Review: The Summer Children – Dot Hutchison

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The Collector #3

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: This FBI agent has come to expect almost anything—just not this…

When Agent Mercedes Ramirez finds an abused young boy on her porch, covered in blood and clutching a teddy bear, she has no idea that this is just the beginning. He tells her a chilling tale: an angel killed his parents and then brought him here so Mercedes could keep him safe.

His parents weren’t just murdered. It was a slaughter—a rage kill like no one on the Crimes Against Children team had seen before. But they’re going to see it again. An avenging angel is meting out savage justice, and she’s far from through.

One by one, more children arrive at Mercedes’s door with the same horror story. Each one a traumatized survivor of an abusive home. Each one chafing at Mercedes’s own scars from the past. And each one taking its toll on her life and career.

Now, as the investigation draws her deeper into the dark, Mercedes is beginning to fear that if this case doesn’t destroy her, her memories might. – via Goodreads

Just quickly: it chaps my ass I can’t find a proper, big image for this damn review of the cover. UGH!

You know, I really have a like/hate relationship with these books. They are by no means bad books, not at all, but I find them to be wildly inconsistent and that they never really deliver the goods. Ever. Now, let’s move on.

The Summer Children naturally features all these terribly broken FBI agents once again. You don’t dislike them, but you have to wonder how they are all cleared for duty, what with their various issues, because their issues are not necessarily ones they have successfully dealt with, as the fear is constantly with them. Anyway. We also, naturally, have Priya, Bliss, and Inara rejoin in here, and it is always nice to read about them.

This book focuses on Mercedes and all the crap she has been through, and I must say this book has been my least favourite read of the lot so far. I don’t know why. I read it and I was interested, but I always feel that while Hutchison deals with dark topics, they don’t have a true feeling of dread. It is also not helped along when you read about all this awful stuff going down, and these agents revert to children, all having huge sleepovers and falling apart at the seams.

I don’t think these are books I will ever go back to reread, but if Hutchison does any more I will likely read them because they aren’t difficult reads. Yes, they deal with some heavy issues, but as I said, it feels more like they are touched upon than actually explored really in depth. If you have read the books, you will know what I mean. I mean we explore nasty crimes and get in depth looks at different characters in each of the books, but it feels superficial when all is said and done. Okay, I am going to stop now. I don’t really have anything other to say than it was okay.

Review: The Last Widow – Karin Slaughter

2

Will Trent #9

I received this in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: A mysterious kidnapping

On a hot summer night, a scientist from the Centers for Disease Control is grabbed by unknown assailants in a shopping center parking lot. Vanished into thin air, the authorities are desperate to save the doctor.

A devastating explosion

One month later, the serenity of a sunny Sunday afternoon is shattered by the boom of a ground-shaking blast—followed by another seconds later. One of Atlanta’s busiest and most important neighborhood’s has been bombed—the location of Emory University, two major hospitals, the FBI headquarters, and the CDC.

A diabolical enemy

Medical examiner Sara Linton and her partner Will Trent, an investigator with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, rush to the scene—and into the heart of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to destroy thousands of innocent lives. When the assailants abduct Sara, Will goes undercover to save her and prevent a massacre—putting his own life on the line for the woman and the country he loves. – via Goodreads

YES! YES! I was thrilled to receive an advance copy of this, you all know I am a ridiculously huge Karin Slaughter fan. I started this pretty much the second I got my hands on it, and I had no regrets. As with all Slaughter’s work (bar Pieces of Her), you will get sucked in almost immediately, and the story barrels along super fast.

The Last Widow flips between characters, telling the story simultaneously from differing perspectives, and it works so well. I absolutely love reading about Sara and Will, I think they are great together. It is a testament of Slaughter’s writing that she managed to merge two series so successfully, and especially how she brings Sara and Will together, and there is no resentment (because come on, Jeffrey man). The side characters don’t get as much focus in this one, making them more bit characters than usual, but that is alright.

I thought the story for The Last Widow was engrossing and interesting. The book  has it all – romance, action, drama, the works. Sara’s family makes an appearance again, and some truly hurtful things are said in that section, but it definitely contributes to all that goes on.The Last Widow is without a doubt a whirlwind read. The events take place really quickly, so the book is essentially a snapshot of time with characters we have grown to love over the years. I absolutely cannot wait for more in this series!

Review: The Chestnut Man – Søren Sveistrup

2

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

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

A psychopath is terrorizing Copenhagen.

His calling card is a “chestnut man”—a handmade doll made of matchsticks and two chestnuts—which he leaves at each bloody crime scene.

Examining the dolls, forensics makes a shocking discovery—a fingerprint belonging to a young girl, a government minister’s daughter who had been kidnapped and murdered a year ago.

A tragic coincidence—or something more twisted?

To save innocent lives, a pair of detectives must put aside their differences to piece together the Chestnut Man’s gruesome clues.

Because it’s clear that the madman is on a mission that is far from over. – via Goodreads

I got access to a copy of this awhile ago. The write up looked like my cup of tea, and a Scandinavian thriller/mystery is totally something I am on board for. As Jade said the other week, this is typically that story of a cop who neglects their home life in favour of saving other people and their loved ones. No different, box standard formula. Which would have been okay, except that it wasn’t.

I thought the story was going to be… more. So much more. But it was seriously bogged down by the writing, or (and I will freely admit this) the translation. There were plenty times while reading where I was like “oh dear, that could have been edited better, or translated more smoothly”, and it kept jarring me out of the story. I also feel that there is a ton of filler stuff, and that the book is filled with flat, bland characters. They are really by the numbers, nothing special… okay, except maybe for the fact that they were really daft. Almost wilfully stupid. I mean really. I know I am just the reader, but they were clunky and blind and, honestly, came across as incompetent more often than not. And I don’t mean the higher ups – I mean Thulin and Hess, our main pair.

Not only that, the author Søren Sveistrup weaves in a totally unnecessary and bland romance. It just came across as forced. I didn’t like that at all, and it pops up out of nowhere, and nothing comes of it. I mean they are trundling along, and all of a sudden they just want each other, then they don’t? What? Just, no. No.

So I am in the minority apparently about how I felt about this book – it seems other readers loved it. It just didn’t work for me. I didn’t like the characters or care about them, the book was very predictable in places, there was too much filler stuff between happenings, the logic is a little questionable, and the experience overall was not that great. The book felt like a super long read, so I didn’t love that, either. I just didn’t love The Chestnut Man, overall.

Review: Where The Missing Go – Emma Rowley

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I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: My name is Kate.

I volunteer at a local charity – young people who have run away from home call me and I pass on messages to their loved ones, no questions asked.

I don’t get many phone calls, and those I do are usually short and vague, or pranks.

But this morning a girl named Sophie called.

I’m supposed to contact her parents to let them know their child is safe.

The problem is, Sophie isn’t safe.

And Sophie is my daughter. – via Goodreads

Alrighty, so the synopsis for this totally looked like my cup of tea, and I was pleased when I was granted access to it from Netgalley. When I started this book, I was quickly and easily drawn in, and that is good. The premise is interesting, and I think everyone’s nightmare – for their child to go missing. That being said, you quickly realise you don’t really know what’s cracking, and the book slowly gives up its secrets.

I didn’t love all the characters, and that is okay. I liked the story, even though I feel that sometimes the writing style and the pacing let the story down a bit. There were sections that were a little unbelievable and then there were moments where something happens that is so stupid you are just stumped. But the story still keeps you engaged, even when the story goes from “missing” to “runaway”, and you start wondering how Rowley is going to keep you going.

The book is a simple, fast read, and very engaging, as I said. It probably could have been slightly shorter, but it is not so long that you lose interest, or wonder why you have spent so much time. There are some lulls, but for the most part, the story moves along. It is hectic to think about parents that have gone through/are going through something like this, it is horrible. I don’t have too much to say, just that the book was well worth a read, and I enjoyed it. It was twisty at times, and while predictable in some places, it wasn’t like that when it counted. Definitely worth a look see.

Review: Pieces of Her – Karin Slaughter

4

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: What if the person you thought you knew best turns out to be someone you never knew at all . . . ?

Andrea knows everything about her mother, Laura. She knows she’s spent her whole life in the small beachside town of Belle Isle; she knows she’s never wanted anything more than to live a quiet life as a pillar of the community; she knows she’s never kept a secret in her life. Because we all know our mothers, don’t we?

But all that changes when a trip to the mall explodes into violence and Andrea suddenly sees a completely different side to Laura. Because it turns out that before Laura was Laura, she was someone completely different. For nearly thirty years she’s been hiding from her previous identity, lying low in the hope that no one would ever find her. But now she’s been exposed, and nothing will ever be the same again.

The police want answers and Laura’s innocence is on the line, but she won’t speak to anyone, including her own daughter. Andrea is on a desperate journey following the breadcrumb trail of her mother’s past. And if she can’t uncover the secrets hidden there, there may be no future for either one of them. . . . – via Goodreads

You know, I was beyond stoked when I got my hands on this book. You all know how deep a love I have for Karin Slaughter’s work, and there are few authors I get as excited about when they have a new book coming, so I was over the moon when I got my paws on this. My joy, however, was short lived.

It is not that I hated Pieces of Her, not at all, but I did not find it nearly as thrilling or as well crafted as Slaughter’s other work. I didn’t like any of the characters, which in and of itself is not something that would ruin a book for me, it’s just that I wasn’t keen on the story. Usually I am fascinated with cults, I really am, and I was interested to see where this would go, and in parts it is really good, and others it is just… bland.

I was so interested to read about the relationship between Andy and Laura, but it never really felt real for me. I did like Gordon. I seriously thought we had some espionage thriller on our hands, and then it went another way. I am seriously struggling to write a review for this. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it. I just found it to be a bit of a chore to read in the sense that it did not hook me and take me captive, where I just had to know what was going on every second of the way. It is, without a doubt, the most disappointing Slaughter read I have ever read. That is all I can really say on it.

Review: Bitter – Francesca Jakobi

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I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: It’s 1969, and while the summer of love lingers in London, Gilda is consumed by the mistakes of her past. She walked out on her beloved son Reuben when he was just a boy and fears he’ll never forgive her.

When Reuben marries a petite blonde gentile, Gilda takes it as the ultimate rejection. Her cold, distant son seems transformed by love – a love she’s craved his entire adult life. What does his new wife have that she doesn’t? And how far will she go to find out?

It’s an obsession that will bring shocking truths about the past to light . . .

Bitter is a beautiful and devastating novel about the decisions that define our lives, the fragility of love and the bond between mother and son. – via Goodreads

Bitter is a really strange book. When I read it, I initially disliked Gilda intensely. She is nasty and cruel and reminded me of someone, and I didn’t like how obsessed she was with her son. Like really, it is unhealthy. She is not a likeable character at all. And yet she is the main character of the book and we need to follow her story, and as we do, we slowly learn more about her.

Gilda has a fantastic friend she treats like dirt but who loves her enough to stick around, though why anyone would put up with that for as long is beyond me. Then there is her obsession with her son and jealousy of his wife. It is pretty intense when a mother cannot see her son (child) as an individual, something more than just a title, a person who has hopes and dreams, but instead has a concept for them that they must adhere to, but still insists that they know their child better than anyone.

Anyway, let me not get caught up in that. It really seems that Gilda needs some serious mental health help, and the book goes on to show you the disturbing things she does, and as it does so, you learn more about her, that ultimately you can understand how Gilda got to the place she is in life, and you really hope that she will be able to overcome it. Bitter is not an easy read, though it reads fast. It is a decent one, one I am glad that I read. I could definitely recommend Bitter to anyone interested in darker books that are more of a character study.

Review: Last Time I Lied – Riley Sager

7

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.

Yet it’s immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present.

And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.  – via Goodreads

You know, last year I read Final Girls by Sager and quite enjoyed it, though I didn’t quite love it like most people did. When I saw he had a new book, I thought I would definitely have to check it out, and boy, this time I loved it, not just like.

Last Time I Lied slowly (read: excruciatingly slow) reveals Emma’s story. The book constantly flips between Emma as an adult, returning to Camp Crystal Lake Camp Nightingale as an instructor, and fifteen years before when she was a gangly young teen who was present when something awful happened, something that coloured every aspect of her life. Now, this flipping between the past and the present totally sets up the reveals, but is also so gradual that it gets under your skin because you just want the damn story already. Clever, because even as the fingers of frustration claw at you, the atmosphere wins out and you can totally deal with the mystery unfolding painstakingly.

I won’t lie, I got a super Pretty Little Liars vibe while reading this. Like, something awful happened at this camp, something terrible, and it is laced in secrets and people incapable of just revealing something and dealing with the consequences. Vivian also made me think of Alison diLaurentis, which is a cruel but accurate description. I quite enjoyed reading about all the suspense, the theories, the conspiracies, as well as digging into this mystery with Emma, because soon I, too, needed to know exactly what happened to Vivian, Natalie, and Allison (no, that is not lost on me).

There are some snags along the way, but nothing that detracts too heavily from the experience. A touch of predictability tossed in here and there, but nothing that made this eye-rollingly obvious and cliché. I truly enjoyed the characters as well as some of the feelings that were conveyed successfully here – the guilt, the confusion, the childishness at times, the betrayal, the anger, it all worked quite well.

All I have to say when all is said and done is that I was so hooked while reading Last Time I Lied. Sager crafts a mysterious, suspenseful story that will take you hostage. I raced through this book, and even thought about it when I was denied reading it because I have to adult and hold down a job (speaking of, what utter nonsense is that?!). I would highly recommend this read, especially if you enjoy Sager’s work. It is solid, thrilling, entertaining, and this is something I might very well return to in future.

Review: The Woman In The Window – A.J. Finn

2

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems. – via Goodreads 

Uhm… I don’t really have an awful lot to say about this book. Not really much at all. It is not a bad read, at all. It is predictable – I mean we have all seen this plot in some book or some movie somewhere – someone housebound who sees something they should not and all the shenanigans that follow that.

The Woman In The Window had some interesting parts to it and some concepts that I enjoyed, and Anna’s situation is a quite fascinating – agoraphobic in the extreme, but a therapist helping others in a similar situation, and an alcoholic struggling to pull her life together. I thought at times this was overdone and other times it was underutilised. I feel that the only character that had any real depth is Anna, though that could truly be by design.

Anyway, the book is slightly longer than it strictly needs to be, though it is a pretty fast read. It’s decent but not fantastic, though I do think Finn writes quite well. I don’t really want to say too much because the book has some twists and turns, whether you expect them or not. I will certainly check out future works.

Review: The Fear – C.L. Taylor

2

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: When Lou Wandsworth ran away to France with her teacher Mike Hughes, she thought he was the love of her life. But Mike wasn’t what he seemed and he left her life in pieces.

Now 32, Lou discovers that he is involved with teenager Chloe Meadows. Determined to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself, she returns home to confront him for the damage he’s caused.

But Mike is a predator of the worst kind, and as Lou tries to bring him to justice, it’s clear that she could once again become his prey… – via Goodreads

You know, it rarely happens that a book makes me uncomfortable when I read it, but this was one of those that did. It just… I didn’t like that. It was weird. This book gives you a look see at how the victims of a paedophile feel about him and what is happening to them, and it makes me both sick and mad. Ugh.

Now let me get straight into the book – the story flips between Lou’s present and her past, so you get a look at her as she is now, scarred and emotionally broken, and then to the past, when she was kidnapped and groomed by a paedophile of note. Ugh. My stomach rolled reading about how she was so in love with him and how he understood her and loved her like nobody else, and to read how he preyed on her was absolutely horrifying.

I think with that being said, there will be triggers for some people, that’s for sure. I was both frustrated and disgusted reading this, and intrigued in other places (not the parts about the feelings of the victims that were preyed on, but the aftermath, and then there is the odd section featuring Wendy). I thought that it the story actually comes together quite well, and while making you queasy, keeps you interested enough to continue and see what happens.

There were so many unsavoury characters peppered throughout this book, but there were also some really nice ones, so the balance struck is decent. I don’t foresee myself rushing out to reread The Fear, and it is not necessarily a book that would be easy to recommend, but it isn’t a terrible read, but also didn’t strike the highs I was hoping for.

Review: Deadly Recall – T.R. Ragan

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Jessie Cole #2

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: When you search for the missing, there’s no telling what you’ll find. PI Jessie Cole learned that painful truth firsthand when her sister disappeared. Now a new case will test Jessie and Ben once again.

Owen Shepard, the public face of one of the country’s biggest health insurance companies, has become the target of a vengeful father. The man blames Shepard for his child’s death and plans to make the CEO know what it’s like to live with a broken heart—and watch others die. After killing two employees, the desperate father kidnaps Shepard’s daughter. Tasked with finding her, Jessie and crime reporter Ben Morrison are running out of time to save her.

Meanwhile, Ben is still seeking insight into the man he used to be before a car crash erased his memories. And each discovery is leading Jessie and him down a frightening road. What they find could scar both of them forever. – Goodreads

You know, I have read the majority of the Lizzy Gardner series, and I am really not a fan. It’s like… they are okay to read, but nothing special at all. When this series launched, I thought it would be worth giving it a shot, and I was actually impressed with Her Last Day. I didn’t expect to be, but I was. I am pleased to say that the second instalment in the Jessie Cole series is also a pretty good read.

There really are so many parallels between the Gardner books and the Cole books, but I honestly feel that the execution and characters are far better in the Cole books. Again, the pacing is a lot better in this. The book speeds by and is interesting throughout, not suffering from a lot of unnecessary bloat, and the multiple cases being dealt with are handled really well here, neither being forgotten or wasted away.

Zee returns in this book, and I am glad about that, as she is a character who is odd but I like her. Deadly Recall also gives us a bit more time to chew on Ben Morrison and who/what he is, as this book spends some more time digging into that. I really like this aspect, and I think Ragan is handling it really well.

Overall, Deadly Recall is a solid follow up to Her Last Day, and I am really interested to see where Ragan takes it from here. The book reads quickly, is interesting, and has characters that are more memorable than her other series. All in all, it works better, and is well worth the read if you are looking for a little something new to look into.