Review: Down a Dark Road (Kate Burkholder #9) by Linda Castillo

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

In this electrifying new thriller in the New York Times bestselling series, a convicted murderer is on the run and Chief of Police Kate Burkholder must catch him before he strikes again.

Eight years ago Joseph King was convicted of murdering his wife and sentenced to life in prison. He was a “fallen” Amish man and, according to local law enforcement, a known drug user with a violent temper. Now King has escaped, and he’s headed for Painters Mill.

News of a murderer on the loose travels like wildfire and putting Chief of Police Kate Burkholder and her team of officers on edge. A nightmare scenario becomes reality when King shows up with a gun and kidnaps his five children from their Amish uncle’s house. He’s armed and desperate with nothing left to lose.

Fearing for the safety of the children, Kate leaps into action, but her frantic search for a killer leads her into an ambush. When King releases her unharmed, asking her to prove his innocence, she begins to wonder whether the police are hiding something, and she embarks on her own investigation to discover the truth.

I’m a big fan of the Kate Burkholder series. I have been looking forward to Down a Dark Road for awhile and am so happy that it lived up to my expectations.

An Amish man convicted of murdering his wife has escaped from prison. When the escapee, Joseph King, jumps chief of police Kate Burkholder and takes her service weapon, he takes her hostage, along with his kids. She tries to talk him into turning himself in while he tries to talk her into proving he didn’t kill his wife. Though the evidence against him seems insurmountable, Kate finds herself wanting to believe him due to their shared past. Kate grew up Amish and Joseph was her neighbor and friend for a couple years. He was also her first childhood crush.  I really loved the flashback portions where we see Kate’s past experiences with Joseph. Even knowing the outcome and how much I love her current boyfriend, Tomasetti, I found myself shipping young Kate and Joseph. I can definitely see why Kate had such a hard time believing he could do all the things he was accused of.

Kate, being Kate, decides to investigate even though it has to be unofficial and under the radar. I really loved how the mystery played out. There are several great moments of suspense and lots of little twists as Kate discovers new information. I had a couple of guesses who the real murderer was, but was wrong about the one I was convinced was the bad guy for most of the book. I read a lot of this genre and am rarely surprised anymore, so I love that I didn’t figure things out until late in the game.

The only thing I didn’t really like is that there wasn’t as much Tomasetti as I wanted. What we got of him was great, but I always want more. I would’ve loved to have seen a couple of chapters from his POV working the case.

Overall, I really enjoyed Down a Dark Road. It had a great mystery and is definitely one of my favorite books of the series. I love that I got to see Linda Castillo on book tour for the fourth year in a row (and she remembered my name when I went to get my book signed!!). Having the book set near the town where I grew up and recognizing a lot of the places mentioned makes a great series that much more special. I definitely recommend the Kate Burkholder series to mystery fans.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

In this relentlessly paced novel of psychological suspense, New York Times bestselling author Michelle Richmond crafts an intense and shocking tale that asks: How far would you go to protect your marriage?

Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice’s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.


The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact. And most of its rules make sense. Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter. . . .

Never mention The Pact to anyone.

Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples.
And then one of them breaks the rules.
The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life. And The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule.
For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.”

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

The Marriage Pact will be available July 25, 2017.

I was in a weird book slump where nothing was sounding good to me when I decided to start reading The Marriage Pact. While it did take me a few chapters to get into it – whether because it started out a little slow or because of my mood, I’m not sure – it did eventually hook me and I could hardly put it down.

When Jake and Alice get married they receive an odd wedding present from a new acquaintance. It’s a locked box that they cannot open until they answer a series of questions about what they want their marriage to be and then wait for someone to come visit their home and explain. Inside the box is the Marriage Pact. A contract and a manual of rules to follow in a marriage, as well as a list of punishments if you break the rules. The goal of the pact is to have a lasting, successful marriage, so they agree to join. However, they soon come to realize how cult-like it is and how dangerous it is for them if they do not “make peace with the pact.”

