Categories
Suspense Thrillers

Near Dark (book thoughts) by Brad Thor

I love books with international spy intrigue.  I have wanted to try a Brad Thor thriller and Near Dark was available.

I swear I am 100% impulse reading – not even mood – just pure impulse reading this month.  I saw the famous French cathedral on the cover and said “ok, that will be cool”!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Near Dark
  • Series: Scot Harvath #19
  • Author: Brad Thor
  • Publisher & Release: Atria, July 2020
  • Length: 349 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⚡ I’m willing to talk but it didn’t work as a standalone

Here’s the synopsis:

Scot Harvath returns in the newest thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author Brad Thor.

The world’s largest bounty has just been placed upon America’s top spy. His only hope for survival is to outwit, outrun, and outlast his enemies long enough to get to the truth.

But for Scot Harvath to accomplish his most dangerous mission ever—one that has already claimed the lives of the people closest to him, including his new wife—he’s going to need help—a lot of it.

Not knowing whom he can trust, Harvath finds an unlikely ally in Norwegian intelligence operative Sølvi Kolstad. Just as smart, just as deadly, and just as determined, she not only has the skills, but also the broken, troubled past to match Harvath’s own.

– from GoodReads

So who put a 100 million dollar bounty and a pool of assassins after Harvath?

I have heard that the Scot Harvath books are excellent international spy thrillers.  Unfortunately Near Dark is #19 in the series  and while usually these types of books can be read as standalones, this one just didn’t work.

It is based very heavily on the events of the past few books, with TONS of recap. I think if I had read the prior books, the recap would be boring, and since I hadn’t, I had no clue what they were talking about.  Also since I don’t know the characters that had died, all the grief and past recollections didn’t affect me.

Having read a few other reviews from long time series readers, I’m not too far off the mark there. Either way there was tons of intrigue and I think it would be worth trying prior novels in the series.

It also took a long time for Harvath to do anything exciting since he spent much of the book reeling from prior events and in hiding.

Once the action got going it does seem like Thor can write a good spy thriller. I liked Harvath and Sorvi, the Norwegian spy. These characters just kick ass and have some Bond-like qualities and sometimes that’s what books need.  I liked that he went there with the torture and murders too. 

My favorite side character was Nicholas the dwarf.  A real dwarf isn’t something I see often in books and he was hilarious plus a brilliant hacker.  Would love to go back and read the history there.

In short … I would start back at the beginning  and try the first book in the series before judging too harshly. The recapped action sounded awesome but I can’t recommend these as standalones based off Near Dark.

Categories
Science Fiction Thrillers

Dark Matter (Book Thoughts) by Blake Crouch

I can’t believe February is more than half over already! I took a little break from ARCs recently and spent some time catching up on books from the late 20-teens by popular authors.  I almost always have a physical, ebook, and audiobook going at all times, and without a digital ARC due soon I have been taking advantage of the Libby app to try some new authors.

Recursion by Blake Crouch was hugely popular on bookstagram when it came out, but I thought the synopsis for Dark Matter sounded more interesting and grabbed that one first.  What an absolutely thrilling book, a mix of sci-fi, thriller, multiverse, and love story without being a romance. I would fully recommend the book to pretty much anyone interested, and definitely want to pick up more books by Crouch.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Dark Matter
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Blake Crouch
  • Publisher & Release: Ballantine Books, July 2016
  • Length: 352 pages
  • Rate & Recommend:  Yes for fans of thrillers, multiverses, and thinking about life’s big questions

Here’s the synopsis (taken from Amazon:

A mindbending, relentlessly surprising thriller from the author of the bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. Hiswife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.

Take another look at the last paragraph of the synopsis, because it is absolutely 100% accurately what the book is about.  Jason is put against impossible odds to get back home to his family.  Travelling through dangerous alternate universes, getting closer and closer – he must discover what exactly HOME means to him in order to get back to that place

Dodging freezing storms, a deadly plague, murderous versions of himself, watching his wife die over and over in other universes . . . then as he gets closer, and closer, Jason must truly reconcile the choices he has made to come home.

