Review: The Arrangement by Robyn Harding

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Natalie, a young art student in New York City, is struggling to pay her bills when a friend makes a suggestion: Why not go online and find a sugar daddy—a wealthy, older man who will pay her for dates, and even give her a monthly allowance? Lots of girls do it, Nat learns. All that’s required is to look pretty and hang on his every word. Sexual favours are optional.

Though more than thirty years her senior, Gabe, a handsome corporate finance attorney, seems like the perfect candidate, and within a month, they are madly in love. At least, Nat is…Gabe already has a family, whom he has no intention of leaving.

So when he abruptly ends things, Nat can’t let go. She begins drinking heavily and stalking him: watching him at work, spying on his wife, even befriending his daughter, who is not much younger than she is. But Gabe’s not about to let his sugar baby destroy his perfect life. What was supposed to be a mutually beneficial arrangement devolves into a nightmare of deception, obsession, and, when a body is found near Gabe’s posh Upper East Side apartment, murder.

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

The Arrangement will be available July 30, 3019. 

I found The Arrangement really addicting. I ignored so many real life things so I wouldn’t have to put this book down and I have no regrets.

What I liked

-The author mentions in her acknowledgments that to research the topic, she signed up on an actual sugar daddy/sugar baby website and met with a couple of girls to find out more about them and this world they live in. I think this authenticity came through in the book. Harding does a good job of relaying how these young women justify what they do – or why they shouldn’t have to -, as well as how damaging and dangerous it can be. Before I go on and start to sound judgey, let me say that while I don’t agree with what they’re doing, I don’t think they’re the ones that should be blamed in these circumstances. They are not the ones with families and wives they are cheating on.

-Another thing that Harding did well was get into the psyche of the type of man that acts as a “sugar daddy.” Gabe justifies his actions in a multitude of ways, but all of them are dickish. His wife had cancer and isn’t up to meeting his needs anymore. She used to be attractive, but now has grown older and doesn’t want to get plastic surgery. His daughter doesn’t appreciate him anymore. Blah, blah, blah. He is narcissistic and selfish and, I’ll just say it, gross.

-The writing was pretty addictive. It was pretty well paced and the tension just kept increasing as Nat and Gabe’s relationship became more and more unstable and volatile.

What Didn’t Work for Me

-You know how sometimes people have certain words that just make them cringe when they hear it? That’s how I felt every time a sugar daddy was just referred to as “a daddy.” I also don’t love the term “sugar baby.” Those terms are used a lot throughout the story and I cringed every time. However, I did find some other terms interesting – such as a “splenda daddy”, who is someone who pretends to have the funds to be a sugar daddy. Not so fun fact, that term describes my father (see earlier paragraph about narcissistic, selfish, and gross men…).

-I felt really let down by the ending. There’s a bit of a twist and it was exactly what I predicted it would be. Maybe people that don’t read a lot of this genre will find it really surprising, but it felt cliched and done to me.

Overall

Overall, I enjoyed The Arrangement. The writing was addictive and Harding did a good job of creating a tense atmosphere. Even though I was a little disappointed with how it ended, I’m going to give it 4 stars because I thought everything else was well done.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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Review: Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the bestselling author of The Secrets She Keeps, the writer Stephen King calls “an absolute master…with heart and soul,” a fiendishly clever suspense novel about a dangerous young woman with a special ability to know when someone is lying—and the criminal psychologist who must outwit her to survive.

A girl is discovered hiding in a secret room in the aftermath of a terrible crime. Half-starved and filthy, she won’t tell anyone her name, or her age, or where she came from. Maybe she is twelve, maybe fifteen. She doesn’t appear in any missing persons file, and her DNA can’t be matched to an identity. Six years later, still unidentified, she is living in a secure children’s home with a new name, Evie Cormac. When she initiates a court case demanding the right to be released as an adult, forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven must determine if Evie is ready to go free. But she is unlike anyone he’s ever met—fascinating and dangerous in equal measure. Evie knows when someone is lying, and no one around her is telling the truth.

Meanwhile, Cyrus is called in to investigate the shocking murder of a high school figure-skating champion, Jodie Sheehan, who dies on a lonely footpath close to her home. Pretty and popular, Jodie is portrayed by everyone as the ultimate girl-next-door, but as Cyrus peels back the layers, a secret life emerges—one that Evie Cormac, the girl with no past, knows something about. A man haunted by his own tragic history, Cyrus is caught between the two cases—one girl who needs saving and another who needs justice. What price will he pay for the truth? Fiendishly clever, swiftly paced, and emotionally explosive, Good Girl, Bad Girl is the perfect thrilling summer read from internationally bestselling author Michael Robotham.

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

Good Girl, Bad Girl will be available July 23, 2019.

