Review: We Were Liars // Exciting Mystery and Glowing Romance

By E. Lockhart

Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Community Rating: 3.85

Genre: YA Mystery

Publication Date: May 13th 2014

Format Read: Audiobook

Goodreads Summary: A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 

Read it.

And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

Continue reading “Review: We Were Liars // Exciting Mystery and Glowing Romance”

Review: One of Us Is Lying

By Karen M McManus

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Goodreads Rating: 4.07

Genre: YA Mystery

Publication Date: May 30th 2017

Format Read: Audiobook

Goodreads Summary: Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

Continue reading “Review: One of Us Is Lying”

Review: The Darkest Lies (Annoying Characters and Little Plot)

By Barbara Copperthwaite

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂

Goodreads Rating: 4.05

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Publication Date: May 12th 2017

Format Read: Phone Ebook via Netgalley

Goodreads Summary: A mother desperate for the truth. A daughter hiding a terrible secret.

Melanie Oak appeared to have the perfect life. Married to her childhood sweetheart, Jacob, the couple live with their beautiful, loving, teenage daughter, Beth, in a pretty village.

Nothing can shake her happiness – until the day that Beth goes missing and is discovered beaten almost to the point of death, her broken body lying in a freezing creek on the marshes near their home.

Consumed with grief, Melanie is determined to find her daughter’s attacker. Someone in the village must have seen something. Why won’t they talk?

As Melanie tries to piece together what happened to Beth, she discovers that her innocent teenager has been harbouring some dark secrets of her own. The truth may lie closer to home and put Melanie’s life in terrible danger…

A completely gripping psychological thriller with a twist you won’t see coming.

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It took all of my strength to keep reading this book.  I got bored just as short way through, thrown off by the 2nd person POV and the fact that the plot was not very interesting, but I kept reading, something which I’m fairly glad of.  The last 20% of the book was incredible, and bumped my rating up a star.  The first 80%, however, didn’t hold my interest at all.  

The basic concept is that a young teenager, Beth, goes missing, and the book is told from the perspective of the mother telling the story of her DIY detective work to her daughter.  There were also perspectives from Beth (from the night she goes missing) and a mysterious individual mixed in.  

Bottom line is that nothing in this book got me super attached.  The plotline wasn’t intriguing, I hated Melanie (the MC, aka Beth’s mother), her partner in solving crime seemed like the biggest stock character I’ve ever met, and all of the “villagers” had 0 dimension.  They were all flat.  The only one I liked is the husband, and I felt like even he did a thing that didn’t seem to fit with the rest of his character ,at all.

Luckily the ending was good.  Well, one of the endings.  The major storyline that everything was working towards fell flat for me, but in the last 20% Copperthwaite had a side story line that she had been progressing and made it the center stage, and for me THAT was the only intriguing part of the novel.  

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Beth is the girl who goes missing.  You really only hear about her from her mother’s POV, and occasionally from her own, but she’s a dynamic, interesting girl, and I liked her and wished the best for her.  That’s probably the only reason I didn’t DNF.  I HAD to know what happened to Beth.

Melanie, the MC, is Beth’s mother, but she just MAKES ME SO MAD I CAN’T EXPLAIN.  She’s not that good of a person, although she thinks she is, and she’s super self absorbed and can’t see the world around her.  It was painful, and I found myself looking forward to the short, one page segments that were not from her point of view just so that I didn’t have to listen to the whining drunk anymore.

Glenn, her partner in solving the crime, is a figure from her childhood who she was not exceptionally close with, but happens to waltz into her life and “just want to help”.  Mel bought it.  So he’s around for the entire novel, and despite this fact, he has ZERO DIMENSION.  I don’t understand how I can read a whole book with him at center stage and still not really KNOW him aside from the one central fact (it’s a spoiler so I won’t say).  It’s weird.

The husband, Jacob? (I think, we’ll go with it), was my favorite character, but the author made him do something so completely out of character with everything else we saw that he started to feel fake as well.

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The plot was very, very slow.  This 433 page book could have easily been condensed into 200 pages and you would not have lost any of the red herrings, dramatic moments, etc, because there was so much WASTED SPACE SPENT DOING NOTHING.  

