Thursday, December 31, 2020

The Darkest Legacy

Book: The Darkest Legacy
Series: The Darkest Minds #4
Author: Alexandra Bracken

Five years after the destruction of the so-called rehabilitation camps that imprisoned her and countless other Psi kids, seventeen-year-old Suzume "Zu" Kimura has assumed the role of spokesperson for the interim government, fighting for the rights of Psi kids against a growing tide of misinformation and prejudice. But when she is accused of committing a horrifying act, she is forced to go on the run once more in order to stay alive.

Determined to clear her name, Zu finds herself in an uncomfortable alliance with Roman and Priyanka, two mysterious Psi who could either help her prove her innocence or betray her before she gets the chance. But as they travel in search of safety and answers, and Zu grows closer to the people she knows she shouldn't trust, they uncover even darker things roiling beneath the veneer of the country's recovery. With her future-and the future of all Psi-on the line, Zu must use her powerful voice to fight back against forces that seek to drive the Psi into the shadows and save the friends who were once her protectors.-Goodreads

Review: I read the first 3 books in this series 5 years ago. While the world building was top notch and Bracken is certainly an extremely talented writer, the 3rd book fell short for me. That said, I was still invested in Ruby, Liam and their troupe of friends. I saw this book available at the library and jumped right now. The positives: the pacing of this story was good. It's a long book (close to 600 pages hard cover) but I felt the plot kept moving. I loved the addition of Priyanka, she is one of my favorite characters in the series. I think jumping forward a few years and showing what was happening in the government was a smart move from a plot perspective. The not so positive would be Zu herself. I didn't dislike her, she was just a tad bland for a main character. Her romance story arc was not necessary to the plot and could have been eliminated (without impacting the story in any way). 

Overall-entertaining. I can't wait to see what Bracken comes up with next.  

Grade: 3/5 

The Near Witch

Book: The Near Witch
Author: VE Schwab

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.

There are no strangers in the town of Near.

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. But when an actual stranger, a boy who seems to fade like smoke, appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true. The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion.

As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi's need to know about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, and about the history of this nameless boy.-Goodreads

Review: This is Schwab's debut novel written when she was a college student. It's a fairy tale type of story set in the old days, in a small town of Near that is bordered by a forest and moor. It has witches. It has a strong female lead. It is dark and gloomy, atmospheric and as much as I hate to say it (because I love this author), a tad boring. I think the story itself was good and this have been a strong short story, there just wasn't a lot happening for most of the book. 

Grade: 2/5 

Cream of the Crop

Book: Cream of the Crop
Series: Hudson Valley #2
Author: Alice Clayton

Manhattan’s It Girl, Natalie Grayson, has it all: she’s a hot exec at a leading advertising firm, known industry-wide for her challenging and edgy campaigns. She’s got a large circle of friends, a family that loves her dearly, and her dance card is always full with handsome eligible bachelors. What else could a modern gal-about-town wish for? The answer, of course, is...cheese.

Natalie’s favorite part of each week is spending Saturday morning at the Union Square Farmer’s Market, where she indulges her love of all things triple cream. Her favorite booth also indulges her love of all things handsome. Oscar Mendoza, owner of the Bailey Falls Creamery and purveyor of the finest artisanal cheeses the Hudson Valley has to offer, is tall, dark, mysterious, and a bit oblivious. Or so she thinks. But that doesn’t stop Natalie from fantasizing about the size of his, ahem, milk can.

Romance is churning, passion is burning, and something incredible is rising to the top. Could it

Review: Natalie Grayson is a 5 star character. She's a size 18, fit woman, who is smart, successful, sassy and self confident. She's also a fiery redhead so I imagined Christina Hendricks when reading it. 99% of the book is told from her point of view and I really loved her. She is FIERCE! But you know who wasn't fierce? Her love interest, Oscar. Natalie deserved a kick ass man and he was just...blah. There is a quiet, introspective man and there is a quiet, boring man and he was unfortunately the latter. I understood their lust but not their love, they barely even spoke. There was also a subplot with Oscar's ex-wife that I found weird. The explanation was friendship after divorce but the whole situation felt off. 

Overall, Natalie's overall amazingness saved this book for me. 

Grade: 3/5 

The Guest List

Book: The Guest List
Author: Lucy Foley

The bride ‧ The plus one ‧ The best man ‧ The wedding planner ‧ The bridesmaid ‧ The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?-Goodreads

Review: I feel like almost everyone I know is putting this book on their top 10 list for 2020 and is recommending it (hey, and it won a Goodreads award!). Maybe my expectations were too high. I certainly enjoyed it and it was very readable, it was just extremely predictable. Pinning seemingly every bad thing on one character was very unbelievable and had me rolling my eyes at the end. This really reminded me of a watered down version of Big Little Lies (something bad happens, timeline rewinds and leads up to the events). 

Overall, liked it but didn't blow me away.   

Grade: 3/5 

A Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History

Book: A Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History
Author: Joseph M Marshall III

As a brilliant leader of a desperate cause and one of the most perennially fascinating figures of the American West, Crazy Horse crushed Custer's 7th Cavalry and brought the United States Army to its knees. Now, with the help of celebrated historian Joseph Marshall, we finally have the opportunity to know Crazy Horse as his fellow Lakota Indians knew him.

Drawing on extensive research and a rich oral tradition that it rarely shared outside Native American circles, Marshall - himself a descendent of the Lakota community that raised Crazy Horse - creates a vibrant portrait of the man, his times, and his legacy. From the powerful vision that spurred him into battle to the woman he loved but lost to duty and circumstance, this is a compelling celebration of a culture, an enduring way of life, and the unforgettable hero who remains a legend among legends.-Goodreads

Review: This is an absolutely fascinating biography (of sorts) of the legendary Lakota Indian, Crazy Horse. The author, historian Joseph Marshall III, is a Lakota Indian and did a wonderful job researching Crazy Horse, primarily through stories told through generations of Lakota. Did the dialogue happen exactly how it's  portrayed in this book and do we know exactly what Crazy Horse was thinking in his moments of solitude? No, as there was no written record at the time. But Marshall brought Crazy Horse to life as a man and did his best to recreate situations based on the oral record as passed down for generations. Readers expecting a detailed account of the battle that ended Custer will be disappointed as this wasn't a focal point in the book but Crazy Horse's life was so interesting that was not an issue for me. 

Overall-fantastic read. 

Grade: 4.5/5 

Assassin's Apprentice

Book: Assassin's Apprentice
Series: The Farseer Trilogy #1
Author: Robin Hobb

Fitz is a royal bastard, cast out into the world with only his magical link with animals for solace and companionship.
But when Fitz is adopted into the royal household, he must give up his old ways and learn a new life: weaponry, scribing, courtly manners; and how to kill a man secretly. Meanwhile, raiders ravage the coasts, leaving the people Forged and soulless. As Fitz grows towards manhood, he will have to face his first terrifying mission, a task that poses as much a risk to himself as it does to his target: Fitz is a threat to the throne… but he may also be the key to the future of the kingdom.-Goodreads

Review: This book has been on my TBR shelf for years and I finally took the time to read it.  Fitz is a sympathetic protagonist with a tragic backstory who can't catch a break. There were a lot of secondary characters, the only ones really making an impression were Burrich, Fiitz's (kind of) surrogate father figure, Chade, the royal assassin, and Patience, the widow of Fitz's father. 

Overall, it was a good fantasy novel with strong world building and minor magical elements. It was slow at times and quite repetitive, but I was cheering for Fitz as a character and wanted him to succeed (with the crap hand he was dealt in life). 

