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 

Becoming

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

Gone

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 

Killer Smile

Book: Killer Smile
Series: Rosato & Associate #9
Author: Lisa Scottoline

Everybody around lawyer Mary DiNunzio has decided she isn't allowed to be a Young Widow anymore, even though she didn't know there was an official cutoff. They're all trying to fix her up -- her South Philly Italian parents, her best friend Judy Carrier, even the office security guard.

All Mary wants to do is immerse herself in a case everybody else calls "The History Channel", a pro bono representation of the Brandolini estate. The roots of the matter sink deep into the past, when Amadeo Brandolini emigrated to Philadelphia, started a family, and built up a small fishing business. At the outbreak of World War II, Brandolini was arrested by the FBI as part of a mass internment of Italian-Americans and was sent to a camp in Montana, where he eventually committed suicide. Now, more than sixty years later, his son's estate hires Mary to sue for reparations.

Mary vows to vindicate Amadeo even though it won't be easy. With only a lock of hair, an old wallet, and a sheet of paper filled with odd doodles to go on, the tenacious lawyer begins to research the case but finds instead puzzling new questions. Someone doesn't want Mary to find the truth, and before long, her life is threatened. Suddenly, the quiet, squeaky-clean good girl who never left Mercer Street is risking life and limb to finger a killer and lay a beloved ghost to rest.-Goodreads

Review: The ninth book in the series. I had high hopes but alas, it wasn't meant to be. I can't believe Mary DiNunzio was offered partner at a big firm in the first book of this series. She has to be pushing 40 now but does not act like a seasoned attorney. Her parents, which are cute in small doses, are taking up way too much time in these later books. In this book, Mary becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to Amadeo Brandolini. He was in an internment camp in Montana. The Amadeo storyline was interesting (and a shameful part of US history) but Mary herself was grating. 

On another note, I'm not sure why the author introduced Anne Murphy into this series. She has been MIA in recent books ("on vacation" usually). I enjoyed her book and would have enjoyed another book focused on Judy or Anne. 

Grade: 2/5 

That Month in Tuscany

Book: That Month in Tuscany
Author: Inglath Cooper

Ren Sawyer and Lizzy Harper live completely different lives. He’s a rock star with a secret he can no longer live with. She’s a regular person whose husband stood her up for a long planned anniversary trip.

On a flight across the Atlantic headed for Italy, a drunken pity party and untimely turbulence literally drop Lizzy into Ren’s lap. It is the last thing she can imagine ever happening to someone like her. But despite their surface differences, they discover an undeniable pull between them. A pull that leads them both to remember who they had once been before letting themselves be changed by a life they had each chosen.

Exploring the streets of Florence and the hills of Tuscany together - two people with seemingly nothing in common - changes them both forever. And what they find in each other is something that might just heal them both.-Goodreads

Review: When Lizzie's husband blows off their anniversary trip to Italy, she goes anyway. She meets Ren Sawyer, a famous rockstar and they form a bond. 

This book didn't work for me. I think there was a decent story buried in there but the writing style of four narratives, wasn't necessary. Also, the chapters written from Lizzie's husband's POV were so odd. 


Grade: 1/5 

Dead Ringer

Book: Dead Ringer
Series: Rosato & Associate #8
Author: Lisa Scottolini

When ace lawyer Bennie Rosato's twin sister returns to Philadelphia, she knows that trouble is on the horizon, for her sister never contacts her with familial love at the forefront of her agenda - if she contacts her at all. At the same time, Bennie's law firm is in trouble, so she takes on a potentially lucrative class-action suit to try to save the day. It could be make or break - both for her family and her firm.

Meanwhile, her colleague Mary DiNunzio persists in bringing in a case that looks more like an Italian wedding than a lawsuit, and then a mysterious stranger appears just in time to help Bennie in the fight of her life - for her life.-Goodreads

Review: In the eighth installment of the Rosato & Associates series, Bennie's evil twin is back. And it's a testament to Scottolini's writing because she really makes me "feel" for this character. And when I say "Feel" I mean I really hate this woman. She breaks into Bennie's house, almost kills her dog, gets drunk in public and risks Bennie's job. Add this to this a big class action lawsuit Bennie is working on and this was a fast paced read. 

Grade: 3/5 

The Next Accident

Book: The Next Accident
Series: Quincy & Rainie #3
Author: Lisa Gardner

What do you do when a killer targets the people you love the most? When he knows how to make them vulnerable? When he knows the same about you?

These are the questions that haunt FBI Special Agent Pierce Quincy. The police say his daughter’s death was an accident. Quincy will risk everything to learn the truth—and there’s only one person willing to help. Ex-cop Rainie Connor had once been paired professionally—and personally—with the brilliant FBI profiler. He helped her through the darkest days of her life.

Now it’s time for Rainie to return the favor. But this killer is like none these two hard-boiled pros have ever encountered. This twisted psychopath has an insatiable hunger for revenge...and for fear. As the clock ticks down to one unspeakably intimate act of vengeance, the only way Rainie can unmask this killer is to step directly in his murderous path. She will become a murder waiting to happen. She will be...the next accident.-Goodreads

Review: Quincy does not believe his daughter's death was an accident. But if it wasn't a straightforward drunk driving, what happened? Quincy and Rainie team up again to work the case. 

This is shaping up to be a great series. Quincy and Rainie have a great dynamic and I like the different approaches they take to  working a case. We are introduced to Quincy's youngest daughter Kimberly in this book (I'm already familiar with future Kimberly from the DD Warren series) and it was interesting to see how she got her start. 

Overall, very good book. Disturbing, detailed and well paced. 

Grade: 4/5

Courting Trouble

Book: Courting Trouble
Series: Rosato & Associates #7
Author: Lisa Scottoline

Anne Murphy thought she'd put her unhappy past a continent behind her when she joined Philadelphia attorney Bennie Rosato's all-woman law firm. Then a friend who's housesitting for Anne is murdered in what's clearly a case of mistaken identity, and Anne realizes that the past has caught up with her and that the only way to outrun it is to catch the killer before he realizes that she's still alive. But how can Anne play dead with a high-profile case just days away from starting? The only way to pull it off is to let her new colleagues in on the secret, which would mean telling them her other secrets, too, including the fact that she's in love with opposing counsel and the probability that her client may not be as innocent as she thought he was.-Goodreads

Review: After a few lackluster books in the Rosato & Associates series, I was happy to follow Anne Murphy, a new associate in the firm. Ironically, I think this is the lowest rated book in the series while one of my favorites. It was refreshing to have a new character perspective in the series and see Mary, Judy and Bennie from Anne's eyes. 

Anne decides to go out of town on a last minute trip while a pseudo friend she met at the gym house-sits. The house-sitter is murdered in Anne's house and everyone thinks Anne was the victim. Anne stays incognito and tries to figure out who was the behind the killing, while managing a big case. I liked this one!

Grade: 4/5 

The Vendetta Defense

Book: The Vendetta Defense
Series: Rosato & Associates #6
Author: Lisa Scottoline

Lawyer Judy Carrier takes the case of her career when an elderly pigeon racer named Anthony Lucia is arrested for the murder of his lifelong enemy, Angelo Coluzzi. "Pigeon Tony," as he's known to all his South Philly neighbors, confesses he killed Coluzzi because of a vendetta begun more than fifty years ago, a blood feud that has brought great tragedy to Pigeon Tony's life.

Her client's guilt, however, is only the beginning of Judy's problems. The Coluzzi family wants revenge, and they are determined to finish off Pigeon Tony and Judy before the case can go to trial. And if that isn't enough, Judy's got to contend with Tony's magnetic grandson, Frank, a man who makes her think about everything but the law, and her boss, the no-nonsense Bennie Rosato.

In a case steeped in blood and memory, it will take a stroke of brilliance to save Pigeon Tony. But if anyone just might see justice done, it's this gutsy young attorney who'll risk everything to win ... including her life. -Goodreads

Review: This is a hard book to review because on one hand, I love Judy Carrier. I love her unique personality and love that she was finally center stage in a book. Unfortunately, I was not drawn into the story about Pigeon Tony, the elderly man she is representing who confessed to killing another man who supposedly killed Tony's wife and son. Scottoline is an attorney and her strongest scenes are in the courtroom. This book was told in alternating timelines and was more of a historical fiction and romance between Judy and Pigeon Tony's grandson. I didn't hate this by any means, it was readable, I was just left unsatisfied. 

Grade: 2/5 

Moment of Truth

Book: Moment of Truth
Series: Rosato & Associates #5
Author: Lisa Scottolini

Jack Newlin comes home to find his wife dead. Convinced that he knows who killed her - and determined to hide the truth - Jack decides to make it look as though he did it. Unfortunately for Jack, hiring Mary may turn out to be his only mistake.-Goodreads

Review: Jack Newlin is a successful attorney with a wealthy wife who manages their daughter's modeling career. When Jack comes home and finds his wife dead, he is convinced his daughter did it. He stages the scene, calls the police and confesses. But thing aren't what they seem to be. 

This started out really interesting but the ending was so convoluted it almost ruined the entire book for me. Mary was likable enough in this installment of the series. 

