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MommaSaysToRead

Momma Says to Read

Avid reader/reviewer and editor. I don't pull punches when I review, love it or hate it, you get what I think.

The Promise

The Promise - Teresa O'Driscoll

The Promise has a good hook, but doesn't quite hold on like I hoped. In fact, it took me a while to finish this one with it's slow pace and many jumps between characters and time. We finally get the full reveal on what brought about this dark promise at about 65% into the book, and from there the story does pick up some. In the end, most of these characters have a secret of one kind or another, the darkest of which being what started it all. At the end of the day, this one had potential, and it does live up to some of that, but the first half of the book moves too slow for my tastes, and it just didn't hold my interest enough for me to connect with these characters.

The Stranger Inside

The Stranger Inside  - Laura Benedict

The Stranger Inside has an interesting premise and starts out well enough with Kimber returning home to find the locks changed and a stranger living in her house. From there, it goes downhill at a rapid pace. Now, going into this one, I expected it to require at least some degree of suspension of disbelief, but this goes way beyond that. As far as plot twists, this one has them in spades, and there's no shortage of suspects either. The problem is that there is so much crammed into the conclusion that it just becomes convoluted. I think I would've liked the ending better had it just stuck with the person in the house and his reason for being there rather than going over the top the way it did. All that aside, my biggest problem with this story was Kimber. She has to be one of the most unlikable protagonists that I've ever come across. I'm all for flawed characters and unreliable narrators, but this woman has absolutely no redeemable qualities. There wasn't a single thing about her to inspire even an ounce of empathy. In fact, I spent a good portion of this one feeling like karma was finally going to get its ounce of flesh from this character. Instead, it goes an entirely different direction. In the end, I can't say that I liked anything about this one after the first couple of chapters. I'm sure many will enjoy this story, but I definitely am not one of them. 

 

The Silent Patient

The Silent Patient - Alex Michaelides

I read a ton of psychological thrillers, and most fall short of the mark for me. Granted, the continued exposure does mean that it is increasingly harder and harder to "get" me with that required big twist. Then, along comes this debut from Alex Michaelides. 

The story is a slow build, and in the beginning, it feels almost like two separate stories. Most of it is told from Theo's point of view, but we also get glimpses into Alicia's life through her journal entries, so there's Theo's personal life, Alicia's inner turmoil before the murder, and their interactions together. I'll admit that I was a bit confused at first about where this tale was headed, and it does take a while to get there. Despite that, there's just something thoroughly compelling about this story. Whatever that special something is that pulls a reader into the story and doesn't let go - this one has it in spades.

Then we get to the twist and I was gobsmacked. It came out of nowhere - but it really didn't, not when I looked back at everything I'd absorbed to that point. So, I was thrown for a loop, yet it all connects and makes sense. Everything, from the how and why of the murder to that jaw-dropping reveal, it all just works.

To sum it up, The Silent Patient is dark, twisted, and filled with not so likable characters that still managed to draw me in completely. Slow build or not, I kept turning those pages and finished it in one day - Well, one sleepless night because one chapter turned into two, and so on. And this debut has put this author firmly on my radar. 

One Tough Cowboy

One Tough Cowboy - Lora Leigh

One Tough Cowboy has the potential to be a romantic suspense that is both gritty and gripping. Add in a sexy, alpha male cowboy and this one should sizzle. Sadly, it doesn't. The story starts off well-enough with a handful of suspicious deaths, an old flame rekindled, and corruption in town government, but quickly snowballs into something else. The mystery is still there, but it's overrun by one long sex scene after another once Hunter and Samantha get together. I can understand a strong attraction, but considering the personal stake they each have in this case and that they're both law enforcement, I would've expected them to be able to focus on that at least some of the time. Instead, they act like teenagers who can't control their hormones. The steamy fun certainly has its place, and the authors certainly know their stuff in writing detailed, scorching hot scenes, but it just got to be too much. If only that talent for details had been applied to the actual story, this could've been a terrific read. We do get some moments with terrific banter, and I loved one particular part with Hunter solving a set of riddles, but there are just too many inconsistencies in the story. One such inconsistency lies in the setting. It is supposed to be a small town in California, but the vernacular and several descriptions just don't fit. So much so that I turned back through the book to make sure I remembered the setting correctly. It should also be noted that there is a particularly disturbing scene toward the end that could have and should have been handled much better. The list goes on, but suffice it to say that the cons far outweigh the pros here, at least for me. 

