November 7, 2018

Elevation by Stephen King

Although Scott Carey doesn’t look any different, he’s been steadily losing weight. There are a couple of other odd things, too. He weighs the same in his clothes and out of them, no matter how heavy they are. Scott doesn’t want to be poked and prodded. He mostly just wants someone else to know, and he trusts Doctor Bob Ellis.
In the small town of Castle Rock, the setting of many of King’s most iconic stories, Scott is engaged in a low grade—but escalating—battle with the lesbians next door whose dog regularly drops his business on Scott’s lawn. One of the women is friendly; the other, cold as ice. Both are trying to launch a new restaurant, but the people of Castle Rock want no part of a gay married couple, and the place is in trouble. When Scott finally understands the prejudices they face–including his own—he tries to help. Unlikely alliances, the annual foot race, and the mystery of Scott’s affliction bring out the best in people who have indulged the worst in themselves and others.

I’m . . . not really sure what I just read if I’m being honest. I don’t really know what the point of this book was. It seems like it was supposed to be a social commentary. I guess, in a way, it was.

I appreciate King accept LGBTQ folks, so that’s a plus. But I don’t really understand what Scott’s place in the story was. Unless it was the typical “man saves the women” trope. We also get absolutely zero answers about his condition. He just. . . floats off into space after uniting the gays and the religious people?

I don’t . . . get it? It also wasn’t written with any real sense of intelligence. I know Stephen King is a very good writer and his books can have some great depth. So I’m left sitting here confused about this one. It kinda felt like one of James Patterson’s bookshots.

I don’t know. It was okay. I don’t think I would recommend it. The cover art is beautiful though!

2/5 Stars

Fifty Fifty by James Patterson

It’s not easy being a good detective – when your brother’s a serial killer.
Sam Blue stands accused of the brutal murders of three young students, their bodies dumped near the Georges River. Only one person believes he is innocent: his sister, Detective Harriet Blue. And she’s determined to prove it.
Except she’s now been banished to the outback town of Last Chance Valley (population 75), where a diary found on the roadside outlines a shocking plan – the massacre of the entire town. And the first death, shortly after Harry’s arrival, suggests the clock is already ticking.
Meanwhile, back in Sydney, a young woman holds the key to crack Sam’s case wide open.
If only she could escape the madman holding her hostage . . .

I took a break from fiction for a few weeks to dive into True Crime books. The total heaviness of them made me come back to fiction for a quick break before I dive back in. I don’t know why I even tried. Once I got to the end of this one, I started stress eating and my heart rate was rising with each chapter.

And then I got hit with a completely emotional ending that I was not prepared for and I almost cried.

So, thank you for that. I thought I was escaping harsh emotions for a bit, but I was plunged right back in. At least they were fake characters this time. But, now that we are more than one book into the series, you start becoming attached anyways.

So, this is the second book in the Harriet Blue series. We see her get shipped off to the Australian desert to try to solve another case. What seems like just a homicide turns into so much more and she is forced to choose between saving herself or saving a whole village that she has come to protect.

Meanwhile, the search is on back home for who is framing her brother of serial murder. Strides are made in the case, but will it ultimately be solved? Almost. It leads into there being at least one more book in the series, but I can only imagine how emotional it will be.

I’ve had some issues with some of James Patterson’s recent releases. The writing doesn’t seem to be up to snuff, and they just haven’t stuck with me like they used to. This budding series seems to be bringing fresh life to his resume. I can only assume that’s through the help of his co-writer Candice Fox.

4/5 stars

November 5, 2018

Zodiac by Robert Graysmith

A sexual sadist, he took pleasure in torture and murder. His first victims were a teenage couple, stalked and shot dead in a lovers' lane. After another slaying, he sent his first mocking note to authorities, promising he would kill more.
The official tally of his victims was six. He claimed thirty-seven dead. The real toll may have reached fifty.
Robert Graysmith was on staff at the The San Francisco Chronicle in 1968 when Zodiac first struck, triggering in the resolute reporter an unrelenting obsession with seeing the hooded killer brought to justice. In this gripping account of Zodiac's eleven-month reign of terror, Graysmith reveals hundreds of facts previously unreleased, including the complete text of the killer's letters.

To be honest, I don’t know how to write a review for this book. The case of Zodiac is one of the most interesting serial killer cases to me. I’ve heard about this book time and time again. Once I picked it up, I dove in and finished it in 2 days. I really enjoyed the read. 

