in the Lake
Release Date: June 9, 2020
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
4.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: When Charlotte married the wealthy widower Paul, it caused a ripple of gossip in their small lakeside town. They have a charmed life together, despite the cruel whispers about her humble past and his first marriage. But everything starts to unravel when she discovers a young woman’s body floating in the exact same spot where Paul’s first wife tragically drowned.

At first, it seems like a horrific coincidence, but the stranger in the lake is no stranger. Charlotte saw Paul talking to her the day before, even though Paul tells the police he’s never met the woman. His lie exposes cracks in their fragile new marriage, cracks Charlotte is determined to keep from breaking them in two.

As Charlotte uncovers dark mysteries about the man she married, she doesn’t know what to trust—her heart, which knows Paul to be a good man, or her growing suspicion that there’s something he’s hiding in the water.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4.5/5 Stars
Believability: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 5/5 Stars

This was one twisty, bendy ride of a story. There are several layers to this, all weaving in and out of each other all the way through, making it really hard to pinpoint where it is going.

There are three distinct deaths that are the focus of this story. Sienna, Katherine, and Bobby. All years apart. All have questions surrounding them, but they aren’t all obviously connected, only Sienna’s and Katherine’s seem to be.

I loved how you are deep into the story before you are allowed to see if there are any real connections. Even when pieces come to light, you are still left wondering and questioning the whys behind each one and who, if anyone, was involved. There are a range of characters giving the reader lots of options to focus on without being overwhelmed with too many.

I often found myself thinking it was certainly headed one way, then I’m sent off in another direction, only to be brought back again or sent in an entirely new direction all together. It’s an aspect that I love about a good mystery when done well. A path that’s followed in a realistic, logical way, but one that still drags you all over the place.

This is something that Kimberly Belle is amazing at doing in most all of her books. She always keeps the reader engaged in what is happening on the page at all times.

And this one absolutely does that. All the way to the very end, just when you might think the story was in the wrap up and aftermath parts, you get another curve dropped in your path.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

**Featured in Envie! Magazine’s June 2020 edition.

Recommended Reads From May

Apparently May wasn’t a great month for me when it came to reading 4 or 5 star books. Granted, I did a whole lot of rereading in May and not a lot of new reads, but of those new reads, I also had more DNFs this month than I think I’ve ever had in a single month before along with a whole lot of “meh” tossed in. There is more to this I think, but my brain needs to let me untangle it all a bit. I’m sure there is a blog post about why in there somewhere, I just need to dig it out first.

 

My Kind of Town
My Kind of Town
Author: Shelly Laurenston
Book Name: My Kind of Town
Release Date: April 26, 2020 (reprint)
Series: The Long Island Coven
Order: 1
Genre: Fantasy/Urban/Romance
Overall SPA: 4
Reviewed: No

Stranger In The Lake
Stranger In The Lake
Author: Kimberly Belle
Book Name: Stranger in the Lake
Release Date: June 9, 2020
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 4.5
Reviewed: Yes (will post June 2nd – Envie!’s June Review)

The Stillwater Girls
The Stillwater Girls
Author: Minka Kent
Book Name: The Stillwater Girls
Release Date: April 9, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 4.5
Reviewed: No

Book Review: Killing Mind, D.I. Kim Stone- Book #12

Author: Angela Marsons
Book Name: Killing Mind
Release Date: May 13, 2020
Series: D.I. Kim Stone
Order: #12
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Police/Crime
Overall SPA: 5 Stars
5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: It had seemed so simple. Get in, get the information, get out. But now they were getting inside her mind and she didn’t know how to stop them…

When Detective Kim Stone is called to the home of Samantha Brown, she finds the young woman lying in bed with her throat cut and a knife in her hand. With no sign of forced entry or struggle, Kim rules her death a tragic suicide.

But a visit to Samantha’s parents rings alarm bells for Kim – there’s something they’re not telling her. And, when she spots a clue in a photograph, Kim realises she’s made a huge mistake. Samantha didn’t take her own life, she was murdered.

Then a young man’s body is found in a local lake with his throat cut and Kim makes a link between the victim and Samantha. They both spent time at Unity Farm, a retreat for people seeking an alternative way of life.

Beneath the retreat’s cosy façade, Kim and her team uncover a sinister community preying on the emotionally vulnerable.

Sending one of her own undercover into Unity Farm is high risk but it’s Kim’s only hope if she is to catch a killer – someone Kim is convinced the victims knew and trusted.