Grade: 3/5 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Mistaken Identity

Book: Mistaken Identity
Series: Bennie Rosato & Associates #4
Author: Lisa Scottoline

Bennie Rosato, the head of her own law firm, specializes in police misconduct cases. However, nothing can prepare her for a meeting with her new client, Alice Connolly. Accused of murdering her lover, a highly decorated police officer, Connolly claims the police framed her. What shocks Bennie is that Connolly looks just like her. Pleased to meet you. I'm your twin. Your identical twin. Connolly tells Bennie, who grew up an only child, or so she thought. But Connolly knows too many intimate details about Bennie s life and family. With the trial only a week away, Bennie plunges into the mystery of the murder and her family s dark secrets.-Goodreads

Review: Bennie is shocked to meet a new client who says she is her twin sister. Opposites in seemingly every way...except they look identical. While Bennie works her (maybe) sister's case, she also deals with her sick mother. 

Bennie is a love her or hate her type character, I love her. That might have something to do with how much she loves her golden retriever (and I have one myself). Overall, this wasn't very memorable plot but I liked it well enough. 

Grade: 2.5/5 

Rough Justice

Book: Rough Justice
Series: Rosato & Associates #3
Author: Lisa Scottoline

As Rough Justice opens, criminal lawyer Marta Richter is only hours away from winning an acquittal on a murder charge leveled against her client, millionaire businessman Elliot Steere. But as the jury begins to deliberate, Steere lets it slip that he sold Marta a bogus self-defense claim and that he in fact murdered the homeless man who tried to carjack him. Infuriated, Marta sets out to find evidence that will convict Steere -- before the jury returns with its verdict.

Marta has her hands full; she's playing beat-the-clock with both the jury and the worst blizzard Philadelphians have seen in decades. She drafts help in the form of two able young lawyers -- Mary DiNunzio and Judy Carrier -- from the all-female firm Rosato & Associates. DiNunzio and Carrier wade through snowdrifts and computer records, interview witnesses and scour the crime scene for evidence.

Enter Bennie Rosato, managing partner of Rosato & Associates. When she realizes that Marta is determined to convict her own client -- and ruin the law firm in the process -- Bennie acts to thwart Marta's plans and bring Steere to justice in her own way. But Elliot Steere didn't reach the top of the real estate business without bloody knuckles. He won't let anyone -- especially a couple of lawyers -- stand between him and freedom. Even from his jail cell, the businessman has the cunning and connections to kill again. The lawyers have finally met their match in Elliot Steere. Or have they?-Goodread
s

Review: The whole premise of this book made no sense to me. Marta Richter is a successful defense attorney who just finished closing arguments in a murder trial. While the jury is out for deliberations her client tells her he's guilty. She's so mad about this that she tries to search for evidence to prove him guilty. I could have maybe bought her actions if she was a young, naïve attorney but as a seasoned defense attorney, she defends guilty parties all the time. I'm not saying she should be so callous as not to care but to go to the lengths she did made no sense. Another odd thing about this is that Mary and Judy (from the first book in the series) are referred to here as young attorneys (several times). They have to be early to mid-30's. It was just a little odd. 

This book just didn't work for me on any level. 

Grade: 1/5 

The Third Victim

Book: The Third Victim
Series: Quincy & Rainie #2
Author: Lisa Gardner

An unspeakable act has ripped apart the idyllic town of Bakersville, Oregon, and its once-peaceful residents are demanding quick justice. But though a boy has confessed to the horrific crime, evidence shows he may not be guilty.

Officer Rainie Conner, leading her first homicide investigation, stands at the center of the controversy. It's hitting too close to home, bringing back her worst nightmares, threatening to expose her secret sins. But with the boy's life at stake, she won't let anything stop her from finding the real killer.

With the help of FBI profiler Pierce Quincy, Rainie comes closer to a deadly truth than she can imagine. Because out there in the shadows a man watches her and plots his next move. He knows her secrets. He kills for sport. He's already brought death to Bakersville and forever shattered the community. But what he has really come for is Rainie -- and he won't leave until he has destroyed her....-Goodreads

Review: Lorraine Conner is a police officer in a small town in Oregon when a school shooting rocks the town. As the chief's son is the prime suspect, Lorraine/Rainie has to lead her first homicide investigation. Meanwhile, FBI Profiler Pierce Quincy shows up to research the crime. 

I read the first book in the series years ago and wasn't impressed. Rainie wasn't in that book and Quincy didn't play a major role. This this installment, both take center stage and it was really good. Rainie has a traumatic past and is a complicated character. Quincy reminds me a lot of Hotch from Criminal Minds. Together, they have a lot of potential. Glad I gave this series another chance!

