Review: We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The discovery of a girl abandoned by the side of the road threatens to unearth the long-buried secrets of a Texas town’s legendary cold case in this superb, atmospheric novel from the internationally bestselling author of Black-Eyed Susans.

It’s been a decade since Trumanell Branson disappeared, leaving only a bloody handprint behind. Her pretty face still hangs like a watchful queen on the posters on the walls of the town’s Baptist church, the police station, and in the high school. They all promise the same thing: We will find you. Meanwhile, her brother, Wyatt, lives as a pariah in the desolation of the old family house, cleared of wrongdoing by the police but tried and sentenced in the court of public opinion and in a new documentary about the crime.

When Wyatt finds a lost girl dumped in a field of dandelions, making silent wishes, he believes she is a sign. The town’s youngest cop, Odette Tucker, believes she is a catalyst that will ignite a seething town still waiting for its own missing girl to come home. But Odette can’t look away. She shares a wound that won’t close with the mute, one-eyed mystery girl. And she is haunted by her own history with the missing Tru.

Desperate to solve both cases, Odette fights to save the lost girl in the present and to dig up the shocking truth about a fateful night in the past–the night her friend disappeared, the night that inspired her to become a cop, the night that wrote them all a role in the town’s dark, violent mythology.

In this twisty psychological thriller, Julia Heaberlin paints unforgettable portraits of a woman and a girl who redefine perceptions of physical beauty and strength.

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

We Are All the Same in the Dark publishes on August 11, 2020. 

We Are All the Same in the Dark started off so strong for me. The writing was addictive, the atmosphere was tense, and the mystery was intriguing. Unfortunately, it lost steam for me about halfway through. It wasn’t a bad book, but it ended up disappointing me after giving me such high hopes in the beginning.

The story was told in five parts and through three different POVs. I really enjoyed the first two parts and POVs. As I mentioned, I was really interested by the mystery and I thought Heaberlin did a great job of keeping the tension high. I found both Wyatt and Odette really compelling characters and was intrigued by their shared past and lasting connection. And then Part Three happened. It’s hard to talk about without revealing spoilers, but I found the transition to be really jarring. I didn’t really like that the third narrator got about the last half of the book. I thought the pace slowed down and the story started to drag. I also thought the identity of the murderer became pretty obvious long before the reveal.

I wanted a tense mystery/thriller and I while the story did start out that way, I felt like it shifted almost more into Women’s Fiction for a great deal of the book. The heart of the story are three strong, but damaged women. They are all special snowflakes type of ladies, that are are beautiful and clever and brave, but have been damaged physically, psychologically, or both. A lot of time is spent on what happened to them in their youth and how they cope. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I didn’t care about that, but I thought it would have been better placed in a different genre. I felt like the message got in the way of the development of the mystery sometimes and made the pace drag.

Overall, We Are All the Same in the Dark ended up being just ok for me. It started off really strong, but seemed to lose focus of the mystery and started to drag about halfway through. I think if you don’t mind a heavy handed lesson being handed out with your thrillers, you will enjoy this one a little more than I did.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Louisiana Lucky by Julie Pennell

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the critically acclaimed author of The Young Wives Club, a “heartwarming story about friendship, heartache, and self-discovery” (Karen White, New York Times bestselling author), comes a charming novel reminiscent of the works of Mary Alice Monroe and Kristy Woodson Harvey, about three sisters who win a huge lottery prize and learn what it truly means to be lucky.

Lexi, Callie, and Hanna Breaux grew up in small-town Louisiana, and have always struggled to make ends meet. For years, they’ve been playing the lottery, fantasizing about how much better life would be if they had the money.

For Lexi, it means the perfect wedding; for Callie, it means having the courage to go after her career dreams; and for Hanna, it means buying a house that isn’t falling apart and sending her bullied son to private school. When the incredible happens and the Breaux sisters hit it big—$204 million dollars big—all their dreams come true. Or so they think. Because it’s actually not a cliché—money isn’t the answer to everything, and it often comes with problems of its own.

Heartfelt, engaging, and featuring characters you’ll root for from the first moment you meet them, Louisiana Lucky is a satisfying page-turner from a rising star in women’s fiction.

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

Louisiana Lucky publishes August 4, 2020. 