With Bryant distracted by the emergence of a harrowing case close to his heart, and an undercover officer in way over her head, Kim’s neck is on the line like never before. Can she protect those closest to her before another life is taken?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 5/5 Stars
Believability: 5/5 Stars
Series Continuity/Expectations: 5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 5/5 Stars

Another phenomenal addition to an already amazing series! I cannot say enough how much I still love the D.I. Kim Stone books.

As with most of the other books in this series (only a few exceptions), you can read this without having read all the other books first. There may be some smaller nuances that you’d miss if you haven’t, but you won’t be lost as all the important parts of the story are entirely new.

It amazes me that you can be 12 books deep into a series and still feel like the material you are reading is fresh and new, but that is exactly what you get with a Kim Stone book, be it book one or book twelve.

Most every book in this series seems to pick a different psychological or criminal element to highlight. For this one, you get to delve into the cult mindset and how they manage to draw people in. It was really interesting to take a deeper look into the how and why behind the types of people that can be attracted to those groups and how they operate.

As a US based reader, I have always really enjoyed being able to see the similarities between UK police practices and procedures and those of the US. For the first time I got a glimpse of what may be a very different approach between the two, at least when it comes to determining a suicide. I will note that I am by no means an expert on US practices and only have what I would consider common assumed knowledge gleaned from reading and other casual sources, so that difference may not be that broad. It was still really interesting to see it handled differently than what I would have expected from an investigation of similar circumstances in the US.

Like with so many of the other books in this series, you get to follow multiple different storylines, each one just as intriguing as the next and are given some surprising finishes.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

**This review was also published in Envie! Magazine’s May 2020 edition.

 

Recommended Reads From April

Looks like April was fantasy book month for me based on this list of 4 and 5 star reads. I really don’t find it the least bit surprising that I’d be looking for something that takes away from reality right now. There are a few that are more contemporary, but they were spread out over the month.

 

Grave Concerns
Grave Concerns
Author: Gwen Hunter
Book Name: Grave Concerns
Release Date: March 11, 2014 (First pub: 1/1/04)
Series: Rhea Lynch
Order: 4
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Medical
Overall SPA: 5
Reviewed: No
Heart of Ice
Heart of Ice

Heart of Stone
Heart of Stone
Author: Lisa Edmonds
Book Name: Heart of Ice & Heart of Stone
Release Date: October 9, 2017 & June 18, 2019
Series: Alice Worth
Order: 3 & 4
Genre: Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
Reviewed: No & No

Never Dead
Never Dead
Author: M.L. Bullock
Book Name: Never Dead
Release Date: April 2, 2020
Series: Welcome to Dead House
Order: 1
Genre: Paranormal
Overall SPA: 4
Reviewed: No

Killing Mind
Killing Mind
Author: Angela Marsons
Book Name: Killing Mind
Release Date: May 13, 2020
Series: D.I. Kim Stone
Order: 12
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Police/Crime
Overall SPA: 5
Reviewed: Yes (will post May 2nd – Envie!’s May Review)

Shadow Valley
Shadow Valley
Author: Gwen Hunter
Book Name: Shadow Valley
Release Date: March 4, 2015
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Romance
Overall SPA: 5
Reviewed: Yes

Broken Loyalty
Broken Loyalty
Author: Kristen Banet
Book Name: Broken Loyalty
Release Date: April 15, 2020
Series: Jacky Leon
Order: 3
Genre: Urban/Fantasy/Romance
Overall SPA: 5
Reviewed: No

The Gladiator's Downfall
The Gladiator’s Downfall
Author: Kristen Banet
Book Name: *
Release Date: *
Series: Age of Andinna
Order: #1 – 4 (First 4 of the series)
Genre: Fantasy/Romance/Reverse Harem
Overall SPA: 5
Reviewed: Yes

Battle Bond
Battle Bond
Author: Lindsay Buroker
Book Name: Battle Bond
Release Date: March 14, 2020
Series: Death Before Dragons
Order: 2
Genre: Fantasy/Urban
Overall SPA: 4
Reviewed: No

Semi-Psychic Life
Semi-Psychic Life
Author: Elizabeth Hunter
Book Name: Semi-Psychic Life
Release Date: April 21, 2020
Series: Glimmer Lake
Order: 2
Genre: Paranormal/Urban/Family Life
Overall SPA: 4.5
Reviewed: No

Book Review: Shadow Valley – Gwen Hunter

Author: Gwen Hunter
Book Name: Shadow Valley
Release Date: March 4, 2015
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Romance
Overall SPA: 5 Stars
5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Mackenzie Morgan thinks she’s doing the right thing by taking her teenaged daughter, Bella, into the Appalachians on a photography shoot. Fleeing a crumbling marriage, Mac needs time to bond with her daughter and escape the betrayal that still leaves her numb. But when a drifter abducts Bella and carries her deep into the steep mountain woods, Mac must draw on her deepest reserves to fight for her daughter’s safe return.