The Perfect Liar

The Perfect Liar - Thomas Christopher Greene

Let me start by saying that I hated the ending of this book - absolutely hated it. So, why the four stars? Well, that lies in the storytelling. On the surface, The Perfect Liar isn't much different from so many others out there - Unreliable narrators, a normal on the outside family unit, lots of secrets, and some crazy twists along the way. Nevertheless, there's just something about this book. Whether it's the writing style, which is terrific, the character development, or the moments of tension as things start to spiral out of control, or a combination of all of that, there's just something thoroughly compelling about this story. Whatever the reason, I didn't want to put this one down. When I wasn't reading, I was thinking about it. The funny thing about that is I didn't like either of the main characters here. Neither of them stirred any feelings of empathy in me but at the same time, Max's charisma comes through loud and clear. Whether he's playing the crowd or having an intimate conversation, it's easy to see why people are drawn to him. Susanna doesn't have that same draw, but there's something there. Love her or hate her, I wanted to know her secrets. So, bad ending or not, I enjoyed the journey, and won't soon forget this tale of greed, ambition, and obsession. Thomas Christopher Greene certainly has a way with words, and he's made me stand up and take notice with this one. 

An Anonymous Girl

An Anonymous Girl - Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen

Greed, obsession, guilt, and revenge combine with unreliable narrators and a thoroughly sinister vibe for another unputdownable read from this duo. While the storyline here does go a bit over the top on the believability scale, it still kept me turning pages to see what would happen next between Dr. Shields and Jessica - what else this woman could convince Jessica to do in the name of research as she also compiled a detailed summary of all of Jessica's secrets. But the good doctor isn't the only one out to discover secrets, and all three of the main players in this game have quite the list of things to hide between them. The twists in this one are more subtle than the typical thriller, sneaking up on you even when you think you see it coming. The thing about these characters is, other than those on the periphery, they are not likable, and the more I discovered about them, the less I liked them. In most cases, there needs to be a redeemable character, someone to root for in a story like this one. But it was different with these characters and this story. As they become more and more enmeshed in each other's lives, I couldn't stop reading. I had to see who would come out ahead in the tangled mess they managed to create. Even when I reached the conclusion and thought I knew how it would go, I was still second guessing myself about how I wanted it to play out - and I'm still thinking about that final twist. So, while I normally prefer a faster pace, this one did hold my interest from start to finish. All in all, another page turning domestic suspense from these authors. 

She Lies in Wait

She Lies in Wait - Gytha Lodge

Missing persons cold case turned murder investigation. While I wouldn't consider She Lies in Wait to be quite the 'psychologically captivating" story that's promised in the blurb, it does make for an interesting crime thriller/procedural with emphasis on the procedural. Despite several red herrings throughout the story, I was able to figure it out pretty quickly, but that's not necessarily a deal breaker for me if the book holds my interest, and this one did. I felt like the book barely scraped the surface of DCI Jonah Sheens with so much focus on the many possible murderers being investigated, but what I did get of him, I liked. He's a bit flawed and has certainly made mistakes in the past that cause him some guilt, but I think he'll make for an intriguing character to explore as the series progresses. This first in the series does get a little wordy at times and some things are repetitive, but it still kept me interested enough to want to finish it and see how it would all play out. All in all, a solid debut from the author and a good start to a promising series. 

Watching You

Watching You - Lisa Jewell

Watching You is touted as a domestic thriller, and the opening scene does suggest that, but then it changes. Ever play that game where you sit in a busy mall, plaza, etc and pick random people from the crowd, guessing what they're lives are like? This book brought that to mind. Everyone has a secret, and everyone seems to know or guess something about everyone else. The thing is most of these people just aren't that interesting. It felt like a bunch of nosy neighbors peeking past the curtains at everybody else. There are a lot of characters, some more important to the story than others, but they're all pretty easy to figure out, and none of them are particularly likable. There is a murder, but I had a lot of it figured out by the halfway mark, which left me with finishing it just to see if I was right. I never did get a sense of urgency, that thrill that should come with a good thriller. Instead, this one is more a meandering stroll through a neighborhood I certainly wouldn't want to live in. In the end, I would say that Watching You is a decent domestic drama, but the pacing is too slow and the story is filled with entirely too much of the mundane for the tension needed for suspense, let alone a thriller. It's one of those that is okay while you're reading it, but not something I'll remember a month from now. 

