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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.

Dare Me Once

Dare Me Once - Shelly Alexander

This is my first read by this author - I know, Gasp! - but it certainly won't be my last. Dare Me Once is wonderfully written and full of so many great moments. It's funny, it's emotional, it's sweet, it's sexy. It's just a great story. The characters are rich and so real they practically leap off the page. And Ben! I have to say this one touched me on a personal level with Ben. As a parent of an autistic child, specifically asperger's, I was thoroughly impressed with how well this character is done. The challenges, the triumphs, the innocence, all of it. For me, this little guy stole the show. Of course, Trace and Lily have their terrific moments too. They have great chemistry even when they're both determined to remain professional, and the way they meet and then meet again (no spoilers here) had me laughing all the way through. Even the secondary characters are interesting, love them or hate them, they're all interesting. And make no mistake, we do get a couple of those that we love to hate. I could go on and on about the characters, but when even the ducks are entertaining, you know you have a winner. The angst is low, the romance is swoon-worthy, and I couldn't put it down.

Kill the Farm Boy

Kill the Farm Boy - Delilah S. Dawson, Kevin Hearne

Let me start by saying that I did not finish this book, and it truly pains me to say that. I'm a bit obsessive about finishing anything I start, and I tried, but a person can only stand so much drivel. While Ms Dawson is new to me, I absolutely loved Hearne's Iron Druid series - the wit, the action, the characters, etc. So, when I saw this one, I had to read it. I didn't expect this to be anything like the Iron Druid series, but I also didn't expect so much adolescent humor and well, that's pretty much it. I get the idea of taking a trope, or several of them, in a particular genre and creating a fun parody, but despite the claims, Monty Python this is not. From the very first page, it felt like the authors were trying to see how many puns, bad jokes, and satirical moments they could cram into each and every page. I'm sure there was some kind of story in there somewhere, but I don't think plots and storylines were the point here. Sometimes less is more, and that certainly could've been put to good use in this case. Add to that the feeling that a lot of words in the book came from a word-a-day calendar and I was over it. Don't get me wrong, I did find the occasional funny line, but what's funny once can become old when it's done over and over - On the same page! (Again, the less is more adage comes into play here.) If you like corny lines about poo, boogers, vomit, and penises, then this may be the book for you, but the 'humor' was lost on me. Color me disappointed in this one. 

Baby Teeth

Baby Teeth - Zoje Stage

Baby Teeth is as disturbing as disturbing gets. For me, there's nothing scarier than a creepy child, and they don't get much creepier than Hannah. She's absolutely diabolical. I'll admit that I did have a problem with Hannah's young age and the things she's able to accomplish, but given her intelligence combined with access to the internet, it's not as big a stretch once I gave it some thought. The thing that got me was even though Hannah's planning and conniving seemed beyond her years, she still had that childlike innocence in terms of the details when carrying out those plans and the consequences. With parents who are ill-equipped to handle a child so manipulative, not that any parent would be prepared for this child, it's not hard to see where this one is heading and I found it impossible to put down as Hannah's actions escalate. We do have an open ending, which is as chilling as the rest of the book, and I'll be interested to see if there's a sequel. I believe this is one of those books with little middle ground in terms of opinion. You'll either love it or you'll hate it, and I am firmly in the love it camp. With this debut, Stage has proven, to this reader at least, that she knows her stuff when it comes to building tension and creating a dark, twisted, and even sinister tale. 

Her Pretty Face

Her Pretty Face - Robyn Harding

A killer hiding in plain sight? Kind of, but not exactly. The blurb and even the beginning of the story sets this one up as what could have been a gripping domestic thriller. The glimpses into the past paint a disturbing picture, but the modern day happenings left something to be desired, mostly the suspense that should've been there. There are questions, but it was all way to easy to figure out in spite of the misdirection with certain points of the story. I kept waiting for something to happen in the present day chapters, some unexpected or shocking twist, and maybe that's where this one lost me. It was all just a little too predictable. The story is well-written and I did keep going, looking for that twist, that wow factor. Maybe I've just read too many domestic thrillers lately, but the 'thrill' of this one was lost on me. It felt more like a personal interest story, a where are they now type of thing, than anything else.