When her soon-to-be ex-husband arrives, old wounds flare, and Mac turns to Caleb Howell, a local tracker, who helps keep her focused on the most important task: finding Bella. Then astonishing evidence comes to light that reveals the abduction was not as random as they first believed. As hours turn into days, Mac struggles to keep her hope—and her terrified daughter—alive.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

This was an intense, action packed read that I really did not want to put down once I picked it up. For those that love stories about how far a mother will go for her child, this is a great one to grab. While I’m kind of stuck on the short and sweet side of this review, that so isn’t what this book is. It was just a really great read that is worth the time to pick up.

Book Review: The Last Sister, Columbia River- Book #1

Author: Kendra Elliot
Book Name: The Last Sister
Release Date: January 14, 2020
Series: Columbia River
Order: #1
Genre: Crime Drama/Suspense/Romance
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb:

Twenty years ago Emily Mills’s father was murdered, and she found his body hanging in the backyard. Her younger sister, Madison, claims she was asleep in her room. Her older sister, Tara, claims she was out with friends. The tragedy drove their mother to suicide and Tara to leave town forever. The killer was caught. The case closed.

Ever since, Emily and Madison have tried to forget what happened that night—until an eerily similar murder brings it all back. It also brings FBI special agent Zander Wells to the Oregon logging town. As eager as he is to solve the brutal double slaying, he is just as intrigued with the mystery of Emily’s and her sisters’ past.

When more blood is shed, Zander suspects there’s a secret buried in this town no one wants unearthed. Is it something Emily and Madison don’t know? Or aren’t telling? And Tara? Maybe Emily can’t bear to find her. Because when Tara disappeared, she took a secret of her own with her.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

I picked this up, excited for, and expecting, a similar story feel to the Mercy Kilpatrick series by the same author as I have really enjoyed those. Many of the things I enjoyed about the MK series seem to be missing here which left me disappointed in this one.

One of the things that is a must for me when it comes to crime drama books is believability. This one feels like it drops the ball in that regards. Both with how the investigative aspects are handled and in some of the character presentations.

Zander’s character comes across in a weird way for me. At times, unprofessional. Other times as though he doesn’t know what he is doing as an investigator. Considering he isn’t cast as a newbie FBI agent, these aspects made it really hard for me to believe in his character.

I won’t go too far into the ending and wrap up, but I’ll just say that it was another example of the character not really fitting and making no sense. This book relies heavily on racism as a motivation, but the pieces really don’t mesh well together to get to that outcome with the “bad guy” in a realistic way.

It also felt like there were a lot of extra pieces and side storylines that just felt distracting and, in the end, really unnecessary. I’m certain they are in place for future books, but I felt like they were just too much with everything else that was going on in this story.

I won’t say that I didn’t like this, but it fell short of what I was expecting and hoping for when I picked it up. This is also sort of an off shoot of another series with some of the same characters and you get several references to events potentially from those books. Not so much you get lost, but it can be a little frustrating at times. If this book is any indication, I’m not all that tempted to see if those books are any better.

Book Review: First Blood, D.I. Kim Stone – Prequel

Author: Angela Marsons
Book Name: First Blood
Release Date: November 14, 2019
Series: D.I. Kim Stone
Order: Prequel (release order #12)
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Police/Crime
Overall SPA: 5 Stars
5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: In the darkness of a cold December morning, Detective Kim Stone steps through the doors of Halesowen Police Station. She’s about to meet her team for the first time. The victim of her next case is about to meet his killer…

When the body of a young man is found beheaded and staked to the ground in a secluded area of the Clent Hills, Kim and her new squad rush to the crime scene.

Searching the victim’s home, Kim discovers a little girl’s bedroom and a hidden laptop. Why is his sister relieved to hear he’s dead – and where is the rest of his family?

As Kim begins to unearth the dark secrets at the heart of the case, D.C. Stacey Wood finds a disturbing resemblance to the recent murder of Lester Jackson. But that’s not all Stacey finds …

She’s convinced there is a link between the victims and a women’s shelter run by Marianne Forbes, Lester’s niece. A child of the care system herself, Kim knows all too well what it means to be vulnerable. Could Marianne be the key to cracking this case?

With the killer about to strike again, Kim is in deep water with a rookie squad. Inexperienced Stacey is showing signs of brilliance but struggling to hold her nerve and, while D.S. Bryant is reliable and calm, D.S. Dawson is a liability. With his home life in pieces, his volatile behaviour is already fracturing her fragile new team.