Who hasn’t fantasized about winning the lottery? Would you quit your job? Buy a new house? Give yourself a makeover? Plan yourself the most over the top wedding the town has ever seen? For sisters Hanna, Callie, and Lexi, these fantasies becomes reality when they win a $204 million jackpot. The story follows the three sisters as they deal with the joys and the pitfalls of receiving a windfall of cash. Each chapter switches between POVs and I really enjoyed all of them. Though I often found myself frustrated with them, I thought all of the main characters were likable and I was rooting for them to make smart choices.

Despite meeting with a financial planner who warns them not to spend too much too fast, only one of the sisters takes the advice. Callie keeps her job as a journalist for the local paper, where she’s worked with her best friend/long time crush since she graduated college. It’s only after the handsome, charming local tv news anchor takes an interest in her that she uses her new found wealth to give herself a makeover so she can be the type of woman she thinks will keep his attention. He also encourages her to get out of print media and join him on tv. He seems a little too good to be true and while he didn’t really do anything that hinted he was after her money, it did seem a little suspicious that it was at the press conference where she was announced as a millionaire that he approached her.

Hanna and Callie both went a little more crazy with the money than Callie did. Lexi was planning a small and intimate wedding with her fiance, but now she can afford the best of everything. When Seth’s mother, who Lexi has never felt accepted by, joins the wedding planning, things get even more over the top and Seth isn’t thrilled about it. Hanna is tired of all the repairs her husband’s old family home needs and she has her eye on a million dollar listing, instead. And a new car and wardrobe that will help her fit in with the snooty mothers at her children’s new private school.

All three sisters continue to throw money at their problems, but they come to realize that money may not solve everything quite as easily as they expected. Even though the direction of the plot seemed a little obvious, I felt invested in all of the sisters and wanted to see how they handled things. The story is very character-driven and because of that, the pace could feel a little slow at times. However, I was completely addicted to the book and never wanted to put it down. There was one aspect I have a bit of a complaint about, though. While there was a lot of character development for the sisters, I would’ve liked to see more development for the other people in their lives. There are quick mentions of Hanna’s son being bullied, her husband, Tom, having abandonment issues, Lexi’s fiance’s dysfunctional relationship with his parents, Callie’s close friendship with Garrett, and the growing relationship between Callie and her new boyfriend, Wynn. I wanted to know more about all of these things and get to know all the characters surrounding the sisters a little better.

Overall, I really enjoyed Louisiana Lucky. Lately I find myself struggling with books that fall under the Women’s Fiction umbrella, but I did not have that problem at all while reading this book. I was drawn in by that beautiful cover, but it was the character-driven, addictive writing that kept me hooked. I was a fan of Pennell’s debut book, The Young Wives Club, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting her follow up. With Louisiana Lucky, she’s proven she definitely deserves a spot on my author auto-read list.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Wife Who Knew Too Much by Michele Campbell

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From Michele Campbell, the bestselling author of It’s Always the Husband comes a new blockbuster thriller in The Wife Who Knew Too Much.

Tabitha Girard had her heart broken years ago by Connor Ford. He was preppy and handsome. She was a pool girl at his country club. Their affair should have been a summer fling. But it meant everything to Tabitha.

Years later, Connor comes back into Tabitha’s life—older, richer, and desperately unhappy. He married for money, a wealthy, neurotic, controlling woman whom he never loved. He has always loved Tabitha.

When Connor’s wife Nina takes her own life, he’s free. He can finally be with Tabitha. Nina’s home, Windswept, can be theirs. It seems to be a perfect ending to a fairy tale romance that began so many years ago. But then, Tabitha finds a diary. “I’m writing this to raise an alarm in the event of my untimely death,” it begins. “If I die unexpectedly, it was foul play, and Connor was behind it. Connor—and her.”

Who is Connor Ford? Why did he marry Nina? Is Tabitha his true love, or a convenient affair? As the police investigate Nina’s death, is she a convenient suspect?

As Tabitha is drawn deeper into the dark glamour of a life she is ill-prepared for, it becomes clear to her that what a wife knows can kill her.

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

The Wife Who Knew Too Much publishes July 28, 2020.

I really enjoyed Michele Campbell’s last book, A Stranger on the Beach, so I was pretty excited to get my hands on The Wife Who Knew Too Much. While the story didn’t go quite the way I had expected, it still had that addictive writing that kept me completely hooked.