Of course, that changed slightly in the last bit, where there was action, character development, a big reveal, an oh shit moment where you realized what was really going on, and an overall good pace.  But that doesn’t happen soon enough.  

I know books won’t have action the whole way through, but something needs to be happening, or at least characters being developed, for it to be interesting.

And the whole “why won’t the village talk” thing that propelled the entire plot felt fake and strange to me, their motivation not really that good.

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  • Beth
  • The Ending
  • Laughing at MC’s stupidity and lack of awareness for the world around her

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  • Melanie, her stupidity, and her lack of awareness for the world around her
  • Slow Plot
  • Poor writing style– there was nothing remotely extraordinary about her writing, the whole thing was very simple and told straightforwardly.
  • OBVIOUS display of clues– there was never any clue that I looked back on later and was like, ooooh I missed that… It was all shoved aggressively in your face.

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None.  There’s one character who may or may not be gay but that’s all.  And he’s in the story for like 5 minutes and accused of hurting Beth.

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  • A child is brutalized and left to die
  • Child is raped
  • Drinking problem to deal with other problems
  • Drugs abound

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This book was a 2 star read all the way through, but the ending was 4 or 5 stars, so I adjusted accordingly with a 3.  I wouldn’t recommend this book to anybody, but if you already have it, you might as well read it and see where it goes, it wasn’t so bad as to warrant you not reading it at all.

I’d love to know what other people think of the character development, because for me nobody except Beth felt real.

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Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Have you read this book? What did you think? Have you read anything else by Barbara Copperthwaite?


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Book Tour: Bringing Back Robert Germaux, This Time with Fiction

A few months ago, I did an interview with Robert Germaux for a book tour, and now that he’s about to publish yet another book, I’m excited to be introducing it back on the blog!! This book is really different from his last, so I hope you all look into it!!! (special thanks to susan barton for putting this whole tour together)

Print Length: 342 pages
Publisher: Robert Germaux (May 26, 2017)
Publication Date: May 26, 2017
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC


The victims appear to have had nothing in common, other than the fact that, as one officer put it, somebody wanted them dead. And that somebody left a “clue” at each crime scene, but as those clues began to accumulate, Detective Daniel Hayes and his hand-picked squad soon discovered that the clues appeared to have even less in common than did the victims. In order to catch his prey, Daniel realizes he has to change his focus and concentrate on an entirely different aspect of the case by following a twisting trail that eventually leads to a face-to-face encounter with the killer.




Both my parents were readers. I’m talking stacks-of-books-on-their-nightstands readers. So it’s no surprise that an early age, I, too, became an avid reader. Everything from sports books (especially baseball) to Nancy Drew to the Hardy Boys to almost anything about distant and exotic places. And although I’ve always enjoyed putting words on paper, the writer in me didn’t fully emerge until I retired after three decades of teaching high school English. I quickly wrote two books aimed at middle school readers, at which point my wife urged me to try a novel for adults. As is usually the case, Cynthia’s idea was a good one. Over the next few years, I wrote several books about Pittsburgh private eye Jeremy Barnes, including “Hard Court.” Along the way, I took a brief hiatus from the detective genre to write “The Backup Husband,” the plot line of which came to me one day when I was playing the What-if game. On that particular day, the question that occurred to me was, What if a woman suddenly realized she might be in love with two wonderful men? After “The Backup Husband,” I wrote “Small Talk,” my first novel about Pittsburgh police detective Daniel Hayes. I then switched gears again with “Grammar Sex (and other stuff),” a book of humorous essays. Now I’m back with “One by One,” the second Daniel Hayes mystery, which will be released on June 1st. You can find all of my books on my Amazon Author Page.

In our spare time, Cynthia and I enjoy reading (of course), seeing Broadway plays and musicals, watching reruns of our favorite TV shows, such as “Sports Night” and “The Gilmore Girls,” and traveling to some of those distant and exotic places I used to read about as a child. So far, we’ve been fortunate enough to walk in the sands of Waikiki, swim in the warm waters of the South Pacific and enjoy a romantic dinner in Paris.

I love interacting with my readers and getting their input on my stories and characters. Please feel free to contact me on my website.

