Mini Reviews #4 | Jaybird’s Song & The Breakdown

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Again? So soon? I’m afraid so. I liked Jaybird’s Song by Kathy Wilson Florence and it’s perfect for lighter southern fans, but I was quite disappointed with The Breakdown by BA Paris. Let’s see…

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Affectionately called “Jaybird” by the father she adores, Josie Flint’s idyllic childhood in 1960s Atlanta is defined by her role as the oldest of the three Flint sisters and crowned with the presence of her grandmother, Annie Jo— the maypole that centers the Flint family. Surrounding their world, however, is the turbulent South as Jim Crow laws come to an end. As Josie’s school desegregates and the country meanders through new ideas brought about by the Civil Rights movement, a personal tragedy breaches Josie’s world and shatters that perfect childhood. Josie’s story is told from her early teenage years and 35 years later when her beloved grandmother dies. And when a long-kept secret unfolds for the Flint family, a new kind of heartache begins.

I was looking for a change after a couple of serial killer books and I still had this book on my Kindle, so I thought it was time to read it (as it was published in February). This is the story of Josie, a woman who grows up in Georgia in the 60s. Many years later, in 2003, her grandmother passes away and she remembers her childhood and teenage years.

I had a small issue with the way the book was written. The flashback parts felt like the author was telling us stuff that had happened but we didn’t get to enjoy. Lots of paragraphs filled with sentences like: “She became my best friend and we did everything together. And two years passed and then we grew apart. And on my 15th birthday, I had a big party and everyone came”. In spite of that, Jaybird was a lovely novel, a nice, feel-good southern saga that made me imagine a different kind of life. So yes, I enjoyed reading it although it didn’t leave a lasting impression. I think I had similar feelings with Dollbaby: the secrets weren’t surprising enough because I had already read and watched tons of similar stories. Would I recommend it? Yes. Because that’s just my experience, after all.

Netgalley, Smith Publicity, 2017

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Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped. But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby. The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt. Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

Most of you know that Behind Closed Doors was one of my favorite books of 2016. I knew that The Breakdown would be a different kind of experience because I read a lot of reviews, so I wasn’t as excited as I would’ve been otherwise. This isn’t a matter of simply being disappointed.

I must say I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I wanted to know what was going on and it was an easy read, just like BCD was. On the other hand, the first half of the book, maybe until 60% was quite repetitive and I didn’t think it was going anywhere. Yes, we get it: Cass is forgetful. She is confused, she forgets things. My main issue with the plot was that there were too many situations that felt coincidental and seemed too contrived for my taste. Unrealistic, even. I don’t want to dive into spoiler territory, but for example, there’s a scene where our main character, Cass, discovers the truth about something and it was so improbable that I couldn’t believe that was actually happening. And once we all begin to learn the truth, there were too many coincidences, just so everything could be connected. Like the weapon thing. I mean, really? Why would someone do that?

Still, I really liked how the ending played out, maybe because it reminded me of Behind Closed Doors and I’m a fan of that type of situations. But I can’t ignore all those coincidences.

Netgalley, St Martin’s Pres, 2017

Mini Reviews #3 | Here and Gone & The Fourth Monkey

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And it’s that time of the month again! Today I want to talk to you about two of my most recent reads: Here and Gone by Haylen Beck & The Fourth Monkey by JD Barker. Both thrillers, one action, the other  a serial-killer mystery.

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Here and Gone is a gripping, wonderfully tense suspense thriller about a mother’s desperate fight to recover her stolen children from corrupt authorities… It begins with a woman fleeing through Arizona with her kids in tow, trying to escape an abusive marriage. When she’s pulled over by an unsettling local sheriff, things soon go awry and she is taken into custody. Only when she gets to the station, her kids are gone. And then the cops start saying they never saw any kids with her, that if they’re gone than she must have done something with them… Meanwhile, halfway across the country a man hears the frenzied news reports about the missing kids, which are eerily similar to events in his own past. As the clock ticks down on the search for the lost children, he too is drawn into the desperate fight for their return

Here and Gone is a thrilling and nail-biting book that depicts a situation that felt realistic and scary at the same time. I think the beginning was my favorite part, as I got super nervous while reading Audra’s encounter with the sheriff. You could feel the heat, the silent violence, the threats, the tension. I could picture it all in my head.

The whole book is a big “gaslighting” episode and it makes you feel so powerless that you wish you were there helping the main character get her kids back. It reminded me of Little Deaths by Emma Flint, although that one had a mystery component, whereas this one was more of a straight-forward thriller. Perhaps, the fact that there were no surprises is what prevents me from “loving” this book a bit more. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I admired Audra and Danny’s determination, but I thought the forum messages meant that there was someone else involved, and instead, I found the “chase” a bit predictable overall.

