Deceptive Description Mars Otherwise Still Intriguing Tale. Straight up: The description of this book (which can change at any time, but my commentary here is accurate to the one that exists at the time I write this review) is NOT an accurate depiction of what this tale actually is – and this blatant deception is the reason for the star deduction here. The description leads the reader to think this is going to be some kind of ghost ship type story, or at least a far more mysterious adventure than it turns out to be. Instead, we get (without going *too* deep into spoiler territory)… more of a social commentary disguised as a mystery thriller.
To be clear, the story we get is actually *good*. It is a heart-pounding, balls to the wall, never want to stop reading thrillfest where just when you think you know what is happening… you realize you don’t have a freaking clue. But just like with the 2010s era “Robocop” movie, don’t lead me to believe I’m getting one thing and then give me something that is not only not that thing, but something very different than my expectations were when you told me I was getting that thing.
Even the writing structure is interesting here, choosing for 130+ shorter – sometimes barely a single page long, even in Kindle form – chapters, perhaps as a crutch to help “sell” the pacing. But every single chapter does end on a bit of a stinger/ cliffhanger that entices the reader to actively go into the next chapter right this second… even as smart readers quickly realize exactly the mechanism being used here.
For those who want a mysterious action thriller with a side of social commentary that will leave you breathless and desperately wanting the next chapter (or perhaps even a sequel)… this is absolutely a great escapist Summer Thriller kind of read that would play well in Summer Movie Season on the silver screen – it has that same kind of “you absolutely need to suspend all disbelief, but if you do, you will be rewarded with one *hell* of a ride” quality.
Overall, truly a great read for what it actually is – but what it actually is is *not* what the current description leads the reader to believe. Very much recommended.
This review of The Last One by Will Dean was originally written on August 8, 2023.
Bone-Chilling Survival With Lots Of Moving Parts. This is one of those excellent lost in the wilderness/ lost in the blizzard survival tales that also happens to be a chase tale that is actually a story about family and breaking generational problems. So clearly, there is a LOT going on here, and a LOT of moving parts. And the non-moving parts – the wilderness and to a lesser extent the blizzard – are given their own fair respect here as well, both in the area natives’ respect for them and in the out-of-towners’ disrespect. One of Brennan’s most complex stories I’ve yet come across after working a couple of her other series over the last few years, this is truly an excellent tale of a different type from her, with her usual excellent execution in all aspects of the story. You’re going to *feel* the impacts here, from the coldness of the wilderness – and the coldness of some of the characters. Which is great, for a summer release during several consecutive days of “Excessive Heat Warning” events. 😀 Very much recommended.
This review of North Of Nowhere by Allison Brennan was originally written on August 8, 2023.
Hunter and Hunted – But Who Is Who? This is one of those books that seems like it wants to take on Big Ideas, but in its brevity… eh, those Big Ideas are more sacrificed to telling a more compelling and less potentially divisive story, while still hitting some of the high points of the Big Ideas. Ultimately, this is a book whose main characters are very finely drawn and nuanced… and whose lesser players are almost cardboard caricatures. Still, Heard here uses the main characters, their varying histories, and the island setting (through at least half the book) quite well indeed to craft a suspenseful tale that will keep you on the edge of your beach or pool lounger just enough to keep your feet in the water… without giving you a heart attack before you can finish the book and dive in. A couple of bits in particular are more mind-bending than others, though those are quickly moved on from and the more cat and mouse nature of the book again reasserts itself. Overall a solid, mildly pulse pounding book that will be quite enjoyable as a vacation read and one that should be able to be devoured almost no matter how little reading time one may have on a summer break or vacation. Very much recommended.
This review of You Can Trust Me by Wendy Heard was originally written on May 26, 2023.
