Slow Burn With A Bang. This is one of those slow burn mysteries that doesn’t seem like the stakes are *overly* high… until you find yourself in a situation with guns drawn in broad daylight in the streets of Boston. (Yes, a touch of a spoiler, but a very minor one given the lack of other details. :D) Overall you’ve got three primary perspectives, two in third person and one in first, and everyone is hiding things from everyone for varying reasons and no one really knows who to trust at all, including some of the non-perspective characters. So on that point, this tale works well – if, again, a bit slow and seemingly low-stake. But it is compelling enough to have you want to follow along and see what exactly happens, particularly once we begin to get the third perspective (which doesn’t happen until around the 25-33% of the book, IIRC). Overall an inventive tale that plays with some well worn tropes and spins them a bit in a new-ish way, and for this it is very much recommended.
“So Many Secrets. So Many Lies. And So Much Anger.” Yes, the title of this review is a direct quote from the book. Yes, it is during the final 10%, when everything is being revealed and wrapped up. And yet you still have no idea what it actually refers to. 😉 But that particular line really does sum the book up in and of itself. This is a four person family consisting of mom and dad who have been married for over 20 years, 20 yo college dropout son, and 17yo high school junior daughter – and *every single one of them* are keeping secrets from all the others and actively lying to both the other people and themselves. Harding does a tremendous job of showing flawed, nuanced characters just trying to do what they think is right with limited information… sometimes with tragic results. No one comes out looking squeaky clean, and yet no one comes out looking overly monstrous either. Great job of showing just how murky real life often is. Very much recommended.
For this mid-week entry in the Slide Into Summer Romance Blog Tour Series, we’re looking at a romantic suspense that while deep in a series actually works quite well as a standalone book and entry point to the series. For this blog tour, we’re looking at Trouble In Big Timber by BJ Daniels.
Here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:
Solid Romantic Suspense. This book is listed as Book 5 in a series, but I can tell you from having read it without having read any of the other books that it works totally fine as a standalone as well. The existence of people from the prior books is mentioned, but I didn’t actually note anything that could even really be a spoiler about those books in this one (other than the not-really-a-spoiler-due-to-genre-rules mentioning that certain people are together, possibly). Overall a truly solid book mostly on the mystery/ suspense side – it opens with a man attempting suicide and being stopped by what he believes is the butt-dial of a long-lost friend being murdered by his long-lost ex-best friend. But this *is* a romance, and that *does* develop, it just mostly develops later as our leading man and leading woman are largely approaching the investigation into the phone call and what it revealed from two very different angles that later become more intertwined. One of those with twists almost until the very last page (other than the epilogue). Very much recommended.
After the jump, an excerpt and the publisher details! 🙂
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Trouble In Big Timber by BJ Daniels”
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”
Visceral. When you start off at one of WWII’s most infamous defeats (of the Allies) at Dunkirk and go right into one of its lesser known war crimes (the slaughter of nearly 100 British soldiers at Le Paradis), you know this is going to be one *intense* book. And it is. Here, Lane uses a British nurse and two French sisters to tell a tale of survival during the war’s early years, when Germany seemingly could not be defeated. The way she tells it reads as some of the most gripping suspense (arguably even horror, without the supernatural elements often part of that genre) I’ve yet come across in tales of this era – and indeed, even in most other tales, period. From the opening chapters where the Germans attack through the closing chapters (other than the extended epilogue), Lane never really gives these characters – and thus, the reader – any real sense of calm or safety. The Germans are always *right there*, in mind if not in body, and the threat of capture and execution – or worse – is never far from anyones’ thoughts. Releasing just one week before the 81st anniversary of the events it fictionalizes, this is easily one of the best books of Summer 2021, particularly for those looking for dark/ suspense tales. Very much recommended.
Balanced Yet Contrived. This is a story where you almost feel like it is more of a 4*, but there is nothing *really* there from a more objective standpoint that I try to rate on to justify the reduction. Yes, it could use better separation of its various narrators’ voices, rather than just the one word at the top of the chapter with their name. Yes, at times it feels that so many situations are thrown in just because the author was hoping some bookstagrammer would hashtag that situation and help market the book based on it. Yes, talking to cops without an attorney present is so GLARINGLY stupid and cringeworthy. *PARTICULARLY* for minorities. And yet, even with all of this, the story ultimately works. Not as a “thriller”, mind you, but more as a women’s fiction/ suspense character study. As a thriller… well, the book spends the first half setting up the titular Party, about 10-15% on the actual Party, and then the back part of the book dealing with the aftermath. It has the requisite secrets, lies, backstabbing, and comeuppance, and ultimately it really does tell a fairly balanced tale from a few different perspectives, but it just never quite feels as satisfying/ mind bending as many readers in this space typically look for. And yet, again, nothing truly “this is objectively wrong/ bad” here to really hang a star reduction on. Thus, 5* and recommended.
This week we’re returning to a world I said just last year that the author could spend the rest of her career in and I would not be disappointed. This week we’re looking at No Place Too Far by Kay Bratt.
On the less-good front, my writer’s block for these posts is continuing. On the not-so-bad front, at least I was (hopefully) able to convey how I truly feel about this book in the Goodreads level review. Basically, I truly love this world and want much more of it.
Amazing Follow-up. I wrote last year of the first book in this series that Bratt could spend the rest of her career in this world, and that I would not be disappointed. Here, she comes back to the world ostensibly to give best friend Maggie her story… that Quinn plays an even larger part in than Maggie played in Quinn’s own story (where Maggie was present enough to be the obvious target of a direct sequel, but otherwise truly a secondary character). Bratt does a solid job of juggling both ladies, it just seems at times here that too much is being condensed into one book. To me, the tale here could have been told over three, maybe four, books rather than one and been more on par with the overall pacing and impact of True To Me. Going into specifics might get a bit too much into spoiler territory, so I’ll simply say that to me, the division is this: Quinn gets a dedicated sequel. Maggie’s story here gets its own dedicated book where Quinn becomes more of a secondary character rather than the co-lead she is here, and Maggie’s own story is then broken up into effectively the first and second halves of the story here.
I know, I know. I’ve complained in other reviews about books being cut in half in almost blatantly obvious cash grabs, but I don’t think Bratt would have done that in the above scenario. I think more time in each of these situations would have brought out much more of the depth of emotion that True To Me had, vs the constant “swinging for the fences” here.
But do not get me wrong: This is still truly an excellent book, one I am very proud to have read, and again, I want to come back to this world many, many more times. This is just me expressing my quibbles over pacing of a truly excellent book that to my mind *just* missed the “I can’t stop crying and my mind is blown” level of amazement that True To Me brought. Truly a great book, and very much recommended.
At the back of this book, in the author bio, it notes that Winchester is a pseudonym for an author that primarily writes bubblegum pop level romance novels but who wanted to take a shot at psychological suspense. After reading this book, I can tell you first hand that if you went in expecting a bubblegum pop romance, well, those notions would have been dispelled in the first few pages. By the time you get to a rape scene fairly early in, the darkness has already been well established. So it is likely a very good marketing decision indeed to keep those two product lines separate.
That said, this was an absolute mind fuck of a book, particularly in the exceedingly dark and oppressive first half. As I say in the Goodreads review below, I really was questioning my desire to finish it, it was *that* dark. To the level that I’m actually glad I was alone when reading this one, just so no one else was impacted by how dark I became while reading it. It was an amazing effort, it really was. Winchester’s ability to bring the reader’s mind to such darkness was truly superb – and a bit disturbing. By the end, the story does in fact brighten up a bit, if only by a shade or two, and this was probably necessary just to preserve the reader’s sanity and ease them back into the real world outside the book.
This is an excellent book for a dark winter night laying around the fire reading, but probably a bit dark for the beach. (Scratch that, I was reading a fair amount of that first half while actually on a beach – there is no probably there. You really don’t want to take this one to a beach. But fall is coming anyway. 😉 )
And as always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
Continue reading “Featured New Release of the Week: All the Lovely Pieces by J. M. Winchester”
Epic Conclusion. In this truly epic conclusion to the God Tools Trilogy, the fate of humanity is at stake as the three God Tools come together with various human elements. This is the most fantastical book in the trilogy, the first one where the fantasy elements nearly override the human. But Williams and Knerly give a more complete ending than many stories do, and it works with what they had previously established.
This is a mystery that is told in two timelines – present day and twenty years ago, when Cara was in high school. Between the two timeline structure, the story is very well paced. You begin to get a sense of what is really happening and what really happened… and then yet another swerve is thrown in. And as big as some of the swerves are, the final one is very likely the biggest of them all. It is this final one in particular, in the very epilogue of the book, that will leave you breathless and mindblown.
There really is just not enough positive I can say about this book. It was solid from front to back, and I never saw any weakness at all to any aspect of the story or writing. Simply superb, and a gold standard for Cowie to attempt to meet with her sophomore work.
And as always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
Continue reading “Featured New Release Of The Week: Rapid Falls by Amber Cowie”