So, I did some internet-ing upon finishing it and learned that a lot of things in this book are not factually correct. It has some good info, but I don't have the energy to separate the truth from the made up details. 

So. . . it’s good if you don’t care about facts. But, right now, I am just really angry. 

1/10 stars. 

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The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

Utterly unique in its astonishing intimacy, as jarringly frightening as when it first appeared, Ann Rule's The Stranger Beside Me defies our expectation that we would surely know if a monster lived among us, worked alongside of us, appeared as one of us. With a slow chill that intensifies with each heart-pounding page, Rule describes her dawning awareness that Ted Bundy, her sensitive coworker on a crisis hotline, was one of the most prolific serial killers in America. He would confess to killing at least thirty-six young women from coast to coast, and was eventually executed for three of those cases. Drawing from their correspondence that endured until shortly before Bundy's death, and striking a seamless balance between her deeply personal perspective and her role as a crime reporter on the hunt for a savage serial killer -- the brilliant and charismatic Bundy, the man she thought she knew -- Rule changed the course of true-crime literature with this unforgettable chronicle.
So, this book is the most complete novel I have ever read. There is no doubt in my mind. There is a beginning. There is an ending. There are all sorts of gruesome details in between. It all ties up neatly and, WOW. What a ride of emotion it is. 

I can’t imagine how confusing it would be to be friends with such a horrible monster like Ted Bundy. On one hand, Ted was this nice man that Ann new as they both tried to help people in crisis. But, what was hidden from her was this awful murderous personality. 

I love how she freely expresses her emotions surrounding the case - her disbelief, sadness, and her conflicting thoughts. It really takes you inside the life of knowing a serial killer and it’s very interesting. 

Ann Rule also has a way of taking you to every case with a tenderness of approaching each topic with care. Her descriptions paint a horrific picture, but you can just feel the amount of effort she puts into her work. 

This is a book that pulls you right in and doesn’t let go. I felt truly devastated when I turned the last page. I didn’t want it to be over. It makes you feel emotions for Ted Bundy while also knowing he is a terrible person that deserved what he got. 

A truly amazing True Crime novel. 

10/10 Stars

October 18, 2018

I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

"You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark."
For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.
Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called "the Golden State Killer." Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.
At the time of the crimes, the Golden State Killer was between the ages of eighteen and thirty, Caucasian, and athletic—capable of vaulting tall fences. He always wore a mask. After choosing a victim—he favored suburban couples—he often entered their home when no one was there, studying family pictures, mastering the layout. He attacked while they slept, using a flashlight to awaken and blind them. Though they could not recognize him, his victims recalled his voice: a guttural whisper through clenched teeth, abrupt and threatening.

I have to start this review by saying – I LOVE THIS BOOK. I feel so passionately that it is, without a doubt, one of the best True Crime books ever written. If you’re a fan of True Crime, don’t even bother finishing this review, just go right down to the amazon link and purchase it.

Now, this book is about the Golden State Killer, so it is full of horrific details. If you aren’t prepared for topics of rape and murder, this one isn’t for you – fair warning. I think Michelle does a great job of taking you straight to the scene without making the experience of reading way too overwhelming. She gives a lot of detail but knows when to pull back. That said – these topics are not triggering to me, so I understand that someone else’s experience may be vastly different from mine.

Not only is I’ll Be Gone in the Dark about the horrific moments in the lives of California residents, but also it’s about Michelle and her relentless pursuit of the truth. She brought every incident to life with her words. It’s deeply moving, it’s gripping, it’s heart wrenching. It’s just an incredibly written novel and quickly shot up my list to one of my favorite books of all time.

Reading this book is heartbreaking. After it was released, the Golden State Killer was caught. But, Michelle also passed away before the book was completed. Her obsession with finding this killer and not letting this case die surely led to the eventual discovery of his identity, but she was not alive to witness this historic moment. I almost felt empty when I turned the final page because her story was complete, but his keeps going.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is a fantastic book. 10/5 stars.

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September 27, 2018

'P' is for Peril by Sue Grafton

Kinsey Millhone never sees it coming. She is mired in the case of a doctor who disappeared, his angry ex-wife, and beautiful current one–a case that is full of unfinished business, unfinished homes, and people drifting in and out of their own lives. Then Kinsey gets a shock. A man she finds attractive is hiding a fatal secret–and now a whole lot of beauty, money, and lies are proving to be a fatal distraction from what Kinsey should have seen all along: a killer standing right before her eyes. . . .

