Sophia’s Secret by Julie Ryan

Sometimes the most seemingly idyllic of small towns are the ones that hide the most tantalizing secrets.

What’s it About?

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This is the second book in the Greek Island Mystery series. Although each book is intended to be read as a standalone, some of the characters from the first book, ‘Jenna’s Journey’, do make an appearance.

Kat has never understood why she was sent at the age of seven from Greece to live in England with her Aunt Tigi. When she receives an email from her grandmother, the first contact in over twenty years, informing her of her mother’s death, she knows this could be her last chance to find out the truth. Little by little she finds out the shocking facts as her grandmother opens her heart. It seems everyone has a secret to tell, not only her grandmother, as Manoli, her school friend, also harbours a guilty secret. Then there’s a twenty year old mystery to solve as well as a murder and what happened to the missing Church treasure?

First Impressions

Sophia isn’t the only one with a secret on this small Greek Island! There’s a lot going on in this novel, with multiple mysteries and dramatic plot points taking place over several decades. The book itself is divided into four parts, which definitely helped to keep a sense of order to how the story was told. We start off with Kat traveling back to her childhood home after the death of her mother, who she hasn’t seen since she was just a little girl. As a matter of fact, she hasn’t seen her father or grandmother since then either, as she was sent off to live in another country with her Aunt when she was only seven. Since then she’s received no word from the rest of her family. Now that she’s back on the island, her grandmother, Sophia, is prepared to reveal the true and troubled history of why Kat was sent away so many years before. This is when we enter part 2 of the novel.

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A Blast to the Past

Little did I know that in order to figure out the events of twenty years ago, we’d actually be traveling back even further in time, going all the way back to when Sophia herself was just a teenager. This time jump definitely holds your interest, as you’re constantly wondering how the story will evolve to ultimately explain the reason why Kat was sent away. However, you also sort of have to force your way through a large chunk of the novel, as it’s a rather depressing read. Through Sophia’s eyes we see her tale of woe, forced marriage, rape, pining for a lost love, jealousy, and even murder. Quite a bit of murder actually. As if that wasn’t enough of a downer, throughout the read we’re constantly getting moments which foreshadow even more doom and gloom to come, such as “little did I know how much worse things were about to get.” At times it felt like I needed a shot of tequila before I could proceed to the next chapter!

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Back to the Future

Sophia’s memories in part 2 take up a rather significant portion of the book, and by the time we’ve made our way back up to the present in part 3, I must admit it took me a while to remember what all was going on and who the key players were. Not only have we just reviewed all of Sophia’s secrets revolving around her forced marriage, forbidden love, and the mystery of her husband’s death, but now we have a lost Church treasure, a missing boy from years ago, a dead Jane Doe, Kat’s husband and step daughter having their own problems, a kidnapping, a dead antiques smuggler, and Kat trying to deal with the new information she’s learned about her parents. Again, there’s a lot going on here!

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Bringing it All Together

On the one hand, it definitely seemed like there was too much going on. Some of these mysterious story lines held more prominence in the overall telling of the book, while others seemed to get just a little bit of attention before being quickly put to rest. I was particularly surprised to find that at the very end of the book we even get a link back to an unsolved mystery from the first book that is finally resolved. That being said, I must say it was truly commendable that the author managed to bring every single mystery full circle by the end of the book.

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No stone is left unturned, and every loose end is tied up perfectly. Quite a feat worth mentioning considering there were so many moving pieces at work here. Personally I do think the book as a whole would have benefited from removing some of the more minor side plot distractions, and instead have the drama surrounding Kat’s relationships with her mother, father and grandmother be the sole focus. It just would have pulled the story together more tightly into one cohesive thread.

*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: A Greek Island Mystery, book 2. I did enjoy this sequel better than the first novel in the series! With book one I was kind of disappointed that some elements surrounding the downfall of our main villain were left unresolved. Imagine my surprise to discover that we finally get a resolution to that plot point at the very end of this second book!

Final Impressions: While this mystery certainly kept me guessing, and managed to hold my interest throughout, it was also kind of hard to want to pick it up and read sometimes considering the subject matter. Sophia had a tough life, and it was disheartening to read about her trials and tribulations in such detail. That being said, it was nice to see that she was eventually rewarded for her hardships later in life. As far as the mystery of why Kat was sent away all those years before, it was definitely an interesting and surprising reason, but I can’t say I ever fully understood why all communication was cut off from her until now. A bit more explanation as to why Sophia in particular, as well as Kat’s father, never chose to visit her throughout the years would have been nice.

Smut Level: None really.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.25 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 331 Pages.

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The Long Weekend by Terry R. Barca

the long weekendI have read many a book, and I have seen many a metaphor for sex. Doing the dirty. Hiding the sausage. And then there are the ever famous (and my personal favorite) dancing connotations, including the horizontal mambo and/or tango. But this book introduced me to a new one, which just might become my new favorite go-to expression: horizontal folk dancing! I just…I can’t…I don’t even know what to say. I mean, I understand the comparison with the mambo, or the tango. They are sensual and passionate dances which exude sexuality. But folk dancing? Love it.

Sam is a recently retired private detective who has decided to take a long weekend vacation with his wife, Scarlett (aka his folk dancing partner), when a brutal murder takes place near their hotel. The detective on the case knows that the couple is staying nearby, and decides to pop-in and ask a very reluctant Sam for some assistance. Now, I was told before reading this book that it might not exactly be my cup of tea, which to be honest it kind of wasn’t, but when an author is kind of enough to provide me with a copy of their book I feel that the least I can do is read it.

The summary provided on Goodreads talks about how this short novella is more about the characters than exactly “whodunit”, which I thought was a rather strange approach for a mystery novel. I mean, when a murder takes place in a book my first response is to ask who did it. Even though I did enjoy getting to know each character, there were so many flashbacks and anecdotes that it was sort of difficult to keep the timeline of events straight. We learned how Sam and Scarlett first met, why Sam became a detective in the first place, the one and only case Sam ever failed to solve, etc. That’s all well and good, but then there were some tangents thrown in that I couldn’t really see how they related to the unfolding mystery. For example, Sam determines the worth of a bartender based on whether or not he is familiar with an obscure drink from a 1940s movie. I guess we can label that under learning about a quirk of his? Again, there’s nothing wrong with adding in those little details, but they were often discussed in so much detail that it could really drag on and on.

It’s hard to pick just one favorite character in this book, mainly because I really loved Scarlett and Detective Inspector Blank. Scarlett was just so enthusiastic about trying to solve the murder, and couldn’t wait to get to the morgue to look at the body. Can you think of a better way to pass the time on a long weekend? And then there’s the detective who is just so strange I couldn’t help but love him. In the first scene where Detective Blank and Sam discuss the case, Blank is trying to practice different facial expressions to show surprise, hesitancy, consideration, etc. I love me some awkward social interactions.

The entire book was definitely a build up to the big reveal at the end, but I felt it was kind of a lackluster reveal. I thought there was going to be some kind of big Sherlock Holmes reveal by Sam as to who the killer was and why he killed his victim. Instead, when Sam confesses to Scarlett that he knows who committed the crime, he unveils the likelihood of it being a certain kind of person, particularly someone high up in the government who would probably hire someone else to actually commit the murder. I would say that’s more of a profile clue than actually solving anything. It isn’t until the epilogue that we discover who orchestrated the murder, and it was mainly because of Blank’s detective work that the killer was apprehended. Sam just sort of game him some ideas of where to start looking. If anything, this book should be referenced as, “A Sam and Scarlett Mystery…Ultimately Solved by Detective Blank”.

*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: A Sam and Scarlett Mystery, book 1

Get it on Amazon: Click Here

Should you read it? If you’re looking for a short little mystery novel to read over the weekend, then sure. Also, the book takes place in Melbourne, and provides a fun insider’s look at the city, so if you’ve ever been to Melbourne you might get a kick out of the details.

Smut Level: HORIZONTAL FOLK DANCING!! Nothing else need be said. folk dance