Solid Use Of Multi-POV To Create Compelling Thriller. Ok, this is one the “intelligentsia” claim “you can see coming from a mile away with a blindfold on”. Eh, maybe. I didn’t, not until the actual reveal. But I don’t read mysteries or thrillers *trying* to do that. If anything, I’m looking for deeper connections to the current zeitgeist or to some legend or lore. (None of which is really present here, to be clear, other than this being yet another missing person based book.) What I found here was a solid use of multiple POVs and perspectives to create a thriller where everyone has secrets, everyone is lying… and yet one person’s lies are hiding an awful truth that will unravel the entire thing. And then there is the back quarter or so, where all the lies are revealed, and the tale instead turns into a race to save a life… or end another. This part was where Glass apparently lost some readers, who felt that the tale fell off the rails here. Again, I disagree. While a different approach through this section (yet still maintaining the multiple POVs), I felt it was at least as compelling as anything that had come before it, and indeed even the ending itself felt justified and at least understandable, if not completely realistic. Overall, this book admittedly isn’t likely to win any awards, yet as compelling or at minimum serviceable escapism for a few hours (clocking in at just under 300 pages), this is absolutely a book that will transport you away from the “real” world and into one with a bit of everything for everyone, including even doses of humor and romance. Very much recommended.
This review of The Vanishing Hour by Seraphina Nova Glass was originally written on May 19, 2023.
Dark. Real. Short. This book is interesting in that it has almost two separate storylines entirely, using at least some of the same characters… and then… stuff happens.
The one storyline is a genuine romance, where our lead is troubled by accusations from her recent past but is trying to move on both professionally and personally. This storyline is dark, but meets every “rule” of the “romance genre”. It is also very *real*, almost viscerally so, in how it portrays and handles the particular situation.
Sadly, the other storyline, where someone else is simply troubled and which leads to the accusations in question (yes, this is a slight dual-timeline approach), is *so much darker*, with violent fantasies of both shooting people and raping people. (To be clear, little is ever shown “on screen” other than the character discussing a *desire* to do these things. That alone could be too disturbing for some readers though, so worthy of noting.) But here again, Banks does a truly phenomenal job of making this character and storyline so very *real*, even as this particular character is truly so *dark* and disturbed.
That Banks manages to create such divergent storylines, using some of the same characters, and manages to do so in such a short amount of space (clocking in at not far over 200 pages), *and then manages to combine them so superbly*… this is a master storyteller at work, yall. Very much recommended.
This review of Everything We Never Said by Sarah Banks was originally written on February 10, 2023.
If We Don’t Get A Sequel, We Riot! Or we at least start jokingly pestering McKinnon until she finally caves and gives us the sequel this story demands. And I in particular have a history with more than one author of eventually getting my way in these matters – through nothing more than constant begging. 😀 Read this book, and join my campaign!
Seriously though y’all, this book starts out a touch slow ish – Frankie is in anger management and meets a guy. But as things start to pick up, they *really* start to pick up. Then, it appears that McKinnon has shot her shot a touch early and we get into almost a Return of The King situation (where the ending begins to feel long and drawn out for no obvious reason)… except those last few pages. That is where you’re going to join my campaign to demand a sequel from McKinnon, and we will eventually win this battle and get our sequel.
One of McKinnon’s better books – which is saying quite a bit in and of itself, as McKinnon really is a masterful storyteller across all the books I’ve read from her – and I do believe the first I’ve ever demanded a sequel from. Yes, the story and particular its ending are that compelling. Very much recommended.
This review of The Revenge List by Hannah Mary McKinnon was originally written on January 13, 2023.
Small Town Shenanigans. This is a great example of one of those small town tales where everyone has secrets, and, to quote Tony Stark in The Avengers: their “secrets have secrets”. So when a murder happens as our hero here is trying to rebuild her life and save her career… of *course* she has to investigate it herself. Because, you know, secrets. But along the way we really do see the inner workings of very small towns quite well, and Banks also manages to keep enough of the romance there to balance out just how dark and creepy this town can feel at times. A definite break from this author’s norm (she is working under a new pseudonym here), but a solid effort in this particular type of space and one that manages to up the creepy factor while adding in quite a bit of tension and apprehension not generally found in her other works. Very much recommended.
This review of Small Town Girl by Sarah Banks was originally written on January 4, 2023.
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.
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.
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.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: A Secret In The Family by Leah Mercer”