Grade: 4/5 

Legal Tender

Book: Legal Tender
Series: Rosato & Associates #2
Author: Lisa Scottoline

Bennie Rosato is a maverick lawyer, and business at her law firm has never been better. Then, without warning, a savage murder tears the firm apart. All evidence points to Bennie, who has motive aplenty and an unconfirmable alibi. Her world turns upside-down as the lawyer becomes the client, and the law is now after her. When another killing takes place, Bennie runs for her life, a fugitive armed only with her wits and courage. She is determined to find the real killer -- or die trying. -Goodreads

Review: Book 2 in the Rosato & Associates series and we finally meet it's namesake, Bennie Rosato. Bennie is smart, brash and I loved her. Bennie is accused of murdering her ex-boyfriend and business partner who just notified her that he was ending their business relationship. Bennie goes on the run and tries to clear her name. This was a fun, popcorn type read that you will enjoy if you don't take it too seriously. There was a side plot involving a kitten that should have been left out entirely. 

Overall, fun read. 

Grade: 3.5/5 

The Survivors Club

Book: The Survivors Club
Author: Lisa Gardner


They survived what no woman should ever have to endure. Now these three women have the means, the opportunity, and the perfect motive. Are they trying to get away with murder--or is someone trying to make sure that this time they don't get away at all? The Survivors Club... that's what Jillian Hayes, Carol Rosen, and Meg Pesaturo call it. They won't consider themselves victims. They are survivors. They faced the blazing headlines and helped lead the investigation that caught the man who changed their lives forever.

And now that Eddie Como, the College Hill rapist, has been murdered, shot down outside a packed courthouse moments before his trial was about to begin, all three women are openly ecstatic that he's dead. They are also the prime suspects in his murder. Detective Sergeant Roan Griffin knows all too well what can drive even the best people to cross the line. But he has never seen a case quite like this one. No one doubts that the murder of Eddie Como was a professional job, especially when the gunman is killed only blocks away from the shooting.

But questions taunt Griffin: Who ordered the deaths of Eddie Como and his killer? Could three ordinary women have been driven to do the unthinkable? Had someone in the Survivors Club become a killer? Griffin seeks the truth--and finds himself confronted with the leader of the Survivors Club. Jillian Hayes is beautiful, successful, cool as ice, and she harbors a pain that mirrors Griffin's own. Did the horror of what happened to her push her over the thin and desperate line that separates survival and revenge? And if it did, could he blame her--or anyone in the Survivors Club? Then another woman is brutally attacked.

Suddenly, with the city on the ragged edge of panic, gripped in a media and political firestorm of controversy, cover-up, and conspiracy, the hunt is on for a ruthless and cunning killer. For Griffin, this may well be the case that shatters his career. For Jillian, the harrowing nightmare is beginning all over again. Someone is out there. Someone who wants to finish what was started. Someone who wants to make sure that no one survives the Survivors Club.-Goodreads

Review: Lisa Gardner is one of my favorite writers and I liked this book but it lacked the suspense of her previous books. It was odd that the main detective working on the case kept referring to a previous case, that would make an extremely creepy read and good prequel to this but this was a standalone. 

Grade: 3/5 

Everywhere that Mary Went

Book: Everywhere that Mary Went
Series: Rosato & Associates
Author: Lisa Scottolini

It's just a matter of time. Mary has been slaving away for the past eight years trying to make partner in her cutthroat Philadelphia law firm. She's too busy to worry about the crank phone calls that she's been getting-until they fall into a sinister pattern. The phone rings as soon as she gets to work, then as soon as she gets home. Mary can't shake the sensation that someone is watching her, following her every move. The shadowboxing turns deadly when her worst fears are realized, and she has to fight for something a lot more important than partnership -- her life.-Goodreads

Review: I really enjoy legal thrillers and was excited to start this series by Lisa Scottolini. Mary is an attorney vying for partnership when she feels like someone is watching her. Mary herself was an interesting character. She's widowed, has loving Italian parents and a twin sister who is a nun in a convent. It was a tad cheesy at times but I didn't see the end coming. Overall, I liked it. 

Grade: 3/5 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Dirty Blonde

Book: Dirty Blonde
Author: Lisa Scottoline

Lawyer Cate Fante, who is attractive, sexy, and tough-minded, has just been appointed to the federal bench in Philadelphia. With her new status in the elite meritocracy that is the federal judiciary, she often feels like an imposter because of her working-class background. For instance, at a fancy dinner, she’s more likely to joke with the waiters than her colleagues. Divorced, Cate also has a secret sex life. She’s attracted to bad boys and working-class men, like the ones she grew up with in the former coal-mining town of Centralia in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Cate is presiding over a high-profile multi-million dollar breach-of-contract lawsuit in which a former Philly ADA is suing the producer of a highly successful TV series for stealing his ideas. All true, but the verbal contract isn’t enforceable. As difficult as it is, this means that Cate has to make a ruling that ends the lawsuit in the sleazy TV guy’s favor. Cate learns that being a judge doesn’t always mean that she can do justice.