Can Kim bring Dawson in line and pull her crew together in time to catch the killer before another life is taken? This time, one of her own could be in terrible danger…

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 5/5 Stars
Believability: 5/5 Stars
Series Continuity/Expectations: 5/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 5/5 Stars

I straight up loved this. There is honestly not a negative thing I can come up with to say about this, which might just be a first for me. It is also really surprising as I am not normally a big fan of prequels, for a whole host of reasons. None of those reasons applied in any way to this book, though.

I really loved getting to see how the team came together in the beginning, knowing where they end up and all that happens throughout this series. While there really isn’t anything new about the team in particular that you learn in this, it was great to see the origins of the dynamic between them.

The one thing that we do learn new (at least, I don’t remember ever seeing it mentioned before, though it is possible I missed it) was about Woody’s history. And holy cow! That was a really interesting piece to learn. It kind of shifts the perspective on all the puzzle pieces of this series. It makes me really want to see him get a whole lot more page time in the future.

As with any of the books in this series, if you are a police/crime drama fan, you really need to have this one on your TBR if you don’t already.

 

Book Review: A Madness of Sunshine – Nalini Singh

Author: Nalini Singh
Book Name: A Madness of Sunshine
Release Date: December 3, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Thriller/Suspense/Crime/Romance
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: On the rugged West Coast of New Zealand, Golden Cove is more than just a town where people live. The adults are more than neighbors; the children, more than schoolmates.
 
That is until one fateful summer—and several vanished bodies—shatters the trust holding Golden Cove together. All that’s left are whispers behind closed doors, broken friendships, and a silent agreement not to look back. But they can’t run from the past forever.

Eight years later, a beautiful young woman disappears without a trace, and the residents of Golden Cove wonder if their home shelters something far more dangerous than an unforgiving landscape.

It’s not long before the dark past collides with the haunting present and deadly secrets come to light.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

This is a very different book for Nalini Singh with the genre, but still very much on the same level of quality, detail, and great story telling that her readers have come to expect. Stepping into a different genre for an author can be risky, so I really wasn’t certain how much I’d like it. I really shouldn’t have been worried as Ms. Singh has always done a great job at building her stories, no matter the genre. While this does have romantic elements to it, they are light in comparison to the rest of the story.

The only real dings this takes from me are in the couple of places (one in particular) where a little piece was dropped like a hint, but never picked up or addressed later in the story and in a couple of other very minor hits on believability. Otherwise, this was a great story that kept open so many different options for the outcome all the way through to the end, it really wraps up in unexpected ways. It isn’t often that an author can find that balance of keeping readers realistically guessing and giving it away with obvious clues. This one hit that perfect balance for me.

 

 

Book Review: Another Dead Intern – Joel Spriggs

Author: Joel Spriggs
Book Name: Another Dead Intern
Release Date: October 15, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Fantasy/Urban/Suspense
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: When Morgan Burns applied for an internship with Hemlock Connal P.I, he thought he’d signed up for coffee runs and printing jobs, not preternatural investigation.

As he starts his new job, Morgan learns about the unseen and blended landscape of magic. Soon he finds himself meeting grungy pixies, mixing with fairy royals, and the annoyingly bad musical talents of a half demon. Morgan has to also face the fact that Hemlock’s last three interns met painful ends.

Morgan must quickly adapt to his broadening world to keep the two things he needs most: a paycheck and his life. Hemlock has to keep her wits about her and watch that she doesn’t end up with yet another dead intern.

When a friend comes to her about random Bostonians start losing their memories, Hemlock tries to find a paying customer. The only one willing to entertain her unnatural explanations is the head of the Irish mob, Bobbi Cotter. Cotter wants to find out why one of her top hitmen has lost his memory, and why one of his planned executions was just carried out by a fifteen year old cheerleader.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3/5 Stars
Peeve Factor: 2.5/5 Stars
World Building: 3/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars

The foundation and plot of this story are both really good. I would have given this a higher rating, but it is a little rough around the edges and I kept running into issues that pulled me out of the story.

One of the bigger ones I was never able to quite pinpoint and say “this is an editing issue” or “this is a stylistic thing” because I just could not tell for sure. There are a lot of places where the phrasing of a sentence felt off. Either a word was missing, an additional word that didn’t feel like it belonged was included, or the word choice was off a bit (I saw all three at different points, multiple times throughout the book). Whether this is a stylistic thing or just something that got overlooked during editing, it kept forcing me to stop and reread sections which broke up the flow of the story.