It took me quite a long time to get into Good Girl, Bad Girl. I debated giving up on it several times, but eventually the story really started to grab my attention and while I did have some issues with it, I overall enjoyed it.

First of all, don’t pay too much attention to the synopsis. I found it a little misleading, especially the part where it says Cyrus has to outwit Evie to survive. Um, no. While Evie makes him a little uncomfortable at times, he is never in danger of her. I also didn’t really see the point in involving Evie’s character in this story at all. She crosses into what I considered the main mystery of Jodie’s murder a couple of times, but not really in any impactful way (which is another misleading statement from the synopsis). I have tried to find out if this book is the beginning of a series and I can’t find it confirmed anywhere. If it truly is a standalone, then I am even more annoyed over the inclusion of Evie because all these questions are brought up and not answered! I like my loose ends all tied up in a neat little bow, thank you very much.

What I did like was the main murder mystery. I thought Robotham did an excellent job crafting a well-plotted, intriguing mystery with multiple believable suspects. Not everything that was revealed surprised me, but I didn’t guess everything from a mile away either. I liked Cyrus and Lenny, his longtime friend and the lead detective on Jodie’s investigation, and definitely wouldn’t mind reading more of them if this does end up being a series.

Overall, I enjoyed Good Girl, Bad Girl, but not quite as much as I was hoping to. I liked Cyrus and the murder mystery plotline. However, everything involving Evie just ended up annoying me because nothing was really resolved with her, nor did her plotline seem to contribute to the main one. I was also frustrated with the synopsis, but since that is not the book’s fault, I tried not to let it influence my rating. Though it took me awhile to get into the story, the writing ended up really drawing me in and I want to check out more from this author.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: A Stranger on the Beach by Michele Campbell

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Official synopsis:

From bestselling author Michele Campbell comes A Stranger on the Beach, an edge-of-your seat story of passion and intrigue that will keep you guessing until the very end.

Caroline Stark’s beach house was supposed to be her crowning achievement: a lavish, expensive space to showcase what she thought was her perfect family. But after a very public fight with her husband, she realizes things may not be as perfect as they seem: her husband is lying to her, the money is disappearing, and there’s a stranger on the beach outside her house.

As Caroline’s marriage and her carefully constructed lifestyle begin to collapse around her, she turns to Aidan, the stranger, for comfort…and revenge. After a brief and desperate fling that means nothing to Caroline and everything to him, Aidan’s infatuation with Caroline, her family, and her house becomes more and more destructive. But who is manipulating whom in this deadly game of obsession and control? Who will take the blame when someone ends up dead…and what is Caroline hiding?

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

A Stranger on the Beach will be available July 23, 2019. 

This review will be short and sweet because there isn’t too much I feel I can say about this one without giving too much away. A Stranger on the Beach follows the story of wealthy housewife Caroline trying to put her life back together after a one night stand with local bartender Aidan Callahan. Caroline wanted some revenge on her cheating husband, but Aidan falls hard for her, becoming obsessive about taking care of her.

The story is told mostly through Caroline’s first person POV for the first half of the novel, with Aidan’s POV interspersed throughout. We quickly come to see that the story Caroline is telling and the story Aidan is telling do not match up. One of them is obviously lying. I did like this approach, but it didn’t take me long to decide which account I believed and I ended up being right. From that point on, there weren’t really any reveals I found surprising and I found all the chapters from the perspective of the person I didn’t believe to drag on for a bit too long. In the second half of the novel, the perspective of one of the detectives working the case was added and I felt like the pace really picked up from there.

Overall, I enjoyed A Stranger on the Beach. I thought the first half of the novel dragged on just a little too long, but the second half helped make up for it. Even though I figured out things pretty quickly, I still thought the writing was clever and enjoyable. I think that readers who don’t read a lot of this genre could end up being really surprised and entertained by the twists and turns. Because of this, I’m upping my rating up a bit than what I was originally planning to.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Truth or Die (DS Imogen Grey #5) by Katerina Diamond

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Their darkest secrets won’t stay buried forever…

The butchered body of a professor is found in a private office of Exeter University. It is the first in a spate of horrific murders that shakes the city to its core.

Who would target a seemingly innocent man, and why? DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles turn to his students for answers, but their investigation turns up no leads. Someone must know more than they’re letting on…

As the body count rises, the police have to look into the past to uncover the person responsible before it’s too late.

But are they brave enough to face up to the truth?

Smart, gripping, dark. The Sunday Times bestseller is back in a twisty crime thriller, perfect for fans of M.J. Arlidge’s EENY MEENY and Angela Marsons’ KIM STONE series.

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

Truth or Die will be available July 11, 2019. 

The DS Imogen Grey series is one of my all time favorites and Truth or Die has been one of my most anticipated books of the year. Katerina Diamond once again came through with a compelling mystery that kept me glued to the pages.

