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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Book Tour & Giveaway – DEATH OPENS A DOOR by Mikel J. Wilson, Mouring Dove Mysteries Book 2

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Mourning Dove Mysteries, Book 2
Mystery
Date Published: October 19, 2018
Publisher: Acorn Publishing
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Emory Rome is back in DEATH OPENS A WINDOW, Book 2 of the Mourning Dove Mysteries and the follow-up to the national bestseller MURDER ON THE LAKE OF FIRE.
As he struggles with the consequences of his last case, Emory must unravel the inexplicable death of a federal employee in a Knoxville high-rise. But while the reticent investigator is mired in a deep pool of suspects – from an old mountain witch to the powerful Tennessee Valley Authority – he misses a greater danger creeping from the shadows. The man in the ski mask returns to reveal himself, and the shocking crime of someone close is unearthed.

About the Author

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Bestselling mystery and science fiction author Mikel J. Wilson draws on his Southern roots for the Mourning Dove Mysteries, a series of novels featuring bizarre murders in the Smoky Mountains region of Tennessee. Building on the success of the first book in the series, Wilson continues his “no guns or knives” philosophy for murder as he delves deeper into the lives of the characters and their evolving dynamics.

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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!

It’s Pub Day!!

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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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Advance Reviews of THROW THE KEY

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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.”
I seriously could not put this book down! It keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time! The author does a wonderful job of weaving the seemingly separate storylines into a completely unexpected conclusion. It is a very entertaining story that I highly recommend and I can’t wait to read future books from this author!”
“Mystery and good amount of suspense, many different stories all tie in nicely at the end.
Protagonist is realistic, does things that most mothers would do to protect their children.”
Overall ratings as of 10/01/18:
Amazon – 5 of 5 stars
Goodreads – 4.67 of 5 stars

Throw the Key – Check out chapter 2!

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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!

Chapter Two

7:30 p.m.

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.

They know.

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.

Another sputter.

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.

They know.

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.

Eight miles.

He was at least twelve miles from shore.