Hunting Annabelle

Hunting Annabelle - Wendy Heard

This psychological thriller starts off strong and quickly establishes the unreliability of our main character, Sean. The use of the unreliable narrator is well-done, the story is dark and often creepy, and a number of red herrings are introduced to pose the whodunit question. However, red herrings aside, this one was a little too easy to figure out the who, and even with Sean's mental state, my thoughts on that didn't waver. The middle of the story lags and is sometimes repetitive as Sean goes about his amateur investigation. There are parts during his search that add to the tension, but they don't really make up for the lag time. Things do pick up, which brings us to the big reveal and where this one lost me. I can get behind a big twist, especially when I've figured out the who, but the why of it all and how it all goes down is ridiculously over the top and just left me shaking my head in exasperation. The ending, while not what I suspect most readers would hope for, could've been the biggest twist of all had it not been for everything that led to that point. It felt like the author was trying a little too hard for that big twist and Stephen King-ish surprise ending, and it all just fell flat for me. In the end, Sean was the saving grace of this story for me. I really like the way his character is done, but the story had so much more potential than was realized. 

For Better and Worse

For Better and Worse - Margot Hunt

Vigilante justice and the perfect murder. Except it's not so perfect. What the blurb doesn't give away on the who and why of this one is answered pretty quickly, so there's no suspense on that angle. The suspense here lays in whether or not Will and Nat will get away with it. On an emotional level, any parent can understand and even empathize with this couple's actions - the need to protect our children from harm and the anger and despair when we can't. So, while that part certainly tugs at the heartstrings, I still couldn't find anything likable about this couple other than their love for their son. Natalie is almost robotic as she goes through the motions of life. She's cold and calculating with everyone except Charlie. Will is the more human of the pair, but he's also weak to the point of being spineless. This story does have its moments. There are some truly brilliant scenes, including some that had me on the edge of my seat. The problem is that they are too far and few between. What should've been a steadily rising tension is stilted with too much lag time in the story. We do get a couple of interesting twists, and I did want to see how it came together. So, in the end, there were things I liked and things I didn't, leaving me somewhere in the middle on this one. 

Once Upon a River

Once Upon a River - Diane Setterfield

Once Upon a River combines folklore, magic, and mystery with a Gothic feel. The author is, without a doubt, talented and certainly has a gift for prose and vivid details. That said, I came away from this one with mixed feelings. The book is character driven, and there are quite a lot of characters to keep straight as well as their very detailed backstories. On top of that, the story isn't just one story, but several that are interwoven, and with so many plots and subplots, it's a lot to keep up with. The biggest drawback for me is the pacing, which is too slow for my tastes. The story is lengthy, maybe a bit too much so and I found myself wanting to skim during overly long descriptions. With so much going on, I do think this one could work well on the big screen where we could be shown rather than the pages and pages of descriptive details. In the end, there is a solid story here, but I feel like some of it gets lost in the minutia. 

The Mansion

The Mansion - Ezekiel Boone

With technology growing by leaps and bounds, the possibilities are endless - phones that are way too smart, creepy toys that "learn," cars that drive themselves, the list goes on and on. With that in mind, The Mansion certainly piqued my interest. The idea is not entirely new. It's been done in one form or another in movies and books, but just the thought of a house with Nellie's capabilities gives me the willies. That said, this one did have that, but it doesn't entirely deliver on the horror aspect. It's way too slow to be what I would consider scary. We do get a few chills, but so much of the story is repetitive, plus we get tons of backstory by way of info dumps, and lengthy descriptions of everything - and I do mean everything. Granted, some of the backstory is relevant to the here and now, but a lot felt more like filler, dragging the story along. What it all amounts to is a lot of information with a creepy tidbit here and there. Considering what the blurb suggests, this story doesn't have nearly enough of Nellie, who is the most interesting character in the story. It does pick up in the last third or so of the book, but by that point, it's too little, too late to save it for me, and the conclusion is a bit too easy to predict. 