July 2017 Book Releases: Great YA and Historical Fiction

This month, there aren’t a ton of books that I found interesting to write down, but I did find a lot of great YA books, so although that’s normally not my favorite genre, it seems like an awesome month for those who enjoy it.  OOH and there’s historical fiction books that look SUPER GREAT and I can’t wait to read them.  I have 8 books total to recommend to you all, so here we go!

Mystery / ThrillerMy Sister's Bones

MY SISTER’S BONES (JULY 11TH)– In the vein of Fiona Barton’s The Widow and Renée Knight’s Disclaimer, a psychological thriller about a war reporter who returns to her childhood home after her mother’s death but becomes convinced that all is not well in the house next door—but is what she’s seeing real or a symptom of the trauma she suffered in Syria?

The One Person You Should Trust Is Lying to You…

Kate has spent fifteen years bringing global injustice home: as a decorated war reporter, she’s always in a place of conflict, writing about ordinary people in unimaginable situations. When her mother dies, Kate returns home from Syria for the funeral. But an incident with a young Syrian boy haunts her dreams, and when Kate sees a boy in the garden of the house next door—a house inhabited by an Iraqi refugee who claims her husband is away and she has no children—Kate becomes convinced that something is very wrong.

As she struggles to separate her memories of Syria from the quiet town in which she grew up—and also to reconcile her memories of a traumatic childhood with her sister’s insistence that all was not as Kate remembers—she begins to wonder what is actually true…and what is just in her mind.

In this gripping, timely debut, Nuala Ellwood brings us an unforgettable damaged character, a haunting , humanizing look at the Syrian conflict, and a deeply harrowing psychological thriller that readers won’t be able to put down.

This sounds heavy, but Zuky seemed to enjoy it (although she said it was a little dark) and so I think it deserves to be given a try.  I like dark, and the whole refugee/war thing is something that I would like to read more about, and in a thriller that could be super cool.  There’s lots of triggers and stuff going on, but if you can get past that, and enjoy dark thrillers, it seems like this one should be read.The Secrets She Keeps

THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS (JULY 11TH)– In the bestselling tradition of The Girl on the Train and In a Dark, Dark Wood, from the internationally bestselling author whom Stephen King called “an absolute master” of the psychological thriller, comes a riveting suspense novel about the unlikely friendship between two pregnant women that asks: how far would you go to create the perfect family?

Agatha is pregnant and works part-time stocking shelves at a grocery store in a ritzy London suburb, counting down the days until her baby is due. As the hours of her shifts creep by in increasing discomfort, the one thing she looks forward to at work is catching a glimpse of Meghan, the effortlessly chic customer whose elegant lifestyle dazzles her. Meghan has it all: two perfect children, a handsome husband, a happy marriage, a stylish group of friends, and she writes perfectly droll confessional posts on her popular parenting blog—posts that Agatha reads with devotion each night as she waits for her absent boyfriend, the father of her baby, to maybe return her calls.

When Agatha learns that Meghan is pregnant again, and that their due dates fall within the same month, she finally musters up the courage to speak to her, thrilled that they now have the ordeal of childbearing in common. Little does Meghan know that the mundane exchange she has with a grocery store employee during a hurried afternoon shopping trip is about to change the course of her not-so-perfect life forever…

With its brilliant rendering of a shocking kidnapping plot and the secrets some women hold close, The Secrets She Keeps delivers a dark and twisted page-turner that is absolutely impossible to put down.

This sounds a lot like a Liane Moriarty book based on the description, and since I have adored both of her books that I’ve read, I really really want to give this one a shot.  I think the stalker concept in fiction is cool, and the “not as perfect as it seems” concept has always drawn me in.  Plus Stephen King blurbed it so like….!!!

Historical FictionThe Diplomat's Daughter

THE DIPLOMAT’S DAUGHTER (JULY 11TH)– During the turbulent months following the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor, twenty-one-year-old Emi Kato, the daughter of a Japanese diplomat, is locked behind barbed wire in a Texas internment camp. She feels hopeless until she meets handsome young Christian Lange, whose German-born parents were wrongfully arrested for un-American activities. Together, they live as prisoners with thousands of other German and Japanese families, but discover that love can bloom in even the bleakest circumstances.

