Sunday, October 2, 2022

Review: Black Tide by KC Jones

by KC Jones
Release Date: May 31, 2022
2022 Nightfire
Kindle Edition; 245 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250792693
ASIN: B09C4FXXXQ
Audiobook: B09NF2PCMF
Genre: Fiction / Horror / Science-Fiction
Source: Review copy from publisher
 
3 / 5 Stars
 
Summary
Mike and Beth didn’t know each other existed before the night of the meteor shower.

After a drunken and desperate one-night-stand, the two strangers awake to discover a surprise astronomical event has left widespread destruction in its wake. But the cosmic lightshow was only a part of something much bigger, and far more terrifying. When a set of lost car keys leaves them stranded on an empty stretch of Oregon coast, when their emergency calls go unanswered and inhuman screams echo from the dunes, when the rising tide reaches for the car and unspeakable horrors close in around them, these two self-destructive souls must find in each other the strength to overcome past pain and the fight to survive a nightmare of apocalyptic scale.
 
My Thoughts
Black Tide definitely had a lot of potential, and there were a lot of moments in the book that I really liked. I did think it would have worked better as a novella as certain scenes tended to drag and I did not see the purpose of adding a kid, Natalie, to the story, except as a way of getting them off the beach which seemed like a weak plot point to me.  I really enjoy seeing authors put a different twist on cosmic horror so it was nice to read about something that is not the usual, typical zombie apocalypse fare.  
 
I thought the characters were actually the weakest part of the book.  Beth did grow on me towards the end, but that isn't saying much as I found her very annoying for the first half of the book; it was difficult to develop empathy for her when you listened to her whining inner monologue. I don't mind it when the main character is a bit of a mess as they can be very interesting to read about and makes room for a lot of character development, but I felt like the author tried too hard to make her seem that way and it came off poorly. I did like Mike and thought his job as a film producer was interesting, but he was sort of lost in the maelstrom of Beth's emotions and thoughts so I never really felt like I got to know his character very well.  Jake, the dog, my favourite character!!

I did think the plot was interesting, and I like the fact that neither Mike nor Beth had any idea about what was happening, therefore the reader had to learn with the characters.  Both Mike and Beth were dealing with personal issues (Mike grieving the loss of his wife, Beth just being Beth), so when they arrived at the beach, they were completely taken unaware and caught unprepared.  I personally loved it that Beth didn't pack very well for a picnic which left the two of them in a difficult situation when they finally realized they were in a dangerous position.  No super hero main character to MacGyver the situation in this book.  I liked the reason for which the world ended and liked learning about the aliens as the characters learned about them. To be honest, I am still not sure I understand anything about them.

That being said, there were definitely some things that I don't think added to the tension. The addition of Natalie, the young girl, felt like the author couldn't think up any more unbelievable ways to get the couple off the beach so this solution was the only viable one.  In a book full of unbelievable events, why does this one matter? I can't explain it other than it made me roll my eyes and just didn't seem to fit into the story.  And the sex scene stuck right in the middle here? Really? You are injured, with little water, stuck on a beach with aliens, and that's what you are thinking about?  Sure, makes sense.  

Verdict
Black Tide had some good moments that were full of tension; having two people trapped on a beach with the rising tide and a bunch of aliens can definitely be tricky.  There were quite a few unbelievable moments, but I went with it because it was interesting. It did seem like the author changed focus partway into the book and decided upon a different course of action and the ending definitely feels like there could be potential for a sequel.  I would definitely be interested in learning more about these aliens and following Mike and Beth on further adventures. 
 


Saturday, October 1, 2022

Review: Castle Deadly, Castle Deep by Veronica Bond

by Veronica Bond
Release Date: July 5, 2022
2022 Berkley Books
Kindle Edition; 288 Pages
ISBN: 978-0593335901
ASIN: B09FPJKDF5
Audiobook: B09JBJ4DQ5
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Cozy
Source: Review copy from publisher
 
2.25 / 5 Stars
 
Summary
Autumn has arrived at Castle Dark, and Nora Blake has settled into her role as an actor in Derek Corby's castle murder-mystery troupe. She is troubled, however, by the setting of Derek's fall mystery: the catacombs in the depths of the castle. Yes, these catacombs are part of a set, the skeletons and cobwebs mere props, but Nora feels uneasy in the shadowy passages beneath Castle Dark. When a man is killed during one of their first shows, the eerie catacombs become a place of terror.

Joined by her castle companions, Nora attempts to find the motive for killing a seemingly innocent victim. With the help of her handsome boyfriend, Detective John Dashiell, Nora will have to go off-script to prevent a murderous encore. . . . 
 
My Thoughts
Castle Deadly, Castle Deep is the second entry in A Dinner and a Murder Mystery mystery series featuring Nora and the fun castle in which she lives and works.  The first book in this series was my favourite cozy mystery last year so I was looking forward to reading more about Nora and her friends,s, but I wasn't as crazy about this instalment as Nora's angst over her relationship with Dash frankly annoyed me to no end, and I thought the mystery was lacking the depth and the twists and turns of the first book.    

One of my favourite aspects of this book is the castle and the mystery dinner/theater idea. The hidden passageways are definitely intriguing and the word 'catacombs' just opens up a whole world of possibilities in my eyes. Unfortunately, there were few mystery dinner scenes as it was shut down almost from the beginning of the book due the 'murder', so what we get are extra-long scenes of the community theatre practices.  Yes, you learn a lot about the lives and relationships about the various people involved, but it seemed the focus was on trying to bolster Nora's self-esteem and to show the reader the brilliance of Derek as a director. And as I wandered in the sentence trying to explain how boring it was, that was exactly how it was done in the book; a whole lot of nothing just to explain a whole lot of nothing. 

The mystery itself was almost non-existent.  Someone got killed, very little investigation was done, but somehow Nora managed to figure out who the culprit was by witnessing a romantic attraction between two people, and then suddenly she is in grave danger and the hero comes to her rescue.  Nope, not a fan of how this all played out.  Very little sleuthing was done, with no twists or turns, so when Nora suddenly figures it all out, I spent my time rolling my eyes.  

There was a secondary mystery that looked to be pretty interesting, but unfortunately, that one too seemed to be more about Nora walking in during a fortuitous moment and putting the clues together while the actual culprit had already solved most of the puzzle.  I wish there had been more to this mystery, or this was the mystery the author had developed instead of the other one as it would have been far more interesting.  Naturally, Nora saves the day and the castle.  

