Avid reader/reviewer and editor. I don't pull punches when I review, love it or hate it, you get what I think.
Let me start by saying that I would not consider The Stillwater Girls to be a thriller. The pacing is a bit on the slow side and while it did have thriller potential during the chapters about the girls, the parallel chapters from Nicolette's point of view barely held my interest. The storylines do come together eventually, but up to that point, I was sorely tempted to skim Nicolette's chapters. There are a few hints about where those chapters might be heading, but you have to be prepared to head into dark territory. That said, Wren's chapters did keep me reading, and once the man shows up, the story started to lean in the direction of a thriller for me. Then, it fell apart again with the big twist. In fact, I can pinpoint the exact sentence where it all went wrong and I started rolling my eyes - it's roughly 61% into chapter 40. There was no turning back from that point because the whole idea was so completely over the top. I'm trying to be deliberately vague here so I don't give spoilers, so let me just say that the idea of how things happened is far-fetched, but not completely beyond the realm of possibility. However, the idea that so many people knew without saying a word, including casual people about town, is where this one completely lost me. I find it impossible to believe that this town, small or not, did not have a single gossip who would've been all too happy to share that kind of information. I realize that this is fiction, and some leeway can be given, but this one pushed way past that for me.
The Mother-in-Law didn't quite live up to its potential for me. It's more women's fiction than mystery, although there is a mystery involved. However, by the time I made it to the big reveal, my question wasn't who killed Diana, but who didn't want to. The book comes across as preachy, and I quickly grew irritated at the number of times Diana mentions or thinks about what could feed a third-world nation. Charity is a wonderful thing, but I kept thinking maybe Diana should've looked in the mirror before passing judgment about how someone else might spend their own money. And she really needed a lesson about charity beginning at home. That aside, what most of the story boils down to is two women who get off on the wrong foot and can't seem to find their way back with tidbits of who killed Diana thrown in here and there. Maybe my disappointment stems from expecting one thing and finding another, so take my opinion for what it's worth, but this one was clearly not for me.
I really, really wanted to like this book. The blurb hints at a dark, thrilling read, and the beginning has some promise. Unfortunately, that promise wasn't fulfilled, at least not for me. We have the unreliable narrator, and Juliette is certainly unstable, but it's way too easy to figure out the why of it all from the flashbacks we're given. We're practically spoon-fed this one, so any twists in the story really aren't surprising. I will say that the scenery of the many locations visited is good, and the details work for giving the reader a picture of so many far away places. What didn't work for me was the sheer amount of detail given about everything else. And I do mean everything. The more I read, the more tempted I was to just skip to end to see how it played out. That's a big no-no for me, but now, I really wish I had done exactly that. Then we have the whole stalking thing, and yes, Juliette is clearly troubled, but her plans and actions for most of the book are just pathetic and weak instead of the dark and dangerous woman I was hoping for. We do get a bit more grit toward the end, but by then, I was just over it and it was too little, too late. Finally, we come to the non-ending of this one. I can get behind a good jaw dropper, and I don't have to always have a justice is done, happy ending, but this one isn't that. It literally just stops - like I was wondering if there were missing pages - which turned my disappointment into a feeling of just being cheated. Maybe, I fell for the hype and expected too much from this book, or maybe it's just not for me, but I can't say that this is one I'll be recommending.
Dark, twisted folklore or postpartum depression? Little Darlings left me with mixed feelings. I'm sure part of that can be blamed on the fact that I went into the book expecting a thriller and got what felt more like a domestic drama. The idea of changelings definitely adds a sinister tone to the story, but in the end, I was still unconvinced as to which way this one wanted to go. Maybe that's the point, and each reader will decide for themselves. All I know for sure is that I expected something more than what I found in this one. According to the hype, Little Darlings is coming to the big screen, so I'll be interested to see how I feel about that format. I don't say this often, but this is one that may be better on the silver screen, at least as far as the thriller aspect goes. Looking at it from the postpartum depression angle, which is the direction I found myself leaning toward, it does make for an interesting drama. So, drama, yes. thriller, not so much, hence my mixed feelings. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either.
The Road Leads Back is a second chance, secret baby romance that took twenty-eight years to happen. In fact, that's one of my favorite things about this book - these characters are approaching fifty when they get their second chance at love, and contrary to what many think, they're not much better at traversing that path than anyone else. This story is emotional on so many levels with so much past hurt between Kara and Harry and their families, some of which only comes to light in the present. For a lot of the book, this pair seems to take two steps back for every one step forward, which made it an exercise in frustration at times, but life is so often that way, and frustrated or not, I was completely wrapped up in this family. In the end, the romance is sweet and eventually hopeful, but it's more than just another romance. This is a story about how deeply past hurts can run, especially when they're at the hands of those we trust the most, and the long, winding road back to finally letting go and moving on.
I Want You Back took me by surprise with its different take on the typical second chance romance. Unlike so many that rely on misunderstandings, one-sided attractions, or a romance that almost was, this couple had their chance at love and one of them thoroughly blew it. So, yes, cheating was definitely a factor in the breakup, but for those who cheating is a hard limit in their fiction, it's mentioned, but the actual act is not on page. We do, however, get a lot of Jax and Lucy's early years through memories scattered throughout the story. I really liked that we got to see the early attraction for this couple without the story getting bogged down by that part of it. That left plenty of room for their current day relationship as two people co-parenting their child while still dealing with the emotional baggage between them, and it is considerable. I was disappointed when we're finally given the catalyst for Jax's lifestyle change. It just felt unnecessary, and once revealed, I felt like Lucy and Mimi were the consolation prizes for him. Whatever his reason, he does have his redeeming qualities. and I ended the book liking him much more than I thought I would. That aside, I was impressed with the author's ability to give us such an emotional story while still keeping the angst low. There is angst, but it's more subtle rather than big dramatic issues, and the high emotions are tempered with well-timed humor. All in all, this is a solid start to the series, and I'll be interested to see which of these engaging characters finds love next.
