Review: The Secret (DS Imogen Grey #2) by Katerina Diamond

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

EVERYTHING YOU THINK YOU KNOW IS A LIE…

Can you keep a secret? Your life depends on it…

Bridget Reid has a secret, one that could get her killed… If she can escape the man who is keeping her locked in a basement bedroom.

DS Imogen Grey is good at keeping secrets – truths she’d never reveal to her colleagues at Exeter Police. She worked hard to get where she is – she nearly died for it. Now her past is catching up with her…

As DS Grey and her partner DS Adrian Miles search for Bridget, they uncover a terrifying web of abuse, betrayal and murder. And they realise that some secrets are better left buried…

Another fantastic book I discovered through Annie @ The MissteryThe Secret is a well-plotted, smartly written, super dark novel and I enjoyed every minute of it.

This is the second book in a series, but I felt it stood really well on it’s own since I didn’t read the first book and I didn’t feel lost at all like I was afraid of. Detectives Imogen Grey and Adrian Miles are newly re-united partners investigating a double murder and a missing person. As the case progresses it begins to tie back to one of Imogen’s past cases from two years prior, one that forced her to transfer to another department. I really loved the multiple timeline storytelling. It is told by multiple POVs in the Present, 2 Years Ago, and a POV from an anonymous boy as he grows up. I loved trying to figure out who all the characters were in the anonymous POV and how everything from the past fit into the present. I love that I didn’t figure everything out half-way in like I do with so many other books in this genre.

Imogen was kind of a hard character to like most of the time, but I did enjoy her overall. I really loved her partner, Adrian! Though he was definitely not a perfect person, he was sweet and protective and smart. I loved how his relationship with Imogen was really platonic, too. I also very much loved Dean, who is a bit of an anti-hero here. At first I was a little annoyed about Imogen’s attraction to him, but I very quickly got on board with it. Love him!

Overall, I really liked The Secret. There was so much going on in it, but I felt like it was well paced and fit together really well. It does have pretty dark subject matter – I actually gasped out loud at one part and that never happens anymore – but it was balanced well enough that it’s not one of those books that just depresses you when you’re done with it. The only thing I didn’t really like was that I felt the ending was a little too open-ended. While the case was solved, there were still some loose ends that weren’t tied up. I’m sure they will be in the next book, though, which I am very excited to read.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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Review: Blind Spot (Chesapeake Valor #3) by Dani Pettrey

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

FBI agent Declan Grey is in the chase of his life–but isn’t sure exactly what he’s chasing after. Threatened by a terrorist that “the wrath is coming,” Grey fears something horrible is about to be unleashed on American soil. When his investigation leads him to a closed immigrant community, he turns to Tanner Shaw to help him. She’s sought justice for refugees and the hurting around the world, and if there’s anyone who can help him, it’s Tanner.

Tanner Shaw has joined the FBI as a crisis counselor . . . meaning she now has more opportunity to butt heads with Declan. But that tension also includes a spark she can’t deny, and she’s pretty sure Declan feels the same. But before anything can develop between them, they discover evidence of a terror cell–and soon are in a race against the clock to stop the coming “wrath” that could cost thousands their lives.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Blind Spot will be available October 3, 2017.

I’m a fan of Dani Pettrey and have really enjoyed the Chesapeake Valor series. I’m disappointed to say that this installment, while still a good read, did not live up to my expectations.

It took me a really long time to get into the story. In the previous book, Still Life, there is a subplot with Declan and a potential terrorist attack that I didn’t really like. That subplot becomes the main focus of this book, along with Declan and his romantic interest Tanner, so I think I started off the book a little biased. It took me until over half way through to really start enjoying it. There were a few well done suspenseful moments thrown in, but it wasn’t until the latter half of the book that I really felt the urgency.

It also took me a little while to get on board the Declan and Tanner ship. I did like Declan pretty early on, but I thought Tanner could be a little condescending. There’s also a reveal about Tanner’s big secret, shameful past that greatly annoyed me. There was absolutely nothing for her to be ashamed of and I thought it was kind of disrespectful to the real life people in that position. Tanner did eventually grow on me, though, and I was happy when her relationship with Declan finally progressed. I also liked how their faith was effortlessly written into the story. I didn’t think there was any “big lesson” they had to learn, but their Christian faith was evident in who they were and I liked that.

We also get Griffin’s POV with the second major storyline, the murder of a friend/mentor of the group. I have to say that I was incredibly bored with this storyline. With the terrorism plot, this one just didn’t really seem to matter. I thought that the answers came way too easily, too. And as with the previous book, I don’t understand how all these people are able to share details of official investigations. And how does Griffin have any jurisdiction to pursue someone out of the country? I also thought it was odd that Tanner, who is a crisis counselor, gets to be Declan’s partner once they’re done with her connection to a potential witness. I feel like you have to overlook a lot when it comes to the crime solving in this series.

We get one other person’s POV and it was the one I most enjoyed. We finally get some answers (though vague) on the missing Luke. I had some issues with the way different members of the group reacted to his reappearance, but I guess I can kind of see where they’re coming from. I just hope they get over it quickly in the next book.

Overall, I thought Blind Spot was Pettrey’s most ambitious book yet. I can appreciate the effort to elevate the central mystery to a national threat and not just something that affects someone in the group of friends, but it just fell a little short for me. I had a hard time getting into the story and while I did like Declan and Tanner eventually, I did not enjoy them as much as I did the central couples of the previous books. I did really like the appearance of Luke, though, and am really looking forward to seeing more of him in the next book.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben

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I received a copy of this title via Penguin’s First to Read and NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Synopsis from Good Reads:

With unmatched suspense and emotional insight, Harlan Coben explores the big secrets and little lies that can destroy a relationship, a family, and even a town in this powerful new thriller.

Suburban New Jersey Detective Napoleon “Nap” Dumas hasn’t been the same since senior year of high school, when his twin brother Leo and Leo’s girlfriend Diana were found dead on the railroad tracks—and Maura, the girl Nap considered the love of his life, broke up with him and disappeared without explanation. For fifteen years, Nap has been searching, both for Maura and for the real reason behind his brother’s death. And now, it looks as though he may finally find what he’s been looking for.

When Maura’s fingerprints turn up in the rental car of a suspected murderer, Nap embarks on a quest for answers that only leads to more questions—about the woman he loved, about the childhood friends he thought he knew, about the abandoned military base near where he grew up, and mostly about Leo and Diana—whose deaths are darker and far more sinister than Nap ever dared imagine.

I’ve read a lot of Suspense this year and Don’t Let Go has definitely made it’s way onto my Favorites list. It was fast paced and highly entertaining.

I loved Nap. He was sarcastic, morally gray, and totally unapologetic. The story is mostly told through his 1st Person POV and I loved being in his head. He narrated events to his dead twin brother, which is not my favorite type of narrative style, but it worked ok. I thought the story was pretty fast paced, with something happening every chapter. We get the necessary background information and character development, but it wasn’t an over the top amount of detail that slows things down like in so many other books. Coben seamlessly worked it all in to the current timeline and the mystery Nap was trying to solve.

I liked the supporting characters a lot, too. I loved Nap’s relationship with his best friend, Ellie, and how it was completely platonic. I also really liked Augie, Nap’s mentor. The two grew close after the death of Nap’s brother Leo and Leo’s girlfriend Diana, who was also Augie’s daughter. The plot revolves around the unanswered questions surrounding Leo and Diana’s deaths fifteen years ago, the recent deaths of a couple of Nap’s old classmates, and the conspiracy theories of the old missile base in their small town. I thought there were some things that seemed a little too unrealistic at times, but they made a little more sense by the end and it was all pretty entertaining, so I can let it go.

Overall,  I really enjoyed Don’t Let Go. I loved Nap and his humor. I loved how fast paced the story was and that each scene seemed important. I have only read a couple of books by Coben, but this one convinces me that I definitely need to read more from him. I highly recommend this one to Suspense fans.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Lies She Told by Cate Holahan

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I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Lies She Told will be available September 12, 2017. 

Synopsis from Good Reads:

Sometimes the truth is darker than fiction.

Liza Jones has thirty days to write the thriller that could put her back on the bestseller list. In the meantime, she’s struggling to start a family with her husband, who is distracted by the disappearance of his best friend, Nick. With stresses weighing down in both her professional and her personal life, Liza escapes into writing her latest heroine.

Beth is a new mother who suspects her husband is cheating on her while she’s home alone providing for their newborn. Angry and betrayed, Beth sets out to catch him in the act and make him pay for shattering the illusion of their perfect life. But before she realizes it, she’s tossing the body of her husband’s mistress into the river.

Then the lines between fiction and reality begin to blur. Nick’s body is dragged from the Hudson and Liza’s husband is arrested for his murder. Before her deadline is up, Liza will have to face up to the truths about the people around her, including herself. If she doesn’t, the end of her heroine’s story could be the end of her own.

 

I loved this book! It was such a well done psychological suspense and I did not want to put it down.

Lies She Told is about Liza, a once best selling author who has struggled with her last few books. Her editor doesn’t seem to be very impressed with her newest idea, but she gets him to agree to give her 30 days to submit a first draft. As she writes, she is distracted by her relationship with her increasingly distant husband, David, who’s best friend and business partner, Nick, has gone missing. She is also on an experimental fertility hormone that has some difficult side effects. She starts to write her new book about Beth, a new mother who suspects her husband is cheating on her and goes to drastic measure to keep him.

“To be a writer is to be a life thief. Every day, I rob myself blind.”

The story is told in alternating chapters of Liza’s life and her book. I really loved this! There are definitely parallels between Liza’s book and her life. However, I also thought that Beth’s story, while inspired by Liza, still felt like it’s own plot. It was almost like reading two different books that gave clues to each other. Including a story within a story is not a new narrative device, but I thought it was done really excellently here.

While I don’t think the conclusion to the mystery of what happened to Nick is really that surprising, there were still enough little twists to keep me guessing. We don’t know if Liza’s hormones are making her forgetful or if there are other things going on. On the other hand, we see exactly how crazy and manipulative Beth can be. While neither of these two characters were particularly likable, I thought both of them to be sympathetic and compelling.

Overall, I really enjoyed Lies She Told. I loved the writing style and the alternating chapters made me never want to stop reading. I definitely recommend this one to fans of psychological suspense. This is my first book by Cate Holahan and I am now anxious to try out what else she’s done.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Just before dawn in the hills near the Scottish border, a man murders a young woman. At the same time, a hot-air balloon crashes out of the sky. There’s just one survivor. She’s seen the killer’s face – but he’s also seen hers. And he won’t rest until he’s eliminated the only witness to his crime. Alone, scared, trusting no one, she’s running to where she feels safe – but it could be the most dangerous place of all…

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Dead Woman Walking will be available September 5, 2017.

I discovered Sharon Bolton earlier this year with the fabulous Lacey Flint series and have been eagerly devouring every book of hers I could get my hands on since then. Dead Woman Walking had become one of my most anticipated books of the year and I ended up really enjoying it.

The official synopsis is kept pretty vague and I am hesitant to really go further into it because I do think that it enhances the experience to go into it without a lot of information. I will say that the crime that is witnessed from the hot air balloon is just part of a much bigger mystery that is explored. The perspective shifts between the lone survivor, the murderer, the detective working the case, and flashback chapters. I’m a big fan of multiple timelines when done well and Bolton does it excellently here. Bolton also does an amazing job creating suspense, especially in the early chapters in the hot air balloon.

There are many little twists and surprises throughout the book. I’m the type of person that NEEDS to figure things out before they’re revealed and because of this I am not often surprised by the twists. There is one kind of major twist that I suspected very early and it took most of the book for it to be confirmed. I feel like anybody really paying attention would be able to figure it out because there are lots of clues, so I thought it took a little too long to reveal it. However, if you’re not the type of person that has to analyze every little thing then it might be a great surprise for you. There are a couple of other twists that I did figure out before they were revealed, but Bolton still managed to sneak in one surprise that literally made me go “What!?”.

Overall, even though I figured out most of the twists, I thought Dead Woman Walking was a really well-constructed mystery and I enjoyed pretty much every moment of it. I am impressed by Bolton’s writing in every book I read by her and this year she has become one of my favorite authors. I definitely recommend this one to mystery/suspense fans.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Chasing fame.

Chasing love.

Chasing a future.

Emme has long lived in her best friend Sophie’s shadow. She writes songs, and Sophie sings them. It’s always been like this, and feels like it always will be.

Sophie will stop at nothing to be a star. Even if it means using her best friend and picking up a trophy boyfriend, Carter.

Carter is a victim of a particular Hollywood curse: He’s a former child star. Now all he wants is a normal life. But being normal is about as hard for him as being famous.

Ethan has his own issues – a darkness in his head that he just can’t shake. He’s managed to sabotage every relationship he’s ever been in. Emme’s the only girl he’s ever really respected… but he’s not sure what to do about that.

Emme, Sophie, Carter, and Ethan are all students at a performing arts school, where talent is the norm and fame is the goal. But sometimes, being in the spotlight isn’t as important as the people you’re sharing it with – as the four of them are going to find out in Elizabeth Eulberg’s excellent new novel, which is about the auditions life puts us through every day, both big and small.

I very recently discovered Elizabeth Eulberg and have been working my way through her books. While I’ve enjoyed all of the ones I have read so far (especially Better off Friends), Take a Bow has become not just my favorite Eulberg book, but one of my favorite books of the year.

I loved the characters. The story is told from the 1st person POV of four students at a prestigious arts school: Emme, Ethan, Sophie, and Carter. I really enjoyed each of their perspectives. I loved Emme and how kind she was. I loved her relationship with her band members, Ben, Jack, and Ethan. Ethan came the closest to the “tortured artist” persona I was expecting for the setting, but it was never over the top. While he messed up plenty, he did really try and I loved him. Carter was the former child star who just wanted to have a normal life. He was so nice and I loved the friendship he developed with Emme. His part of the story is really focused on finding himself and while I appreciated it and did like him, he came across a little pretentious at times. I pretty much straight up hated Sophie at first, but as the book went on I started to kind of love to hate her. She could not be more different than sweet Emme and I couldn’t wait to see this mean girls get what was coming to her.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been binging on Eulberg books lately and I think the thing that keeps making me come back is the character development. All of her characters are really well developed and I become deeply invested in them. I almost start to feel like they’re real people and I wish I was part of their friendships. This year I have been really into mysteries/suspense and have not had a lot of patience for anything else. These books have made me really start to appreciate a good character-driven story again.

The only thing I didn’t really like about the book was how Carter’s chapters were formatted. Every time there was dialogue it had the character name and then a colon and then what was said. It took me a little while to figure out that’s it’s supposed to mimic a script. It didn’t work for me, though, because the rest of the text wasn’t like that. If the whole POV could have been written out like a script I think it could’ve been a really interesting narrative choice, but as it was it was just kind of distracting.

Overall, I really loved Take a Bow. I read it in a day. I loved the characters and the friendship and even the catty egomaniac. I know this review does not do justice to how much I enjoyed this book. I can’t believe how long it has taken me to discover Elizabeth Eulberg. If you are a fan of YA Contemporaries, you definitely need to check her out.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4.5 Stars

Review: Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

For Macallan and Levi, it was friends at first sight. Everyone says guys and girls can’t be just friends, but these two are. They hang out after school, share tons of inside jokes, their families are super close, and Levi even starts dating one of Macallan’s friends. They are platonic and happy that way.

Eventually they realize they’re best friends — which wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t keep getting in each other’s way. Guys won’t ask Macallan out because they think she’s with Levi, and Levi spends too much time joking around with Macallan, and maybe not enough time with his date. They can’t help but wonder . . . are they more than friends or are they better off without making it even more complicated?

I loved this book! I was caught up with all my current books and didn’t know what to read so I started searching through all the “available now” titles at the library and this was the only one to really grab my interest. I decided to give it a try and I’m so glad that I did! It was such a well done friends-to-more story.

I really liked both Macallan and Levi. I loved their bantering and their friendship and how they were there for each other. The story was told in alternating first person POV and between each chapter there was a short passage of them bantering back and forth about what just happened in the preceding chapter. I really loved this narrative style and thought it really worked for the story. I felt a good connection to both characters and it kept me from getting overly upset at one of them when they did something stupid.

Friends-to-more is one of my favorite romance tropes and, as I mentioned above, it’s done really well here. Instead of just being told how they’ve been friends forever and are best friends, we get to experience their friendship from the start. The book starts with them in seventh grade and ends with them as juniors in high school. My only problem with it is I felt a little weird shipping middle schoolers. Back in my day (oh so long ago) when kids that age “dated” it was basically writing notes and occasionally hanging out, but here they were going on proper dates and there was never a mention of parents driving them or anything. It was kind of weird. However, in other ways the parents were a big part of the story and I really appreciated that. Levi’s parents and Macallan’s dad and uncle were all present and encouraging and loving and you don’t see that a lot in YA. The only other nagging issue I had with the story was Levi’s almost desperate need for guy friends. The phrase “my guys” was used far, far too often.

Overall, I really enjoyed Better off Friends. I loved the writing style and the characters. I loved watching Macallan and Levi’s friendship grow throughout the years, even though they had several setbacks along the way. I definitely recommend this to YA fans and Friends-to-More fans. This is the first book I’ve ever read from this author and I am definitely going to be checking out her other books.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars