Categories
Contemporary Fiction General Fiction Literary Fiction Suspense

ARC Review: The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz (and a word on bullying)

Thank you so much to Celadon Books for the ARC of The Plot in exchange for an honest review! I participated in the Little Free Library drive and then requested on #NetGalley so I could finish reading! Here is my review, a little meet the author blurb at the bottom, and then my Real Talk on author bullying!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Plot
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Jean Hanff Korelitz
  • Publisher & Release: Celadon Books, May 11th 2021
  • Length: 336 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 sure for fans of suspense, fiction, publishing!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Hailed as “breathtakingly suspenseful,” Jean Hanff Korelitz’s The Plot is a propulsive read about a story too good not to steal, and the writer who steals it.

Jacob Finch Bonner was once a promising young novelist with a respectably published first book. Today, he’s teaching in a third-rate MFA program and struggling to maintain what’s left of his self-respect; he hasn’t written―let alone published―anything decent in years. When Evan Parker, his most arrogant student, announces he doesn’t need Jake’s help because the plot of his book in progress is a sure thing, Jake is prepared to dismiss the boast as typical amateur narcissism. But then . . . he hears the plot.

Jake returns to the downward trajectory of his own career and braces himself for the supernova publication of Evan Parker’s first novel: but it never comes. When he discovers that his former student has died, presumably without ever completing his book, Jake does what any self-respecting writer would do with a story like that―a story that absolutely needs to be told.

In a few short years, all of Evan Parker’s predictions have come true, but Jake is the author enjoying the wave. He is wealthy, famous, praised and read all over the world. But at the height of his glorious new life, an e-mail arrives, the first salvo in a terrifying, anonymous campaign: You are a thief, it says.

As Jake struggles to understand his antagonist and hide the truth from his readers and his publishers, he begins to learn more about his late student, and what he discovers both amazes and terrifies him. Who was Evan Parker, and how did he get the idea for his “sure thing” of a novel? What is the real story behind the plot, and who stole it from whom?

My Thoughts:

This is a slow burning story that starts out detailing Jacob Finch Bonner’s sad writing career, and his cynicism towards it. I think his ranting about student writers was hilarious and probably pretty accurate, I can’t even imagine.  Jake is a great character, a bit of a troll himself but he felt so real to me.

One cool thing I will say first is that as a Plattsburgh native who spent some time in the Cooperstown/Oneonta/Cobleskill area, I freaking love the setting in these towns 😂 Why Yes, I *have* been to the Price Chopper in that town, thank you!

As we start learning about “The Plot”, the mystery develops when Jacob loosely steals an idea from a now deceased former student. The book then took on a bit of a tribute aspect to the greatest plot ever written (cue Tenacious D music) *THIS IS JUST A TRIBUTE* heh heh.

But…then… An internet troll attacks Jacob. It seems pretty benign at first then gets more serious. Thus begins my favorite aspect of The Plot which is a mocking but also kind of true conversation about the publishing industry, reviewer culture, and people trolling authors. The damage it can do (even though it really shouldn’t), and how Jacob and the legal team handle the issue. I dropped the book and clapped when his publicist was ranting about GoodReads trolls and author morale, because someone finally said it.  What is the industry coming to??

Seriously though, who could possibly be this upset about the book? Who has access to Jacob’s house to leave threatening letters? What … Really … Happened… In the “fictional” plot? Read to find out, it’s a slow burn but I promise it’s worth it as Jacob starts tracking down the truth


Meet the Author: (from Amazon)

Jean Hanff Korelitz is the author of the novels YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN (adapted for HBO as “The Undoing” by David E. Kelley, and starring Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant and Donald Sutherland), ADMISSION (adapted as the 2013 film starring Tina Fey), THE DEVIL AND WEBSTER, THE WHITE ROSE, THE SABBATHDAY RIVER and A JURY OF HER PEERS. A new novel, THE PLOT, will be published on May 11th 2021. Her company BOOKTHEWRITER hosts “Pop-Up Book Groups” in NYC, where small groups of readers can discuss new books with their authors. http://www.bookthewriter.com


I also wanted to just touch on GoodReads trolling and the bullying of authors.  This is fully and solely my opinion and does not reflect that of the author or publisher in any way.

I think the main thing I want to say here is that Korelitz is pretty timely in satirizing this issue. It is out of hand.  Jacob (in the book) did the right thing at first by “not feeding the trolls”, not engaging, and hoping the troll would peter itself out – then the publisher’s legal team got involved.  Honestly I encourage authors going through these things to first  consider letting it go away on it,s own without feeding the fuel, and if it doesn’t, consider  seeking cease and desist letters from a lawyer against people slandering and bullying on social media. I also encourage reviewers to … Well.. Just stop this mob behavior and state your opinion, then let others form their own.  What happened to literary criticism?  Everyone is entitled to an opinion but that doesn’t entitle anyone to bully or attack.  I also would go a step further and put out there that publicists, publishers, merch companies, and other businesses should stop working with these bullies and stop seeking them as reviewers, and we can all try to bring the book world back to an appropriate level of civility and conversation. 

That’s my Real Talk for the night, what do you think??

Categories
Crime Fiction Suspense Thrillers

Book Review: Satan’s Gold by Michael Ray Ewing

Thank you so much to Bookish First and Michael Ray Ewing for my free copy in exchange for an honest review! It was also super nice that he signed the book!

Normally I am impeccable with these due dates but this arrived on it’s pub date, so I ended up pushing it back a bit.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Satan’s Gold
  • Series: A Tyler Jackson Thriller, #1
  • Author: Michael Ray Ewing
  • Publisher & Release: Grand Canyon Press, 03/10/21
  • Length: 301 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 neutral

The entire financial world is networked, but banks have an Achilles’ heel

An elusive ex-CIA financial analyst known only as Daemon has stolen billions from the Russian Federation, and now he’s determined to plunder the richest prize of all-the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Only one man stands in his way-disgraced former FBI Agent Tyler Jackson, who is destroying all he loves in his feverish attempt to capture Daemon and prevent a worldwide economic collapse.

Jackson has been chasing Daemon for two grueling years. But can Jackson and Dixie, a female hacker wanted for unleashing a deadly computer virus, find Daemon before he makes his next big move?

If you like page-turning suspense and characters who would stop at nothing to achieve their objectives, read Satan’s Gold today.

I don’t think I’m smart enough to enjoy this book. A genius computer/financial hacker basically threatens to shut down America via bankrupting the Federal Reserve, and it’s up to ex FBI agent Jackson and his outlaw team of hackers and retired military to track the terrorist down.

I’m not sure exactly how the guy did it, because computer jargon, but I get that they are all really good at computer hacking and that the FBI and CIA are at odds.  There is a ton of fast paced action in this book and although I read it quickly and enjoyed the fast pace, I just felt this huge disconnect from the book itself.

I think it’s because I don’t understand one word of the computer lingo. I also see that this is a finished copy and honestly the typos are intense, mostly in people’s names…it would be ok for an ARC but all evidence points to this as a finished copy.  The names would change from Ralph to Ralf, Quentin to Quinten, Byrnes to Keynes… Etc… and there were typos by omission.  I will stick to my review policy and dock that star for a poorly edited finished copy.

The other thing is that there are SO many characters, I had to make a character map.  Some of them added something to the book and others just confused me.  I think Jackson, Dixie, Pavak, and O’Connell were a good team to start and hope that moving forward they stick together.

I think this would be a great movie though. I would cast Hugh Jackman and Raphaël Personnaz as Tyler and Alec, respectively.

Great idea for a book overall, but execution and overall presentation felt like it needed work.  I would watch that movie though. Going with a fairly neutral 3🌟


Meet the Author!

(From Amazon): Michael Ray Ewing is the winner of the prestigious Emerging Writers Gateway Contest for best new crime thriller. Satan’s Gold was inspired by his work as a Bell Labs engineer on the United States Federal Reserve’s network, FEDNET. An avid mountain biker and resident of Arizona, Mike writes about people who risk everything for the sake of doing what they know is right.

Image: Michael Ray Ewing, Author
Categories
Fiction Horror Suspense Thrillers

Misery : My First King (and why I haven’t read one yet)

I don’t think there is anything to say about Misery that hasn’t been said already.  I am 32 years old and finally read a King novel, despite owning two shelves full of his works myself, and growing up in a house filled with a nearly complete collection.  I even took some good-natured flack (WHAT? YOU READ SO MUCH! HOW HAVEN’T YOU READ A KING YET)? So here we go, with my experience.