I liked the Daniela character too, she doesn’t get that much page time but projects a confidence and determination no matter which life she is living.

I can’t say much more without spoilers but the pacing is FAST.  There is only one place where the science gets a little deep, and otherwise it is a very accessible sci-fi thriller.  There is plenty of danger and real stress on the characters, I never really knew who was going to live or what the outcome would be.

It was impossible not to read this one over the course of a long weekend!

I definitely recommend for adult fans of thrillers, multiverses, and hard life questions!

Categories
audiobooks Mysteries Suspense Thrillers

The Guest List (book thoughts) by Lucy Foley

I am about to dive back into another fantasy and sci-fi binge.  While I love reading indie, it’s been fun to try a few new and different popular authors this month, the last of them being Lucy Foley.

I see her novels on Bookstagram FREQUENTLY and figured I should give her a shot, even if her name makes me giggle as a nurse 😂

Anyway – Libby had The Guest List available and I tend to LOVE full cast audiobooks.  I don’t think I could have finished if it was a book – the atmosphere and location worked but the format and story was rough for me

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Guest List
  • Author: Lucy Foley
  • Publisher & Release: William Morrow, June 2020
  • Length: 320 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ for fans of the mystery genre

Here’s the synopsis:

wedding celebration turns dark and deadly in this deliciously wicked and atmospheric thriller reminiscent of Agatha Christie from the New York Times bestselling author of The Hunting Party.

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

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

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

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

I can definitely see where critics were comparing this to a Christie novel but it was very hard for me to not know the crime or victim up front. I’ve been spoiled by modern thrillers where, when it’s relevant, we almost always know who the victim is.  How am I supposed to guess who did it or why if I don’t know what I’m guessing at?

There was so much back story about the couple and the husband’s Uni and wedding plans and etc etc. These aren’t things I typically care to read about so I was honestly pretty bored. She kept hinting at some obviously dark events in the past – at least the reveals were pretty entertaining but the hints were so vague.

The best part was probably the descriptions of the island and the haunted atmosphere in Aoife’s chapters, but even that could have been amped up more. Irish folklore and legends always have a place in stories, and a few were mentioned in name only.

I think if we had known who died earlier on it would have been a lot more interesting.  The family drama was kind of entertaining but at the same time I just couldn’t bring myself to care.

Regarding the audio! I liked the female narrators but the men left something to be desired. Some of the female narrators really did not do convincing men either. I definitely didn’t like the present tense chapters where eventually the crime was narrated.

If you like this closed door mystery genre of books, I could still recommend this one, although I’ve read many better ones (personal opinion) recently that kept me on my toes and got exciting much sooner.

Categories
Fiction Suspense Thrillers

The Favor (ARC Review) by Nora Murphy

Thank you so much to Minotaur Books for the free digital advanced copy of The Favor by Nora Murphy! All opinions are my own

I have mixed but overwhelmingly positive feelings about this book. It is a gripping domestic thriller that I read in two sittings. The author is a lawyer who has worked with survivors of intimate partner violence and it’s obvious she knows what she is writing about. My only issue was with one of the points of view that just didn’t ring true.  I would definitely recommend The Favor to anyone who enjoys a fast paced stressful domestic thriller.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Favor
  • Series: N/a
  • Author: Nora Murphy
  • Publisher & Release: Minotaur Books, 05/31/22
  • Length: 288 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨ yes for fans of domestic thrillers

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

A gripping debut domestic suspense novel, The Favor explores with compassion and depth what can happen when women pushed to the limit take matters into their own hands.

Staying is dangerous. Leaving could be worse.

Leah and McKenna have never met, though they have parallel lives.

They don’t—ever—find themselves in the same train carriage or meet accidentally at the gym or the coffee shop. They don’t—ever—discuss their problems and find common ground. They don’t—ever—acknowledge to each other that although their lives have all the trappings of success, wealth and happiness, they are, in fact, trapped.

Because Leah understands that what’s inside a home can be more dangerous than what’s outside. Driving past McKenna’s house one night, she sees what she knows only too well herself from her own marriage: McKenna’s “perfect” husband is not what he seems. She decides to keep an eye out for McKenna, until one night, she intervenes.

Leah and McKenna have never met. But they will

This is a shorter and very fast paced read that will be perfect for summer reading.  Like I said I read it in two sittings and have no regrets.

Both of the women have a present tense point of view. I thoroughly enjoyed their narratives and was just downright scared for them the whole time in the current storyline. As the author writes in the afterword,  IPV occurs among white collar professionals and it is just terrible how these things can happen even to well educated women like Leah and McKenna. They are respectively a lawyer and doctor. There was a second timeline that started when Leah got married and worked towards present day events, showing how things devolved once the husband got control

Once a crime occured and the third voice is introduced, I unfortunately thought the detective’s POV detracted from the book. The whole side storyline involving his partner showed that some people don’t escape the violence and may have helped to toggle his understanding of events. It generally felt distracting though. The detective felt like a very cookie cutter character and even just with some of the generic investigator lines that he said it was difficult to feel anything for him. I also think that due to the nature of the crime in the novel there would be no way that he could start to close the case so early. The social pressure would be unbelievable, heck maybe I’ve read too many procedurals but it seems like some special crime crew would get involved if he wanted to close the case. What happened definitely works for the book but it just didn’t feel real at all

The only other silly thing was that one of the women mentioned the importance of financial independence, well before the control and coercion started, but then didn’t hesitate to transfer all of her funds into a joint account when she got married. All of your funds – hello that’s not maintaining your independence! Good advice there for women to absolutely not do that and maintain a portion of their own finances. It was also shown that some banking related things can be subverted with forged signatures, but I thought banks required most of those forms to be signed in person?

Don’t mind me please I am just splitting hairs now. These things absolutely worked in the scope of the novel. The Favor is a thrilling, suspenseful, quick read and contains a list of resources for suspected abuse at the end as well as a thoughtful afterword which I think added a lot to the novel.  One good thing that the detective character accomplished was identifying signs that IPV may be happening to somebody, as in, what does it look like to people in their social circle?

Breakneck pace, suspense, danger, women you’ll care about, and I think the tough topics were handled well and without judgement.

Definitely do pick this one up if it sounds up your alley, these characters have a heck of a story. Out in May!

Categories
Suspense Thrillers

Greenwich Park (ARC Review) by Katherine Faulkner

Thank you so much to Gallery Books for the ARC and merch for Greenwich Park! I just love the tote and the book is a decent, suspenseful read too

This is a domestic thriller, featuring a group of three siblings and their spouses or significant others. There is a wildcard character from the past that comes back and everything just gets bizarre and suspenseful real quick.

This is a great effort for a debut and I like Faulkner’s style. Read on to see my full thoughts!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Greenwich Park
  • Author: Katherine Faulkner
  • Publisher & Release: Gallery Books, 01/25/22
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨ for fans of domestic thrillers and suspense

Here’s the synopsis:

A twisty, whip-smart debut thriller, as electrifying as the #1 New York Times bestseller The Girl on the Train, about impending motherhood, unreliable friendship, and the high price of keeping secrets.

Helen’s idyllic life—handsome architect husband, gorgeous Victorian house, and cherished baby on the way (after years of trying)—begins to change the day she attends her first prenatal class and meets Rachel, an unpredictable single mother-to-be. Rachel doesn’t seem very maternal: she smokes, drinks, and professes little interest in parenthood. Still, Helen is drawn to her. Maybe Rachel just needs a friend. And to be honest, Helen’s a bit lonely herself. At least Rachel is fun to be with. She makes Helen laugh, invites her confidences, and distracts her from her fears.

But her increasingly erratic behavior is unsettling. And Helen’s not the only one who’s noticed. Her friends and family begin to suspect that her strange new friend may be linked to their shared history in unexpected ways. When Rachel threatens to expose a past crime that could destroy all of their lives, it becomes clear that there are more than a few secrets laying beneath the broad-leaved trees and warm lamplight of Greenwich Park.