This curvy girl romance has some truly funny moments, but while I usually love sassy, take no nonsense female characters, Avery is just not likable. Strong is one thing, and I appreciate that she could and did stand up for herself, but Avery goes past that and straight to insulting and rude more often than not. I think most of what she said was supposed to be funny, but this one could've done with a bit of the less is more school of thought. I did like Declan, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out why he kept going back for more with Avery. He had plenty of demons to deal with, and it just felt like her attitude was one he could get away from. When you spend that much time just wanting him to walk away it doesn't bode well for any kind of hopes about the romance. On a positive note, you can't read this one without the feeling that the author loves New Orleans. The descriptions of the city are vivid and paint a picture that is easy to visualize. That said, the setting turned out to be the best part of this one for me. As this is a debut, and my biggest issue lay with my feelings about Avery, I will check out future works from this author. She does show talent, and I'll be interested to see how her writing develops with future books.
This start to the series is so much fun. Theo and Lacey start their romance in a fake marriage, but it's a bit different than what we're used to seeing. This pair is two sides of a coin - he's ordered and precise, and he plans everything while Lacey is more a take things as they come kind of girl and goes with the flow. They become fast friends and the chemistry between them is just so good. Then we meet all the other players in this game, mostly made up of Theo's family. The Wynn's are a great big hot mess with a flair for drama. Needless to say, there is angst, but true to form, the author also gives us plenty of fun and some oh, so sexy times. Theo and Lacey's romance is a great start to this series that promises to be a wild ride, and I can't wait to see what's next for this crazy family.
The Liar's Child was a middle of the road read for me. It definitely has its moments - the kids are spot on with their dialogue and actions, including a very sullen teen who desperately needs some parental guidance, and the prologue sets a suspenseful tone. However, that suspense is short-lived, especially since we don't get back to that character for quite some time. Once the hurricane hits, the pacing picks up, and there is some excitement as we wait to see who will get out of the danger zone, but it seems to take a very long time to get there. Other than the youngest child, I can't say that I particularly cared for any of these characters. Boon is a sweet six-year-old who has had more than his fair share of hard knocks, and it's impossible not to fall for this child. As for the rest, let's just say that I'm still wondering which character the title refers to because almost everyone else in this story is a liar of some kind, either by word or omission. As far as the promised thriller's pace from the blurb, I can't say that I found that here. It is certainly a domestic drama, and there is a murder, which is way too easy to figure out, but I would not call this one a thriller of any sort. I think I may have enjoyed it more had I not been expecting that thriller. That, and the less than satisfying conclusion. There were some things not addressed in the end that I wanted answers to, which led to some disappointment on my part. In the end, this one was just okay for me, an okay read, but not something I would read again.
This second Harper McClain novel starts with a bang and doesn't let up. There's a lot going on in this one with some of it being new and some trickling over from the first book. Harper's determination shines through in spite of her less than stellar relationship with the police department, and her suspect this time doesn't do anything to repair that relationship. While we do get a satisfactory conclusion, there are still some unanswered questions to watch for in the next addition to the series. I would recommend reading the books in order to get Harper's backstory along with everything that led to her problems with the police department. All in all, this one is a solid addition to the series and the genre.
The Perfect Alibi has a great protagonist in Robin Lockwood. She's interesting, tough, and doesn't settle for the easy answer. We start with a rape case that seems pretty cut and dried, but things aren't always exactly as they seem, and given the length of the book, I did expect things to go off the rails. What I didn't expect was for this story to take so many different paths. We have conspiracies, murders, rape, and misconduct all happening in rapid-fire succession and with the number of characters introduced, it all becomes convoluted. Some things do tie in together, but a lot of it is closer to degrees of separation than anything tied together - A guy goes to prison for rape, his lawyer may or may not be tied to a murder, the DA isn't the most ethical and might have reasons to want the lawyer out of the picture, then we have a mysterious bad guy lurking around for completely unrelated reasons. That's just the tip of the iceberg in this one, and the only thing that everything seems to have in common is that Robin is involved with most of it in one way or another. The author does tie everything up in the end, but the middle goes down so many avenues that it's all just more distracting than anything else. The book had the potential to be a great story with the twist in the rape case and a less than likable guy behind bars for the crime, one who may or may not be guilty. As it stands, there is just too much going on and much of it is way over the top. This one could certainly have done with a bit of the less is more adage. The saving grace of the story for me is Robin. I did enjoy reading how she figured things out, and I liked her self-assurance and willingness to go the extra mile.
My Favorite Cowboy is a combination of romance and suspense, and I have to say that I enjoyed the suspense more than the instalove cowboy romance - at least until the rather rushed conclusion and caricature-like villain. Instalove aside, the romance isn't bad, it's just that there's really nothing new here. It runs the typical cowboy romance formula with no real surprises. I will add that I feel like I would've enjoyed it more had the relationship developed more naturally instead of moving at such a rapid-fire pace. So, for me, the story wasn't great, but it wasn't bad either, leaving me somewhere in the middle of road. This is part of a series, but can be read as a standalone.
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 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.
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 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.