My first Shalani Boland read made me an instant fan and subsequent reads only reinforced that. I love her fast-paced, hold-your-breath style and ability to suck me into her stories quickly and keep hold.
I’m a little torn with THE SILENT SISTER. Was it good? Oh yes! Did it keep me reading? Yes, again! Did it have all the elements of a great psychological thriller? Absolutely!
So why the low-ish rating? I just didn’t feel that the quality was on par with other books I’ve read from this author.
We start out fairly one-dimensional, meaning that the entire focus of the story is the letter that mysteriously shows up in the protagonist’s home. I felt that any other aspects of the characters’ lives, while present, were so brushed over that they just didn’t have enough of an impact to properly flesh the story out. Hand in hand with that, when we did veer away from the letter, it felt forced back into the story with on and off, unnatural references to it.
I don’t mind staying with the main problem of the story from page 1. In fact, I prefer that over unnecessary build up. I’d much rather have other elements of the characters’ lives sprinkled among a suspenseful story. In this particular case, though, there just wasn’t enough happening to warrant it.
In my opinion, the book overall felt like an early-ish draft rather than a finished book, and I say this because this is exactly how my books feel before those last rounds of editing. I have to wonder if Ms. Boland isn’t receiving the level of editing she once did. If this was one of her earlier novels, I’d assume that her skills weren’t fully developed yet, but it’s pretty recent and on the heels of other very well done works, which leads me to believe it’s not so much the author, but the editor(s). Unfortunately, this happens quite often, especially if an author is bringing in the sales.
The story itself was gripping and I found Lizzy, the protagonist, easy to connect with. There were more than a few potential suspects – a sign of great story set-up – and the few I alternately honed in on as potential culprits turned out to be innocent. Always a good thing to be caught by surprise, however….
A surprise ending was definitely present, but while I LOVED the twist in the epilogue, the ending chapters preceding that left me a little frustrated. I felt that for the culprit to be realistic, a little more needed to be included early in the story to make it all feel plausible when revealed. (I know that’s really vague, but I don’t want to give anything away!)
Still, I found THE SILENT SISTER very much worth the read. I’d give the story 5 stars, but the editing 1 or 2. For Goodreads’ purposes, I’m rounding up because I just can’t bear to give this author less than 4 stars, especially when I suspect editing to be the problem.
A.J. Banner is quickly becoming a favorite for me. I absolutely loved the vibrant setting, edge of your seat suspense, and character depth in THE TWILIGHT WIFE. While I know better than to keep my expectations high for subsequent releases, I couldn’t get the thrill out of my mind and held the bar high for AFTER NIGHTFALL. I was not disappointed!
Once again, Banner delivers a setting that comes alive to all the senses. Broken branches and scuff marks atop a sharp cliff make my knees weak at the thought, a dead body on the beach gives me chills even without the detail of the cool, early morning air, and the oceanside location brings the taste of sale to my tongue. Add in a powerful mystery and nail-biting suspense, and we have a winner.
For me, THE TWILIGHT WIFE was so good that I didn’t mind that the ending was rather predictable and I thoroughly expected the same for AFTER NIGHTFALL. Throughout the book I felt certain I had it figured out (and was confident in it based on THE TWILIGHT WIFE), but the author completely fooled me with a series of twists I didn’t see coming. Even better, they held true to the story, which is something that many suspense novels seem to be lacking these days.
Jenna Bradley knows she needs to be afraid, she just doesn’t know what she should be afraid of. An evening phone call from her husband, Eric, rattles her to the core. “I’m coming to get you and the kids. We have to go away for a while.”
No explanation, just a few orders laced in panic.
Jenna can only assume that as a reporter, Eric has exposed the wrong people. It’s only a guess. The distance between them grows every day, Eric living his life, Jenna living hers. She doesn’t know what he’s been working on any more than she knows where he went that morning. If only the gunmen holding her and her children hostage believed that.
Eric has the answers Jenna seeks, but when the engine of his private plane stalls over Lake Michigan, his desperation to get home and whisk his family to safety takes a back seat to a seemingly futile struggle to survive.
Federal inmate, Kurt McElroy has answers too, but heavy prison monitoring prevents him from sending a clear warning, not to mention getting the help he needs. The private prison he’s been contracted to is as corrupt as they come, but that corruption reaches beyond the prison walls to officials with everything to lose.
Jenna fears it’s her family that will lose, namely their lives. The clock is ticking. The gunmen are growing restless. Can she find an escape before it’s too late?
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“Wow, speak of psychological thriller! This book is one crazy ride. With a strong start, it takes me right in. Fast paced, urgent, tension building, I’m on the edge of my seat, not a clue what I’m chasing yet, but I’m chasing it.