When Emi and her mother are abruptly sent back to Japan, Christian enlists in the US Army, with his sights set on the Pacific front—and, he hopes, a reunion with Emi—unaware that her first love, Leo Hartmann, the son of wealthy of Austrian parents and now a Jewish refugee in Shanghai, may still have her heart.

Fearful of bombings in Tokyo, Emi’s parents send her to a remote resort town in the mountains, where many in the foreign community have fled. Cut off from her family, struggling with growing depression and hunger, Emi repeatedly risks her life to help keep her community safe—all while wondering if the two men she loves are still alive.

As Christian Lange struggles to adapt to life as a soldier, his unit pushes its way from the South Pacific to Okinawa, where one of the bloodiest battles of World War II awaits them. Meanwhile, in Japanese-occupied Shanghai, as Leo fights to survive the squalor of the Jewish ghetto, a surprise confrontation with a Nazi officer threatens his life. For each man, Emi Kato is never far from their minds.

Flung together by war, passion, and extraordinary acts of selflessness, the paths of these three remarkable young people will collide as the fighting on the Pacific front crescendos. With her “elegant and extremely gratifying” (USA Today) storytelling, Karin Tanabe paints a stunning portrait of a turning point in history.

WWII HISTORICAL FICTION AND A LOVE STORY WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT. I’m dying to read this and I just heard about it 30 seconds ago.  The whole Pearl Harbor internment camp thing makes me sick, and I’ve always loved reading about books of the people who were imprisoned.  I can’t wait.

The Life She Was Given

THE LIFE SHE WAS GIVEN (July 25th)— From acclaimed author Ellen Marie Wiseman comes a vivid, daring novel about the devastating power of family secrets–beginning in the poignant, lurid world of a Depression-era traveling circus and coming full circle in the transformative 1950s.
On a summer evening in 1931, Lilly Blackwood glimpses circus lights from the grimy window of her attic bedroom. Lilly isn’t allowed to explore the meadows around Blackwood Manor. She’s never even ventured beyond her narrow room. Momma insists it’s for Lilly’s own protection, that people would be afraid if they saw her. But on this unforgettable night, Lilly is taken outside for the first time–and sold to the circus sideshow.
More than two decades later, nineteen-year-old Julia Blackwood has inherited her parents’ estate and horse farm. For Julia, home was an unhappy place full of strict rules and forbidden rooms, and she hopes that returning might erase those painful memories. Instead, she becomes immersed in a mystery involving a hidden attic room and photos of circus scenes featuring a striking young girl.
At first, The Barlow Brothers’ Circus is just another prison for Lilly. But in this rag-tag, sometimes brutal world, Lilly discovers strength, friendship, and a rare affinity for animals. Soon, thanks to elephants Pepper and JoJo and their handler, Cole, Lilly is no longer a sideshow spectacle but the circus’s biggest attraction. . .until tragedy and cruelty collide. It will fall to Julia to learn the truth about Lilly’s fate and her family’s shocking betrayal, and find a way to make Blackwood Manor into a place of healing at last.
Moving between Julia and Lilly’s stories, Ellen Marie Wiseman portrays two extraordinary, very different women in a novel that, while tender and heartbreaking, offers moments of joy and indomitable hope.

I have a weird affinity for circus books, not sure why but I always seem to pick them out of the pile.  This one also happens to be historical fiction, another one of my favorites, and so LOVE LOVE LOVE I can’t wait for it to come out and for me to get it.

Adult ContemporaryGoodbye, Vitamin

GOODBYE, VITAMIN (JULY 11TH)– A young woman returns home to care for her failing father in this fine, funny, and inescapably touching debut, from an affecting and wonderfully original new literary voice.

A few days after Christmas in a small suburb outside of L.A., pairs of a man’s pants hang from the trees. The pants belong to Howard Young, a prominent history professor, recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Howard’s wife, Annie, summons their daughter, Ruth. Freshly disengaged from her fiance and still broken up about it, feeling that life has not turned out quite the way she planned, thirty-year-old Ruth quits her job and arrives home to find her parents’ situation worse than she’d realized. Her father is erratically lucid and her mother, a devoted and creative cook, sees the sources of memory loss in every pot and pan. But as Howard’s condition intensifies, the comedy in Ruth’s situation takes hold, gently transforming her grief. She throws herself into caretaking: cooking dementia-fighting meals (a feast of jellyfish!), researching supplements, anything to reignite her father’s once-notable memory. And when the university finally lets Howard go, Ruth and one of her father’s handsome former students take their efforts to help Howard one step too far.