In the beginning, we get both Nina and Tabitha’s POV. I liked the flashbacks to how both of their relationships started with Connor and then to the events leading up to Nina’s death. I kind of wished Nina didn’t die so soon because I wanted to spend more time with her. I liked that both women seemed sympathetic, but also a little untrustworthy. It kept me on my toes and I liked that.

The story didn’t quite unfold in the way I thought it would. The synopsis mentions Tabitha finding Nina’s diary warning of her untimely death, but that doesn’t actually happen to about the 80% mark. The book was a lot less gothic, claustrophobic drama than I expected. There was perhaps a little too much time spent of Tabitha just doing whatever Connor told her and not being nearly as suspicious as she should be. I also came up with my theory pretty early on in the story, which ended up being correct. Thankfully, the writing was still really addictive and compelling and I couldn’t stop reading it.

Overall, I enjoyed The Wife Who Knew Too Much. I really enjoyed the writing and the multiple POVs and timelines. The ending went in a slightly different direction than I was expecting, which disappointed me, but I don’t think most readers will be upset by it. If you’ve enjoyed Campbell’s other books, I definitely recommend this one. I look forward to whatever she writes next.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: The Vacation by T.M. Logan

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

In The Vacation, a captivating thriller from T. M. Logan, the bestselling author of Lies and 29 Seconds, four lifelong friends on a luxurious vacation come face-to-face with an explosive secret.

It was supposed to be the perfect vacation, dreamed up by Kate as the ideal way to turn 40: four best friends and their husbands and children, spending a week in a luxurious villa under the blazing sunshine of Provence.

But there is trouble in paradise.

Kate suspects that her husband is having an affair—and that the other woman is one of her best friends. One of these women is willing to sacrifice years of friendship and destroy her family. But which one?

As Kate closes in on the truth in the stifling Mediterranean heat, she realizes—too late—that the stakes are far higher than she ever imagined. And someone in the villa may be prepared to kill to keep their lies hidden.

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

The Vacation will be published July 21, 2020. 

Addictive writing, a steady pace, and a teasingly revealed mystery made The Vacation an unputdownable read for me.

The characters were all mostly awful people, but I felt invested in finding out what happened with them. Kate has been noticing that her husband has been acting off recently and when she stumbles upon messages on his phone, she suspects he’s having an affair with one of her three best friends, all of whom they are on vacation with. She spends a lot of time trying to figure out which of her friends is lying to her and there are suspicious things about each of them. It doesn’t help that her husband, Sean, remains cagey when she eventually tries to confront him. Thrown into the mix are the group’s children and a subplot you might be tempted not to pay too much attention to, but should. All of the children were even more awful than their parents, with the exception of sweet, innocent Daniel, Kate and Sean’s son.

The story is mostly told through Kate’s POV, but interspersed are chapters from other characters’ point of views and I thought it was done very well. It helped keep the pace steady and move the mystery along. I will say, though, that I thought things dragged on a little too long. While I didn’t guess everything that Kate eventually discovers, I was certain that things weren’t all they appeared to be. The clues that something more was going on felt pretty obvious, which made me a little frustrated with how long it took to get to a resolution. That said, I thought everything did come together nicely and I enjoyed it.

Overall, I enjoyed The Vacation. I thought the writing was addictive and I loved the use of multiple POVs. While I wish there was a little more of a twist, I was surprised by how things wrapped up and I liked that. I definitely recommend this one and look forward to Logan’s next book.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

After the first season of her true crime podcast became an overnight sensation and set an innocent man free, Rachel Krall is now a household name―and the last hope for thousands of people seeking justice. But she’s used to being recognized for her voice, not her face. Which makes it all the more unsettling when she finds a note on her car windshield, addressed to her, begging for help.

The small town of Neapolis is being torn apart by a devastating rape trial. The town’s golden boy, a swimmer destined for Olympic greatness, has been accused of raping a high school student, the beloved granddaughter of the police chief. Under pressure to make Season Three a success, Rachel throws herself into interviewing and investigating―but the mysterious letters keep showing up in unexpected places. Someone is following her, and she won’t stop until Rachel finds out what happened to her sister twenty-five years ago. Officially, Jenny Stills tragically drowned, but the letters insists she was murdered―and when Rachel starts asking questions, nobody seems to want to answer. The past and present start to collide as Rachel uncovers startling connections between the two cases that will change the course of the trial and the lives of everyone involved.