Netgalley, Harvill Secker, 2017

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For over five years, the Four Monkey Killer has terrorized the residents of Chicago. When his body is found, the police quickly realize he was on his way to deliver one final message, one which proves he has taken another victim who may still be alive. As the lead investigator on the 4MK task force, Detective Sam Porter knows even in death, the killer is far from finished. When he discovers a personal diary in the jacket pocket of the body, Porter finds himself caught up in the mind of a psychopath, unraveling a twisted history in hopes of finding one last girl, all while struggling with personal demons of his own. With only a handful of clues, the elusive killer’s identity remains a mystery. Time is running out and the Four Monkey Killer taunts from beyond the grave in this masterfully written fast-paced thriller.

This was a lovely buddy read with Zuky @Bookbum. Sometimes, I’m in the minority and I’m afraid this is one of the cases. I believe The Fourth Monkey was a fun and entertaining thriller, but unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my expectations. I enjoyed it for the most part (especially the first half), but the whole third act felt too predictable and it didn’t impress me.

I’m a big fan of serial killer books and the comparisons to Se7en and The Silence of the Lambs made me incredibly excited to read this one. At first, I was sure it was going to be one of my faves, just like Ragdoll & Kill The Father, but once my initial suspicion turned out to be true, I was quite disappointed. I couldn’t believe Zuky and I had guessed something so important within the first pages. However, I did love the last scene and the fact that the main character wasn’t young, but I didn’t connect with the police team dynamics and I was expecting a more explosive and shocking ending, I guess.

ARC, HQ, 2017

Review: The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka @KMLwrites @MinotaurBooks ‏

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Sarah Cook, a beautiful blonde teenager disappeared fifteen years ago, the same night her parents were brutally murdered in their suburban Ohio home. Her boyfriend Brad Stockton – black and from the wrong side of the tracks – was convicted of the murders and sits on death row, though he always maintained his innocence. With his execution only weeks away, his devoted sister, insisting she has spotted Sarah at a local gas station, hires PI Roxane Weary to look again at the case. Reeling from the recent death of her cop father, Roxane finds herself drawn to the story of Sarah’s vanishing act, especially when she thinks she’s linked Sarah’s disappearance to one of her father’s unsolved murder cases involving another teen girl. Despite her self-destructive tendencies, Roxane starts to hope that maybe she can save Brad’s life and her own. With echoes of Sue Grafton, Dennis Lehane and the hit podcast Serial, The Last Place You Look is the gripping debut of both a bold new voice and character.

Guys, I think I’ve found my new favorite mystery series. Okay, I probably shouldn’t say this given that there’s only book #1 so far, but I wanted to share how much I loved this one. How do I know that this novel was special? Well, I read many series but the truth is that I almost never read a book after having finished the previous one. I need to diversify and I like to change styles. But the moment I finished The Last Place You Look, I knew I wanted to read the next one. Immediately. I needed it. Obviously, I couldn’t because this has just been released, but the important detail is that I was about to change my reading routines because of this book!

This was a lovely buddy read with Chelsea @ The Suspense Is Thrilling Me. You can read her review here. We both loved this one and I’m hoping to buddy read the sequel with her!

I’m not going to lie to you: this isn’t a unique or particularly groundbreaking novel. It’s a mystery book, featuring a PI (instead of a cop) and it follows many of the classic ingredients we all know and love. Still, there was something utterly compelling about the main character, Roxane, and her relationship with her family, friends, and lovers. I haven’t read many books featuring female PIs, except maybe for the Kinsey Millhone series, and while I found those novels entertaining, I was never “in love” with them. They didn’t feature enough personal storylines for my taste, and the cases weren’t that fascinating most of the time. If I need to keep reading a series featuring a particular character, at least, I want to be invested in their lives. However, in The Last Place You Look there was both an addictive case and plenty of interesting secondary storylines, so it was a win-win kind of book.

Roxane is kind of the classic tortured detective, only this time she’s her own boss. However, despite being self-employed, there are plenty of people here who don’t want her to keep investigating. Because Roxane is an amazing private investigator. She “finds things” and she’s great at it. In addition, she drinks a lot, she doesn’t have a family of her own and has a complicated relationship with both a man and a woman. I’m not going to lie, I’m team Tom all the way, maybe because I fell a little (okay, a lot) in love with him, but I admit the ex-girlfriend was quite fascinating, too. Another dynamic that I thought worked really well was Roxane’s relationship with her family. And there’s so much to explore here. I loved that she used her father’s notes to help her with the case.

But let’s talk about the mystery. Honestly, I couldn’t stop reading. The Last Place You Look was fast-paced, nail-biting and simply unputdownable. Sarah Cook disappeared the night her parents were murdered. Did Brad do it? Did she do it? Is she alive as Brad’s sister claims? Was she dead all this time? Is this case connected to a series of unsolved murders? (Let’s not kid ourselves, come on, of course it is all connected).

The ending was a great one, and there was even a smaller twist that I didn’t expect at all. So yes, I’m more than satisfied with this novel and of course, I want you all to read it and help me cope until the next book is out.

ARC, Minotaur Books, 2017

Review: Secrets of the Dead by Carol Wyer @carolewyer @bookouture

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Three murders. Three innocent victims. What secrets did they share with their killer? A bottle of bubble bath and colourful, plastic boats were scattered in small puddles on the floor. In the bathtub lay Linda Upton, fully-clothed, her lips a shade of blue, and her bloodshot eyes wide open. When a young mother is found drowned in the bath, clutching a receipt saying ‘all debts paid’, Detective Robyn Carter knows it’s just the beginning of a harrowing case. She recognises the signs of a serial killer, and when a second victim with a receipt is found, her worst fears are confirmed. With the local press whipping the public into a frenzy, Robyn is under pressure to solve the crime yesterday. But her team can’t find a link between the two bodies, and the cracks are starting to show. Just when her leads have dried up, Robyn discovers an unsettling clue she thinks could unlock the case. But as she chases across the plush carpets and manicured lawns of the wealthy elite, honing in on the killer’s shocking motive, one of her own is put in terrible danger. The press call him The Leopard for his stealth, speed and brutality. Can Robyn stop the most twisted killer of her career before it’s too late?

A few months ago, I read and enjoyed Little Girl Lost, the first book in a new series by Carol Wyer. This author’s first crime novel was impressive and I couldn’t believe she had never written mysteries before. I devoured it as quickly as I could and I was left wanting for more. When I saw the second book on Netgalley, I requested it immediately. Time for a buddy read along with Novels Thrills and Chills!

And Carol Wyer didn’t disappoint this time either: Secrets of the Dead was an equally addictive and thrilling crime procedural, featuring a brave and likable detective called Robyn Carter. I love many things about Robyn I love that she’s willing to ignore her boss and continue investigating something that she isn’t supposed to when her instinct tells her that she’s onto something. I wouldn’t like her otherwise, and unlike other detectives, I think Robyn always knows what she’s doing. And she might be broken, but she isn’t rude or particularly cold.

Secrets of the Dead was fast-paced and engaging and it didn’t take me long to finish it. The first death and the following murders were initially confusing, but it all started making sense after a while, especially when the whole “invoice” thing that had me so intrigued was finally explained. I also appreciated the addition of Robyn’s cousin and his wife and I’d love to see more of them in the next installments.

Still, I think Secrets of the Dead was quite different from its predecessor and I want to share my thoughts as to why. Little Girl Lost was a police procedural, sure, but it read like a proper psychological thriller. One of the main characters wasn’t the detective and we got to know her pretty well. The focus was on the lives of these characters and what was happening to them. This time, though, Robyn and the investigation were the main focus (along with various chapters told from the murderer’s point of view), so it wasn’t the same. And believe me, I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy this book, because you all know I’m a big fan of police procedurals, however, I think I missed a bit of the psychological aspect of Little Girl Lost and I was eagerly expecting something similar to it.

Anyway, besides that detail, I must say this series is really good and I’d love to find out a bit more about Robyn and her personal life. Hopefully soon!

Netgalley, Bookouture 2017

Undone (Karin Slaughter)

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When a tortured young woman enters the trauma center of an Atlanta hospital, Dr. Sara Linton is thrust into a desperate police investigation with Special Agent Will Trent and his partner, Faith Mitchell. Though guarding their own wounds and their own secrets, Sara, Will, and Faith find that they are all that stand between a madman and his next victim.

All of us have those “comfort” authors that we know we can rely on. Karin Slaughter is one of those for me. Her books are always addictive and fun to read (and gross, too), and even if some of her stories haven’t been my favorite (Pretty Girls was too much for me in terms of crazy twists), she always delivers a real page-turner.

Triptych is still one of my favorite crime books and although Fractured wasn’t as good as the first, I think this third installment, Undone, was a great follow-up. It was so different from the first book, though! Not as twisty as that one, that’s for sure. Still, I love Will Trent (and Faith), and this is an excellent series and one I’ll definitely keep reading.

On the other hand, I’ve only read the first book from the Grant Country collection, so I did know Sara Linton, but unfortunately, I think this book has made it impossible for me to return to that series. I now know more than I should and I know it’s because I should’ve read that series first, but how was I supposed to know?

The case was pretty crazy and the descriptions were graphic enough so you didn’t get to envy Will or Faith’s job (not that much anyway). As usual, I loved the investigation process and, particularly, how they manage to get some clues thanks to Sara, who by the way seems to like Will more than she should 😉 Also, we get to explore Faith’s personal struggles and Angie does make a reappearance (and she’s a good character, but I still can’t stand her), so it’s a complex and compelling novel overall.

My only disappointment was that the killer wasn’t exactly a surprise, which wasn’t exactly a problem but I would’ve liked a more unexpected ending. Anyway, I can’t wait for the fourth book!

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Arrow, 2009