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