Grade: 3/5 

The Yellow Bird Sings

Book: The Yellow Bird Sings
Author: Jennifer Rosner

As Nazi soldiers round up the Jews in their town, Róza and her 5-year-old daughter, Shira, flee, seeking shelter in a neighbor’s barn. Hidden in the hayloft day and night, Shira struggles to stay still and quiet, as music pulses through her and the farmyard outside beckons. To soothe her daughter and pass the time, Róza tells her a story about a girl in an enchanted garden:

The girl is forbidden from making a sound, so the yellow bird sings. He sings whatever the girl composes in her head: high-pitched trills of piccolo; low-throated growls of contrabassoon. Music helps the flowers bloom.

In this make-believe world, Róza can shield Shira from the horrors that surround them. But the day comes when their haven is no longer safe, and Róza must make an impossible choice: whether to keep Shira by her side or give her the chance to survive apart.-Goodreads

Review: This is a beautifully written novel about a mother hiding with her young daughter during WWII. The love Roza has for her daughter while trying to keep them both alive is inspirational while their circumstances are heartbreaking. While this is fiction, this was inspired by true stories of survival during the war. I loved it!

Grade: 5/5 


Book: Vengeful
Series: Villains #2
Author: VE Schwab 

Sydney once had Serena—beloved sister, betrayed enemy, powerful ally. But now she is alone, except for her thrice-dead dog, Dol, and then there's Victor, who thinks Sydney doesn't know about his most recent act of vengeance.

Victor himself is under the radar these days—being buried and re-animated can strike concern even if one has superhuman powers. But despite his own worries, his anger remains. And Eli Ever still has yet to pay for the evil he has done.-Goodreads

Review: Absolute perfection. VE Schwab proves once again why she is one of the best urban fantasy authors writing today. I loved the first book in this duology and was hesitant to read this one right away (because let's face it, many times the sequel doesn't live up to expectations) but I loved this. There is nothing new or revolutionary in this series in terms of the supernatural element, but Schwab really shines creating multi faceted characters.  She also managed to make me feel some sympathy towards Eli, which I didn't think was possible. 

His eyes met Victor’s, and for a second neither man moved.
Run, thought Victor, and he could see the response in Eli’s coiled frame.
Chase me.

Grade: 5/5

Ninth House

Book: Ninth House
Series: Alex Stern #1
Author: Leigh Bardugo

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive-Goodreads

Review: I'm a huge Leigh Bardugo fan and was so excited for this new series! In this world, Yale's secret societies (that actually exist) have a magical element. The protagonist, Alex Stern, is a Yale freshman with a unique ability who is training with a senior to monitor the activities of these societies. The majority of this book was extremely slow and slightly tedious, but the pace picked up at the end. Alex is rough around the edges but I think she has a lot of potential for the series. 

Overall, I really liked the dark, gothic type vibe and look to see where this goes. I will admit it's slow so I anticipate a lot of "I loved it" or "I hated it" type reviews for this one. 

Grade: 4/5 

A Spark of Light

Book: Small Great Things
Author: Jodi Picoult

The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.

After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.

But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester disguised as a patient, who now stands in the cross hairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.-Goodreads

Review: Jodi Picoult tackles the controversial topic of abortion in a Spark of Light. A gunman enters a health clinic where abortions are performed and starts shooting. The story is told from multiple points of view (I think it was 8-10 narratives) and it told backwards, covering the day of the shooting. This was well researched and Picoult did a very thorough job explaining all sides, however the layout didn't work for me. I literally wrote down the characters at one point to keep them all straight and the backwards timeline wasn't necessary. It was done for a few big reveals at the end but I suspect most reads were able to guess them early on. 

Grade: 3/5 

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Book: A Thousand Splendid Suns
Author: Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a breathtaking story set against the volatile events of Afghanistan's last thirty years - from the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban to post-Taliban rebuilding - that puts the violence, fear, hope, and faith of this country in intimate, human terms. It is a tale of two generations of characters brought jarringly together by the tragic sweep of war, where personal lives - the struggle to survive, raise a family, find happiness - are inextricable from the history playing out around them.-Goodreads

Review: This is the story about two Afghani women, Mariam and Laila. They are born a generation apart but finds their lives interwoven with each other. I am the same age as Laila and it was just shocking comparing my privileged American childhood with hers. While one of the most depressing books I've ever read, it was also one of my top reads for 2020. It's harrowing, beautiful, heart wrenching, depressing with a dash of hope. Highly recommend for all women to read this. 

Grade: 5/5 

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

Book: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
Author: Bryan Stevenson

An unforgettable true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to end mass incarceration in America — from one of the most inspiring lawyers of our time.

Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit law office in Montgomery, Alabama, dedicated to defending the poor, the incarcerated, and the wrongly condemned.

Just Mercy tells the story of EJI, from the early days with a small staff facing the nation’s highest death sentencing and execution rates, through a successful campaign to challenge the cruel practice of sentencing children to die in prison, to revolutionary projects designed to confront Americans with our history of racial injustice.

One of EJI’s first clients was Walter McMillian, a young Black man who was sentenced to die for the murder of a young white woman that he didn’t commit. The case exemplifies how the death penalty in America is a direct descendant of lynching — a system that treats the rich and guilty better than the poor and innocent.-Goodreads

Review: This was a mesmerizing, devastating and educational read about attorney Bryan Stevenson and his nonprofit law office. Stevenson highlights his path to becoming an attorney as well as many clients he's worked with over the years. I couldn't put it down. 

Grade: 5/5 

The Law of Innocence

Book: The Law of Innocence
Series: Mickey Haller #6
Author: Michael Connelly

Defense attorney Mickey Haller is pulled over by police, who find the body of a client in the trunk of his Lincoln. Haller is charged with murder and can't make the exorbitant $5 million bail slapped on him by a vindictive judge.

Mickey elects to defend himself and must strategize and build his defense from his jail cell in the Twin Towers Correctional Center in downtown Los Angeles, all the while looking over his shoulder – as an officer of the court he is an instant target.

Mickey knows he's been framed. Now, with the help of his trusted team, he has to figure out who has plotted to destroy his life and why. Then he has to go before a judge and jury and prove his innocence. -Goodreads

Review: In the latest installment of the Mickey Haller series, Mickey himself finds himself behind bars after the body of one of his clients is found in his trunk. He works with him team to uncover what really happened and tries to clear his name.

I really enjoy these series as a whole and liked this book, but I didn't find it quite as interesting as the previous installments. The Kendall storyline was unnecessary and could have been eliminated entirely. I think my biggest challenge was the ending. I wanted a big courtroom showdown between Mickey and prosecuting attorney "Death row Dana" but the way the case wrapped up was anticlimactic. I did like the integration of COVID-19 and how it was weaved into the story. 

Grade: 3/5 

Gods of Guilt

Book: Gods of Guilt
Series: Mickey Haller #5
Author: Michael Connelly

Mickey Haller gets the text, "Call me ASAP - 187," and the California penal code for murder immediately gets his attention. Murder cases have the highest stakes and the biggest paydays, and they always mean Haller has to be at the top of his game.

When Mickey learns that the victim was his own former client, a prostitute he thought he had rescued and put on the straight and narrow path, he knows he is on the hook for this one. He soon finds out that she was back in LA and back in the life. Far from saving her, Mickey may have been the one who put her in danger.