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Misery
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Series: N/A
  • Release: 1987 by Viking Penguin
  • Length: 310 (see HC edition above)
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ probably!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon in case anyone isn’t familiar:

Paul Sheldon is a bestselling novelist who has finally met his number one fan. Her name is Annie Wilkes, and she is more than a rabid reader—she is Paul’s nurse, tending his shattered body after an automobile accident. But she is also furious that the author has killed off her favorite character in his latest book. Annie becomes his captor, keeping him prisoner in her isolated house.

Annie wants Paul to write a book that brings Misery back to life—just for her. She has a lot of ways to spur him on. One is a needle. Another is an axe. And if they don’t work, she can get really nasty.

I have seen the Misery movie, of course, and Kathy Bates plays a completely, totally insane Annie Wilkes, but the book… oh the book makes her out to be somehow even crazier, the things that you just can’t act out without a description.  King is clearly a talented writer, and I liked the little extras {like the n’s filled in differently on the pages} in the novel.  Was reading a King the prophetic experience I thought it would be?  Not really, no, (but it was better than all the fantasy people telling me Sanderson was prophetic – hahaha). There were lots of tangents, including pages and pages of the Misery manuscript, which I couldn’t really get into and found myself thinking constantly just thinking “why is this in the book?”

One quote that got me was – in referring to writing (it) and the creative process:

It had always been the single toughest thing, the most abiding thing, in his life – Nothing had ever been able to pollute that crazy well of dreams: no drink, no drug, no pain.

I wonder if that is a nod to King’s own issues with drugs and alcohol, I know the 80s were a rough time for him in those regards.  I wonder if he saw some of himself in Paul and felt trapped, and just let it all out in this crazy captor horror fantasy.

This is probably one of my favorite lines in literature so far, only because I am an RN and find this absolutely blitheringly iconic in my mind – 

“Don’t worry,”, she said, “I’m a trained nurse.”

The axe came whistling down…..

If anyone has read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Next and met Nurse Rached, or I guess seen the new show that is out, she is probably the other quintessentially insane nurse in modern literature.  I am team Annie though – her hospital travelling murder spree is just something to be truly terrified of.

My one last note on Misery is that I really liked King/Paul’s musings on going insane, and whether or not it really matters since we are all just racing towards death, although some obviously more quickly than others.  I also liked how he mentioned some of his other books, as well as books by other authors, like little shout-outs. 

I will leave you with one last quote to show you how well I think King captured the essence of crazy in the final scene:

He could smell her – cooked flesh, sweat, hate, madness

How many times have you heard a person’s smell described in a book? Are they saying death, fish, rotten things, sweat hate and madness? I just… Anyone with even a slight interest in psychological thrillers or horror needs to read this.

I think this was a good choice for a first King

Now I did mention that I would talk about how I choose my TBR but this post has gone on long enough – so I will just say that I never let popular opinion get to me. A better explanation for why I haven’t read one of his books yet is that he is widely known as the king of horror – which is a huge turn off for me because I don’t like scary books! Not all of his books are terrifying though, I am told, so I will find out I guess!

Categories
Adventure Suspense Thrillers

ARC Review ÷ SAS: Red Notice by Andy McNab

Thank you so much to the publisher, via Bookish First, for the advanced copy of SAS: Red Notice in exchange for an honest review!

I have been hit or miss on military themed thrillers but overally enjoyed this one for the characters, plot line, and action!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: SAS: Red Notice
  • Series: SAS (Tom Buckingham)#1
  • Author: Andy McNab
  • Publisher & Release: Welbeck Publishing, 4/06/21 re-release
  • Length: 400 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ for fans of military ops and thrillers

Here is the synopsis:

Soon to be a major motion picture.

Deep beneath the English Channel, a small army of vicious terrorists has seized control of the Eurostar to Paris, taken 400 hostages at gunpoint – and declared war on a government that has more than its own fair share of secrets to keep.

One man stands in their way. An off-duty SAS soldier is hiding somewhere inside the train. Alone and injured, he’s the only chance the passengers and crew have of getting out alive. Meet Andy McNab’s explosive new creation, Sergeant Tom Buckingham, as he unleashes a whirlwind of intrigue and retribution in his attempt to stop the terrorists and save everyone on board – including Delphine, the beautiful woman he loves.