Faulkner is a great writer, and has some investigative journalism experience to help flesh out the story. I would have liked to somehow see a little more of the police procedural, but some of that action was told through Katie’s point of view.

Pacing wise, the book certainly was never boring and moved at a steady pace. It wasn’t always exciting but there was plenty of mood setting and just enough history before things started dicey. I was able to guess some of the outcomes but missed the big reveals.

Helen, the main point of view, was just the most naïve, kind of dumb character ever. She was was practically gaslit at times by another character, but she also had the worst memory ever and let a harmful situation (Rachel) into her house and then just forgot how bad everything was? Frequently? One minute she was finding stolen items, the next she missed Rachel? I didn’t get that at all, but Helen just didn’t seem that bright. I did feel badly for her being taken advantage of

Rachel, the wildcard character, was terrible from start to finish. She was just insufferably terrible, stupid and selfish, not paying rent, being a pain in the ass, etc. Regardless of what happened to her in the past, she has a history of making stupid and destructive life decisions and honestly at no point did I ever feel sympathy for her. Not that I advocate for anyone being brutalized but I mean, we see how she conducts herself!

Katie, the journalist, was the second point of view, and I liked her the most. Serena, the final point of view, felt super fake and it was hard to tell where she would fit into everything at the end. It was fun to try to determine whether Helen or Serena or both were unreliable narrators.

There was a mystery, Greenwich Park, point of view, and yep I took the obvious choice and was wrong about who it was.

It was a good suspense novel though, I felt pretty concerned for one or more characters throughout. I also really liked the setting of Greenwich Park and Faulkner’s descriptions of sights, smells, scenery, even tastes, she is great at providing those visual aspects. I googled Greenwich Park and that also helped me form a visual of the big mansions. It’s a timeless setting and explained why there were so many people there during the day too.

My only issue with the style was that some of the chapters, towards the end, chopped off in odd spots. I knew it was to keep the reader engaged but felt super abrupt sometimes. At least though she did always explain what happened after the action cut off.

I would say this is a good read though, for fans of domestic type thrillers and suspense involving groups of friends, unreliable narrators, criminal cases.

….

Now this is spoiler free but if you haven’t read the book, I might suggest stopping here, even though I give no names or specific events away, I COULD NOT BUY ONE HALF OF THE PREMISE OF THE BOOK AT THE END!!

I just couldn’t! It’s a tiny spoiler to say why, even though I don’t use names or genders, so read it if you want.

.

.

.

.

.

Ok yeah So you are telling me that a passed out, stone cold drunk teenager under duress was able to identify some people hiding in a corner of a shadowy nighttime building…. Then recognize the people 10 years later on?? It just made no sense. Then everyone involved was batshit crazy to some degree. I was so annoyed with these characters that I understand why the eventual murder occured 😂

Heck what did the victim want, what did they think would happen?? The money seems like it should have been enough as far as the blackmail goes! It just seems insane that the Victim involved would go to those lengths to blackmail people she shouldn’t have even been able to recognize, when her original attackers were found not guilty in the first place. Tough crap, move on already?

I know I’m supposed to feel the opposite,that justice was terribly and unjustly not administered… but maybe don’t go crash a college party and drink to the blackout point?

I literally empathize more with the murderers. They should have given the victim nothing and could have easily high tailed away from the situation.

Anyway – shoot me for that but I stand by my feelings 😅😅 I hate manipulative people like what was happening to Helen!

I would say this is a good read though, for fans of domestic type thrillers and suspense involving groups of friends, unreliable narrators, criminal cases

Categories
Adventure audiobooks Crime Thrillers

Dark Horse (ALC Review) by Gregg Hurwitz

I have to say that as someone who can’t always read a lot of pages due to my eye problems and resulting headaches, that audiobooks are a lifesaver.

