Aug 20, 2018

ARC Review--Hidden Pieces by Paula Stokes

Embry Woods has secrets. Small ones about her past. Bigger ones about her relationship with town hero Luke and her feelings for someone new. But the biggest secret she carries with her is about what happened that night at the Sea Cliff Inn. The fire. The homeless guy. Everyone thinks Embry is a hero, too, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Embry thinks she’ll have to take the secret to her grave, until she receives an anonymous note—someone else knows the truth. Next comes a series of threatening messages, asking Embry to make impossible choices, forcing her to put her loved ones at risk. Someone is playing a high stakes game where no one in Embry’s life is safe. And their last murder.

I received this ARC from the author in a contest that I won on Instagram. My review is completely honest and voluntary; I was in no way compensated for this review.

Paula Stokes wowed me with her thrilling and fast-paced Vicarious duology, so I was excited to read her next thriller, Hidden Pieces. It was definitely something different from what I was expecting, as the heroine was a just a little hard to like in the beginning, but she grew on me as the story went along. It was quite a twisted mystery too, one that led to deadly consequences.

Embry is our heroine, she’s a senior in high school and has been dealing with quite a bit lately; her mom is battling cancer and is finishing up her treatments so that the cancer will hopefully be gone, she’s a on a break with her boyfriend who’s over in Afghanistan in the army and she has yet to work up the courage to break it off with him because she’s been seeing another guy while he’s away, her best friend’s ex-boyfriend in fact and they’ve been keeping their relationship a secret.

It’s when Embry is with Holden at a closed-for-the-season hotel that things get complicated. They were in the hotel by candlelight and had a little bit of alcohol with them and when they started getting a little hot and heavy, a fire breaks out among the candles. Fearing the serious trouble that they could get into they evacuate and call the fire department, it’s while Embry is waiting to make sure they come that she sees a shadow inside the burning building, someone was still inside. She rushes to help without even thinking and is alter claimed to be a hero. Though no one knows that she and Holden were the ones that caused the fire, accidentally of course.

Then Embry gets a text message, one that gives her chills. Someone knows what she did. Someone knows exactly what happened and they urge Embry to confess in public or something very bad will happen to someone she cares about. Embry is terrified, not only that she’s being threatened but that someone else was there that night. It makes her wonder if there could’ve been someone else in the hotel with the homeless guy she rescued. When she fails to comply with the stalker’s demands things start to fall apart very quickly as terrible things begin to happen and more threats are continually made and acted out.

This was a pretty chilling read in some sense! I mean, the whole idea of there being someone who saw you in a private moment is creepy. Not only that, but Embry and Holden are guilty of causing a fire and some serious destruction to the hotel and they fear the consequences that will come from that financially. Embry and her mom are not that well off due to her mom’s illness and are barely scraping by. But when the stalker wants Embry to commit crime after crime in order to appease his whims, Embry decides it’s time to fight back.

I felt like I knew who the stalker was fairly early on though. To be honest, I had two suspects, ones that I felt highly suspicious of and I just knew one of them had to do it. I was leaning more towards one based on a few facts and I was pleased to find that I ended up being right! Though one of my conclusions about some of the events was totally wrong, which that kind of blew me away a bit! Not the fact that I was wrong, but by the event itself!

One thing that kind of nagged at me when I started this one was that Embry was a just a tad unlikeable. I mean, I know Holden and her best friend broke up, but she herself was still in some sort of relationship with her boyfriend despite the break. Honestly, it goes back to that early season of Friends when Ross and Rachel were on a “break” and yet Ross slept with someone, whose side did you take? It just felt a little wrong that she was moving onto a new relationship while her boyfriend overseas thinks everything is just fine, despite the “break” being installed. That was really one of the main reasons I found her hard to like in the beginning, I really don’t like cheaters and yes “breaks” might be hard to define for some people but unless there’s an “up”, I feel like you’re still in a relationship.

One thing I did like about Embry though was that she was a sort of complicated character. She wasn’t Miss Popular or Miss Perfect. She was pretty flawed, though I didn’t care for one of those flaws. Her other ones made her human and relatable. She was dealing with a lot of things beyond the stalker issue and the pressing secret of the fire. Her life was in turmoil before all this chaos and it’s not that I liked that happening to her, it was just refreshing to see a fictional character deal with the intense struggles people face in reality every day.

Other than that, I did really enjoy Hidden Pieces! The mystery was intense and scary as this stalker holds nothing back when it comes to ruining Embry’s life. It was deeply chilling, though I felt like the ending was just a little too clean. That or I’ve become used to the more vague endings some thrillers tend to end in. I truly hope Paula isn’t done with thrillers yet because she definitely has a knack for this genre!

Overall Rating 4/5 stars

Hidden Pieces releases August 28, 2018



  1. Ohhh this sounds good! The mystery sounds fantastic and a little terrifying! Stalkers are super scary, so this definitely sounds like a read I'd find creepy. Great review!

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed this one! I have yet to pick up a book by Paula Stokes but I will try her eventually. I'm really picky with thrillers and prefer character based books (and only if the characters are likable) so I'm not sure this one is for me but great review!

    Thanks for sharing,
    ~Brittany @ Brittany's Book Rambles


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