Hurtling us at breakneck speed between the Regiment’s crack assault teams, Whitehall’s corridors of power and the heart of the Eurotunnel action, RED NOTICE is McNab at his devastatingly authentic, pulse pounding best.

Plot & action:  The book opens with the terrorists using a flame thrower on a small village, so I can definitely say that the book started – and stayed fairly exciting throughout.  Tom Buckingham and the SAS are chasing a terrorist cell with an enigmatic leader and a devastating plan.

There is action throughout as they run multiple ops against this group, and the book got even more exciting once the train was hijacked.  Some of the intricacies of the international intrigue were lost on me as we learn who the terrorists are and why they were acting, but it created an interesting race against time.  There is an inside man at SAS helping the terrorists as well, so the book definitely wasn’t boring

The Characters: Tom Buckingham is the main character, the SAS agent, and I liked him.  He’s a bit career/boys club oriented but I think most soldiers are.  His girlfriend, Delphine, incidentally ends up on the train with the terrorists which is why Tom was also on the train.  When not in action, the book spends time developing Delphine’s character and her struggles building a life with a soldier who obviously prioritizes his job and buddies over her.

I liked the other soldiers too though and even the head terrorist is an interesting character!  One thing I didn’t like though was all the names and extras thrown into the COBRA meetings, I ended up confusing names and departments.

Others: McNab spent his career with the military and I think there’s a lot of authenticity there.  The operations were well described and fairly interesting, although sometimes the military lingo and abbreviations lost me.  Most were explained and not terribly relevant to the story to understand the action.  One thing I did like was all the technology used, like the sniper coordinator!

Overall: definitely recommend for military ops and thriller fans.  Plenty of explosions and gunfire and daring escapes for all readers, and short chapters keep the pages flipping.

I am interested in the movie adaptation!

Do you like military op books/movies?

Categories
Mysteries Suspense Thrillers Young Adult

ARC Review: The Girl in Cell 49B by Dorian Box!

Thank you so much to Fiction Press via Bookish First for the digital ARC of The Girl in Cell 49B by Dorian Box! This is an amazing sequel to The Hiding Girl!  These are fast paced, intense books, with fun, hope, and an absolutely fierce young woman lead! For The Hiding Girl: Click to see that review here!

Quick Facts: 

  • Title: The Girl in Cell 49B
  • Series: Emily Calby, #2
  • Author: Dorian Box
  • Publisher & Release: Fiction Press, March 1st 2021
  • Length:  286 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 5🌟 for entertainment value

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Arrested for murder on her sixteenth birthday and extradited to a corrupt juvenile prison, Emily—“the missing Calby girl”—fights for her life against a vindictive prosecutor in an explosive trial as the dark secrets behind the prison walls close in.

Emily Calby disappeared at age twelve, the only survivor of a notorious home invasion. Three years after her terrifying odyssey in The Hiding Girl, she’s safe, living in anonymity with her mentor, ex-gang member Lucas Jackson—before life blows up again on her Sweet Sixteen birthday. Arrested for carrying her birthday gift—an illegal handgun from Lucas—a fingerprint scan shows her to be the missing Calby girl and worse: she’s wanted for murder in another state.

Extradited to a corrupt juvenile prison in the middle of nowhere, Emily struggles to adjust to a new code of survival while battling a vindictive prosecutor willing to resort to any means to convict her. As The Law thwarts her every move, she begins to appreciate its awesome power. She discovers an unused prison law library and buries herself in the books, casting her destiny.

As she fights for her life in court, the dark secrets behind the prison walls close in. Her cellmate, a spookily prescient drug addict, is in grave danger. So is her first love, a gentle boy sentenced to life without parole. Emily’s desperate to help them, but how can she, when her explosive trial brings one new disaster after another? A courtroom thriller like no other.

Emily Calby is facing the consequences of her actions from one book, even though it was definitely self defense. She is trying to learn about law and the legal system to help in her murder trial, where the prosecutor is an absolutely vile woman. I can just imagine how so many juvenile offenders are shafted by the legal system, but Emily is determined not to be a statistic.

I was getting Orange Is the New Black mixed with Legally Blond vibes from the time spent in the girls juvenile detention center, and liked how Emily reaches out to the other girls to try to help them … She is such a fierce young lady! The lawyers couldn’t have possibly been any different but I ended up really liking Paula, the public defender too.

Once again the book handles some dark topics though like rape, sexual assault, murder, drugs, and the broken legal system

Lucas had me cracking up again too, I wish we could have seen more from him. I seriously love him and all of these characters. Emily has a lot of personal growth in this one too, including her first crush and continuing to grapple with her PTSD and identity. She learns a lot about privilege too.

These books aren’t by any means fine literature but they are thrilling, fun, and Box’s legal background shines in this one. I devoured it and hope there are more Emily Calby books!

Categories
Fiction Science Fiction Suspense Thrillers

ARC Review: The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

I was so incredibly shocked and thrilled to receive an ARC box from Tor Books for The Echo Wife!! After a great giveaway on Instagram, I dug into the book and finally collected my thoughts on it!

One part science/medical fiction, one part domestic thriller, with some psychological and ethical thriller aspects too, I can safely recommend The Echo Wife for just about anyone!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Echo Wife
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Sarah Gailey
  • Publisher & Release: Tor Books, 2/16/21
  • Length: 253 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟⚡ for pretty much anyone!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

The Echo Wife is a non-stop thrill ride, perfect for readers of Big Little Lies and enthusiasts of “Killing Eve” and “Westworld­”

Martine is a genetically cloned replica made from Evelyn Caldwell’s award-winning research. She’s patient and gentle and obedient. She’s everything Evelyn swore she’d never be. And she’s having an affair with Evelyn’s husband.

Now, the cheating bastard is dead, and the Caldwell wives have a mess to clean up. Good thing Evelyn Caldwell is used to getting her hands dirty…

810MVy3iDPL

This book truly has so many interesting aspects, including clones, ethics, life falling apart, and obviously murder. It had me in a Black Mirror style mind kerfuffle, especially at the end, and it was great.

The Echo Wife is what you get when a cheating husband steals research and clones his wife, then makes a life with the clone.  How far outside of regular scientific ethics did he go?  Do ethics even apply to clones?

Martine, the “new wife,” eventually snaps and murders the husband in self defense, at which point Evelyn has to get involved to protect her research and her own skin.

This is so much more than a sci-fi murder fest though. Evelyn’s research is mostly about making cloned body doubles for politicians and then she exterminating the specimens. While the clone conditioning process comes across as brutal, in theory it make sense to create realistic doubles. Martine forces Evelyn to take a deep look at cloning ethics and whether or not they might be people.

There is also a look back at Evelyn’s childhood where abuse or at least fear of it is implied, and a sobering look at how marriages fall apart.  Why were they so silent in her childhood home? How does love turn to hate? These parts read a bit slowly but it felt very real, eerie at times, and it was interesting to see how Evelyn’s behavior is influenced by her upbringing, and maybe why she can see “murder” from such a detached standpoint.

Is Evelyn turning into her mother or her father, or parts of both?  Which would even be worse? This is a shorter book and while slower moving at times, gave me many scientific “what ifs” to ponder. The end is just 😳 omg, straight out of Black Mirror.

The Echo Wife is definitely a book that I can recommend for a wide range of genre fans!  Actual science fiction, medical fiction, domestic thriller fans, even some general fiction and literary readers might enjoy the perusal of human nature found here.

Thank you so much again to Tor Books for my early copy!!! The book is out 2/16 so preorder now if it sounds up your alley!!

Categories
Fiction General Fiction Suspense

ARC Review: Dead on the Delta by Sherry Knowlton

Thank you so much to Milford House Press for the digital ARC of Dead on the Delta!  Seeing as I live in frozen western NY, this armchair safari to Botswana was a good pick for me right now

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Dead on the Delta
  • Series: Alexa Williams, #5
  • Author: Sherry Knowlton
  • Publisher & Release: Milford House Press, 2/16/21
  • Length:254 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ for fans of the genre!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Alexa Williams is about to spend four months doing lion research in the African bush with her boyfriend Reese. She looks forward to witnessing the elemental life and death struggle of the wild, but she never imagines she’ll become one of the hunted on the remote Okavango Delta.

Botswana protects its wildlife with strict policies and an entire army deployed to combat poaching. So Alexa and Reese are shocked when poachers wipe out an entire herd of elephants. At the site of the mass slaughter near their lion project, they promise authorities that they’ll watch for suspicious activity as they travel the Delta.

