Monday, April 20, 2020

Black Rock Bay by Brianna Labuskes (thoughts)

Summary from Goodreads:

"Detective Mia Hart never planned to return home. One terrifying summer night, Mia lost two of her closest friends to suicide. Scarred and broken, she fled St. Lucy’s, a small island off the coast of Maine.
Now fifteen years later, when the body of a journalist is fished out of the bay near St. Lucy’s cliffs, Mia is forced to help with the case—and face all she’s been running from. As she approaches the island, the wintery winds of Black Rock Bay usher Mia home again.
When Mia digs into the reporter’s death, she finds he left behind a written clue: It wasn't suicide. Mia soon discovers it’s her own tragic past he was referring to. Now, as she tries to untangle a web of lies, Mia realizes that solving this case means becoming the next pawn in someone’s blood-chilling game of truth or die."
My Thoughts:
Black Rock Bay was a really atmospheric and intriguing mystery that has me excited to read more by this author!  This is my first book by this author but it certainly won't be my last!  One of the things that I enjoyed about this book so much was the sense of isolation that was present throughout this book.  Mia and her partner Izzy go back to the island where Mia grew up - it's this tiny island that is difficult to reach and with a very small population.  The island is also this strange place where no one trusts outsiders and really most of the islanders cannot be trusted themselves.  And then there were constant storms, snow, and other difficult weather that just gave this book such an eerie feeling.  The constant sense of isolation that was present was at times suffocating but so very suspenseful!  I loved every minute of it!  I also loved the feeling that there wasn't anyone that I as the reader could really trust (even Mia herself with her missing memories).  Izzy was about the only one that I fully trusted throughout the entire book.  I saw another review that compared this book to Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects - I can definitely see the comparison.  This book has that same layer of distrust that is present throughout the book and it also has the small town feel where nothing is as it seems.  I love books that are atmospheric and keep me guessing the entire time!  My one complaint is that I just didn't quite jibe with the ending and I can't put my finger on why.  It was good (don't get me wrong) but just didn't feel as strong as the rest of the book.  I wish I could put it into words more but it would be a spoiler and I'm not even sure I could explain it if I tried.  I think I just wanted a bit more maybe so let's leave it at that.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and will definitely be reading more by this author!  The tension and suspense in this book were top notch!  I truly hope that other readers find this book because it deserves way more attention than it has gotten.  I don't think I've seen it on bookstagram at all which is a shame!  I think that readers will enjoy this one if they enjoy isolated or locked room mysteries (not quite the same but the island is cut off so close to same thing), if they enjoy slow building thrillers filled with suspense and atmosphere, and definitely if you enjoy books with characters where you don't know who to trust.  Highly recommended!

Bottom Line:  This book and author are one of my standout finds so far for 2020!

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher and NetGalley.  Honest thoughts are my own.

Monday, April 13, 2020

When You See Me by Lisa Gardner (thoughts)

Summary from Goodreads:

"FBI Special Agent Kimberly Quincy and Sergeant Detective DD Warren have built a task force to follow the digital bread crumbs left behind by deceased serial kidnapper Jacob Ness. And when a disturbing piece of evidence comes to light, they decide to bring in Flora Dane who has personal experience of being imprisoned by Ness.

Their investigations take them to a small town deep in the hills of Georgia where something seems to be deeply wrong.

What at first seems like a Gothic eeriness soon hardens into something much more sinister as they discover that for all the evil Jacob committed while alive, his worst secret is still to be revealed.

Quincy and DD must summon their considerable skills and experience to crack the most disturbing case of their careers - and Flora must face her own past directly in the hope of saving others."

My Thoughts:

Books and series like this are why I love reading so much!  I started reading this series in the middle with the 1st book that introduced Flora Dane's character.  This is now the 4th book that I've read by this author and each book has been a five star read for me!  That's amazing!  I will say that while you don't have to read this series in order (as I haven't), I would recommend starting where I did with book #8 which is titled Find Her.  It's a good place in this series to start if you aren't willing to go all the way back to book one like I plan on doing.  Lisa Gardner has become one of my go to authors at this point.  I will be reading everything and anything she writes!  But back to this book - I picked this one up because with everything going on in the current world I needed an author I could trust and a book that would sweep me away.  That is exactly what this book did!  I finished this book in about two days because I just could not set my kindle down.  I was absolutely hooked by the entire book!  The thing about this series is that I have really come to care for DD and Flora's characters for a variety of reasons.  This is the 1st book that I've read featuring Kimberly Quincy (she may have been in the previous books I've read but just didn't play a main role like she did in this one - I can't remember for sure).  This book focused on three strong women solving one very twisted mystery.  What more could you want?!?  I found myself reading as fast as I could, the suspense had me on the edge of my seat, and I was completely satisfied with the way the book ended.  It's going to be a long wait until the next book in the series releases but I already know that it will be completely worth the wait!  Also, I could fill in the time with those older books considering I now have a few of them on my shelves already after loving this series so much!

