Tag: book series

Dirty Thirty Book Review

Latest in Stephanie Plum Series

Dirty Thirty Book Cover, fuchsia colored with gold necklace of the word thirty.Janet Evanovich’s latest Stephanie Plum novel, Dirty Thirty, is a treat for long-time series fans. The bad guys are really the good guys and plenty of sucker punches for characters and readers alike. Once again Evanovich leaves the reader hanging over a cliff waiting for yet another Plum novel.

Dirty Thirty Plot Line

The focus on this latest series entry is capturing skips. Stephanie, aided by the always colorful Lula, is after a wide range of bail jumpers. Some are dangerous and others hilarious. Furthermore, Stephanie is moonlighting for Martin Plover owner of Plover’s Jewelry store and an apparent victim. He was robbed twice. His request is for the recovery agent to also find his missing security guard.

As usual, things are complicated in the Burg. The missing security guard may have ties to the jewel thief, and they may or may not have the goods. Both these characters will be new to faithful readers.

Returning Characters

Dirty Thirty has a wide host of characters. At times I would mix the new characters up. Fortunately, the supporting cast remains constant-much like an old sitcom. Stephanie’s boyfriend Joe Morelli makes brief appearances but for the most part the romantic tension is sparked by Ranger.

Comic relief is provided by Lula, Grandma Mazur and Bob, Morelli’s shaggy dog. Evanovich is still golden with her quips and actions. Many smiles as well as laughs keep the reader engaged. Not to mention the double entendres all the way through Dirty Thirty. But even the foreshadowing will leave readers (like I was) surprised at the outcomes of the various plot lines. I will have a tough time waiting for the next in the series.

Recommendation for Dirty Thirty

I love this series and this book is no exception. However, I do not see it as a stand-alone. Dirty Thirty will be enjoyed the most by readers engaged in the series. Indeed, the biggest surprise will fly over the head of a reader brand new to the series. So, if you have read previous books featuring Stephanie Plum, this is a shouldn’t skip. If you are a novice, find the original-One for the Money and proceed from there.

Thanks for the entertainment, Ms. Evanovich.

Sanibel Flats Book Review

Action Adventure Series

Three paperback books including Sanibel Flats by Randy Wayne White

Randy Wayne White penned Sanibel Flats over thirty years ago. This first in a long series is an action adventure featuring Doc Ford as an ex-operative returning home to focus on marine biology. His hopes for a quiet life are shattered by a request from an old high school buddy. The author creates plausibility for a return to action along with a gorgeous description of Florida’s barrier islands.

Key Characters Introduced

To be honest, I have read other entries in this series out of order. And I enjoyed them without the back story. However, if you have not read any of White’s novels, I suggest you begin with this one. He does an outstanding job of building character. After reading Sanibel Flats, I realize the depth of the various personalities throughout the series. And I understand how the serious character of Doc Ford and the laid-back hippie Tomlinson (one of my favorites) become so tight.

Furthermore, the author gives you a glimpse of Doc Ford’s double-standard thinking with respect to love interests. Every character needs a flaw. And each also needs hope.

Plot of Sanibel Flats

Doc Ford is newly returned to Sanibel Island. He is contacted by his long-ago best friend for help. Apparently, high school buddy, Rafe Hollins, kidnapped his son from a drunken druggie ex-wife only for the boy to be kidnapped by a Central American crime lord. Then Ford finds Hollins dead and knows rescuing 8-year-old Jake Hollins is his duty.

Convincing fellow marina dweller Tomlinson to come to the jungles of Central America is easy. And the action adventure begins. Moreover, the author introduces the many grey areas of a moral life. Sanibel Flats is not a novel for those who see the world as black and white. However, good and evil are easy to decipher.

A Descriptive Sanibel Flats

White excels at bringing locales to life. The descriptions of coastal Florida ring true for this former inhabitant. Thus, his jungle scenes of Central and South America are given credence. If a few readers get bogged down by the settings, action awaits at the turn of a page.

Sanibel Flats does not shield one from descriptions of violence and gore. Between the gunfights and the bedroom scenes, this book belongs in the hands of a mature audience. Since the book takes place in an area known for growing drugs, there are those who may find that objectionable as well. However, the story of rescue from a foreign locale without military aid merits the above-mentioned scenes.

Recommendation

The Doc Ford series is pure entertainment with moralism thrown in. The characters are human and very relatable. While I may not read the entire series as my spouse has, I know Sanibel Flats will not be the last. However, I do think I will go back and read the series in order.

 

Exiles Book Review

Cold Case

Australian author Jane Harper’s 2022 release Exiles once again features federal investigator Aaron Falk. However, in this recent release financial gain does not seem to factor into the disappearance of Kim Gillespie.

The cold case comes to the forefront as the one-year anniversary arrives and a teenager is desperate to locate her missing mom. But Falk has more than one motive for returning to the Maralee Valley Festival. In addition to helping long-time friend Greg Raco and his family find their missing relative, Falk seeks to reconnect with the festival director, a widow still grieving the unexpected loss of her husband-missing and then found dead.

Are the two cases related?

Life’s Exiles

Harper instills great meaning in her titles and Exiles is true to form. Readers of the Aaron Falk series know the background to his ‘exiles’ status. However, the missing mother becomes an exile from her own family. Estrangement from family and friends creates its own form of aloneness. Thus, suicide is a plausible outcome.

However, Harper writes murder mysteries. So, Falk sets out to find the truth behind the disappearance. And the truth should give anyone experiencing alienation from family members great pause. Does that family member really want severed ties? In Gillespie’s case the answer was no. But too often family are blind to reality.

Recommendation for Exiles

Since Jane Harper has been a favorite ever since reading The Dry, naturally I enjoyed Exiles. However, for new readers, her writing style is one that unwinds at a measured pace. The action is tempered by the protagonist’s point of view as well as provoking dialogue and thoughtful character development.

The best part of Harper’s writing are the twists and turns of the plot and yet after the reveal everything falls in place. No loose threads from this talented author. Plus, as alluded to above, Jane Harper gives the reader ‘something’ to think about long after closing the book. I highly recommend Exiles with a caveat that her message may leave anyone with an estranged family member more than just a bit uncomfortable.

