Review: Where the Truth Lies by Anna Bailey

Where the Truth LiesWhere the Truth Lies by Anna Bailey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In Anna Bailey’s debut, we get a deep dive into the small town of Whistling Ridge, Colorado, where a 17-year old girl, Abigail, has gone missing.

Abi’s friend, Emma, is wracked with guilt because she left Abi behind at a party on the night she disappeared. Abi was supposed to be meeting up with a boy in the woods and insisted Emma leave her, but she never should have.

Not only does Emma feel bad about leaving Abi there, others in town blame her as well.

The police believe Abi ran away, but Emma knows that’s not true. Abi would never have left without her. Emma decides to take the investigation into her own hands. She needs to find out what happened to her friend.

Abi’s family is a mess, but truth be told, they were a mess before she disappeared. Her two brothers live in constant fear of their father’s unpredictable temperment, while their mother frequently appears checked-out.

Over the course of the story, multiple town secrets are brought to light. There’s all sorts of racism, prejudice, bigotry and religious fervor. There’s a lot of unlikable characters and unsavory circumstances.

Personally, I never felt connected with this story. None of the characters were distinct to me and I had a difficult time tracking it all through the multiple perspectives and then/now timelines.

I decided to give this 3-stars because I know there is a good story hidden in here somewhere. It tackles a lot of important, sensitive issues and I would never want to take away from that. However, for me, this reading experience was more of a 2-star.

I couldn’t wait for it to be over. With this being said, just because this wasn’t my cup of tea, doesn’t mean it is not a good book. If you read the synopsis and it sounds interesting to you, please give it a shot. It could very well be a new favorite for you.

Maybe I was just in a mood or something. Who knows? Crazier things have happened, but yeah, as of today, not a great experience for me. Extremely forgettable and bland. Solid, mehhh.

Thank you to the publisher, Atria, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate it. On to the next!

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Review: Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Velvet Was the NightVelvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

In 1970s, Mexico City, Maite works as a legal secretary by day, and reads romantic comics by night; dreaming of a different life for herself.

Elvis is an enforcer in a group called the Hawks, whose main objective is to suppress political activists within the city. His life is surrounded by violence. He’s also hoping for more; maybe to be more like the King himself, Elvis Presley.

Elvis and Maite are about to have their lives intertwined, all because of a girl named, Leonora.

Leonora is a beauty, a free-spirit, a student, an artist. She lives across the hall from Maite. Although the two have never really socialized, Leonora comes to Maite one day for a favor and then disappears.

Intrigued by the young woman’s disappearance, Maite begins looking into Leonora’s life. The mystery infuses Maite’s life with an excitment she’s never really had before.

Elvis is looking for Leonora as well, but for completely different reasons. His employer is desperate to find Leonora in order to gain access to something he believes she is in possession of.

During the course of his hunt, Elvis begins to notice the quiet, mousey woman living in Leonora’s building. There’s something about her that he is drawn to.

As the narrative evolves the two strangers begin to orbit closer and closer together, but will they collide?

Velvet Was the Night wasn’t what I expected, although that’s my own fault. This is true noir, take that seriously. It’s a slow burn, with relatively low-stakes.

The tone is lush, the narrative richly-atmospheric. Initially, I wasn’t sold. It starts slow. I was wondering where it was going, when it was going to pick up and while I was wondering that, Moreno-Garcia was subtly sucking me in.

The next thing I knew, I was being transported to Mexico City. I was fully immersed within this story, with the characters, with their inner musings. I couldn’t put it down.

It was a unique reading experience for me. I don’t read a lot of books like this and while I really enjoyed it, it still won’t be a genre I will seek out.

I feel like the magic of this for me was in Moreno-Garcia’s writing; it was the way it unfolded, the beauty behind the slow drama of it all. It’s a special book, although admittedly, not for everyone.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Del Rey, for providing me with a copy to read and review. While not necessarily in my comfort zone, I did really enjoy my time reading this one and will continue to pick up anything Silvia Moreno-Garcia writes!!

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Review: A Dark and Secret Place by Jen Williams

A Dark and Secret PlaceA Dark and Secret Place by Jen Williams
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Following an extended absence, Heather Evans returns to her family home after her mother commits suicide.

Not only is Heather plagued by the regular grief you experience after the death of a loved one, but she’s genuinely dumbfounded as to why her mother would have chosen to end her own life.

Reading the note her mother left, Heather is even more confused. It seemed her mother felt extremely guilty over something, but what?

Also, the note is written in a way that leads Heather to believe it wasn’t intended just for her. The context makes it seem like she is apologizing to someone else as well, but who?

It’s apparent her mother had secrets and Heather feels like she needs to discover them if she is ever going to make sense of her death and put it behind her.

