October 20, 2020

It Was You by Jade Lee Wright

 Synopsis:

"I don't understand. Everything I did, I did for her..."When Regan Pen discovers that her long-term boyfriend has been cheating on her with over eight women, she packs her bags and leaves the sunny island in Spain that she had called home for a year. She returns to South Africa where she is given the chance to start over in life. Reassemble herself. Now is her time to be selfish. Find a new career, get a home of her own. Become whoever she wants to be... but when her best friend, Peyton, is brutally murdered, Regan is forced to put her life on hold to take responsibility for her friends thirteen year old daughter, Harley. As the police battle to solve the murder of Peyton and her unborn child, Regan becomes convinced that her Godchild is not the sweet, innocent little girl everyone seems to think she is. Could Harley have been so consumed by her jealousy and fear of not being the epicenter of her mother's universe that it lead to murder? If so, is Regan safe in her own home?


This book was interesting as it felt like you, as the reader, were spiraling into insanity. I could never quite put my finger on what was happening. You think you figure it out, then something changes. Then changes again. Then changes again. 

Then you think the story is wrapped up. 

Then it changes again. And a huge bomb is thrown at the reader in the final page to try to make it all make sense.

I didn’t really care about any of the characters. They all kinda sucked in their own ways, but they were supposed to. 

It was a book that I just didn’t really connect with. It wasn’t bad, I just didn’t connect with it. 

2/5 Stars



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October 18, 2020

The Face of Deception (Eve Duncan #1) by Iris Johansen

 Synopsis:

An unidentified skull, a trail of shocking secrets, and a woman whose talented hands could reveal the terrifying truth--#1 New York Times bestselling author Iris Johansen blends these elements into a compelling novel of suspense, and introduces her most popular character ever: forensic sculptor Eve Duncan.

After her beloved daughter vanishes, Eve Duncan survives by immersing herself in her work. The best in her elite field at rebuilding faces from fragments of skull bones, she helps to put a name to a face, to identify missing children. It is Eve's way of coming to terms with her personal nightmare. But more terror lies ahead when she accepts a job from billionaire John Logan. Beneath Eve's gifted hands, a face begins to emerge from the skull he has given her to reconstruct--a face that no one was ever meant to see. Now Eve is trapped in a web of murder and deceit as powerful enemies rush to cover up the truth, determined that their secrets go to the grave--even if Eve gets buried with them.


I love jumping into a brand new series. You get to meet new characters and, if you like the first book, you can settle in for a fun ride. 

This book took most of the things I enjoy in a good crime novel and made it fun. I don’t know if the whole series will just be a fun read, but the first book was. I feel like it doesn’t take itself too seriously, so readers shouldn’t either. 

There’s a strong female protagonist, a crime suspense element, and the story wraps up at the end of the novel. 

I’m not a huge fan of cliffhangers in books, unless it’s done very well. If there’s going to be one, there has to be some resolution to the story with a hint that there will be a storyline that flows into the next book as well. I prefer when books in a series could survive as a standalone book if you wanted to read them that way. The first book in the Eve Duncan series provided that. 

I’ve read many books about detectives and private investigators. None of the book I’ve read have had a Forensic Sculptor as a protagonist. I didn’t even know that was a career. So, that was very interesting. I can only hope that Iris Johansen has done research on the career so we get more insight into the process and what goes into it. That’s still left to be seen. 

The Face of Deception was a fun and quick read. Eve seems like she could be an interesting protagonist to follow. I’ll definitely be picking up book #2!

4/5 Stars


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Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon

 Synopsis:

Kiese Laymon is a fearless writer. In his essays, personal stories combine with piercing intellect to reflect both on the state of American society and on his experiences with abuse, which conjure conflicted feelings of shame, joy, confusion and humiliation. Laymon invites us to consider the consequences of growing up in a nation wholly obsessed with progress yet wholly disinterested in the messy work of reckoning with where we’ve been.

In Heavy, Laymon writes eloquently and honestly about growing up a hard-headed black son to a complicated and brilliant black mother in Jackson, Mississippi. From his early experiences of sexual violence, to his suspension from college, to his trek to New York as a young college professor, Laymon charts his complex relationship with his mother, grandmother, anorexia, obesity, sex, writing, and ultimately gambling. By attempting to name secrets and lies he and his mother spent a lifetime avoiding, Laymon asks himself, his mother, his nation, and us to confront the terrifying possibility that few in this nation actually know how to responsibly love, and even fewer want to live under the weight of actually becoming free.

A personal narrative that illuminates national failures, Heavy is defiant yet vulnerable, an insightful, often comical exploration of weight, identity, art, friendship, and family that begins with a confusing childhood—and continues through twenty-five years of haunting implosions and long reverberations.


This is an incredible read. Plain and simple. It caught my eye as I was walking through a bookstore. I was intrigued by the synopsis but iffy on whether I wanted to buy it or not. So, I gave it the One-Page Test. I opened it up and read the first page to see if it gripped me. 

If I hadn't stopped myself, I probably would have sat in the bookstore and just read the whole book right there. I didn't want to put it down, so it came home with me and I totally devoured it. 

It written in a unique way as it's basically an open letter to Kiese's mother. That part alone made me want to keep reading. 

With no pun intended, the content in this book is HEAVY. There are a lot of tough things that Kiese writes out, but it keeps you turning the page. He's crafted it in a way that makes it easy to read and not lose the reader. 

He writes about the struggle growing up in the south as a black, overweight boy with a tumultuous home life. 

I can't recommend this book enough. 


5/5 Stars




R is for Ricochet (Kinsey Millhone #18) by Sure Grafton

 Synopsis:

Reba Lafferty was a daughter of privilege, the only child of an adoring father. Nord Lafferty was already in his fifties when Reba was born, and he could deny her nothing. Over the years, he quietly settled her many scrapes with the law, but he wasn't there for her when she was convicted of embezzlement and sent to the California Institution for Women. Now, at thirty-two, she is about to be paroled, having served twenty-two months of a four-year sentence. Nord Lafferty wants to be sure she stays straight, stays at home and away from the drugs, the booze, the gamblers." "It seems a straightforward assignment for Kinsey: babysit Reba until she settles in, make sure she follows all the rules of her parole. Maybe all of a week's work. Nothing untoward - the woman seems remorseful and friendly. And the money is good." But life is never that simple, and Reba is out of prison less than twenty-four hours when one of her old crowd comes circling round.


Jumping back into the Kinsey Millhone world is always great. In this one, she had to deal more with someone else’s trouble rather than getting into trouble of her own!

That was something new to get used to. 

It was a fun ride, though. I don’t think this book was a stand out in the series, but it was a fun ride either way. I look forward to seeing how Kinsey’s new budding relationship grows. 

4.5 Stars



Memorable Quotes: “The basic question is this: given human nature, are any of us really capable of change? The mistakes other people make are usually patently obvious. Our own are tougher to recognize. In most cases, our path through life reflects a fundamental truth about who we are now and who we’ve been since birth. We’re optimists or pessimists, joyful or depressed, gullible or cynical, inclined to seek adventure or to avoid all risks.”

“I listened to the dial tone in a state of despair. I could see now I was being penalized for shirking my job. I should have gone in to work. The Universe keeps track of our sins and exacts devious and repugnant punishments, like dates with unknown men.”





May 15, 2020

The 20th Victim by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro (Women’s Murder Club #20)

Synopsis:
Three victims, three bullets, three cities. The shooters' aim is as fearsomely precise as their target selection. When Lindsay realizes that the fallen men and women excel in a lucrative, criminal activity, she leads the charge in the manhunt for the killers. As the casualty list expands, fear and fascination with this suspicious shooting gallery galvanizes the country.
The victims were no angels, but are the shooters villains . . . or heroes?

I’m not sure what this recent trend is with Patterson books, but there’s such a large build up to the end . . . and then the capture of the bad guy takes about a paragraph. It’s been that way in the last few that I’ve read I feel like. It’s very odd.

The rest of the story was good. It was nice to see the Women’s Murder Club working together again. We also got to see more of Cindy’s working life which I enjoyed and thought was interesting. There was a wrench thrown in their friendship with some bad news about Claire. But they rallied together. I know that wasn’t the main storyline of the book, but it almost seemed forgotten at times. It would get mentioned again and I’d be like OH YEAH, THAT’S HAPPENING.

There were a lot of different storylines going on all at once. They didn’t all necessarily get the attention they deserved. This book probably could have been a lot longer and I would have been fine with that.

Cindy’s co-worker drama was pretty unnecessary especially with how it ended. The storyline with Joe was random.

After all of that, it’s still nice to be back in their world. Lindsay’s main crime storyline was rather interesting. I wish we could have heard more about that.

3.5/5 Stars



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May 6, 2020

19th Christmas by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro (Women’s Murder Club #19)

Synopsis:
As the holidays approach, Detective Lindsay Boxer and her friends in the Women's Murder Club have much to celebrate. Crime is down. The medical examiner's office is quiet. Even the courts are showing some Christmas spirit. And the news cycle is so slow that journalist Cindy Thomas is on assignment to tell a story about the true meaning of the season for San Francisco. 
Then a fearsome criminal known only as "Loman" seizes control of the headlines. He is planning a deadly surprise for Christmas morning. And he has commissioned dozens of criminal colleagues to take actions that will mask his plans. All that Lindsay and the SFPD can figure out is that Loman's greed -- for riches, for bloodshed, for attention -- is limitless. 
Solving crimes never happens on schedule, but as this criminal mastermind unleashes credible threats by the hour, the month of December is upended for the Women's Murder Club. Avoiding tragedy is the only holiday miracle they seek.

This was a fast-paced and infuriating ride from beginning to end. If stress from the holidays wasn’t enough, imagine being sent on a wild goose chase by a criminal. You can feel the tension building and building as the SFPD is ripped from their families around Christmas and being forced to track down a bad guy with no solid leads.

I was hooked from the very beginning and finished it in a day. Jumping back in with Women’s Murder Club crew usually does this to me, but I didn’t expect to get through it quite this quickly. But, I just couldn’t stop. I needed to know what was going to happen and how everything was going to unfold.

I’m just glad I got book #20 in the mail yesterday so I don’t have to wait to dive right back in.

5/5 stars


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April 29, 2020

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Synopsis:
A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door. 
Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn't walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time? 
Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents' association to their very foundations.

This was a book I bought purely for the love people have for it. I saw so many people hyping it up, so I jumped on the hype train and bought it.

It’s a story about love, loss, stubbornness, grief, and the people that can save your life. It’s definitely a heartwarming book even if the main character is an old grumpy man. I think everyone can relate to Ove in some way. Even more so for me once he has a cat following him around all day.

A Man Called Ove is a lighthearted read but it deals with very hard topics. I mean, he wants to die during the whole book. It’s not always a feel-good story.

I didn’t totally understand the hype the whole time I was reading it. But, once I finished, I realized that I really liked it a lot more than I thought I did. I’ll say it’s very different. But, I don’t really know how to describe why. Maybe it’s the point of view it’s told from. Or maybe it’s the wild cast of characters. Whatever it is, it makes for an interesting read that can teach you some lessons along the way.

4/5 Stars

Memorable Quotes: “People said Ove saw the world in black and white. But she was color. All the color he had.”

“Death is a strange thing. People live their whole lives as if it does not exist, and yet it’s often one of the greatest motivations for living. Some of us, in time, become so conscious of it that we live harder, more obstinately, with more fury. Some need its constant presence to even be aware of its antithesis. Others become so preoccupied with it that they go into the waiting room long before it has announced its arrival. We fear it, yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.”


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April 22, 2020

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Synopsis:
THEN
She was fifteen, her mother's golden girl. She had her whole life ahead of her. And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone.
NOW
It’s been ten years since Ellie disappeared, but Laurel has never given up hope of finding her daughter.
And then one day a charming and charismatic stranger called Floyd walks into a café and sweeps Laurel off her feet.
Before too long she’s staying the night at this house and being introduced to his nine year old daughter.
Poppy is precocious and pretty - and meeting her completely takes Laurel's breath away.
Because Poppy is the spitting image of Ellie when she was that age. And now all those unanswered questions that have haunted Laurel come flooding back.
What happened to Ellie? Where did she go?
Who still has secrets to hide?

A Tale of Two Books, you could say. The first half of this novel really hooked me. I was into the story. I was into the mystery. I wanted to know what happened.

Then I hit the halfway point. By then, I had mostly guessed the twist and my interest in it died. None of the characters were all that likeable. I didn’t feel connected to any of them, and I didn’t really care how it turned out. I just wanted the book to be over, but I wanted to finish it to at least confirm whether I was right or night.

I guess, it was at least good enough to finish. But, this isn’t a book I’ll be recommending. I’m willing to give her other books a shot. It could have just been the fact I didn’t care about any of the character that made so nonchalant about this one. Who knows.

2.5 Stars


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Criss Cross by James Patterson (Alex Cross #27)

Synopsis:
In a Virginia penitentiary, Alex Cross and his partner, John Sampson, witness the execution of a killer they helped convict. Hours later, they are called to the scene of a copycat crime. A note signed "M" rests on the corpse. "You messed up big time, Dr. Cross."
Was an innocent man just put to death? Alex soon realizes he may have much to answer for, as "M" lures the detective out of the capital to the sites of multiple homicides, all marked with distressingly familiar details -- details that conjure up decades-old cases. Details that conjure up Cross family secrets. Details that make clear that M is after a prize so dear that -- were the killer to attain it -- Alex's heart would no longer have reason to beat.

This was a fun read! Not only is it always great to jump back into the Alex Cross universe and spend time with that family, but the story was intriguing and terrifying and kept the pages turning.

We also get to see Alex go almost a bit rogue now that he’s mostly an advisor and working just in this psychologist business. You can never take the action away from the Cross family though.

I feel like Criss Cross was unique in that almost every single character in the book had a major role. Of course the standouts were Alex, John, and Bree. But, the kids had a bigger role. And, Nana Mama was sassy as ever.

SPOILERS AHEAD:

M is a huge project for Alex to solve, and I guess we will have to wait for the next book to see if he does!

5/5 Stars


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April 15, 2020

The Phantom Prince: My Life With Ted Bundy by Elizabeth Kendall

Synopsis:
This updated, expanded edition of The Phantom Prince, Elizabeth Kendall’s 1981 memoir detailing her six-year relationship with serial killer Ted Bundy, includes a new introduction and a new afterword by the author, never-before-seen photos, and a startling new chapter from the author’s daughter, Molly, who has not previously shared her story. Bundy is one of the most notorious serial killers in American history and one of the most publicized to this day. However, very rarely do we hear from the women he left behind—the ones forgotten as mere footnotes in this tragedy. The Phantom Prince chronicles Elizabeth Kendall’s intimate relationship with Ted Bundy and its eventual unraveling. As much as has been written about Bundy, it’s remarkable to hear the perspective of people who shared their daily lives with him for years. This gripping account presents a remarkable examination of a charismatic personality that masked unimaginable darkness.

Obviously I am a true crime fan, and the Ted Bundy case is one of the most popular is our country’s history. I’ve read The Stranger Beside Me, watched the movies, and listened to podcasts about it/him. None of those provide quite the same perspective as The Phantom Prince. 

I absolutely devoured this book. It’s pretty short, so it’s easy to get through quickly. But, I could not put it down at all. It was just all so interesting. Hearing the story of Ted Bundy from someone who was in a relationship with him and absolutely in love with him was something else. The way she write about him, it’s so easy to see how charming he was and why it was easy to fall in love with him. You almost start to fall for him yourself. 

When this book was originally released, Liz still loved Ted Bundy. She had sort of come to terms with the awful, horrific things that he had done, but she still loved him. Once you fall in love with someone, you don’t immediately fall out of love with them – no matter what they do. 

It was even more interesting to read her additions to the original release and to see how she feels about him today. I’m so happy for her and Molly that they’ve been able to come to terms with their life with Ted Bundy and completely cut ties with the love they had for him. Their lived will forever be impacted by their time with him and the unthinkable crimes he committed, but at least they were able to move on. 

If you are a true crime fan at all, or interested in the Ted Bundy case – this book is an absolute must-read. You won’t get this type of insight into the person he was behind closed doors anywhere else. It’s truly fascinating. 

Ted Bundy was a horrible, horrible monster. There’s no other way about it. 

5/5 Stars

Memorable quote: “I didn’t understand Ted Bundy and I never will.”