Turning Secrets

Turning Secrets - Brenda Chapman

The subject matter surrounding the case in Turning Secrets is not only disturbing, it's also current in today's world of high crime rates and drug abuse. It's a scary thing to think about the number of young girls that are preyed upon by older, unscrupulous men. That said, I felt like so much more could've been done with this story. There are quite a lot of characters to keep up with, and with so many POV changes throughout the book, I had a hard time getting to know any of the characters enough to really become invested in them. This is my first experience with this series, so I'm going to assume that a lot of character building was done in earlier books and base my rating on the mystery in this one. While it moved a bit slower than I care for, it did hold my interest enough to keep me reading. I wanted to know what happened to Nadia, and I wanted to see how things turned out for Vanessa and for Dawn. The biggest downfall for me was the amount of what felt like filler before getting back to the meat of the story. This one is certainly more procedural than action, which doesn't really pick up until close to the end of the book. That's not a problem for me except that I would've liked a little more on the procedure. I'm sure those who are invested in this series and know the characters will get more out of this one than I did as parts of it did feel like an ongoing story. However, it is what it is, and this is just my 2 cents worth. The story on its own is still worth the read, but I would recommend checking out the earlier books first. All in all, Turning Secrets is a decent crime drama with a thought-provoking case.

Rend

Rend - Roan Parrish

Holy Moly! Roan Parrish doesn't just tug at the heartstrings, she gives them a good, solid yank and twists until it hurts. Rend is emotional, raw, and at times, absolutely heartbreaking. The writing style combined with the character development make it impossible to not become invested in this couple, which makes the emotional aspect that much more of a roller coaster ride. The good news is the author also gives us a light at the end of that dark tunnel by way of hope, love, friendship, and family. The romance is a bit different than what we usually see. Matt and Rhys are into the second year of their marriage at the start of the book, so while we don't get that new relationship angst, there's still a whole lot of getting to know each other. Especially for Matt, who has grown up in a world where everyone leaves. His feelings of abandonment and the surety that everyone is going to disappoint him are well-founded, but that doesn't make his feelings of being unlovable any easier to read. Combine that with Rhys' determination to be Matt's protector only to find out that he doesn't always see the signs of a problem, and we have plenty of angst for this couple. In spite of that angst, or maybe because of it, there are some truly beautiful moments between Matt and Rhys as they figure out what each needs from the relationship. We also get to catch up a bit with Theo and Caleb from the first book in the series. Each book can be read as a standalone, but it's always nice to revisit past favorites. To sum it up, if you're a crier, expect tears - both the happy kind and the not so happy. But it's also a wonderful story of finding that special someone who can help lead you through the maze of this difficult life. All in all, a great addition to the series. 

Cold River Ranch #1

A True Cowboy Christmas - Caitlin Crews

Cowboys and Christmas, a yummy combination. This first book in the Cold River Ranch series features Gray and Abby, and is full of romance, family, and of course, plenty of angst. Abby has loved Gray for a lifetime, but it might not be enough to tear down Gray's walls. The story does have its dark side, but it's also full of wonderful characters and despite their differences, this pair is perfectly suited. The writing style and wonderfully vivid scenes keep the pages turning for a hard to put down story. I would've liked to have seen more holiday in the book, especially with Christmas in the title, but all in all, A True Cowboy Christmas is a great start to the series. 

Game Changer

Game Changer - Rachel Reid, Rachelle Goguen

Game Changer is well-written and the characters are interesting. I was impressed that even the secondary characters are engaging and often witty and fun. Considering its length, I was surprised that the story is fairly low on angst. However, I finished this one with a middle of the road feeling. I didn't dislike it, but it didn't leave a big lasting impression either. With Scott being so closeted, I would've expected at least some angst about starting a relationship with Kip, but these guys go from zero to sixty really fast, which leaves a lot of lag time in the story with quite a lot of steamy time. Now, I've got nothing against steamy goodness, and these guys can't keep their hands off each other, but after so much, it becomes repetitive and starts to seem like so much filler. We do finally get some angst as Kip wants more from the relationship, but again, it's fairly low level and it's pretty obvious how it will all play out. It is primarily a feel-good read, but I felt like it needed to be tightened up some. A little less time between the sheets and a little more spent on relationship building could've made a big difference.
For me, this was an entertaining read for the most part, but there's really nothing to set it apart from any other book like it. It runs the standard formula of a closeted sports figure meeting Mr Out and Proud. There are no hiccups that we don't see coming, including the sweet and hopeful conclusion. All in all, it's a solid story and I'll be interested to see how this author's work grows with future books.