"Girls of Brackenhill" by Kate Moretti


When Hannah goes back to Brackenhill because her aunt passes away, a long tale unwinds about her childhood, why she spent summers with her aunt and uncle, and the things that occurred while she lived in the castle. Parts of this book were consuming. I kept reading and gathering little facts thinking that eventually, it would all fall into place, and everything would make sense. That didn't happen, though. The beginning scene sent shivers up my spine, but by the time I'd reached the end, I'd forgotten the significance of that prologue. I didn't piece together who the unnamed parties of the murder were, and I didn't even care to go back and reread it to figure it out. There were things focused on I was sure would mean something later in the story that never amounted to much. Why did Hannah repeatedly stress the creepiness and malevolence of Reggie? To make him a suspect in later events? But he was never a suspect or fleshed out as a suspect. Just a jerk, a teenager who got another teenager pregnant? Why make a big deal about the girl being pregnant when she dies? Why didn't Fae question Hannah's statement that Julia was with a girl that had disappeared over a year ago if Fae had first-hand knowledge about what happened to her? Why did Hannah and Julia, sisters, not know they were both chasing the same boy all summer? As an engaged adult, why did Hannah fall into bed with Wyatt? As a teenager, he'd slept with Hannah and then kissed her sister, denied they had any relationship, and humiliated her in front of the town, making her look unhinged? If she were unhinged, it would have been terrific. But she had carried on an intimate relationship with this guy for more than one summer, and nobody knew about it. He refused to acknowledge the truth. Not a case of the old castle driving her insane, such as the whole plot suggested. Crazy Aunt Fae, a witch? Did the property drive her insane? No, grief over the loss of a daughter perhaps made her do something evil. I'm not sure if she did or she didn't. That act was suggested, hinted at, but not substantiated. And the biggest let down of all: What happened to Julia? If you had committed an act as heinous as Hannah thinks she uncovers a memory of doing in the last pages of the book and just put it out of your mind for seventeen years- yes, you'd have to be insane. But there was no closure in that either. Nobody believed what she confessed. No resolutions, no truth, no proof. 

"The Unspoken" by Ian K Smith


I thought I'd like this book based on the description, and as I started reading it. However, I quickly grew annoyed with the main character's, Ashe's constant assignment of the 'wise-ass' characteristic- self-proclaimed, and by everyone that interacted with him. Yes, he's so witty. Let's move on. The mystery of Tinsley's disappearance could have proved thrilling, but there were too many details of people, clothing, food, and settings. I prefer more action and less description. I enjoyed the banter between his and his love interest, though I found it difficult to believe she'd keep going out on a limb for him to help in his investigation whenever he asked - she was practically at his beck and call. The two subplots about a bully he encountered in his youth and the abusive priest's disturbing abduction didn't make sense. I didn't think they were necessary to the story, and there was no connection made by the author as to relevance to the plot. I kept thinking a thread would appear to weave it together, but no, it didn't.

"Exclusive Pedigree: My life in and out of the Brethren" by John L. Fear, Robert Fear


A Legacy Memoir A Family Can Cherish Forever

I slowly read this book in small chunks at a time. Parts of it fascinated me while I found others less interesting. I especially liked reading about John's childhood, meeting his wife, and the role he played in broadcasting Billy Graham. I appreciate the time and effort put into this novel to encompass the details of John's life, and I think it will be an item more cherished by his family as a remembrance than any stranger could appreciate it. 

"If She Knew (A Kate Wise Mystery—Book 1)" by Blake Pierce


Kate Wise retired at 55. She's bored but has an opportunity to reenter the FBI.  I didn't mind hearing about her personal life, and it gave me a feeling of what kind of person she was. I didn't like her repetitive thoughts on retirement. The investigation moved very slowly. I didn't find the process completely believable, but it held my interest for a while... until the end. Typical, they catch a guy who seems to fit the bill, but is he the criminal? Do they have the right guy? Something doesn't feel right to Kate, and naturally, her instincts bring her to a different conclusion. Usually, a winning formula. But it failed in this attempt. The real killer had no motive. Sometimes I guess people are simply crazy. Sometimes murder doesn't make sense. But this came so far out of left field. Without background on the killer, his mindset, actions, or reasoning, I couldn't accept it. 

Hide Away (A Rachel Marin Thriller Book 1) by Jason Pinter


Rachel Marin rang too smart, strong, and annoying to be likable as the protagonist. I couldn't bring myself to believe she'd put herself in the many dangerous situations she had when swearing her children were her priority. The revelation of her violent criminal activity before her family's move to a new town with new identities dampened my sympathy for her. Insane knowledge of crimes without prior experience working in law enforcement in any capacity stretched me to the breaking point. The police not halting her interference until I nearly pulled my hair out didn't sit well. Also, the discrepancies of details proved troubling. Not the worst book I've ever read, but it felt more like the birthing of a vigilante superhero series than a thriller/detective series.

"Time's Pendulum Swings Again" by Joy M. Lilley


This story COULD have been a docu-drama following two people of different races and backgrounds that fell in love, the difficulties they faced - some of them self-imposed - and how they overcame these hurdles to be together at last: an okay read. However, overwhelming grammatical and punctuation errors, dreadful formatting, and use of the first and third-person narrative and the past and present tense simultaneously seriously hampered my reading enjoyment. With editing and proofreading, I may have rated it three stars. 

"A Sparrow Falls" by Vicki Olsen


 A story that took place in the 1950s on a farm that broke my heart. Sarah's introduction to the evils of the world fell at the hands of her older brother, and then her father. I wasn't sure how much more I could read about this poor girl's misery, and I couldn't believe the family had shunned the brother, but the father then committed even more horrible acts. The reader was led to suspect that Sarah's mother knew what her father had done and simply accepted it. It completely outraged me on her behalf, but at points, I felt annoyed with Sarah even after all she'd suffered - she wasn't an entirely sympathetic character. The author weaved more abuse tempered by small flashes of reprieves where Sarah found bits of happiness, until the conclusion where Sarah's life moved in a new direction. 
 A large portion of this story had to do with faith, and during the telling, Sarah couldn't handle things that happened, certain losses, and she turned away from God because of her anger. As she navigated her pain over the years, her gradual change of perspective inspired me.
 There were plenty of characters to dislike in this story; the brother, the father, the boys from town, the nasty girls. There were some to pity, Sarah's mother- although I couldn't decide if I wanted to pity her or hate her, Sarah's brother, Kenny, and poor Charlie Weeks. My favorite character was wise Cotton, the farmhand. Most were well-painted depictions, so I felt I knew the people, and the descriptions put me in the middle of the story. It felt like it could have been based on a true story. I would probably read the next book to determine if she takes control of her power and improves her life.

"See You Soon" by NC Marshall


There were things I liked about "See You Soon." The Prologue set up the reader to believe things would turn out a certain way for the main character, but when the scene played out in the context of the story, it threw a spin on it, and I didn't know what was happening. I enjoyed the disappearance of a long-lost friend who cried out for help and how that setup played out. I liked how the villain's identity remained withheld until the end. However, I was not fond of the antagonist's thoughts scattered through the book, seemingly like journal entries, and one stint from their viewpoint came up while Emma read her missing friend's diary. That confused. Ali's diary was on a hidden thumb drive taped to the back of a furniture drawer as though it held something essential; I felt that was strange. It revealed a small piece of Ali's life, but nothing that advanced the plot. Multiple viewpoints expressed near the end of the story felt like a lazy way to dump all the information required to solve the mystery. If we had seen these people doing the things we were "told" they did, gradually throughout the story, it would have built the suspense and added enjoyment and understanding to the tale. The author had me convinced one person was guilty through most of the book (although the circumstances that caused the main character to believe it was him weren't strong enough in my opinion) and surprised me that it wasn't the case, but the big reveal of the mastermind fell flat because I hadn't remembered who the actual character was. They weren't fleshed out enough to seem significant. The reasons behind their actions also didn't ring true because the reader wasn't allowed to know them or get inside their mind. Although I liked many aspects of it and think it had the potential to be a great story, I'm not sure I'd go as far as recommending it.

"In Her Shadow" by Mark Edwards


Mark Edwards has become one of my new favorites. I find myself looking for another of his books to add to my TBR as soon as I finish one. "In Her Shadow" didn't disappoint. Jessica's sister's death - long-ago ruled an accident- suddenly crept back into the forefront of her mind because her young daughter claimed her dead auntie spoke to her. Was it the girl's imagination? Had Isabel actually returned to tell them something about her death- it wasn't an accident? Strange happenings around the house convinced Jessica's mother, Mo they were susceptible to the paranormal, and Isabel's death must have been murder. After all, they'd been haunted before when Jessica and Isabel were children. Mo stubbornly thought Isabel's husband, Darpak must have killed her because Darpak and Isabel kept secrets in their marriage. It turned out that a lot of people kept secrets, some bigger than Olivia's secret relationship with Isabel's ghost.
This story boasted extremely well-written characters, especially Olivia, Jessica's four-year-old daughter with a knack for predicting the future and handling the return of her aunt that she'd never met.
A line of suspects paraded within Jessica's suspicions, but the author never committed to Isabel's death being a murder. I had to ride the tidal wave until he revealed all the secrets in the perfect timing to figure out what had happened to Isabel, and if she'd truly come back to her loved ones. I strongly recommend this book!

"The Bone Jar" by S W Kane


THE BONE JAR jumps right into a disturbing death- an elderly woman found dead in an abandoned asylum. As far as they can gather, the lady is near a saint. She volunteers in a care home after a long nursing career. A real who-done-it, why would anybody want to hurt this woman? Why did she go to the old asylum? Or did someone kill her and dump her body there? Near the body, a cell phone leads to another dead person. Did he have anything to do with her death? Or was he a witness? The web is intricate in this story, and the characters are complex. A fascinating setting, the asylum holds so many secrets. The players aren't always who you think they are. There are many twists in store, and the ending proved to be a nail-biter. The person least likely to be a hero pulls it together. I enjoyed this book!