Haunted by the ghosts of his past, Mickey must work tirelessly and bring all his skill to bear on a case that could mean his ultimate redemption or proof of his ultimate guilt.-Goodreads

Review: Book 5 in the Mickey Haller series! This book definitely took a turn I wasn't expecting. At the conclusion of the previous book, Mickey was in a great place with his ex-Maggie and their daughter. He also announced he was running for District Attorney. I wasn't sure where Connelly would go with this as obviously, Mickey is a defense attorney through and through. So when this picks up, Mickey has lost his bid for DA and on the outs with Maggie and Hailey. He's also off the wagon. I was frustrated about the situation with Maggie and Hailey but could understand where Hailey was coming from. Mickey's personal issues aside, the case in this book was very interesting to me. Mickey is defending a digital pimp who was surprisingly a sympathetic (and dare I say, likable) character. People bored by courtroom scenes may be a tad bored with this but I found it really interesting. 

Grade: 4/5

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

The Fifth Witness

Book: The Fifth Witness
Series: Mickey Haller #4
Author: Michael Connelly

Mickey Haller has fallen on tough times. He expands his business into foreclosure defense, only to see one of his clients accused of killing the banker she blames for trying to take away her home.

Mickey puts his team into high gear to exonerate Lisa Trammel, even though the evidence and his own suspicions tell him his client is guilty. Soon after he learns that the victim had black market dealings of his own, Haller is assaulted, too--and he's certain he's on the right trail.

Despite the danger and uncertainty, Haller mounts the best defense of his career in a trial where the last surprise comes after the verdict is in.-Goodreads

Review: This is a weird one to review. On one hand, I absolutely loved the case and how the murder played out. I definitely did not see that coming. On the other hand, I felt like Mickey didn't have much of a defense strategy and his announcement that he was running for DA at the end of the book seemed really out of character. Overall, still enjoying the series. 

Grade: 3/5 

The Reversal

Book: The Reversal
Series: Mickey Haller #3
Author: Michael Connelly

Longtime defense attorney Mickey Haller is recruited to change stripes and prosecute the high-profile retrial of a brutal child murder. After 24 years in prison, new DNA evidence means convicted killer Jason Jessup has been granted another trial. Haller is convinced Jessup is guilty, and he takes the case on the condition that he gets to choose his investigator, LAPD Detective Harry Bosch.

Together, Bosch and Haller set off on a case fraught with political and personal danger. Opposing them is Jessup, now out on bail, a defense attorney who excels at manipulating the media, and a runaway eyewitness reluctant to testify after so many years.

With the odds and the evidence against them, Bosch and Haller must nail a sadistic killer once and for all. If Bosch is sure of anything, it is that Jason Jessup plans to kill again.-Goodreads

Review: When a child murderer's conviction is overturned due to DNA, Mickey agrees to re-prosecute the case. If he secures a guilty verdict, his ex-wife Maggie will be promoted to a new division. It was interesting seeing Mickey on the other side of the aisle. I will say I never fully understood why he was so convinced Jason Jessup (the man he was prosecuting) was guilty based on the evidence he was privy to when he took the case. I loved Mickey and Maggie's interactions as well as Mickey and Bosch. Overall, solid book in the series. 

Grade: 3.5/5 

Where She Went

Book: Where She Went
Series: If I Stay #2
Author: Gayle Forman

It's been three years since the devastating accident... three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever.

Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard's rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future - and each other.-Goodreads

Review: It seems strange to type this, but I found this book more emotional than it's predecessor. In book 1, Mia lost both parents and her little brother to a devastating car accident. Even though the subject matter was sad, I felt the overall tone of the book was happy in Mia reliving positive family memories. This book takes place three years later after Mia left for Julliard and never looked back. Adam never had closure. He realizes it seems ridiculous to pine over what people would assume was just a high school romance but he knows in his heart it was more. Forman did a great job writing Adam's thoughts and emotions, it felt very 'real.' Overall, great duology. 

Grade: 4/5 

The Girls He Adored

Book: The Girls He Adored
Series: EL Pender #1
Author: Jonathan Nasaw

For ten years, the charmingly disheveled veteran FBI Special Agent E.L. Pender has been investigating the apparently random disappearances of a dozen women across the country. The only detail the cases have in common is the strawberry blond color of the victims' hair, and the presence of a mystery man with whom they were last seen.

Then, in Monterey, California, a routine traffic stop erupts into a scene of horrific violence. The local police are stunned by a disemboweled strawberry blond victim and an ingenious killer with multiple alternating personalities. Pender is convinced he has found his man, but before he can prove it, the suspect stages a cunning jailbreak and abducts his court-appointed psychiatrist, Irene Cogan.

In a house on a secluded ridge in Oregon, Irene must navigate through the minefield of her captor's various egos -- male and female, brilliant and naive, murderous and passive -- all of whom are dominated by Max, a seductive killer who views her as both his prisoner and his salvation. Irene knows that to survive she must play along with Max's game of sexual perversion. Only then will she be able to strip back the layers to discover a chilling story of a shattered young boy -- and all the girls he adored.-Goodreads

Review: There is a lot happening in this book. We have a killer with DID (dissociative identity disorder, formerly known as multiple personality disorder), a psychiatrist who is flirting with said killer almost immediately upon meeting him, and a quirky FBI agent who is not in good standing with the bureau hunting the killer. This book started off pretty strong and ended up completely unbelievable but I still overall enjoyed it. 

Grade: 3/5 

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin

Book: In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin
Author: Erik Larson

The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America's first ambassador to Hitler's Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.

A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the New Germany, she has one affair after another, including with the surprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler's true character and ruthless ambition.-Goodreads

Review: A very detailed and fascinating account of Ambassador Dodd and his daughter, Martha in Berlin. While the title implies 'American Family' this was primarily about Dodd and his daughter, as she kept a detailed diary about everything going on around them. It was very interesting to hear about the role of an ambassador and how they were chosen at the time. Very interesting read for those who gravitate towards WWII books. 

Grade: 4/5

Red, White & Royal Blue

Book: Red, White & Royal Blue
Author: Casey McQuiston

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations. The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you? -Goodreads

Review: If you are looking for a super cutesy, cheesy, romance (with a dash of spice) this may be the book for you. I unfortunately made the mistake of reading this during the most stressful, divisive, US election in recent years when I was actively trying to avoid politics. So reading a romance that contained politics was just bad timing on my part (in my defense I had been on the waitlist for this book for awhile and it just happened to come available as I was avoiding social media for the nonstop political memes, ads, etc). 

Alex Claremont, the main character, is an acquired taste. I honesty could not stand him in the beginning of the book but I grew to like him and his snark by the end. His love interest, Prince Henry, was a quiet man without much personality (compared to Alex) but I think they did 'work' together. I kept finding myself getting caught up on non-important details like "Alex is from Austin, why aren't they eating or referencing the Sat Lick or Chuy's?" 

Overall, not my favorite romance but perhaps as mentioned above, this was just poor timing on my part. I think McQuiston has some talent and I'll look for more books by this author. 

Grade: 2.5/5 

99 Percent Mine

Book: 99 Percent Mine
Author: Sally Thorne

Darcy Barrett has undertaken a global survey of men. She’s travelled the world, and can categorically say that no one measures up to Tom Valeska, whose only flaw is that Darcy’s twin brother Jamie saw him first and claimed him forever as his best friend. Despite Darcy’s best efforts, Tom’s off limits and loyal to her brother, 99%. That’s the problem with finding her dream man at age eight and peaking in her photography career at age twenty—ever since, she’s had to learn to settle for good enough.

When Darcy and Jamie inherit a tumble-down cottage from their grandmother, they’re left with strict instructions to bring it back to its former glory and sell the property. Darcy plans to be in an aisle seat halfway across the ocean as soon as the renovations start, but before she can cut and run, she finds a familiar face on her porch: house-flipper extraordinaire Tom’s arrived, he’s bearing power tools, and he’s single for the first time in almost a decade.

Suddenly Darcy’s considering sticking around to make sure her twin doesn’t ruin the cottage’s inherent magic with his penchant for grey and chrome. She’s definitely not staying because of her new business partner’s tight t-shirts, or that perfect face that's inspiring her to pick up her camera again. Soon sparks are flying—and it’s not the faulty wiring. It turns out one percent of Tom’s heart might not be enough for Darcy anymore. This time around, she’s switching things up. She’s going to make Tom Valeska 99 percent hers.-Goodreads

Review: The Hating Game was one of my favorite reads of 2016 and I recommend it to almost everyone. I was SO excited for this book, I just knew it was going to be great. My friend Molly lives out of state and sent me this book (thanks Molly) over a year ago and I instantly dived in..only to keep falling asleep when trying to read it. I finally put it down (this is something I have done only 2 other times in probably 15 years), figured I was in the wrong mood and would try again. I finally hunkered down and read this a few months ago and I'm sad to say this was the most disappointing read of 2020. Darcy was unlikable and annoying. She works in a bar but other than the initial chapter she is never at the bar again. It felt like 20% of the book was the first night Darcy and Tom saw each other at the house. The dialogue didn't sound realistic. At all. At any time. There were no transitions between scenes. I did not buy into Darcy and Tom as a couple and thus didn't care about a HEA. 

Grade: 1/5 

If I Stay

Book: If I Stay
Series: If I Stay #1
Author: Gayle Forman

Just listen, Adam says with a voice that sounds like shrapnel.

I open my eyes wide now.
I sit up as much as I can.
And I listen.

Stay, he says.

Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones: Stay true to her first love—music—even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind?

Then one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it's the only one that matters.-Goodreads

Review: After a tragic car accident kills Mia's parents and little brother, Mia hovers in almost a ghost-like state watching things around her while she is in a coma. She also reflects on her life growing up and needs to decide if she wants to be with her family or return to the living world. 

I thought this was very well done. A story about music, friendship, first love and most importantly, family. Very engaging. 

Grade: 4/5 

Nothing Ventured

Book: Nothing Ventured
Series: Detective William Warwick #1
Author: Jeffrey Archer

William Warwick has always wanted to be a detective, and decides, much to his father’s dismay, that rather than become a lawyer like his father, Sir Julian Warwick QC, and his sister Grace, he will join London’s Metropolitan Police Force.

After graduating from university, William begins a career that will define his life: from his early months on the beat under the watchful eye of his first mentor, Constable Fred Yates, to his first high-stakes case as a fledgling detective in Scotland Yard’s arts and antiquities squad. Investigating the theft of a priceless Rembrandt painting from the Fitzmolean Museum, he meets Beth Rainsford, a research assistant at the gallery who he falls hopelessly in love with, even as Beth guards a secret of her own that she’s terrified will come to light.

While William follows the trail of the missing masterpiece, he comes up against suave art collector Miles Faulkner and his brilliant lawyer, Booth Watson QC, who are willing to bend the law to breaking point to stay one step ahead of William. Meanwhile, Miles Faulkner’s wife, Christina, befriends William, but whose side is she really on?-Goodreads

Review: The Clifton Chronicles is a very successful series by this author (I confess I haven't read it yet) and this book is a prequel of sorts about one of those characters, Detective William Warwick. The author is clear that this isn't a detective story, rather a story about a detective. The good? It's an easy read and I really enjoyed the courtroom scenes. I loved William's father. The not so good? The story itself around counterfeit artwork was very boring and I had a hard time staying engaged in the story. I'll probably give book 2 a chance. 

Grade: 2/5 

The Weight of Silence

Book: The Weight of Silence
Author: Heather Gudenkauf

It happens quietly one August morning. As dawn's shimmering light drenches the humid Iowa air, two families awaken to find their little girls have gone missing in the night.

Seven-year-old Calli Clark is sweet, gentle, a dreamer who suffers from selective mutism brought on by tragedy that pulled her deep into silence as a toddler.

Calli's mother, Antonia, tried to be the best mother she could within the confines of marriage to a mostly absent, often angry husband. Now, though she denies that her husband could be involved in the possible abductions, she fears her decision to stay in her marriage has cost her more than her daughter's voice.

Petra Gregory is Calli's best friend, her soul mate and her voice. But neither Petra nor Calli has been heard from since their disappearance was discovered. Desperate to find his child, Martin Gregory is forced to confront a side of himself he did not know existed beneath his intellectual, professorial demeanor.

Now these families are tied by the question of what happened to their children. And the answer is trapped in the silence of unspoken family secrets.-Goodreads

Review: After 7 year old best friends go missing in the middle of the night, their parents and town come together to find them. Told in alternating narratives, we follow multiple people including the girls themselves. I normally enjoy seeing how stories like this unfold and understanding the different perspectives. In this case we know almost immediately where the girls are (although not how it will end) so that killed any tension in the story. One of the girls, Calli, is a selective mute. It was revealed very early on why she didn't speak but it was also presented as a big revelation at the end of the book (albeit in a tad more detail), which was strange. That said, this was still a page turner and I was engaged to see how the story would end. 

Grade: 3/5

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Brass Verdict

Book: The Brass Verdict
Series: Mickey Haller #2, Harry Bosch #18
Author: Michael Connelly

Things are finally looking up for defense attorney Mickey Haller. After two years of wrong turns, Haller is back in the courtroom. When Hollywood lawyer Jerry Vincent is murdered, Haller inherits his biggest case yet: the defense of Walter Elliott, a prominent studio executive accused of murdering his wife and her lover. But as Haller prepares for the case that could launch him into the big time, he learns that Vincent's killer may be coming for him next.

Enter Harry Bosch. Determined to find Vincent's killer, he is not opposed to using Haller as bait. But as danger mounts and the stakes rise, these two loners realize their only choice is to work together.-Goodreads

Review: Wow-I surprisingly loved this one! After recovering from being shot and fighting a pill addiction, Mickey is back in business. When a collogue is murdered, Mickey inherits his cases, including a high profile murder case. I found the case very interesting and there were a few twists at the end I wasn't expecting. Mickey and Bosch also work together on this one. Loved it! 

Grade: 4.5/5 

The Lincoln Lawyer

Book: The Lincoln Lawyer
Series: Mickey Haller #1
Author: Michael Connelly

Mickey Haller has spent all his professional life afraid that he wouldn’t recognize innocence if it stood right in front of him. But what he should have been on the watch for was evil.

Haller is a Lincoln Lawyer, a criminal defense attorney who operates out of the back seat of his Lincoln Town Car, traveling between the far-flung courthouses of Los Angeles to defend clients of every kind. Bikers, con artists, drunk drivers, drug dealers — they’re all on Mickey Haller’s client list. For him, the law is rarely about guilt or innocence — it’s about negotiation and manipulation. Sometimes it’s even about justice.

A Beverly Hills playboy arrested for attacking a woman he picked up in a bar chooses Haller to defend him, and Mickey has his first high-paying client in years. It is a defense attorney’s dream, what they call a franchise case. And as the evidence stacks up, Haller comes to believe this may be the easiest case of his career.

Then someone close to him is murdered and Haller discovers that his search for innocence has brought him face-to-face with evil as pure as a flame. To escape without being burned, he must deploy every tactic, feint, and instinct in his arsenal — this time to save his own life.-Goodreads

Review: I watched this movie when it came out years ago so I knew the basic plot. In good news, even though I knew what would happen I still thoroughly enjoyed this. As someone who used to watch Perry Mason and used to dream about being a defense attorney, I love Mickey as a character. He's extremely sharp and knows how to work all the angles. Most importantly, he is dedicated to his clients who come from all walks of life. Great start to a series. 