I really enjoyed these characters in the first book, but I almost DNF this book about a third of the way in because Nora's jealous behaviour towards Dash drove me nuts.  I felt like I was reading a YA novel instead of about two mature people who could actually TALK to each other. All Nora whined about for pages and pages on end was how great her relationship was about a month ago and now Dash no longer has time to every minute with her.  And then stares longingly at Derek and his girlfriend, who naturally have a moment, EVERY SINGLE TIME, she moans and whines.  Nope, nope, nope!!!

Verdict
Castle Deadly, Castle Deep was not a worthy follow-up of the really amazing first book of this series.  I was incredibly disappointed in the characters, the plot, and the overall story.  I personally loved the secondary story line as I thought there was so much potential there to develop something really interesting, but the author chose to focus more on Nora and her whining.  And what I especially loved? THE KITTENS!!!  They saved this book.  I will happily recommend the first book of this series, and while I was not a fan of the second book, I am glad to see a lot of people were. I would definitely take a chance on the third book as I enjoyed the first book so much, just to see if the author can work the same magic again. 

 


Sunday, September 18, 2022

REview: Local Gone Missing by Fiona Barton

by Fiona Barton
Release Date: June 14, 2022
2022 Berkley Books
Kindle Edition; 384 Pages
ISBN: 978-1984803047
ASIN: B0B99M88GL
Audiobook: B09VMF28ZT
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher
 
2 / 5 Stars
 
Summary
Elise King is a successful and ambitious detective--or she was before a medical leave left her unsure if she'd ever return to work. She now spends most days watching the growing tensions in her small seaside town of Ebbing--the weekenders renovating old bungalows into luxury homes, and the locals resentful of the changes.

The conflicts boil over when a newcomer wants to put the town on the map with a giant music festival, and two teenagers overdose on drugs. When a man disappears the first night of the festival, Elise is drawn back into her detective work and starts digging for answers. Ebbing is a small town, but it's full of secrets and hidden connections that run deeper and darker than Elise could have ever imagined.
 
My Thoughts
Local Gone Missing is one of those books that had all the elements of a good story, but unfortunately, totally missed the mark. Introducing a new character, DI Elise King, is always interesting, especially one who is coming back from a cancer diagnosis that completely derailed her career, and it sounds like the author is feeling her way forward for this character to become a series regular.  However, I felt like the author didn't quite know the direction in which she wanted to take the character, or the story, which left it feeling like a hodgepodge of different styles and characters who lacked development as well as interesting quirks which often can make or break a book.  
 
The plot had me wondering exactly what style the author was trying to achieve in this book. To be fair, I actually did enjoy some of the elements in the first half of the book as they had a more cozy mystery feel to them as the characters were introduced and we got to see the inside of some of the homes through the eyes of Elise as well as the housekeeper, Dee. However, the switch to a more procedural novel was jarring and while I appreciated what the author was trying to do, it didn't work for me and left me frustrated as solutions were due to coincidences and I find it to be a cop out when an author tends to overuse coincidence as a solution to problems when they can't come up with anything else.   

Except for Elise and maybe a a couple of other characters, I did not find any of the other characters likeable, at all.  I did develop a fondness for Elise's nosy neighbour just because she actually had some depth to her, while the others were pretty one-dimensional and forgettable.  It's only been a month since I've read this book and I had to refer to my notes to remember most of the characters which gives you any idea of the impression they made on me.  To be honest, I was hoping the annoying wife would be the one to disappear so I didn't have to read another conversation with her.

Verdict
Local Gone Missing was disappointing, with a messy plot and annoying characters that were left undeveloped so you didn't even get to appreciate their quirks.  Personally, I don't think the back and forth timelines helped the plot as it just added to the confusion, making a book that had a mixture of styles to begin with even more confusing.  The author did manage to tie in a lot of subplots, but had to use coincidence a lot as a tool for doing so, not something I really like, but at least it had an ending that was satisfying.  I did like Elise and thought her story line was interesting, and I loved her neighbour. I, personally, can't recommend this book, but there were a lot of people who did enjoy it, so you may like it more than I did.

 


Saturday, September 17, 2022

Review: Bayou Book Thief by Ellen Byron

by Ellen Byron
Release Date: June 7, 2022
2022 Berkley Books
Kindle Edition; 304 Pages
ISBN: 978-0593437612
ASIN: B09FPJHVGK
Audiobook: B09J9ZJWJ1
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Cozy
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Summary
Twenty-eight-year-old widow Ricki James leaves Los Angeles to start a new life in New Orleans after her showboating actor husband perishes doing a stupid internet stunt. The Big Easy is where she was born and adopted by the NICU nurse who cared for her after Ricki's teen mother disappeared from the hospital.

Ricki's dream comes true when she joins the quirky staff of Bon Vee Culinary House Museum, the spectacular former Garden District home of late bon vivant Genevieve "Vee" Charbonnet, the city's legendary restauranteur. Ricki is excited about turning her avocation - collecting vintage cookbooks - into a vocation by launching the museum's gift shop, Miss Vee's Vintage Cookbooks and Kitchenware. Then she discovers that a box of donated vintage cookbooks contains the body of a cantankerous Bon Vee employee who was fired after being exposed as a book thief.
 
My Thoughts
Bayou Book Thief is the first book in a new series set in New Orleans, featuring a woman who is interested in collecting vintage cookbooks and using them to develop thematic cooking parties and celebrations as well as open her own store with other vintage items on display.  The setting is always a a huge draw for me, but the story was shock full of interesting tidbits about the city, had many twists and turns, and was fun, with a host of quirky characters.  

Ricki James, recently moved from L.A. to escape the spotlight of her husband who died while filming himself doing a stunt, finds herself as the new owner of a vintage bookstore in one of the spectacular museum houses in New Orleans.  She had always been a fan of the former owner, Genevieve Charbonnet, a legendary restauranteur, and is excited to join the staff celebrating her life and family legacy.  I thought she made a great investigator because she was discrete and didn't do anything stupid. And the revelations, with Ricki being in the right spot at the right time, made sense. No silly coincidences or absurd stuff happening.  The focus was more on Ricki than on some of the other characters, but being the first book in a series, that is to be expected. The secondary characters were not neglected however, it's just that there wasn't enough time to really allow their personalities and quirks to really shine, something that I expect will be done in future books.