Thank you so much to Macmillan Audio for reaching out to offer my first Advanced Listening Copy! I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Scott Brick narrate Dark Horse by Gregg Hurwitz. I have not read or listened to anything else in this series of books, and while I didn’t feel lost at all, I do think a bit of knowledge of the background characters and events might add to overall enjoyment.

***on that note – I don’t know how long it is going to last but the first two books in the series are free to read/listen with kindle unlimited at the time that I wrote this post!!

AUDIO-Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Dark Horse
  • Series: Orphan X, #7
  • Author: Gregg Hurwitz
  • Narrator: Scott Brick
  • Publisher & Release: Macmillan Audio (Minotaur Books) 02/08/22
  • Length: 14h30m (432 pages)
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of vigilante justice, spy thrillers, action novels, and a bit of snarky banter

Here is the synopsis:

Gregg Hurwitz’s New York Times bestselling series returns when Orphan X faces his most challenging mission ever in Dark Horse.

Evan Smoak is a man with many identities and a challenging past. As Orphan X, he was a government assassin for the off-the-books Orphan Program. After he broke with the Program, he adopted a new name and a new mission–The Nowhere Man, helping the most desperate in their times of trouble. Having just survived an attack on his life and the complete devastation of his base of operations, as well as his complicated (and deepening) relationship with his neighbor Mia Hall, Evan isn’t interested in taking on a new mission. But one finds him anyway.

Aragon Urrea is a kingpin of a major drug-dealing operation in South Texas. He’s also the patron of the local area–supplying employment in legitimate operations, providing help to the helpless, rough justice to the downtrodden, and a future to a people normally with little hope. He’s complicated–a not completely good man, who does bad things for often good reasons. However, for all his money and power, he is helpless when one of the most vicious cartels kidnaps his innocent eighteen year old daughter, spiriting her away into the armored complex that is their headquarters in Mexico. With no other way to rescue his daughter, he turns to The Nowhere Man.

Now not only must Evan figure out how to get into the impregnable fortress of a heavily armed, deeply paranoid cartel leader, but he must decide if he should help a very bad man–no matter how just the cause.

So I want to focus more on the audio, since I am reviewing an ALC! Scott Brick is probably, as far as I know, one of the most prodigious narrators out there, I mean he read the Foundation universe by Asimov, Dune, at least some of the Lee Child books, some Erik Larsson, among other things.. and I think this is another amazing performance by him.

He has to voice cartel drug leaders, sicarios, Evan Smoak of course, teenage girls, and pretty much everything in between, and I don’t think he faltered once.  My favorite character was the weapon aficionado named Tommy –  the way Brick had him saying “MonGOlian CLLUSter-forNIcation” had he cracking up.  I think he’s a master, really.

About the book itself – so as I said I have not read any of the Orphan X books, but Hurwitz does a good job recapping who is who and bringing first time readers up on current events.  Obviously there is a bit of a storyline from book to book but it can be read as a standalone for sure.

There was good action throughout the book, good pacing, and a surprising amount of introspection from various characters as well.  I liked Smoak as a main character, the OCD was something a little different and I loved what he did at the end of the book.  Josephine was his little found-family-co-orphan and computer hacker. I liked her too. I want to go back and find the rest of her story, and that of her dog…named Dog!  It seemed like Tommy the weapons guy was featured in the prior book as well so I do definitely want to go back and read the series.

There are many things I could quote too to show the humor included throughout the book, but I will wait until a finished copy is out.  I did like the themes here of starting to trust people, self reflection, honesty with peers, and the whole debate of the morally gray, vs just evil drug lord.  The comparison of their parenting and values was actually pretty interesting and made Evan think about his own life quite a bit.

Anyway – I would definitely recommend this audiobook, the book itself, and potentially the series for fans of vigilante type novels, action books, with hints of romance and humor and found family elements as well.  It was overall good narration and good writing!

…and … there is a lion

 

Categories
Mysteries Suspense Thrillers

The Resting Place (ARC Review) by Camilla Sten

Thank you so much to Minotaur books for the free advanced copy, all opinions are my own!

