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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 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.

The House by the Cemetery

The House by the Cemetery (Fiction Without Frontiers) - John Everson

The idea of a haunted house attraction that is actually haunted drew my attention and with Halloween approaching, it seemed appropriate for the season. The cover also sets the stage for a creepy and perhaps sinister tale. In that vein, I suppose this one does deliver, but it took a rather meandering route to get there. The story tends to slog along for quite some time, actually about the first two-thirds or better. There are the occasional creepy scenes, some of which are quite chilling. However, there are a lot of characters introduced, and many of them receive much more page time than needed. Character depth is one thing, but the time taken with some felt like so much filler. Then we have our main character, Mike, the handyman hired to get the house ready for the season. Again, even for a main character, we're given way more than we need for the story. I get it, he's a carpenter and working on the house, but I don't need details of bracing ceilings or laying floors to get the picture. Aside from that, I found Mike to be rather single-minded and well, not very bright. The lust angle is one thing, but I just can't imagine anyone being so completely ignorant of things as this guy. The story does eventually ramp up and we get plenty of Halloween creepiness and gore, but it was just too little, too late to save this one for me. Tightened up and trimmed down, this story could be a real chill-fest in that B-movie kind of way, but as it stands, it just doesn't do the job. 

Under My Skin

Under My Skin - Lisa Unger

I heard so many great things about this book and it started off well enough. Unfortunately, it started going downhill quickly and snowballed from there. I'm usually a fan of an unreliable narrator, but this one pushed that way past the limit. The story bounces from past to present, but not everything "seen" or "remembered" is reality. It's done by way of dreams, memories, and/or hallucinations that are all seen through a drug and alcohol induced haze. It's done in such a way that it's almost impossible to tell which is which, leading to some flipping back through the pages. I suppose that was intentional, but it mostly just caused confusion and irritation, especially when it became repetitive. Between that and the slow pace, I finally admitted defeat at about the fifty percent mark and started skimming. We finally do get the answers about Jack's murder, and even with skimming and a red herring or two thrown in, I was still able to figure out who did it. I didn't have the why of it all but in all honesty, by the time I finally got there, I didn't care enough about any of the characters for it to make much difference. The only character that I did like was Grayson, who also seemed to be the only sensible person in this rather convoluted tale. As I said, I heard good things about this one prior to reading it, and maybe it's just me, but it's safe to say that I was underwhelmed.

Consumed

Consumed - J.R. Ward

The opening chapters of Consumed had me hooked. The book opens right in the thick of things with a fire, danger, and life-altering decisions. I was all set to settle in and be thoroughly engrossed in the story, and I was for a while. However, by about half way through, it felt like the story was rambling, and I was wondering where it was going. I was actually pretty tempted to start skimming, but past experience with this author made me stick with it. The story does have some terrific characters and there are some edge of your seat scenes as this group of firefighters work to save lives, but Anne's chase of a deadly killer that is promised in the blurb kind of stuttered to a start with trickles of info here and there. Once Anne becomes a target, the story had the potential to ramp up with some truly creepy stalker-type things happening, but even that was a bit disappointing. The romance between Anne and Danny kind of felt the same way. They can't keep their hands off each other one minute, then they aren't even speaking the next. I expected some angst in the romance, but Anne's hot and cold wore thin. I finally did make it to the conclusion, but it felt like everything came together in a rush. In the end, there were things I liked and things I didn't, leaving me in the middle of the road on this one. I did like several of the characters, so I'm undecided on whether or not I'll continue with this series. 

The Confession

The Confession: A Novel - Jo Spain

I walked away with mixed feelings on this one. The bare bones of the story is absolutely brilliant. In the very beginning, Harry McNamara is attacked in his home. It's brutal, grisly, and chilling. His wife witnesses the whole thing, and her reactions during and after are suspect at best. We also know from the beginning that JP Carney committed the crime. The question is why. At this point, the story had me in its clutches. Unfortunately, it started to lose me rather soon after that. The story starts to move back and forth between the days following the attack and the backstories of the characters. Some of that back info is important to the plot and reasons for everything happening, and some is not. A lot is not. We do finally get to the why of it all, but the book takes the scenic route to get there. Granted, there were things in the past that the reader needs to know for it to all make sense, but I really did not need every detail of every time Julie doubted Harry or every time she looked the other way, nor did I need to know every job that JP had during the years leading up to the crime. Fair warning, be prepared not to like anyone in this one. By the time I trudged through the considerable history of Julie and Harry's marriage and JP's troubled life, I couldn't drum up much empathy for any of them, except for the real victim in this deadly game. In the end, I would give a solid five stars for the beginning and conclusion, but the middle was way too drawn out and had too much downtime for me. So, I ended up somewhere in the middle on The Confession.