Friday, December 7, 2018

review: the accidental beauty queen by teri wilson

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Charlotte and Ginny are identical twins who couldn't be more different. Charlotte is a school librarian who prefers wearing t-shirts with literary references while Ginny is a glamorous pageant contestant. In The Accidental Beauty Queen, an allergic reaction leads to Charlotte having to take Ginny's place in the pageant their deceased mother once won. It's a story that could be completely vapid and superficial, but Teri Wilson makes it incredibly moving. Wilson nails the sister dynamic and creates plenty of comedic twin-switch moments. She also doesn't fall into the trap of making the other pageant contestants stereotypes. Another great element (involving the twin-switch) is the sweet romance that develops between Charlotte and one of the judges. It gives just the right amount of conflict to elevate The Accidental Beauty Queen from great to excellent.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Gallery Books.

Friday, November 30, 2018

review: lies by t.m. logan

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It was all lies. One moment high school teacher Joe Lynch is driving home with his young son and the next he is following his wife to a hotel where she meets the husband of her best friend. There’s a confrontation and then a number of lies as Joe’s life unravels.

T.M. Logan’s debut novel is filled with so many excellent lies that the reader is on the same delicious hunt as Joe (though Logan does annoyingly hide a few of Joe’s final discoveries to further keep the reader in the dark). Lies is a fast read, in part because the writing is compelling and most chapters end with enough of a shock that one can’t help but keep reading. This psychological thriller is absolutely captivating.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, St. Martin's Press.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

review: desert kill switch by mark s. bacon

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Desert Kill Switch begins with the shocking discovery of a bullet-riddled body next to a classic Pontiac Firebird. Lyle, a former cop, is with his stepdaughter in an area of Arizona with no cell service so he gets them away from potential danger and then calls the sheriff. But when they arrive there's no sign of the body or the car. It's a great setup, but Mark S. Bacon quickly drops that plot in favor of another murder mystery. Even when Lyle makes a big find related to the body in the desert, he drops it. The pacing of the two mysteries is excruciatingly slow. Eventually both get worked out, but it's a bit convoluted.
2/5
Review copy provided by the publicist, MM Book Publicity.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

review: all is not forgotten by wendy walker

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After Jenny is brutally raped during a high school party, her parents consent to giving her a (fictional) drug that causes her to forget the details of the crime. While the police search for the rapist, Jenny begins therapy. All is Not Forgotten is told entirely from the perspective of Jenny's therapist. It's an odd choice. He is a very dry, pompous man who does nothing to make any of characters sympathetic. The therapist's narration also goes off into a number of tangents (he wonders if his son was at the party, relates stories of other patients, and establishes that the boss of Jenny's father isn't a good guy) that are wholly uninteresting and only serve to make it so the reveal of who raped Jenny isn't entirely out of nowhere.
1/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, St. Martin's Griffin.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

review: ghost town by jason hawes and grant wilson

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After writing a book about his own paranormal experience, ghost tracker Trevor is one of the authors participating in a conference during the Dead Days festival in "the most haunted town in America." Amber and Drew (now a couple) are scheduled to present as well. Shortly after they arrive in town, a woman is killed in what appears to be a paranormal event. Soon the trio are investigating a number of deaths related to the Dark Lady.

Ghost Town is substantially better than Ghost Trackers, but it does suffer from too many characters sharing their perspective. The numerous perspectives from secondary characters made the narrative disjointed. And while the hunt for the Dark Lady was interesting, Ghost Town did not pay off in the end.
2/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Gallery Books.

Friday, October 5, 2018

review: born scared by kevin brooks

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Elliot has been scared his entire life. The only people who don't absolutely terrify him are his mother, her sister, and his doctor. His doctor prescribed pills, but Elliot is still housebound. Even though the pills don't seem to do him much good, Elliot is obsessed with them so it makes sense that the pills would be the catalyst for everything that happens to Elliot on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, Kevin Brooks doesn't quite create an understandable sense of Elliot's fear. There's a lot of Elliot worrying about things and conversing with his imaginary friend/twin sister who died at birth, but the anxiety he's experiencing never creates tension. Although he does eventually face something horrible (as Brooks weaves in the alternating plot which was a bit of a distraction), the ending leaves much to be desired with no real explanation as to what happened.
2/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Candlewick.

Friday, September 28, 2018

review: the other woman by sandie jones

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Emily and Adam get together in a whirlwind. She adores him, but his mother is a different story. Although everyone else seems to love Adam's mother Pammie, Emily sees right through her manipulations. The woman seems absolutely determined to stop Emily and Adam from marrying. Emily will not be deterred, but then comes the promised twist from Sandie Jones in her incredible debut novel. The Other Woman is a slow build with Jones lulling the reader into believing the plot is moving right along in the expected manner. Each reveal seems like it's the twist right up until the horrible truth all comes spilling out in an excellently written scene.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Minotaur Books.