The Last Time I Lied

The Last Time I Lied - Riley Sager

Man, oh man, Riley Sager is a master at messing with the mind of the reader! Last Time I Lied should've been titled Everybody Lies because there are secrets buried everywhere, both literally and figuratively. The story starts a bit slow, but once it has its hooks in you, there's no breaking loose as the tension builds little by little. Every answer brings another question as past merges with present and everyone is a suspect, including our less than reliable narrator. With the exception of Emma's friend, Marc, there's not a character in this twisted tale that I was completely sure about for more than a hot minute. Everyone has an agenda of one kind or other and every conversation is laced with what could be a clue, a veiled threat, or on the other hand, mean nothing at all. With some whiplash inducing twists, mysteries within mysteries, and so many secrets, this one will keep you guessing right up to the mind-blowing conclusion, and I absolutely loved it! 

Broken Promise

Broken Promise - Tara Q. Thomas

An almost enemies to lovers romance, a cat and mouse game with The Gentleman, and some twists and turns brings the Sons of Broad series to a close. Lots of secrets are revealed in this final book in the series, and it moves at a faster pace than its predecessors. I did have a problem with a couple of things toward the end that seemed to have information missing, making the conclusion feel a bit rushed for me. Nevertheless, Kipling and Alyssa are, hands down, my favorite couple in this series. I liked the banter between them as they move toward romance, and they make more logical decisions under pressure than the other couples in the series. I also liked than in addition to finally learning The Gentleman's identity, we get the backstory on how it all began and why he's so determined to destroy this family. While each book has focused on a different couple, the main storyline has been a continuing one from the beginning, so I would suggest reading the books in order to get the full story. Despite the couple of issues I had with the ending, this one is, in my opinion, the best in the series.

Bring Me Back

Bring Me Back: A Novel - B.A. Paris

Bring Me Back hooked me pretty quickly with its dark and creepy opener and part one kept with that tone as the tension builds. Add in our totally unreliable narrator, Finn, and the questions mount up. Is Layla alive? Is someone messing with Finn? What's up with the Russian nesting dolls? The story is more telling than showing, but with an intriguing premise and good start, I was hoping for an edge of your seat thriller. However, when I started reading Part Two, the story started going downhill for me. It didn't take long to figure out where things were going - anyone who has ever watched a soap opera has seen this storyline at least once and it was no more plausible in print than it was on TV. I did keep reading, mostly in hope that I was wrong about where this one would go, and while I didn't have all the details worked out, I did have the gist of it. To sum it up, this one started out as a solid four-star read, but ended at one to two disappointing stars with the overly done conclusion, so I split the difference with an it's okay rating. 

 

Find You in the Dark

Find You in the Dark: A Novel - Nathan Ripley

I finished Find You in the Dark with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it does have the creepy vibe I'd expect from a thriller, but that gripping need to turn one more page is missing. Despite Martin's 'hobby,' the pacing is very slow for most of the book. Parts of the story are repetitive and Martin's inner monologue was drawn out and much of time, not all that interesting. It reached a point that I found myself enjoying the scenes with Martin's too smart for her own good, teenage daughter more than the disturbing parts of the story. Her sense of humor and sass did add some levity to an otherwise dark and sometimes tedious tale. I think part of my disappointment lay in the way things played out in the book. We know from the blurb that Martin draws the attention of a serial killer, and I expected there to be something of a cat and mouse game between them. That I didn't get that is on me and my own preconceptions, but considering the length of the book, I just expected more. In the end, the story did have a lot of potential and I enjoyed some parts of it, but other parts came up lacking for me, leaving me with a bit of a 'meh' feeling.

Providence

Providence: A Novel - Caroline Kepnes

Let me start by saying that the author clearly has talent. Providence is well-written and the character development is good. My feelings are based solely on my enjoyment, or lack thereof, of the story itself. Actually, it's two stories, loosely connected until they finally merge together in the latter part of the book. The parallel storylines do make sense once it all comes together and both are easy enough to keep up with. 