 

The Sweet Goodbye Book Review

Danny Barrett Series

Ron Corbett writes the Danny Barrett series and The Sweet Goodbye is the 2022 release featuring the undercover man. The setting is the area surrounding the North Woods of Maine. Long forgotten, has-been mill towns and the people struggling to make a living in a changed world. Now, the easiest way to make money is making and distributing illegal drugs. And then laundering the cash.

Danny Barrett is working undercover as a tree marker. A job learned from growing up in Michigan. His knowledge saves him. But will he figure it all out before it is too late?

Good Guys and Bad Guys

It is hard to tell the good from the bad in The Sweet Goodbye. Even harder to define competence among the authorities. A major SNAFU through and through, with a story to touch the heart of the most hardened FBI agents.

Beau Lafontaine is the lead bad guy. Drug runner extraordinaire with his only soft spot, Cousin Pearl, a diner waitress and a key character in the story. Beau is in business with Travis and Tucker Lee. His drug money is laundered through their timber company. Neither brother is stellar in character, one is a glutton and the other a drunk. All become implicated in the murder of a banker.

In The Sweet Goodbye, Pearl is a long-standing mistress of Travis Lee. The relationship of the hard-working waitress and the drunken lawyer dates to their teenage years. And his marriage to Amanda Lee.

Danny Barrett is undercover trying to find evidence to convict the Lee brothers as well as their handler. He answers to two other Feds. Special Agent Paul Linton is ambitious and angling for a management spot in Boston and the legendary FBI agent Jim Flanagan. Complicating the action, the two senior agents are at odds with each other.

The Sting of The Sweet Goodbye

Barrett’s role expands from surveillance to setting up a sting. But everything backfires as bad guys drop like flies. Before long the authorities only have Pearl and Travis to pin all the charges on. Neither seem capable of being a mastermind. But someone needs to pay. After all, the FBI has been building a case for the better part of a year.

Flannagan, Linton and Barrett press each of the lovers to turn on the other. In the end, love conquers all.

Recommendation for The Sweet Goodbye

This murder mystery was anything but cozy. And the ending has a bit of an Agatha Christie type twist. A few things are not spelled out or were missed by this reader. Most notably, how and why Amanda Lee disappears. Yet The Sweet Goodbye is truly a page-turner and I couldn’t put it down, stopping only to eat. Upon finishing, I put it atop my husband’s pile of to be read books, I enjoyed the characters, the plot, the scenery…the everything! Find a copy and enjoy this suspenseful novel.

To Fudge Or Not To Fudge Book Review

Cute Cover

To Fudge Or Not To Fudge Book Cover with lilac bushes and a cute white fluffy puppyThis week at the library I spied To Fudge Or Not To Fudge on the “New” table. This second in a series by Nancy Coco (byline of Nancy J. Parra) caught my eye with the colorful lilacs on the cover. They brought back memories of last June’s trip to Mackinac Island.

Picking up the paperback, a quick glance proved my instincts were right. The cozy mystery is set on the wonderful tourist haven of Mackinac Island. However, the book is not recently published-the copyright states 2014. So, this new library addition is new to the library. A quick internet search reveals the success of the “Candy-Coated” series with over a dozen books released.

Protagonist of To Fudge Or Not To Fudge

Allie McMurphy is the main character. She has recently moved full time to the island hoping to keep the family business inherited from her grandparents a going concern. The Inn/Fudge Shop keeps her busy, but things become more hectic when a former instructor and mentor convinces her to fill in on a reality cooking show.

Additionally, Allie is slowly moving toward a lover’s triangle. Both Trent Jessup, the owner of one of the island’s stables and mulching companies and Officer Rex Manning, head of the island police force are interested in pursuing a relationship with the young fudge maker. However, the men take a back seat to Allie’s precocious pup Marshmallow. Mal, as the fluffy white dog is called, keeps finding human bones in various gardens.

Plot Twists

There are plenty of plot twists in To Fudge Or Not To Fudge. Most apply to the current story, but Allie’s mom makes an appearance which shores up the backstory of the series. Numerous sidekicks are included with each character adding to the plot line. Although a few characters are much more developed than others.

Even though the novel hums along like most cozy mysteries, a few surprises pop up. Enough to keep the reader interested in this fun read. Following the escapades of Allie throughout the series is something to look forward to. Look in your local library or area bookstore for this delightful book and series from Nancy Coco.

Livid Book Review

Return to a Familiar Series

A double entendre without the suggestive meaning, Livid is perfectly used as the title of the newest Scarpetta novel. A Christmas gift, the most recent installment in the Kay Scarpetta series brought many surprises to this reader. To be honest, it has been some time since I read anything in this series favoring the Patricia Cornwell penned Captain Chase novels, Quantum and Spin.

The familiar supporting cast sported the most changes, but the character of Scarpetta included subtle differences as well. Furthermore, the inclusion of high technology in the storyline harkens to the aforementioned Chase series. And once again, the political overtones are steeped throughout the novel.

Kay Scarpetta is Livid

Testifying on the witness stand at the opening of the book, the character of Scarpetta is under attack. One would think she was the accused instead of providing expert testimony. She is “livid” about her treatment, seething inside but cool as a cucumber on the stand.

Upon leaving the courtroom, Scarpetta and her reliable sidekick Pete Marino, immediately encounter a new case. One tied to the trial in multiple ways. Both the FBI and the Secret Service are involved as well, allowing for multiple past supporting characters to make an appearance.

The second meaning of livid describes the bruising both new victims have even though causes of death differ. New technology is involved with one death while the other is more traditional. The existing relationships Scarpetta had with each victim, adds to the story.

Politics and Parallels

Throughout the novel, Cornwell uses Scarpetta’s thoughts to further the plot and the message. Ties to current cultural events create a meaningful novel. The inclusion of the latest technology in weaponry adds to the shock tactics. Terrorism from within a society is as dangerous as from without. Perhaps more dangerous. Certainly insidious. The warnings of Livid should be heeded.

Recommendation for Livid

I enjoyed reading this latest novel in the Kay Scarpetta series. Changes in the relationships of core cast members made me want to go back and read some of the books in the series I had missed. So, I would say this is not a stand-alone book. Cornwell books can be found online, at bookstores and at your local library.

 

Burner Book Review

A Library Find

Book covers command attention as was the case with Burner by Mark Greaney. A speedboat racing away from the setting sun, out of the coastal harbor, shadowed by a cliff-how could I pass this by? Plus, it was on the new release table at the library and from an author I did not identify-hard to believe if your favorite genre is action thrillers.

Greaney is an established writer co-writing the later books in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series as well as creating The Grey Man series himself. I realized none of this as I began reading Burner. However, the book stands on its own merits without previous knowledge of the series, characters or even Netflix. Yes, The Grey Man series is apparently available through the streaming channel.

Contemporary Issues in Burner Plot

The novel opens with Courtland Gentry mounting explosives on a yacht belonging to a Russian oligarch. Court is known by many names- The Gray Man and Six are just two- and he is former CIA. Burner mirrors current affairs with a conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Therefore, the plot line may be of interest to readers not devoted to the action-thriller genre.

Information implicating politicians, bankers and others is smuggled out of Russia into Switzerland and onto New York City. Multiple governmental agencies as well as private parties are willing to go to great lengths to secure the data. So, Court is just one of many on the hunt trying to figure out the good guys from the bad guys. Identities are murky and loyalties are tested.

Cast of Characters

Major action scenes unwind from the Caribbean to Europe to the United States of America. Naturally, each location needs secondary characters. Multiple characters can be found moving from location to location as well. Greaney provides a list of characters in the dramatis personae and I referred back to the list a few times. Americans, Ukrainians and Russians dominate the list. Several characters also have code names on top of aliases. This could be confusing but Greaney keeps everyone and everything in order.

The Gray Man is the protagonist. He has a love interest and multiple opponents. Fortunately, a current CIA operative acts as a back-up of sorts. Angela Lacy, a very competent agent is also a pacifist. So, her support is limited. And though she trusts Gentry she dislikes the love of his life, Former Russian SVR Zoya Zakharova.

Recommendation for Burner

Mark Greaney’s thriller Burner is an absolute winner. The book is part of a series, but can be read out of order as a stand alone by those interested in current events. The characters are so compelling one might want to turn back to prior books in the series or look for the Netflix adaptation of the first book in the series. Greaney is a masterful writer and will keep you turning the pages for more.

 

Going Rogue Book Review

Number 29

Book Cover with teal background and Janet Evanovich Going Rogue in large type with gold coins scattered across the cover.Going Rogue is Janet Evanovich’s latest Stephanie Plum novel. Loyal fans will be delighted. Because the book fleshes out old characters with more in-depth personalities. And Stephanie Plum is showing growth as well. As usual there are several laugh out loud moments from the delightful supporting cast.

Missing in Action

The story opens up with bail bonds office manager Connie Rosolli missing and three Failure to Appear (FTA) accounts lined up for skip tracer Plum to chase down. Complications quickly arise as one of the skips is Joe Morelli’s Grandma Bella. The Sicilian grandmother able to wreak havoc by giving those she despises the “evil eye.”

Kidnappers contact the office wanting an exchange. A valuable coin was put up for collateral. The trade is simple, Connie for the coin. But the coin is missing from the evidence room. One of the skips palmed it. Millions fall into the wrong hands and the madcap chase is on.

Going Rogue

Evanovich keeps her Stephanie Plum character fresh after twenty-nine iterations by fleshing out established characters and introducing new ones. In Going Rogue, Grandma Bella becomes more than just an evil eye throwing Nonna. She is a bit more rounded and a bit more human in her treatment of Stephanie. But just a tad bit.

And the character of Stephanie Plum continues to mature. Although she is still divided between her feelings for Joe versus Ranger (the key tenet for the series) her behavior is more virtuous…to a point.

Furthermore, the protagonist is finding herself. Going Rogue replaces the unhappy with work vibe with an acceptance of the career path. Quite refreshing to be honest.

Pure Entertainment

Books serve many purposes. The Stephanie Plum series is designed for entertainment. These books offer a much-needed release from the realities of life. Evanovich is a pro at instilling complete personalities into secondary characters. Her love triangle between Stephanie, Joe and Ranger is classic and can divide households.

Best of all, this series stays fresh for the many loyal followers. If you have not read any of this series, I encourage you to begin with the first. You will have plenty of reading material to last for the near future. Each addition is a fun read.

Lilac Girls Book Review

Impulse Buy

On impulse I purchased Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly from the bookstore at Front cover of the book Lilac Girls depicting three women walking away.Mackinac Island. Fortunately, the impulse proved worthy. This novel of historical fiction focuses on three main characters. Two real-life individuals and a third protagonist who is more of a composite. The story begins as Hitler invades Poland. But the lives of the three are followed long after the end of the second World War.

Plot of Lilac Girls

The author ties together the lives of an American socialite, a German doctor and a head strong Polish youth on the cusp of womanhood. The time period is World War II. Hence the novel is a gripping tale of wartime atrocities and the struggles that remain long after the fighting stops.

Each storyline is compelling and heartbreaking in its own way. Ms. Kelly thoroughly researched the subject matter of the Ravensbrück Rabbits. A name given to the young women upon whom the Nazi’s preformed experimental surgeries. Ravensbrück was the main concentration camp for women. Estate papers and public documents record Caroline Ferriday’s work on the behalf of the “Rabbits.”

The Nuremberg Doctors Trial transcripts provide information on Dr. Herta Oberheuser. And as with much historical fiction, the author re-created the individual as closely as possible. However, most dialogue is fictional. Nonetheless, actual testimony from Oberheuser is used in one of the chapters. The reader gleams an understanding of how atrocities are committed. But perhaps not an acceptance of why.

The focus of the book is on the prisoners themselves. The characters of Kasia and her sister Zuzanna are pure fiction, but loosely based on two sisters that were operated on. Research for this portion included interviews with survivors of Ravensbrück.

Changing Points of View

Lilac Girls is written in the first person. Thus, allowing the reader to grasp the motivation of each of the three main characters. Furthermore, the rotation of chapters is not symmetrical throughout. So, each storyline develops at its’ own pace. An added positive to this approach is one of relief from the very detailed atrocities committed at the camp. Kasia’s story is a tough read.

Recommendation for Lilac Girls

Lilac Girls is one of my best impulse buys to date. First published in 2016 as debut novel for Martha Hall Kelly, both a prequel and a sequel have been penned and released. A fourth novel, a spinoff from Lilac Girls is due to be released in 2023. So, if you have not read any of Ms. Kelly’s books, I urge you to find one. Her research is exemplary, and her writing is skilled. The characters and stories in Lilac Girls are moving and uplifting in the face of personal hardship and tragedy. This novel is highly recommended.

Christmas Shopaholic Book Review

Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella is a must buy to put under the tree or into a stocking. The spirit of Christmas peels from the pages along with much mirth and holiday joy. I did not realize this novel was the eighth in a series. It reads as a standalone, but I plan to find the earlier editions once the New Year arrives.

Becky Bloomwood Brandon – Christmas Shopaholic

The protagonist, Becky Bloomwood Brandon is in search of the perfect gift for her husband. And for everyone else on her list. She goes to great lengths and is thwarted in so many ways. She is a true shopaholic-spending so much in the quest for the great “sales.”

Her devotion to family and friends is evident throughout the book. So is her empathy for others. But she does have one key fault. Her penchant for assumptions.

Lighthearted Read

Christmas Shopaholic is a lighthearted read. The humor is outstanding and the characters are fun. And there is a little more. Kinsella sprinkles the true meaning of Christmas throughout the book. The underlying message is as rewarding as the therapeutic laughter derived from the madcap actions of the lead character.

Books serve many purposes. Christmas Shopaholic provides a wonderful escape from holiday stresses. Perhaps by showing what not to do. The novel, released just over a year ago, is a perfect relief for those experiencing the dual stressors of pandemic and holiday.

I read Christmas Shopaholic on the Libby App, but I may buy a copy for myself. Much like a desire to watch White Christmas and Die Harder each holiday season, I know I will want to re-read Christmas Shopaholic this time next year.

Christmas Shopaholic

To be honest, I almost didn’t finish the book. I started reading last week and then our family faced loss from Covid-19. But, I am so glad I picked back up where I left off. Life continues with laughter leading the way. Thank you Sophie Kinsella for a wonderful, wonderful reminder of the power of the Christmas season.

One Last Lie Book Review

To be honest, the cover artwork for One Last Lie grabbed my attention the last time I was in a bricks and mortar bookstore. Stars are twinkling above a canoeist as the last filtered light from the setting sun gives off just a bit of light on the water. The font for the author’s name, Paul Doiron, was smaller than that of the title-but not by much. I had heard of neither the book nor the author. But at the very bottom were titles of two previous books and one sounded familiar, so I added the book to my pile. I am so glad I did.

Setting for One Last Lie

The opening pages of One Last Lie depicts the protagonist performing an in-person background check on an applicant for the Maine Warden Service. The investigation takes place in South Florida. The description of the climate, topography and current wildlife concerns were on target. Furthermore, the narrative captures ones interest quickly.

Then, Doiron makes a swift and successful transition from the swamps of Florida to the backwoods of Maine where the remainder of the story takes place. This reader is not as familiar with Maine but trusts the author does not repeat the one (possible) small background error made with respect to Florida. An error only SEC fans or little ones living in Gainesville learning Gator chants on bus rides to school may pick up on. Unless Vaneese’s question re: Gainesville was a non-sequitur, in which case I erred.

Mike Bowditch

The protagonist in One Last Lie is Mike Bowditch. An entire series has been built around this character and with reason. He is one of the good guys. But someone you would not want to cross. Determination exudes from this complex human.

Much credit is given to Doiron for creating such a compelling leading character. Furthermore, the secondary characters add more interest without stereotyping. Native Americans are integral in both the Florida and Maine settings. Competing love interests are also part of the narrative. So, while One Last Lie is great as a stand-alone novel, I hope my local library possesses the earlier books in the series.

Paul Doiron

Readers can develop an affinity for a particular writer. Examples are Janet Evanovich, James Peterson, or for horror fans Stephen King. Once a reader latches on to a writing style and/or a particular fictional character demand is created for more. I think Paul Doiron falls into this category.

The descriptive settings transport the reader to the locale. One easily forms a connection with lead character Bowditch. The action is exciting with limited gore. Perfect for readers who differentiate between mystery and mayhem.

I doubt my path has ever crossed with Doiron’s although the possibility exists. Yet I feel such a strong connection. Successful writer’s truly have this relationship with their readers. I envy the gift. One Last Lie is a 2020 release. It makes my list of books to give this Christmas.

Wizard’s Daughter Book Review

Wizard’s Daughter combines magic with witches, wizards, ghosts and unearthly realms with Regency England. Catherine Coulter is a masterful writer regardless of which genre she chooses. Her tales are part romance and part adventure.

Sherbrooke Series

Even though Coulter is one of my favorite authors and the Sherbrooke Series is also much loved, Wizard’s Daughter escaped my attention when it was released over ten years ago. However, a positive side to the pandemic is discovering many books I previously missed upon publication. Wizard’s Daughter is quite the mystical escape. Perfect for a lazy afternoon.

Nicholas Vail

The young Lord Mountjoy has returned to England after learning of his father’s death. He is the oldest and inherits what is tied up through primogeniture…and nothing else. All monies were passed onto three half-brothers.

But that is not the only thing that draws him back from foreign shores. He knows it is time to find the girl who has haunted his dreams since he was a small boy. She is now a grown woman, and a ward to Ryder Sherbrooke.

Wizard’s Daughter

Found near death as a small urchin Rosalind has no memory before her rescue. Not even of her identity. Yet, as soon as she spies Nicholas across the room at a ball she knows he is the one for her.

Their whirlwind romance takes on an unearthly mystery. Clues to the hidden secret swirling around Nicholas and Rosalind appear through coded passages in a book and strange visions to both Nicholas, Rosalind, and Richard, the oldest half-brother.

Paying a Debt

Behind the many secrets surrounding the young couple is a generational debt to be paid. Both must travel beyond the pale to rescue a young boy from an evil witch. Along the way they must navigate along a path filled with flying dragons, wizards and mythical beasts.

The many visions delivered in England come to pass. And yet the outcome is twisted. For in the realm beyond the pale things are not as they seem.

Catherine Coulter

Ms. Coulter is a prolific writer. Earlier reviews include Paradox, The Last Second and The Devil’s Triangle. She covers many genres and each story is a treat to behold. Wizard’s Daughter is an excellent example. Coulter combines regency romance with mysticism and the end result is an entertaining tale for fans of both genres. I enjoyed both the romance of Rosalind and Nicholas along with their adventure in a mythical realm.

Long Road to Mercy Book Review

I recently read Long Road to Mercy by David Baldacci. He is a veteran author known for his thrillers. The publishing date for Long Road to Mercy is 2018. But I did not buy/see it at the time. However, I enjoyed checking it out through my Libby App.

New Series, New Characters

Baldacci introduces a new series with Long Road to Mercy. The protagonist, Atlee Pine is a FBI agent based in the rural American town of Shattered Rock, Arizona. Pine is a loner in her mid-thirties with quite a back story. Her twin was kidnapped and never found at the age of six. While Long Road to Mercy begins and ends with this back story, the main plot revolves around government intrigue. The setting is split between the Grand Canyon and Washington, D.C.

Pine’s office consists of one staff member, Carol Blum. Blum is a key character in the book. Older than Agent Pine by about twenty years, Blum can recognize dedication when she sees it. She knows Pine is dedicated. So, Blum mentors FBI Agent Pine and serves as an admirable backup.

Sam Kettler is a National Service Park Ranger. He served in the Mid-east and has razor sharp skills. Kettler and Pine connect. Both are in top physical condition and both carry scars. Quite possibly the relationship will continue in future stories.

Long Road to Mercy Plot

Intrigue, espionage, and treason are at the heart of the novel. Primary action takes place deep in the Grand Canyon with Agent Pine and her assistant, Blum making a sneak trip to Washington D.C. in between. The storyline keeps the reader hooked. The protagonist digs deep to reach the bottom of the mystery.

There is a thinly veiled link to recent historical events in the United States, but the story is pure fiction. And that is a good thing. Because a similar scenario in true life would be devastating.

Novel Strengths

Baldacci has created complex and compelling characters. Both Pine and Blum are strong women and I like that. Sam Kettler is macho without the attitude. I also like that. The sequel to Long Road to Mercy is A Minute to Midnight. I have placed that novel on my To Be Read List.

Readers who enjoy action and don’t mind some violence will enjoy this novel. The main character is a strong female. David Baldacci is an expert at weaving stories of intrigue interspersed with moral conflict. I think the Atlee Pine series will develop quite a following. I know I enjoyed it.

 

 

Hide Away Book Review

Book Cover of Hide AwayHide Away by Iris Johansen is a fast paced thriller. The author excels at hooking the reader. Hide Away is a page turner. And then before you know it you are in the middle of the next chapter. And the next. Johansen fulfills the need of an addictive reader. The stories carry from one story to the next. The biggest trial is waiting for the next publication.

Eve Duncan

Hide Away is part of the Eve Duncan series. Duncan, the protagonist, faces new challenges in this installment of her saga. She needs to hide a child from a multitude of criminals. All while coming to terms with a major twist in her personal life.

The Eve Duncan series of books are entwined. There is a bit of a blur between beginnings and endings. Hide Away is directly linked to the precursor, Shadow Play. While reading the books in order is not a requirement, it may be helpful. Fortunately, the publication date is 2016 so once you finish Hide Away you can follow up with Night and Day. I say fortunately because Johansen not only has hooks between chapters, but cliffhangers to end books.

Hide Away Plot

From the opening scene in California to the Scotland Highlands, Eve and her young rescue Cara are on the run. The bad guys are tied to cartels. But the greatest villain of all is female with marital ties to a ruthless cartel leader and blood ties to the Russian Mob. Thus the plot has suspense, deceit and a thirst for blood pitted against empathy and courage.

A major sub-plot involves Eve’s adopted daughter Jane. The author weaves heartbreak and recovery into the story line with Jane’s back story. The setting, harsh, remote and mystical also gives substance to the plot.

My suggestion for readers interested in this fast paced novel is to first read Shadow Play. Like Eve and Jane I believe you will find the ending just like a beginning and be eager to follow Hide Away with Night and Day. The Eve Duncan series is captivating and just a bit addictive. Happy Reading!

The Rise of Magicks Book Review

The third segment in the Chronicles of The One series by Nora Roberts is The Rise of Magicks. I was looking forward to reading it as I discussed in the review Of Blood and Bone because I thought more of Roberts traditional romance writing would be evident. Even though the story contained a romantic thread between two main characters, the romance is secondary to the story.

The Rise of Magicks Characters

This third story refocuses on a group approach albeit the center character remains Fallon Smith. But much like the first novel, Year One, The Rise of Magicks contains multiple characters and is sometimes a bit hard to follow the large cast. Much like the original offering, the story line in The Rise of Magicks concentrates on battles between the good and evil forces.

On top of the large number of characters from the original book and the second generation born to those individuals, additional characters are introduced in supporting roles. Keeping the story lines straight is easy if you have read all the books. Roberts also does a nice job of providing closure for the cast in Year One who were run out of New York City.

Romance

As stated above, romance develops between Fallon and Duncan. To be honest, I found the interaction to just be satisfactory. It was like an aside to the story. I am not sure the book was enriched by the interaction.

The young couple had a few ups and downs, but the emotional struggle was lacking. They seemed more like a couple of old marrieds versus two young adults falling in love for the first time.

Good Overcoming Evil

In the end, good triumphs over evil but not before loss of innocent lives. One of my favorite characters is lost in a battle. So, Roberts does tug at the heartstrings a bit.

But truth be told, I consider the middle book in the trilogy to be the best. I certainly encourage those who have begun the trilogy to finish with The Rise of Magicks. The tale is quite satisfactory. But I was not left wishing for another installment. All loose ends have been tied back together.

I was hoping for a good Nora Roberts romance. Not a book with romance on the side. Additionally, I really think the real life pandemic of Covid-19 has dampened the enjoyment of reading about fantasy pandemics. Perhaps reading The Rise of Magicks a year from now will be much more entertaining for you.

 

Force of Nature Book Review

Jane Harper scores another win with Force of Nature. This second novel featuring Federal Agent Aaron Falk follows in the footsteps of The Dry. Plot twists keep the reader in suspense throughout. Best of all, Harper’s characters are so real and like-able, this reader was dismayed when the suspicion focused on one of the individual’s I most connected with among the potential culprits.

