My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I received this from Netgalley for review which did not in any way influence my review. I struggled with what to rate this because there were parts of this I enjoyed very much. Sunshine and her daughter Auri are interesting characters. On the other hand there were huge chunks of this that made me want to yeet my ereader across the room.
The premise itself is a bit dodgy. Sunshine has returned to her birthplace of Del Sol New Mexico after her parents and several of the women in power behind the scenes put her up for sheriff against a man they felt was incompetent and corrupt and Sunshine won the election, one she didn't even know she was in (much to the displeasure of the mayor which thankfully was not a big part of the book because having the sheriff fight against the mayor all the time will get old fast for me). Now Sunshine has distinguished herself as a cop on other police forces but like I said, this is really dodgy. If I were her I'd be far more pissed off that my parents pulled this nonsense on me (partly as a bid to have more time with their granddaughter). Especially in the light of what happened to Sunshine in this city when she was a teen.
I will say I liked her BFF and fellow cop Quincy almost more than I liked anyone in this story. He seems like a genuinely nice guy and isn't (at least yet) a boyfriend wanna be. All too quickly Sun has that bad day, like literally on day one when a young girl from her daughter's class, Sybil, has been kidnapped, bringing up all the reasons Sun left this town. What was weird/interesting is Sybil has been dreaming about being kidnapped and killed on her birthday since she was little (which is about the closest you'll get to paranormal in this, for those coming here from Jones's other series). And ironically Sybil was one of the girls Auri met on her summer vacations in town and saw as a friend.
Auri has her own problems. She's prone to depression with suicidal ideation and her class thinks she ratted out a summer booze party to the cops because her mom is one and she's an immediate pariah except for a really chatty girl (whose name I've already forgotten, thank you ebooks for not imprinting on the memory right) and Cruz de la Santos, the cool, mysterious I don't give a damn what you think kid in class. Auri wants to play Nancy Drew to help find her friend and she does.
It doesn't take long before we see the parallels between Sybil's kidnapping and Sun's own unsolved kidnapping when she was a teen. We also run into the Ravinders a former (and would still be if the older members had their way) crime family. Levi Ravinder (who is probably not actually a Ravinder but a half Native America son of his mother's lover) is the one Sun always found hot in school but the family naturally hates her because they're criminals though Levi is turning their whiskey distillery into a legit business.
So what bugged me in this book? Let's deal with the non-spoilery things first. The mystery dragged. This book could have been trimmed and you'd have missed nothing. I could live with that. What got under my skin was the purple prose about how GORGEOUS Levi and/or Cruz was. Literally every time we had Sun or Auri interacting with these two men you'd get endless description of how hot they were and how much their ovaries were exploding. Once I could handle it. Twice even but the endless and ever present 'how hot are they? I can't stand it' descriptors got super old very fast.
And it's so bad that Sun even acts very unprofessionally because of it. That I couldn't handle. Also Levi is such an alphahole. He's nasty to her. He says sexually inappropriate skeevy things and Sun's all about it. Ugh. Can't we expect better for our heroines at this point? He does have one redeeming quality in regards to Sun's personal life but he came across so gross I wanted a shower and not in the good, hot way I'm sure I was supposed to feel. Cruz is much the same in the descriptions of how hot and cool he is (and I could accept that more of a teenaged girl) but at least he's a nice kid. He's not sexualizing her at every turn. Jones's RITA winning roots are showing in this.
As for a mildly spoilery thing or two, someone needed to point out that neither police forces or high schools work this way. If you're writing mysteries, those readers expect a bit of realism when it comes to police work. Sunshine is unprofessional so many times, especially where Levi is concerned. And I'm around Jones's age. The stuff she had these kids pulling might have flown back when we were in school but these days there would have been suspensions all around. Hell I have seen kids suspended for merely mentioning they want to hit someone let alone what the kids pulled on Auri on multiple occasions.
And I'll keep the spoilers to myself but I will say the ending just didn't work for me at all. You never had enough clues to make it to that and it was just very unsatisfying.
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The Whispered Word by Ellery Adams
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I had really enjoyed the first book but this one was a huge let down for me. It did fix the one problem I had in the first book, namely a police officer who works against the amateur sleuth (that's a hard no for me). The new sheriff is much more accepting. I will say that unlike many mysteries series you might be lost if you don't read book one. Nora Hester, June and Estella, the members of the Secret, Book, & Scone Society, are presented like you already know their secrets, their hard past and their abilities. I like stories about broken people recovering and book one gave us that.
Book two was set up to do the same from the first pages when Nora sees a young woman (she calls her a girl at first which threw me. I was expecting a teenager but she's in her twenties), sleeping in the book story in ill-fitting clothes and a hospital bracelet on her arm. Abilene is obviously damaged and Nora and her friends want to help. Nora even lets Abilene stay in her tiny house but that quickly wears on her.
Nora finds an apartment in a new business, the virtual genie, a cyber-antique shop, a bring us your treasures and we'll sell them sort of place that they're wondering if it's even legit. Hester has agreed to take on Abilene as a baker and you know soon Nora will be finding Abilene books as therapy (as that's her super power) and Hester will be making a comfort scone that pulls out all the trauma etc (all four friends have something they can do to comfort people (June works at a spa and that's therapy enough and Estelle finds their inner beauty) But it doesn't work that way.
For one there's a general depression in the town after a local business basically robbed the townspeople then crashed and burned taking a lot of jobs with it. Secondly Amanda Frye, a rather unpleasant book lover has turned up dead and Nora and friends found her and they're not sure it was a suicide or accidental overdose and to Nora's surprise Amanda had very little but did have an expensive book collection. Her estranged son will do anything to get it (in spite of being left out of the will).
So we have the damaged person, we have the crime, we have suspects so what disappointed me so much? Nora herself. She comes across as horribly judgmental. For instance when they try to get the apartment for Abilene, Nora fears that since Abilene is an obvious alias and she's too afraid to say what the issue is that they won't be able to get past the background check for the apartment and Abilene isn't being paid much by Hester. When neither is a problem because Abilene 'has come to an arrangement with Griffin Kingsley the owner of the store/apartment.' Nora doesn't ask what that arrangement is. She leaps to 'that sounds like a euphemism for trading sex for the place.' Naturally and rightfully Abilene is pissed and she storms off and this upsets Hester as well. No kidding. Wow, how's that for helping a damaged person.
And I was surprised that no one at Kensington stopped and made Adams find some other descriptors than mocha (and worse mocha going to espresso) for an African woman's skin tone. How many times do PoC have to ask us to STOP doing that before someone listens?
But what really killed this book for me was the how they handled some very important details. When Abilene tells the women about her trauma which includes being locked in the basement of her uncle's place for years, never being in school, and his threats if she escaped, knowing he knew the local murder victim and that he could be after Abilene, they do NOT go to the cops (ignoring that one of them is dating one of the cops). No, since Abilene 'is tired out' they go out for drinks.'
Let that sink in. They don't report their suspicions. They don't go for an order of protection. They go for drinks.
So yeah, I'm not sure I'm continuing with this series. I only finished this book because I was reading it for a challenge and I was nearly done anyhow. I'm very disappointed.
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