Man, I don’t know what it is about this book in particular but it took me what felt like forever to get through it. I couldn’t find myself caring at all about the missing doctor or his family.

It felt more like reading about Kinsey running in circles than actually doing anything, and it was missing a lot of her wit that we are used to. It was there, it just wasn’t as strong. So, that, along with a case that I didn’t care about made it a struggle.

It started to get intriguing once we learn the twist about her new office landlords. That storyline seemed to carry it until the end as the other one was winding down.

It was an interesting book that I probably would have gotten bored with if it wasn’t a Kinsey Millhone book. It wasn’t written differently than the other, I just couldn’t make myself care about the other characters.

3/5 Stars

Memorable Quotes: “This sandwich, I confess, was the highlight of my weekend, which is what life boils down to when you’re celibate.”

“I hadn’t even realized I’d fallen asleep, except for the drooling, which I don’t ordinarily do when awake.”

“Who were these two? Maybe we were on the verge of a burglar’s jamboree, all three of us stealing files for differing but nefarious purposes.”

“Death, by its nature, reshapes the connection between family members and friends. Survivors tend to gather, using food and drink as a balm to counteract the loss. There is usually laughter. I’m not quite sure why, but I suspect it’s an integral part of the healing process, the mourner’s talisman.”

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September 11, 2018

The Medical Examiner by James Patterson

Two bodies arrived at the morgue--one was still breathing. 
A woman checks into a hotel room and entertains a man who is not her husband. A shooter blows away the lover and wounds the millionairess, leaving her for dead. Is it the perfect case for the Women's Murder Club--or just the most twisted?
I really haven’t been able to get into any of the BookShots yet. I figured I would give this one a chance since it’s part of the Women’s Murder Club series. It’s always good to spend some more time with the characters I’ve grown to love over the years. 

I hate to say it, really, but this one confirmed my feelings about the BookShots. They’re so cheesy, they don’t add anything to the series, and I’m just not sure what the point it. The writing is more cringe worthy than anything. We’ve known these characters for years now, so why did we need “Claire Washburn” in almost every chapter. We know her whole name, she’s usually referred to as just Claire. So, why was it different in this one. 

I feel like all of the characters were more extreme versions of themselves here too. It was off because Lindsay was on vacation so it was more about Claire, Cindy, and Rich. But it just wasn’t right. They didn’t act like themselves. It was hard to get through. 

I guess the storyline was interesting, but it really could have been developed into a full-length novel and actually explored. Although, Joan was an absolutely awful character, so I’m glad I didn’t have to read a long one about her. 

I just don’t like these BookShots. Sorry. Also - the cover of the book makes no sense. That never happens in the book.

1/5 Stars – just because it’s the Women’s Murder Club

September 4, 2018

'O' is for Outlaw by Sue Grafton

Through fourteen books, fans have been fed short rations when it comes to Kinsey Millhone's past: a morsel here, a dollop there. We know of the aunt who raised her, the second husband who left her, the long-lost family up the California coast. But husband number one remained a blip on the screen until now.
The call comes on a Monday morning from a guy who scavenges defaulted storage units at auction. Last week he bought a stack. They had stuff in them—Kinsey stuff. For thirty bucks, he'll sell her the lot. Kinsey's never been one for personal possessions, but curiosity wins out and she hands over a twenty (she may be curious but she loves a bargain). What she finds amid childhood memorabilia is an old undelivered letter.
It will force her to reexamine her beliefs about the breakup of that first marriage, about the honor of that first husband, about an old unsolved murder. It will put her life in the gravest peril."O" Is for Outlaw: Kinsey's fifteenth adventure into the dark side of human nature.
Wow, okay. So I thought ‘M’ was emotional. Talk about the last paragraph of this one…. My heart hurts. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. 

We are now 15 books into Kinsey’s story, and we learned a lot about her and her past in this one. With an overall slow moving pace, it kept the book alive and interesting. The subject matter was intriguing, but it wasn’t action packed like some of the other books. At least she was in Santa Teresa for most of it – but that’s just my own personal thing if you’ve read my past reviews about the series.  

It also had two super random plot lines thrown in. They both moved the story forward, but they seemed like throw ins. First was the guy at the beginning that brought Mickey back into Kinsey’s life. His part was integral in the story, but it was over so quickly. Second was the document production at the Honky Tonk. It was just kinda shrugged off. I’m not sure it had to be there at all, but it didn’t detract from the book. 

