Monday, October 15, 2018

Thoughts: Secret Admirer

Secret Admirer

by Cynthia Eden

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.0 Stars


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


Thoughts: Front Page Fatality

Front Page Fatality

by LynDee Walker
Book 1 of A Nichelle Clarke Crime Thriller

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars

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.
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.


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


Sunday, October 14, 2018

Halloween Bingo 2018 | Update #4




So I think I've made all of my decisions for my squares now... not that it'll stay that way, because I've already changed my mind twice this weekend about what books I will read for which squares.  Having recently finished reading LynDee Walker's Front Page Fatality (review coming soon), I suddenly found myself determined to finish reading the rest of the books available for this series and wondering how I can incorporate all of them into Bingo.

After deciding which squares will work and thinking that I'd use Walker as my Wild Card Author... I received a ping from an e-mail that a book I had on hold was ready for check-out.  Barbara Michaels' Houses of Stone had been a recommendation I put into the library's e-book system and they decided to add that book to their collection.  I really, really want to read this book after having seen some really good reviews.  So now I had to figure out how to include this book into my Bingo.

THEN, I finally got to reading Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire (which I will be finishing pretty soon, probably within the next few hours after posting this update), and so I'm considering continuing that series... but how to incorporate it into Bingo...

I finally decided to make a few compromises and so now we have a more solid plan for the rest of October... sort of.  I figure that as long as I have some sort of list to grab from as I finish each book, I might, just might, be able to Black out my card.  Maybe.  I'm still not entirely sure that I'll be able to Black out, but it's a better possibility than I'd had at the end of September after having only read about six Halloween Bingo books.

Anyway... very, very long story short:

I'm planning on reading, at least, the first three Nichelle Clarke books for Halloween Bingo.  It just so happens that the third book is called Small Town Spin, and what better square than 'Terror in a Small Town.'  The second book, Buried Leads will go into the 'Murder Most Foul' square.


Next, I'm choosing to insert Houses of Stone into the 'Terrifying Women' square.  That seems simple enough.


Finally, I'm totally dropping The Devil in the White City for now.  I'm not sure I can handle such a hefty book at this time, and I'm not really getting into it either.  Why I even chose to read it in the first place, I'm not sure, aside from the fact that it sounded interesting and I still needed a book for 'Creepy Carnivals.'  I'll probably come back to this book another time, because it still sounds quite interesting to me.  Had I had better progress in September for Bingo, I might have just stuck with it.  So instead, for 'Creepy Carnival', I'm going to be reading a short story by Seanan McGuire called Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid, and the Open, Lonely Sea, from the Carniepunk anthology.


And now that I've rambled everyone's ears off... well, I guess I'm off to read so I can get caught up!


Updated Marked Card:





Dino Baby!  Rawr!  for Called Squares

Read Squares will simply be a book cover to the left of the square.


Currently Reading:



FOR FOR FOR



Squares/Books/Called Dates/Update Post Links:


Progress on my card:  19 squares called || 13 books read || 8 squares completed

Squares called that I do not have:
09/15/18 - Modern Masters of Horror
09/25/18 - Amateur Sleuth
09/29/18 - Supernatural

Halloween Bingo 2018: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Report Your Bingos!

October Group Read | Discussion Thread -- Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

Halloween Bingo 2018 | Update #1
It's Monday! Plus a Halloween Bingo Update, Just Because... | 09/17/2018
Halloween Bingo 2018 | Update #2
Halloween Bingo 2018 | Book Rambles at Mid-game
Halloween Bingo 2018 | Update #3

*And also, when I've posted them, the book covers will link to my reviews.


Called:  10/01/18
Read:  
Called:  09/21/18
Read:  
Called:  10/09/18
Read:  
Called: 09/09/18
Read:  10/05/18
Called: 10/05/18
Read:  09/18/18
~*~*~*~
Called: 09/05/18
Read:  10/11/18
Called: 09/03/18
Read:  
Called:  09/27/18
Read:  10/13/18
Called: 09/17/18
Read:  
Called:
Read: 09/03/18
~*~*~*~
Called: 09/01/18
Read:  
Called: 09/23/18
Read:  
Called:
Read:  
Called:  09/19/18
Read:  10/01/18
Called:
Read:  10/09/18
~*~*~*~
Called:
Read:  10/11/18
Called:10/11/18
Read:  10/06/18
Called:  10/07/18
Read:  
Called:
Read:  09/27/18
Called:  09/13/18
Read:  
~*~*~*~
Called:  10/13/18
Read:  09/24/18
Called:  09/11/18
Read:  
Called:  10/03/18
Read:  09/22/18
Called:
Read: 09/06/18
Called: 09/07/18
Read:  
Halloween Bingo 2018
Ani's Book Abyss




Wild Card Author:



I haven't decided which author to use as my Wild Card yet, but I've been considering using Nora Roberts, as she is a writer of a lot of crime thrillers, romantic suspense, and supernatural, including the Circle trilogy I've chosen for this year's bingo.

Other authors I'm also considering are: Susanna Kearsley, who writes Gothic with a bit of supernatural; Elizabeth Peters, who has a lot of cozy mysteries; or another obvious option, Agatha Christie!