Truth or Die felt like a little bit of a departure from the previous books in the series. The POVs were almost exclusively from Imogen and Adrian. There are a few chapters from a couple of other characters, but they were not as prominent as I have come to expect. This didn’t bother me at all, though. I love Adrian and Imogen and in some of the other books I felt like I didn’t get enough from them. I also thought their personal lives took more of a leading role than they have in the past. While their character development has always been strong, whatever was going on in their personal lives often bled into the central mystery, but it seemed more separate this time around. However, I was on board with it because there are DEVELOPMENTS in their relationship.

While I have loved Dean, his relationship with Imogen was always on borrowed time. In the most recent book, Adrian and Imogen’s partnership and friendship started to evolve into something more. In this book, we really dive into their complicated feelings and I was here for it. I already feel like I’m being too spoilery with even mentioning it, but it’s a large part of the book and as a long time fan of the series, I was extremely invested in it.

The mystery was well done, if not quite as intricate or dark as I might have expected. It wasn’t really built in a way that there would be big twists and reveals, but it was well plotted and intriguing. It also links back to a case from a previous book, which I really enjoyed. There is an added layer of Adrian wrestling with the gray areas of the sins of his past. My dear, sweet Adrian often makes a lot of stupid decisions, but his heart is always in the right place. That doesn’t mean there isn’t consequences for him and those around him, though, and I liked seeing him coming to terms with that. There was also a storyline having to do with false rape accusations that I felt was pretty relevant to what’s going on it the world today.

Overall, I really enjoyed Truth or Die. Though it was a little different than what I have come to expect from Diamond, it was still a compelling mystery with great character development that I could barely put down. Each book in this series just further solidifies it’s status as one of my favorites and I can’t wait for the next one!

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: One Little Secret by Cate Holahan

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Everyone has a secret. For some, it’s worth dying to protect. For others, it’s worth killing.

The glass beach house was supposed to be the getaway that Susan needed. Eager to help her transplanted family set down roots in their new town – and desperate for some kid-free conversation – she invites her new neighbors to join in on a week-long sublet with her and her workaholic husband.

Over the course of the first evening, liquor loosens inhibitions and lips. The three couples begin picking up on the others’ marital tensions and work frustrations, as well as revealing their own. But someone says too much. And the next morning one of the women is discovered dead on the private beach.

Town detective Gabby Watkins must figure out who permanently silenced the deceased. As she investigates, she learns that everyone in the glass house was hiding something that could tie them to the murder, and that the biggest secrets of all are often in plain sight for anyone willing to look.

A taut, locked room mystery with an unforgettable cast of characters, One Little Secret promises to keep readers eyes glued to the pages and debating the blinders that we all put on in the service of politeness.

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

One Little Secret will be available July 9, 2019. 

I’m so sad to say that I found One Little Secret a little disappointing. I loved the previous book I read by Cate Holahan (the cleverly written Lies She Told) and had high expectations for this one. Unfortunately, while not a bad book, the mystery and the writing ended up falling a little short for me.

One Little Secret is told in alternating chapters from the POVs of three women. Jenny is a successful sports medicine commentator in an abusive marriage. Susan is a stay-at-home mom with a drinking problem and a workaholic husband. Together, with their husbands, they are renting a beach house with their other neighbors, Rachel and Ben. The third POV is from Gabby, the detective that investigates when one of the vacationing women is found dead. Out of the three of them, the only really likable character was Gabby, but I don’t feel like we ever really got to know her that well. I found both Jenny and Susan very frustrating. All three couples on vacation seemed pretty dysfunctional. I was actually expecting a lot more scandal from them, though, and was a little disappointed in how straightforward and cliched everything seemed to be.

I also felt like this almost read more like Women’s Fiction than Mystery/Thriller. While Holahan did do a good job of making me second guess myself at times, the mystery didn’t really involve anything surprising. Everything that happened seemed so coincidental and a little unbelievable. Also, I felt like every break in the case kind of just fell into Gabby’s lap instead of involving any real detective work from her. There was also a side plot involving the date rape of a young woman at a party that just barely tied into the main mystery. It felt tacked on as an effort to make some sort of relevant comment on today’s culture and was not given the attention such a topic deserves. The story seemed to focus much more on the women’s marriage, family, identity, and self-worth. The murder seemed almost an afterthought.

Overall, One Little Secret, was an ok read, but did not live up to my expectations. While the multiple narrators helped move the story along, I never really connected to any of the characters, which made it hard to care about what happened to them. While this isn’t one I would pick up again, I’d still be interested in reading more from this author.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Doctor by Lisa Stone

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

‘I was gripped immediately’ Katerina Diamond, Sunday Timesbestseller

How much do you know about the couple next door?

