OUR LITTLE LIES by Sue Watson – 3 of 5 Stars

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Nobody is perfect, especially not Marianne’s husband, Simon, the surgical whiz and object of every woman’s desires. On the outside, Marianne has it all – a beautiful home, 3 wonderful children, Simon’s love and adoration. Behind closed doors, well, let’s just say that nothing is what it seems.

OUR LITTLE LIES is heartbreaking story of emotional abuse, deception, and the people caught up in the games of one man’s ego trip. I found myself able to connect to the characters, buy into the premise of the plot, and turning the pages in hopes that this horrible man would get what he deserves.

While I enjoyed the read, a few issues kept me from fully falling captive to the story.

For the first half of the book I was frustrated by repetition, the incredibly weak nature of the protagonist (not to mention her blindness) and the slow-ish pacing of events. I felt that more time was spent declaring Simon’s greatness than moving the story forward. As it turns out, this is for good reason as it plays into the protagonist’s mental state, however a better view of that early on would’ve saved the frustration.

It’s obvious from the start that Simon isn’t who he seems. That in itself isn’t a problem, but I had a hard time understanding what all these other women see in him. I think that maybe if Simon’s mistreatment of Marianne had been held off until a little later in the book and we could’ve spent more time seeing how wonderful he was to her early in their relationship, I could’ve developed that image of awesomeness that had every woman and their mother swooning. I would have liked to believe for a bit that just maybe Simon wasn’t the problem.

The pace really picked up after the 50% mark and Marianne blossomed from weak and helpless to a picture of strength, determination, and vengeance. I found myself cheering for her and hoping that her efforts would expose the true Simon. I could drum up sympathy for Marianne instead of screaming at her in my head, but even more for her step-daughter, Sophie. I felt for that poor girl from the start and loved that Marianne cared just as much for Sophie as she did her biological sons.

I was certain I had the final twist figured out, but Ms. Watson proved me way off base! I love it when that happens, but I had a difficult time believing this one. Not because it seems impossible, but because the prior pages seemed to be lacking the kind of foreshadowing needed to make it all ring true. A few more hints throughout could have created a dynamic punch.

I may have been able to make sense of it and accept it, but the story fell apart after that, slipping into a long expose from the culprit in a delivery that didn’t match the character. The who, what, when, where, why, and how came out, but felt like an info dump to get the story over with.

Overall, I did enjoy the read, but felt like too many issues took away the wow factor.

 

 

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THE SILENT SISTER by Shalini Boland – 3.5 of 5 Stars

The Silent Sister: A gripping psychological thriller with a nailbiting twist

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.

 

After Nightfall by A.J. Banner – 5 of 5 Stars

After Nightfall

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.

Highly recommended!

I Will Never Leave You by S.M. Thayer – 2 of 5 Stars

I Will Never Leave You by [Thayer, S. M.]

I typically avoid Kindle First books, but this one had an interesting hook.

Banking heiress Trish and her husband, James, seem to have it all, from a lavish lifestyle to a historic mansion in the nation’s capital. The only thing that’s missing to make their family complete is a baby, so when Trish holds Anne Elise in her arms for the first time, it’s no surprise that she falls deeply in love. There’s just one problem: Trish isn’t the mother.

The baby belongs to Laurel, James’s young mistress. And more than that, James and Laurel want to start a new life together—despite an ironclad prenup standing in their way. When Trish becomes dangerously obsessed with making Laurel’s baby her own, the lovers’ plan to break James’s marriage quickly goes awry. How far is each of them willing to go for happiness?

Sounds twisted, right? It most definitely is.

I originally didn’t download the book, sticking by my theory that Kindle First books are a waste of time. I kept thinking about it, though, and wondering why a woman would 1) want to stay with a man who had an affair and fathered a child with his long term mistress and 2) would want to raise the child. I gave in and decided to give it a read.

From the start, it’s clear that we’re not dealing with typical characters. This is one screwed up bunch. Trish is a very rich, shallow woman who is obviously missing a few too many brain cells. Her husband, James, takes her to the hospital to meet his newborn daughter, but as far as he knows, Trish isn’t aware that he has a mistress yet alone a baby. Until they arrive at the hospital, Trish doesn’t even know where they’re going, yet as soon as she sees the baby she’s instantly in love. There is no screaming at her two-timing hubby, no argument, no nothing…except her desperation to keep her husband. This might be easier to buy if Trish had a strong history of abandonment, but the history she does have is brushed over and minimal.

James/Jimmy/Jim works in finance and seems to like spending money more than anything. He’s basically an in-over-his-head-with-debt thug who hides behind his wife’s money. Supposedly he’s charismatic, but I have difficulty seeing charisma in anyone who gives his wife such big news by way of show and tell. “Meet my kid. Oh yeah, and that’s my mistress. Could you divorce me so that I get half of your money?” Seriously? And, right in front of his wife he calls his mistress honey, darling, etc. Why didn’t someone give him a kick to the groin right then and there? But no one does. Instead he becomes the object of two women’s desperate attempts to win him over for keeps.