I thought the actual mystery was quite intriguing, and it did take me a little while to figure it out as the person I thought it was didn't turn out to be the culprit so I had to re-evaluate.  The red herrings were nicely laid out and there were a couple of times when I paused, simply to reflect on how easy it is to judge someone without knowing the full truth of something.  I was also mesmerized by the setting and the details around the new bookshop, so perhaps I missed a couple of things while focusing on those details. I did have one quibble about the name of the place as Ricki mentioned a couple of times that Le Bon Vee was named after the French expression to have a good life and then proceeded to call it "Le bon vie", but being French, it is actually "La bonne vie". This nagged at me just a little bit.and I couldn't let it go.  Other than that, I thought the twists and turns were great, loved the descriptions of the food (I would love a Po'boy right now), and enjoyed Ricki's shopping expeditions. So much fun!

Verdict
Bayou Book Thief was a great first book in a new series set in New Orleans.  With some good twists and turns and lovely descriptions of New Orleans combined with a writing style that keeps you interested in the characters and the setting, it had everything you would want in a cozy mystery.  Luckily, just as I was finishing this one, I was gifted an ARC of Wined and Died in New Orleans, the next book in this series which releases February 2023.  If you are an avid cozy mystery reader, I  highly recommend this book.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Review: What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher

by T. Kingfisher
Release Date: July 12, 2022
2022 Tor Nightfire
Kindle Edition; 176 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250830753
ASIN: B0BCYRZ1Q9
Audiobook: B09VVR6N9Y
Genre: Fiction / Gothic / Horror
Source: Review copy from publisher
 
3 / 5 Stars
 
Summary
When Alex Easton, a retired soldier, receives word that their childhood friend Madeline Usher is dying, they race to the ancestral home of the Ushers in the remote countryside of Ruritania.

What they find there is a nightmare of fungal growths and possessed wildlife, surrounding a dark, pulsing lake. Madeline sleepwalks and speaks in strange voices at night, and her brother Roderick is consumed with a mysterious malady of the nerves.

Aided by a redoubtable British mycologist and a baffled American doctor, Alex must unravel the secret of the House of Usher before it consumes them all.
 
My Thoughts
What Moves the Dead is the retelling of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher", and as one of my favourite short stories, I was interested to see what this author would do with the retelling.  Overall, I am glad the author kept it short, although I could have done without some of the additions that I don't think added anything of importance to the story.

First of all, you don't really have time to get fully fleshed character development in such a story, but that is not the intention of such a novel. That is why the pages of detail about one of the main characters, Alex Easton, were wasted on me, as interesting as I thought they were, because they added nothing of value to the story.  I did appreciate what the author was trying to do, but thought this was not the type of novel where it was necessary to detract from the story to give us a four-page lesson on non-binary characters and how they were to be addressed.  It would have been easy to do through dialogue and move on as it simply slowed down the story, especially when the story is so short to begin with. And I liked Alex's character and some of the things we learned were quite interesting and could have shored up the novel much earlier on. I did think the author captured the essence of the characters as well as their personal traits and quirks once the story got going though. 

The story was a fast and pleasant one, predictable in nature, especially if you have read the original story, but that didn't deter from the overall enjoyment of it. It did take a little bit to get going as it got bogged down in unnecessary details, but once it picked up, it was quite an enjoyable read. I was kind of hoping for some more twists and turns, something different from the original, such as maybe they learned to communicate with the entity that was affecting the house, but alas, the author went with the more boring route. However, the descriptions of the house and the grounds were engrossing and I loved reading about them.  I think I was just hoping I would be horrified when reading this book, and I wasn't.  

Verdict
What Moves the Dead was a fun read, but could have been more. There was so much potential to add some twists and turns to this beloved classic without losing the essence of the story, but I don't think the author capitalized on that despite the great descriptions and good storytelling.  A bit more focus on the story would have highlighted the horror elements and made this story stand out and maybe would have elicited those chills that such a novel normally creates. 

 


Saturday, September 10, 2022

Review: Murder by the Shore by Gretta Mulrooney

by Gretta Mulrooney
Release Date: May 19, 2022
2022 Joffe Books
Kindle Edition; 304 Pages
ISBN: 978-1804052341
ASIN: B09XY2NB9N
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.75 / 5 Stars

Summary
Welcome to Seascape house.
A beautiful family home by the coast. Where someone is hiding a terrible secret.

Lyra Pullman has been waiting for this day. Her fourth birthday party. But when her guests come knocking, she is nowhere to be found.

Little Lyra lies dead in the Wendy house at the bottom of the garden. Suffocated.

Her grandad couldn’t save her because he’s been murdered too. In a mess of blood and rainbow cake.


My Thoughts
Murder by the Shore is the fourth book in the D.I. Siv Drummond mystery series, and while extremely well-writen as well as interesting, the denouement just didn't seem to fit in the spirit of the overall story, as if the author was really looking for reasons for why someone would act as they did.  I mean, the person killed a child, so it had to be believable and for me, it didn't quite work.
 
I enjoyed the characters in this book and thought they were all interesting. DI Siv Drummond is my favourite character and she really carries the reader through the book as you learn a lot of the secrets, twists and turns, through her narrative. Though still dealing with her grief at the loss of her husband, she is attempting to enter the dating market again, something I find interesting as I can't even imagine having to do something like that after having been married for so long.  Siv is not an easy character to get to know, but I definitely empathized with her need to be alone and to experience that feeling of isolation, she is still grieving after all.  
 
The other characters were well-written as well, but the parents do seem somewhat stereotypical in nature, with the dad coming across as this unfeeling, self-absorbed person, and the mother coming across as a bundle of nerves with something to hide.  While well-written and interesting, there wasn't a lot of depth to them.  I was fascinated by the sisters' relationship as well and thought the author could have developed that a bit more.
 
The plot moved quite quickly, with some interesting twists and turns, some of them predictable. Personally, it didn't take long to figure out why the dad was so distant although I did think his reaction was a bit extreme.  I thought the author did a good job peeling away the layers of the story to reveal the information as the investigation progressed in such a way that allowed the reader to figure things out rather than lead the reader along. I hate being spoon-fed information and prefer to figure things out so this was more to my style.  I also appreciated the descriptions of the area as it seems like a beautiful location.  
 
Verdict
Murder by the Shore was an interesting murder mystery, full of twists and turns, even if some of them were predictable.  With a host of intriguing characters, especially the DI, it made the reading experience that much more fun. I did have a problem with the actual mystery, in particular the ending, as I thought it was a bit far-fetched and didn't seem to match the overall spirit of the story and the characters, but it did make me think how past actions can affect future ones.  This can be read as a standalone, but I do recommend reading the previous instalments to get background information on DI Drummond.  

 


Monday, September 5, 2022

Review: The Cherry Robbers by Sarai Walker

by Sarai Walker
Release Date: May 17, 2022
2022 Harper
Kindle Edition; 432 Pages
ISBN: 978-0358251873
ASIN: B08NWSCYQY
Audiobook: B09G56HL5B
Genre: Fiction / Literary / Historical
Source: Review copy from publisher
 
2 / 5 Stars
 
Summary
New Mexico, 2017: Sylvia Wren is one of the most important American artists of the past century. Known as a recluse, she avoids all public appearances. There’s a reason: she’s living under an assumed identity, having outrun a tragic past. 

Connecticut, 1950: Iris Chapel is the second youngest of six sisters, all heiresses to a firearms fortune. They’ve grown up cloistered in a palatial Victorian house, mostly neglected by their distant father and troubled mother, who believes that their house is haunted by the victims of Chapel weapons. The girls long to escape, and for most of them, the only way out is marriage. But not long after the first Chapel sister walks down the aisle, she dies of mysterious causes, a tragedy that repeats with the second, leaving the rest to navigate the wreckage, to heart-wrenching consequences. 
 
My Thoughts
The Cherry Robbers definitely had an interesting premise, and touted as a Gothic mystery, it had certainly piqued my interest. It didn't take long to realize this wasn't Gothic in the slightest and execution-wise, was a bit of a mess. Personally, I don't mind a slow burn novel as long as the suspense is there, but when the so-called foreshadowing takes away from the suspense, you've lost me.  This novel tries hard to be mysterious, but for me, it simply didn't work.
 
The novel focuses on the complicated relationship between the six sisters, something I did like. Having grown up with a couple of sisters myself, I could relate to their issues, dreams, and, desires, especially living in such a cloistered household with a father who has such rigid rules of decorum and a mother who is dealing with mental health issues.  I could understand their need for escape, and I did feel empathy for them as they realized their only way to escape would be through marriage rather than through education and learning.  I loved how they were named after flowers, a double-entendre, considering flowers wilt and die if not nurtured and watered, which seems to be very symbolic in this situation.  I'm not going to bore you with symbolism here, but I did enjoy the use of language conventions the author used to describe the sisters.  However, I don't think the author went far enough as I still felt they were one-dimensional, to a point, and would have loved to learn more about what they really felt. When the girls started dying, I definitely wasn't as horrified as I should have been because of this lack of deeper empathy. I also felt the LGBTQ representation was pretty stereotypical, although I did like the discussions around feminism, freedom, women's rights, gender discrimination, patriarchy, etc... that existed in the 1950s as well as mental health issues,  It's too bad the author felt the need to include this whole 'ghost' thing to make the book sound more Gothic which is a huge misrepresentation of what is actually going on.  
 
I didn't really find the book spooky at all, but then I am a voracious horror book reader so my POV might be a little skewed in this regard.   I did find some of the scenes interesting, but I wasn't convinced by any of them as they just didn't make sense within the book at all.  So, what we've got here are scenes of magical realism thrown into this book where you have to just kind of suspend your belief and accept that these women just died. Nope, not going to happen.  Yes, there are deeper themes within the deaths, like neglect and despair plus the shunting of women into background roles, but you are supposed to accept the illnesses represent these things and come through the women in this way? I get that marriage was the evil in this story as well as the lack of opportunities for women, but I'm not sure I like the way the message was delivered.  Unfortunately, the author bogs down the reader with a lot of filler, and while I normally wouldn't mind it if it built up the suspense, the foreshadowing doesn't help built it up because the reader is already given all the pertinent details which takes away from the suspense and thrill.  

Verdict
The Cherry Robbers is one of those books that was way too slow for me, whereby all the information and foreshadowing are given to the reader which destroys the suspense and the chill of a novel such as this.  When everything is spelled out for you, including the foreboding elements, it draws you out of the story and makes it challenging to return as you are not invested in the characters nor the action. Unfortunately, there was nothing ghostly or Gothic about this book.  I am glad to see there were a lot of people who enjoyed this book, but I was not one of them. 

 


Sunday, August 28, 2022

Review: Ashton Hall by Lauren Belfer

by Lauren Belfer
Release Date: June 7, 2022
2022 Ballantine Books
Kindle Edition; 416 Pages
ISBN: 978-0593359495
ASIN: B09G97M5G8
Audiobook: B09HVCVBLC
Genre: Fiction 
Source: Review copy from publisher

2.25 / 5 Stars
 
Summary
When a close relative falls ill, Hannah Larson and her young son, Nicky, join him for the summer at Ashton Hall, a historic manor house outside Cambridge, England. 

Soon after their arrival, ever-curious Nicky finds the skeletal remains of a woman walled into a forgotten part of the manor, and Hannah is pulled into an all-consuming quest for answers, Nicky close by her side. Working from clues in centuries-old ledgers showing what the woman's household spent on everything from music to medicine; lists of books checked out of the library; and the troubling personal papers of the long-departed family, Hannah begins to recreate the Ashton Hall of the Elizabethan era in all its color and conflict.
 
My Thoughts
Ashton Hall was a bit of a disappointment as it was touted as a mystery, particularly a gothic mystery, and it was anything but.  It was more of a literary women's fiction where Hannah comes to Ashton Hall to escape from some devastating revelations about her marriage and her husband and to figure out her place in the world and what she really wanted to do with her life.  Honestly, there is little mystery, suspense or thrill in this book, and by the middle, I had to push myself to keep reading.  I enjoyed Nicky as a character as he was quite interesting, but I definitely did not like how his issues were dealt with nor with how they were portrayed. There were parts in which I winced, not against Nicky, but even things his mother would think and say in his defense. And for heaven's sakes, why would Hannah not tell his baby-sitter about his rages? That could be dangerous for both Alice and Nicky.

The plot moves quite slowly, and though it is touted as a mystery, there is really no mystery to Isabelle's death, no real search for clues other than Hannah's glimpses in the past as she hunts through ledgers written by employees from Isabelle's time period.  And while you have no idea who the woman is for a couple of chapters, I spent those chapters trying to reconcile the fact that a 9-year-old boy, no matter how precocious or nosy, would have discovered the remains the way he did, within the time frame of arriving at the castle while those who have worked there for years would have remained ignorant. There is an archivist who works on site, with research students, and no one would have asked about the ruins in all that time? And how easily the stuff was found, no one else would have been able to find it, in 500 years? And they would have asked a person who hasn't finished her degree, who specializes in a completely different field, to research material? So, I'm a little skeptical. 
 
I did find the search through the ledges quite interesting, but then I love history. It does show that historical research is not all Indiana Jones, but very methodical and while interesting to the researcher, can be quite boring for someone not interested in history. I also loved how the author mentioned anchoresses in this book as they are often overlooked in mainstream fiction and non-fiction. There was some irony in this though, as Hannah had difficulty believing that a woman would choose such a path during the 16th century, a time period when few options were open to women, a viewpoint that just didn't work for me considering she was working on her PhD in history. But I loved the setting, and as soon as you mention ruins and deep, dark secrets along with the words manuscript and discovery, you've got me hooked. However, I was also not a big fan of Hannah as she got on my nerves quite a bit, but at the same time, I was also not a fan of the way the author portrayed her whole situation. And to try to justify it upon learning of her uncle's situation in life bothered me a little bit. I don't care how people live their lives, but there were parts that made me a bit uncomfortable as it seemed to justify cheating.  While Hannah was somewhat conflicted, she did try to justify her actions by feeling she was not doing anything as badly as her husband, and that was the mixed message I was getting from this story line. I just couldn't figure out if the author was trying to promote the idea of open marriages or make them seem like a negative thing. But to make Hannah seem like this great person because she chose to sacrifice her career for motherhood, then make her husband seem so loathsome for his behaviours and actions, and then to twist it even further and have him blame her for everything that is wrong with their son, just makes me cringe.  So many tropes and stereotypes to unpack, it just isn't worthwhile doing.  

Verdict
Ashton Hall had an interesting premise, but was in no way a mystery.  I did like the author's writing style and would have liked to have seen more of Isabelle's story play a role in the book, but the parallels to Hannah's life were thought-provoking and provided a lot of room for introspection about one's role in life.  However, I wasn't a fan of the way the relationships were handled, nor did I like the way Nicky's issues and problems were discussed and handled. And the pace was pretty slow.  I really wanted to like this book, but there were too many things I just couldn't overlook. This one was just not for me.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Review: Kagen the Damned by Jonathan Maberry

by Jonathan Maberry
Release Date: May 10, 2022
2022 St. Martin's Griffin
Kindle Edition; 560 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250783974
ASIN: B09CNF9Y8M
Audiobook: B09GH6S29N
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / Grimdark
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Summary
Sworn by Oath
Kagen Vale is the trusted and feared captain of the palace guard, charged with protecting the royal children of the Silver Empire. But one night, Kagen is drugged and the entire imperial family is killed, leaving the empire in ruins.

Abandoned by the Gods
Haunted and broken, Kagen is abandoned by his gods and damned forever. He becomes a wanderer, trying to take down as many of his enemies as possible while plotting to assassinate the usurper–the deadly Witch-king of Hakkia. While all around him magic–long banished from the world—returns in strange and terrifying ways.

My Thoughts
Kagen the Damned is one of those books that I am really glad I pushed through to the end. (I am a huge fan of his Rot & Ruin series, so I was happy to see him venture into fantasy.) I wasn't a huge fan of Kagen in the beginning however, and his whining definitely rubbed me the wrong way, but when I reflected on his character development throughout the book, it made sense. The story certainly started with a bang and the battle at the beginning was epic, with the imperial city being destroyed and Kagen fighting to save the royal family as well as his own family.  

Turns out that Kagen is actually a strong character despite his many character flaws, though he isn't very likeable. He is consumed with guilt and anger and turns to alcohol and petulance to stem his guilt, behaving in such a way you just want to slap him. He is supposed to be the most feared captain of the palace guards, but his behaviour just turns you right off his character. Personally, I think the author was trying to show his privilege and what happens to that privilege when everything is taken from you. You can be the best of whatever, but it is through your actions when things are tough that you show your merit, and Kaden needed to learn this lesson. Naturally, he quits drinking, decides to kill the Witch-King, and the reader is supposed to be understanding of his behaviours up to this point. Uh, no.  And for a captain of the guard, he seems to be overly trusting, especially when an entire empire is destroyed so quickly, whereas I would be looking for who betrayed what and whom when something like this happens so quickly and would trust no one.  
 
There are also a couple of secondary story lines that being developed as well involved a couple of nuns named Miri and Ryssa as well as a woman named Mother Frey who seems to be more of a spy than a leader of a religious house.  I wasn't a big fan of the story line between Miri and Ryssa for a variety of reasons, but I think if I heard the word 'sweetheart' one more time, I thought I would scream as it sounded so condescending.  I did feel overall that the character development for most of the characters was a bit more one-dimensional than I would have liked as the author did tend to focus more on the plot and world-building. It's not than the characters are forgettable, it's just that they are not that complex so I am hoping to dig more into their personalities in future books as we get to know more of the world.
 
I thought the writing was strong and enjoyed the world-building. It was not hard to understand the culture and history of the world and the historical glimpses of some events from the past made me want to learn more as they were tantalizing. Although there wasn't as much magic as I thought there would be, this was an empire that did suppress it so I am curious as to how it will play a role in the next book as people develop their skills once again or as people no longer keep it hidden.  It should be interesting to see the development.   The story could be bloody and grim, fast-paced at times with a lot happening in a short period of time, and pretty gritty. Yup, I flinched quite a few times. And whhile the ending was satisfying, it did end on a cliffhanger and a lot of threads developed in this book have yet to be resolved.  

Verdict
Kagen the Damned was an action-packed first entry into what I think will be an interesting series. While I wasn't a fan of Kagen at the beginning, he did grow on me as I learned more about him and his past and his character development was one of the themes of the book, strength is not given, it is earned through one's actions, not privilege.  Turns out this was a dark and twisty story, with many interesting elements, and while I was not a fan of all of them, as in the relationship between Mira and Ryssa, there was definitely enough that I am looking forward to the ARC I received of book 2, Son of the Poison Rose.

 


Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Review: Dark Horse by Gregg Hurwitz

by Gregg Hurwitz
Release Date: February 8, 2022
2022 Minotaur Books
Kindle & Audiobook Editions; 432 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250252302
ASIN: B092T8LJLB
Audiobook: B094DPKFHX
Genre: Fiction / Thriller
Source: Review copy from publisher

4.25 / 5 Stars

Summary
Aragon Urrea is a kingpin of a major drug-dealing operation in South Texas. He's also the patron of the local area—supplying employment in legitimate operations, providing help to the helpless, rough justice to the downtrodden, and a future to a people normally with little hope. He's complicated—a not completely good man, who does bad things for often good reasons. However, for all his money and power, he is helpless when one of the most vicious cartels kidnaps his innocent eighteen year old daughter, spiriting her away into the armored complex that is their headquarters in Mexico. With no other way to rescue his daughter, he turns to The Nowhere Man.

Now not only must Evan figure out how to get into the impregnable fortress of a heavily armed, deeply paranoid cartel leader, but he must decide if he should help a very bad man—no matter how just the cause.
 
My Thoughts
Dark Horse is the next entry in the Orphan X series, and this is one of my favourites series out there. While not the most suspenseful book of the series, it is definitely a solid entry and a lot of fun to read. The story seemed to focus more on relationships and Evan's growing sense of how to fit into a world he knows little about, except as an assassin.  
 
Evan's character development has always been one of the strengths of this series.  Both he and Joey have come to a crossroads in their lives where they need to figure out who they are and who they wish to be as well as the people they want in their lives. Having lived a solitary life for so long, with few people he could trust, Evan is slowly learning about having fun and enjoying life.  Unfortunately, having been an assassin for so long, and having been involved in such a secret program, he has enemies all over the place, and in some pretty high government levels, enemies who do anything to see him dead. The author does a great job with Evan as he comes to terms with his more humane side and accepts that his lethal side will always be a part of him. 

Joey and Dog have been favourites of mine since they joined the Orphan X world a few books ago and I always look forward to their appearances.  It's hard to imagine comedic episodes in a thriller novel, but the author manages to do this very well in scenes involving Joey, Evan, and Dog, including some emotional ones. Who knew you could get emotional over a plant and some coloured rocks?  

This one has Evan helping a drug kingpin, one who daughter has been kidnapped by a rival drug cartel. This mission becomes quite complicated, and puts Evan into quite a moral dilemma as he has to decide to help a leader of a drug cartel with questionable morals.  I thought the author did a great job showing the human side of this world, something I didn't think was possible, demonstrating the shades of grey that exist in everyone's world. I even grew to like Aragon, which I never would have suspected.  But make no mistake, the author didn't shy away from the brutality either, especially when Evan infiltrated the Leones compound to rescue Aragon's daughter.  As always, the writing style was captivating, drawing me into the story, dark and quite intense.  While the beginning was a bit slower than usual, the last quarter of the book was intense and a bit brutal.  
 
Verdict
Dark Horse is a fun, action-packed book. There is quite a bit of soul-searching for Evan as he is trying to come to terms with his life as an assassin and his newish life as a regular person, someone who is trying to recognize that not everything is black or white.  I felt the author did a great job developing Evan's character and his interactions with the other characters was enjoyable.  While this one started out a bit slower than usual, it definitely ended quite differently and I couldn't put it down. I am looking forward to the next book in this series, The Last Orphan, which I have already received for review. An old nemesis is coming back into play and I can't wait!


 


Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Review: The Children on the Hill by Jennifer McMahon

by Jennifer McMahon
Release Date: April 26, 2022
2022 Gallery/Scout Press
Kindle Edition; 338 Pages
ISBN: 978-1982153952
ASIN: B098441GNT
Audiobook: B099CNNTPN
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Horror
Source: Review copy from publisher

2 / 5 Stars

Summary
1978: at her renowned treatment center in picturesque Vermont, the brilliant psychiatrist, Dr. Helen Hildreth, is acclaimed for her compassionate work with the mentally ill. Then one day Gran brings home a child to stay with the family. Iris—silent, hollow-eyed, skittish, and feral—does not behave like a normal girl.

2019: Lizzy Shelley, the host of the popular podcast Monsters Among Us, is traveling to Vermont, where a young girl has been abducted, and a monster sighting has the town in an uproar. She’s determined to hunt it down, because Lizzy knows better than anyone that monsters are real—and one of them is her very own sister.
 
My Thoughts
The Children on the Hill had a very interesting concept, a story inspired by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, one of my favourite books. The story has a dual timeline, one in which we learn about when Gran brings Iris home and her integration into the family, and the other follows Lizzy Shelley as she hunts for clues about missing girls.  I have a mixed opinion about these dual timelines as one always seems to be better than the other, and in horror novels, it often tends to break up that wonderful tension and suspense that gets built up, something you don't want happening in such a novel. Unfortunately, this book did not live up to its premise.

Dr. Hildreth, the grandmother, kind of takes on the role of the doctor from the Frankenstein novel, and while the author tries to set her up as this kind and generous grandmother who has these toxic and creepy beliefs, it fell really flat for me.  I just found her character to be one-dimensional, and there was little to no character development, something that would make me feel like something was really off with this woman, that would make me want to protect the children, that would make me wonder about her secrets.  The children were somewhat better developed, but that isn't saying much.  To be honest, it wasn't quite hard to figure out what was going on with Violet and Iris and I understood the major plot twist quite early on. Once the secret was revealed, I didn't buy into it as there seemed no reason for the personality changes and what actually happened, it just didn't make sense.

The first part of the novel was the most interesting part as I enjoyed learning about the institution, and I definitely like it when the setting includes a big old building with secrets.  However, the pacing of the story was quite slow, with a lot of descriptions of things that I don't think really enhanced the story.  To me, it seemed like filler stuff that wasn't necessary to the story.  And there was one part of the story narrative where I almost DNF the book as it came out of nowhere and really had no context. The creepy atmosphere slowly gave way to plot points that just didn't make sense or were extremely clumsy in their execution, making it very easy to figure out what was happening.  Everything was laid out for the reader and no thinking was required, no build up or foreshadowing that allows for suspense or that wonderful thrill you get when reading something exciting.  

Verdict
The Children on the Hill had a great premise and a wonderful setting, but the execution fell flat due to poor character and plot development.  The author had a tendency to tell the reader what was happening rather than use subtle clues and foreshadowing to let them figure it out, and the dual timeline took away a lot of the suspense from the story.  Unfortunately, I was disappointed by this book and would not recommend it to fans who are avid horror readers.  However, as always, you may like this more than I did. 


 

 


Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Review: The Ghosts of Paris by Tara Moss

by Tara Moss
Release Date: June 7, 2022
2022 Dutton
Kindle Edition; 384 Pages
ISBN: 978-0593182680
ASIN: B09GN6W1B8
Audiobook: B09HSQNZKV
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Historical
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.75 / 5 Stars

Summary
It's 1947. The world continues to grapple with the fallout of the Second World War, and former war reporter Billie Walker is finding her feet as an investigator. When a wealthy client hires Billie and her assistant Sam to track down her missing husband, the trail leads Billie back to London and Paris, where Billie's own painful memories also lurk.

As Billie's search for her client's husband takes her to both the swanky bars at Paris's famous Ritz hotel and to the dank basements of the infamous Paris morgue, she'll need to keep her gun at the ready, because something even more terrible than a few painful memories might be following her around the city of lights . . .
 
My Thoughts
The Ghosts of Paris is the second book in the Billie Walker Mystery series, and I enjoyed it quite a bit and had no trouble following along even though I have no yet read the first book in this series.  It did take quite a while for things to get moving, but when it did pick up, there was plenty to keep you engaged and interested.  I am always fascinated by the time period after the war as people try to rebuild their lives and deal with the actions and betrayals of the war, so I found this book, with all of its secrets, to be engrossing.  It's a bit lighter than the typical spy novel, but it was a lot of fun to read nonetheless.
 
I enjoyed Billie as a main character and liked her spunk as she dealt with the attitudes towards females and female independence during this time period.  A lot of women really came into their own during WWII and achieved so many things, things that were difficult to let go when the war ended and the men returned expecting them to resume the rules and regulations that existed before the war.  Watching Billie explore this new world, trying to deal with those older viewpoints, comments, and expectations, was frustrating and you get an idea of what is was like for women during this time period.  The author really captured the atmosphere and it was evident she did a lot of research to be able to share the feelings as well as the frustrations with the reader through dialogue as well as actions. The descriptions of the clothing, the food, the buildings, that airplane ride, the beliefs, etc... really enhanced the overall reading experience and I enjoyed it tremendously.

I did enjoy this writer's writing style and thought her descriptions were wonderful, but I did think the story had moments where it dragged and was repetitive.  I understand the author was trying to introduce characters and set-up different story lines as well as remind the reader of previous story lines that were incomplete from the previous book, something I did appreciate, but I did have to push through as I wondered when the actual story was going to start.  When it did, it was quite explosive and very interesting.  However, the ending was abrupt and a bit unsatisfactory.  I did learn quite a bit about the LGBTQ community that existed during this time period, both in France as well as Australia, and I appreciated learning more about some of the laws that existed if one were caught; the author did a great job highlighting the homophobia that existed as well.  

Verdict
The Ghosts of Paris deals with some fascinating issues of the time period, and I appreciated the research the author put into including those details into the story.  I really enjoyed the characters and for the most part, the story lines were interesting; the abrupt ending of one of them left me feeling a bit unsatisfied, and I am still not sure what I think about the other one as I felt it was contrived simply to make room for a relationship for Billie which didn't quite sit well with me.  Overall, I recommend this book to anyone looking for an interesting story set after WWII.
 
 
 
 

 


Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Review: The Long Weekend by Gilly Macmillan

by Gilly Macmillan
Release Date: March 29, 2022
2022 William Morrow & Company
Kindle Edition; 336 Pages
ISBN: 978-0063074323
ASIN: B0983LK135
Audiobook: B0997YWCZY
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

2.25 / 5 Stars

Summary
Dark Fell Barn is a “perfectly isolated” retreat, or so says its website when Jayne books a reservation for her friends. A quiet place, far removed from the rest of the world, is exactly what they need.

The women arrive for a girls’ night ahead of their husbands.Upon arrival at Dark Fell Barn, the women find a devastating note claiming one of their husbands will be murdered. There are no phones, no cell service to check on their men. Friendships fracture as the situation spins wildly out of control. Betrayal can come in many forms.
 
 
My Thoughts
The Long Weekend is one of those books that I picked up because it has a lot of elements that I love in a mystery; secrets, isolated retreat, devastating note, suspicions, murder, fractured friendships, and wilderness.  I really enjoyed the set-up to this story, loved the setting as it was as eerie and isolating as I could have asked for, and the concept of secrets and murder playing havoc on emotions was fun, in the beginning.  Unfortunately, this quickly derailed into the unbelievable and suddenly, we were no longer in the isolated setting with one of the narrators sounding so silly, I almost DNF'd the book.  

First of all, I couldn't empathize with any of the main characters, except maybe Jayne, but that was on such a superficial level that I was sort of hoping they would all buy it in the end (a slasher novel finish would have been so satisfactory).  All Emily could do was whine about not being able to reach her husband, Ruth drank and invented these outlandish scenarios involving her husband, and Jayne just seemed so smug in her relationship, almost condescending. I was looking forward to some interesting times at the retreat, but didn't really get too much character development.  I am also not sure why the property owners' perspective was important to the story? All it did was distract from the relationships the author was trying to build between the women and the story line being developed in that plot line. 

The story itself is written in multiple POV, and while I didn't mind reading the women's story lines, I absolutely detested the POV from the supposed villain.  No, you don't know who it is, although there are plenty of clues to give you a basic idea, but the childish voice and the pathetic tone almost made me shut the book.  I like reading from the villain's POV, but not this stuff.  I don't even have words to describe how far my eyes rolled back into my head while reading his justifications.  

Unfortunately, the story line took a deep nosedive once they left the retreat; so much for any murder/slasher scenarios happening on that mountain.  To be honest, I didn't really care that the concept was not that original as I enjoy reading about people being put in isolated scenarios, watching their secrets unravel, and seeing how they react.  With a skilled writer, it is often fun.  Unfortunately, the dramatic episodes just made me cringe and so much was based on coincidence that it became a bit unbelievable.  

Verdict
The Long Weekend is one of those reads that I managed to scrape through to the end, but barely.  I did enjoy the beginning of the novel, and thought the isolated setting was eerie, setting up for something explosive and interesting.  Unfortunately, it missed the mark completely, and the second half of the book didn't even occur at the retreat.  The villain's POV was childish and unbelievable, and I struggled at this point to continue.  This is one of those books that you need to read for yourself, and if you can get past the tropes and the overuse of red herrings, you may have a different viewpoint than me.  Sadly, this one just did not work for me. 

 


Sunday, July 31, 2022

Review: A Sunlit Weapon by Jacqueline Winspear

by Jacqueline Winspear
Release Date: March 22, 2022
2022 Harper
Kindle Edition; 358 Pages
ISBN: 978-0063142268
ASIN:B097RN7JZB
Audiobook: B09HL42Y5B
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Historical
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
October 1942. Jo Hardy, a 22-year-old ferry pilot, is delivering a Supermarine Spitfire--the fastest fighter aircraft in the world--to Biggin Hill Aerodrome, when she realizes someone is shooting at her aircraft from the ground. Returning to the location on foot, she finds an American serviceman in a barn, bound and gagged. 
 