When Emily and Ben move in next door to Dr Burman and his wife Anita, they are keen to get to know their new neighbours. Outgoing and sociable, Emily tries to befriend the doctor’s wife, but Anita is strangely subdued, barely leaving the house, and terrified of answering the phone.

When Emily goes missing a few weeks later, Ben is plunged into a panic. His wife has left him a note, but can she really have abandoned him for another man? Or has Emily’s curiosity about the couple next door led her straight into danger?

A gripping, sinister thriller with a twist you won’t see coming from the international bestseller Lisa Stone.

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

The Doctor will be available June 24, 2019. 

To be perfectly honest, the reason I decided to read this book was because of that little blurb from Katerina Diamond, who is one of my favorite authors. Unfortunately, I was not gripped immediately by The Doctor – or at all, really.

First of all, I need to point out a little pet peeve I have with the synopsis, which is that the name of the doctor’s wife was not the same as in the book. In the book, her name was Alisha, not Anita, so either the synopsis is wrong, or it was changed after the ARC was done. Also, Emily doesn’t go “missing” until the latter half of the book and the reader knows where she is the whole time. I expected it to be more of a mystery, but while Ben doesn’t know where she is, we know everything that happens and I felt it took away a lot of the tension.

Alisha has a chronic disease and her husband, Amit, is obsessed with the idea of cryonics, which involves freezing her body when she dies until medicine has advanced enough to cure the disease, when she can then be brought back to life. Alisha won’t consent to signing up with the agency that does this, so he decides to teach himself the process and will do it to her himself. In the mean time, he’s emotionally and physically abusive to Alisha to make sure she’s too scared to leave the house or accept the friendly advances of their neighbors, Emily.

I thought the book was much, much longer than it needed to be. The plot advanced very slowly and I never really felt the characters were developed that fully, either. The quality of the writing left a little to be desired for me, as well. It felt like a first or second draft and could have used a lot more editing and polishing. I was also really disappointed with the “twist” that was promised. It was barely a twist at all and left no real impact.

Overall, The Doctor just wasn’t for me. While it had an interesting angle with the cryonics plotline, it never really lived up to it’s potential. I never connected with the characters and thought Amit was a pretty weak villain. I was originally going to give this two stars, but once I actually started to write this review, I realized I don’t really have anything positive to say about it, so it’s only getting 1 star from me.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 1 Star

Review: In the Darkness (Zoe Bentley Mystery #2) by Mike Omer

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

A forensic psychologist fights a mental war against two serial killers in this disturbing thriller from Mike Omer, Washington Post and Amazon Charts bestselling author of A Killer’s Mind.

An online video of a girl clawing at the ceiling of her own grave could be the worst thing FBI forensic psychologist Zoe Bentley has ever seen. Perhaps even more disturbing is the implication of the video’s title: “Experiment Number One.”

Zoe and her partner, Special Agent Tatum Gray, work as fast as they can to find the monster behind the shocking video, but soon another one shows up online, and another girl turns up dead. Meanwhile, a different murderer is on Zoe’s mind. Rod Glover has been tormenting her since childhood, and his latest attack is a threatening photo of himself with Zoe’s sister. As Glover’s threats creep toward action, Zoe’s torn between family and duty.

Zoe must think fast to prevent another murder. With her own family’s safety on the line, Zoe feels she’s never been in more danger. And while she’s always known her job could send her to an early grave, she always assumed she’d be dead first.

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

In the Darkness will be available June 25, 2019. 

What I Liked

  • I’m not sure what it says about me as a person, but I love a good serial killer novel and Mike Omer definitely delivered. In the Darkness is an entertaining mystery that managed to surprise me.
  • The story is told through multiple POVs. We get chapters from both Zoe and Tatum, as well as the serial killer and several other supporting characters. I often times prefer a story to be told through first person POV, but the third person really worked for this story.
  • I really enjoy Zoe’s partner, Tatum. He pretty much makes this series for me. He’s smart, protective, and often times brings the comic relief. I also like his relationship with his crazy grandfather, Marvin.

What Didn’t Work for Me

  • I have a hard time connecting with Zoe. I feel like there’s been a fair amount of character development done with her throughout the series so far, but for some reason she still feels a bit one-note and cliched. Her reactions to things are often inconsistent as she swings between almost total lack of empathy and major emotional melt downs.
  • While I found the story pretty entertaining, I felt like the writing could have used just a bit more editing. The dialogue sometimes felt a little off. It also felt a little longer than it needed to be.

Overall

Overall, I enjoyed In the Darkness. Though I thought the writing could use just a bit more editing at times, the mystery was well done and I was a little surprised with who the serial killer turned out to be. I like the partnership between Tatum and Zoe and look forward to seeing how it evolves as the series continues.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars