Tag: mystery

Book Review and Blog Tour:  The Night She Went Missing, by Kristen Bird

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Title:   The Night She Went Missing
Author Kristen Bird
Genre:   mystery/thriller
Rating:  4 out of 5

Emily, a popular but bookish prep school senior, goes missing after a night out with friends. She was last seen leaving a party with Alex, a football player with a dubious reputation. But no one is talking.

 Now three mothers, Catherine, Leslie and Morgan, friends turned frenemies, have their lives turned upside down as they are forced to look to their own children—and each other’s—for answers to questions they don’t want to ask.

 Each mother is sure she knows who is responsible, but they all have their own secrets to keep and reputations to protect. And the lies they tell themselves and each other may just have the potential to be lethal.

I really enjoyed the first half of this book. The second half…got a little bit far-fetched, but I was invested in the characters at that point, so I continued reading. I thought the close-knit, wealthy community if Galveston was portrayed well. I liked the younger characters the best. The adults were a bit too much for me. This is a solid debut novel, and I’d read more from this author.

Kristen Bird lives in Texas. The Night She Went Missing is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  The Last House on the Street, by Diane Chamberlain

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   The Last House on the Street
Author:   Diane Chamberlain
Genre:   Mystery/thriller
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

When Kayla Carter’s husband dies in an accident while building their dream house, she knows she has to stay strong for their four-year-old daughter. But the trophy home in Shadow Ridge Estates, a new development in sleepy Round Hill, North Carolina, will always hold tragic memories. But when she is confronted by an odd, older woman telling her not to move in, she almost agrees. It’s clear this woman has some kind of connection to the area…and a connection to Kayla herself. Kayla’s elderly new neighbor, Ellie Hockley, is more welcoming, but it’s clear she, too, has secrets that stretch back almost fifty years. Is Ellie on a quest to right the wrongs of the past? And does the house at the end of the street hold the key?

This book….almost broke me. When I finished reading it, I felt like I’d been stabbed in the heart. It’s told in multiple timelines:  the present with Kayla and fifty years ago, with Ellie. I enjoyed both, but Ellie’s story was by far my favorite.

Reading about Ellie’s struggles during the civil rights movement and the things she experienced was hard but compelling. I loved how it was all tied in to what Kayla was facing at her new house, and I was unprepared for the real story that came out at last. I highly recommend this read! It’s a mystery/thriller wrapped with historical fiction, and I was unable to put it down.

Diane Chamberlain is a bestselling author. The Last House on the Street is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  The Girl in the Ground, by Stacy Green

Image belongs to Bookouture.

TitleThe Girl in the Ground
Author:   Stacy Green
Genre:   Mystery/thriller
Rating:  3.8 out of 5

She was beautiful: shiny blond hair, crystal blue eyes and the widest smile Nikki had ever seen. She thought back to what she had seen in the ground, the dirt that caked the white bones. All that remained of her now was the silver locket that was still around her neck…

 When construction workers unearth a girl’s skeleton in Stillwater, Minnesota, Special Agent Nikki Hunt is called to the scene by her boyfriend Rory. Nikki knows instantly that the girl was murdered, but she is shocked when Rory immediately recognizes her. The victim was his childhood sweetheart, Becky, and he was the last person to see her before she went missing twenty-four years ago.

 With the love of her life now a potential suspect, Nikki is forced to take a step back from the case. But then her colleague Liam finds lies in Rory’s statement – it appears that Becky may have been carrying Rory’s child when she was killed. Despite this, Nikki still thinks he could be innocent, and knows she must find the real killer herself if Rory stands any chance of walking free.

 When Nikki finds a potential link to two pregnant girls who were found murdered years before it’s clear that this is the most twisted killer that she has ever faced. And then another girl goes missing from Stillwater. Can Nikki unearth the truth and protect the man she loves? And will she find the missing girl in time to save her life?

I read this entire book before I realized I was ambivalent about Nikki. I didn’t dislike her, but I didn’t actually care about her, either. This was a solid read, but I don’t know that I’d pick up any more books in the series. That is clearly just my own personal issue, not a testament to the writing quality. There’s a lot going on here, and sometimes I felt like the connections didn’t quite make sense, but it did keep my attention.

Stacy Green lives in Iowa. The Girl in the Ground is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Bookouture in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  The Witching Tree, by Alice Blanchard

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title The Witching Tree
Author:   Alice Blanchard
Genre:   Mystery/thriller
Rating:  4 out of 5

As legend has it, if you carve your deepest desire into the bark of a Witch Tree, then over time as the tree grows, it will swallow the carvings until only a witch can read them.

 Until now.

 Detective Natalie Lockhart gained unwanted notoriety when she and her family became front and center of not one, but two sensational murder cases. Now she’s lost her way. Burned out and always looking over her shoulder, Natalie desperately thinks that quitting the police force is her only option left.

 All that changes when a beloved resident–a practicing Wiccan and founder of the town’s oldest coven–is killed in a fashion more twisted and shocking than Natalie has ever seen before, leaving the town reeling. Natalie has no choice but to help solve the case along with Detective Luke Pittman, her boss and the old childhood friend she cannot admit she loves, even to herself. There is a silent, malignant presence in Burning Lake that will not rest. And what happens next will shock the whole town, and Natalie, to the core.

I’ve read the first book in this series, but I missed the second. I did enjoy this one, but it felt far too much like an advertisement for Wicca or I would have rated it higher. Seriously. You cannot tell me every single person in a group is good/peaceful/gets along with everyone (or, alternately, bad/racist/horrible/whatever adjective of choice) and expect me to believe you. If I leave out the pro-Wicca-all-of-us-are-peaceful-angels slant (which accounts for a good third of the book), this was an enjoyable mystery and thriller. But as is, the town of Burning Lake comes off a little too good to be true.

Alice Blanchard is an award-winning author. The Witching Tree is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  The Dangers of an Ordinary Night, by Lynne Reeves

Image belongs to Crooked Lane Books.

Title:   The Dangers of an Ordinary Night
Author:   Lynne Reeves
Genre:   Mystery/thriller
Rating:  3.2 out of 5

On a chilly fall evening at the prestigious Performing Arts High School of Boston, best friends Tali Carrington and June Danforth go missing after auditioning for a play. They’re last seen in grainy, out-of-focus surveillance footage that shows them walking side-by-side. Two days later in a town south of Boston, Tali is found disoriented and traumatized by the ocean’s edge, while June is pronounced dead at the scene.

 Tali’s mother, Nell, is so bent on protecting her daughter from further emotional harm that she enlists the help of Cynthia Rawlins, a renowned therapist for families. Meanwhile, Detective Fitz Jameson is assigned to the investigation and dives into the lives of high-performing students who may be harboring dark secrets.

 As Nell, Cynthia, and Fitz confront their own contributions to the tragedies and scandals that beleaguer them, their lives turn out to be more deeply intertwined than they’d ever imagined. And they must decide what lengths they’re willing to go to protect the people they love while also saving themselves.

This wasn’t a bad book. However, it felt so distanced from the characters—all the characters—that I really didn’t care about them one way or the other. I felt like everyone was lying and hiding things, and some of the sub-plots—like Cyn and Fitz—seemed completely unnecessary and didn’t add anything to the story for me. On the whole, this just didn’t work for me. It was mainly about the characters, as the writing was solid, but the characters made this almost a chore to read.

(Galley courtesy of Crooked Lane Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  Her Perfect Life, by Hank Phillippi Ryan 

Image belongs to Macmillan-Tor/Forge.

Title:   Her Perfect Life
Author:   Hank Phillippi Ryan
Genre:   Mystery/thriller
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Everyone knows Lily Atwood—and that may be her biggest problem. The beloved television reporter has it all—fame, fortune, Emmys, an adorable seven-year-old daughter, and the hashtag her loving fans created: #PerfectLily. To keep it, all she has to do is protect one life-changing secret.

Her own.

Lily has an anonymous source who feeds her story tips—but suddenly, the source begins telling Lily inside information about her own life. How does he—or she—know the truth?

Lily understands that no one reveals a secret unless they have a reason. Now she’s terrified someone is determined to destroy her world—and with it, everyone and everything she holds dear.

How much will she risk to keep her perfect life?

The basic plot of this was a bit hard for me to believe. I know Lily isn’t quite an investigative reporter, but she has done a little investigating and she has kept her own secret hidden for decades. (Side note, please tell me why Lily’s secret needs to stay a secret anyway? Seems to me it would make her far for likable, instead of into the social media pariah she believes it will make her.) So, why does she just believe her anonymous source when he shows up in person? She doesn’t bother to make a single phone call to find out if he really is who he says he is. That alone made the rest of the book not-quite-believable.

Hank Phillippi Ryan is an investigative reporter and a bestselling author. Her Perfect Life is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Macmillan-Tor/Forge in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: Where I Left Her, by Amber Garza

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Whitney had some misgivings when she dropped her increasingly moody teenage daughter, Amelia, off at Lauren’s house. She’d never met the parents, and usually she’d go in, but Amelia clearly wasn’t going to let something so humiliating happen, so instead Whitney waved to her daughter before pulling away from the little house with the roses in front.

But when she goes back the next day, an elderly couple answers the door—Amelia and Lauren aren’t there, and this couple swears they never were, that she’s at the wrong house. As Whitney searches for Amelia, she uncovers a trail of lies her daughter has told her—from the Finsta account to rumors of a secret relationship. Does she really even know this girl she’s raised? And Amelia’s not the only one with secrets. Could Whitney’s own demons have something to do with her daughter’s disappearance, and can Whitney find her before it’s too late?

Even before I realized Whitney was an unreliable narrator, I thought she was a horrible person. Her super controlling relationship with her daughter got on my very last nerve—especially considering the secrets she was hiding! At first, I was intrigued by what had happened to Amelia, but then I was just low-key annoyed. Does anyone in this family ever tell the truth? Solid writing but unlikeable (to me) characters made this just an okay read.

Amber Garza lives in California. Where I Left Her is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Dog Eat Dog, by David Rosenfelt

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books.

Lawyer Andy Carpenter and his wife, Laurie, enjoy walking their dogs, Tara and Sebastian. By this point in their marriage, it’s routine. When out for one of their strolls, their simple ritual isn’t so simple anymore. Across the street, a man is mistreating his dog. Three things happen at once: Andy yells, Laurie runs to stop the abuse, and so does a closer passerby, who so thoroughly beats the owner that both are arrested when the cops arrive.

Andy scoops up the dog and takes him to the Tara Foundation, the dog rescue organization that’s always been his true passion. Meanwhile, at the police station, the passerby is identified as Matthew Jantzen, and he’s wanted for murder. Andy and Laurie are struck by the fact that Jantzen, a man on the run, would nevertheless intervene to help a dog, and decide to find out more.

This is book #23 in a series and…I won’t be reading any more. It wasn’t bad, but it felt like the entire book was populated with talking heads. I got no sense of what the characters or their actions looked like, no feel for the setting or anything. I enjoyed Andy’s self-deprecating humor, but his ego was too much for me, and this just wasn’t a good fit for me at all.

David Rosenfelt is from New Jersey. Dog Eat Dog is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Temple House Vanishing, by Rachel Donohue

Image belongs to Algonquin Books.

Twenty-five years ago, a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl and her charismatic teacher disappeared without trace…

In an elite Catholic girls’ boarding-school the pupils live under the repressive, watchful gaze of the nuns. Seeking to break from the cloistered atmosphere two of the students – Louisa and Victoria – quickly become infatuated with their young, bohemian art teacher, and act out passionately as a result. That is, until he and Louisa suddenly disappear.

Years later, a journalist uncovers the troubled past of the school and determines to resolve the mystery of the missing pair. The search for the truth will uncover a tragic, mercurial tale of suppressed desire and long-buried secrets. It will shatter lives and lay a lost soul to rest.

This was just a “meh” read for me. Gothic overtones and a lot of angst, but come on, it was the 90s. Also…I know mental health wasn’t the buzzword it is now, but shouldn’t someone have figured out some of these girls needed some help? And you’re trying to tell me that nuns at a Catholic boarding school were oblivious to the sneaking out and the evil prefects? Sorry, but the whole scenario was a bit far-fetched for me.

Rachel Donohue lives in Dublin. The Temple House Vanishing is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Algonquin Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Pup Fiction, by Laurien Berenson

Image belongs to Kensington Books.

While usually protective, Melanie feels comfortable sending her sons to the Graceland School’s summer camp for two reasons: The institution is well-regarded and proprietor Emily Grace is a trusted friend. But Emily has been acting strange since three rambunctious Dalmatian puppies suddenly appeared on her doorstep. The unusual arrival marks the first of several mysterious happenings at camp, each more intense than the last. Emily’s rough streak takes a frightening turn with a discovery in the nearby woods—the body of her estranged ex-husband.

As suspicions rush in, proving that Emily didn’t murder her biggest mistake will be about as easy as raising prize-winning show dogs. Realizing she’s the only one who can prove her friend’s innocence and keep the Graceland School from shutting down, Melanie dives into an investigation on the victim’s whereabouts leading up to his demise. With a few spotty clues and Aunt Peg’s growing curiosity about the Dalmatian pups’ origins, Melanie must name the culprit before good intentions come back to bite!

Is it bad if I say the thing I enjoyed the most about this book was the dogs? Because it was. Solid writing and storytelling, but I was never that invested in what was going on—and the stakes really didn’t seem that high. I never felt any tension in the mystery. Also…there were all these red herrings about other characters, but the real culprit(s) weren’t the slightest bit suspicious until about the 85% mark, so the reveal felt a bit forced and out-of-nowhere. Just my two cents, though. This wasn’t a bad read. Just not a good fit for me.

Laurien Berenson is a bestselling author. Pup Fiction is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Kensington Books in exchange for an honest review.)