I do have to say that for James’ character, I did find it clever that the author referred to him as Jim in his own POV chapters (just plain old Jim, nothing special about him), James in Trish’s POV (making him sound better, more sophisticated than he is) and Jimmy (a directionless man-child) in Laurel’s POV. Each version of his name suited what each character thought/wanted him to be. I don’t know if this was intentional, but it worked very well.

Finally there is Laurel, who is about as dumb as they come. On the night of their daughter’s birth, Jimmy goes home to his wife even though he promised to stay with Laurel, yet she’s still convinced that he will divorce Trish and marry her. She’s been with him long enough to carry a baby, but has no idea where he lives. She believes this poor excuse for a man is going to fix her screwed up life, which includes paying off her huge student loan debt with money she doesn’t realize he doesn’t have. It just goes on and on.

I found myself irritated by Laurel calling the baby Zerena and James & Trish calling her Anne Elise. At first, it effectively showed that Laurel and Jimmy are nowhere near on the same page, but after that it got old. It was especially annoying near the end when all of a sudden Laurel starts referring to the baby as Anne Elise without acknowledgement of the switch. Enough was stated earlier in the book that I can surmise the reason for it, but I really felt like I wanted some explanation from Laurel at the time she shifted gears. I actually thought it was a mistake until the reference continued.

Messed up characters can be a good thing in a book. Often they’re interesting and fun. Even unlikeable characters work, as long as the reader can feel empathy. I felt that these characters were just plain unlikeable and was only able to feel something for the poor little baby.

I’m not going to get into the plot. With these three holding the reins, you can imagine it’s a train wreck. Again, not necessarily a bad thing…if it makes sense. There were just too many things that didn’t make sense to me and so many details that were inaccurate to the point where I caught myself saying “really?!” out loud. For example, a newborn baby does not giggle. Period. Expanding on it by saying how the baby giggles at the funny faces made at her only make it more ridiculous. Overall, I felt that the book lacked the tiny bits of realism it needed to ground the reader and make us believe that it could be real.

Despite some comments I’ve read, I do think the writing itself was good. There were times when it felt old fashioned to me, but that is a personal preference only.

I did finish the book and it did have entertainment value for me. I can’t in good conscious recommend it, but I did find enough enjoyment to make it worth the read.

 

THREE DAYS MISSING by Kimberly Belle – 4 of 5 stars

Three Days Missing: A Novel of Psychological Suspense by [Belle, Kimberly]
It’s a nightmare for any parent. When Kat Jenkins sends her young son, Ethan, on an overnight school trip, her biggest fear is that bully, Sammy Huntington, will torment her borderline-genius and somewhat awkward son. It’s her worst case scenario until police knock on the door in the middle of the night to tell her that Ethan is missing. He vanished. No one saw anything.

The high level of suspense kept me turning the pages! A variety of well developed characters brought to their knees by the unthinkable sucked me in immediately and never let go. Ms. Belle hooked me with THE MARRIAGE LIE and certainly didn’t disappoint with this psychological thriller.

I would have liked for the “why” of the story to come back to Kat and Ethan rather than the way it played out, but the disappointment was a small price to pay for the thrill of the ride.

I don’t want to go into to detail and spoil the ending, but I have to add that I absolutely loved the short chapter at the end. A revelation I didn’t see coming coupled with a deep sense of satisfaction wrapped the book up nicely.

All in all, a really great read!

 

 

 

THE CHILD NEXT DOOR by Shalini Boland ~ 5 of 5 stars

The Child Next Door: An unputdownable psychological thriller with a brilliant twist by [Boland, Shalini]

Oh, poor Kirstie Rawlings!

After overhearing a man’s voice through her baby monitor, Kirstie is convinced that someone has tried – and will continue to try – to kidnap her infant daughter, Daisy. Every imaginable precaution to protect the baby is taken, but Kirstie still doesn’t feel safe. She won’t let Daisy out of her sight, sleeps on an uncomfortable futon in the nursery beside the crib, and triple checks the door and window locks multiple times each night. It’s an obsession, really, one that seems completely reasonable and warranted.

To Kirstie.

The deeper she delves into obsession, the more everyone, including her husband, Dom, questions her sanity, leaving Kirstie to her own devices as she tries to figure out who wants to kidnap Daisy.

I absolutely loved this book! It grabbed me from the first page and didn’t let go. I was sure early on that I figured out the identity of the potential kidnapper, but was I off base! It’s well written, beautifully plotted, and maintains a must-keep-reading pace.

This is the second of Ms. Boland’s works that I’ve read and I will definitely be reading more.