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review 2018-10-15 17:40
Thoughts: Secret Admirer
Secret Admirer - Cynthia Eden

Secret Admirer

by Cynthia Eden


For some strange reason, I dropped another book from the 'Romantic Suspense' Halloween Bingo square and replaced it with Secret Admirer.  I don't know why, but I guess I was hoping that I'd find another Cynthia Eden novel I'd come to really like.  I suppose I would be more disappointed if I hadn't then decided to shuffle the initial book I'd considered reading onto a different Bingo square.

But that's a moot point.

I'm actually rambling because I needed a couple paragraphs to start off this post.  Secret Admirer has a summary blurb that is six paragraphs long, and sort of just takes you in circles, repeating itself a couple times.  So I needed a lead-in to basically tell everyone that here is my own half-assed summary of the book.


The Story
Alice May's fiancé, Hugh, died on their wedding day... the same day that she found out he was the infamous Secret Admirer, a serial killer who had murdered five other women, all who looked eerily similar to Alice in appearance.  A year later, Alice has left her home and is trying to start her life over, away from the stigma of having been engaged to a monster.

Along comes Zander Todd, a neighbor in a nearby cabin who has been helping her out whenever something in her home breaks.  What Alice doesn't know is that Zander is an FBI agent, assigned to get close to her and find out what she knows or might know about her deceased fiancé.  Because another murder has recently occurred, in the same fashion as the Secret Admirer killings from a year previous, and the FBI think that Alice might have had more to do with those killings than she'd admitted to.  That maybe she had participated and is picking up where her fiancé left off.

But as Zander and Alice begin to form a closer, more intimate bond, it seems that the real killer has set his sights on Alice now.  And so in order to keep her safe, Zander will have to admit his reasons for getting close to Alice in the first place, no matter that his intentions are no longer just part of his undercover act.


My Thoughts
There were two factors working against this book.

First of all, Cynthia Eden has already written this story once before in Die For Me - A Novel of the Valentine Killer.  Secret Admirer is essentially the same story with a different twist, but a lot of similar scenes.  Even one of the surprise twists in the end was pretty, unapologetically similar.  There were a few differences, such as the killer's media dubbed name, or how our hero and heroine meet.  But some other factors, such as the description of how the 'Secret Admirer' killed his victims, or staged their bodies seemed to echo the 'Valentine Killer.'  I couldn't get past how similar both books were.

Second of all, this book felt rushed.  Even if I had read this one before Die For Me, I probably would have found it mediocre at best because of how abrupt and over-dramatic it was written.  The romance was rushed and the ending resolution was rushed.  The conclusion was pretty predictable and I felt like our killer pretty much walked in with neon signs pointing at him--he was hard to miss.

Simply put, if more thought had been put into this book, like maybe giving us a better look at how our hero and heroine bonded for the past couple months before slinging the "I love you's" around, or even giving me a reason why our heroine, Alice, would so easily trust another man again after what she'd gone through with her fiance, I probably would have been a bit more accepting.  Simply citing that Zander is "just different" doesn't really cut it for me.  In essence, we were told that the two got to know each other over a course of two months, but we don't get to see any of that--only those first chapters where Zander flirts with Alice, promises that he's not out to hurt her, then she just automatically trusts him, and then they jump into bed together.

I wanted more from them than that, honestly.

On a side note, I will openly admit to being a fan of Jayne Ann Krentz and Jill Shalvis, two authors who's books are pretty much the same formulaic romances over and over again.  It sounds like I'm being contradictory, but in the case of JAK or Shalvis, I always come back to their books because they are charming and attractive in spite of their ever recycled material.

It's unfortunate that aside from being an echo of Die For Me, Secret Admirer was also not actually written all that well.  If it had been, I might have just mentioned the similarities briefly, and then moved onto talking about other parts of the book.  I have a pretty high tolerance for things like this.