Electrifying and propulsive, The Night Swim asks: What is the price of a reputation? Can a small town ever right the wrongs of its past? And what really happened to Jenny?

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

The Night Swim publishes August 4, 2020.

I found The Night Swim to be a very average read. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it. The writing was fine, but the pace was so slow. The plot was timely, but only mildly intriguing. The good and bad parts kind of canceled each other out and leaves you with a moderately entertaining, if ultimately forgettable read.

The story follows famous podcast host Rachel, as she reports on a rape trial. We’re supposed to believe she’s an incredible journalist and investigator, so I was surprised by how thoroughly distracted she let herself get by messages from the mysterious Hannah, who wants Rachel to investigate a murder that happened decades prior. Rachel blows off parts of the trial on multiple occasions to investigate Hannah’s claims. The cases have similarities and and ultimately some of the same players. The clues are given out methodically, but slowly and I found myself pretty bored for most of the book.

I had a hard time connecting with any of the characters. We get very little personal information about Rachel and her role seems more as a narrator than anything else. This could have been by design, as she’s supposed to be an impartial host, laying out the facts for her audience. However, it kept me from ever really caring that much about her. She also was far from being impartial. I also found Hannah a frustrating character. She tells her story in fits and starts and I didn’t really understand why it had to be drawn out so long.

The story spends a lot of time on commentary about how rape accusations are handled and trials are conducted. I think a lot of good points are made, but it doesn’t say anything new. Especially with the number of books that center around #MeToo topics these days, this has nothing that makes it stand out among the others.

Overall, The Night Swim was just ok for me. The writing was fine, but I thought it was too slow paced and was much longer than it needed it to be. The mysteries were interesting enough, but the lack of character development really kept me from getting invested. It was a thoroughly average book that I think many people will spend a few days enjoying, before completely forgetting about it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Patient by Jasper DeWitt

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The Silent Patient by way of Stephen King: Parker, a young, overconfident psychiatrist new to his job at a mental asylum, miscalculates catastrophically when he undertakes curing a mysterious and profoundly dangerous patient.

In a series of online posts, Parker H., a young psychiatrist, chronicles the harrowing account of his time working at a dreary mental hospital in New England. Through this internet message board, Parker hopes to communicate with the world his effort to cure one bewildering patient.

We learn, as Parker did on his first day at the hospital, of the facility’s most difficult, profoundly dangerous case—a forty-year-old man who was originally admitted to the hospital at age six. This patient has no known diagnosis. His symptoms seem to evolve over time. Every person who has attempted to treat him has been driven to madness or suicide.

Desperate and fearful, the hospital’s directors keep him strictly confined and allow minimal contact with staff for their own safety, convinced that releasing him would unleash catastrophe on the outside world. Parker, brilliant and overconfident, takes it upon himself to discover what ails this mystery patient and finally cure him. But from his first encounter with the mystery patient, things spiral out of control, and, facing a possibility beyond his wildest imaginings, Parker is forced to question everything he thought he knew.

Fans of Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes and Paul Tremblay’s The Cabin at the End of the World will be riveted by Jasper DeWitt’s astonishing debut.

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

The Patient publishes July 7, 2020.

Despite knowing that I have a hard time appreciating books that fall under the Horror genre, I thought the synopsis for The Patient sounded too intriguing to pass up. Unfortunately, it was just another book that proved this genre isn’t for me.

I just found the story really boring. I was not, at any point, even the smallest bit freaked out or spooked by what I read. I thought at the very least there would be a creepy atmosphere around the hospital, but I didn’t really get that. I thought the mystery surrounding Joe seemed interesting, but it was approached in such a clinical way at first, that it never felt scary. Even when the story morphed into something that was obviously supernatural, I was still just kind of bored with it. It did sometimes have some graphically gross descriptions, but gore doesn’t really make up for lack of suspense or thrills for me.

I also thought there was a real missed opportunity in the formatting of the story. Parker is supposed to be sharing his story in multiple online forum entries. He makes reference to people’s comments to his posts, but we don’t actually ever see those comments. I felt it would have lent some credibility to the format to include those. As it was, other than the date that begins each chapter and Parker explicitly stating at the beginning of each entry that he’s writing this on the internet, there’s nothing about the storytelling that makes it any different than a normal narrative.

Overall, The Patient was a letdown for me. It didn’t live up to it’s intriguing premise and I didn’t really understand the narrative choices. However, you should keep in mind that this isn’t really my genre and maybe die hard Horror fans will think differently.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic artistocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets. . . .