Caroline Kepnes was new to me, so I went into this one without any expectations or comparisons. The book is listed in the mystery/thriller genre and the blurb sounded intriguing, so I dove in. And then I dove back out - several times. Either I completely missed it or it just wasn't there, but I found absolutely nothing in the book that mysterious or thrilling. The only mystery for me was what happened to Jon while he was kidnapped. What did Roger Blair do to him? No spoiler here, we're told who the kidnapper is from the time it happens. We also know that whatever he did to Jon caused some major changes. Changes that have dire consequences. But, we're never given the details. So, I suppose that aspect is more an unanswered question than a mystery. 

All of that, while relevant to my feelings about the book, still isn't what clinched it for me. As I said, I didn't find anything that would make me think this story is a thriller. What I did find is one of the most depressing stories that I've read in some time. We have Jon, who is forced into a lonely existence because of the effects he has on those around him. Effects which cause no small amount of guilt. Then we have Chloe, who can't let go of her feelings for Jon and attempts to move on with a manipulative jerk. And let's not forget Eggs and Lo. We only get Lo's story through Eggs, and while that info leads me to believe she's a bit of an optimist, his view on everything is anything but. I won't go into details, but my opinion of him was clouded almost from the time he comes into the story. Not by his gut instinct that the deaths of so many people must be connected, but by his personal life and how he deals with it. What it boils down to is from the time Jon is kidnapped to the last page, I just felt bogged down and sad. Sad for these characters and their circumstances. 

It should be mentioned that there is a good deal of reference to Lovecraft and his work throughout the story, especially one book in particular. Quite possibly, if I were more familiar with Lovecraft's work, I may have had different feelings, but I'm not and I didn't. 

Night-gaunts

Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense - Joyce Carol Oates

If ever a cover would catch my eye, it would be this one. It hints at a bit darkness and mystery and even the colors seem to draw the eye. That said, what I found inside didn't quite deliver for me. I usually enjoy collections of stories in one book. They're perfect for reading a story here and another there as time permits, but after reading the first in this collection, I have to say that I wasn't left with much inclination to move on to the next. I did eventually finish the book in hopes of finding at least one story that I could connect with, but only found more of the same. The writing felt choppy and abrupt, which may have played a part in my lack of connection to the characters or their stories. I also did not find anything particularly mysterious or suspenseful in these tales, which could also lead back to that lack of connection. From the ratings, I realize that I am indeed in the minority here, so I'm going to chalk this one up to not the book for me.

Jar of Hearts

Jar of Hearts - Jennifer Hillier

How long can you get away with a lie? In Geo's case, about fourteen years and then some. Jar of Hearts is psychological thriller at its finest - unreliable characters, secrets revealed bit by dark and twisted bit, and an ever rising tension with knowing that all is not exactly as it seems. It's a rare thing to find a book that even when you expect a particular twist, you still can't stop turning the pages, but I found that here. The storyline isn't anything especially new in the genre, but the writing style is so completely compelling that I wasn't at all disappointed by that. Hillier managed to take the expected and make it refreshing with her complex and intriguing characters. So much so that I found myself waffling on my feelings for certain characters and even those that I knew should be hated still stirred some sympathy from me at times. There are some graphic and disturbing scenes that are certainly not for the faint of heart, but they are necessary for this plot. To sum it up, Jar of Hearts is a wonderfully written bit of twisted that begs the question of nature versus nurture while peeling back the layers of the past as it comes rushing into the present.

Hangman

Hangman - Jack Heath

Sometimes it takes a warped mind to solve a crime, especially one that's steeped with other crimes, and Timothy Blake is as warped as they come. He's also absolutely brilliant at solving puzzles, noticing the little things that add up to bigger things, and he's used that talent to work out the perfect arrangement for himself. When Tim's secret is revealed, I'll admit that it was way worse than anything I was imagining. I won't go into the details, but I will say that from that point on, this is not a book for the squeamish. The ick factor is through the roof and I almost put it down more than once on that element alone. There's also the level of suspension of disbelief required for Timothy's story. I get it, it's fiction and a certain amount of leeway must be given for some stories to work, but this one requires quite a lot of that. Timothy's secret is quite shocking and just the number of people involved is enough for doubt that it could've happened at all, much less for that long. Here's the thing, though, in spite of the gory details, and there are several, and even with the highly doubtful circumstances, I kept turning those pages. Twist after crazy twist, one cringe-worthy moment after another, the complete crazy that is Timothy Blake kept me reading to see how it would all play out. Then, as if that's not enough, the jaw-dropping conclusion kept me awake and pondering for some time. So, over the top or not, Hangman is a wonderfully written, fast-paced, and riveting bit of absolutely insane from start to finish.