Die For Me wasn't even really one of my favorite Cynthia Eden novels, truth be told, and I had found the heroine pretty depressing.  So this makes Secret Admirer doubly frustrating, because it just echoes a book I'd already read before, but didn't really care too much for, and doesn't improve on it.  Alice is no different from the heroine of Die For Me, so by default, that makes Die For Me the better novel because it was a bit more fleshed out than Secret Admirer, which is a disappointing, really.  I've been looking for another great Cynthia Eden book ever since her Deadly trio, which I had found very enjoyable and hard to put down--I still haven't found another Cynthia Eden work like that.

Fortunately, this book was extremely bite-sized and it didn't take long to breeze through it.

On a another side note, while writing this review, I had a moment wherein I couldn't remember the heroine's name.  Mere hours after finishing the book, and I could not conjure the heroine's name and had to go look it up.  This is how unforgettable this book is going to be to me...

 

 



 

Halloween Bingo 2018
(any romance which has a significant sub-plot that involves mystery, thriller, or suspense)


Other possible squares:  New Release; Genre: Suspense; Terrifying Women; Murder Most Foul

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2018/10/thoughts-secret-admirer.html
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review 2018-10-15 17:19
Thoughts: Front Page Fatality
Front Page Fatality - LynDee Walker

Front Page Fatality

by LynDee Walker
Book 1 of A Nichelle Clarke Crime Thriller

A fiery crash kills two young police officers. A horrific accident? Or something more sinister?

Crime reporter Nichelle Clarke is covering the deaths of two young police officers near Richmond, Virginia. On the surface, it looks like a tragic accident. But as she digs deeper into the investigation, Nichelle realizes that all is not as it seems.

Evidence goes missing.

A prosecutor vanishes.

Someone is trying to cover their tracks.

Nichelle is struggling to put the pieces together, until a seductive Mafia boss shows up with the headline tip of a lifetime. But each step closer to the truth becomes exponentially more dangerous. And her investigation soon transforms into a murderous game of cat and mouse.

 

 

On a side note:  I like the newer covers for this series.  It's been noted that LynDee Walker was able to get the rights to all of her books, thus giving her the opportunity to repackage her series.  Each book gets a brand new, grittier looking cover illustration, and the whole series gets a brand new title as well, having previously been known as A Headlines in High Heels Mystery, which I can see why it had been given this series title in the first place, but doesn't really show you that there's so much more to the story than Nichelle's love for fancy heels of all kinds.

 

Now, moving right along to the review:

 

 

Front Page Fatality is an extremely enjoyable and strong start to the Nichelle Clarke Crime Thrillers, and definitely has a lot of potential to continue on being great if the rest of the books follow along the same vein.

The story is fast-paced and the murder investigation keeps you on your toes.  To be honest, I really didn't know what to think and who I thought would end up the ultimate culprit of the murders, and of the drug evidence disappearing.  I wasn't surprised at the ending, but was kept guessing throughout.  As others have mentioned, this book feels much grittier than your typical cozy mystery, with constant action from the beginning, all the way till the end, and even a darker atmosphere than your typical, humorous cozies.  The characters are all interesting in their own way, and I hope to see more of them in the rest of the series.

I especially loved our heroine, Nichelle Clarke, who isn't the typical badass independent woman, nor is she a giggling, swooning damsel either.  Nichelle is resourceful, smart, and doesn't spend her time pining after the first man who gives her a mega-watt smile.  I also love that she's not out to be TSTL material, even though she DOES manage to get herself into trouble a couple times--at least she openly admits that getting herself killed was never the plan.

She also reacts appropriately when she finds a strange man in her home who shouldn't be there... sort of.  I would have liked a lot less talking and a lot more dialing of 9-1-1, but I'm guessing Nichelle had her reasons; though I don't really approve of her still finding Mr. "Call me Joey" attractive after he'd just broken into her home.  I DO appreciate her then spending the time searching her home and locking all of her doors and windows following that little incident, and keeping vigilant about it even a day or two later.

I also love Nichelle's relationship with Bob, her boss--a pseudo-father-daughter relationship, if you will.  I like how they kind of take care of each other.  I hope to see more of that in upcoming books.

The side characters could have been fleshed out a little more.  Grant Parker felt like he should have been more interesting than he actually comes off.  Nichelle's best friend, Jenna also feels like another tangent waiting to be told.  And then Nichelle's police detective source, Aaron ended up disappearing for a good portion of the book.  So, ultimately, as I'd mentioned already, I DO hope to see more of these people in future books, if only because there is SO much potential going on there.

The only one thing that DID bug me about this book were the constant commentary about Nichelle's co-worker, Shelby--it felt in bad taste, honestly.  What people do in their romantic and/or sex lives is no one else's business, and using that as an attack against Shelby so much was uncalled for and unnecessary.  No matter that Shelby was a big bitch to Nichelle all the time--you can dislike her for her general attitude and rude behavior, but there's no need to stoop to attacking her bedroom habits.

I had figured Nichelle to be above that, considering she'd been able to hold her tongue against Les, the temporary stand-in when her boss, Bob has a heart attack.  Les was a standard asshole who kept the insults coming and I had so, so wanted her to retort back at least once.  But she held her tongue every single time, even after he kept insinuating that she was playing hooky and not taking her job seriously enough.

Nichelle's behavior towards Shelby is a different matter, however, from the fact that Shelby's "sleeping with the boss to advance her career" side-fact had to be brought up at all.  Truthfully, I had been so ready to be happy about Nichelle and Shelby's relationship being one of friendly rivalry of some sort when Nichelle mentions how Shelby is good at what she does, and could even potentially work the police and crime beat if she got the chance.  But then we pull the slut-shaming card and I just felt a bit frustrated.

I appreciate that Nichelle and Charlie, a television news reporter, have the friendly rivalry going on, but Charlie barely makes an appearance in the book.  It would have been nice to see more of this between Nichelle and Shelby, rather than just making Shelby out to be the stereotypical "Mean Girl."

But anyway, this book was overall entirely enjoyable, and I was very satisfied with it.

 

 



 

Halloween Bingo 2018
(a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community)


Other possible squares:  Amateur Sleuth; Terrifying Women; Murder Most Foul

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2018/10/thoughts-front-page-fatality.html
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review 2018-10-13 02:49
Thoughts: The Big Over Easy
The Big Over Easy - Jasper Fforde

The Big Over Easy

by Jasper Fforde
Book 1 of Nursery Crimes

 

 

It's Easter in Reading—a bad time for eggs—and no one can remember the last sunny day.  Ovoid D-class nursery celebrity Humpty Stuyvesant Van Dumpty III, minor baronet, ex-convict, and former millionaire philanthropist, is found shattered to death beneath a wall in a shabby area of town.  All the evidence points to his ex-wife, who has conveniently shot herself.

But Detective Inspector Jack Spratt and his assistant Mary Mary remain unconvinced, a sentiment not shared with their superiors at the Reading Police Department, who are still smarting over their failure to convict the Three Pigs of murdering Mr. Wolff.  Before long Jack and Mary find themselves grappling with a sinister plot involving cross-border money laundering, bullion smuggling, problems with beanstalks, titans seeking asylum, and the cut and thrust world of international chiropody.

And on top of all that, the JellyMan is coming to town . . .



This book just sucks you right in.  And I'm entirely sorry that I'd set it aside in my attempts to get some other books finished, because I should have just kept reading.  I most definitely would have finished it a lot earlier.

Slow paced as it is, it's also a lot of fun to read, and the investigation kind of intriguing to follow, even though Jack is the worst at jumping to conclusions before gathering all his facts.  He's a great detective and all, you can see that, but I had to sigh at each time he came up with his conclusion about how Humpty Dumpty died, but then a new piece of evidence would embarrassingly make him eat his words--especially since each time he would be announcing his conclusions confidently to his boss.  Granted, it's great that he readily continues on with the investigative flow once he finds out that there's more to the story than he'd thought, though.

Did anyone else get a sense of dramatic cliff-hanger after the end of each chapter when a new reveal was announced?  The dialogue felt kind of dramatic, and I kept imagining the "Dun Dun DUNNN!" music in my head.

 

I know the cards actually say "Dum Dum Dummm!" but I still love this gif.


Just me?  Okay...  Moving along...

The book itself was really just addictive and delightful, even if there are references dropped left and right about things you don't quite understand; but for the narration, seems perfectly natural to hear in everyday conversation, like how Rambosian's only speak in binary.  Or how Prometheus can speak toddler gibberish, but not infant gibberish, or something like that.  It's extremely silly some of the things that are narrated, but at the same time, in a way makes perfect sense.

I wish that some of the characters DID stand out a little bit more, but I feel like the book was so focused on introducing the world of the Nursery Crimes that it kind of sacrifices some character development.  Specifically, Mary Mary's revelation somewhere at midpoint in the book felt like it should have been a bit more life-affirming... but we just kind of move on and so does she.

And the issue about Arnold is never really addressed, so I'm lead to believe that this might be a running gag throughout the series (what's left of it, anyway, since there's only one other book, and a third supposedly in the works).

On a side note, I was very amused by the references to Jack being a giant killer, then the scene where he has his mother's painting of a cow exchanged for magical beans just hit the spot.  Especially when we give the scene more of an art fraud spin.

Meanwhile, I found myself enjoying the dynamics between the Nursery Crime Division, and liking the camaraderie between Jack and his crew.  I'm also quite happy with the fact that Jack's personal life is depicted in such a healthy way, with a loving wife, great kids, and a basically stable relationship with all of them.  I'm sure tense family relations are the "thing" now-a-days in a lot of books, but I like that Jack's wasn't angst-ridden.

The incorporation of all things nursery rhymes, fairy tales, mythologies, etc, was done quite cleverly, and worked really well to add to the Nursery Crime world as well as this book's plot, in general.  And I also kind of liked the short newspaper articles at the beginning of each chapter... except when we got closer to the end and I just wanted to know how everything turns out... which, that twist at the very end of the book was interestingly... unexpected.

I would have liked to see more of a comeuppance for Friedland Chymes... but I suppose not everything has to be rounded out.

I will definitely be going onto the next book in this series, and just as well, will check out more of Jasper Fforde's work, having seen and heard a lot of great things about his Thursday Next series.

 

 



 

Halloween Bingo 2018
(mystery with noir elements including authors like James Ellroy, Ian Rankin, anything that falls generally under the category of Nordic Noir, Tartan Noir, Granite Noir, etc.)

 

Other Possible Squares:  A Grimm Tale; Murder Most Foul

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2018/10/thoughts-big-over-easy.html
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review 2018-10-13 02:28
Thoughts: Sick of Shadows
Sick of Shadows - Sharyn McCrumb

Sick of Shadows

by Sharyn McCrumb
Book 1 of Elizabeth MacPherson

 

 

When delicate Eileen Chandler is set to marry, her family fears the man is a fortune hunter.  Thank goodness, Eileen's cousin Elizabeth MacPherson comes early for support.  Unfortunately, Elizabeth also has some detecting to do, as a dead body is found, and none of the wedding party is above suspicion....



First of all, the only summary blurb I can find for this book is extremely misleading, in spite of the fact that it's mostly true.  Because as you find out from the beginning of the book, Elizabeth does not actually "come early for support," and actually spends the first two pages of the book making fun of her cousin and her cousin's family in a letter to her brother.

This was a little off-putting since we learn that Eileen Chandler had been admitted into a mental care hospital not long ago in her life.  The fact that Elizabeth spends even an ounce of time poking fun of that was quite tasteless and unnecessary.  I'm not sure if this has to do with the time this book was written in 1984, but I didn't care for it.  It was a bad first impression of the main heroine in this series.

Secondly, Elizabeth doesn't so much do the detecting, as let clues fall into her lap at intervals.  In fact, there is a set of policeman in this book who probably have more book time than Elizabeth, and who actually do the detecting.  This is a bit of a change from what I'm used to in cozy mysteries--at least the cozy mysteries I've read--wherein the police force is either missing, incompetent, or the asshat of a main male love interest.  Instead, the two police detectives are definitely there to investigate and they kind of edge Elizabeth out of the book's limelight.

Then there's a twist in the end, pertaining to the murder investigation, that bugged me a lot because it didn't make sense, really.

Sick of Shadows wasn't a terrible book--it wasn't even a bad book, to be honest, and was actually written quite well.  But the writing was really all that it had going for it.  Well, all except for the part where the dialogue read like British instead of Southern U.S.A.  I'm not sure if the perception was my fault since I'd been listening to an Agatha Christie mystery in audio book, narrated by Hugh Fraser, but aside from Aunt Amanda, I could not formulate a southern drawl for anyone else in the book.  When I tried to "hear" the dialogue of any other character that way, it just slowly morphed into something more British.

I don't think I'd ever had that problem before with books that took place in the U.S. south.

But moving along...

Truth be told, the rest of the story was pretty flat.  The characters were a little hard to grasp, and our main heroine--of whom the series is named for--doesn't really play much of a role in this book, as I've mentioned already.  Instead, Elizabeth spends time doing the stereotypical feminine chores around the house to be helpful, interrogates people around her about future career prospects, and kind of just fades into the background.  All of her cousins are described as eccentric, despite the fact that she describes them as crazy, and yet they come off as entirely too over-the-top, in my opinion.  And you never really get to know them, any of them, well enough to care about their emotions or even their existence.

This is a pretty mediocre start to a cozy mystery series that, according to other reviewers, will pick up in the next book.  So I'm not writing it off immediately, but I'm not going to hit up a store just to get a hold of the next book.  I will wait patiently until my library picks up an e-book copy, or barring that possibility, I might give inter-library loan another go... another time from now.

I DO wish that Elizabeth had had more of a direction and some development to her character.  As it is, she's really just another side character in a book full of side characters.

As I already mentioned, I'll give this series another spin some other time and hope that things are a little better outlined.

 

 



 

Halloween Bingo 2018
(mystery, supernatural, suspense, or horror set in the Southern part of the United States)

 

Other Possible Squares:  Genre: Suspense; Country House Mystery; Terror in a Small Town; Cozy Mystery; Amateur Sleuth; Terrifying Women; Murder Most Foul

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2018/10/thoughts-sick-of-shadows.html
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review 2018-10-02 15:36
Thoughts: The Splendour Falls
The Splendour Falls - Susanna Kearsley,Barbara Rosenblat

The Splendour Falls

by Susanna Kearsley
narrated by Barbara Rosenblat

 

An ancient castle, a tragic love, and a web of secrets begins to unravel....

Emily Braden has stopped believing in fairy tales and happy endings.  When her fascinating but unreliable cousin Harry invites her on a holiday to explore the legendary town of Chinon, and promptly disappears - well, that's Harry for you.

As Emily makes the acquaintance of Chinon and its people, she begins to uncover dark secrets beneath the charm.  Legend has it that during a 13th-century siege of the castle that looms over the city, Queen Isabelle, child bride of King John, hid a "treasure of great price".  And in the last days of the German occupation during World War II, there was another Isabelle living in Chinon, a girl whose love for an enemy soldier went tragically awry.

As the dangers of the past become disastrously real, Emily is drawn ever more deeply into a labyrinth of mystery as twisted as the streets and tunnels of the ancient town itself.



Upon finishing this book, as I had stated in my Pre-Review Thoughts, I've been enjoying Susanna Kearsley as far as the first couple books I've read of hers.  I know two books isn't a lot to go on, but it's enough that I enjoyed both to make my radar perk up at anything else written by Kearsley.  In fact, having been told that the first Susanna Kearsley book I read, The Shadowy Horses, was actually not one of her better books gave me something to look forward to as I did enjoy that one quite well.  In this, I'm hoping that the next book I pick up by Susanna Kearsley will prove much more interesting and less boring than The Splendour Falls.

Because the truth is, boring is exactly what The Splendour Falls turned out to be.

As Kearsley is wont to do, the writing was beautiful and the characters were all interesting in their own way.  She has a way with imagery and atmosphere, which is what had drawn me to continue reading her work in the first place.  There was even a veil of mystery to... well, to something at the beginning of the book, which continued to tingle in the background as the book progressed.

But that veil of mystery seemed to get forgotten at each new turn, or each new day that our heroine, Emily Braden, spends simply wandering Chinon... pretty much aimlessly.  As I'd mentioned before, this book's conflict doesn't even really surface until about eight hours into the audio book.  Eight hours out of a twelve hour audio book is when there's suddenly a change of tone in the book's narrative.  The previous eight hours kept hinting that something might be going on, but this was very much overshadowed by Emily's banal musings as she spends time vacationing in Chinon with her new band of friends.

For eight hours--that I listened to at random intervals--of audio book, I had no idea where this book was supposed to be going.  When I started suspecting that we'd jump back and forth in time, like she did in Every Secret Thing, between Emily's time and the historical King John and Isabelle, that tangent suddenly disappeared.  When I thought there might be a more sinister mystery of sorts involving Martine and Christian and Neil... well, that got cut off as well.  Then I thought maybe there'd be some sort of supernatural happening in the Hotel de France... but that was wishful thinking on my part.

I'm not even entirely sure the book itself knew where it was going.

Then something tragic happens after eight hours of audio book, and everything just starts falling together to create a plot.  And truth be told, I DID find myself getting extremely sad about the event that finally got the book picking up, and might have gotten a bit teary-eyed... So, kudos for that, Ms. Kearsley.  Well played.

Except that I'm not sure the build-up--or lack thereof--really got you prepared for that particular incident.  It was quite sudden, and I'm not sure whether or not for the better.

Meanwhile, before that pivotal point in the book, I pretty much just found myself both bored and frustrated.

Moreso, I found myself a bit frustrated with Emily, and not only because she's such a boring narrator.  I started getting a "reverse harem" and "speshul snowflake" vibe from her and her new band of friends after a while.  Apparently all the men she started meeting in Chinon ended up adoring her, and there's even a direct dialogue near the end that pretty much professes that if it weren't for Emily, a lot of the more wonderful things that happened wouldn't have happened.  I might have rolled my eyes out of my head at that.

It doesn't help that the only other two females in the book who feature prominently are both maligned, either as part of their character (Garland) or because Emily is jealous (Martine).  Martine is narrated as if she's a selfish, shallow, hateful person, but upon interaction with her, you quickly realize that it's really only Emily's pre-judgements coming into play.  Martine seems quite nice and bubbly--but you stop seeing her in the book as much after Emily's revelation.  Garland definitely comes off hateful, but at best she's really just crass, ignorant, and entitled.

I don't like that there are no good female friendships in this book.  And I've come to find Reverse Harems a little tacky.

I'm not sure what role Paul and Simon were supposed to play in this story.  I found Armand creepy, and Neil's existence almost, well... non-existent.  I thought Christian would have more of a role, but he's merely always in the background.  I was a bit surprised by Jim's twist in this story.  And Harry... I'm not even sure if he's really all that significant outside of giving Emily a reason to think that something sinister is going on when he never shows up at their appointed meeting time and place for vacation.

And there you have it that there might be way too many characters to follow in this book--even if they're all quite interesting in their own way.

On a side note, I have had a good experience with Barbara Rosenblat's narrations before, so had been looking forward to this particular audio book.  Somehow, her narration doesn't really do anything for me this time around, and I'm not entirely sure I can pinpoint why.  She does a great job differentiating all the characters, and wonderfully portrays accents.

I think it was the voice she gives Emily... I'm not sure.

 

 

Halloween Bingo 2018
(a genre or mode of literature and film that combines fiction and horror, death, and at times romance)

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2018/10/thoughts-splendour-falls.html
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