At the suggestion of one of her colleagues, Jo seeks the help of psychologist and investigator Maisie Dobbs. Meanwhile, Maisie's husband, a high-ranking political attachée based at the American embassy, is in the thick of ensuring security is tight for the first lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt, during her visit to the Britain. There's already evidence that German agents have been circling: the wife of a president represents a high value target. Mrs. Roosevelt is clearly in danger, and there may well be a direct connection to the death of the woman ferry pilot and the recent activities of two American servicemen.

My Thoughts
A Sunlit Weapon is the next instalment of the long-running Maisie Dobbs series, and because it seemed to focus on women pilots, I was really hoping for the magic of the earlier books and some interesting details into the historical details and political issues that existed for the women who risked their lives, sometimes facing some serious family fallout, in order to follow their dreams.  After all, they were the first women who were close to achieving pay equity and even though they didn't necessarily fly combat missions at this point, they were able to fly all sorts of different planes in some dangerous situations.  However, the overall story got bogged down by a convoluted plot, repetitive actions, and some rather unbelievable coincidences.  

I am one of those people who would have preferred Maisie to have remained unmarried.  While I like Mark, I am not a fan of the relationship as it just seems forced and it always seems like there has to be some aspect of Mark's job involved in the plot.  Personally, I really enjoyed the plot with the women pilots and I think the book would have been just fine if it had simply focused on that mystery; however, now we have the added bonus of Eleanor Roosevelt's visit with all of the shenanigans revolving around that as well as Anna's bullying at school.  While I can handle convoluted plots, too much can bog down a book, which this does.  It also takes away from the importance of the women pilots and their job, something with which I was not happy as I wanted to learn more about them. I felt like the author was downplaying their roles, and while I don't think it was intentional, it certainly felt that way, just to include Mark.  Why is it so wrong to put Mark on the back-burner and just highlight Maisie's activities? After all, we did just fine for many books without him.  It also seems to take away from the importance of Maisie's job, and her constant reassurances that she will look after her own safety gets repetitive after a while.  

My favourite character has always been Billy, and I would like to see him developed even more.  I was happy to see him promoted, but not necessarily happy by how it was done.  Although there is no doubt Maisie cares for him and is worried about him, the cavalier way she makes decisions for him rather turns me off. What happened to discussing important things like adults? With negotiations involved?

And the bullying and racism in the story? I was quite happy to see that included as it was an important aspect of WWII, but I am not sure I liked the way the author went about doing it in this story, through Anna's difficulties in school.  I am not opposed to the bullying itself as that definitely happened, but Maisie's confrontation with the headmistress kind of turned me off as it just seemed unrealistic.  Creating drama just for drama's sake. However, I thought the discussions about racism within the American military stationed in Great Britain were quite informative, and although they didn't go into as much detail as I would have liked, highlighted some social aspects of the war that are not necessarily discussed. 

Verdict
A Sunlit Weapon had the potential to reach the level of mystery and suspense of earlier books, but the focus on too many convoluted plot threads ruined that with too many unbelievable coincidences and a lack of focus on any particularly aspect or theme.  This idea that Mark's job needs to be included in every book is a turnoff for me as I would like the mystery to be on Maisie and her investigations which would have meant more effort and energy developing the women pilot story line, something that would have been extremely fascinating and would have highlighted a fascinating piece of history.  Unfortunately, adding Mark to the story line has not strengthened this series.  I do like this author's writing style and would like to see her develop the social prejudice story lines in future books, but without all the added drama, just tell the story.  Overall, the author's historical research is really good and the writing style is interesting, but the mystery was weak. It was still an overall interesting read.
 

 


Friday, July 29, 2022

Review: The Night She Went Missing by Kristen Bird

by Kristen Bird
Release Date: February 8, 2022
2022 Mira Books
Kindle Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-0778332107
ASIN: B08FYNG31Q
Audiobook: B099GX54HH
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

2.25 / 5 Stars

Summary
Emily, a popular but bookish prep school senior, goes missing after a night out with friends. She was last seen leaving a party with Alex, a football player with a dubious reputation. But no one is talking.

Now three mothers, Catherine, Leslie and Morgan, friends turned frenemies, have their lives turned upside down as they are forced to look to their own children--and each other's--for answers to questions they don't want to ask.
 
 
My Thoughts
The Night She Went Missing had a pretty interesting synopsis, and I was intrigued for the first third of the book, but it went completely downhill from that point on and I struggled to finish it.  I wish the author had taken a chance and really messed up her characters and the story line as there was so much potential for it to be something interesting and well...quite deceitful.   

The story was written from different POV and although you tend to develop empathy for characters this way, I actually thought this was a disadvantage in this book as the shorter chapters didn't really give me a chance to develop connections with any of the characters.  To be honest, some of them I skimmed through because the dialogue seemed to be pointless and wasn't necessarily developing the characters or the story line.  The adults really had no depth to them despite their individual issues as they seemed more concerned with their appearance and keeping their secrets than they did with finding Emily. And the author's constant justification for Catherine's behaviour and the reason for losing her job was a complete turn-off and made me dislike her more throughout the novel.  I can't stand it when characters don't own up to their own behaviours and take responsibility for their actions. And the author writes their characters as if the reader should feel sorry for them.  No way!
 
The first part of the novel was interesting and I was intrigued enough to want to know what was going to happen to Emily. Then, for a multitude of reasons, the story took a nosedive and became something that was more about how all women are victims and the men are all evil in some capacity type of scenario.and it was just reading through to discover which bad man actually did the deed. Now, what a twist it would have been otherwise.  And in a book that focused quite a bit on women's ambitions, I was disappointed in the ending when one of the main characters gave up an Ivy League dream to go to community college for certain reasons.  I just couldn't wrap my head around the fact that all strong, capable women would be so ambitious as to jeopardize everything in their lives as this book seemed to highlight, then try to justify the actions because of things that happened to them in their earlier lives, and try to get readers to empathize with their current behaviours as if its okay just because something happened to them in the past.  To be honest, I'm still kind of seething over it.

Verdict
The Night She Went Missing had a lot of potential, but completely missed the mark.  There were alot of things happening, but nothing that really enhances or moves the story along.  I didn't really have empathy for most of the characters, except maybe Morgan, and wasn't really invested in what happened to them, especially as I felt like the author wanted me to feel sorry for some of their past transgressions, and some of it just made me roll my eyes.  However, I would probably try another book by this author as there were some things I liked, but this one was definitely not what I expected. Disappointing second half and even more disappointing ending.