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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The Forbidden Door (Jane Hawk #4) by Dean Koontz

Synopsis:

She was one of the FBI’s top agents until she became the nation’s most-wanted fugitive. Now Jane Hawk may be all that stands between a free nation and its enslavement by a powerful secret society’s terrifying mind-control technology. She couldn’t save her husband, or the others whose lives have been destroyed, but equipped with superior tactical and survival skills—and the fury born of a broken heart and a hunger for justice—Jane has struck major blows against the insidious cabal. 
But Jane’s enemies are about to hit back hard. If their best operatives can’t outrun her, they mean to bring her running to them, using her five-year-old son as bait. Jane knows there’s no underestimating their capabilities, but she must battle her way back across the country to the remote shelter where her boy is safely hidden . . . for now.
As she moves resolutely forward, new threats begin to emerge: a growing number of brain-altered victims driven hopelessly, violently insane. With the madness spreading like a virus, the war between Jane and her enemies will become a fight for all their lives—against the lethal terror unleashed from behind the forbidden door.

If you’ve been keeping up with my reviews, you know I’ve been attached to this series. So, imagine my disappointment when I felt like this installment wasn’t necessary to the series. There were a few bits a pieces that definitely added to the series, but this book could have been cut in half, and I would have been totally fine with it.

It was slow-moving. There was not nearly enough Jane in this one. I really don’t care about getting full character arcs for characters that just end up dying – not at the hand of Jane. Maybe the first three books were just too good that getting a mediocre one made me seem worse than it was.

There was a steady building sense of dread while I read the first three. I had that sense of dread going into this one, but nothing really . . . happened. It kept building up like something was going to, and it just didn’t. Here is where I feel conflicted. I usually enjoy books more when my favorite characters make it out safe and alive. I still wanted that in this book, but I could have used some more action too.

I will say, The Forbidden Door which the title of the book references is very interesting, and I would like to hear more about how it happened all of a sudden.

On to the next one. . .

2.5/5 stars


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