From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes “a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror” (Kirkus Reviews) set in glamorous 1950s Mexico—“fans of classic novels like Jane Eyre and Rebecca are in for a suspenseful treat” (PopSugar).
After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

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

Mexican Gothic publishes June 30, 2020. 

Before I begin, can we all just take a moment to admire that beautiful cover? I’m not even a little sorry to admit that my desire to read Mexican Gothic was totally based on the cover. Unfortunately, it ended up being the only thing that really worked for me.

My lack of enjoyment of this book is mostly one me, though. I took “gothic” to mean a creepy and mysterious setting. Something along the lines of Jane Eyre (which is referenced in the synopsis). This is more “gothic horror”, though, which is definitely not my cup of tea. No matter how hard I try, I really struggle with being able to appreciate the horror genre, so keep that in mind with my review.

The story started out very slowly and I found it really hard to get through in the beginning. I was completely prepared to DNF it, but then I decided to give one more chapter a try and it started to pick up. I became mildly intrigued, but it never really hooked me. I found Neomi kind of shallow and spoiled and not very likable. She did grow on me as the story went on, though. I liked her growing friendship with Francis, who was the only other half-way likable character in the story.

I was hoping to experience a little more of Mexican culture than we got here, too. Despite taking place in Mexico, the story mostly takes place at the isolated house that was built in the English tradition. The Doyle family are also English and only one of them even speaks the language of the country they’ve immigrated to.

Lastly, the whole supernatural/horror part of the story just didn’t work for me. Again, this is probably more me and it might be fine for fans of the genre. I just rolled my eyes a bit and suffered through the explanations. I also found the climax of the story to be kind of predictable.

Overall, Mexican Gothic just wasn’t for me. I love that beautiful cover, but I was disappointed in the lack of Mexican culture and the whole horror plotline. I am, admittedly, not the right audience for this genre, though, so this might be worth the read for those that are.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: The Girl from Widow Hills by Megan Miranda

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

A suspense novel about a young woman plagued by night terrors after a childhood trauma who wakes one evening to find a corpse at her feet.

Everyone knows the story of “the girl from Widow Hills.”

Arden Maynor was just a child when she was swept away while sleepwalking during a terrifying rainstorm and went missing for days. Strangers and friends, neighbors and rescue workers, set up search parties and held vigils, praying for her safe return. Against all odds, she was found, alive, clinging to a storm drain. The girl from Widow Hills was a living miracle. Arden’s mother wrote a book. Fame followed. Fans and fan letters, creeps, and stalkers. And every year, the anniversary. It all became too much. As soon as she was old enough, Arden changed her name and disappeared from the public eye.

Now a young woman living hundreds of miles away, Arden goes by Olivia. She’s managed to stay off the radar for the last few years. But with the twentieth anniversary of her rescue approaching, the media will inevitably renew its interest in Arden. Where is she now? Soon Olivia feels like she’s being watched and begins sleepwalking again, like she did long ago, even waking outside her home. Until late one night she jolts awake in her yard. At her feet is the corpse of a man she knows—from her previous life, as Arden Maynor.

And now, the girl from Widow Hills is about to become the center of the story, once again.

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

The Girl from Widow Hills publishes June 23, 2020. 

I always look forward to a new Megan Miranda book and I found The Girl from Widow Hills an addicting read with an intriguing premise.

When Olivia was a child, she went missing for several days and the search to find her caught national attention. Twenty years later, she’s moved away, changed her name, and wants to forget everything that happened. Her carefully cultivated new life is threatened, though, when she discovers the dead body of someone from her past on her property. Throw in some intense sleepwalking incidents and gaps in her memory and we’re not really sure if Olivia is guilty of more than she knows. The mystery was a bit of a slow burn, but the addictive writing made that ok. I liked the characters, especially Olivia’s neighbor, Rick, and her friend/co-worker/possible love interest, Bennett. I would have liked a little more resolution when it came to those characters, though.

Overall, I enjoyed The Girl from Widow Hills. Even though the mystery was a bit of a slow burn, I felt invested in Olivia and everything that was happening. I didn’t 100% guess the ending, which is always a win for me these days. I did find the ending a little underwhelming, though. I would have liked an epilogue. While this wasn’t my favorite Miranda book, it was still enjoyable and I’m looking forward to her next book.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The past seven years have been hard on Avery Abrams: After training her entire life to make the Olympic gymnastics team, a disastrous performance ended her athletic career for good. Her best friend and teammate, Jasmine, went on to become an Olympic champion, then committed the ultimate betrayal by marrying their emotionally abusive coach, Dimitri.

