Book Review: The Secrets of Lost Stones – Melissa Payne

Author: Melissa Payne
Book Name: The Secrets of Lost Stones
Release Date: September 1, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Suspense/Paranormal
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Thirty-two-year-old Jess Abbot has lost everything: her job, her apartment, and—most heart-wrenching—her eight-year-old son, Chance, to a tragic accident. Haunted by memories and grief, Jess packs what’s left and heads for the small mountain town of Pine Lake, where she takes a position as caregiver to an eccentric old woman.

A rumored clairvoyant, Lucy is strange but welcoming and immediately intuits Jess as a “loose end” in need of closure. But Jess isn’t the only guest in Lucy’s large Victorian home. There’s also Star, a teenage runaway with a secret too painful to share. And the little boy with heart-shaped stones, who comes with a hope for reconciliation—and a warning.

Soon Jess learns that she’s not the only lost soul running from the ghosts of the past. She and Star have been brought together for a reason: to be saved by the very thing that destroyed them.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

This is a book with a lot of real life issues and emotions, but it is also threaded through with this sense of paranormal. I really enjoyed that balance between the two. At one point, I was a little worried that this was going to have a much darker ending than I prefer, but I was pleasantly surprised it didn’t go that direction.

I was surprised that I liked the majority of the characters in this book, because that is kind of rare for me. They were all really well written and well balanced with the layers they were supposed to have. I loved Lucy’s character and I would have loved to have gotten more of her history because she is so interesting.

This is just a really good, solid story all the way through. Because of the ghostly paranormal vibe, this would be a great book for a fall/Halloween read without being over the top scary.

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

 

Book Review: Delayed Diagnosis, Rhea Lynch, M.D. – Book #1

Author: Gwen Hunter
Book Name: Delayed Diagnosis
Release Date: March 13, 2012 (first published 2001)
Series: Rhea Lynch, M.D.
Order: #1
Genre: Medical/Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Dr.Rhea Lynch left a suffocating life in Charleston to practice medicine in the ER of a small South Carolina hospital. Now Dawkins County is her home, a place that holds the only real family she’s ever known.
But when she returns from vacation, Rhea is shocked to discover her best friend, Marisa, near death and unable to communicate. The official diagnosis: a paralyzing stroke. Despite the family’s attempts to keep her away, Rhea is determined to make her own diagnosis. In an illicit examination, a hideous truth is revealed.

Then a man is brought into her ER with similar symptoms. And then another. Each one of her patients has been willfully, brutally, silenced in a most inhuman way.

Desperate to find answers, Rhea must determine who she can trust, as a powerful conspiracy threatens the people she loves–and perhaps the entire community.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

I am coming to this series really late in the game because I just found out that Gwen Hunter is a pen name for Faith Hunter (how did I not know this?!) and I had to pick this up. For the most part, I really wasn’t disappointed. Many of the stylistic parts of a Faith Hunter novel are present in this one as well.

This is one of those genres in fiction that can become dated very quickly because of how fast things change in the medical industry. Things that we take for granted now or consider common place may be different in the next year, sometimes even faster. Picking up a book based on medical practices that was published more than 10 years ago can be a bit jolting. I actually enjoyed it being able to see some of those changes and how far we’ve come. Things that were obvious to me because this is so heavily detailed.

The only bits that I’m going to say that I’m disappointed in here are the pieces that pushed the believability barriers a little. There weren’t a lot, but they were there. Otherwise, I really enjoyed this, dated as it is and fully intend on picking up other books in this series and under the Gwen Hunter pen name.

 

Book Review: The Forgotten Child, D.E. White

Author: D.E. White
Book Name: The Forgotten Child
Release Date: September 27, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 2.5 Stars
2.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Lights blinded her in an eerie white flash. She yanked the wheel as she felt the impact from the car behind her. There was a sharp pain, and then a bang in front of her, and after that nothing but darkness.

Holly Kendal is trying to put her painful past and broken marriage behind her and focus on her beloved son, Milo. But while driving him home on a dark February night, Holly loses control on the rain-slicked tarmac, and her car spirals off the road.

When Holly regains consciousness, everything is silent and in the dark, she can’t see Milo. Desperately, she claws her way out of the car and forces the back door open.

To her relief, Milo is where she left him, injured but breathing – but then she sees something that makes her heart stop.

Milo isn’t the only child in the car. Next to him is another little boy, unharmed but unconscious.

And Holly has absolutely no idea who he is.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3/5 Stars
Believability: 3/5 Stars
Blurb: 2/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 2/5 Stars

When I read the blurb for this book, I was really intrigued and excited to read it. I loved this really unique situation that left me questioning how it could play out. There were so many directions this could go.

The way this started, made me think that it was going to be this really intense read, but it didn’t take long at all before I realized this book’s focus wasn’t about what you get in the blurb at all and I quickly became disappointed. The piece of the story that makes the blurb so intense and intriguing is only a very small thread through a very different story. This isn’t to say that the book itself wasn’t well written or interesting, because it was. It just wasn’t what I was expecting at all and ended up not being to my tastes.

There is a heavy thread through this that deals with criminal activities, organizations and the families that make those up. Those aspects were treated in such a blasé way, I wasn’t a fan. When combined with the difference in my expectations of what this was about, it made it difficult for me to enjoy the story.

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

 

On My TBR – September 2019 Edition

When I did the first one of these a few months ago, I thought for sure I wouldn’t end up being a fan and dropping it. Mostly because I am very much a mood reader and I didn’t think I’d ever really get through all the books on a TBR list. Oh, I’d read that number of books and then some, but not necessarily those specific books.

Now that I’m getting ARCs and requests from indie authors, this has actually been kind of helpful in keeping me focused a bit to ensure I meet my obligations. That and it has been kind of fun. So, I’m sticking with it.

There was only one book on last month’s TBR that I didn’t end up reading beyond the first couple of pages (really was not a fan of the writing and dropped it), otherwise, I had no problem getting to them all. I also only really put the books on this list that I currently have available to read or I’m expecting to release and pick up in that month, so it isn’t an excessively long list.

 

Anna
Anna

Anna
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Family Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evvie Drake Starts Over
Evvie Drake Starts Over

Evvie Drake Starts Over
Genre: Romance

 

 

 

 

 

 

September’s Anxiously Awaiting Release:

Archangel's War
Archangel’s War

Archangel’s War – Guild Hunter Book #12
Genre: Romance, Urban, Fantasy
Release Date: September 24, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

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

Brave the Tempest
Brave the Tempest

Brave the Tempest – Cassandra Palmer Book #9
Genre: Urban, Fantasy

 

 

 

 

 

 

NetGalley ARCs:

Good Girls
Good Girls

Good Girls
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Family Life
Release Date: October 8, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traces of Her
Traces of Her

Traces of Her
Genre: Mystery, Suspense
Release Date: October 25, 2019
*Putting this on the list because I have it approved, but may wait until closer to the release date to actually read.

Book Review: Abandoned, Max Revere – Book #5

Author: Allison Brennan
Book Name: Abandoned
Release Date: August 14, 2018
Series: Max Revere
Order: #5
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Investigative reporter Max Revere has cracked many cases, but the one investigation she’s never attempted is the mystery from her own past. Her mother abandoned her when she was nine, sending her periodic postcards, but never returning to reclaim her daughter. Seven years after the postcards stop coming, Martha Revere is declared legally dead, with no sign of what may have happened to her. Until now.

With a single clue―that her mother’s car disappeared sixteen years ago in a small town on the Chesapeake Bay―Max drops everything to finally seek the truth. As Max investigates, and her mother’s story unfolds, she realizes that Martha teamed up with a con man. They traveled the world living off Martha’s trust and money they conned from others.

Though no one claims to know anything about Martha or her disappearance, Max suspects more than one person is lying. When she learns the FBI has an active investigation into the con man, Max knows she’s on the right path. But as Max digs into the dark secrets of this idyllic community, the only thing she might find is the same violent end as her mother.

New York Times bestselling author Allison Brennan weaves the intimate, unputdownable story of an investigator confronting the most important–and most dangerous–mystery of her career.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

This one was better than the last because you get back to Max being more of the focus of the story. This one even more so than most because you get to delve into the history of her mother and all that was going on behind her leaving Max behind.

There were bits of this that tended to push hard on the believability barriers with some pretty heavy coincidences and Max’s newest love interest being a little close to insta-love, but these only dinged my rating a little bit. I was still impressed with the fact that enough is left open along the way that you don’t know for certain what happened with Max’s mother until deep into the story.

It is going to be interesting to see how, or if, the series continues from here after the events in this book because so much will need to change for Max. Considering this was published a year ago and I don’t see the next book yet, I don’t know for sure if there will be another one or if this closed out the series. The way it ended, it could go either way and I’d, mostly, be okay with it since there really aren’t any lose threads left hanging. I would be disappointed as I’ve really enjoyed Max and I am not ready to be done with her yet.

 

Book Review: Shattered, Max Revere- Book #4

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review: Poisonous, Max Revere- Book #3

Author: Allison Brennan
Book Name: Poisonous
Release Date: April 12, 2016
Series: Max Revere
Order: #3
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Teen-aged Internet bully Ivy Lake fell off a cliff and few people cared … except her mentally-challenged eighteen-year-old step-brother, Tommy. He loved her in spite of her cruelty. He’s distraught and doesn’t understand why his blended family is falling apart. After a year, the police still have no answers: Ivy could have jumped, could have been pushed, or it could have been an accident. With too many suspects and not enough evidence, the investigation has grown cold.

Tommy thinks that if someone can figure out what happened to his step-sister, everything will go back to normal, so he writes to investigative reporter Maxine Revere. This isn’t the type of case Max normally takes on, but the heartbreak and simple honesty in Tommy’s letter pulls her in. She travels to Corte Madera, California, with her assistant David Kane and is at first pleased that the police are cooperative. But the more Max learns about Tommy and his dysfunctional family, the more she thinks she’s taken on an impossible task: this may be the one case she can’t solve.

If Ivy was murdered, it was exceptionally well-planned and that kind of killer could be hiding in plain sight … planning the next act of violence. Max believes the truth is always better than lies, that the truth is the only thing that matters to gain justice for victims and their families. But for the first time, she wonders if this time, the truth will kill.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

It has been a really long time since I read the first two books in this series and I’m really kind of kicking myself now that it has taken me so long to get back to it as I really enjoyed this book.

I think one of the things that struck me with this is that it managed to hit a lot of personal points for me, which is both good and bad as that can really color how I feel about a book or the characters. The issues with characters that I struggled with or disliked the most were the ones that poked at some of my personal personality trait peeves, but that is actually something that makes everything in the story feel so real.

I still like the slightly different take these stories have on the traditional crime drama. You definitely get some of the elements you would from a crime drama, but from a less rigid and structured standpoint, allowing the story to flow in a different way than if it were a straight up police procedural.

Normally, I like a book that I can figure out the mystery before it actually gets revealed. Every once in a while, it is nice to be surprised in a way that still makes the story work and make sense. I really didn’t expect this to end up the way it did, which was a really nice touch. I have a feeling this might just kick off a reading binge of the rest of the books in this series.

 

 

Book Review: Thin Air, Jessica Shaw- Book #1

Author: Lisa Gray
Book Name: Thin Air
Release Date: June 1, 2019
Series: Jessica Shaw
Order: #1
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Crime
Overall SPA: 2.5 Stars
2.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: She investigates missing persons—now she is one.

Private investigator Jessica Shaw is used to getting anonymous tips. But after receiving a photo of a three-year-old kidnapped from Los Angeles twenty-five years ago, Jessica is stunned to recognize the little girl as herself.

Eager for answers, Jessica heads to LA’s dark underbelly. When she learns that her biological mother was killed the night she was abducted, Jessica’s determined to solve a case the police have forgotten. Meanwhile, veteran LAPD detective Jason Pryce is in the midst of a gruesome investigation into a murdered college student moonlighting as a prostitute. A chance encounter leads to them crossing paths, but Jessica soon realizes that Pryce is hiding something about her father’s checkered history and her mother’s death.

To solve her mother’s murder and her own disappearance, Jessica must dig into the past and find the secrets buried there. But the air gets thinner as she crawls closer to the truth, and it’s getting harder and harder to breathe.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

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

I picked this up because the premise of this sounded really amazing. The idea that you are in fact the adult version of a child that had been missing for years and you never had a single clue? Love this concept!

I did like the resulting story and this kept things moving and intense all the way through. But… there were a couple of things that kind of stuck out like a sore thumb and yanked me out of the story thinking “How can anyone be alive in the United States today and not know that isn’t accurate?” In the grand scheme of things, these weren’t major issues with the plot or progression of the story and pointing them out seems a bit nit picky, but they just really felt wrong and out of place.

One is that there are probably very, very few schools across the country that don’t have some form of secure entrance where anyone off the street could walk in, walk through hallways containing lockers before they were ever confronted with a school official. Most have the kind of security where you are buzzed directly into the office itself and can’t access the rest of the building without someone confirming you are allowed beyond that point. I cannot imagine that any schools in the L.A. area would be so lax. Again, this was minor, but it yanked me out of the story because it was so out of place.

One of the others was police kicking in the door to a suspect’s residence without any provocation. Things like arrest and search warrants are requirements for police unless there is some mitigating circumstance, like at least the hint of a belief that someone is in danger or something along those lines. You aren’t even given that flimsy excuse for the entrance. This one was a little bigger for me because it goes to the believability of the story and the investigation of the crime aspects. There were a couple of other smaller issues that aren’t worth pointing out, but they added up.

I think I got a better feel for who nearly every single character in this book was, even the much smaller side characters, than I ever got for Jessica. If asked, I don’t think I could really give you any kind of aspect to her personality other than the fact that she may not be so bright. I could tell you some facts about her physically and what she does, but not who she is or what is important to her or really much of anything about her past outside of the history of what was going on around her before she disappeared. Considering this is the first book in a series, it is problematic that this is missing because I don’t know that she is interesting enough for me to want to read more about her.

I did enjoy most of the basics and the bones of this story, but it was missing a lot of the more important nuances that would have pushed it into the really good range for me.

 

 

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.