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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.

Play to Win

Play to Win (Wynn Hockey #1) - Kelly Jamieson

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

The Liar's Child - Carla Buckley

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. 


A Beautiful Corpse

A Beautiful Corpse - Christi Daugherty

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

The Perfect Alibi - Phillip Margolin

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

My Favorite Cowboy - Donna Grant

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

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.