Then she finds the letters. Her mother had been corresponding for years with the Red Wold, a infamous serial killer, Michael Reave, who has been in prison for 20-years for his crimes.

Heather teams up with an old friend and the two begin to look into her mother’s past.

Meanwhile, a copy cat killer has begun kidnapping and murdering women in their area, reopening the case of the Red Wolf for police and citizens alike.

This was interesting. There was a lot going on, a lot of threads to follow.

Various perspectives were given and occassionally I would forget where I was in the timeline and with who. We get Michael’s past perspective, which was interesting and his past with Heather’s mother is unveiled over the course of the story.

I will admit to feeling my mind wander at times and I never felt super compelled to pick it up once I stopped reading. Always a sign to me that I’m just not that invested in the characters, or their outcome.

With this being said, this is a good book. It’s a solid story that I think a lot of people will enjoy. While I won’t be including it on any of my favorites lists, there wasn’t anything inherently wrong with it.

It appears that this author has written a lot of Fantasy novels, so this may be her Thriller debut. If that is the case, it definitely shows her skill and I would pick up future novels from her in this genre.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I always appreciate the opportunity to provide my feedback!

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Review: Lie Beside Me (DCI Jonah Sheens #3) by Gytha Lodge

Lie Beside Me (DCI Jonah Sheens #3)Lie Beside Me by Gytha Lodge
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Lie Beside Me is the third book in the DCI Jonah Sheens series. While like many Adult Mysteries this series doesn’t necessarily need to be read in order, I would recommend it, due to background information for the detectives.

However, any of these books would also make great standalone mysteries. I feel like once you read one, though, you’ll want to read them all!

With her husband away on business, Louise Reakes gets together with her best friend, April. The women tend to hit the sauce hard when they’re together, something Louise has been trying to break away from.

Upon groggily opening her eyes in the morning, Louise knows she failed in that regard. She’s hungover as heck and is surprised to find a male body in the bed with her. It’s not her husband.

Further inspection reveals the bed is soaked with blood. The man is dead!

Thus begins the confusing and complicated mystery as to who this man is and more importantly, how he ended up dead in Louise’s bed.

By the time DCI Jonah Sheens and his team are called to the murder scene, the body is out in the front garden. Louise tells them she stumbled upon the body as she went outside to grab milk from the stoop.

This deception immediately starts the investigation off on the wrong foot.

Told through multiple perspectives, including Louise’s epistolary-style recounting of her life with her husband, Niall, up through the night of the horrific crime, was incredibly interesting.

I loved the way Lodge pieced this all together. It felt slow-burn, but in the best way.

It kept me guessing until the very end. I thought it was one thing, then, nope, not that.

Then I really thought it was the other thing and I was sort of mad it was that thing, but nope, not that thing either. Then this other thing and I’m like, okay, okay, okay, this is it. Then it sort of was, sort of wasn’t.

It was a ride!

As always, the police procedural aspects were great. I love this team and how well they all work together. Their personalities are so complimentary to one another.

From the conclusion of this one, I am going to guess there will be more to come in this series and I’m so excited for it!

This is my favorite current Police Procedural Mystery series. I love how layered Lodge makes her stories; not to mention nail-bitingly disturbing. If you are looking for a new Mystery series to get into, I highly recommend this one.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Random House, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I really appreciate it and cannot wait for the next book!!

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Review: Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay

Every Last FearEvery Last Fear by Alex Finlay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Matt Pine’s older brother, Danny, is serving a life sentence for allegedly killing his high school sweetheart, Charlotte.

After his trial, a True Crime Documentary was released claiming Danny was wrongfully convicted. Many viewers seemed to agree; think Making a Murderer.

Matt remembers something about the night of Charlotte’s death that no one else knows. Because of this, he thinks Danny may actually have done it, or at least been involved.

Their parents, unsurprisingly, fully believe in Danny’s innocence. In fact, their father, has never quite given up the search for information that will free his oldest son. The whole situation with Danny had caused quite a bit of strife within the family.

When the Pine family decides a getaway to Mexico is just what they need to reconnect, Matt, currently at school in NYC, is the only one who doesn’t get to go.

Arriving home after a late night partying, Matt receives the terrible news that his family, Mom, Dad, younger sister and brother, are all dead.

He can’t believe the news. Apparently, the authorities in Mexico seem to think their deaths were accidental; due to a gas leak.

The individuals Matt speaks to in the FBI don’t seem to be so sure however. Matt is sent to Mexico to recover the bodies and it is there that he starts to suspect something much more sinister may be at play.

That feeling doesn’t disappear when he returns to his hometown for the family funeral.

Matt, along with an intrepid FBI agent, begin an investigation into what actually happened to the Pine family; discovering past crimes may be linked to their deaths.

This was interesting. A fast-paced and solid story.

Initially, I was feeling like we were getting too many perspectives, as we followed, Matt, his Dad, Mom, younger sister and the FBI agent, Sarah.

But as the story started to weave together, I began to see why all of those perspectives were actually necessary. Each contributed to puzzle and what a puzzle it was!

This was smart, twisted and tense. Some aspects were more predictable than others, but overall, I really enjoyed how it played out.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I’m happy that I finally gave this one a shot!

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Review: When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain

When the Stars Go DarkWhen the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wracked with grief after a personal tragedy, Missing Persons Detective, Anna Hart, flees from her regular life in San Francisco, in order to give herself time to heal.

She heads back to the town she grew up in with her loving foster parents, Mendocino, in Northern California.

Once there, she rents a modest cabin in the woods and actually ends up taking in a new canine companion, who she names, Cricket.

Obviously. this enhanced my enjoyment of the story.
((Just kidding. Kind of, not really.))

Anna also reunites with her childhood friend, Will, who happens to now be the local Sheriff.

Knowing how successful Anna has been in her career, Will enlists her help with assisting him finding a teenage girl, Cameron, who has recently gone missing.

This new investigation is a good distraction from Anna’s own tragedy, but her involvement means more to her than that. She quickly becomes engrossed in the case.

Having survived very significant childhood trauma herself, Anna has dedicated her life to helping other children and survivors. As stressful as it can often be, it’s her calling.

We watch the investigation unfold, as Will and Anna work together to try to find out what happened to Cameron. Maybe they can get to her before it’s too late.

They end up tying her case to that of other missing girls in the area and the intensity definitely begins to build from there.

This is a great story. It’s subtle, dark and heart-wrenching.

It really reminded me a lot of Rene Denfeld’s, The Child Finder and I mean that as a heavy compliment.

It’s quite nuanced, more than your average book in this genre, which I appreciated so much. McLain packed a lot in.

I loved the investigatory elements and learning more about Anna’s background as a character; how her early life lead her to the point where she is at.

Overall, this story has good action, a compelling mystery, layered, well-established characters and a satisfying conclusion.

There were some areas that felt a little slow for me, but that didn’t overshadow any of the other fantastically done elements.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Ballantine Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I appreciate the opportunity and hope this author writes more in this genre!

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Review: The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup

The Chestnut ManThe Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

If you find one, he’s already found you.

A psychopath, with a distinctive calling card, is terrorizing Copenhagen in this tense, debut Crime Thriller from Soren Sveistrup.

The Chestnut Man is a brutally fast-paced read. I needed a nap after I finished!!

Women are disappearing. When their battered and mutilated bodies are discovered, a chestnut man doll is always located at the grisly crime scenes.

Made of matchsticks and two chestnuts, the little doll comes to be thought of as the killer’s signature, but what could it mean?

When forensic evidence connects the chestnut men, via a fingerprint, to the missing daughter of a government minister, things really begin to heat up.

How could these crimes possibly be related?

Detectives, Thulin and Hess, team up to try to solve the mystery and prevent another woman from falling victim to the vicious Chestnut Man.

For a 500+ page novel, this book reads extremely quickly. The chapters are super short, keeping the narrative flowing at a feverish pace.

I found Sveistrup’s writing to be extremely engaging. It was smart, with twist, turns and red herrings around every corner. As I raced towards the conclusion, I loved how the case pieced itself together.

Thulin and Hess were both believable and compelling. I would love to read further mysteries with them at the helm.

From the very first pages, Sveistrup sets a grisly tone, which I love. Additionally, the intensity of the story never lets up. There was not one moment where it felt like the story wasn’t accelerating.

I was so impressed with his ability to do that. The execution of the plot is brilliant. I could use a little bit more development of Hess and Thulin’s characters, which is why I am really hoping for a second book featuring the two detectives.

I highly recommend this impressive piece of Nordic Noir!! You better clear your schedule though if you plan to pick it up, because once you start, you won’t want to put it down!

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Review: Safecracker by Ryan Wick

SafecrackerSafecracker by Ryan Wick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Professional safecracker, Michael Maven, has pulled off a number of dangerous heists over the course of his career.

His latest job, obtaining a rare coin from a New York City apartment, is fairly simple in the scheme of things.

What he doesn’t plan for however, is that another individual will try to steal the coin on the very same night.

In fact, the thief, a beautiful woman, enters the apartment while Michael is there, with the coin’s owner. She proceeds to kill the innocent man, while Michael watches from his hiding place.

When she takes the coin from the safe and attempts to leave the apartment, Michael can’t just sit by. He has put a lot of effort into this night and will not let her ruin it!

A struggle ensues.

Michael, though shaken, believes the night to be a wash, until she finds him again. Maven barely makes it out of their next encounter with his life.

Now he is on the radar of her employer, a sadistic drug lord known as El Cerdo, who needs Michael to perform a job for him.

