#BookReview: Snatched by James Beltz

Chilling Combination Of Police Procedural And Paranormal. Beltz apparently wrote this entire trilogy at once, before releasing each book a month after the previous entry, and here we find the two cops at the center of Book 1 – Twisted – involved in yet another paranormal mystery where the only connective tissue between the books is the cops themselves. Here, rather than the tele-muchness of Twisted, we get a different type of paranormal ability, and yet Beltz still manages to use these abilities in surprising ways to fight a particularly cunning and chilling bad guy. This is one of those books that will absolutely make you rethink some of the things you allow your children to do/ you allow to be done to your children – and yet Beltz does this perfectly within the story he is telling here, without ever being preachy about any real-world topic. Very much recommended.

This review of Snatched by James Beltz was originally written on September 29, 2022.

#BookReview: A Familiar Stranger by A.R. Torre

Almost Two Semi-Tightly Coupled Novellas. This book is a strange one in that it is almost two separate novellas that are somewhat tightly coupled (with the second one using the same characters and playing off the events in the first one), but which are otherwise fairly distinct in both style and tone. In the first half of this book, it is more of a domestic suspense where we get a countdown every so often of how long is left until someone dies. Then, suddenly, a random perspective we’ve yet encountered… and this person discovers a body. This is effectively the prologue of the second novella, and from here we get more of a crime thriller where the reader is trying to figure out who the killer actually is even as various people reveal themselves to be on one side of the law or another and the two sides eventually converge with interesting and explosive results. Overall, the complete tale works, almost in a Without Remorse (the original Clancy, not the bastardized movie form) manner where you need the first half to make any real sense of the second half. An interesting tale and told using some rare mechanics. Very much recommended.

This review of A Familiar Stranger by A.R. Torre was originally written on September 19, 2022.

#BlogTour: A Secret In The Family by Leah Mercer

For this blog tour we’re looking at a great bit of escapist fiction that starts quite slow but becomes quite explosive in the end. For this blog tour we’re looking at A Secret In The Family by Leah Mercer.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Slow Burn That Becomes Explosive. This is one of those books that starts out quite slow – we don’t even really get a hint of the overall mystery until around the 25 – 33% mark – but then builds out to become quite explosive indeed. And when you think you have it all figured out… well, you might have most of the general idea… but there are still some shocking particulars to come. Overall a decent book of this author’s style, it could potentially be argued that others of her books are stronger, but this one was still completely enjoyable and a great distracting read. A perfect escape for when it seems like political ads or debate are all you see or hear across the media spectrum. Very much recommended.

After the jump, the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
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#BlogTour: The Ex Between Us by Nicola Marsh

For this blog tour we’re looking at an excellent thriller that takes its early cues from the best disaster movies. For this blog tour we’re looking at The Ex Between Us by Nicola Marsh.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Disaster Movie That Spins On Its Head To Leave You Breathless. This tale starts like a disaster movie – people living their normal, complicated lives. Slowly the tension builds, with small weird or disturbing events that seem off but not particularly dangerous. Marsh eventually elevates the danger, and this is when the more suspense/ thriller part kicks in. In the end, the reader is left breathless and yet still questioning of certain things… which this particular reader always enjoys. An excellent tale excellently crafted and told. Very much recommended.

After the jump, the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
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#BookReview: Iris In The Dark by Elissa Grossell Dickey

Solid Sophomore Effort That Doesn’t Live Up To The Author’s Debut. With this book, Dickey gives a solid story that has elements across several genres – and thus may not work for readers who are exclusive to any given genre. For readers who are more open though, this one actually works quite well. There is a mystery/ creepiness factor (combined with a tragic/ dark backstory) that almost gives mystery/ suspense vibes, but when combined with the more romance side of the tale switches to almost a romantic suspense vibe. Then there are the women’s fiction elements of a woman trying to find herself yet again when her world begins to collapse – or is it simply her mind collapsing? In the end, I would suggest that the book ultimately follows all rules I know of for the romance genre, and thus likely best fits there – though I’m not sure that this is what Dickey or her publisher (not known for romances) intended. I appreciate that Dickey tells a dramatically different story here than her debut (The Speed of Light), and I encourage all readers to go check out that book as well, no matter your own thoughts on this one. This book is ultimately the well-travelled tale of a phenomenal debut making the next work so much harder, as it has so much to live up to. Judged on its own, this story is truly a solid and intriguing one. Recommended.

This review of Iris In The Dark by Elissa Grossell Dickey was originally written on June 10, 2022.

#BookReview: My Wife Is Missing by DJ Palmer

Strong Cat And Mouse Tale Actually Harmed By Final Reveals. There is no escaping writing about my feelings about this book without up front stating that while the first of two final reveals was a decent twist – not great, given the story to that point, but serviceable enough – the second one in particular was just lackluster, lazy, and didn’t fit with the rest of the book at all. And for it to be the epilogue of the book only leaves the reader disappointed.

Which is sad, because the book before that point, and even during the course of the first reveal, is a nail biting cat and mouse game that had me invested from the very beginning. A man comes back to his hotel room in NYC from getting his family pizza… only to find barely a shred of evidence that they were ever there to begin with. From here we get a dual-timeline-ish tale where we see both husband and wife and the one’s efforts to find the other while the other tries desperately to hide from the one seeking them, and this part of the tale is deftly told showing Palmer’s usual skill at maintaining a solid level of tension throughout the tale. With a better ending, this tale could actually have been one of Palmer’s stronger ones. As it is, it is simply middling. Which is still a great tale from a great storyteller, simply not this particular storyteller at the top of his game. Still very much recommended.

This review of My Wife Is Missing by DJ Palmer was originally written on May 4, 2022.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Disappeared by Bonnar Spring

This week we’re looking at an atmospheric and visceral mystery that turns into an edge-of-your-seat survival thriller. This week we’re looking at Disappeared by Bonnar Spring.

Atmospheric Mystery Turns Nail Biting Thriller. This is one of those visceral, atmospheric type tales where you truly feel immersed in the (for most readers) exotic locale. Spring does a tremendous job of showing the breadth of Morocco, from its urban and more modern (ish) areas to its much more remote and tribal areas, from its dazzling seascapes to the bleak Saharan Desert. Much of the tale is a mystery of a woman trying to find her sister, who she arrived in-country with but has now disappeared. Later revelations turn the tale into a desperate attempt to survive and to flee the country, and this is where the book begins to take on much more of its thriller vibe (though there was at least some tinge of foreshadowing of this during the more mystery-oriented section of the tale). Truly a remarkable work, and very much recommended.

Featured New Release Of The Week: The Lying Club by Annie Ward

This week we’re looking at a book that has a slow start and a LOT of moving parts that ultimately all ties together into a satisfyingly suspenseful tale. This week we’re looking at The Lying Club by Annie Ward.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Slow Start Yet Overall Satisfying. This is one of those books that starts a bit slow and has a LOT of moving parts and thus can be a touch difficult to keep track of at times, even for those of us who like this type of setup. One where there is little action and it seems a touch pointless at times… until the back parts of the book where the action truly finally picks up steam and gets fairly suspenseful. And yet, by the end all is tied up neatly – perhaps a bit too neatly, and the epilogue is perhaps unneeded as well. Ultimately a strong book that arguably tries to do a bit too much – but still largely succeeds in telling its tale its way. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, social and buy links.
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Featured New Release Of The Week: The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf

For this week’s Featured New Release we’re looking at a tale of suspense set in three different timelines – present, years ago, and unknown – that all merge into a masterclass of suspense of a finale. This week we’re looking at The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Master Class In Suspense. Up front, this tale is told in three different timelines from three different perspectives – so if you’re a reader that struggles with that… well, this is an excellent read and you should still try it, but I get it. 🙂 That noted, what makes this tale so strong is that each of the three threads – present day, years ago, and unknown – could be separate books and still be equally compelling, and yet here Gudenkauf weaves them together so masterfully that they play off each other even better and produce an overall much tighter grip on the reader’s mind. Yes, they all ultimately come together – and when they do, the finale is ultimately some of the best suspense of the entire book. Which is saying quite a bit, given just how good the parts before that are. This is another one that uses its setting in winter well, as well as its setting in the US central plains arguably even better than its winter placement of the present day timeline. Truly a remarkable work, and very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social and buy links.
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Featured New Release Of The Week: The Ex-Husband by Karen Hamilton

This week we’re looking at a tale of karmic suspense that takes place at least in part at sea and shows the commonalities and differences between cruising and yachting quite well. This week we’re looking at The Ex-Husband by Karen Hamilton.

Karmic Suspense At Sea. This book is a mystery/ suspense set partly in the UK and partly (or pretty well fully, in its back half) at sea mostly in the Caribbean and even one Alaska season. The dual timeline approach is used here to show the suspense of someone stalking our narrator with information she doesn’t want known and which they shouldn’t have in the present timeline, with the second timeline being “18 months ago” when her world came crashing down. Except that the 18 months ago timeline is filled at least as much with the entire backstory of how she got to that point as well. This tale is an interesting blend of both cruising and yachting, which are very different experiences. Even though the largest megayachts (such as the Azzam) and the smaller cruise ships (such as Windstar Cruise Lines’ Wind Surf) are roughly the same size, with cruising you’re usually with a few hundred (at least, it can be closer to 5,000+) strangers + up to 2,000 or so crew members whereas with yachting you’re usually with no more than a few dozen people you’re at least tangentially associated with – even if only through a common acquaintance – and no more than a hundred or so staff. Also, the onboard experience of a cruise tends to be more akin to a perma-mall/ theme park on a cruise vs a much more exclusive, bespoke experience on a yacht. (Think of the difference of going to say Disney World vs what happens on Bravo’s Below Deck shows, for example.) Still, Hamilton actually does a good job showing how similar yet different each of these are, even as she weaves a tale of con artistry and karmic suspense through both facets of sea-travel experience. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social and buy links.
Continue reading “Featured New Release Of The Week: The Ex-Husband by Karen Hamilton”