Upset over the ruling she had to make, Cate heads for a bar and there meets a good-looking rough-hewn leather-jacketed hunk and goes off with him to a nearby motel. Cate quickly realizes she’s made a mistake, apologizes and turns to leave, but the guy becomes aggressive and Cate barely manages to get out of the room. At home, she turns on the local news to learn that the TV producer from her court case has been shot to death outside a local restaurant. Not only that, but she soon also finds out that a man has been found dead after a fall from a motel’s exterior staircase. A stricken Cate recognizes instantly the pictures of the leather-jacketed man who’d attacked her at the hotel.

Things go from bad to worse in a hurry, and amazingly Cate finds her private life splashed all over the papers and her job in jeopardy. Her only hope is to clear her name and find a murderer. -Goodreads

Review: Cate Fante is a federal judge in Philadelphia presiding over a breach of contract case when a one night stand goes terribly wrong. Before she knows it, her private life is all over the tabloids. 

This was a quick, enjoyable read but it did not make sense why Cate's private life was such a big deal. She's a single woman. I could see if she was married but she wasn't. I was surprised by the final reveal of the killer. 

Grade: 3/5

The Girl from Berlin

Book: The Girl from Berlin
Series: Liam Taggart & Catherine Lockhart
Author: Ronald H. Balson

An old friend calls Catherine Lockhart and Liam Taggart to his famous Italian restaurant to enlist their help. His aunt is being evicted from her home in the Tuscan hills by a powerful corporation claiming they own the deeds, even though she can produce her own set of deeds to her land. Catherine and Liam’s only clue is a bound handwritten manuscript, entirely in German, and hidden in its pages is a story long-forgotten…

Ada Baumgarten was born in Berlin in 1918, at the end of the Great War. The daughter of an accomplished first-chair violinist in the prestigious Berlin Philharmonic, she herself was a violin prodigy, Ada’s life was full of the rich culture of Berlin’s interwar society. She formed a deep attachment to her childhood friend Kurt, but they were torn apart by the growing unrest as her Jewish family came under suspicion. As the tides of history turned, it was her extraordinary talent that would carry her through an unraveling society turned to war, and make her a target even as it saved her, allowing her to move to Bologna―though Italy was not the haven her family had hoped, and further heartache awaited.

What became of Ada? How is she connected to the conflicting land deeds of a small Italian villa? As they dig through the layers of lies, corruption, and human evil, Catherine and Liam uncover an unfinished story of heart, redemption, and hope―the ending of which is yet to be written.-Goodreads

Review: Catherine Lockhart (attorney) and Liam Taggart (investigator) travel to Italy to help an elderly Italian woman who is being evicted from her home. In order to prepare Catherine for the case at hand, she is given a handwritten manuscript to read to understand the situation. The manuscript (which is essentially a second narrative) follows the story of Ada Baumgarten, a Jewish violin prodigy, during WWII. Who is Ada and how does this relate to an old woman who is trying to retain land in Italy? 

Like many books with dual narratives and timelines, the manuscript took center stage here. This was the strongest and most interesting part of the book. I enjoy WWII historical fiction and this was a heartbreaking tale. Lockhart and Taggart are part of a PI series which I've never read until this book so I think if I went into this thinking it was a PI type novel, I would have been very disappointed. Overall, I liked this. Balson is a talented writer but I was not interested in Lockhart and Taggart enough as characters to read any more of their series. 

Grade: 3/5 

Fragile

Book: Fragile
Series: The Hallows #1
Author: Lisa Unger

Everybody knows everybody in The Hollows, a quaint, charming town outside of New York City. It's a place where neighbors keep an eye on one another's kids, where people say hello in the grocery store, and where high school cliques and antics are never quite forgotten. As a child, Maggie found living under the microscope of small-town life stifling. But as a wife and mother, she has happily returned to The Hollows's insular embrace. As a psychologist, her knowledge of family histories provides powerful insights into her patients' lives. So when the girlfriend of her teenage son, Rick, disappears, Maggie's intuitive gift proves useful to the case--and also dangerous.

The investigation has her husband, Jones, the lead detective on the case, acting strangely. Rick, already a brooding teenager, becomes even more withdrawn. In a town where the past is always present, nobody is above suspicion, not even a son in the eyes of his father.