Grade: 4/5 

Presumed Innocent

Book: Presumed Innocent
Author: Scott Turow

Hailed as the most suspenseful and compelling novel in decades. Presumed Innocent brings to life our worst nightmare: that of an ordinary citizen facing conviction for the most terrible of all crimes. It's the stunning portrayal of one man's all-too-human, all-consuming fatal attraction for a passionate woman who is not his wife, and the story of how his obsession puts everything he loves and values on trial—including his own life. It's a book that lays bare a shocking world of betrayal and murder, as well as the hidden depths of the human heart. And it will hold you and haunt you ... long after you have reached its shattering conclusion.-Goodreads

Review: As a fan of legal thrillers, I was excited to dive into this book. It's well known as the first book in the legal thriller genre and was made into a (relatively) famous movie starring Harrison Ford. It was very interesting reading a book that takes place in the 80s, before cell phones tracked our every move and DNA was an it's infancy. From an investigative perspective, I liked how the case was worked. This was well written for the most part but I found it very predictable and for the life of me, could not care about Rusty one iota. He had the personality of a wet towel and I wasn't invested in him one way or the other. 

Grade: 2.5/5 

The Night Fire

Book: The Night Fire
Series: Renee Ballard #3, Harry Bosch #22
Author: Michael Connelly

Back when Harry Bosch was just a rookie homicide detective, he had an inspiring mentor who taught him to take the work personally and light the fire of relentlessness for every case. Now that mentor, John Jack Thompson, is dead, but after his funeral his widow hands Bosch a murder book that Thompson took with him when he left the LAPD 20 years before -- the unsolved killing of a troubled young man in an alley used for drug deals.

Bosch brings the murder book to Renée Ballard and asks her to help him find what about the case lit Thompson's fire all those years ago. That will be their starting point.

The bond between Bosch and Ballard tightens as they become a formidable investigation team. And they soon arrive at a worrying question: Did Thompson steal the murder book to work the case in retirement, or to make sure it never got solved? -Goodreads

Review: Another great read in this series. I'm absolutely loving the working dynamic with Renee and Harry and the case itself was very interesting. Renee is quickly becoming one of my favorite detectives. 

Grade: 4/5 

Dark Sacred Night

Book: Dark Sacred Night
Series: Renee Ballard #2, Harry Bosch #21
Author: Michael Connelly

Renée Ballard is working the night beat again, and returns to Hollywood Station in the early hours only to find a stranger rifling through old file cabinets. The intruder is retired detective Harry Bosch, working a cold case that has gotten under his skin. Ballard kicks him out, but then checks into the case herself and it brings a deep tug of empathy and anger.

Bosch is investigating the death of fifteen-year-old Daisy Clayton, a runaway on the streets of Hollywood who was brutally murdered and her body left in a dumpster like so much trash. Now, Ballard joins forces with Bosch to find out what happened to Daisy and finally bring her killer to justice.-Goodreads

Review: I'm really enjoying this series by Michael Connelly. In this installment, Renee (still working the night shift) ends up pairing up with Harry Bosch on a cold case. Renee is a very likable main character and she and Bosch work well together. This is a straight police procedural and Connelly does a good job explaining how things work within the department. Overal., enjoyable read. 

Grade: 4/5 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

The Late Show

Book: The Late Show
Series: Renee Ballard #1
Author: Michael Connelly

Renée Ballard works the night shift in Hollywood, beginning many investigations but finishing none as each morning she turns her cases over to day shift detectives. A once up-and-coming detective, she's been given this beat as punishment after filing a sexual harassment complaint against a supervisor.

But one night she catches two cases she doesn't want to part with: the brutal beating of a prostitute left for dead in a parking lot and the killing of a young woman in a nightclub shooting. Ballard is determined not to give up at dawn. Against orders and her own partner's wishes, she works both cases by day while maintaining her shift by night. As the cases entwine they pull her closer to her own demons and the reason she won't give up her job no matter what the department throws at her.-Goodreads

Review: After filing a sexual harassment complaint against her supervisor, Renee Ballard is working the night shift in the NYPD Hollywood division. She loves to surf, loves her dog and is dedicated to her job. This is the first book in a new series by Michael Connelly and I really liked it. Renee is a strong, no holds bar, female lead who is smart and hardworking. What I also enjoyed about this book is Renee works two separate cases that aren't related, it was refreshing to have different cases to follow. 

Grade: 4/5 

When You See Me

Book: When You See Me
Series: Detective DD Warren #11
Author: Lisa Gardner

FBI Special Agent Kimberly Quincy and Sergeant Detective D D Warren have built a task force to follow the digital bread crumbs left behind by deceased serial kidnapper Jacob Ness. When a disturbing piece of evidence is discovered in the hills of Georgia, they bring Flora Dane and true-crime savant Keith Edgar to a small town where something seems to be deeply wrong. What at first looks like a Gothic eeriness soon hardens into something much more sinister . . . and they discover that for all the evil Jacob committed while alive, his worst secret is still to be revealed. Quincy and DD must summon their considerable skills and experience to crack the most disturbing case of their careers--and Flora must face her own past directly in the hope of saving others.-Goodreads

Review: I've said it before and I'll say it again-Lisa Gardner is one of the best authors publishing right now. Book 11 in the DD Warren series and I LOVED it. In this installment, three of my favorite characters take center stage and work as a team (of sorts) to hunt a killer. Boston Detective Kimberly Quincy, FBI Agent Kimberly Quincy (from the Quincy & Rainie series, also know as the Profiler series) and survivor extraordinaire, Flora Dane. This can be read as a standalone but I think it's worth reading the entire DD Warren series from book 1 as well as the Quincy/Rainie series to understand all the character backgrounds. 

A couple hiking find a human bone in the Georgia mountains and things progress from there. There is a possibility Jacob Ness may have been involved (must read prior books to learn about him although this book does summarize events) so DD, Flora and Keith (love him and Flora together) travel to Georgia to join the taskforce. The end up in a small town where nothing seems quite right. 

Creepy and I loved it!

Grade: 4.5/5

Saturday, November 28, 2020

In the Shadow of the Swastika

Book: In the Shadow of the Swastika
Author: Hermann Wygoda, Mark Wygoda

He was known first as a Warsaw ghetto smuggler, then as Comandante Enrico. He traveled under false identity papers and worked at a German border patrol station. Throughout the years of the Holocaust, Hermann Wygoda lived a life of narrow escapes, daring masquerades, and battles that almost defy reason.

Unique among Holocaust memoirs, In the Shadow of the Swastika, now in paperback, celebrates the memory of a man who received decorations from three Western powers and who, years later, was honored posthumously by the Italian city he helped to liberate.-Goodreads

Review: Hermann Wygoda has one of the most amazing stories of survival I've ever read. This is certainly a hidden gem of a book. Thanks to my good friend Heather for lending me this because it's not a something widely in print. This is an account of WWII that Hermann wrote to document events. It wasn't meant to be a book or published so it is a very dry read. 

Grade: 4/5 

The Glass Hotel

Book: The Glass Hotel
Author: Emily St John Mandel

Vincent is a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star glass and cedar palace on an island in British Columbia. Jonathan Alkaitis works in finance and owns the hotel. When he passes Vincent his card with a tip, it's the beginning of their life together. That same day, Vincent's half-brother, Paul, scrawls a note on the windowed wall of the hotel: "Why don't you swallow broken glass." Leon Prevant, a shipping executive for a company called Neptune-Avramidis, sees the note from the hotel bar and is shaken to his core. Thirteen years later Vincent mysteriously disappears from the deck of a Neptune-Avramidis ship. Weaving together the lives of these characters, The Glass Hotel moves between the ship, the skyscrapers of Manhattan, and the wilderness of northern Vancouver Island, painting a breathtaking picture of greed and guilt, fantasy and delusion, art and the ghosts of our pasts.-Goodreads

Review: There is a lot going on in this book, including a ponzi scheme and drug addiction. Ultimately I feel this book is about greed. It's a tad slow but beautifully written and St John Mandel ties everything together in the end. Very well done. 

Grade: 4/5 

Naked in Death

Book: Naked in Death
Series: In Death #1
Author: JD Robb 

It is the year 2058, and technology now completely rules the world. But New York City Detective Eve Dallas knows that the irresistible impulses of the human heart are still ruled by just one thing: passion.

When a senator's daughter is killed, the secret life of prostitution she'd been leading is revealed. The high-profile case takes Lieutenant Eve Dallas into the rarefied circles of Washington politics and society. Further complicating matters is Eve's growing attraction to Roarke, who is one of the wealthiest and most influential men on the planet, devilishly handsome... and the leading suspect in the investigation.-Goodreads

Review: This is the first book in a series with 50+ books. That is an impressive feat for any author. It was interesting reading a book set in the future that was written before technology as we know it exists (smart phones, etc). Robb did a good job world building and created a badass main protagonist, Eve Dallas. She's a detective researching a murder and her main suspect is wealthy Roarke. 

From reading a blurb about the series, I know Eve's future husband and that kind of ruined part of the plot. I still enjoyed this and will read the next book. 

Grade: 3/5

Daisy Jones & the Six

Book: Daisy Jones & The Six
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the real reason why they split at the absolute height of their popularity…until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go-Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Another band getting noticed is The Six, led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend. -Goodreads

Review: Daisy Jones and the Six reminded me of a VH1 "Behind the Music." It was one of my favorite reads of 2020, I absolutely loved it. I usually prefer books to audiobooks but I think this is best listened to. The format lends itself to an audiobook format and the voice actors are excellent. I cannot wait for the TV series to come out. 

Grade: 5/5

Right Behind You

Book: Right Behind You
Series: Quincy & Rainie #7

Eight years ago, Sharlah May Nash's older brother beat their drunken father to death with a baseball bat in order to save both of their lives. Now thirteen years old, Sharlah has finally moved on. About to be adopted by retired FBI profiler Pierce Quincy and his partner, Rainie Conner, Sharlah loves one thing best about her new family: They are all experts on monsters.

Then the call comes in. A double murder at a local gas station, followed by reports of an armed suspect shooting his way through the wilds of Oregon. As Quincy and Rainie race to assist, they are forced to confront mounting evidence: The shooter may very well be Sharlah's older brother, Telly Ray Nash, and it appears his killing spree has only just begun.

As the clock winds down on a massive hunt for Telly, Quincy and Rainie must answer two critical questions: Why after eight years has this young man started killing again? And what does this mean for Sharlah? Once upon a time, Sharlah's big brother saved her life. Now, she has two questions of her own: Is her brother a hero or a killer? And how much will it cost her new family before they learn the final, shattering truth? Because as Sharlah knows all too well, the biggest danger is the one standing right behind you.-Goodreads

Review: Quincy and Rainie are now foster parents to a young teen, Sharlah. When Sharlah was young, her older brother (Telly) beat her parents to death with a baseball bat to save their lives. They went to separate foster homes and haven't seen each other since. Telly reappears years later and appears to have murdered his foster parents and two strangers at a local gas station. 

This was really good. While depressing (I felt so bad for both siblings but especially Telly) this wasn't quite as dark and gruesome as most of her other books. I figured out the ending but would love a short story a few years after this book ended to see how the characters ended up. 

Grade: 4/5 


Book: Becoming
Author: Michelle Obama

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same. -Goodreads

Review: I really enjoyed Michelle Obama's memoir 'Becoming. I loved learning about her early life, family, educational journey and how she and Barack met. I was surprised at how down to earth and relatable she is. The book dragged (surprisingly) when she arrived to the Oval office but overall, this was a really good read. Highly recommend!

Grade: 4/5 

The Last Human

Book: The Last Human
Author: Lee Bacon

In the future, robots have eliminated humans, and 12-year-old robot XR_935 is just fine with that. Without humans around, there is no war, no pollution, no crime. Every member of society has a purpose. Everything runs smoothly and efficiently. Until the day XR discovers something impossible: a human girl named Emma. Now, Emma must embark on a dangerous voyage with XR and two other robots in search of a mysterious point on a map. But how will they survive in a place where rules are never broken and humans aren’t supposed to exist? And what will they find at the end of their journey? -Goodreads

Review: My 9 year old son and I read this as part of a book club we have together. This is a middle grade dystopian novel where robots have eliminated humans until...XR_935 discovers a human girl. I really enjoyed this. Good world building, good character development and thought provoking. My son and I had some interesting conversations after we read it. I recommend for young readers. 

Grade: 4/5 

The 4th Man

Book: The 4th Man
Series: Quincy & Rainie #6.5
Author: Lisa Gardner

A young woman is found strangled in the stairwell of a college library, only her sneakers missing. With no physical evidence, no signs of sexual assault, and no witnesses, all the police have to go on are the three men who were in the library with her: her boyfriend and two campus security guards . . . all of whom have secrets, none of whom can be proven guilty.

Five years later, ex-FBI profiler Pierce Quincy and his wife, former police officer Rainie Conner, agree to consult on the still-unsolved case, delving into deep background to comb for any clue that will lead to the woman's murderer. But with no leads and the case colder than the body, will they be able to build a case against one of the three suspects, or is there a fourth man out there? And if the killer has eluded the police this long, how far will he go to ensure justice is never served?-Goodreads

Review: In this short story, Boston Detective DD Warren enlists the help of Quincy and Rainie (now consultants) on a cold case. A young woman was murdered in a library years ago. The suspects are all detained. DD needs Quincy and Rainie to interview them and figure out who the culprit is. 

This was good short read bringing together people from my favorite Gardner series. While I enjoyed it, I couldn't help thinking DD could have handled interviewing the witnesses herself and figured it out. 

Grade: 3/5 

Friday, November 27, 2020

Lovely War

Book: Lovely War
Author: Julie Berry

It's 1917, and World War I is at its zenith when Hazel and James first catch sight of each other at a London party. She's a shy and talented pianist; he's a newly minted soldier with dreams of becoming an architect. When they fall in love, it's immediate and deep--and cut short when James is shipped off to the killing fields.

Aubrey Edwards is also headed toward the trenches. A gifted musician who's played Carnegie Hall, he's a member of the 15th New York Infantry, an all-African-American regiment being sent to Europe to help end the Great War. Love is the last thing on his mind. But that's before he meets Colette Fournier, a Belgian chanteuse who's already survived unspeakable tragedy at the hands of the Germans.

Thirty years after these four lovers' fates collide, the Greek goddess Aphrodite tells their stories to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II. She seeks to answer the age-old question: Why are Love and War eternally drawn to one another? But her quest for a conclusion that will satisfy her jealous husband uncovers a multi-threaded tale of prejudice, trauma, and music and reveals that War is no match for the power of Love.-Goodreads

Review: This is a charming love story about two couples during WWI. Couple one: Brits James and Hazel, who meet right before James is shipped off. Couple two: American Aubrey, a brilliant musician and Colette, a Belgium who has lost her entire family in the war, who meet in France. The story is told by Aphrodite and Ares with a dash of Hephaestus and Hades

Berry certainly crafted a unique tale by utilizing Greek gods and goddesses but I'm not sure if it was necessary to include them. Every time they took center stage in the book I found it disconcerting. The actual love stories were well done, with the Aubrey/Colette storyline the strongest. 

Overall I did enjoy this and I will definitely read more from this author. 

Grade: 3/5 

Say Goodbye

Book: Say Goodbye
Series: Quincy & Rainie #6
Author: Lisa Gardner

Come into my parlor . . .

For Kimberly Quincy, FBI Special Agent, it all starts with a pregnant hooker. The story Delilah Rose tells Kimberly about her johns is too horrifying to be true—but prostitutes are disappearing, one by one, with no explanation, and no one but Kimberly seems to care.

Said the spider to the fly . . .

As a member of the Evidence Response Team, dead hookers aren’t exactly Kimberly’s specialty. The young agent is five months pregnant—she has other things to worry about than an alleged lunatic who uses spiders to do his dirty work. But Kimberly’s own mother and sister were victims of a serial killer. And now, without any bodies and with precious few clues, it’s all too clear that a serial killer has found the key to the perfect murder . . . or Kimberly is chasing a crime that never happened.

Kimberly’s caught in a web more lethal than any spider’s, and the more she fights for answers, the more tightly she’s trapped. What she doesn’t know is that she’s close—too close—to a psychopath who makes women’ s nightmares come alive, and if he has his twisted way, it won’t be long before it’ s time for Kimberly to . . .-Goodreads

Review: This book started off slow but turned out to be one of the most disturbing books I've ever read. I put it down and was thoroughly creeped out. I don't want to give any spoilers but if you are fans of her DD Warren series, give this one a try. 

Grade: 5/5 

One Perfect Lie

Book: One Perfect Lie
Author: Lisa Scottoline

A handsome stranger moves to the small Pennsylvania town of Central Valley, and his name is Chris Brennan. He’s applying for a job as a teacher and varsity baseball coach at the local high school, and he looks perfect, on paper. But his name is an alias, his resume is false, and everything about him is a lie. And he has a secret plan - for which he needs a pawn on the baseball team.

Susan Sematov loves her younger son Raz, the quirky and free-spirited pitcher of the team. But Raz’s adored father died only a few months ago, and the family is grief-stricken. Secretly, Raz is looking to fill the Daddy-shaped hole in his heart.

Heather Larkin is a struggling single mother who’s dedicated to her only son Justin, the quiet rookie on the team. But Justin’s shy and reserved nature renders him vulnerable to attention, including that of a new father-figure.

Mindy Kostis is the wife of a busy surgeon and the queen bee of the baseball boosters, where her super-popular son Evan is the star catcher. But she doesn’t realize that Evan’s sense of entitlement is becoming a full-blown case of affluenza, and after he gets his new BMW, it’s impossible to know where he’s going – or whom he’s spending time with.

The lives of these families revolve around the baseball team – and Chris Brennan. What does he really want? How far will he go to get it? Who among them will survive the lethal jeopardy threatening them, from the shadows?-Goodreads

Review: I enjoyed this Lisa Scottoline book that takes place in small town Pennsylvania. Chris Brennan is hired as a teacher and varsity baseball coach but we, the reader, know he isn't what he appears to be. I think keeping us in the dark as to his real agenda a little longer would have added some more tension to this book (is he good? nefarious?). 

Overall, a good beach (or ski lodge!) read. 

Grade: 3/5 

The Last Mile

Book: The Last Mile
Series: Amos Decker #2
Author: David Baldacci

Convicted murderer Melvin Mars is counting down the last hours before his execution--for the violent killing of his parents twenty years earlier--when he's granted an unexpected reprieve. Another man has confessed to the crime.

Amos Decker, newly hired on an FBI special task force, takes an interest in Mars's case after discovering the striking similarities to his own life: Both men were talented football players with promising careers cut short by tragedy. Both men's families were brutally murdered. And in both cases, another suspect came forward, years after the killing, to confess to the crime. A suspect who may or may not have been telling the truth.

The confession has the potential to make Melvin Mars--guilty or not--a free man. Who wants Mars out of prison? And why now?

But when a member of Decker's team disappears, it becomes clear that something much larger--and more sinister--than just one convicted criminal's life hangs in the balance. Decker will need all of his extraordinary brainpower to stop an innocent man from being executed.-Goodreads

Review: Amos Decker is a consultant to the FBI. A former NFL player, a vicious hit left him with hyperthymesia (perfect memory) and synesthesia. He takes on the case of Melvin Mars, a talented football player who could have made the NFL but instead has been in jail for 20 years for the murder of his parents. Mars is released when someone else confesses to the crime but authorities still think Melvin did it. 

I really liked Amos as a lead investigator. He's sharp, direct and looks at things differently than those around him. I also really liked Melvin Mars, a man wrongfully convicted of a crime he didn't do. I was not as enamored with Amos' team, I couldn't keep them straight half the time as their personalities were all very similar. The crime/conspiracy itself was so far fetched to be believable but it was a page turner. Not sure I'll continue with the series but fast, popcorn type room. 

Grade: 3/5 

The Keepsake

Book: The Keepsake
Series: Rizzoli and Isles #7
Author: Tess Garritsen 

For untold years, the perfectly preserved mummy had lain forgotten in the dusty basement of Boston’s Crispin Museum. Now its sudden rediscovery by museum staff is both a major coup and an attention-grabbing mystery. Dubbed “Madam X,” the mummy–to all appearances, an ancient Egyptian artifact– seems a ghoulish godsend for the financially struggling institution. But medical examiner Maura Isles soon discovers a macabre message hidden within the corpse–horrifying proof that this “centuries-old” relic is instead a modern-day murder victim.

To Maura and Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli, the forensic evidence is unmistakable, its implications terrifying. And when the grisly remains of yet another woman are found in the hidden recesses of the museum, it becomes chillingly clear that a maniac is at large–and is now taunting them.
Archaeologist Josephine Pulcillo’s blood runs cold when the killer’s cryptic missives are discovered, and her darkest dread becomes real when the carefully preserved corpse of yet a third victim is left in her car like a gruesome offering–or perhaps a ghastly promise of what’s to come.

The twisted killer’s familiarity with post-mortem rituals suggests to Maura and Jane that he may have scientific expertise in common with Josephine. Only Josephine knows that her stalker shares a knowledge even more personally terrifying: details of a dark secret she had thought forever buried.

Now Maura must summon her own dusty knowledge of ancient death traditions to unravel his twisted endgame. And when Josephine vanishes, Maura and Jane have precious little time to derail the Archaeology Killer before he adds another chilling piece to his monstrous collection.-Goodreads

Review: Maura Isles is observing the unveiling of Madame X, a mummy recently discovered in the basement of a small museum in Boston. Only...Madame X isn't a mummy, she's a modern age murder victim. Jane and Maura are on the case! 

I love all things Egypt so the archeology aspect of this book was fascinating. Jane and Maura make a good team and I didn't guess the murderer. Fun read!

Grade: 4/5


Book: Gone
Series: Quincy & Rainie #5
Author: Lisa Gardner

When someone you love vanishes without a trace, how far would you go to get them back?
For ex-FBI profiler Pierce Quincy, it’s the beginning of his worst nightmare: a car abandoned on a desolate stretch of Oregon highway, engine running, purse on the driver’s seat. And his estranged wife, Rainie Conner, gone, leaving no clue to her fate.