I feel like as the series goes on, the books get more and more descriptive. I started noticing it in ‘M’, it was really evident in ‘N’, and it was still there at times in this one. Interesting little observation, but I’m curious to see if the trend continues. It also seemed like there was less dialogue in this one. Maybe that’s just compared to the last two. 

Overall, I really enjoyed learning more about Kinsey’s past and the characters that she used to interact with. I think having one book dedicated to exploring it is a great option rather than spending needless time throughout the series going through it. 

4/5 stars just because it was a little slower

Memorable Quotes: “Once in awhile a piece of old business surfaces, some item on life’s agenda you thought you’d dealt with years ago. Suddenly, it’s there again at the top of the page, competing for your attention despite the fact that you’re completely unprepared for it.”

“The truth about lying: You’re putting one over on some poor gullible dunce, which makes him appear stupid for not spotting the deception. Lying contains the same hostile elements as a practical joke in that the “victim” ends up looking foolish in his own eyes and laughable in everyone else’s. I’m willing to lie to pompous bureaucrats, when thwarted by knaves, or when all else fails, but I was having trouble lying to a man who wrote worm adventure stories for his great-grandson."

“For once my angels were in agreement. One said, Nobody’s perfect, and the other said, Amen.”

“On the one hand, I was a true law-and-order type, prissy in my judgement, outraged at those who violated the doctrines of honesty and fair play. On the other hand, I’d been known to lie through my teeth, eavesdrop, pick locks, or simply break into people’s houses, where I snooped through their possessions and took what suited me. It wasn’t nice, but I savored every single minute of my bad girl behavior. Later, I’d feel guilty, but I still couldn’t resist. I was split down the middle, my good angel sitting on one shoulder, Lucifer perched on the other."

“What is it that prompts us to reenact our unresolved issues? We revisit our wounds, constructing the past in hopes that this time we can make the ending turn out right.”

“After the rapture of love comes the wreckage, at least in my experience."

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September 1, 2018

The 17th Suspect by James Patterson

A series of shootings exposes San Francisco to a methodical yet unpredictable killer, and a reluctant woman decides to put her trust in Sergeant Lindsay Boxer. The confidential informant's tip leads Lindsay to disturbing conclusions, including that something has gone horribly wrong inside the police department itself. 
The hunt for the killer lures Lindsay out of her jurisdiction, and gets inside Lindsay in dangerous ways. She suffers unsettling medical symptoms, and her friends and confidantes in the Women's Murder Club warn Lindsay against taking the crimes too much to heart. With lives at stake, the detective can't help but follow the case into ever more terrifying terrain. 
A decorated officer, loving wife, devoted mother, and loyal friend, Lindsay's unwavering integrity has never failed her. But now she is confronting a killer who is determined to undermine it all.
It was weird having a Women’s Murder Club where it didn’t feel like Lindsay was the main character. It was more about Yuki’s case, which was fine and interesting – just weird. 

I guess it makes sense that Yuki’s case was the highlight of the book, because Lindsay’s story wasn’t all that interesting. There wasn’t much mystery around it even though we didn’t have all the details. It just didn’t pull me in like some of the others had. It’s always great being back in Lindsay’s world as she is one of my all-time favorite protagonists, but 17th Suspect came up a bit short. 

I’m also not sure that I enjoyed the outcome of Yuki’s trial. There are going to be spoilers here, so if you don’t want them, my rating for this book is 2.5/5 stars and if you’re already immersed in the WMC story, it’ll go by quickly and you have to read it to stay up to date. 

Yuki hears about a case involving a man accusing a woman he works with of raping him at gun point. He has video of it and it seems like a slam dunk case. But, the longer it goes on, the more skeptical Yuki gets, and her gut leads her in the right direction. The man is lying. He has framed the woman of a violent sexual crime to try to get money out of her. 

Now, while this storyline is totally valid, and it’s obviously a thing that happens, these books are written yearly. And, in this social climate we are currently in, I’m not sure that a book about a fake rape accusation was the way to go. They could have made a very strong social point about the fact that men can be raped just like women can. It’s a very real problem that keeps getting pushed aside and not taken seriously. 

James Patterson is a strong name. Knowing people who have struggled with this and are trying to speak out about it, I was hoping he would attach his name to a strong position. Instead, we see more fake rape accusations and a man ended up NOT being the victim. 

Maybe I have too many personal beliefs and feelings tied to this, but it was frustrating. It did show how a fake accusation can totally ruin someone’s life. But, I think we know this.

2.5/5 Stars

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