I’ve never been a huge fan of character perspectives that flip at random without distinct cues letting the reader know there is a change. This is very much a personal preference, but it added to the difficulty I had staying in the flow of the story. The characters all felt as though they had similar personalities and voices with very little to distinguish one from another. When you have that perspective swap mixed in, even more effort needs to be made to stay immersed in the story.

Another issue that isn’t a huge deal to the overall story, but is a huge peeve of mine was the swapping of character names. I only noticed this in one small section, but I again was forced to stop and reread, even go back and refresh my memory on the stated names to make sure I wasn’t confused.

The world, while interesting at first glance, lacked a certain distinction. I was never certain how the world worked exactly, especially with regards to how common the knowledge and acceptance of magic and magical beings were to the non-magical sections of society. There were some conflicting scenes on this, so I was never sure if everyone knew or if the magical side was supposed to be hidden. The presentation of the fae breaks from most traditional presentations I’ve seen, though still a little on the vague side in detail. This could be a very good thing or not depending on the type of reader.

The ending was a little abrupt and it felt like some of the side/supporting pieces to the story didn’t get completely fleshed out or resolved. I prefer to have more of those types of things cleanly tied up.

Overall, this fell onto the okay side of good for me.

*I received a copy of this book from the author. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

 

 

Book Review: The Other Daughter – Shalini Boland

Author: Shalini Boland
Book Name: The Other Daughter
Release Date: November 5, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Nine years ago her daughter was taken. And now she’s back.

Two-and-a-half-year-old Holly is playing happily in a pink plastic playhouse, while her mother Rachel sips coffee and chats with a friend nearby. It should be an ordinary day for all of them. But, in the blink of an eye, it turns into every family’s worst nightmare.

Holly is taken by a stranger and never found.

Nine years later, Rachel is living a quiet life in Dorset. She’s tried to keep things together since the traumatic day when she lost her eldest daughter. She has a new family, a loving partner and her secrets are locked away in her painful past.

Until one afternoon when Rachel meets a new school parent Kate and her teenage daughter Bella. Rachel’s world is instantly turned upside down – she’s seen Bella before. She’d recognise that face anywhere – it’s her missing child.

And she will stop at nothing to get her back…

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

Even with my category breakdowns, I’m having a hard time rating this. Please note that the little bit I mention may be considered a mild spoiler, though I’m trying to be as vague as possible.

I struggled through the bulk of this book with the main character’s actions and choices in the circumstances as they were presented. So much of it just never rang true or as believable or realistic to me. If I had to rate this as it stood before the plot wraps up at the end of the book, this would have been incredibly low because of those issues.

The ending turned it all around. Things finally begin to work as you get to understand why those were issues, but I didn’t get genuinely invested until that point. It was difficult to keep wanting to read that far without just giving up on the story as being on the ridiculous side. I could almost give category ratings to the beginning of the book and the end of the book because of how I felt about the different parts.

I am glad I stuck with it because, in the end the story was interesting. It was frustrating to get there, but it was good.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

 

 

On My TBR – November 2019 Edition

I didn’t get to all my books on my list last month. I made the mistake of loading up too much on the really heavy reads and needed more of a break in between. I read more than what was on the list, though I didn’t review them all. That was part of the break I needed. I’m trying to leave a bit more padding for that this month.


NetGalley ARCs:
The Other Daughter
The Other Daughter

The Other Daughter
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Release Date: November 5
(Currently Reading)

 

 


Library:
Lost You
Lost You

Lost You
Genre: Mystery/Psychological Thriller

 

 

 

The Shape of Night
The Shape of Night

The Shape of Night
Genre: Mystery/Suspense

 

 

 

Don't You Forget About Me
Don’t You Forget About Me

Don’t You Forget About Me
Genre: Contemporary/Romance

 

 

 

 


Indie Book Reviews:
Another Dead Intern
Another Dead Intern

Another Dead Intern
Genre: Paranormal/Fantasy

 

 

 

Crossing the Line
Crossing the Line

Crossing the Line
Genre: Romance
Release Date: November 4th

 

 

 

 


KU/Open Reads (No Due Date)
Blood Echo
Blood Echo

Blood Echo (Burning Girl Book #2)
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/SciFi

 

 

Book Review: The Empty Nest – Sue Watson

Author: Sue Watson
Book Name: The Empty Nest
Release Date: November 1, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Psychological Thriller/Suspense/Mystery
Overall SPA: 2 Stars
2 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Kat remembers the days when her only daughter Amy wouldn’t leave her side. Amy was the baby who cried when you walked out of the room, the toddler who was too shy to speak to strangers, the small child who clung to Kat’s legs in the school playground.

