Hidden Pieces, by Paula Stokes

bookishgeek's review against another edition

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Embry has it rough. She lives alone with her mother (unless you include her dog Betsy), and works tirelessly at the family cafe to keep their heads above water. She is the reason her best friend's boyfriend dumped her - unfortunately, that reason is because she slept with said best friend's boyfriend. Her actual boyfriend is overseas, and Embry doesn't have the heart to break his.

Yes, things are rough for Embry. Even rougher still though when a late-night tryst in the abandoned Seacliff Inn turns into arson (or whatever you call accidental arson?) Right then and there, Embry and her lover (BFF's BF, Holden) decide to play "mum's the word" and keep their mouths shut about the entire situation. Of course, someone saw more than Embry and Holden suspected, and they are playing a dangerous blackmail game with them where the stakes get higher and higher still.

I always appreciate a morally grey character, and I "get" Embry's dilemma. She's a smart kid, and cares so much for her family. But I cannot abide by cheating, and it's hard for me to muster empathy for a character so emotionally manipulative.

The big "whodunit?" clincher is one that I predicted, but that did not stop me from enjoying the book. I wish it had been a bit more of an eleventh-hour twist, but YA thrillers typically lean heavier on the romance/mystery side than the "wtf?!" domestic thriller pieces we are used to seeing in "adult" novels.

Overall, I spent a very enjoyable time in Embry's head. I only wish it had been a little more zig and a little less zag.

booksofamber's review against another edition

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I always enjoy Paula Stokes’ thrillers, and Hidden Pieces is no exception. Stokes is very talented when it comes to drawing you in and keeping you guessing, especially as she throws little hints into the story every now and then that you may or may not pick up on.

I was captivated by Hidden Pieces from the start, as it opens with a PSS (positive sex scene) and then a hotel burns down. So, yeah. It started off really well. When the main character starts to get blackmailed, the stakes rise, and everyone becomes a suspect.

To be honest, I had one theory as to who the blackmailer was throughout the whole book, and it turned out I was correct. I wasn’t disappointed though, because I wasn’t entirely convinced. It was more of a hunch, and I started to put the little clues together, and ultimately had a really good time trying to figure out the mystery.

I loved the relationship in this book as well. It was mostly positive, and the characters were really good together. That said, I wish Hidden Pieces hadn’t fallen into the Second Act Breakup trope that I so despise. So many books do this and I stopped being shocked or upset years ago.

If you’re looking for a good YA thriller, you should definitely pick this one up!

theengineerisreading's review against another edition

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Before I actually go into the review proper, I want to say shout to National Book Store for giving me a copy of this book in one of their Instagram giveaways.

This is my third October read and I’ve been seeing some negative reviews about this book being somehow a rip-off of Pretty Little Liars, and Little Monsters by Kara Thomas. But after reading this book, I can’t comprehend why some people throw rocks at a good read like this. I mean, I know we are all entitled to our own opinion but the book and the author do not deserve the hate it receive. Sorry, just sharing!

Technically, Hidden Pieces by Paula Stokes is a young adult-mystery book that revolves on the story of Embry Woods, a seventeen year-old teenage girl from Tillamook County, who, upon a series of unfortunate events, got caught in an uncontrollable situation with her best friend, Holden Hassler, after both of them got involve in a fire incident in their area’s infamous Sea Cliff Inn. Their involvement resulted to a succession of unwanted blackmailing from Unknown, the person who know that Embry and Holden are involved in Sea Cliff fire, and the repercussion of this events result to the protagonists being manipulated to do crimes they can’t escape else someone they love will suffer. Embry and Holden, with the help of their friends, embarked on an adventure to unveil Unknown’s identity and free themselves from the shackle of their lies. The catch is, will they unravel who their blackmailer is or will they fall to Unknown’s trap and finally confess of their role in the Sea Cliff fire?

Moving on from that lengthy spoiler, I must say that though this is my first mystery/thriller read for years (YEARS!!!!), I did not had a hard time connecting with Paula Stokes’ world and characters since her style of writing is appealing to teens and adult readers. She easily built the characters of Embry and Holden by incorporating backstories of the characters in their respective highlights. I mean, there is no easy way to enumerate Embry’ pessimism and Holden’s optimism without laying out all of what happened in their past journeys.

As imperfect as every person in this world is, I love that Embry Woods was not written in the usual way where female characters go head over heels to some boy-next-door because that is one hell of a used trope and readers get tired of encountering that trope. One thing I hate about Embry’s character is her sense of lying but that’s part of her development and I also note that she somehow managed to turn the table of that attitude during the last part of the book.

I won’t prolong this review but I’ll end with this, if you are looking for a thriller read that will make you whisper ‘One more chapter..’ in the middle of the night while you’re in bed, then Hidden Pieces by Paula Stokes is a definite fit for your taste.

“As messed up as things are between the three of us, I feel a flash of hope that somehow everything might turn out all right. But then I remember the secrets I’m keeping, the lies I’ve told, the horrible things I’ve done. And that momentary sense of lightness sinks like an anchor.”

“You did a bad thing. Maybe several bad things. But we all do bad shit sometimes. It’s what you do now that matters. If you don’t like the person you are, take responsibility for your past mistakes and do better.”

“I kept telling myself I was protecting you, but really, I’ve been protecting me. I knew telling the truth would mean losing you as a friend. I couldn’t think about losing my best friend. I know how selfish that makes me.”

heatherhy01's review

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I love a good psychological thriller. Especially when you are not sure whom is doing what until the very end. This book gave me just that. I had my assumptions but was surprised at whom the culprit was once everything was revealed.

The very first chapter of this book is what caught my attention. I am a sucker for a love triangle and just can't get enough of them. Our main character of Embry had dated Luke forever but Luke joined the military and went over sea's to serve so she decided that they should take a break. In the meantime, she starts hanging out with Holden and that is where her problems start brewing.

I really was unable to tell whom the person was that was terrorizing Embry, to the point of harming her loved ones for the things she had done. Was it her best friend? Was it Luke? I had even found myself questioning Holden since he was not around when her text messages would arrive but I was not prepared for what had really been going on! The writer did a very good job at keeping her secret until the very end and not giving too much away throughout the book.

I really did enjoy the book but was not a huge fan of the main character of Embry. Hence the three star rating. She seemed a bit whiny to me and very wishy-washy. I also was not a huge fan of her relationship with Holden and did not really feel the love so to speak. My whole force behind reading was the thrilling aspect of the ending.

Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for the review copy in exchange of an honest review!

samwlabb's review

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Rating: 4.5 Stars

I am always excited to read a Paula Stokes book for a myriad of reasons. First and foremost, she always entertains me. No matter what genre Stokes' story falls into, I find myself fully invested in it.

As I read Hidden Pieces, I recalled my very first Stokes book - Liars, Inc. This book had that same tangled-web, twisty sort of plot, but there was a lot more to it. The heart of the book was finding out who the blackmailer, "Unknown", was, but it was also about so many other things.

One theme, which played a big part in the book was honesty. Embry started keeping a lot of secrets, and though some were to protect people she loved, more were to protect herself. These secrets spawned lies, which multiplied into some serious trouble. Right there we have the idea of honesty in its simplest form, but then there were all the parts of herself that Embry kept locked away. A lot of that was because she could not be honest with herself. I liked the way Stokes worked with this theme, and thought it added an extra layer and depth to the story.

Embry intrigued me. She was really hard on herself, and though I would agree some of her choices were less than stellar, I thought she had a good heart. She showed this time and time again in the book via her actions. I knew it seemed as though some of her decisions were born out of guilt, but even guilty people wouldn't do some of the things she did, and I was glad she had Holden to help her see this.

Holden was someone, who really saw Embry. He saw all of her, and was one of the few people who was able to penetrate her walls. Their relationship was one of my favorite parts of the book. I am always up for a good romance featuring a guy as wonderful as Holden, and this one really made me happy.

Onto the plot! This was revenge type thriller, where an unknown assailant was blackmailing Embry. The threats were real and the stakes were high. "Unknown", as they are referred to in the book, had Embry fraying at the edges and had me biting my nails. It got to a point where I felt like I couldn't trust ANYone. That's what a great job Stokes did pointing us in the direction of different characters and planting red herrings. I had three of my guesses blown to shreds, and will honestly admit, that I didn't realize who really did it, until they were practically unmasked. It was surprising, but once I knew, and backtracked, I could see how it was possible.

I will mention what I am seeing in other reviews. Yes, there was a little bit of cheating, BUT when you read the whole story, I think you will be able to forgive Embry. As for Embry's overseas Army "boyfriend", I will evoke the Ross and Rachel clause, and state - they were on a break. But don't worry, because although Stokes softens the blow, she does NOT let the characters get away with it. Embry suffers the consequences of her bad decisions over and over again in this book.

The biggest difference between Liars, Inc and Hidden Pieces was the ending. I was really surprised with what a wonderful ending Stokes gifted me in Hidden Pieces. I wasn't expecting that much, but was so overjoyed with it.

Overall: Another fantastic Paula Stokes book, which had me biting my nails and happy crying.

*ARC provided in exchange for an honest review.


steelglassivory's review

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Figured out the twist pretty quickly, but this was a good book + Embry was a very relatable protagonist + Holden was so sweet

thereadingshelf's review

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I read the first 40 pages and skimmed the end - not my favorite Paula Stokes book, that's for sure. I think I like her contemporary books a lot more than her thrillers, but it's always nice to see authors attempt to branch out - maybe a future mystery from her will work out for me.

wendyfalconerslibrary's review

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I've read a handful of Stokes books now, and this is my favorite. It's a great YA thriller, with plenty of tense moments and red herrings, but there's far more to it than that.

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