Superb dialogue, in-depth characters, vivid surroundings. Good intentions having devastating effects.
Before I realize it, I’m halfway through and still no cracks in the story. But once the light gets in and the dots start connecting, it’s simply astonishing.
Throw the Key is a sublimely crafted page-turner, highly recommended.”
Protagonist is realistic, does things that most mothers would do to protect their children.”
It’s almost that time again! Release day for this second baby of mine is this Saturday, October 6 2018. Chapter one has already made the rounds, so here is a peek at chapter two. I hope you enjoy!
Tension jabbed Eric Bradley’s shoulders and neck like flaming swords as he gripped the yoke of his Piper Lance. Even at top speed, it couldn’t fly fast enough.
That phone call from a stranger hadn’t lasted five seconds, but had the power to change the rest of his life. Maybe it already had. He had no way of knowing.
Eric tipped his head from side to side, stretching his neck. He should’ve stayed in bed. It was the second life-changing call that day.
Eric glanced at the gold wrist watch Jenna had given him for his thirtieth birthday. Pink gold, she called it. It didn’t look pink to him. Golden hands ticked across the chocolate face. Seven-thirty. If he maintained this speed, he’d be home around nine o’clock.
It wasn’t soon enough. He needed to get his family, make a run to Chicago – something else he’d have to explain to Jenna – and be out of town before dark. Did darkness really matter, though? In the movies, the bad guys seemed to strike beneath pitch-blacks skies. But this was no movie.
Eric scooted forward in his seat as if the extra inch would get him home faster. His khaki shorts slid over the white leather, but his sweat-dampened thighs pinched with the movement. The hum of the aircraft reverberated in his ears. Maybe the bad guys wouldn’t wait. Maybe they’d already struck.
Eric pressed his lips together and glanced at the photo taped to the instrument panel, a snapshot from Halloween, almost a year ago. Emma wore a frilly pink princess gown, her blonde hair styled in fluffy curls. Jack dressed as a cowboy, half of his face hidden beneath the over-sized hat. Behind them, Jenna smiled widely, gathering the kids in her arms, her hazel eyes sparkling back at him.
After the photo had been taken, Jack jumped up and down, tugging on Eric’s pants. “We go! We go!” Despite the biting wind and occasional slap of a wet snowflake, he and Jenna had paraded the kids door to door though the neighborhood, Jenna nestling against Eric each time they stopped for the kids to collect their treats.
Eric could smell the scent of her perfume and feel the warmth of her skin just thinking about it. Her smile glowed as she tipped her head up and joked, “Tell me again why we had kids?” But he knew she loved those kids as much as he loved her. Things had been good then. Better than good.
Eric looked away from his smiling family in the photo. If anything happened to them, it would be his fault. He never should’ve gotten involved, should’ve minded his own business. But, how could he have known it would be this dangerous? Besides, he couldn’t ignore it. Those people needed him.
That last encounter ran through his mind, a single phrase repeating like a scratched album. “He got to them. They’ve been threatened. Stay away.”
He could picture the dim lighting, see that desperate face.
Eric glanced out the window beside him. Anything to distract himself. The setting sun cast splashes of amber, gold, and brilliant orange over Lake Michigan, the scene a mockery of the funnel cloud his life had spun into.
He bit back the thought, didn’t want to further jinx himself. Storms were in the forecast for that night. He had to hope they’d hold out long enough for him to get his family to safety.
He shifted his gaze to the passenger seat, eyes landing on his flight log book. He scanned the thin carpeting on the floor, looked back out the window. The images hadn’t changed outside of the plane and they hadn’t changed in his mind either. That face, those silent pleas.
Eric had left just a few hours before the call came. He’d been so close, the situation almost under control. Had the phone call he made been answered, he would’ve already taken care of it. Instead, they were trying to take care of him.
Eric looked over the instrument panel and out the windshield. As far as he could see, nothing but water, grayish blue highlighted in orange hues. He squinted at the horizon like it was a window capable of revealing everything important to him, show him everything was okay. He slid a little closer to the yoke.
He muttered a curse under his breath. He’d forgotten to tell Jenna to pack their passports. He’d have to remember that when he got home. Something told him that this time, she would appreciate his rustic, Canadian cabin. It would be the perfect hideout.
Eric gazed out the window again, but didn’t see the vast lake as his plane glided over it, slicing through the humidity. Instead, his mind flashed home. He could picture Jenna scrambling through the house, a panicked mess. If only he could’ve given her more information, but he couldn’t take the chance. Their home phone, his cell, even Jenna’s cell could’ve been manipulated.
At least he knew that she’d taken his warning seriously. Her frantic tone and insistence for answers made that clear. He just hoped she’d stayed afraid enough to follow everything he’d told her to do. She needed to listen to him, just this once, regardless of the terms they’d been on.
The all too familiar ache gnawed at his insides. Jenna didn’t understand. She’d be even less willing to try to understand after this. When he left the house that morning, he knew his return would push Jenna further away. He would have no choice but to tell her. She’d see soon enough. But this on top of it…
She definitely wouldn’t understand.
A shake of the aircraft jerked Eric from his thoughts.
The engine sputtered.
He glanced at the gages. His RPM was dropping.
His seat rattled before the engine silenced.
Eric reached for the overhead panel, flipped the ignition knob to its original position and then back to start. Nothing happened.
He flipped on his auxiliary power, watched the gauges, and tried to start the engine again. His fuel level had dropped dangerously low. It didn’t make sense. Despite his rush, he had topped off both fuel tanks before leaving Traverse City.
He pulled up on the yoke to maintain altitude, switched fuel tanks and tried to start the plane again. The engine stammered and slowly came to life.
But only for a moment, not long enough to feel the relief.
Eric drifted through the air in eerie silence, thousands of feet above the water. Now what? His threw his hand to the overhead panel and desperately cranked on the knob, but no matter how many times he tried, he couldn’t restart the engine.
He hit the yoke with his fist.
Sweat beaded on his forehead. He couldn’t think about that, had to focus on the plane. He knew what to do. He’d logged thousands of flight hours. A lifeless engine didn’t have to be a death sentence. He could travel a long distance just by gliding.
Eric searched the instrument panel for his altitude. Eight thousand feet. Rule of thumb, multiply altitude by five to determine minimum gliding distance.
He’d make it at least 40,000 feet before the plane came down. About eight miles.
Eric gawked at the horizon, the moisture sucked from his mouth as if a dental vacuum lay inside. A flash of lightening streaked in the distance.
He was at least twelve miles from shore.
Virtual Book Tour Schedule 2018
October 8 – RABT Book Tours – Kick Off
October 9 – Nana’s Book Reviews – Excerpt
October 10 – Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews – Guest Post
October 11 – Book Reviews by Virginia Lee – Spotlight
October 12 – Mythical Books – Excerpt
October 13 – Coffee and Books – Spotlight
October 14 – The Avid Reader – Interview
October 15 – Book Addict – Spotlight
October 16 – The Bookworm Lodge – Spotlight
October 17 – Bound 2 Escape – Spotlight
October 18 – Book Lover Blog – Review
October 19 – Just Books – Excerpt
October 20 – Jazzy’s Book Reviews – Spotlight
October 21 – Truly Trendy – Excerpt
October 22 – Tea Time and Books – Spotlight
October 23 – Book Junkie Mom – Review
October 24 – T’s Stuff – Spotlight
October 25 – Beach Bound Books – Excerpt
October 26 – A Life Through Books – Interview
October 27 –Silver Dagger Scriptorium – Spotlight
October 28 – Momma Says to Read or Not to Read – Spotlight
October 29 – Novel News Network – Review
October 30 – Cheeky Pee Reads and Reviews – Review
October 31 – Musings of a Reader – Spotlight
November 1 – Texas Book Nook – Review
November 2 – RABT Reviews – Wrap Up
I know better than to judge a book by the cover, but this one just seemed to scream, “read me!” In part, it was Shari Lapena’s name. After THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR, she became a must read. Another part was, no doubt, the depiction of that house in a snowstorm. For me, mother nature’s wrath is the perfect complement to any suspense-filled mystery. The added hurdle of a hurricane, tornado, massive earthquake, volcanic eruption, ice or dust storm, etc. grabs my attention every time.
Maybe I went into it with preconceived notions or maybe I was just off, but I had a hard time getting into this one. The large cast of point of view characters coupled with short sections for each of them made it difficult for me to connect with them and ultimately lose myself in their stories. It didn’t help that the writing felt somewhat simplistic and passive.
That is not to say that it’s a bad book – it’s a good mystery and worth the read – it just wasn’t quite what I expected. I anticipated a strong psychological thriller and instead found this to be strictly murder mystery.
The mystery was well presented, but I felt that the story would have benefited from the twists and turns of strong merging storylines. The characters certainly had their individual issues to contend with, but the progression and ultimately the punch of those issues didn’t have the power to explosively collide with the main plot. All the elements were there, but the excessive number of characters kept me from getting deep enough into their personal struggles to feel the effects. Had I remained in the heads of just a few, I suspect I would feel differently.
I did absolutely love the final twist at the end, and that particular storyline is the exception to the above. I don’t want to give it away, but lets just say that right or wrong, I found myself not only surprised, but also thoroughly satisfied with it.
Overall, I found AN UNWANTED GUEST to be a good book, just not quite what I expected given the author’s previous works.