But now Amy is grown up, and Amy is gone – to university in a town several hours away. Kat’s house – which once felt too full, too noisy, too busy – is deathly quiet, and Kat awaits the daily phone call to tell her that her beloved daughter is thriving and happy.

Until the day Amy doesn’t call, sending Kat into a panic. Her husband and friends say she’s being paranoid – surely Amy is just out, having fun? But Kat feels sure something is very wrong – she knows her daughter, and she would never just disappear.

As the hours turn into days, her fears are confirmed: Amy is missing. But there are secrets about her daughter that Kat doesn’t know about yet. And the truth about Amy’s whereabouts may be closer to home than Kat could ever imagine…

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 2.5/5 Stars
Believability: 2/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 2/5 Stars

I really wasn’t a fan of this one. You spend the bulk of the book inside Kat’s head with very little actually going on. The emotions she expresses go from one extreme to another, from one sentence to the next, enough to give the reader whiplash. This is basically a story about extremely unhealthy relationships, relationships between mother and daughter, between friends, and even between husband and wife.

I couldn’t find anything in any of the characters that made me feel much sympathy towards what they were going though because they all had some pretty horrible traits. I did feel something towards Amy, but that kind of gets killed when you get a good glimpse into her personality as well.

The specifics of the plot just felt really overblown and extreme from all aspects. The struggle with believability along with the lack of connection to  the characters made this not a good book for me.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

 

 

Book Review: How To Shield An Assassin, Unholy Trifecta- Book #1

Author: AJ Sherwood
Book Name: How To Shield An Assassin
Release Date: October 13, 2019
Series: Unholy Trifecta
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/LGBTQIA+/Suspense
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: It’s not stealing if you’re stealing it back….

Ari had a game plan for life. Shoot people. Get money. Hang out with fellow criminal friends. He saw absolutely no reason to change that plan until one dark night in Memphis, when a little girl reached out to him with pocket change and a desperate plea for him to help her.

Adopting an abused little girl off the streets was, needless to say, not part of the plan. Ari had no idea what he was doing with an eight year old. He especially didn’t know how to juggle taking contracts and raising a little girl.

Things get more complicated when the mercenary, Carter Harrison, approaches him with a job. He needs Ari’s expertise to get into the very high-security museum, Knowles, and steal back Monet’s Water Lily Pond. The job isn’t an easy one. He’d need more than the two of them to make it happen. It’s further complicated because Ari’s not sure what to do with his new daughter while working this job.

And for that matter, how’s he supposed to handle the sexy mercenary?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

I am almost always a sucker for a book about tough guys looking out for little kids so this book was an obvious pick up for me. It ended up being cute and adorable and funny. It did push a few of my believability and “too perfect” buttons on a couple of the scenarios, but I enjoyed the rest too much for that to make much of an impact on my overall opinion of the story.

 

Book Review: Traces Of Her – Amanda Brittany

Author: Amanda Brittany
Book Name: Traces of Her
Release Date: October 25, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: An unsolved murder.

Rose isn’t surprised anymore when her free-spirited step-sister, Willow, decides to disappear off somewhere without notice. But something feels different this time. When Willow sends her a mysterious package containing photographs of suspects in a cold case she is obsessed with solving, Rose realises she needs to find her sister before things get out of hand.

A missing girl.

With no sign of Willow to be found, Rose takes up the search for answers about the deaths that shook a small Cornish village eighteen years before. But what is the connection between Willow and the two sisters marked by tragedy?

Time is running out.

Someone knows where Willow is and what happened all those years ago. And they will do anything to stop the truth from coming out.

Can Rose find Willow and the answers she needs, before it’s too late?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

If I could separate the events in this book between the current time’s events and the events that happened in the past and put them into two different books, I would have loved the book that focused on the past and probably would have DNF’d the book that focused on the present.

All of the events that focused on the past and Ava’s character, were great. That whole storyline was interesting and I was really invested in seeing how it all played out. Unfortunately there wasn’t nearly enough events from the past to balance out the fact that I had to do an awful lot of ignoring the events from the present to keep momentum going.

I struggled with how much I disliked Rose and her daughter, Becky, because they both fall solidly into that Too Stupid To Live category. Besides that fact, there is this really weird back and forth as to which one of the characters is the more mature one of the two. Considering Becky is in her mid-teens, that isn’t a good thing.

There were so many times where I got frustrated by how much Rose let Becky get away with, at her age, especially under the circumstances they were in. Becky even being there in the first place made absolutely zero sense from a parental standpoint and bothered me the entire way through the story. I cannot think of a single, decent parent that would think it was okay to drag their mid-teen daughter 5 hours from home to help look for a potential killer. Everything about that whole part of the plot kept yanking me out of the story because it seemed so ridiculous.

When you finally get to weave the past events together with the present events, things get a little crazy and over the top with how it all plays out. On the one hand, I didn’t entirely see it coming, though there were hints. On the other, it breaks a lot of believability barriers. When you combine that with how little I enjoyed the present events because of the characters, this falls down into the okay range for me.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

 

 

Book Review: Stolen Things – R.H. Herron

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

 

 

Blurb: “Mama? Help me.”

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

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

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

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Book Review: The Missing Years – Lexie Elliot

Author: Lexie Elliot
Book Name: The Missing Years
Release Date: April 23, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: An eerie, old Scottish manor in the middle of nowhere that’s now hers.

Ailsa Calder has inherited half of a house. The other half belongs to a man who disappeared without a trace twenty-seven years ago—her father.

Leaving London behind to settle the inheritance from her mother’s estate, Ailsa returns to her childhood home, nestled amongst the craggy peaks of the Scottish Highlands, joined by the half-sister who’s almost a stranger to her.

Ailsa can’t escape the claustrophobic feeling that the house itself is watching her—as if her past hungers to consume her. She also can’t ignore how the neighbourhood animals refuse to set one foot within the gates of the garden.

When the first nighttime intruder shows up, Ailsa fears that the manor’s careless rugged beauty could cost her everything.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

This had a really nice balance between being suspenseful and creepy without being outright terrifying, making this a great choice for an October read.

It took me a little bit before I could get into this, but once I did, I sort of just sunk into it. I liked the fact that you aren’t certain which characters are bad guys, or if you even really have one, because no one is really overtly awful or in your face. They all seem to be mostly decent people, even if they each have interesting quirks.

I liked the fact that this rides a paranormal edge even though it really isn’t a paranormal book. The way that thread was woven through this made it fun to at least wonder about how far it would go in that direction.

The little bits about Ailsa’s father in between chapters were a bit confusing for a while, but they ended up being another interesting piece of the story.

The specifics of the ending left me with a “Dang! That is messed up!” kind of reaction, but it was done really well. Overall, I really enjoyed this.

 

On My TBR – October 2019 Edition

The end of September got interesting for me. Between getting into the groove of the new schedule with BG’s dance, managing my Amazon ad, and getting an influx of ARCs, several indie requests and all the books I picked up that I wanted to read, I’ve kind of felt a little swamped. For the first time ever, I’ve had to create a list of all the books I have obligations for and the dates so I don’t miss out on any. Feels kind of weird when you are mood reader.

Anyway, my TBR this month will reflect that list in its current state.


Anxiously Awaited October Releases:
Heartsong
Heartsong

Heartsong (Green Creek Book #3)
Genre: Fantasy, Urban
Release Date: October 22

Shattered Bonds
Shattered Bonds

Shattered Bonds (Jane Yellowrock Book #13)
Genre: Fantasy, Urban
Release Date: October 29

 

 


NetGalley ARCs:
Traces of Her
Traces of Her

Traces of Her
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Release Date: October 25
*The only book I didn’t get to in September, in part because of the late pub date.

 

The Empy Nest
The Empy Nest

The Empty Nest
Genre: Mystery/Psychological Thriller
Release Date: November 1

 

 

The Other Daughter
The Other Daughter

The Other Daughter
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Release Date: November 5

 

 


Library:
Lost You
Lost You

Lost You
Genre: Mystery/Psychological Thriller

 

 

 

Things You Save in a Fire
Things You Save in a Fire

Things You Save In A Fire
Genre: Romance

 

 

 

The Missing Years
The Missing Years

The Missing Years
Genre: Mystery/Suspense

 

 

 

Archangel's War
Archangel’s War

Archangel’s War (Guild Hunter Book #12)
Genre: Fantasy, Urban

 

 

 

Stolen Things
Stolen Things

Stolen Things
Genre: Mystery/Suspense

 


KU/Open Reads (No Due Date)
Blood Echo
Blood Echo

Blood Echo (Burning Girl Book #2)
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/SciFi

 

 

Book Review: One Night Gone – Tara Laskowski

Author: Tara Laskowski
Book Name: One Night Gone
Release Date: October 1, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Supsense
Overall SPA: 2.5 Stars
2.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: It was the perfect place to disappear…

One sultry summer, Maureen Haddaway arrives in the wealthy town of Opal Beach to start her life anew—to achieve her destiny. There, she finds herself lured by the promise of friendship, love, starry skies, and wild parties. But Maureen’s new life just might be too good to be true, and before the summer is up, she vanishes.

Decades later, when Allison Simpson is offered the opportunity to house-sit in Opal Beach during the off-season, it seems like the perfect chance to begin fresh after a messy divorce. But when she becomes drawn into the mysterious disappearance of a girl thirty years before, Allison realizes the gorgeous homes of Opal Beach hide dark secrets. And the truth of that long-ago summer is not even the most shocking part of all…

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 2.5/5 Stars
Blurb: 2.5/5 Stars
Peeve Factor: 2/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 2.5/5 Stars

While this was an ARC for me, I was kind of floored by the extreme problems I ran into with the formatting in my Kindle copy. It was so bad at times, I very nearly could not read it and came close to not finishing it because of this issue. Being continually ripped away from the story by the distraction of that problematic formatting made it difficult for me to really get into the story and it has colored, to some degree, my perception of the book because of that inability.

Looking past that, I didn’t feel like this was a good fit for me.

The blurb for this, while technically representative, I felt was a bit misleading as it makes you think you are in for a really suspense filled story. Instead you get a lot of daily minutiae from the perspectives of the two main characters that doesn’t do anything to add to the suspense of the story. This made parts of this feel as if they were dragging.

I didn’t feel as though Maureen’s character came across as sympathetic. If anything, she was opportunistic and cold, making it hard to care about her story. While Allison’s character comes across as more sympathetic, she continually made frustratingly obvious bad choices with regards to believing what she was told. For a character coming off a betrayal, you’d think she wouldn’t have been quite so immediately or blindly trusting with people she didn’t know.

The piece that dropped my opinion of this the most was how this ended. You do get an interesting twist, but it was twisted and then revealed in a way that annoys me when it comes to the mystery genre (the Scooby Doo reveal). This is absolutely a personal taste thing, so I can see how others would really enjoy how this wraps up.

Overall, the writing was good, but I struggled with the relatability of the characters and the overly dramatic ending that happens all at once after a slow development of the story. I just don’t think this was a good story fit for me.

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

 

Book Review: The End of Echoes, Dawn Hosmer

Author: Dawn Hosmer
Book Name: The End of Echoes
Release Date: August 16, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Suspense/Family Drama
Overall SPA: 3.5
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Two families, forever linked by tragedy.

Ruby Dunkin is in an abusive marriage. Her best efforts aren’t enough to shield her two children from an abusive father whose cruelty knows no bounds. Their volatile situation ends in tragedy when Ruby’s eldest son, Billy is torn away from everything he loves. Consumed by hatred and self-loathing Billy becomes the thing he hates the most—his father.

Chelsea Wyatt, a senior in high school, goes missing after work one night, never to return. Her parents are devastated, only knowing this kind of tragedy from the news. Crimes like this are unheard of in their quiet, midwestern town. Consumed by the tragic fate of their friend, family member and neighbor, their lives and futures are forever altered.

For over eighteen years, no one knows the connection between Ruby Dunkin and Chelsea Wyatt. A journey through time reveals the common thread stitching their heartbreak together. Yesterday echoes throughout each character’s life as they decide how, and if, they will break the chains of the past.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

I am so torn on rating this one! It was really well written and it is absolutely going to grab your emotions and drag them along for the ride. While this packs an emotional wallop, it does so heavily and not always in a way I enjoyed.

This is the kind of story that gives you a glimpse into this small, ugly slice of life in the form of a massively traumatic event and how that kind of trauma can spider out, changing all the people it touches. Everyone deals with and reacts to traumatic events in different ways, but it felt like all of the characters in the book reacted in some of the most negative ways possible. I struggled with the fact that not a single character was presented as dealing with this trauma in more positive and healthy ways. It is an unrealistic expectation to believe they all would have handled it well, but it is also unrealistic to believe they all went in the extreme other direction but that is how they felt to me.

That lack makes this an unrelentingly heavy read. There really isn’t much of anything with any kind of uplifting feel to it. Yes, it brought me to tears a time or two, but it did so because of how tragic the whole thing is. I struggled with character connections because of it. The one character I expected to have the utmost sympathy for, the mother, I had the absolute least. It bothered me how much I disliked her. I honestly almost felt more towards the bad guy and I really didn’t like that either.

I wasn’t a fan of how dark and heavy this was, because I really prefer to have a brighter edge to what I read, something that doesn’t make me feel like there isn’t much hope for any kind of good in humanity. If you don’t have that kind of a preference and just want an intense read, then I would absolutely recommend picking this up as it is a really engaging story.

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

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

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

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

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