Weird Book But Nothing Technically Wrong. Ever read a 5* review that is probably going to read like the reviewer actually rated it 1*? Well, if you haven’t… you’re about to. Because let me be clear up front: There was nothing from a technical/ objective-ish standpoint to hang a star reduction on here. There weren’t any clear technical/ editing mistakes, the story is at least plausible within the context of the world/ situation set up, etc. Thus, with my subtractive system where every book starts at 5* and I have to have objective-ish describable reasons to deduct stars… there simply weren’t any here.
AND YET… this book kinda sucked, y’all. I hate to say it, but it did. I’m down with a slow burn, I’ve defended a LOT of slow burn books over the years and even as recently as this week. What I can’t defend is a book that is just so *boring* and completely disjointed. Someone once said (paraphrasing) that if you show a red phone on Page 23, it better be used somewhere in the finale – and this… doesn’t happen. There *is* a massive twist at the end of the book, but it comes completely out of left field with absolutely zero foreshadowing *at all*. Instead we get all kinds of irrelevant details such as kid sister sleeping in the bed with her parents over fears of the “rampaging kidnapper/ serial killer”, among other completely irrelevant details that are never really explored or shown why they are crucial to the story being told. As at least one other reviewer pointed out, this story could likely have been told much better from different perspectives – maybe the two boys (even the one who dies in the opener – maybe in an “if i stay” type manner?), particularly given the twist at the end.
Overall though, this *is* a five star review, so I’m going to recommend you read this book – if for no other reason than maybe I’m wrong and there was genuinely a great tale in here that I just didn’t pick up on? Let me know in the comments wherever you may find this review, or on social media somewhere if that isn’t possible. Recommended.
This review of Off The Deep End by Lucinda Berry was originally written on November 24, 2022.
For this entry in the Twelve Days of Romance blog tour series we’re looking at a solid Christian Fiction romantic suspense novel ala Dee Henderson. For this entry, we’re looking at Buried Cold Case Secrets by debut author Sami A Abrams.
Solid Tale Of Its Type. So apparently “Inspired” / “Inspirational” is code for “Christian” in American marketing parlance (I guess similar to how “family friendly” is code for “kids”?). Did not know this going in (or, more likely, had known it long ago and forgotten over the years since I left that world behind). Thus, I was quite surprised to see a Christian Fiction book on the same blog tour schedule (well, emails sent within a few minutes of each other anyway, though in fairness there were a few different sets and I’ve picked up books from all of them) as some other… steamier… books, one of which I had just read earlier in the same day as this one. 🙂
My semi-shock at stumbling into a Christian Fiction tale published by Harlequin aside (and kudos to them for reaching out to *all* segments of their market), this tale was actually quite solid. Reminded me a bit of Dee Henderson’s O’Malley Family series many years ago in that the suspense was high wire level tight, the leads worked well together personally and professionally, and the religious aspects were at least worked in as every day parts of the characters’ lives and thus never truly preachy. And hell, the actual mystery at hand was actually sufficiently creepy that fans of the general romantic suspense genre will find quite a bit to enjoy here – so long as you don’t mind praying. (I know of at least some readers who absolutely will not touch a book that mentions God or prayer *at all*, *no matter what*. If you’re that level… yeah, this book isn’t for you. If you’re at least ambivalent about that particular feature and just looking for a great suspense tale… you’re gonna like this one.) As I said in the title here, this is truly a solid tale of its type, and thus it is very much recommended.
After the jump, an excerpt followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#TwelveDaysOfRomance #BlogTour: Buried Cold Case Secrets by Sami A Abrams”
This week we’re looking at a book whose greatest strength is just how eerily plausible its story really is. This week we’re looking at What’s Done In Darkness by Laura McHugh.
As always, the Goodreads review:
All Too Real. This is one of those books that apparently I can speak to in a way no other reviewer on Goodreads has so far – from the conservative evangelical American Christian side. Growing up on the exurbs of Atlanta, I knew lands not dissimilar from what McHugh describes in this text in the Ozarks. Very rural lands where even by car the nearest single stop sign town can be an hour away. Farmlands with houses tucked into the trees or far out in the fields. And while I never exactly imagined these kinds of events taking place in them, I’m also familiar enough with the very strains of extremely conservative evangelical Christian culture that McHugh plays off of here. And yes, a lot of the attitudes McHugh describes are all too real – and fairly common, within those circles. Even the ultimate actions here are close enough to things I’ve personally seen as to be plausible, including the actual endgame and reasoning – which would be a spoiler to even discuss glancingly. An excellent creepy thrill ride, this is one of those books that could damn near be a news article. Which would make it a perfect candidate for a screen near you. 😉 Very much recommended.
This week we’re looking at a compelling mystery that keeps things refreshingly realistic – if completely twisted. This week we’re looking at Far Gone by Danielle Girard.
Compelling Mystery. This is one of those mysteries that has so much going on that it could feel disjointed in a lesser storyteller’s hands, but Girard manages to make it work quite well. We get the story primarily through three perspectives – Hannah, who witnesses a murder in her opening scene, Lily, a nurse who is a former kidnapping victim who is now working to rebuild her life, and Kylie, the detective who helped Lily in the first book and who here is investigating the murder. Girard manages to keep the pace of the reveals driving through the narrative, all while maintaining plausibly realistic scenarios. Indeed, even the ending is surprisingly refreshing in its realism on all fronts – despite what some activists would have liked. Truly a great story told very well. Very much recommended.
For this blog tour, we’re looking at a book that has a *phenomenal* sequence after the opening scene… and then gets confusing. But then picks back up by the end and “breaks” a lot of “rules” for its genre, which makes it quite interesting indeed. For this tour, we’re looking at Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica.
Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:
Confusing Front. Interesting Ending. This book has one section at the front of the book that seems to go on *forever*… and yet is the singular most fascinating passage of the tale. In this particular section, we get a girl who is trapped in utter darkness and we *feel* what it is doing to her after being here for so long. Then she *finally* breaks free and runs for her life, and we feel her utter terror viscerally.
And then… the book completely transitions into a more “typical” domestic psychological suspense/ thriller. There is someone threatening someone. There is a murder. There is a suicide. And through 2/3 or so of the book, we get a fairly standard (though to be clear, engaging, if a bit confusing to pick up on at first, particularly in the mind-shock of coming from the escape into this) tale.
But then… Kubica begins to do things that you’re not supposed to do in this genre. We get a major reveal *before* the last 20% of the book. And then we build… and we get *another* reveal before the last 10% of the book! And another! And the actual ending… well, it isn’t the complete mind-bender that so many of these books end on. Which may be a good thing, depending on your tastes. And which I enjoyed just because it *didn’t* go the “typical” route, if for no other reason.
Truly an interesting story, one that could have arguably been told in a better way. But still engaging and still worthy of reading – and without any objective flaws to hang a star reduction on. Therefore it maintains the full five stars and is very much recommended.
Below the jump, a chapter long excerpt from one of the early scenes in the book followed by the book and author details.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica”
Intriguing Mystery. Explosive Ending. This was my first book from Holten, and thus obviously I hadn’t read the prior three books in this series. And yet this book totally works. Yes, there are references to prior events, but they are explained enough to keep the current story going without overburdening the current story with prior details. If you’ve ever started in the middle of a military technothriller series ala Tom Clancy or Dale Brown – similar feel here.
Overall, the world is interesting in that you get a typical-yet-not detective and an entire cast of well developed characters all working together almost in an ensemble fashion that works so well in so many mediums. Holten shows herself adept at the technique of using the final sentences of a chapter to hook the reader into reading the next, and indeed uses the final chapter of the overall book to similar effect – the reader is left almost breathless in desperate need for the next book.
If you’re open to police procedurals at all, particularly those set in the UK, you’re going to enjoy this book. Even if you’re not, you should really give this book a chance – the characters are that strong. Very much recommended.
This review of Dead Secret by Noelle Holten was originally written on March 10, 2021.
Full Of Surprises. I normally pride myself in picking up on things somewhat early. On this one, I didn’t actually know what was happening until the final reveal. Lots going on here, but all written and revealed in a compelling fashion. Pretty dark, involving serial kidnappings, many with murders. But truly compelling reading, there is never really a sense of “I can put this thing down for good now” until the last word is read and you’re forced to put it down for good. Very much recommended.
This review of The Day I Disappeared by Brandi Reeds was originally written on August 8, 2020.
Ronan Faces His Toughest Challenges Yet. In this latest chapter of Pandora Pine’s long running police procedural MM romance series, we find one of her main characters facing some of his toughest battles to date. All because five kids get kidnapped and 2 adults decide to have a shootout with the FBI… in the first two chapters of the book. Pine yet again does a superb job of going with the overarcing story without putting too much emphasis on having the reader already know about things lest they be lost. Thus, virtually any book in this series – this among them – can work as entry points so long as the reader doesn’t mind going back and discovering how the various personal relationships got to the point they are here in this book. The one minor complaint I have with this particular one is that Pine could have potentially allowed some late revelations in this book to play out over several – perhaps dozens, if she wanted to be particularly creative – other books. But instead she plays into the episodic nature of the police procedural, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – several best selling authors more well known than her have achieved their fame almost specifically *because* they play into that trope. Still, a very much recommended book, one long time fans of Pine are likely already reading but are certain to enjoy – and again, a good entry point for any potential new fans.
This review of Dead On His Feet by Pandora Pine was originally written on August 7, 2019.