Dirty-Talking Cowboy

Dirty-talking Cowboy - Stacey Kennedy

Sexy cowboy with a great big heart. That's Shep in a nutshell and it's impossible not to fall a little in love with him. This first Kinky Spurs novel introduces the characters of River Rock, Colorado and they are certainly an entertaining bunch. 

Shep and Emma's romance is steamy enough to melt the paint off the walls even when they're both determined that they're not in a relationship. Both have been burned by love before, so neither wants anything serious. Of course, with their chemistry, serious is certainly bound to happen. This pair does see some drama by way of meddlers and an ex, but the biggest problem for Shep is the need to save the family business. Emma has some important choices to make too, but overall, the angst level is pretty low.

The only drawback for me was that almost every intimate scene was pages long and there were a number of them, which became repetitive after a while. That aside, the story and likable characters did hold my interest and I will be checking out whatever comes next for this series.

 

Social Creature

Social Creature - Tara Isabella Burton

With a cover that practically screams 'Look at me!' and a blurb that piques the interest, I expected a hard to put down, psychological thriller. Sadly, putting this one down is all I wanted to do almost from the very beginning.

For me, a good thriller should have that nail-biting, what's gonna happen next element that keeps a reader on the edge of their seat. I didn't find any of that here. What I did find was a somewhat frenetic writing style and an over the top storyline. The biggest drawback for me were the characters. I didn't find a single likable character in the book - not even among the secondary characters. There's not a redeeming quality in any of them. Maybe this was intentional and I just missed something, but I couldn't even drum up some sympathy for the dead girl. 

With all the hype and the number of four and five-star reviews, I'm clearly in the minority on this one, but it's clearly not the book for me. 

I Flipping Love You

I Flipping Love You - Helena Hunting

Fast-paced, crazy sexy, witty, lots of feels, and laugh out loud funny - that's I Flipping Love You in a nutshell. Helena Hunting has a writing style that doesn't just tell you a story, it pulls you in and lets you feel the triumphs and disappointments right along with the characters. Speaking of characters, this one is packed full of interesting, quirky personalities. When even the secondary characters have stand out moments and dialogue that sticks with you, the author has done her job and done it well.

Pierce and Rian have terrific chemistry and the way he handles Rian's sass is absolutely perfect. Their relationship starts as more of an arrangement than anything romantic and grows from there. And their journey to romance is absolutely panty-melting hot.

To sum it up, this third Shacking Up standalone is everything a good RomCom should be. We get lovable characters, scorching heat, hilarity, and some silly all blended wonderfully into a storyline that is not only engaging, but prevalent in today's fixer-upper, do it yourself society. 

Emotionally charged and character driven story

Riven - Roan Parrish

Riven is an emotionally charged, character driven story that grabs hold and doesn't let go even after that last page is turned. Oddly enough, this isn't a book I would normally pick up. I rarely read rocker romances and if it looks angsty, I'll usually shy away. We get enough angst in every day life, right? But, something about the fabulous cover caught my eye. There's just something about it that is almost seductive, and the description hinted at something more than the norm for rocker romances. More is certainly what I found - in spades.

Occasionally, we find characters that are almost defined by their flaws and with some, those flaws are what draw the reader to them. That is case with Theo and Caleb. From struggling with sobriety to finding out that fame and fortune aren't what it's cracked up to be, both have their issues to deal with and often feel completely alone in their respective worlds. However, the way they deal with those issues is part of what makes them so great together, that and finding their solace in the music. 

I particularly liked that neither our lovable guys was hiding on the relationship front. They're both out and proud and that isn't a source of contention as is so often relied on for the big obstacle to overcome in these stories. 

In the end, Riven isn't so much about the glamorous life of rockstar, but what happens after the lights have gone down and the crowds are all gone - the loneliness that longs to be filled by that one person who can make us feel whole. So, while it is emotional and intense, underneath the angst lies hope. It's wonderfully written and passionate. These characters and their love story is one that will stay with you long after you've read that last page.