Though I thought the book was a little too long and there was a little too much detail at times, I liked the writing style. It’s told from Jake’s 1st person POV and I found him likable, though often frustrating. I found myself disliking Alice most of the time because of how hard she was to nail down, which was also one of the things Jake loved about her.

I thought the psychological suspense aspect of the book to be really well done. I really felt Jake and Alice’s fear of the Pact. I am really fascinated by cults and the Pact is basically a cult. The punishment sessions were creepy and crazy. I never quite understood why it was so severe, though. There is an explanation late in the book about why punishment needs to exist to enforce the rules, but it still didn’t make a lot of sense to me. I guess cults don’t really make sense, though.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Marriage Pact. Though it started out a little slow for me and did get bogged down in the details a bit, for the most part it was well-paced and seriously creepy. I had fallen into a book slump before I started this and it definitely pulled me out. This is my first Michelle Richmond book and I’ll definitely be reading more from her.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

From the bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten comes a thriller about two missing sisters, a twisted family, and what happens when one girl comes back…

One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.

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

Emma in the Night will be available August 8, 2017. 

There is no shortage of books about the return of missing girls, but Emma in the Night sets itself apart by including  and exploring an authentic narcissistic  character. The term Narcissist is used incorrectly a lot to describe people who are just arrogant, but it’s an actual personality disorder that is much more than just arrogance. Though at times the story turned almost a little too clinical describing how Judy, the mother of the missing girls (Emma and Cass), is a narcissist, it was a lot of interesting information.

The story is told through the POVs of Cass, the daughter that has returned and wants to help find her sister, and Abby, a psychologist with the FBI working the case who also grew up with a narcissistic mother. Through both of them we see just how twisted and abusive Cass and Emma’s childhood was and the reason behind that behavior.  I feel like the story is less about finding out exactly what happened, as finding out how exactly the characters reached this point. The conclusion to the crime/mystery was kind of clichéd and a little unsatisfying, but the events leading up to it were interesting.

I appreciated the new angle on the missing girls trope, but was left slightly underwhelmed overall. I think if you go into this for the character development, the family drama, and the mental health information rather than for the mystery, you will enjoy it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

The stunning new novel from the international #1 bestselling author — a searing, spellbinding blend of cold-case thriller and psychological suspense.

Two girls are forced into the woods at gunpoint. One runs for her life. One is left behind…

Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy small-town family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father — Pikeville’s notorious defense attorney — devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.

Twenty-eight years later, and Charlie has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer herself — the ideal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again — and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatized — Charlie is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it’s a case that unleashes the terrible memories she’s spent so long trying to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime that destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won’t stay buried forever…

Packed with twists and turns, brimming with emotion and heart, The Good Daughter is fiction at its most thrilling.

I received a copy of this title from the publisher via a Good Reads giveaway. It does not impact my review.

Every time I see Karin Slaughter is publishing another book that isn’tWill Trent book, I am a little disappointed. Then I read it and am angry at myself for ever thinking I would be disappointed in a Slaughter book. The Good Daughter is not quite what I was expecting, but I really enjoyed it.

The story is told through the POVs of sisters Sam and Charlie in both the past and the present. 28 years ago their home was attacked which resulted in the loss of their mother and deep physical and emotional scars for both of them. Both sisters were a little hard to like at times, but I was rooting for them. I loved Charlie’s estranged husband, Ben, who was so sweet, but definitely had some flaws of his own. Sam and Charlie’s dad, Rusty, was another difficult character. He spoke in a lot of riddles and spent his life defending the people no one else wanted to defend, which often came with some dire consequences. He did very much love his family, though, which I liked. There are also many references made to Sam and Charlie’s mother, Gamma. Gamma was her nickname (think gamma ray) and I really wish they would have called her something else. Every time I saw it, I read it as “Gramma” and which resulted in me picturing her as an old woman.