I thought I was done with finishing books this year, but The Resting Place is such a quick, twisty thriller, that I started it at 8pm last night and finished this afternoon!  I read it in two sittings and have no regrets.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Resting Place
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Camilla Sten (tr. Alexandra Fleming)
  • Publisher & Release: Minotaur Books, 03/29/22
  • Pages: 336
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fans of twisty, cold weather, locked door type thrillers

Here’s the synopsis:

Deep rooted secrets.
A twisted family history.
And a house that will never let go.

Eleanor lives with prosopagnosia, the inability to recognize a familiar person’s face. It causes stress. Acute anxiety.

It can make you question what you think you know.

When Eleanor walked in on the scene of her capriciously cruel grandmother, Vivianne’s, murder, she came face to face with the killer―a maddening expression that means nothing to someone like her. With each passing day, the horror of having come so close to a murderer―and not knowing if they’d be back―overtakes both her dreams and her waking moments, thwarting her perception of reality.

Then a lawyer calls. Vivianne has left her a house―a looming estate tucked away in the Swedish woods. The place her grandfather died, suddenly. A place that has housed a chilling past for over fifty years.

Eleanor. Her steadfast boyfriend, Sebastian. Her reckless aunt, Veronika. The lawyer. All will go to this house of secrets, looking for answers. But as they get closer to uncovering the truth, they’ll wish they had never come to disturb what rests there.

I tend to really love thrillers by Swedish authors, they have the cold weather, creepy atmosphere, with intermittent violence thing down PAT! The synopsis reads a bit roughly to me but overall the book feels like a great translation.

This is a locked door thriller, taking place on the recently discovered family’s estate in the Swedish countryside. In the winter.  It has all the cliches like a creepy house, severe storm, power outage, cars not working … but there are also many parts that I didn’t see coming, including who the heck the antagonist was.

The book starts off by jumping around in time a lot, and it was almost off putting, except that it quickly splits into simply Eleanor in the present, and Anushka in the past.  I liked the dual storyline as it swaps between the thrilling events and unravelling mystery in the estate, and the past, where the old secrets slowly unwind.

Eleanor isn’t a particularly likeable character, but I liked the theme of standing up for yourself and overcoming trauma.  I was rooting for her to come out safely either way.  I really didn’t like Sebastien at all, it seemed like he should have been the rational one and kept his head, but it served to show Eleanor’s strength that she ended up holding everyone together.  That characterization did a lot for the story.  The aunt had a bit of an arc, mostly showing another coping mechanism and how trauma affects people differently.

Eventually all the secrets come out. It’s a bit of a sad story, about mental health and wealth and doing whatever it takes to maintain a certain image.  I had parts figured out or guessed before they happened, but the ultimate shocker had me stumped yet again.

Lastly: in typical Swedish fashion, there is a bit of gore and death and violence, but not very much really.  There are a few graphic descriptions of bodily injuries that added to the chilly overall atmosphere.

I’m not saying the book is perfect, but anything I read in two sittings gets 5 stars from me, I hope other thriller fans enjoy it equally!

Categories
audiobooks Paranormal Suspense Thrillers

End of Watch (book & audio thoughts) by Stephen King

I know there’s not much that I can add to the King review canon, but here are my thoughts on End of Watch! I fully recommend this series and book to anyone looking for unlikely heroes, great character arcs, and low-key creepy vibes that increase in this final book.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: End of Watch
  • Series: Bill Hodges Trilogy, #3
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: Scribner, June 2016
  • Pages: 448
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ yess for thriller and mystery, paranormal fans

Here’s the synopsis:

The spectacular finale to the New York Times best-selling trilogy that began with Mr. Mercedes (winner of the Edgar Award) and Finders Keepers

2017 Audie Award Finalist for Fiction and Best Male Narrator

In End of Watch, the diabolical “Mercedes Killer” drives his enemies to suicide, and if Bill Hodges and Holly Gibney don’t figure out a way to stop him, they’ll be victims themselves.