Told in captivating glimpses and drawn from a deep well of insight, humor, and unexpected tenderness, Goodbye, Vitamin pilots through the loss, love, and absurdity of finding one’s footing in this life.

I had a really difficult time finding an adult contemporary book to write down on this list.  In the end, I went with this one because… well… it’s the only book I could find that fit this genre.  It sounds like a tough read, but apparently there’s “comedy” so maybe it’ll be good. I personally won’t read it but someone should give it a try and let me know.

YA / Teen

The Color Project

THE COLOR PROJECT (JULY 18TH)– Bernice Aurora Wescott has one thing she doesn’t want anyone to know: her name. That is, until Bee meets Levi, the local golden boy who runs a charity organization called The Color Project.

Levi is not at all shy about attempting to guess Bee’s real name; his persistence is one of the many reasons why Bee falls for him. But while Levi is everything she never knew she needed, giving up her name would feel like a stamp on forever. And that terrifies her.

When unexpected news of an illness in the family drains Bee’s summer of everything bright, she is pushed to the breaking point. Losing herself in The Color Project—a world of weddings, funerals, cancer patients, and hopeful families that the charity funds—is no longer enough. Bee must hold up the weight of her family, but to do that, she needs Levi. She’ll have to give up her name and let him in completely or lose the best thing that’s ever happened to her.

For fans of Stephanie Perkins and Morgan Matson, THE COLOR PROJECT is a story about the three great loves of life—family, friendship, and romance—and the bonds that withstand tragedy.

I follow Sierra on Twitter and she’s super nice and amazing and so it makes me really want to read her book!! I’m 90% sure that this is a debut, so it’s super important to go out and support it.  This book sounds very character-centric and cute yet difficult, so I’m super excited!!!Changes in Latitudes

CHANGES IN LATITUDE (JULY 25TH)– A “road” trip romance that takes place at sea!

All Cassie wants is to get some solid ground under her feet following the shock of her parents’ divorce. So when she learns of her mom’s plans to take Cassie and her brother, Drew, on a four-month sailing trip from Oregon to Mexico, she’s stunned. There is absolutely nothing solid about the Pacific Ocean.

Cassie is furious. And nervous. It’s been hard enough keeping Drew sheltered from what Cassie knows about her mother’s role in breaking their family apart, but living in such close quarters threatens to push her anger past its tipping point. Enter Jonah, a whip-smart deckhand who’s as gorgeous as he is flirtatious. Cassie tries to keep him at a distance, but the more time they spend together–wandering San Francisco, riding beachside roller coasters, and exploring the California coastline–the harder it is to fight the attraction.

​Cassie wants to let herself go, but her parents’ split has left her feeling adrift in a sea of questions she can’t even begin to answer. Can she forgive her mom? Will home ever feel the same? Should she take a chance on Jonah? With life’s unpredictable tides working against her, Cassie must decide whether to swim against them… or dive right in.

This is the PERFECT summer read so it’s perfect that it’s coming out this month.  It looks like such a cliche teen read but with an element of familial heartbreak that normally makes me fall in love with a book more than I would otherwise.  Plus the entire synopsis is full of puns, meaning that there’s probably a pretty good sense of humor in the book.The Gallery of Unfinished Girls

THE GALLERY OF UNFINISHED GIRLS (JULY 25TH)– Mercedes Moreno is an artist. At least, she thinks she could be, even though she hasn’t been able to paint anything worthwhile since her award-winning piece Food Poisoning #1 last year.

Her lack of inspiration might be because her abuela is lying comatose in faraway Puerto Rico after suffering a stroke. Or the fact that Mercedes is in love with her best friend, Victoria, but is too afraid to admit her true feelings.

Despite Mercedes’s creative block, art starts to show up in unexpected ways. A piano appears on her front lawn one morning, and a mysterious new neighbor invites Mercedes to paint with her at the Red Mangrove Estate.