Did one of the ghosts from Rainie’s troubled past finally catch up with her? Or could her disappearance be the result of one of the cases they’d been working–a particularly vicious double homicide or the possible abuse of a deeply disturbed child Rainie took too close to heart? Together with his daughter, FBI agent Kimberly Quincy, Pierce is battling the local authorities, racing against time, and frantically searching for answers to all the questions he’s been afraid to ask.

One man knows what happened that night. Adopting the alias of a killer caught eighty years before, he has already contacted the press. His terms are clear: he wants money, he wants power, he wants celebrity. And if he doesn’t get what he wants, Rainie will be gone for good.

Sometimes, no matter how much you love someone, it’s still not enough.
As the clock winds down on a terrifying deadline, Pierce plunges headlong into the most desperate hunt of his life, into the shattering search for a killer, a lethal truth, and for the love of his life, who may forever be…gone.-Goodreads

Review: After 15 years of sobriety, Rainie Conner has relapsed and is drinking again. Trying to take a hard line, Quincy leaves her. Rainie's car is found late at night and she has disappeared. Quincy and eventually Kimberly and Mac are on the case. 

This entire book takes place over a 2 day period. I thought it was fast paced and interesting. Love this series!

Grade: 4/5 

Death in Her Hands

Book: Death in Her Hands
Author: Ottessa Moshfegh

While on her normal daily walk with her dog in the forest woods, our protagonist comes across a note, handwritten and carefully pinned to the ground with a frame of stones. "Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn't me. Here is her dead body". Our narrator is deeply shaken; she has no idea what to make of this. She is new to area, having moved her from her longtime home after the death of her husband, and she knows very few people. And she's a little shaky even on best days. Her brooding about this note quickly grows into a full-blown obsession, and she begins to devote herself to exploring the possibilities of her conjectures about who this woman was and how she met her fate. Her suppositions begin to find echoes in the real world, and with mounting excitement and dread, the fog of mystery starts to form into a concrete and menacing shape. But as we follow her in her investigation, strange dissonances start to accrue, and our faith in her grip on reality weakens, until finally, just as she seems be facing some of the darkness in her own past with her late husband, we are forced to face the prospect that there is either a more innocent explanation for all this or a much more sinister one - one that strikes closer to home.-Goodreads

Review: Vesta, a 72 year old widow, is walking in the woods when she finds a note on the ground. "Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn't me." She becomes obsessed with solving the mystery of Magda.

Moshfegh is undoubtedly a talented writer and can craft quite a tale. Was there an actual point to this book? If you ever had the design to jump into the inner thoughts of a crazy person, this may be the book for you. If you are looking for an actual plot with defined characters, this is not for you. As for me? It was okay, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. I was interested enough in other people's interpretations of events that I searched around for awhile after finishing this, so that bumped my rating from 2 to 3 stars. 

Grade: 3/5 

The Killing Hour

Book: The Killing Hour
Series: Quincy and Rainie #4
Author: Lisa Gardner

Each time he struck, he took two victims. Day after day, he waited for the first body to be discovered--a body containing all the clues the investigators needed to find the second victim, who waited...prey to a slow but certain death. The clock ticked--salvation was possible.

The police were never in time.

Years have passed; but for this killer, time has stood still. As a heat wave of epic proportions descends, the game begins again. Two girls have disappeared...and the clock is ticking.

Rookie FBI agent Kimberly Quincy knows the killer’s deadline can be met. But she’ll have to break some rules to beat an exactingly vicious criminal at a game he’s had time to perfect.

For the Killing Hour has arrived...-Goodreads

Review: A serial killer kidnaps girls in pairs-he kills the first one and leaves clues as to the whereabouts to the 2nd. This is to give authorities "a chance" to find her before she dies. This time, he's kidnapped four girls and Kimberly Quincy, now a recruit at the FBI Academy, finds the body. She teams up with Mac, a Georgia investigator who has been searching for this killer for years. 

Like most Gardner books, this is disturbing and well researched. There is a lot of forensic information in this book which I found fascinating but readers wanting something faster paced may be bored. The principal investigators in this book are Kimberly and Mac, although Quincy and Rainie join the investigation eventually. A lot of things didn't make complete sense, like allowing a survivor to join the investigation and every investigator believing things the killer told them. 

Overall though, I couldn't put this down. 

Grade: 4/5 

Think Twice

Book: Think Twice
Series: Rosato & Associates
Author: Lisa Scottolini

From the blockbuster New York Times bestselling author of Look Again comes a novel that makes you question the nature of evil: is it born in us or is it bred? Bennie Rosato looks exactly like her identical twin, Alice Connolly, but the darkness in Alice's soul makes them two very different women. Or at least that's what Bennie believes, until she finds herself buried alive at the hands of her twin. Meanwhile, Alice takes over Bennie's life, impersonating her at work and even seducing her boyfriend in order to escape the deadly mess she has made of her own life. But Alice underestimates Bennie and the evil she has unleashed in her twin's psyche, as well as Bennie's determination to stay alive long enough to exact revenge.Bennie must face the twisted truth that she is more like her sister Alice than she could have ever imagined, and by the novel's shocking conclusion, Bennie finds herself engaged in a war she cannot win;with herself.-Goodreads

Review: Alice buries Bennie alive and steals her life. Bennie eventually escapes (in a ridiculous manner) and surprise surprise, no one believes she's actually Bennie. Because it's completely reasonable that Alice can take over Alice's life, including some legal work and no one would know. *Eye roll*  

This is the first book in the series where I really had to force myself to finish it. The big elephant in the room here would be...fingerprints. Identical twins don't have matching fingerprints. This was never mentioned (obviously it couldn't have been, otherwise there would be no book) but I could not get it out of my mind. 

Grade: 1/5 

Lady Killer

Book: Lady Killer
Series: Rosato & Associate #10
Author: Lisa Scottoline

Mary DiNunzio is a trademark Lisa Scottoline heroine—she's strong, she's smart, and she's got plenty of attitude. In recent years, she's become a big-time business-getter at Rosato & Associates, but the last person she expects to walk into her office one morning—in mile-high stilettos—is super sexy Trish Gambone, her high school rival. Back then, while Mary was becoming the straight-A president of the Latin Club and Most Likely to Achieve Sainthood, Trish was the head Mean Girl, who flunked religion and excelled at smoking in the bathroom.

As it turns out, however, Trish's life has taken a horrifying turn. She's terrified of her live-in boyfriend, who's an abusive, gun-toting drug dealer for the South Philly mob. There's only one problem—Mary remembers the guy from high school too. Unbeknownst to Trish, Mary had a major crush on him.

Then Trish vanishes, a dead body turns up in an alley, and Mary is plunged into a nightmare, one that threatens her job, her family, and even her life. She goes on a one-woman crusade to unmask the killer, and on the way, finds new love in a very unexpected place.

But before the novel's shocking surprise ending, Mary is forced to confront some very uncomfortable truths about her own past, and the profound effects of lifelong love—and hate.-Goodreads

Review: Mary is shocked when Trish Gambone, high school mean girl, shows up in her office asking for help. Trish says her boyfriend is an abusive drug dealer and she needs help. Before Mary can do anything, Trish disappears. Mary teams up with Trish's circle of friends (also former girls from high school) and tries to figure out what is going on. 

There are very few courtroom scenes or legal work for a 'legal thriller' but Mary does her best to be a PI in this installment of the series. I actually enjoyed this book more than the previous one, primarily because of the 'friends' Mary was forced to work with. I actually chuckled a few times! 

Grade: 3/5