Remote Australia

The setting for Force of Nature is the Giralang Ranges, a remote area of Australia. Ten individuals from a company that Falk is investigating are on a corporate retreat. The group is divided evenly by gender and each team is sent on a different route. The purpose is to create a bond. But the women’s group is late to the rendezvous. Finally, four of the five women return, battered by the force of nature. Snake bit, concussed, bruised and stories that don’t quite add up equate a less than optimal outcome for the missing woman.

Of course, Falk and his partner Carmen Cooper rush to the scene when their inside informant is the one who turns up lost. The remoteness of the area along with the topography and vegetation of this fictional National Park make finding the missing woman difficult. Furthermore, the duo can’t be certain how their investigation of the company is involved.

Force of Nature

Jane Harper weaves a wonderful plot. Her pivoting between action and reflection is well done. Also, her sub-story of teen bullying and sexting adds just the right amount of uncertainty. Both kinship and friendship undergo excruciating stresses during this team building exercise when the women face the force of nature.

If you have not read any of Harper’s novels, I urge you to look for them. The writing is outstanding. I have yet to read her latest, but I am sure it will be every bit as suspenseful as Force of Nature. Jane Harper is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I plan to read her next, The Lost Man, as soon as I can get my hands on a copy.

Invisible book Review

Invisible by Lorena McCourtney was released in 2004 but is a newly discovered series for me. And I enjoyed this murder mystery featuring retiree Ivy Malone. The novel falls into the category of entertaining vs. suspenseful. My first GOL (giggle out loud) occurred on page 13. A good omen in my opinion.

Ivy Malone

The novel opens with Ivy and Thea, her neighbor and fellow widow, visiting a cemetery, which has been vandalized. Unfortunately, the day is too much for Thea and she succumbs to natural causes. This leaves Ivy adrift. She no longer has a sidekick to experience life with.

Thus, Ivy begins to feel invisible. So she decides she can scout out the cemetery, cloaked in her figurative invisibility, to find the vandals. Her nightly stakeout of the graveyard entertains with just a touch of slapstick humor. But hoodlums are only the beginning.

Murder Plot

While Ivy is occupied with the nightly visits, Thea’s tenant Kendra disappears. Since Ivy is looking after Thea’s house she redirects her snooping to discovering what happened to the mysterious young woman.

Ivy forms a bound with a young police officer, Dix, due to the fact his grandparents lived down the street long ago. Even though Dix does not stay in charge of the investigation, his presence remains as Ivy tries to bring him back into a spiritual relationship.

McCourtney weaves a lot of Christianity into her characters as well as some romance for both the young and the not so young. Chemistry abounds between multiple characters with one of my favorite combinations that of Ivy and Mac MacPherson. Mac, while not central to the story certainly adds some spice.

Invisible

Ivy does not let anything slow her down. Her leads take her on several trips to Arkansas. But the excitement occurs when she returns home to Missouri and comes face to face with both the vandals and the murderer. Naturally, she comes out on top, at least until the trial.

I enjoyed the book to the extent I plan to check out the next in the series when I return Invisible. These fun reads have a definite place in my reading rotation. They offer a break from the seriousness of life. Much like a sitcom. But unlike sitcoms, the books remain on the shelves for new readers to discover instead of facing cancellation.

 

Invitation Only Murder Book Review

Invitation Only Murder by Leslie Meier is a good addition to the Lucy Stone series. With the exception of a few scenes, most of the characters are new to the reader. As such, the book does not seem repetitive. Instead, the novel ranks among my favorites of the series.

Island Adventure

Most of the novel takes place on a privately owned island off the coast of Maine. “Fletcher’s Island” was purchased by super wealthy Scott Newman who restored multiple buildings on the island. His purpose was to create an off grid idyll in an effort to protect the environment.

The Newman family contains two sets of twins, Parker and Taylor, twenty-something sisters are involved in the family business. The younger set are Fred and Walter. Filling out this family dynamic is Lily, step-mother to the elder twins and mother of small boys.

Also on the island is the Hopkins family. Inhabitants of the island for generations, the Hopkins’ now work for the Newman family. This is the perfect set-up for conflict and tension. As well as finger pointing once a murder occurs.

Invitation Only

After viewing the restorations during an invitation only event, Lucy returns to the island to write about the successes of the Newman family. Unsurprisingly, Lucy finds a body along the coast and the plot thickens. Naturally, the heroine survives a number of unpleasant tasks. And unsuspected attacks. Before long she regrets her invitation only acceptance.

Leslie Meier

Meier does a good job of writing the story and keeping things fresh for her loyal readers. I first started reading this series decades ago when my children and Lucy’s were both young or twinkles in the eye. Now both of us have four adult children and the kinship remains.

Although a series can get quite formulaic, Invitation Only Murder broke slightly from the mold. Meier deftly incorporated contemporary issues into the story without making the text preachy. Instead, the topics seemed on point to me.

If you are looking for an easy entertaining read, look for the Lucy Stone book series at your library or favorite bookstore.

 

The Defector Book Review

I found The Defector by Daniel Silva intense. In fact the further into the book, the harder it was to put down. It was the first book I have read by Silva. If any of you follow Silva closely, you may have read the novel a decade ago. Since the book is over 450 pages and upon my dad’s bookcase, The Defector was the perfect companion for my week of waiting rooms and just plain waiting.

Book Series

The Defector is part of a book series. The series revolves around Israeli spy, Gabriel Allon. This particular thriller has a very large cast of characters. Indeed, I was a bit lost at first. Perhaps a reader needs to be more familiar with the series. Regardless, I found the story entertaining and I am glad it was close at hand.

Revenge for The Defector

The plot line revolves around the disappearance of the defector Grigori Bulganov. Unlike most men in hiding, Grigori flaunted his presence in London. Thus it was easy for the Russians behind his kidnapping to trick the Brits into believing a re-defection occurred.

However, Gabriel Allon did not fall for the ploy. He sets out to find the truth and the cloak and dagger commences. The twists and turns of the story were only outnumbered by the bodies left in the Israeli spy’s wake.

As referenced above, I believe reading the earlier novels would have helped. Silva does try to weave previous books into the narrative. But, I personally needed more. The large cast of characters demands a familiarity by the reader. One that I did not have.

Revenge is a great motivator. In The Defector both sides of the fight are driven by this most dangerous of emotions. As a consequence many lives are lost. The deaths are brutal but I did not find the writing too graphic. It is designed for entertainment with just a bit of politics thrown in. And lots of action.

Daniel Silva

Even though the novel is set in the 21st Century, Silva likens the fictional Russian government to the post-monarchy dictators and revolutionists of the early 20th Century. While a few scenes take place upon American soil, the bulk of the story occurs east of the Atlantic Ocean.

Silva’s writing subtly and not so subtly hints at the true differences between socialist and capitalist countries. He pulls no punches. Even a first time reader easily discerns his political leanings. In this respect Silva reminds me of the late (and in my mind, great) writer Helen MacInnes. Both write strong plot driven spy novels with plenty of twists and turns. Furthermore, both are unabashed proponents of freedom.

I am not sure how I have missed Daniel Silva’s previous novels. Granted thousands of books are published each year, but I should have discovered this series long ago. I enjoyed The Defector. Now I need to check out his previous works.

Book Cover of Daniel Silva's The Defector

 

 

 

Paradox Book Review

The latest Savich and Sherlock FBI thriller from Catherine Coulter that I have read is Paradox. Since these two characters are among my very favorites, it is only fair to warn you I may be biased. Nonetheless, I think Paradox is worth reading. There are plenty of psychological components to make it a thriller.

Coulter’s opening scene captures your attention. There is a break-in and an unknown man is found looming above a sleeping Sean Savich. His mom, FBI agent Lacey Sherlock, interrupts the kidnapping. The couple, familiar to many readers, race to discover the identity of the would-be kidnapper of their son Sean.

Parallel Stories

Simultaneously, Chief Ty Christie witnesses a murder from her back deck. She is helpless to do anything but watch since the event takes place in the middle of the lake. Coulter melds the two stories into one in prime fashion.

Christie is the protagonist for the parallel story line. Coulter does a good job with her character. She becomes a friend more than a love interest to another key character. This is refreshing.

Paradox

A paradox is a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement that when investigated may prove well-founded or true according to my online dictionary. There are multiple instances of paradox in this novel. All but one proved easy to understand.

People act against or outside their personality for a variety of reasons. Coulter is masterful at manipulating the actions of characters both main and secondary in ways that are paradoxical throughout Paradox. The title truly fits the story.

Earlier editions of the FBI series which featured Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock coupled thrills with steamy romantic scenes. Perhaps because the two are a married couple, Coulter has toned the action down quite a bit.

Furthermore, the relationship Ty Christie engages in does not meet the criteria needed to make Paradox a romance as much as a thriller. The book’s focus is that of a thriller joined with a bit of the paranormal and a hefty dose of psychotic killers. A good book to read- but perhaps not just before you sleep.

 

Wired Book Review

Julie Garwood is known for her romance novels. Earlier novels had historical settings. But she has moved into the 21st Century. Recently, I read Wired and it revolves around computer hacking. The protagonist is Allison Trent, a Boston College student and computer geek extraordinaire. And a hacker. But, mostly to do good deeds.

Liam Scott is FBI. He needs a hacker. Someone, somewhere is putting agents at risk. Allison Trent fills the bill. So he arranges to meet her. His offer of employment cannot be refused.

Wired Attraction

The pair share a natural attraction. Thus, only a small bit of the plot revolves around the romantic tensions. Furthermore, this is not a sweet romance. So early on the question of will they end up in bed is answered.

Instead, Garwood focuses on the dangers to Allison Trent. Multiple people have it in for her. She thinks she can handle everything on her own. For the most part she can. But, Liam does come to the rescue a time or two. Garwood handles this in a way as not to offend women. Allison is not a scatterbrained character. But she has issues. She is way too forgiving.

The technology is vague. Perhaps Garwood does this on purpose. Other than sharing with the reader that her protagonist is a coder and a hacker, details are omitted. Technology is changing rapidly, so this keeps the story from dating itself. After all it is mostly a romance. As the reader, you know who is good and who is not right from the start. Thus, not a suspense.

I have read many of Garwood’s books, although it has been awhile since I have read a new one. Some are favorites to be read over and over. I enjoyed Wired. But I consider it to be in the good category. Definitely worth reading, but perhaps not compelling enough to re-read multiple times.

 

 

The Book Charmer Book Review

Every once in a while I want a book to escape in, so I can leave stress behind. I found The Book Charmer perfect for my needs. This delightful novel by Karen Hawkins provided an afternoon of pleasurable reading. The characters were easy to like and the plot straightforward if predictable.

Multiple Back Stories

There are three central characters in the book. Sarah Dove and Travis Parker are life-long next door neighbors in Dove Pond, North Carolina. The third character, Grace Wheeler has arrived in Dove Pond with the intention of staying just a year. All three neighbors form bonds albeit with reluctance on Grace’s part.

Key to the formation of friendship is dementia. Travis’ dad passed away from the disease and Grace’s foster mom is rapidly deteriorating. The two grudgingly work through initial dislike aided by this common ground. Furthermore, Grace’s orphaned niece brings the battle-scarred vet and overwhelmed guardian together.

Book Charmer

Sarah Dove is the book charmer. She brings a touch of mysticism to the story. Books talk to her and she listens.

As a member of the founding family of Dove Pond she has strong ties to the area. Unfortunately, Dove Pond is in decline. When a book whispers to her that Grace can save the town, Sarah does everything she can to entice Grace to stay beyond the short term.

Contemporary Topics

In addition to the backstory of dementia, Hawkins touches on the state of the foster system. Grace’s determination to raise her niece stems from her own experience as an orphan. Back flashes explain how and why Grace is so attached to her own foster mother, Mama G. Thus her willingness to leave her city job for small town life in hopes of easing the confusion of dementia makes sense to the reader.

An additional topic that is touched on is the overdose death of Grace’s sister. But, despite all of these difficult topics, The Book Charmer leaves the reader in an upbeat mood. The efforts of Sarah, Grace and others give Dove Pond the spark it needs. Plus, the development of friendship between the characters showcases the power of relationships even among those hiding or running from the past.

I loved reading The Book Charmer. Readers can escape for a few hours of pure fiction. This was the first Karen Hawkins novel I have read but it certainly won’t be the last. I look forward to more in the series.

 

The People vs. Alex Cross Book Review

After taking a multi-year hiatus from reading the Alex Cross book series by James Patterson I picked up The People vs. Alex Cross. If you are wondering why I stayed away, my reason is quite simple. The books were becoming way too scary! Thus, I had trouble sleeping. Especially after Patterson’s release of Cross Country. However, I missed the characters as well as Patterson’s writing. So, I picked up The People vs. Alex Cross. I am glad I did.

Multiple Story Lines

Patterson weaves multiple story lines together. First, Alex is on trial for murder. This part of the plot hearkens back to a previous book. One that I did not read. Yet, my enjoyment of The People vs. Alex Cross prevailed. Then there is the current case. And the current case is one that Alex shouldn’t be working on. But, of course he gets involved anyway.

For those not familiar with the Alex Cross series, Cross is a crime fighter with a background in psychology. He is married to his immediate boss and lives with his grandmother and three kids. All play a part in the book series. Featured in The People vs. Alex Cross is Ali, the youngest of his offspring.

The current case revolves around young missing blondes and various websites portraying harm to them. Thus, Patterson links the story to a current problem in technology, the dark web. For example, Patterson includes in his plot details on how video uploaded to the web can be altered. Even computer geeks can be fooled. This plays a major part of the story.

The People vs. Alex Cross

Furthermore, the theme of doctored video footage is carried across to the second story line. Incriminating evidence of Cross’ wrong doing in the form of video recording is presented to the court. But the precocious Ali discovers how an unaltered tape contains false information. Sometimes you can’t believe what you see.

Patterson’s viewpoint on police shootings is revealed to the discerning reader. However, this does not interfere with the book. Politics is an underlying theme and not a focal point.

Above all, I enjoyed The People vs. Alex Cross. Mostly because there is plenty of action and I could handle the suspense level. The struggle of good vs. evil lends interest for the reader. But no nightmares! Patterson includes just enough technology to pique one’s interest in a new type of sleight of hand. I find it absolutely amazing what can be achieved with today’s technology. And the technology lends itself well to the thriller genre!

The Last Second Book Review

Authors Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison writing the Brit in the FBI series have released a good summer read in The Last Second. Even though the plot leads us to the far corners of the world, the story line is easier to accept than that of The Devil’s Triangle also written by the duo. You can read that review by clicking here.

Familiar Characters

FBI agents Nicholas Drummond and Michaela Caine (Mike) are on vacation. Shortly after a visit with old friends Grant Thornton and his wife Kitsune, they spring into action.  Drummond and Caine leave their European vacation to go to the rescue of Grant.

Thornton is acting as bodyguard to Jean-Pierre Broussard founder of Galactus Space Industries. Broussard’s hobby is finding treasures lost at sea. He has just found the Holy Grail when he is betrayed. The Holy Grail is stolen and the ship’s passengers are left for dead.

New Villains

Ellison and Coulter believe in equal opportunity. Once again the bad guys are bad gals. Ex-astronaut Navaeh Patel believes she was rescued in space by aliens called Numen. Her henchwoman is Kiera Byrne. A formidable bodyguard with an IRA background.

The two women must be stopped. Not an easy task when one is a brilliant scientist bent on contacting the aliens who saved her life.

The Last Second

This action adventure novel would make a great movie. The twists and turns and subplots keep you turning the pages. Naturally, Drummond and Caine manage to solve each problem they encounter at the last second. Since there are multiple scenes leading to the apex, the duo have plenty of opportunity to display their skills.

There are a few subplots that touch on current events. First is the commercial space race. Second is the concern of an EMP. This type of weapon would send current civilization backward in time. New characters include a terrorist who in reality is an agent deep undercover. Thus, the authors stretch the imagination.

The Last Second is an easy read. The book is a great way to escape on a summer afternoon. The fast paced action dovetails with the two main themes. Saving an innocent life with the Holy Grail and the halting of space junk with the EMP are ideas with multiple layers. Coulter and Ellison give the reader something to ponder after the tale is told.

The Black Ascot Book Review

Book Cover showing a race horse

The Black Ascot

The Black Ascot by Charles Todd is an historical murder mystery. The book takes its’ title from the 1910 Ascot races. Because of the death of King Edward VII, all attendees at the Ascot races wore black. The murder takes place following a race day.

The accused, Alan Barrington, disappears after the inquest and before the case goes to trial. The majority of the book takes place 1921. This allows the author to incorporate bits and pieces of history from The Great War.

Scotland Yard

In 1921, Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge receives a tip. Alan Barrington has been spotted back in England. Rutledge convinces his superior to allow the old murder case to be reviewed. Even though Rutledge was not involved in the original Black Ascot murder investigation, he wants to bring Barrington to trial.

Shell Shock

Inspector Ian Rutledge begins the review by getting to know the victims as well as the accused. His investigation involves interviewing past Inspectors and witnesses. Many of these individuals were mentally and/or physically affected by The Great War.

Rutledge also suffers from shell shock. During World War I, Rutledge loses a close colleague. But the ghost of Hamish “talks” to Rutledge throughout the book. When the issue of the inspector’s shell shock takes a pivotal turn midway through the book, so does the case.

Charles Todd

Charles Todd and his mother Caroline team together to write both the Ian Rutledge and Bess Crawford series. Even though the list of published works is long, this was my first time reading a Charles Todd book. It will not be my last.

I love the combination of historical events and fictional murder mystery. Even though the Ascot races did not figure prominently in the book, naming the novel after the 1910 races was appropriate. A true blackguard caused the motor car crash taking the life of one and severely injuring another.

The expert writing not only kept the reader turning the pages, but also created a stand-alone book. I did not feel as if I were missing something by not reading previous titles featuring Inspector Rutledge. The intrigue of the plot combined with the well-developed characters made this one of the best reads of the 2019 year. I would not be surprised to find it on my end of the year list of favorites. (Click here for the 2018 list.)

The Black Ascot is highly recommended. Buy or borrow a copy today.