Overall, this is another five star read for me with this series!  I have well and truly loved EVERY book that I've read in it so far!  This is one of those authors and series that shouldn't be missed!  I cannot recommend it enough!  I think that readers will enjoy this one if you are a mystery fan, like darker thrilling reads (she kind of reminds me of Karin Slaughter although I'm not sure that I've read enough of Slaughter's books to say that for sure - Gardner's books aren't as graphic), or just want a book/series that will keep you turning the pages late into the night!  I highly, highly recommend this book AND this series as someone who has only read four books in it so far!

Bottom Line:  An easy book to give five stars - I loved it!

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book thanks the publisher.  Honest thoughts are my own.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Mystery Mini Reviews

Summary from Goodreads:

"Even in the chill of February, no place touches Harper McClain’s heart like Savannah. She should be walking beneath the historic city’s towering oaks, surrounded by graceful mansions. Instead, she’s hiding miles away on Tybee Island after a mysterious voice on the phone warned her that someone wanted her dead. The call was too specific to ignore. The caller knew everything about her. But that was months ago, and she’s getting tired of being scared.

Her only escape is her work at the newspaper, where the hottest story in town is the disappearance of Xavier Rayne. The singer had a hit album on his hands, and was about to go on tour, but then he walked out of his beachfront home and vanished. The police believe he drowned, but Harper suspects his disappearance may be more ominous than that. Something doesn’t feel right about it.

His bandmates and actress girlfriend say he’s run away before. They expect him to come home. Until a body washes up with two bullet holes in it. Now everyone in Rayne’s life is a suspect. As Harper digs deeper into the case, though, the threats against her own life return. The phone call she received was very real. A killer from her past is coming for her."

My Thoughts:

This mystery series is one of my favorites!  I've been looking forward to this book every since finishing the second book - and I will be impatiently waiting and hoping for more of Harper in future books!  There is just something about the Savannah setting that draws me in and then the mysteries just don't let me go!  I do think that this is a series best read in order (there are only three books so far) because there are threads that started in the first book that play a very important role in this book.  Also, maybe skip the Goodread's summary if you haven't yet read those earlier books.  I found this book just as suspenseful as the previous two books which meant I found myself reading it as fast as I possibly could.  At the risk of sounding slightly spoiler-ey I will say that we get a lot of answers in this book which I couldn't help but appreciate!  Besides the mystery aspect, one of my favorite things about this series is the portrayal of Harper's job and what it's like to work at a newspaper in this day and age.  I always find it interesting and realistic to see the struggles that the newspaper faces and feel like that aspect really makes this series stand out among other mystery series.  The characters are great as well - and at this point I will read anything and everything that this author writes!  But please tell me that will be more of Harper McClain because I'm nowhere near ready to see this series end.  I think that you would enjoy this series if you are a fan of mysteries in general, are looking for something a bit different from your typical police procedural read, and also love a mystery with a setting that is brought to life in each book.  I highly recommend ALL of the books in this series - book one is The Echo Killing if you are interested and haven't had the opportunity to check it out yet!

Bottom Line:  Another standout addition to one of my very favorite mystery series!

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher.  Honest thoughts are my own.

Summary from Goodreads:

"It’s Halloween night in Cedar Valley. During the town’s annual festival, Detective Gemma Monroe takes a break from trick or treating with her family to visit an old family friend, retired Judge Caleb Montgomery, at his law office. To Gemma’s surprise, Caleb seems worried—haunted, even—and confides in her that he’s been receiving anonymous threats. Shortly after, as Gemma strolls back to her car, an explosion at Caleb’s office shatters the night.

Reeling from the shock, Gemma and her team begin eliminating suspects and motives, but more keep appearing in their place, and soon another man is killed. Her investigation takes her from a chilling encounter with a convicted murderer at the Belle Vista Penitentiary, to the gilded rooms of the renovated Shotgun Playhouse, where Shakespeare’s cursed play Macbeth is set to open in a few weeks.

Yet most disturbing of all is when Gemma realizes that similar murders have happened before. There is a copycat killer at play, and if Gemma can’t stop him, he’ll carry out his final, deadly act.