At the Estate, Mercedes can create in ways she never has before. She can share her deepest secrets and feel safe. But Mercedes can’t take anything out of the Estate, including her new-found clarity. As her life continues to crumble around her, the Estate offers more solace than she could hope for. But Mercedes can’t live both lives forever, and ultimately she must choose between this perfect world of art and truth and a much messier reality.

Legit this sounds incredible, my favorite one on the list thus far… it sounds super down to earth contemporary while being about art, which isn’t typical or overdone, and there MC is lesbian (or maybe bi/pan) which is awesome and also super far from overdone.  And Mercedes is an awesome name which is what drew me in in the first place.  I’m 150%  going onto Netgalley to see if I can get a copy*.  I’ll probably end up buying it eventually if I don’t.

*UPDATE: I requested on Edelweiss so pray for me!

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What books are you looking forward to this month?  Have you gotten ARCs of any on the list? Which ones look the best to you?



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Review: Smugglers and Scones (A Cutesy, Adorable Mystery)

By Morgan C Talbot

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Goodreads Rating: 4.15

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Publication Date: January 31st 2017

Format Read: Phone Ebook at Author Request

Challenges met: What’s in a Name? & Read Harder

Goodreads Summary: Pippa Winterbourne runs Moorehaven, the Oregon Coast’s quirkiest bed-and-breakfast and former home of world-famous mystery writer A. Raymond Moore. Guests come there to write their own crime novels. When a real-life murder takes a local’s life and washes a handsome boat pilot into her arms, Pippa is yanked into a deadly plot of her own. A tangle of secrets crashes past into present, and Pippa must uncover clues dating back to Seacrest’s Prohibition days, including a secret Moore himself hid from the world.

Juggling her book-writing guests, small-town intrigues, secret club agendas, and a possibly fatal attraction, Pippa must sort fact from fiction to know who to trust before a desperate killer claims a final revenge nearly a century in the making.


This book was super cute, and I loved the mystery element of it.  However, I would warn that the mystery doesn’t feel like the central element to me.  Even though it drives the plot forward, the author focused the most on the relationships between the characters.

What I found really cool about the book was that it took place in an Inn that only authors could stay in, while they are writing their mysteries.  This brought in an interesting element to the story because the authors wanted to “solve a real mystery” and so they were really into it.  That’s one of my favorite parts, because it’s so unique and different and really helped the plot along.

I would highly recommend this book to people who enjoy lighter mysteries.  It’s not a “thriller” but it’s a cozy, fun story to read.

The Characters…

Pippa, the main character, was fabulously developed.  She has this tragic backstory that’s never fully given, but remains a part of her identity and helps explain a lot of her actions.  That being said, she isn’t only defined by that, and she really grows on you as it goes.  She has a happy, outgoing personality which is perfect for the main character of a story, and she’s someone you can easily root for.

Lake, the love interest, is complex, mainly because he could be a murderer and so you never really know how to feel about him.  I feel like the author may have tried a bit too hard to make him suspicious, which is something that made it feel awkward and forced.

The other side characters, especially the authors, added a quirky dynamic to the novel that brought me back every time.

The Plot…

The plot was driven mainly by solving the mystery.  Told from Pippa’s perspective, there were a lot of unknowns, and that kept the reader intrigued.  The main focus of the story was on Pippa and her reactions and her life, not on the mystery.

I found a few elements were stuck in there solely for the purpose of furthering the plot, but most of the story seemed to occur naturally, and at a good pace for the story.  I never got bored, and it never seemed like it was rushing through and skimping on emotion.

What I Loved…

The story was great, and so were the characters.  Talbot did an amazing job of incorporating both of those elements into the story, and making them twist together in a way that gave you a full appreciation for the characterization and their real lives.  None of the characters were stereotypes (even when they could have been and that would have made the author’s work easier) and I really, really appreciated that.  She avoided being trite and instead made it emotional and a great read.

What I “Hated”…

Like I said earlier, some of the plot moments– especially featuring Lake’s characterization– seemed forced and unrealistic.  Talbot worked hard to make an overwhelming amount of evidence point to both guilty and innocent in a way that made everything overwhelming and fake.  That being said, this is Talbot’s debut novel, and therefore I think she deserves a little slack.  It was never bad to the point where I felt like I couldn’t enjoy the rest of the novel because of it.

Diversity and Triggers…

I don’t think there was any diversity whatsoever in this book, but I may be forgetting something.

As far as triggers go, there is talk of suicide (in the past) although it is not vivid and nor is it a character in the novel.  As a result of this event, one of the characters in the novel did undergo some therapy (I believe) and it took her a while to get over it.  All of these events happened 5+ years before the book begins, but are cursored over occasionally when the MC thinks of it.


I loved this book, and would highly recommend to those who enjoy warm mysteries.  I hadn’t read a book like this in a while, so it was refreshing and enjoyable.  Each chapter made me more and more excited to read it.  I was cheering for Pippa’s successes and felt connected to her life and all of the other characters.

As a debut novel, this was fabulous.  And, based on Goodreads, it’s the first in a series, so we can hope for more to come!! (this can stand alone and be completely wrapped up so no worries there).

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Disclaimer: I received this ebook from the author in exchange for an honest review

Have you read this book? What did you think? Do you prefer cozy mysteries or thrillers?


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Review: The Fourth Monkey (Awesome Twist With Sexism and Too Many Details)


By JD Barker

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂

Goodreads Rating: 4.53

Genre: Police Mystery/Serial Killer Thriller

Publication Date: June 27th 2017

Format Read: Phone Ebook via Netgalley at Agent Request

Challenges met: What’s in a Name?

Goodreads Summary: For over five years, the Four Monkey Killer has terrorized the residents of Chicago. When his body is found, the police quickly realize he was on his way to deliver one final message, one which proves he has taken another victim who may still be alive.   As the lead investigator on the 4MK task force, Detective Sam Porter knows even in death, the killer is far from finished. When he discovers a personal diary in the jacket pocket of the body, Porter finds himself caught up in the mind of a psychopath, unraveling a twisted history in hopes of finding one last girl, all while struggling with personal demons of his own.  With only a handful of clues, the elusive killer’s identity remains a mystery. Time is running out and the Four Monkey Killer taunts from beyond the grave in this masterfully written fast-paced thriller. 


This was the first police procedural type thriller I’ve ever read, and so I was really excited about that aspect going in.  However, I found that these are NOT my ideal reads, which was a bit disappointing.  I think what saved this book for me was that there was another time line within it, which was written from the perspective of the 4th monkey killer (4MK) himself, back when he was a child.  This part was far, far better, and I would always look forward to the flashbacks, told by way of a diary.  Overall, I enjoyed the book, and even some of the police parts were interesting, and so I would recommend, especially if you enjoy police thrillers.

The Characters…

The main character was police Detective Sam Porter.  He’s a middle aged married guy, 50s (I think), and he’s worked on the force for years, mostly on the 4MK cases.  However, at the time the book starts he was supposed to be on a “break” for reasons which we don’t find out until later in the book.  His assistant, Nash, is also a Detective, and the two are almost always together.  One of the biggest problems which I had with the characterization in this book is that these two seemed to be almost identical, until the very end.  I felt like JD Barker was imposing his sense of humor on both of the characters, which led to them being very much alike in many ways, even though Nash was supposed to be the more outgoing, funny one.

The side characters– Clair and Watson specifically– were quite well developed and offered awesome distinctive personalities to the book.  I think Clair might have had her own pov chapter at some point as well, which is something I like.  A strong, young woman is something that I can get behind.  There were lots of other characters which flitted into and out of these scenes, but none were well developed and I kept mixing them up and not remembering their names, at no loss to the meaning of the novel, so I think it’s a bit irrelevant.

Although Porter was the MC for most of the book, 4MK writes a diary which is “read” throughout and offers a different perspective to the novel.  These parts were my favorite, because 4MK had SUCH a distinctive, strong personality that was very very creepy and yet kind of cool at the same time.  Plus, his mother was FREAKING WEIRD but yet awesome at the same time, because she was so damn strong, and the father was cool too.  (I’m not a psycho I just think it was cool).

Another perspective, from a kidnapped girl, was (IMO) a good part to read, because she was a strong girl even though she was suffering, and she fought so hard, which is definitely a positive.  Not saying her name because that part is a semi spoiler.

The Plot…

There was alternating POV between 3 main people, and then one more who just had a single chapter.  I liked this because it created more suspense, and also provided some interest in the slower parts.  As I said earlier, I wasn’t a huge fan of Porter’s POV, but it was broken up well so that the boring parts never lasted for too long.

In general, I thought pacing was good, but it did move quickly.  There wasn’t much time for world building or character development and you were pretty much figuring out everything on the fly.  I think there was one scene where they went back and recapped what 4MK was for the readers, but other than that it was go-go-go.

What I Loved…

I loved the pacing of the novel, and the twist at the end.  You could 150% see how it happened looking back, but I never for an instant guessed the truth.  The way they piece everything together is really really cool as well.  It causes the reader to keep guessing along the entire time.

I could have read an entire book of just 4MK’s childhood perspective, and that really made the book for me.

The whole idea of the 4 monkeys, which comes from some type of ancient myth, is so creative!

What I Hated…

This book was GROSS.  Like I can’t explain how gross.  I’m not one to be turned off by intense descriptions, but this book had me cringing and skim reading because I was feeling sick by the descriptions.  If you’re not one for gore or vivid detail, I highly suggest skipping this read.  But, on the other hand, congrats to Barker for writing in such a realistic way 🙂

The Porter/Nash personality complex sort of threw me off a little bit in the beginning.


ALRIGHT PEOPLE.  LISTEN UP.  This was the biggest problem with the book for me.  Although Barker wrote 2 very strong, independent women who knew what they wanted and went for it, there were underlying notes of sexism in much of the book.  This not only pissed me off, but at some parts made me slightly uncomfortable, and caused me to dislike the male characters a bit.

Clair was one of the youngest women to ever work her way up at the police station, and she’s described as super good at her job, tough as nails, doesn’t take BS from anyone.  However, Nash (one of the biggest side characters) consistently flirted with her and spoke in a manner to her that was incredibly unprofessional, and made me squirm.  Nothing physical ever happened, but he spoke down to her often just because she was a woman.  This was considered funny by many of the characters, despite the fact that Clair was consistently warding off his advances.  MEN: JUST BECAUSE YOU WANT A WOMAN DOESN’T MEAN SHE WANTS YOU.  If a woman is constantly declining your flirtation or sexual passions, then you need to leave her the fuck alone.  This works the other way too.

In the diary flashbacks, 4MK (as a child) looks on with lust at his older (meaning 30s) female neighbor while she is naked, and while she is hooking up with his mother.  This could be blown off, but then later the neighbor states that she knew 4MK was there, but she enjoys having her body looked at because she wanted to be desired.  To me, this perpetuates rape culture, where men believe that women want to be stared at like pieces of meat, and that if they wear revealing clothing it’s because they want the man to “like it”.  It’s troubling that a woman in the novel could so easily say something that goes directly against what we are fighting to change in our society today.

I don’t know if Barker intended this, as he did create strong women in his writing, and the MC has obvious affection and respect for his wife, but I do fear that the one scene described above, combined with Nash’s actions, create an underlying theme of sexism that shouldn’t be ignored.

Other Triggers…

Homosexuality– yes I know this of itself is not a trigger.  But you should know that in the book, two women were sleeping together for a long time, and they are not looked on very highly for it.  Then again, they are both married, and it’s their husbands who find out, so that could have kind of a lot to do with it.

Abuse– There is a man in the book who beats his wife, and tries to rape someone else, but there are no particularly strong details, and it only happens in one chapter.

It’s very gruesome, as I said earlier, so if you are not okay with that, then don’t read this book.  I can’t think of anything specific to point out, so we’ll leave it at that.


This review has gotten really long, so I’ll keep this quick.  I loved the story and the twist at the end, and thought that the plot had good flow.  The police part was my least favorite, and the diary my favorite.  Most of the character development was good, except for the overlapping of the MC and his sidekick.  There was sexism though, and this caused it to lose a star in my review.

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Disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley at the request of an agent in exchange for an honest review.

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