Unfortunately, Michael doesn’t really have a say in the matter. He needs to do what the man asks, or else risk not just his life, but the lives of those he cares about most.

Michael’s new mission finds him in Miami, pairing up with the woman who tried to kill him, as well as other employees of El Cerdo. He has under a week to steal back a valuable notebook from the home of the head of a rival cartel.

Safecracker is action-packed from page one. It truly reads like a movie and I found it to be quite addicting.

I enjoyed Michael, as a character, a lot. He was rugged, charming and skillful; three great attributes for a leading man.

While this isn’t the type of book I would generally gravitate towards, I did have a lot of fun reading it and would recommend it to others.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Thomas Dunne, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

From the fantastic Epilogue, I am assuming this will not be the last we see of Michael Maven. I would absolutely pick up more books following his character if they are published.

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Review: Take It Back by Kia Abdullah

Take It BackTake It Back by Kia Abdullah
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

((me: reads final scene))

Blushing and looking around, I think to myself, she got me. Kia Abdullah got me good!

This provocative legal thriller was a non-stop guessing game. My head was reeling the entire way through trying to decipher who to believe.

I hate to say that, but I have to be honest. The reason I don’t like to say that is because the case central to this story is that of a sexual assault.

This would be an enticing book club read. I can see a lot of great discussions stemming from the deep content of this book that was expertly crafted for maximum impact by Abdullah.

Zara Kaleel, a former lawyer, is now a sexual assault counselor. When 16-year old, Jodie Wolfe, arrives in her office, Zara is stunned to hear her tale of assault by four male classmates.

Jodie has a genetic abnormality that has given her severe facial deformities, which makes her difficult to understand at times. In spite of any slight communication issues, Jodie’s pain is pouring off of her. She is traumatized and Zara vows to help.

We follow the investigation into the case through multiple perspectives and then get front row seats to the subsequent trial.

The four young men accused are Muslims, from immigrant families, while Jodie is a white girl. As you can imagine, this adds an incredible amount of tension to public reception of the case.

It all becomes a bit of a circus, with even Zara beginning to fear for her safety.

As a Muslim woman herself, also from an immigrant family, she is branded a traitor and must push really hard, both personally and professionally, to continue with Jodie’s case.

I really loved how Abdullah chose to tell this story. The pace was spot on and the little reveals and clues along the way left me constantly guessing at the truth. I had no idea what the final outcome would be until it was on page.

Additionally, I loved the cultural elements that were included through Zara’s perspective, and a few of the accused boys. I thought those aspects made this one stand out in comparison with other books in the genre and will make this story, overall, more memorable for me.

I loved this. Very compelling, suspenseful and thoughtful. I will definitely be picking up more books from Kia Abdullah in the future.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I love discovering new authors to enjoy, so thanks for adding another to my auto-buy list!

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Review: The Dead Season (Shana Merchant #2) by Tessa Wegert

The Dead Season (Shana Merchant, #2)The Dead Season by Tessa Wegert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Following the horrific events of Death in the Family, Senior Investigator Shana Merchant finds herself on administrative leave.

Her PTSD was triggered by the events on the Sinclair family’s private island and it caused her to display poor judgement. Now she is left spinning her wheels as her department urges her to take time to heal.

Pending a psychological evaluation she may be reinstated to her position. In the meantime however, she is suppose to focus on anything but work.

Shana has a hard time with that. When the remains of her long missing Uncle are found in the woods of her hometown, she heads home to solve the mystery.

At the same time, a young boy, Trey, goes missing on a school field trip in Alexandria Bay. Shana’s partner, Tim, is on the case and Shana feels like it is connected to Blake Bram, the serial killer continuing to hound her.

What’s even more intriguing is that Shana feels like the cases are linked in other ways; like Bram is holding Trey hostage, forcing Shana to solve the case of her long-dead Uncle. If she can solve it, perhaps Trey will live, but why?

I really enjoyed getting to know Shana Merchant, as a character, in the first novel. This second book fills in more of her past and the events that haunt her, which is exactly what I was hoping for.

We learn more about Blake Bram and Shana’s original connection to him.

Wegert won me over in the first novel by utilizing my favorite mystery trope, the locked room mystery. In this second installment, again, she gave me another one of my favorites: when a protagonist returns to their hometown to solve an old mystery.

Shana feels like she has forgotten a lot of her childhood. As she interviews friends, relatives and other community members, it begins to jog her memory and what she finds there isn’t pretty.

I really enjoyed the pacing of this and the reveals.

Shana is a great character, as is Tim, her partner. I have no idea how many mysteries this series will ultimately be, but you better believe, I will be reading them all.

If you are looking for a new mystery series with a classic mystery feel, you should definitely give the Shana Merchant series a try. The Dead Season is releasing on Tuesday, December 8th!!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I really appreciate it!

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