Determined to uncover the truth, Maggie pursues her own leads into Charlene's disappearance and exposes a long-buried town secret--one that could destroy everything she holds dear. -Goodreads

Review: Maggie (psychologist) and Jones (lead detective) live in a small town outside of NYC with their teenage son. When their son's girlfriend goes missing, everyone's a suspect. 

I didn't hate this or like this, it was okay. There are multiple narrators in the town and it was interesting to an extent getting everyone's perspectives. One narrative that could have been left out was Charlene, the missing girl, because we as readers know too much about her and her motivations. This really killed any suspense. Maggie was extremely unprofessional (I kept thinking real therapists would never act like she was) while Jones was the most interesting and layered character. 

Grade: 2/5 

Murder Beyond the Grave

Book: Murder Beyond the Grave
Author: James Patterson

Murder Beyond the Grave (with Andrew Bourelle): Stephen Small has it all: a Ferrari, fancy house, loving wife, and three boys. But the only thing he needs right now is enough air to breathe. Kidnapped, buried in a box, and held for ransom, Stephen has forty-eight hours of oxygen. The clock is ticking . . .


Murder in Paradise (with Christopher Charles): High in the Sierra Nevada mountains, developers Jim and Bonnie Hood excitedly tour Camp Nelson Lodge. They intend to buy and modernize this beautiful rustic property, but the locals don't like rich outsiders changing their way of life. After a grisly shooting, everybody will discover just how you can make a killing in real estate . . .-Goodreads

Review: Murder Beyond the Grave is two short stories based on true crimes. 

Murder Beyond the Grave is written from the perspective of Daniel Edwards, the murderer of Stephen Small. Edwards, a drug dealer trying to go straight, comes up with a botched kidnapping plot of a wealthy man which turns out badly. I found the most interesting part of this story relating to Nancy Rish, Edward's girlfriend. In this interpretation of the events, she was not an active participant but a naïve single mom who picked the wrong boyfriend. By researching this case afterwards, I saw she was also convicted and charged in the crime. 3/5


Murder in Paradise follows the murder of Bonnie Hood, a married mother of two who was restoring and running Camp Nelson Lodge, a place she loved as a child. Bonnie lived at the Lodge during the week and only saw her husband and kids on the weekends. I was really fascinated with this story and found myself researching everything about the crime after finishing this. 5/5

Grade: 4/5

Someone's Listening

Book: Someone's Listening
Author: Seraphina Nova Glass

Faith Finley has it all: she’s a talented psychologist with a flourishing career, a bestselling author and the host of a popular local radio program, Someone’s Listening, with Dr. Faith Finley. She’s married to the perfect man, Liam Finley, a respected food critic.

Until the night everything goes horribly wrong, and Faith’s life is shattered forever.

Liam is missing—gone without a trace—and the police are suspicious of everything Faith says. They either think she has something to hide, or that she’s lost her mind.

And then the notes begin to arrive. Notes that are ripped from Faith’s own book, the one that helps victims leave their abusers. Notes like “Lock your windows. Consider investing in a steel door.”

As the threats escalate, the mystery behind Liam’s disappearance intensifies. And Faith’s very life will depend on finding answers.-Goodreads

Review: After a bad car accident, Faith wakes up and is shocked to learn that her husband-who was driving-disappeared from the scene and there was no trace of him at the accident site. Did she imagine him there? Did she kill him? The police are suspicious of Faith but she knows she did nothing wrong. Faith quickly descends into a downward spiral, drinking too much and taking pills. Things seems to escalate when she receives pages from her own book. 

I liked this book but I felt the author spent more time on Faith's downward spiral than Faith trying to figure out what happened to her husband. Because of this the book really dragged at times. Overall, the author did craft a good thrilled at the end. 


Grade: 3/5 

Book: Where the Lost Wander
Author: Amy Harmon


The Overland Trail, 1853: Naomi May never expected to be widowed at twenty. Eager to leave her grief behind, she sets off with her family for a life out West. On the trail, she forms an instant connection with John Lowry, a half-Pawnee man straddling two worlds and a stranger in both.

But life in a wagon train is fraught with hardship, fear, and death. Even as John and Naomi are drawn to each other, the trials of the journey and their disparate pasts work to keep them apart. John’s heritage gains them safe passage through hostile territory only to come between them as they seek to build a life together.

When a horrific tragedy strikes, decimating Naomi’s family and separating her from John, the promises they made are all they have left. Ripped apart, they can’t turn back, they can’t go on, and they can’t let go. Both will have to make terrible sacrifices to find each other, save each other, and eventually… make peace with who they are.-Goodreads

Review: I've read a few Amy Harmon books and this is undoubtedly my favorite to date. Young widow Naomi May and her family are traveling west on the Overland Trail in the 1850's with John Lowry, a half-Pawnee man. This is a historical fiction with a side of romance and I really enjoyed it. Harmon really brought the landscape and hardship of traveling west during these times to life. In a time where we feel naked without our cell phones and Google maps, it's amazing anyone traveled west successfully. The pacing was a little slow at times but I recommend this for historical fiction readers looking for a break from WWII stories. 

Grade: 4/5

Lethal White

Book: Lethal White
Series: Cormoran Stike #4
Author: Robert Galbraith

When Billy, a troubled young man, comes to private eye Cormoran Strike’s office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed, and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts from his office in a panic.

Trying to get to the bottom of Billy’s story, Strike and Robin Ellacott—once his assistant, now a partner in the agency—set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside.

And during this labyrinthine investigation, Strike’s own life is far from straightforward: his newfound fame as a private eye means he can no longer operate behind the scenes as he once did. Plus, his relationship with his former assistant is more fraught than it ever has been—Robin is now invaluable to Strike in the business, but their personal relationship is much, much trickier than that. -Goodreads

Review: I love the characters of Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott as they solve crimes. The crime part of this novel was well crafted and interesting. I am not a fan of Cormoran and Robin as a potential couple and way too much of this novel was spent on their existing romantic relationships as well as their problems with each other. Way too much. As such, this book was bloated by a couple hundred pages (at least) and i had a hard time finishing it. 

I'll continue with the series but I'm hoping book #5 focuses more on the crime and investigation than the inevitable coupling of Cormoran and Robin.  

Grade: 2/5 

Devoted

Book: Devoted
Author: Dean Koontz

Woody Bookman hasn’t spoken a word in his eleven years of life. Not when his father died in a freak accident. Not when his mother, Megan, tells him she loves him. For Megan, keeping her boy safe and happy is what matters. But Woody believes a monstrous evil was behind his father’s death and now threatens him and his mother. And he’s not alone in his thoughts. An ally unknown to him is listening.

A uniquely gifted dog with a heart as golden as his breed, Kipp is devoted beyond reason to people. When he hears the boy who communicates like he does, without speaking, Kipp knows he needs to find him before it’s too late.

Woody’s fearful suspicions are taking shape. A man driven by a malicious evil has set a depraved plan into motion. And he’s coming after Woody and his mother. The reasons are primal. His powers are growing. And he’s not alone. Only a force greater than evil can stop what’s coming next.-Goodreads

Review: It's been 20+ years since I read a Dean Koontz book and there was a lot going on here. The main villain in this is super creepy (really disgusting at times) and the overall thought I had after finishing this was "that was the weirdest book I've ever read." I didn't hate it, I didn't exactly like it, but I'll hand it to Koontz, it was definitely unique. 

Grade: 2/5 

The Cuckoo's Cry

Book: The Cuckoo's Cry
Author: Caroline Overington

On the eve of the global lockdown, Don Barlow opens the door of his old beachside cottage to find a pretty girl with pink-tipped hair, claiming to have nowhere to go.

He allows her entry, and so begins a mystery set in unprecedented times: with the virus raging outside their home, the girl cannot be asked to leave, but what does he risk by having her stay? -Goodreads

Review: This was the first COVID-19 related book I read (listened to as this was an Audible original) this year. Don is a lonely widower who opens his door one night to find a young girl named Morgan claiming to be his granddaughter. Don welcomes her although it's clear to listeners that Morgan has an agenda and is not all that she seems. COVID-19 hits and they end up quarantining together. Meanwhile, Don's daughter is suspicious of Morgan (as she should be), while her farm to table restaurant with her husband is at risk with the pandemic. This was a quick listen and I overall liked it. The end jumped the shark a little bit but it was enjoyable. 

Grade: 3/5 

The Roommate

Book: The Roommate
Series: Cormac Reilly #0.7
Author: Dervla McTiernan

Twenty-two year old Niamh Turley thought she had problems, dealing with the obnoxious principal of the school she’s teaching in as well as the anxious parents of her little charges, but when she wakes one morning to a missing roommate and a garda knocking on her door, her life spirals out of control fast…-Goodreads

Review

“’Did you ask for any references for Maya or a bank statement or anything?’ Mary asked.


Niamh blinked. ‘No’, she said. ‘Do people do that in Dublin? I suppose the fact that Maya was introduced through a friend of a friend meant that I just took everything on trust.’” 

This was a short story that reminded me a lot of the movie Single White Female. I'm not familiar with the Cormac Reilly series but I liked McTiernan's writing. This was a little too short to sink my teeth into but I liked it. 

Grade: 3/5 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Uglies

Book: Uglies
Series: Uglies #1
Author: Scott Westerfeld

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. In just a few weeks she'll have the operation that will turn her from a repellent ugly into a stunning pretty. And as a pretty, she'll be catapulted into a high-tech paradise where her only job is to have fun.

But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to become a pretty. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world—and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally a choice: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. Tally's choice will change her world forever....-G00dreads

Review: I'm normally a big fan of Scott Westerfeld but this book did not work for me. It was like he had a checklist of every issue teens face and tried to shove them into this book. I am definitely not the target market of this book so perhaps that is part of the issue. I also found the pacing extremely slow. 

One interesting note-during our book discussion for this we all had slightly different ideas as to what the "Pretties" looked like. I now envision them Alien-esque, like the Avatar movie (I initially was thinking they looked like mini-versions of the real housewives). 

Grade: 2/5 

Code Name Camelot

Book: Code Name Camelot
Author: David Archer
Series: Noah Wolf #1

After witnessing the murder-suicide of his parents as a child, Noah suffers from a form of PTSD that has left him without emotion, without a conscience and without the ability to function as a normal human being. With the help of childhood friends, he learns to watch others around him and mimic their behaviors, in order to conceal the fact that his mind operates more like a computer that he has spent years programming. That program is what allows Noah to pass himself off as normal, by establishing parameters of right and wrong that are completely inviolable to him.

As a young adult, Noah finds structure in the U.S. Army, and becomes an excellent and exemplary soldier, but when his self-imposed programming is put to the test by the murderous acts of the superior officer, Noah finds himself quickly made expendable, charged with crimes he did not commit and facing the possibility of execution. Without any reasonable hope for a reprieve, Noah's logic-based mind accepts his fate.

Sometimes, though, things are not all as they seem to be, and Noah is offered one chance to save himself. It was his disability, his lack of emotion, that made him the soldier he had become. Now, an ultrasecret organization known as E & E wants Noah's talents, offering him a chance to survive…-Goodreads

Review: Noah Wolf is essentially Dexter Morgan with military training. This was an interesting concept but the writing style was repetitive and not engaging. 

Grade: 2/5 

The Safe Place

Book: The Safe Place
Author: Anna Downes

Emily is a mess.

Emily Proudman just lost her acting agent, her job, and her apartment in one miserable day.

Emily is desperate.

Scott Denny, a successful and charismatic CEO, has a problem that neither his business acumen nor vast wealth can fix. Until he meets Emily.

Emily is perfect.

Scott offers Emily a summer job as a housekeeper on his remote, beautiful French estate. Enchanted by his lovely wife Nina, and his eccentric young daughter, Aurelia, Emily falls headlong into this oasis of wine-soaked days by the pool. But soon Emily realizes that Scott and Nina are hiding dangerous secrets, and if she doesn't play along, the consequences could be deadly.-Goodreads

Review: If you are looking for a quick read for the holidays, look no further. The Safe Place is a quick, interesting read if not a tad predictable. But it's fun and Downes knows how to craft a good story. 

Emily is a hot mess. Out of work. Out of money. About to be evicted. Dropped from her acting agent. Estranged from her parents. Can't even remember her own mother's birthday. So of course she jumps at the opportunity to move to France and take a job as a housekeeper for her old bosses wife and young child. Emily quickly discovers things aren't what they seem. 

Fun read I liked it. 

Grade: 3/5 

Nine Perfect Strangers

Book: Nine Perfect Strangers
Author: Liane Moriarty

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Liane Moriarty, author of Big Little Lies, comes her newest novel, Nine Perfect Strangers: Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever? These nine perfect strangers are about to find out...-Goodreads

Review: Nine strangers (well, really a family of 3 and 6 strangers) all go to Tranquillum for various reasons: lose weight, gain self confidence, repair a strained marriage, grieve, etc. Little do they know that Masha, the owner and guru, has very unorthodox ideas about treatment. Unlike other Moriarty books, there is no big mystery anyone is trying to solve here or a big event the book is leading up to. Readers expecting this will be disappointed because the book isn't plotted like that. It's basically the journey of these people over the course of their 'treatment' and a brief chapter of what happens afterward. 

Told in multiple narratives, the first (and strongest IMO) is Francis, a romance novelist who has recently been catfished. Francis is a "love her or hate her" type personality and I.....loved her. I thought she was really funny and wanted to see how she ended up. The family of 3 (Napoleon, Heather and Zoe) had a surprisingly touching story that actually caused me to tear up towards the end. 


Overall-this is super cheesy without a defined plot, but it worked for me. A perfect summer read!

Grade: 4/5