When the country’s strict wildlife conservation policies come under debate in the capital, tensions flare and Alexa begins to suspect the ongoing poaching incidents may be about even more than the illicit ivory trade. Especially when a close friend dies when caught in the crossfire.

After an alarming series of near escapes, gunmen attack the safari camp where she and Reese are staying, and Alexa must brave wild animals and the dangerous labyrinth of Delta channels in a desperate attempt to save the hostages, including the man she loves.

The book definitely has two strong points: setting and atmosphere.  I never had trouble picturing the sights, smells, and animals of Botswana.  Whether they were bouncing along in the camp vehicle or hanging out on the deck at the lagoon, Knowlton exceeds at providing even the sounds of the environment.  The prevailing mood was always apparent as well which was a great way to keep me immersed in most of the scenes.

Alexa, Reese, and the other characters are a good bunch and they seemed to have realistic relationships.   I liked that none of them were perfect and they all had real life issues to work through as well.  The romance is pretty cute too, I can tell they care deeply for each other.

This is Alexa Williams book #5, and my first read of the series.  That said, I don’t expect an info dump but I spent the first few chapters not knowing if Alexa was a researcher, tourist, detective, Interpol or what the heck. Come to find she is a lawyer.  A very brief introduction to Alexa and Reece was definitely needed, I felt like the characters were moving shadows in the environment as everyone except Handsome Harry lacked physical descriptions as well.

The book had plenty of harrowing danger and political intrigue, although Alexa was only involved peripherally in the poaching investigation.  She stumbled upon them by accident at every encounter and we never really knew if the Defense Force was making any progress with the poachers.

I also tuned out a bit when the commission was discussing conservation policies.  It was interesting to learn about poaching and some of the wildlife conservation issues though, I think more detecting, poking around by Alexa, and overall suspense would have made it a better read for me.  It seemed like either total disaster mode or everyday life with little between mood wise.

Overall – I totally enjoyed the reading experience.  I might have even googled safaris to see what was involved in booking one.  I would like to go back and read the first Alexa novel to learn a little more about her, but I can definitely safely recommend the book for fans of good characters, strong settings, lawyers, animals, and conservation efforts!  

Free book received in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own

Here are some links for the book and author!

Categories
Crime Historical Fiction Mysteries Suspense

Book Review: Germania by Harald Gilbers

Thank you so much to Thomas Dunne Books & St Martin’s Press for the lovely finished copy of Germania in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

I would start by profusely apologizing for my turnover time on this book, reading has been a little bit impossible as my work schedule still averages 4-5 12hr nights a week! The good news is: this is my last back logged book!! Literally all my books now are publishing in February or later! Yay for small victories and let’s hope the pandemic winds down soon so the hospital can go back to normal

Anyway anyway, without further adieu..

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Germania
  • Series: Richard Oppenheimer #1
  • Author: Harald Gilbers (tr. Alexandra Roesch)
  • Publisher & Release: Thomas Dunne Books, December 2020
  • Length: 348 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ yes for mystery/investigative/WWII fans!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

From international bestselling author Harald Gilbers comes the heart-pounding story of Jewish detective Richard Oppenheimer as he hunts for a serial killer through war-torn Nazi Berlin in Germania.

Berlin 1944: a serial killer stalks the bombed-out capital of the Reich, preying on women and laying their mutilated bodies in front of war memorials. All of the victims are linked to the Nazi party. But according to one eyewitness account, the perpetrator is not an opponent of Hitler’s regime, but rather a loyal Nazi.

Jewish detective Richard Oppenheimer, once a successful investigator for the Berlin police, is reactivated by the Gestapo and forced onto the case. Oppenheimer is not just concerned with catching the killer and helping others survive, but also his own survival. Worst of all, solving this case is what will certainly put him in the most jeopardy. With no other choice but to further his investigation, he feverishly searches for answers, and a way out of this dangerous game.

In Germania, Richard Oppenheimer used to be a detective for the Berlin police, but as a Jew under Hitler he is now forced to work a menial job. One SS agent is stumped when a serial killer starts leaving desecrated bodies in front of WW1 memorials, and he consults (forces) Oppenheimer to help catch the killer. Amidst air raids and bombs and constant fear of death in the rubble of Berlin, Oppenheimer and Vogler try to solve this case.

The setting felt so real as well with rubble strewn streets, frequent rain fall, bombed out buildings, and foreigners from everywhere.  It ties in perfectly with the blackouts, oppressive and depressing overall atmosphere of the book.

So much danger, whether from the constant air strikes, Hitler’s regime, or a truly brutal killer, makes this a quietly exciting mystery.  Oppenheimer is clever and an observant investigator, so many pages are spent as he puzzles out the case to his new boss, Vogler.   Some thoroughly brutal descriptions of desecration were enough to really give me the chills about this killer.

I liked the characters too, Richard knows that his life is hanging by a thread but he still feels the thrill of being back on the case.  He is an inherently good person.  I think Vogler is too, he would never admit it but he sticks his neck out for Oppenheimer quite a bit and has at least a small streak of humanity.  I would have liked a little more from the killer – they had a few paragraphs here and there but it was hard to tell when he was the one being featured, and the glimpses were small! I think he had a good and believable arc to insanity though.

As he is investigating, Oppenheimer learns that he is not being told all the facts.  That says, he does a phenomenal job with what he is given.  It’s definitely more of a literary investigative mystery than a thriller, although some parts are exciting.  I don’t know much about German history at all so it was also interesting to read about landmarks, architecture, and some of Hitler’s less than popular Aryan breeding and spy schemes.

It is also my first German translated book.  I don’t think a lot of German words and phrases translate well, which created some blocky language and curious phrases at times, but not enough to affect enjoyment.  Gilbers is a history proficient theater writer, so I felt like I was getting an accurate portrayal of Nazi politics as well as a dramatic and depressing atmosphere.

I definitely couldn’t figure out why the party cared so much about one murderer… But… You’ll find out why when you read it!

I took the 1.5 stars off for the book being a little anticlimactic – I think Oppenheimer should have been more present during the criminal apprehensions, but his role was only to figure out who did it. Also without knowing the German history I had to look up quite a few abbreviations, and lord knows that German words are a mouthful to pronounce. All the points for setting and atmosphere though and for the characters.

I think this is a wonderfully human mystery and would recommend to anyone interested!

Categories
Fiction Mysteries Suspense

Book Tour Stop & Review! The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous

Thank you so much to Berkley Publishing Group for the invite to read and feature The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous!  This is a twisty mystery/gothic suspense novel featuring a huge old manor house and I couldn’t put it down!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Perfect Guests
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Emma Rous
  • Publisher & Release: Berkley 1/12/21
  • Length: 302 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of the genre!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

The USA Today bestselling author of The Au Pair returns with another delicious, twisty novel—about a grand estate with many secrets, an orphan caught in a web of lies, and a young woman playing a sinister game.

1988. Beth Soames is fourteen years old when her aunt takes her to stay at Raven Hall, a rambling manor in the isolated East Anglian fens. The Averells, the family who lives there, are warm and welcoming, and Beth becomes fast friends with their daughter, Nina. At times, Beth even feels like she’s truly part of the family…until they ask her to help them with a harmless game—and nothing is ever the same.

2019. Sadie Langton is an actress struggling to make ends meet when she lands a well-paying gig to pretend to be a guest at a weekend party. She is sent a suitcase of clothing, a dossier outlining the role she is to play, and instructions. It’s strange, but she needs the money, and when she sees the stunning manor she’ll be staying at, she figures she’s got nothing to lose. 

In person, Raven Hall is even grander than she’d imagined—even with damage from a fire decades before—but the walls seem to have eyes. As day turns to night, Sadie starts to feel that there’s something off about the glamorous guests who arrive, and as the party begins, it becomes chillingly apparent their unseen host is playing games with everyone…including her.

Oh yes this book is so twisty. Beth and Sadie alternate chapters, telling the history and present of their time spent at Raven Hall until the timelines eventually converge. One of my favorite plot tools ever is used too, which is the mystery person point of view! I thought this one was a ghost and I am not even going to tell you if I was right or not, but eventually it becomes obvious who it is.

All three plot lines are equally strange and interesting. The gothic atmosphere of Raven Hall permeates the entire story and creates an excellent setting for a mystery. Rous describes the Fens well as part of the book setting, and also in an afterword about her time living in the region.

I read this one in two sittings and have no regrets, it’s one of those addictive mysteries that begs to be solved. I had it all wrong anyway, per usual, and didn’t find it all that predictable either. I mean I thought I did and was wrong…so.

Definitely pick this one up if you like gothic settings, twisty mysteries, games, secrets and lies, and a little bit of arson. The book is wrapped up fairly nicely too so you won’t be puzzling over loose ends

Have you read it yet? Do you like books set in other countries? I had to look up some words but enjoy reading about other regions and cultures!

Categories
Crime Suspense Thrillers

ARC Review: Sweet Dreams by Peter Leonard

Quickfacts:

  • Title: Sweet Dreams
  • Series: not listed
  • Author: Peter Leonard
  • Publisher: Rare Bird Books
  • Release: Sept 8th, 2020
  • Length: 287 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⚡ Maybe

Thank you so much to Rare Bird Books for the advanced copy of Sweet Dreams by Peter Leonard.  The book was provided in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own.  A quick disclaimer that the synopsis on the back varies slightly from the Amazon description and both are subject to change before the final edition.

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Kate McGraw, the lone female on the US Marshals fugitive task force, is on the trail of homicidal bank robber when she is shot by a drugged-up ex-con. While she is in the hospital recuperating, a mysterious stranger leaves a bouquet of flowers in her room. Days later Kate is discharged. Still recuperating, she sees a man in a car parked on the street watching her apartment. This is the third time she has seen him. Kate gets the license number, follows and confronts him and discovers he’s her estranged father, Frank Galvin who disappeared when she was six. Frank tells her he’s been in prison for the last eighteen years, arrested for armed robbery. He tells her he can help her catch the bank robber.

As Kate and Frank try to rekindle their relationship, Frank helps Kate and her team zero in on Ray Skinner, the dangerous sociopath who has now robbed seven banks and murdered two people. Feeling the heat of law enforcement breathing down his neck, Skinner discovers the identities of the US Marshals who are pursuing him and goes after Kate.

Filled with real-life characters and pitch-perfect dialogue, Sweet Dreams will have you on the edge of your seat until the climatic final scene.

When the synopsis gives away every single plot twist, the goal of the book becomes fleshing out these points in a way that keeps the reader interested. In this case there should be action, drama, banter, relationship building, and mystery involved in the chase.  When the bad guy is given we need something else to keep us reading, the how and the why and the danger.  I honestly would re-write the synopsis due to the book needing to pack a few more punches.

The characters are a mixed bag but I like them so far.  Kate is the first US Marshal I have read about other than John Sandford’s Davenport, which is what drew me to the book.  The marshals have a level of jurisdiction and bad-***ery that can make for pretty interesting reads.  Kate is sassy and young and holding her own on a task force that is essentially a boy’s club.  The other marshals look out for her and I enjoyed their banter quite a bit.

While I enjoyed the banter, the lingo had me scratching my head.  I think people familiar with crime/cop/taskforce lingo will enjoy this more.  The book is filled with terms like “G-ride” and “primary” and “beat” and while I just went with the flow, I think I didn’t really grasp a lot of what I read at first.

I am also absolutely not believing how quickly Kate and Frank reconciled, their meeting was way too easy and while she needed him, it didn’t feel authentic or half as incredulous as I could imagine anyone would have felt.

The action keeps moving at a steady pace, and I definitely was able to read it pretty quickly.  I was never bored, but with the synopsis giving away so much, the questions became: How will they catch Skinner? Will he hurt anyone important? What motivates him?  These questions were all answered but it felt extremely anticlimactic at the end.  There was a good build up so I was expecting a grand show-down and it just didn’t happen. Then the book seemed to just end without very much resolution.  There was a second plot line involving a judge that was threatened and I honestly found that more interesting than the robber plot line.

The bad guy himself had a few chapters from his point of view that helped flesh out his background, but I never felt as threatened or as impressed by him as I should have, except for the part where the title of the book comes into play.  That was pretty good, pretty creepy for sure.

I just think with fewer spoilers the book would have been a lot more interesting.  I recommend to fans of Elmore’s writing, Peter seems to be following in his style. I might read a second book featuring Kate and the Marshals. If you are a fan of crime sprees and federal agents and books where the chase is the biggest component, give it a try!