My Thoughts:

Shatter the Night is the fourth book in a mystery series that I absolutely adore!  This author can write and beautifully at that!  There is something so atmospheric about her books that I just cannot get enough of.  I honestly always want to save her books but I can't (and don't) because they are just so good - I can't resist picking them up soon after they release!  This isn't a series that you necessarily have to read in order.  I think that each one could be read as a standalone but together they are that much better.  One of the things about this series that I can't get enough of (besides the writing which is just so gorgeous that I can't help but mention it again) is the characters.  These are characters that feel real with real life struggles.  Gemma is a mom that works to balance life as a police detective and being a mother.  She doesn't always balance these two things the best but I feel like that's real life.  It isn't always easy but the reality is that both things are important to her so she works at it.  I love that the mysteries always seem to keep me guessing which is exactly what this one did.  I also really appreciate the way that the setting and season play a role in these books.  This one was set around Halloween so you could feel the chill in the air at times and the end of fall coming.  It was just SO GOOD and I need more readers to find and love this series as much as I do!!  I've read and loved all four books in this series.  I think that you would enjoy this series if you are a fan of Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache series to start, are a fan of mysteries and police procedurals, or are looking for a mystery with standout atmospheric writing that paints a picture in your head.  I highly recommend this series and each of the books in this series including this one!

Bottom Line:  Another standout addition to one of my very favorite mystery series!

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley but ended up reading a copy from my local library.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

You and Me and Us by Alison Hammer (thoughts)

Summary from Goodreads:

"Alexis Gold knows how to put the “work” in working mom. It’s the “mom” part that she’s been struggling with lately. Since opening her own advertising agency three years ago, Alexis has all but given up on finding a good work/life balance. Instead, she’s handed over the household reins to her supportive, loving partner, Tommy. While he’s quick to say they divide and conquer, Alexis knows that Tommy does most of the heavy lifting—especially when it comes to their teenage daughter, CeCe. 

Their world changes in an instant when Tommy receives a terminal cancer diagnosis, and Alexis realizes everything she’s worked relentlessly for doesn’t matter without him. So Alexis does what Tommy has done for her almost every day since they were twelve-year-old kids in Destin, Florida—she puts him first. And when the only thing Tommy wants is to spend one last summer together at “their” beach, she puts her career on hold to make it happen…even if it means putting her family within striking distance of Tommy’s ex, an actress CeCe idolizes.

But Alexis and Tommy aren’t the only ones whose lives have been turned inside out. In addition to dealing with the normal ups and downs that come with being a teenager, CeCe is also forced to confront her feelings about Tommy’s illness—and what will happen when the one person who’s always been there for her is gone. When the magic of first love brings a bright spot to her summer, CeCe is determined not to let her mother ruin that for her, too.

As CeCe’s behavior becomes more rebellious, Alexis realizes the only thing harder for her than losing Tommy will be convincing CeCe to give her one more chance. "

My Thoughts:

This book was absolutely heartbreaking to read.  In all honesty, I don't think I've ever teared up while reading so many times.  I didn't sob but only because I kept setting the book down to allow myself time to get myself together.  It was also a hopeful read and one that I couldn't help but appreciate.  The thing that really struck me about this book is the importance of family and learning what really matters.  In the end, our family is what matters and thinks like work really don't matter as much.  I think that the author did a great job of delving into this topic without hitting you over the head about it.  She also did a really great job of portraying the difficulties working mothers can face with that work and life balance.  I do think that this is a book that you want to make sure that you are in the right mindset for.  It is about terminal cancer and is sad.  With everything going on in the world today (which is scary enough), I would recommend making sure that you are in the right head space for a book like this which can feel dark and depressing at times.  The author is able to give rays of hope throughout which I really appreciated.  I just cared about the characters in this book so much!  I feel like the author brought them to life for me and I almost wasn't ready for this book to end.  I wasn't ready to say goodbye to these characters (it felt like) after we had gone through so much together.  And that is the mark of a truly good book!

Overall, it feels wrong to say that I enjoyed this one due to the subject matter so instead I will say that I found this to be a thoughtful read that opened my heart to these characters and the struggles that they faced.  I think that the subject matter could be triggering so like I said previously, be aware that this book is sad and heartbreaking at times.  But also know that it is hopeful at others and such a great read overall! This is a debut author - and wow - I just cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.  I will certainly be ready and willing to read more by her in the future!  I would recommend this book to fans of contemporary fiction, fiction in general, and even women's fiction as there was a strong female friendship in this the book as well.  Also, I just have to say that this book is told in two points of view, one is Alexis' and the other is her daughter CeCe's point of view.  I think that the author did a wonderful job of portraying both of these two different points of views and the struggles that mothers and daughters can face in their relationships with one another.  Recommended!

Bottom Line:  A heartbreaking but hopeful read that will stick with me for a long time to come.

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher.  Honest thoughts are my own.