Now, reeling from a breakup with her football star boyfriend, Avery returns to her Massachusetts hometown, where new coach Ryan asks her to help him train a promising young gymnast with Olympic aspirations. Despite her misgivings and worries about the memories it will evoke, Avery agrees. Back in the gym, she’s surprised to find sparks flying with Ryan. But when a shocking scandal in the gymnastics world breaks, it has shattering effects not only for the sport but also for Avery and her old friend Jasmine.

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

Head Over Heels publishes June 23, 2020. 

I always enjoy watching the Olympics and was pretty disappointed to hear that they are going to be postponed until next year. Head Over Heels looked like a good way to get a small Olympics fix in the mean time. However, it wasn’t really much more than that.

I was pretty bored throughout most of this book. I did enjoy the gymnastics included and reading about Hallie’s training routine as she prepared for the Olympic trials. I just wish there was a little more of an inside look. I feel like everything shared are things you can pick up by watching any of the countless features that play during the Olympics every year. There’s a lot more said about how hard gymnasts work than actually showing them working that hard.

I also never really cared about the romance. Avery and Ryan had crushes on each other as kids and their crushes have bled over into adulthood and they get together fairly quickly. I didn’t feel invested in their relationship at all, so when things went poorly and then got better, I just didn’t care. They could have ended the books as just friends and I wouldn’t have minded.

I expected a lot more to be said about the sexual abuse scandal, as well. It follows a lot of what happened in real life, just with fictional names. The doctor that is accused is one that made Hallie feel uncomfortable once, but thankfully nothing more than that happened with her. There’s a lot of talk about backlash online and a hearing scheduled for the doctor, but no type of resolution. I felt like from the synopsis this would be a major part of the plot, but it mostly stayed in the background. Avery and her old training partner come together to create a foundation to help the mental and emotional health of gymnasts and even that is barely addressed.

Overall, Head over Heels was not really for me. I would have liked for things to be more developed. It felt like just the bare minimum was done in terms of character development, relationship development, gymnastic research, and #MeToo details. What should have been interesting and emotional came off as boring and superficial. This is the second book I’ve tried by this author and I think it will probably be my last.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: The Heatwave by Katerina Diamond

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

One summer. One stranger. One killer…
Two bad things happened that summer:
A stranger arrived. And the first girl disappeared.

In the wake of the crime that rocked her community, Felicity fled, knowing more than she let on.

But sixteen years later, her new life is shattered by the news that a second girl has gone missing in her hometown.

Now Felicity must go back, to face the truth about what happened all those years ago.

Only she holds the answers – and they’re more shocking than anyone could imagine.

The heatwave is back. And so is the killer.

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

The Heatwave publishes June 25, 2020. 

I’m a huge fan of Katerina Diamond’s DS Imogen Grey series and I was excited for her first standalone book. Though it meant I have to wait longer for more Imogen and Adrian, The Heatwave was an enjoyable book.

The story is told in past and present timelines. In the present, Felicity feels compelled to return to her hometown and investigate when she finds out another teenage girl has gone missing. In the past, Jasmine tries to discover what the strange new lodger her parents have invited to live in their guest house is hiding. I have to say that I found the past chapters much more interesting than the present. The characters were more fleshed out and I felt invested in what happened to them. I thought Tim’s character was intriguing and wanted to learn more about him. In the present, I just didn’t really care much about Felicity. She honestly didn’t really do much besides drinking and wandering aimlessly around town, talking to whoever she happened upon. I found it frustrating that she was so vague and all character development was really saved for the end.

There was a reason for the vagueness, though. Things needed to be that way so the twists and turns revealed towards the end have an impact. However, if you’re paying attention, you will guess one of the biggest surprises very early on in the story. I did, and found myself just waiting for it to finally be revealed and I think that hindered some of my enjoyment of the story. While I did figure out almost every other twist, it did take me a little longer.

Overall, The Heatwave was enjoyable. I especially liked the past chapters. I think if you’re able to just sit back and take everything as it comes, rather than trying to figure things out, you will enjoy this one.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars