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Book Review: Tear Me Apart by J.T. Ellison

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Tear Me ApartTear Me Apart by J.T. Ellison

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve read a few J.T. Ellison books over the last two years. When Tear Me Apart came out, I quickly added it to my TBR and looked forward to getting it scheduled in the queue. After reading lots of light cozy mysteries, I needed a stronger thriller or suspense last week and moved Tear Me Apart up on my list. I enjoyed the book a lot and walked away with tons of mixed emotions, ultimately settling on a solid 4 stars.

Mindy Wright is a 17-year-old competitive skier who is likely about to join the US Olympic Team. An accident on the slopes derails those hopes but also reveals she has leukemia. The rest of the book is an explosion of lies and secrets all culminating in discovering (1) Mindy’s real parents, (2) how she became adopted, (3) what happened to several young girls in a psychological institute, and (4) what is the relationship between parents and children versus sisters. Since I don’t want to give away too much about the plot, what you need to know is that this book will delve into how far a person will go to protect someone they love or something they desperately want.

The book starts in complete discord and chaos — in a good way. Different characters lead the first few chapters. We have perspective and POV from a few primary people in the book. We don’t know how everyone relates to each other until at least fifty percent into the book. It’s a suspenseful tale that draws you in… not immediately, but with each unraveling layer of the onion. It’s a bit sweet, sometimes make you cry, but always leaves you with something more to keep discovering. Who’s telling the truth? Who’s leaving out some info and embellishing other history? It’s confusing and all leads to a rather huge explosion.

Let’s start with the good. Character, plot and writing are all solid. They are well-depicted and keep you interested. Ellison chooses to only show Mindy’s point of view in a handful of not-very-important scenes. The focus is on her biological parents and her adopted parents, as well as other interested parties and one kind aunt. How everyone fits together is intriguing, especially once you discover who’s behind the letters Mindy finds in a locked closet in her house.

Let’s dance around the odd. One character goes from completely in control to completely out of control. I can support her slow unraveling… history coming back from the dead… the powers of psychosis taking over… but it was way too far. If you’re crazy, you’ll do some crazy stuff. But I still don’t understand why 17 years later you go off the rails in a spectacularly insane finish. If the secret comes out, it does. You could have kept a bunch hidden and just said: “here’s who your parents were” and “this is how you came to live with us.” Also, we don’t have nearly enough clarity on what was wrong with the bio mother to do the things she did. I understand depression can make you do things you wouldn’t normally do, or feel things you shouldn’t feel, but… the progression wasn’t enough for me to completely believe it. For those reasons, I couldn’t give this 5 stars.

I thought about dropping it to a 3 or a 3.5, but ultimately, I couldn’t put the book down. I found myself in constant attachment and wanting to know how did it happen. Sometimes I poked holes in the explanations only to find those same holes being explored chapters later. It’s OBVIOUS the author went into extreme planning mode and truly wrote a complex thriller. It just didn’t complete the webbing for me. I respect her talent and think because of my obsession to know what happened, I feel comfortable with 4 stars.

Who else read it? What did you think? I will definitely read more from this author. She’s a wonderful storyteller.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

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Book Review: Sun, Sand & Secrets by Carolyn Dean

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In the 6th book, Sun, Sand, & Secrets, of the Ravenwood Cozy Mystery series published in 2017 by Carolyn L. Dean, Amanda ponders the question of what it will mean to marry her sweetheart, James, a local police detective. In the course of her analysis, Madeline Wu, a local shopkeeper we’ve met before, goes missing, then someone turns up dead. Along the path, a neighboring town’s mayor gets involved, and some new romances might be brewing around the lovely little Oregon town.

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I enjoy reading about the comings and goings of Amanda’s renovated bed and breakfast / inn. This book felt more like a mini-edition, prepping us for Amanda’s upcoming nuptials, rather than a full-on mystery. While it was fun, cute, and cozy, the mystery was very light – much more than usual. I enjoy light mysteries, but the crime didn’t happen until about 50% into the book, and there wasn’t a lot of investigating in the second half. It was a good read, but not a standout in the series. Still worth taking on, as it’s under 2 hours… and I really do love the interactions Meg, Truman, Gram, and all the other wonderful characters.

I like inserting these types of books into bigger thrillers so I get a break from major analytical thinking, but I still have some puzzles to solve and the comfort of a fun, warm and interesting setting. It’s not a complete week unless I’ve sneaked in a cozy of some sort. Two more reviews to write, then I officially shut down and begin vacation mode!

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison

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Another great read by J.T. Ellison with ‘Lie To Me’ — my book review is below…

lie-to-me

Why This Book 
I selected Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison, when it was available on NetGalley about 3 months ago, after enjoying a prior book by this author. I’m glad I did as it was very engaging and twisty. I chose it this weekend because I am trying to get to a ‘0’ count on NetGalley TBR books and other ARCs so that I can start 2018 with a clean and fresh slate to choose new reads.

Approach & Style 
I read this ~400 page book on my iPad through Kindle Reader over ~5 hours in one day. It is written in third-person POV from a few different character perspectives, including the killer, the husband and the wife. It switches back and forth a few times, but is usually clear and clean when it does.

Plot, Characters & Setting 
Ethan and Sutton, both authors jealous of each other’s work, have been married for a few years despite fighting a lot. They lost a baby a few years ago and there might have been an affair or two, it’s unclear at first. Sutton leaves a note that she needs space and no one should look for her outside their Tennessee hometown; Ethan thinks there is foul play and begins to check with her friends and family. Eventually, he loops in the cops and a full investigation opens. It’s difficult to provide anymore details without giving away the plot, but there are tons of twists involving bloggers, reviewers, friends, family and murders in another country. Nothing is as it seems and you never quite know who to trust.

Strengths 
The cast of characters is varied and diverse. You get a sense of love and hatred from almost all of them. The sub-plots are nicely woven into the overall story. The drama and suspense are at a good level — not too over-the-top, not too weak. The writing style is strong and inviting.

Concerns 
The two main characters aren’t very likable. They both seem to treat each other poorly, which makes readers uncertain about rooting for them. Ultimately, the he said / she said dilemma leaves you thinking at the end that there are a few too many open-ended situations. While some intensity and far-out plot points are necessary to keep the thrills high, there are a few pieces that either fell too short or went a bit too far for me. Not enough to have a problem with the work, but enough to hold it back from being a true stellar read. Overall, it’s a typical twisty thrill ride, but because of solid writing and good characters, I’d recommend it to others as a good read.

Author & Other Similar Books 
It’s very similar to Gone Girl. VERY similar.

Questions & Final Thoughts 
I like these types of books. I turn the pages quickly. I get invested. I like the balance between reality and chaos. The author is a good writer. It’s a definite recommend from me for a quick weekend read, but it’s not the “oh my god you have to read this book” type of situation.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: The Agatha Christie Book Club by C.A. Larmer

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3+ out of 5 stars to The Agatha Christie Book Club, the first in a mystery series published in 2017 and written by C.A. Larmer. In this series debut novel, you’ll find some of the charm in the traditional English cozy mystery novel mixed with modern day tools and techniques; a fine balance of the two with the potential to grow into a stronger series.

chrisite

Why This Book 
That’s an easy question: I love cozy mysteries. I adore Agatha Christie. I won it on a Goodreads Giveaway. As I packed for vacation last month, this book arrived in the mail the day before the flight. I took it as a sign to read it on the trip, but devoured it before the plane even landed.

Plot, Characters & Setting 
Alicia, bored with her book club, assembles an interesting cast of characters to fit the theme of a new book club in her small Australian hometown. She follows familiar Christie methods to locate the members and holds a traditional English tea party to kick it off. By the second meeting, one of the members fails to show. Alicia decides to investigate more about the missing member, quickly learning nothing is at it appears to be. Add in her attractive and single chef sister and six other quirky book club members, you’ve got various caricatures of Christie characters, all who seem to have a few hidden secrets. The missing woman’s family doesn’t seem concerned at her disappearance, but there are many conflicting stories about whether the woman truly was a kind housewife or a mean-spirited diva. One by one, Alicia eliminates her suspects until she determines who was behind it all from the very beginning, of course, in traditional Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple manner…

Approach & Style 
I read the paperback version, a 270 page edition, in 3 hours at an airport and on a plane trip from NYC to North Carolina. There are about 30 chapters with each one relatively short at around 8 to 9 pages. It is written in third person point of view in modern times, focused almost entirely on the perspective of the main character, Alicia Finlay. There are a few small sections from the culprit’s perspective, but only to help stir up some drama and remind us of a Christie story.

Strengths 
The cast of characters is diverse, clear and consistent. I kept changing which one I thought was behind the disappearance, ultimately settling on the proper solution. The author has built in lots of Christie authenticity and connections, which helps you become immersed in the story. I like the setting, and it seems like a good starting point for a book series. Writing was simple and easy to follow — no issues with voice, dialogue, description or narratives.

Concerns 
The plot was a tad too simple for my tastes, but I know it was meant to incorporate a lot of Christie’s characters and books as themes and reminders. It could have used a bit more substance and/or individuality to help it stand apart from other cozy mystery books and Christie-formula novels. I also felt it lacked enough typical setting descriptions to help readers feel as if we were there in Australia.

Author & Final Thoughts 
This is the first book I’ve read from this author, but she has at least one another series about Ghostwriting mysteries. I will take a look at the descriptions to see if it is of interest. I’d read more from her as it was a good book to curl up with by a fire or on a plane for a few hours. Not a thriller or suspense mystery. More a cozy read covering interesting facts and plots about characters, authors and books that readers love to digest in quick sessions.

About Me 
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

Review: Watch Me Disappear

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Watch Me Disappear4 out of 5 stars to Watch Me Disappear, a new mystery and suspense thriller, set to be published on July 11, 2017 and written by Janelle Brown. Many thanks to the author, NetGalley, Random House and Spiegel & Grau for this Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) in exchange for a fair an honest review.


Why This Book
I saw this book floating around on Goodreads, which prompted me to read the description. I checked NetGalley to see if it was available and was awarded the request back in April. I had a few other reads to complete before it, but settled in last week to be able to release the review a few weeks before the book’s publication, as part of an effort to promote the novel.

Approach & Style
The book is told mostly in the present tense, which is not something I have experienced very often; however, it worked very well given the suspense and thriller aspects.

I read it via Kindle Reader on my iPad. It is about 5000 lines or 350 pages.

It is mostly told in a third-person point of view and switches focus on a few different characters. There are also 5 chapters which are news articles that one character writes as part of the book he is publishing. These serve to connect different story points and keep the momentum of what’s happening behind the scenes.

Plot, Characters & Setting
Billie and Jonathan have been married for nearly 20 years and they have a 16-year-old daughter named Olive. They live in the East Bay on the outskirts of San Francisco, California. As the story starts, it’s been almost one-year since Billie went missing after she was on a hike, leaving behind her husband and daughter to wonder if she was kidnapped or died somewhere in the forest, as a body was never found.

Billie grew up in a very religious family as an only child. She ran away from home a few times, and after father, a minister, was caught with a teenage girl, Billie left for good. She told her friends that he was an awful father and abused her from time to time. She became a free spirit and helped protect the environment and animals from disasters and corruption. One day, she meets Jonathan and after 6 weeks, they get married and later have a baby. She loves him, but seems to struggle settling down, often needing her free time away from the family life. Jonathan had a sister, but she drowned when they were children, and he’s always felt guilt for not being able to save her. Years later, when he meets Billie, he’s drawn to her and they quickly settle into a life where it’s just the 3 of them. Olive is your typical angsty teenage girl going thru her own coming of age story.

Harmony, Billie’s former best friend shows up at some point, trying to re-build her friendship with Billie. She also later tries to help Olive and Jonathan move on after Billie’s death, offering both friendship and an attraction to Jonathan. Olive’s best friend, Natalie, also tries to help Olive get over her mother’s loss. But one day, Olive has a weird vision where she thinks her mother is trying to be found. Jonathan doesn’t want to deal with it, as he believes Billie is dead, and needs the money from her life insurance to be able to afford to pay for their mortgage and raise Olive. But suddenly, as he begins throwing Billie’s things away one year later, he finds notes and files that indicate she may not have been as honest with him as he thought. Jonathan begins to believe Olive and they search for Billie, learning various bits of information which cast Billie into a darker shadow.

Jonathan keeps coming to the same conclusion… over and over again about his wife:

The book is a quest for Olive and Jonathan to move on from Billie’s death, but also to determine whether she is indeed alive or if something darker has happened to her when she supposedly went for the hike. It’s a psychological thriller, leaving readers to question which information is accurate and which is just a red herring. In the end, Jonathan and Olive find a great deal of answers, learn what Billie had been up to in the last year of her life and figure out how to move on from the entire situation. You also find out exactly what happened to Billie when she went on her hike “to get some space for a few days.”

Strengths
The story is captivating and draws you in around the 15% mark. You really want to know what happened to Billie. Jonathan and Olive are likable characters whom you want to find answers in order to be able to move on with their lives. Both are written as believable father and daughter. There are tons of personal details about their lives, including when Billie was home with them. You see this from both a parent’s and a lover’s perspective. The story engages you and pushes you to decide what kind of a person you want Billie to turn out to be.

It’s a real-life situation for the most part. How do you move on when someone you love is missing and you don’t know if they are dead or alive? All the right questions and emotions come up. It’s fantastic that the story starts nearly one year after she’s missing, so we don’t have to live through the initial phases of misery and loss. We see and feel the pain, but it’s the kind you’ve already nursed, and then it’s ripped open when evidence shows that she may still be alive.

I did like the character of Billie, but it was because of solid writing. And I’m not saying she’s done anything wrong related to the disappearance (no spoilers!). I didn’t like her because she seemed selfish to need so much time alone, to seem callous about showing her feelings to Jonathan at times, for treating everything as “that’s life, we’ll figure it out.” I wanted to see the motherly side of her where she cries and yells and wants to help her child. Instead, she seemed too much of a free-spirit who just went with the flow. Sometimes it’s good, but Billie took it too far in my opinion. But that means the writer did an awesome job pushing me to feel this way.

This book is a definite commentary on marriage or relationships: how well do you really know the other person? Is it OK to keep secrets? Is your life together a surface existence or so deep that you have trust in all areas? When do you decide it’s OK to just do what you want and be selfish, but tell yourself it’s for the benefit of the other person? Huh???? That doesn’t fit my definition of a relationship, but it certainly gave me something to think about. I’ll think I’ll tell my significant other tonight that I need 2 weeks alone just to be away from him as I have to think. LOL If someone told me that, I’d say… “Seriously? OK, sure. Be sure to leave the key when you go as your a$$ aint’ coming back. I’m all for space, but let’s work thru it together.” Thank you. Off my soap box.

Concerns
I don’t think the character of Harmony was flushed out as much as necessary. As you learn more, she feels a bit deeper, but overall, it was a bit of a missing component.

I know we needed Olive, Jonathan and Billie to seem like the only people around in the family, but where were Jonathan’s family and his friends. They seemed AWOL at a time they were likely needed.

When the book ends, there are a few parts left too open for me. I want to know specifically what was true and what was false in regard to Billie’s early days of running away from situations and people. She told one story. Another character told a different story. Seeing the whole picture, I struggled a little in deciding who to believe. Even in the end. But it was just a little bit, nothing to throw the story off.

I wasn’t too big a fan of the newspaper articles interspersed throughout the chapters. They didn’t seem to serve as strong a plot device as I thought they could or should. It helped me learn more about how Jonathan felt about Billie, but at the same time, I think I’d have preferred a journal entry, a conversation with a psychiatrist or even him just saying things aloud. It wasn’t distracting, but I didn’t get a lot from it.

Author & Other Similar Books
It’s the first book I’ve read by the author, but she’s written two other books before this one. I would be interested in reading them as I liked her style. I plan to look them up and read if the plot sounds strong.

This book is not a thriller in that you are scared or afraid of someone being hurt. It’s more suspenseful, trying to figure out what is really going on. In that vain, it’s like The Girl on the Train or Gone Girl. You wonder for a while if you can trust the narrator. Maybe you can, maybe you can’t. I won’t say. But you get that feel from the book.

Questions & Final Thoughts
The title is super-important, as you’d expect. She disappears. You question the entire time you’re reading the book… “Who is saying those words?” Is is the mother, the daughter or the father? It could be any one of them. I liked that aspect. It’s the perfect title, also because the word “disappear” can mean so many things: physically, emotionally, due to fear, due to memory loss… really engaging for those reasons. It got a 4 of 5 stars from me as there were some concerns and I struggled to stay focused in the first 15%. But once it got into the swing of things, I only put it down one other time, as I was very sleepy. But I read the last 50% all in one sitting, so it’s definitely got game! And I sorta suspect, this might be a case of:

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

View all my reviews

Review: No One Knows

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No One Knows
No One Knows by J.T. Ellison

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 stars to J.T. Ellison‘s No One Knows, a suspense and thriller mystery novel. I received this as a giveaway but was very interested in reading it… in the end, I’m glad I did as there were many good parts, but the ending was definitely a puzzle.


Story

Aubrey Hamilton’s parents died young and she fell prey to the repugnance of a bad seed in the foster system. She had a few people watch out for her, including one she married when Josh became the love of her life. A few years into their marriage, he disappears while at a friend’s wedding and is presumed dead. Many think Aubrey did it, and she almost went to jail for it. After a few stints in rehab and jail, she finally gets her life in order, but she’s not really enjoying her time. When her mother-in-law has her son declared legally dead, Aubrey’s world turns upside down. She’s due to inherit $5M but her mother-in-law plans to take it. Sightings of Josh occur around town, and people suspect he might be alive. A look-a-like falls in love with her and she gives him a chance. And a drug dealer starts stalking her. She’s determined to figure out how it all fits together so she can move on with her life, but when it all comes to a crashing revelation 80% through, readers will be left spinning not knowing who to believe anymore!


Strengths

1. Aubrey has a grave struggle, and readers will root for her. You want her to survive and either find Josh and have their happily ever after, or if he’s truly dead, ride off into the sunset with Chase even though it started out as a lie. She even takes care of her mother-in-law (who HATED her) when she’s sick… so the sympathy card definitely gets played.

2. It’s a page-turner… I read 30 pages the first night and was really tired so went to sleep, but the next day, I sat for 3-4 hours to finish it because I just had to know… was he alive? did she have something to do with it? Was Chase a bad guy? Was it the mother-in-law all along? Was it the best friend? Was it Arlo, her husband’s best friend? Someone was rotten and I couldn’t stop til I knew!


Suggestions

1. Oh what a confusing ending. And I’m a smart guy. Not Einstein, but pretty swift at solving this types of mysteries after reading a few hundred. No spoilers here, but a lot is left out for readers to interpret and/or choose their own ending. I like some openness, but I think the lack of true clarity was a big let-down.

2. Too many holes in the story. Parts left unanswered… Do Tom and Daisy stay together? Why did the foster brother tell us Megan was bad news without any real ending – what was Megan’s deal? Where does the foster brother end up? Who gets arrested? The last page jumps 2 years into the future and is vastly different than the entire wrap up / epilogue. Too offbeat for me.


Final Thoughts

Overall, I still liked the book. I like the author’s style… it could have been a little tighter, had more suspense and included solid, obvious structure to the way in which it was narrated. But if you can look past those things, and you like a good plot with some intense characters, and a bunch of guess-work, give it a chance! I will definitely try another book by the author.

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