Review: Face Off

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Face OffFace Off (The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles, #3) by Brenda Novak
Series: The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles #3
Published by Headline on November 29, 2018
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 416
Goodreads
five-stars

 

“He’s put in the time, done the work. He was almost ready to make his move.”

FINAL DECISION: Simply fabulous! A book that pays off the suspense promises of the prior books in the series and adds character development and a complicated and delicious romance.

THE STORY: Dr. Evelyn Talbot finds that the stable life she is building in Alaska is crumbling as she is getting pressure from her family to return to the safety of Boston, her boyfriend wants her to make a commitment to him, and the demon from her past has apparently arrived in Alaska to finish what he started when he tried to murder her when she was sixteen. When the bodies of two women are discovered, both Evelyn and Amarok realize that the confrontation they have been expecting may have finally arrived.

OPINION: I’m so happy that this book didn’t disappoint. It’s always my fear when I read these books that build upon one another that I might find that the series does not live up to its potential or that it will squander all of the buildup. I’m happy that this book actually was better than I expected.

In approaching this book, I had two things that I wanted: (1) some resolution on the Jasper storyline (since he has been stalking Evelyn throughout the series); and (2) some development with the relationship between Evelyn and Amarok. Happily, this book satisfied these two and gave me more.

In a story that makes me jump at noises at night, the suspense is ratcheted up in this book. There are plenty of twists and turns and scares in this story. Readers of the series know that by the end of the prior book in the series, Evelyn’s high school boyfriend, attempted murderer, and serial killer, Jasper now is working at the serial killer prison that Evelyn spearheaded. Having undergone extensive plastic surgery and the passage of twenty years has allowed Jasper (now using an alias) to infiltrate Evelyn’s world without her being aware of who he actually is. The scenes with Evelyn and Jasper together were creepy and filled with tension.

There are dead ends and dead bodies and plenty of tension and enough fearful possibilities to make me want to put the book down to get an emotional break while at the same time wanting to turn page after page to find out what happens. This book was especially good because things happened that I did not expect and the lack of predictability kept me interested in every twist along the way.

And that is all I’m going to write on the suspense plot because I don’t want to give anything away.

On the romance front things are finally coming to a crisis point between Evelyn and Amarok. For the first time since the early days of their relationship, all the pressures are finally threatening their relationship. Jasper’s continual and looming threat, Evelyn’s family wanting her to return home, Evelyn’s relationship fears, Amarok’s ex-girlfriend, and the increasing number of murders that have occurred in relation to Hanover House are finally weighing down on the couple. This crisis point begins tearing at the fabric that has kept Evelyn and Amarok comfortable in recent months. Now they have to change and grow together or apart. I loved the examination of the fracturing of their relationship and this ended up being my favorite part of the book.

WORTH MENTIONING: I was concerned that this book might be the end of the series, but I was excited to see that there is more planned.

CONNECTED BOOKS: FACE OFF is the third book in the Evelyn Talbot Chronicles. This book focuses on the story between Evelyn and the serial killer who tried to kill her when she was sixteen. While that story has been a part of all the books to this point, this book brings that story to the forefront. While it is not necessary to have read the other book in the series to enjoy this one (the prior events are summarized for the reader), I think that reading the prior books makes this book much deeper and enjoyable.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to prepare a review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

 

five-stars

Review: Hello Again

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Hello AgainHello Again (The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles, #2) by Brenda Novak
Series: The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles #2
Published by Headline on November 2nd 2017
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 352
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: This is the best of the series so far. Mixing the romance, Evelyn’s personal demons, creepy serial killer mysteries, danger and some serious suspense, this book is satisfying in so many ways, but definitely left me desperately wanting the next book.

THE STORY:  Dr. Evelyn Talbot is continuing her work with serial killers at Hanover House in Alaska determined to uncover a way to identify the people who become serial killer. Her newest inmate is known as the Zombie Maker who defies many of the standard expectations of serial killers — but he also reminds her of her ex-boyfriend Jasper who killed her friends and almost herself and has been on the loose for two decades. When another friend of Evelyn is killed with the Zombie Maker’s signature the question arises: was the wrong man convicted of the Zombie Maker’s crimes or is Jasper hunting Evelyn again.

OPINION: I’ve been a fan of this series since I read the prequel a couple of years ago. The story was just creepy enough and had enough romance to keep me interested, but this book explodes the story. Everything feels bigger and more urgent here. The series has really hit its stride now that the setup portion has been completed. This book is the best so far.

This book takes place about a year after the events in the previous book. Evelyn is still running Hanover House and more serial killers are coming all the time. Not to give anything away, but this book deals with the question of the Zombie Maker serial killer and whether he is guilty or not and the similar murders which might indicate either that the man incarcerated at Hanover House might be innocent or that Evelyn’s personal demon is making a move on her again.

This story seamlessly blends and uses to good suspense purposes the questions of the newest killings and three possible suspects. Some is revealed here but other parts of left to the ongoing and overarching storylines. Frankly, I was frightened and creeped out by much of the last third of the book — which was exactly what I was expecting.

This book is really a suspense book with some romance — and I really liked the balance here. This is Evelyn’s personal story and the book never forgets it in service to some suspense storyline. Everything is personal and is all seen from the lens of Evelyn’s life. I like the suspense in this book but I probably wouldn’t have continued to read without the romance between Evelyn and her Alaskan trooper boyfriend Amarok. The two have been seeing one another for a year, but Evelyn still has trust issues and doubts and there are new challenges and hurdles for the two. Despite their serious difficulties, these two are so wonderful together that it manages to balance out all the darkness of the plotline. If I didn’t have the hope of their relationship really working out to a HEA in the end, I think the darkness of the story would have overwhelmed me.

This series has definitely found its footing here and I look forward to the next installment because things are getting really interesting and scary.

WORTH MENTIONING: Oh when will the next book be out!

CONNECTED BOOKS:  HELLO AGAIN is the second novel in the Evelyn Talbot Chronicles. This book has an independent story, but there are overarching storylines in the series. I think this book is better read after the prequel and first book in the series because the relationships between the characters is more clearly defined.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

five-stars

Review: Her Darkest Nightmare

Review: Her Darkest NightmareHer Darkest Nightmare (The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles, #1) by Brenda Novak
Series: The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles #1
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on August 30th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 432
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  I loved this book primarily because of Evelyn and her hottie state trooper Amarok, but I also enjoyed the mystery which was twisty and creepy and kept me guessing.

THE STORY:  Dr. Evelyn Talbot was only a teenager when her world was torn apart by her psychopath boyfriend killed her best friends then imprisoned and tortured Evelyn for three days before leaving her for dead.  Twenty years later, Evelyn studies psychopaths. She is in charge of a maximum security facility which is studying serial killers. Located in a small town in Alaska, Evelyn is not the most popular person for bringing these killers to town.  It has placed her on opposite sides of State Trooper Sergeant Amarok who also tempts Evelyn as no man ever has.  Now a mutilated body of a woman seems to confirm Amarok’s deepest fears about the facility while Evelyn fears that the monster who almost killed her before may have returned.

OPINION: I am a longtime mystery and suspense reader but I prefer my books with a strong dose of romance.  I enjoyed this book because I like Evelyn with all her hangups due to her encounter as a teenager with her psychopath boyfriend.  Evelyn is damaged and while she is accomplished professionally, she is stunted in her relationships.

I love the sweetness of her reaction to Amarok and, for me, their relationship centers and makes the rest of the book worth reading.  While I enjoy a good, creepy suspense, I like to have sweeter and lighter moments as well as a reason to care about the characters.  I like these two and look forward to reading more about them.

I always find it difficult to review suspense and mystery books because I don’t want to give too much away.  That being said, I think this one kept me guessing until the end.  I thought I had it figured out and then the story would twist and go in a new direction.  Plus, there is some really creepy and messed up stuff going on.  I always admire a story that I don’t solve immediately.  There are plenty of suspects here and I didn’t guess the right one, but was satisfied that the ultimate solution was supported in the story.

The mystery/suspense story intertwines so well with Evelyn’s own personal journey that I was fully engaged during the entire book.  This book can satisfy both romantic suspense readers and those who just like a good mystery.

WORTH MENTIONING:  There are still threads of the overarching story for the series that are left at the end of this book, but the main mystery of the book is completely resolved.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  HER DARKEST NIGHTMARE is the first book in the Evelyn Talbot Chronicles series.  There is a prequel but this book can be read without having read that.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Hanover House

Review: Hanover HouseHanover House (The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles, #0.5) by Brenda Novak
Series: The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles #0.5
Published by Brenda Novak on September 1st 2015
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 200
four-half-stars

Great Start to Romantic Suspense Series

“She wasn’t often attracted to someone like she was attracted to him — and had been from the first moment she’d set eyes on him. Especially someone who didn’t particularly like her in return.”

FINAL DECISION: While nothing is ultimately resolved in this book — it is a prequel, it does its job of making me want to read more about Evelyn, her project and her relationship with Amarok. Suspenseful but also a good romance, I hope the series lives up to the prequel.

THE STORY: Evelyn Talbot is a psychiatrist who studies serial killers and criminal minds. Kidnapped and tortured as a teen by her boyfriend, Evelyn is compelled to try and understand why people do such things. As part of her work, she is coordinating the building of a mental health center/prison in Hilltop, Alaska in order to house and study notorious killers. Many of the residents around the new facility are not pleased to have it in their vicinity. One of those is Alaskan State Trooper Benjamin “Amarok” Murphy. He is unhappy about the center, but attracted like crazy to Evelyn. At the same time, Evelyn’s own past is preventing her from having any relationship including one with the younger and handsome trooper. Also, the man who killed her friends and tried to kill her is still on the loose and may still be trying to kill her twenty years later.

OPINION: This is my first book by Brenda Novak, but it won’t be my last. This book has me intrigued by Evelyn’s story. In some ways, she has recovered from the crimes committed against her when she was sixteen and in other ways she is still that terrified teenager. Her budding relationship with Amarok has the possibility of allowing her to move beyond her past — and, of course, it is precisely at that moment that the past threatens to suck her back in.

This book is creepy and suspenseful and sometimes scary which is exactly what I like in my suspense books. What pleased me the most was how much time was devoted to the relationship between Evelyn and Amarok. Admittedly, I am a romance reader first so I prefer my suspense with a hefty dose of romantic relationship. This book satisfied that requirement for me.

Evelyn and Amarok are just so cute together. She is incredibly vulnerable and he is a protector by nature. Evelyn has lots of hangups and this man who is seven years younger than her attracts her but for her a relationship seems impossible for so many reasons. Amarok’s practical and down to earth demeanor is a perfect contrast to Evelyn’s understandably neurotic behavior.

Along with the intriguing cast of evil characters (the inmates who will inhabit Hanover House), I hope that future books will have a heavy dose of Evelyn and Amarok’s developing relationship.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is the beginning of a series dealing with serial killers. The prequel introduces the overarching plotline and the romantic relationship between Evelyn and Amarok.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HANOVER HOUSE is the prequel to the Evelyn Talbot Chronicles previously known as the Hanover House Chronicles series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a review. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

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four-half-stars