Even though there are a couple of crimes/mysteries involved in the plot, I really felt like this was much more a family drama than Slaughter’s usual mystery/suspense. A lot of time was given to the relationship between the sisters and their parents and how each of them dealt with the fall out from what happened 28 years ago. That’s not to stay the crime element wasn’t good, because it was. Slaughter really knows how to create atmosphere and spares no graphic detail when it comes to the more violent acts (readers who are squeamish of those things should be forewarned). There are nice little reveals peppered throughout the story to move the plot along and while none of them were really shocking, I appreciated the writing all the same. I did guess what happened in the present timeline before it was revealed, but the “why” was a lot more involved than I was expecting. There was also something from the past timeline that was revealed that I didn’t guess. I did think that the resolution to the mysteries were wrapped up a little too quickly, though. I was almost to the end of the book and felt like there was a lot more crime solving to go when things all of sudden were figured out.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Good Daughter. Despite the rather long chapters, the pace was really steady and I kept finding myself saying “one more chapter” far after it was time for me to go to bed. The mystery storylines were intriguing, but it was really the family relationships that stand out. There are some really intense emotional moments and this was the first time I’ve almost cried at a Karin Slaughter book. I am so excited for the opportunity to go to one of the book tour stops and meet her next month.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Waste of Space by Gina Damico

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Cram ten hormonal teens into a spaceship and blast off: that’s the premise for the ill-conceived reality show Waste of Space. The kids who are cast know everything about drama—and nothing about the fact that the production is fake. Hidden in a desert warehouse, their spaceship replica is equipped with state-of-the-art special effects dreamed up by the scientists partnering with the shady cable network airing the show. And it’s a hit! Millions of viewers are transfixed. But then, suddenly, all communication is severed. Trapped and paranoid, the kids must figure out what to do when this reality show loses its grip on reality.

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

Waste of Space will be available July 11, 2017.

This was such a different kind of book than what I’ve read before. While it didn’t quite work for me 100% of the time, I did find it an enjoyable, often humorous read.

I thought this was going to be a Contemporary sort of book, but it’s much more of a satire on reality tv. I have watched my fair share of reality shows and I found much of this to be really spot on – from the casting “…sixty percent white, thirty percent ethnic, ten percent undetermined…plus the four Golden Tokens: gay, foreigner, disabled, and orphan…”  (quote taken from ARC) to the manufactured dramatic plot points. I loved all the random reality tv show titles that were thrown in as being part of the same DV8 network. And I loved how it shows the audience being separated into those who fully believed these kids were in space, those who found the whole thing so fake it was insulting, and those that were just enjoying it and not really caring one way or the other how real it was.

I found some of the “spacetronatus” a little more likable and/or developed than others. I liked Snout and his pet pig, Colonel Bacon, who also came on the show. I loved Kaoru, who got recruited to the show against her will, only speaks Japanese, and is not at all amused at what is going on. The two characters that were the most developed were Titania and Nico. They developed a bit of a showmance and both had some serious backstories. I really liked Nico, but wasn’t quite as fond as Titania. I’m not quite sure why. She just kind of rubbed me the wrong way sometimes. I also thought that their storylines detracted from the overall satire feel of the book. I think that the author should have gone all in with the satire and left out the heavier storylines. The story felt a little unbalanced trying to switch back and forth between the two.

I expected to get the “spacetronauts” POV in a traditional narrative format. Instead, the story is told from a whistle-blowing intern who shares video, phone, and blog transcripts, along with his own observations. I really liked this format. All of my favorite portions of the story came from the transcripts with Chazz, the producer, working behind the scenes. I also enjoyed the Perky Paisley talk show and the various blog posts about the show. Where it lacked for me was actually with the kids on the show. While they did have several humorous moments, I found them way less interesting than the production of the show.

Overall, I found Waste of Space pretty enjoyable. I loved the satirical view of reality television. Though it did occasionally go a little far into cheesy territory, I thought it was really well done overall. If you’re looking for a humorous, different kind of YA book, I definitely recommend this one. Catchphrase forever!

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

3.5 stars

Review: He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

In the hushed aftermath of a total eclipse, Laura witnesses a brutal attack. She and her boyfriend Kit call the police, and in that moment, it is not only the victim’s life that is changed forever. Fifteen years on, Laura and Kit live in fear, and while Laura knows she was right to speak out, the events that follow have taught her that you can never see the whole picture: something, and someone, is always in the dark.

It took me quite awhile to get into this book. I honestly thought about giving up, but all the reviews I read that talked about the great ending made me power through. While I ultimately found it a little disappointing, I am glad that I kept reading. About a third of the way through it started to get a lot more interesting and then a little farther along there is a surprise that definitely makes the tedious first part of the book worth it.

The story is told in alternating 1st person POV between Laura and Kit and in alternate timelines. I am a big fan of both of those narrative devices when done well and I thought they were used very effectively here. It felt completely necessary to the story and not just a narrative style choice. I didn’t particularly like either Laura or Kit, but this is one of those instances where you don’t really have to. While they both did stupid things sometimes, there was always a level of empathy with them and chances of redemption, so I could still root for them. The other main character is Beth and I was not a fan of her at all. I’m not going to go into any detail about her, though, because I don’t feel like I can do it without revealing any spoilers.

Eclipse chasing is a big part of the story. I thought that it would just be part of the setting where the catalyst of the story takes place, but it’s much more than that. I never knew that eclipse chasing was a thing that people traveled all over the world for. It does seem like an expensive hobby to have, especially for people who aren’t exactly wealthy, and my deeply practical nature makes me view it as irresponsible, which kind of soured me on the Kit and Laura.  It did make me kind of excited about the eclipse that’s supposed to be in the US this year, but I just looked it up and I don’t live in an area that will see Totality so now I’m a little disappointed.

Overall, He Said/She Said was a decent book, but fell short of my expectations. The reveals and slightly faster pace of the second half the book could not completely save it from the very slow, somewhat hard to get through beginning. While I liked the twists in the story, they were not as explosive as I was expecting from other reviews I’ve read. However, I did love how it was written and thought it was one of the most effective uses of multiple POV and timelines that I have read in quite awhile.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

This is a book that I have been looking forward to for a long time and I’m so happy to report that it not only lived up to my expectations, but surpassed them.

I’m having a hard time organizing my thoughts on this so I’m just going to list it all out.

-I’m really glad that we got all 4 POVs. I really felt like I got to know all the characters and connect with them. The story is really character driven and each of the Bayview Four showed tremendous growth throughout the book. I liked all of the characters, especially Cooper and Nate, (though it did take me a little while to warm up to Addy) and really appreciated how different they all were and how the situation changed them all for the better (cue Breakfast Club reference). My only complaint with it is that they are all told in 1st person and their voices are not that unique. There were a few times (when there were two or more of the characters in the same scene) that I forgot which POV I was reading.

-The mystery was clever and well plotted. I honestly was not expecting to be at all surprised, but I was. There were parts that I suspected, but the full reveal was something I hadn’t guessed and I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I didn’t figure out what was happening long before it was revealed. I also loved that there are clues all along the way so the answer doesn’t come out of left field.

-I shipped Bronwyn and Nate so hard!! I loved watching their old acquaintance turn into friendship and then turn into more. They were so cute together (even though I’m sure Nate would hate being described as cute) and I loved every scene that had the two of them in it. There were a few times where it felt like maybe the romantic storyline was taking a little more center stage than the mystery (especially in the epilogue), but I just loved them so much that I don’t really care.

-There is a part where Buffy the Vampire Slayer is referred to as a “retro vampire show” and I have never felt so old.

-Family love. I liked that each character had at least one present and supportive family member. So often in YA the families are either mostly absent or completely awful, but not here. There were still some parental awfulness, but there was a lot more positive family relationships portrayed. I especially loved Addy’s sister, Ashton, and Bronwyn’s sister, Maeve.

Overall, I loved One of Us Is Lying. It’s a very impressive debut with a well plotted mystery and amazing character development. This is definitely one that I recommend and know that I will be re-reading it in the future. I really look forward to reading whatever McManus writes next.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars