December 2, 2020

In the Heart of the Fire (Nameless #1) by Dean Koontz

Synopsis

A bloodthirsty sheriff is terrorizing a small Texas town where justice has been buried with his victims. Until Nameless arrives—a vigilante whose past is a mystery and whose future is written in blood.

Anyone who crosses Sheriff Russell Soakes is dead, missing, or warned. One of them is a single mother trying to protect her children but bracing herself for the worst. Nameless fears the outcome. He’s seen it in his visions. Now it’s time to teach the depraved Soakes a lesson in fear. But in turning predators into prey, will Nameless unearth a few secrets of his own?


This read sure was . . . something. 

‘In the Heart of Fire’ is the first in a series of short stories about a character who is nameless and is sent on jobs to act as a vigilante of sorts. I am all about this. 

But . . .

The plot in this first story just made me feel ill. It’s about pedophilia, and some of the things the horrible people say made me want to throw up. 

Nameless is an intriguing character, and it was easy to read. I was certainly happy when I was done with this one though. I look forward to reading the rest of them and hope they are less vomit-inducing. 

4/5 Stars




My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman

Synopsis

Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy, standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-men-who-want-to-talk-about-Jesus-crazy. She is also Elsa's best, and only, friend. At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother's stories, in the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.

When Elsa's grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa's greatest adventure begins. Her grandmother's letters lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and totally ordinary old crones, but also to the truth about fairytales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.


Are you ready to get lost in your feelings? You better be if you’re picking up this book. I cried within the first 30 pages. 

This is the second Fredrik Backman book that I’ve read. My first one was “A Man Called Ove” which made me cry at the end. I’m starting to think I should just be ready to cry whenever I crack open one of his novels. 

I’m cool with that. His writing is beautiful and his characters are quirky. 

That’s basically what this whole novel is about. It’s about being different, embracing those differences, and accepting the differences in others. 

Being different is great. What even is “normal” anyway?

On the surface, ‘My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry’ is a fun and cute novel about a smartass almost-eight-year-old girl whose best, and only, friend is her granny. She loves books and fairy tales and going on journeys with her granny to the Land of Almost-Awake. 

What she doesn’t realize is that The Land of Almost-Awake is a lot closer to home than it may seem. 

When her granny dies, Elsa is thrust into an adventure of delivering letters to all of the people her grandmother wants to apologize to. She learns a lot of life, love, loss, and grief along the way. 

This novel cuts deep. The characters are complex. It will make you feel every emotion while acting as an escape to a far away land. 

‘My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry’ is an absolutely incredible read. 


5/5 Stars


Memorable Quotes: “Not all monsters were monsters in the beginning. Some are monsters born of sorrow.” 

“Not all monsters look like monsters. There are some that carry their monstrosity inside.” 

“It’s strange how quickly the significance of a certain smell can change, depending on what path it decides to take through the brain. It’s strange how close love and fear live to each other.”

“Death’s greatest power is not that it can make people die, but that it can make people want to stop living.”



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Revenge by James Patterson and Andrew Holmes

Synopsis

From the World's #1 Bestselling Author, comes a story of revenge as a former SAS soldier is ready to settle into civilian life when he's hired to solve the mysterious death of a daughter, diving into a seedy world that a parent never expects to see their child in.

Former SAS soldier David Shelley was part of the most covert operations team in the special forces. Now settling down to civilian life in London, he has plans for a safer and more stable existence. But the shocking death of a young woman Shelley once helped protect puts those plans on hold.

The police rule the death a suicide but the grieving parents can't accept their beloved Emma would take her own life. They need to find out what really happened, and they turn to their former bodyguard, Shelley, for help.

When they discover that Emma had fallen into a dark and seedy world of drugs and online pornography, the father demands retribution. But his desire for revenge will make enemies of people that even Shelley may not be able to protect them from, and take them into a war from which there may be no escape.


This is one of the best Patterson books I’ve read in awhile. If you’ve been reading my reviews for a good amount of time, you’ll know that I read a lot of them. 

Revenge grabs you from the very first page and it doesn’t let go until you close the book for the last time. 

From a tragic death to mafia activity to a race against time, you don’t have a whole lot of time to breathe. It kept me on the edge of my seat. I also loved these new characters that we met in David and Lucy Shelley. David was great, and Lucy is a total badass. I love a good, badass female protagonist. 

The book takes a few twists and turns. It’s mostly straight forward and you know who you like and who you don’t. 

Revenge is intense. There are some great characters. It’s a fun read. 

I recommend it. 


5/5 Stars




The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

 Synopsis:

It all started at a dinner party. . .

A domestic suspense debut about a young couple and their apparently friendly neighbors--a twisty, rollercoaster ride of lies, betrayal, and the secrets between husbands and wives. . .

Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all--a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story.

Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they've kept for years.

What follows is the nerve-racking unraveling of a family--a chilling tale of deception, duplicity, and unfaithfulness that will keep you breathless until the final shocking twist.


I started this book and ended this book not really knowing if I enjoyed it or not. I don’t quite know how that could be, but let’s take a look and try to sort this out. 


Characters

I think this is where the book lost me from the beginning. Nothing made me care about the characters. Everyone seemed overly suspicious just for the sake of being suspicious. The detective assigned to the case seemed unnecessarily cocky and all-knowing. I hated his character. The rest of them, I just felt no connection to. 

They all ended up with pretty solid character arcs and a surprising amount of depth. But there wasn’t enough to make me feel connected to them or find myself rooting for them. I wanted the baby to be alive and found well, but that’s about it. I think I had to keep reading just to see how that would end. 


Plot Line

The plot was fine. There was nothing really wrong with it. The book was pretty short and it packed a punch. It was GO GO GO right from the beginning. 

I did find myself interested in the story and wanting to find out what actually happened. 


Twists

It felt like every chapter added a new twist to the story. Financial troubles, mental illness, infidelity . . . you name it. There was a lot to unpack here. But, I cannot do much unpacking without spoilers. Just know that if you read this book, it’s a rollercoaster. 


Writing

There was something about this book being completely written in third person that didn’t sit well with me. If I had to choose, I’d say that the chapters centering Anne or the detective should have been written in first person. Other than that, I felt that the writing style was easy to read and flowed nicely. 



After breaking that down, it seems that I just didn’t connect with this book and the characters didn’t matter to me. I could see it getting great reviews from some and terrible reviews from others. That said, it’s pretty short so it makes for a quick read. You can decide for yourself without wasting too much time. It’ll definitely take you for a ride. 


2/5 Stars



The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher

 Synopsis:

When a young woman clears out her deceased grandmother’s home in rural North Carolina, she finds long-hidden secrets about a strange colony of beings in the woods.

When Mouse’s dad asks her to clean out her dead grandmother's house, she says yes. After all, how bad could it be?

Answer: pretty bad. Grandma was a hoarder, and her house is stuffed with useless rubbish. That would be horrific enough, but there’s more—Mouse stumbles across her step-grandfather’s journal, which at first seems to be filled with nonsensical rants…until Mouse encounters some of the terrifying things he described for herself.

Alone in the woods with her dog, Mouse finds herself face to face with a series of impossible terrors—because sometimes the things that go bump in the night are real, and they’re looking for you. And if she doesn’t face them head on, she might not survive to tell the tale.


I picked up this book after reading a comment in a Facebook reading group about it being an actually scary horror/thriller. It takes a lot for books to freak me out or scare me, but I decided to give it a go. 

My first impression was that the protagonist is very likable and adds some comedy to the density of the book with her personality. 

There is also a dog as one of the main characters. So, A+. 

Then, once I got to the first mention of the twisted ones saying, I had to close the book for the night. I’m not even sure why, but it creeped me out so much. 

I was creeped out, but I was super intrigued. So, I picked it back up in the daylight and, after reading more, I didn’t have to put it back down in order to sleep. It definitely had a huge creep factor to it. But, I’d say it was more mysterious. I don’t know if I psyched myself out when I first started it or what, but the rest of the book didn’t scare me. 

That said, I loved the journey that The Twisted Ones took me on. It was a fun read filled with mysterious and eccentric characters. It’ll make you laugh while simultaneously keeping you on the edge of your seat. 

For that, I definitely have it on my recommended list. 

I don’t know that we got a full explanation of what the large stones were all about, but it was enough of an explanation to not have me feeling like I needed more. I think it’s meant to be mysterious and weird, and it shall remain that way. 

5/5 Stars. This is a fun one. 



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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.”


April 13, 2020

The Night Window by Dean Koontz (Jane Hawk #5)

Synopsis:
Since her sensational debut in The Silent Corner, readers have been riveted by Jane Hawk's resolute quest to take down the influential architects of an accelerating operation to control every level of society via an army of mind-altered citizens. At first, only Jane stood against the "Arcadian" conspirators, but slowly others have emerged to stand with her, even as there are troubling signs that the "adjusted" people are beginning to spin viciously out of control. Now, in the thrilling, climactic showdown that will decide America's future, Jane will require all her resources--and more--as she confronts those at the malevolent, impregnable center of power.

So we’ve come to what I can only imagine is the conclusion of the Jane Hawk series. I’m both happy and sad about this. I’m sad because Jane Hawk was one hell of a protagonist. She was a badass woman, and it was fun to read about her being pretty invincible due to her brain and instincts.

I’m happy it’s over because reading each book filled me with such a huge sense of dread hoping that nothing would happen to Jane and/or Travis. I became very attached to them over five books. I don’t think I could handle getting this deep into it only for her to not succeed.

That said (SPOILERS AHEAD)

With the help of Vikram, one of her pals from the FBI,

She DOES succeed! She is finally able to take down the horrendously evil Techno Arcandians and reunite with her son to try to live somewhat of a normal life.

The ending did seem a bit rushed and half-baked. I expected there to be more of a focus on the takedown. But, it is what it is. Their revolution was so widespread and far-reaching. They were gaining on her. But, she launched her counterstrike just in time and got to see them come crashing down.

The Jane Hawk series was a ride from start to finish. I’m glad it had a happy ending. I would have been beyond bummed out if it were any other way.

5/5 Stars

Memorable Quotes: “Art made life in a dark world tolerable, but when a declining culture arrived at critical depth, Art alone was insufficient either to restore that culture or to prevent its further descent into an abyss.”

“Life of a tapestry of tragedy and comedy, terror and fortitude, despair and joy, and it’s routinely more colorful and crazy than anything I —or anyone— could invent.”

“The highway before them was smooth and open. Historically, however, the road to every utopia was paved with blood and bones, leading not to the dreamed-of perfection of humanity and society, but to mass murder, madness, and for a while the death of hope.”


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April 8, 2020

Odd Interlude by Dean Koontz (Odd Thomas 4.5)

Synopsis
Nestled on a lonely stretch along the Pacific coast, quaint roadside outpost Harmony Corner offers everything a weary traveler needs—a cozy diner, a handy service station, a cluster of cottages . . . and the Harmony family homestead presiding over it all. But when Odd Thomas and company stop to spend the night, they discover that there’s more to this secluded haven than meets the eye—and that between life and death, there is something more frightening than either. 

Having read books 3 & 4 of the Odd Thomas series out of order, I had to call back to when I read Odd Hours upon picking this one up. It wasn’t too hard. The worst part was that Odd Hours was my least favorite book in the series so far. Because of that, I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t be able to get into Odd Interlude.

I’m sure glad Mr. Koontz proved me very wrong.

Interlude in a shorter book and initially was released in 3 small parts. What I loved about it was it never really slowed down. It was pretty action-packed right from the beginning, and the mystery behind the town he was in was rather intriguing. Then, for the fans of Dean Koontz’s monsters, there’s a pretty epic monster that Odd Thomas has to meet up with at the end.

For being so short, it really had a little bit of everything. Odd being Odd, a great new character, a strong mystery, and a wild monster.

Odd Interlude definitely redeemed the series from Odd Hours which kind of bored me. I can’t wait to read the next one.

5/5 Stars

Memorable quotes: “This broken world, however, breaks most of us, grinding relentlessly on its metaled tracks.”

“Darkness has its charms, and even in our own hometowns, the world at night can be as enchanting as any foreign port with its exotic architectures. Between dusk and dawn, the commonplace is full of visual delights that only the moon, the stars, and richly textured shadows can provide.”

“No doubt misery, like happiness and hope, is found throughout the stars.” 


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April 5, 2020

Brother Odd by Dean Koontz (Odd Thomas #3)

Synopsis:
Loop me in, odd one.
The words, spoken in the deep of night by a sleeping child, chill the young man watching over her. For this was a favorite phrase of Stormy Llewellyn, his lost love, and Stormy is dead, gone forever from this world. In the haunted halls of the isolated monastery where he had sought peace, Odd Thomas is stalking spirits of an infinitely darker nature. 
Through two New York Times bestselling novels Odd Thomas has established himself as one of the most beloved and unique fictional heroes of our time. Now, wielding all the power and magic of a master storyteller at the pinnacle of his craft, Dean Koontz follows Odd into a singular new world where he hopes to make a fresh beginning—but where he will meet an adversary as old and inexorable as time itself. 
St. Bartholomew’s Abbey sits in majestic solitude amid the wild peaks of California’s high Sierra, a haven for children otherwise abandoned, and a sanctuary for those seeking insight. Odd Thomas has come here to learn to live fully again, and among the eccentric monks, their other guests, and the nuns and young students of the attached convent school, he has begun to find his way. The silent spirits of the dead who visited him in his earlier life are mercifully absent, save for the bell-ringing Brother Constantine and Odd’s steady companion, the King of Rock 'n' Roll. 
But trouble has a way of finding Odd Thomas, and it slinks back onto his path in the form of the sinister bodachs he has met previously, the black shades who herald death and disaster, and who come late one December night to hover above the abbey’s most precious charges. For Odd is about to face an enemy who eclipses any he has yet encountered, as he embarks on a journey of mystery, wonder, and sheer suspense that surpasses all that has come before.

Odd Thomas cannot seem to escape harm no matter where he goes – even a monastery in the mountains. This was maybe one of the more mysterious books in the series so far, but maybe that had more to do with the setting or the weather. Either way, it was interesting to dig into.

With the fantasy and science fiction elements aside, it was interesting how Brother Odd touched on how powerful the brain can be. It’s a mysterious computer that has more power than any of us really know. This book touched on that in its own way.

The supporting cast of Brother Odd were also interesting characters. I enjoyed reading about each of them and seeing how they played into the story. The monster creature itself was also rather intriguing as it definitely left a lot to the imagination.

I accidentally read the 4th book before reading this one, so I was a little out of order, but I worked it out in my head.

A solid installment in the Odd Thomas series.

4/5 Stars

Memorable Quotes:
“I have less to live for than I once did, but my life still has purpose, and I struggle to find meaning in the days.”

“The only thing I know for sure is how much I do not know. Maybe there is wisdom in that recognition. Unfortunately, I have found no comfort in it.”

“When we hope, we usually hope for the wrong thing. We yearn for tomorrow and the progress that it represents. But yesterday was once tomorrow, and where was the progress in it? Or we yearn for yesterday, for what was or what might have been. But as we are yearning, the present is becoming the past, so the past is nothing but our yearning for second chances.”

“Life you can evade; death you cannot.”

“To know grief, we must be in the river of time, because grief thrives in the present and promises to be with us in the future until the end point. Only time conquers time and its burdens. There is no grief before or after time, which is all the consolation we should need.”

“Human beings not only can’t bear too much reality, we flee from reality when someone doesn’t force us close enough to the fire to feel the heat on our faces.”

“Money and beauty are defenses against the sorrows of this world, but neither can undo the past. Only time will conquer time. The way forward is the only way back to innocence and to peace.”


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April 1, 2020

The Inn by James Patterson and Candice Fox

Synopsis
The Inn at Gloucester stands alone on the rocky shoreline. Its seclusion suits former Boston police detective Bill Robinson, novice owner and innkeeper. As long as the dozen residents pay their rent, Robinson doesn't ask any questions. Neither does Sheriff Clayton Spears, who lives on the second floor. 
Then Mitchell Cline arrives, with a deadly new way of doing business. His crew of local killers break laws, deal drugs, and bring violence to the front door of the Inn. That's when Robinson realizes, with the help of journalist Susan Solie, that leaving the city is no escape from the reality of evil -- or the responsibility for action. 
Teaming up with Sheriff Spears and two fearless residents -- Army veteran Nick Jones and groundskeeper Effie Johnson -- Robinson begins a risky defense. The solitary inhabitants of the Inn will have to learn, before time runs out, that their only choice is between standing together -- or dying alone.

When it comes to James Patterson, I’ve mostly been reading series books lately. I can’t give up on my Women’s Murder Club or Alex Cross books, and the newer Harriet Blue series is off to a good start.

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve picked up one of his stand-alone books, but I did with The Inn. It’s been sitting on my table since it’s release day and I kept choosing to read others before it. During this quarantine time, I figure there’s no better time to try to get through some of my TBR pile, so I finally started it. . . and then finished it in about a day and a half.

It was refreshing to meet all new characters. They’re all a special brand of unique, and I could definitely see a series starting up about The Inn. But, I’ll be happy with it just being a one off novel too. Not everything has to be a series. Sometimes it’s better just to let them be.

Bill Robinson is a former detective, but Mr. Patterson can’t get away from his detective writing just like Bill can’t shake his habits. Once a major drug problem becomes apparent in their little town, Bill decides to track down the source with the help of his fellow housemate Nick who is ex-military and dealing with PTSD.

It’s a wild ride from beginning to end. As the case with most recent Patterson novels, the writing isn’t top-notch, but it’s a fun read nonetheless. The characters are likable, the story moves at a good clip, and I had fun reading it.

You’ve got a recommendation from me!

4/5 stars


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Still Missing by Chevy Stevens

Synopsis:
On the day she was abducted, Annie O’Sullivan, a 32-year-old realtor, had three goals—sell a house, forget about a recent argument with her mother, and be on time for dinner with her ever-patient boyfriend. The open house is slow, but when her last visitor pulls up in a van as she's about to leave, Annie thinks it just might be her lucky day after all. 
Still Missing interweaves the year Annie spent as the captive of a psychopath in a remote mountain cabin, which unfold through sessions with her psychiatrist, with a second narrative following the events after her escape—her struggle to piece her shattered life back together and the ongoing police investigation into the identity of her captor.

Chevy Stevens is one of my favorite newer authors. Her books twist and turn while moving at a good pace. The characters are deep and developed. Each story cuts deep in its own way.

Still Missing is no different. Although, I guess I should say it set the tone for the rest of her work. I read that it was her first novel. I’m just the one reading her works out of order.

Still missing follows an absolutely heartbreaking yet incredibly strong heroine as she works through being kidnapped, abused, raped, and just so many more awful things. It’s told through her perspective as she’s recounting the tale to her therapist in different sessions. That makes things interesting. So, you know she survives, but you don’t know how she escapes until it plays out in her retelling.

I found myself totally sucked in to the book and I needed to see how she got free. I think I was even more drawn in once she actually was free. The parts with her interacting with The Freak were so dark. It was hard to take them in large chunks.

Still Missing is a crazy story of determination, strong will, and survival. If you like suspense novels and can handle some triggering subjects, I would highly recommend.

5/5 Stars

Memorable quote: “Like I said, I should feel proud of my progress, and I am, but that just adds another layer of guilt. Healing feels a lot like leaving my daughter behind and I already did that once.”


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March 20, 2020

The 18th Abduction (Women’s Murder Club #18) by James Patterson

Synopsis:

When three female school teachers go missing in San Francisco, Detective Lindsay Boxer must unravel the mystery of their disappearance. But what starts as a missing person case quickly escalates to a troubling murder investigation.
As pressure at work mounts, Lindsay must rely on her husband Joe to support her at home. Yet Joe is pursuing a mysterious case himself, as a woman running from her past brings him terrifying information – the notorious war criminal from her Eastern European home country has appeared on the streets of San Francisco.
As Lindsay searches for the three missing women, a frightening new twist forces her and Joe's investigations to collide. His mystery informant has gone missing, and all four abducted women are in grave danger. As shocking revelations emerge, Lindsay and Joe find themselves caught up in an international crime operation unlike anything they've seen before.
With the help of her fierce and courageous friends in the Women's Murder Club, Lindsay and Joe fight to save their city from the corrupt clutches of a monster.

There’s something so comforting about jumping back into a series that you love and getting to hang out with your favorite characters again. That’s what reading a Women’s Murder Club book feels like.

This is book number 18 and I still love reading them as much as I did with the first few.

This book was a wild ride from beginning to end and has a little bit of everything you love from Lindsay Boxer and the crew. It’s high intensity and will keep you turning the page. The ladies (and Joe) come through again.

5/5 Stars


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