In Room 217 of the Lakes Region Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, something has awakened. Something evil. Brady Hartsfield, perpetrator of the Mercedes Massacre, where eight people were killed and many more were badly injured, has been in the clinic for five years, in a vegetative state. According to his doctors, anything approaching a complete recovery is unlikely. But behind the drool and stare, Brady is awake and in possession of deadly new powers that allow him to wreak unimaginable havoc without ever leaving his hospital room.

Retired police detective Bill Hodges, the unlikely hero of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, now runs an investigation agency with his partner, Holly Gibney – the woman who delivered the blow to Hartsfield’s head that put him in the brain injury ward. When Bill and Holly are called to a suicide scene with ties to the Mercedes Massacre, they find themselves pulled into their most dangerous case yet, one that will put their lives at risk as well as those of Bill’s heroic young friend, Jerome Robinson, and his teenage sister, Barbara. Brady Hartsfield is back and planning revenge not just on Hodges and his friends but on an entire city.

In End of Watch, Stephen King brings the Hodges trilogy to a sublimely terrifying conclusion, combining the detective fiction of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers with the heart-pounding supernatural suspense that has been his best-selling trademark. The result is an unnerving look at human vulnerability and chilling suspense. No one does it better than King.

This is a really satisfying end to the trilogy.  It can stand on it’s own but I highly recommend reading them all, and in order, or the audio books are absolutely phenomenal as well (but you all know I just LOVE Will Patton).

Brady Hartsfield is back, and King finally found a way to weave the supernatural / paranormal into this one.  He does so in an utterly creepy way too, with Brady developing telekinesis due to experimental drugs and using it to orchestrate mayhem and suicide through handheld game consuls.  Brady really isn’t as smart as he thinks he is though, some of his mishaps had me laughing.

The title tells the reader what’s coming at the end, and it’s revealed pretty early on. That storyline is definitely sad as hell but it also lets Holly and Jerome shine on a new level.  One of my favorite aspects of the trilogy has been these unlikely heroes with their unlikely friendship, and Bill Hodges being the elderly, unlikely hero that holds them together.  All three had the chance to shine in this King left us no doubt that Holly’s gonna be ok.

Exciting, tense, sad, hopeful, fast paced – are all good describing words for this one.  I liked the pacing and how it kept connecting back to prior books.  King wrote a lovely authors note at the end about suicide prevention too that would lift anyone’s spirits after the ending.  I have also enjoyed the picnic scenes at the end of each book and was glad that End of Watch included one as well.  It gave the characters some final emotional closure

What I really want is a Holly and Pete spinoff book or series – I know that If It Bleeds is at least a short story but I hope he writes more.

Here are a handful of my favorite quotes: 

Things can get better, and if you give them a chance, they usually do.

One foot in the grave, the other on a banana peel

It’s about how some people carelessly squander what others would sell their souls to have: a healthy, pain-free body. And why? Because they’re too blind, too emotionally scarred, or too self-involved to see past the earth’s dark curve to the next sunrise. Which always comes, if one continues to draw breath

And the funniest one …. “Darker than a woodchuck’s asshole”

I definitely highly recommend this series on both book or audio format if you are looking for a great detective, suspense, thriller series.  Will Patton, as always, adds something special to the narration and will creep you out even harder singing the fishing hole song!

Categories
Fiction Suspense Thrillers

Michael Bennett #1&2 – How does he stack up to the other JP detectives?

In my quest to sample the different James Patterson (& company) detectives this year, I read the first two Michael Bennett books recently. Now have to ask the question – how does he stack up against the others? First I will give the synopsis of the two books, then give a run down of my general feelings.  I gave both books 4 stars and recommend for JP fans and fans of family centered detectives!

Step on a Crack – Michael Bennett #1 (James Patterson, Michael Ledwidge – published February 2007 by Little, Brown, & Company)

Patterson and Ledwidge introduce a new hero in an exciting thriller set in the heart of Manhattan. NYPD detective Michael Bennett is concentrating on getting his family through a particularly difficult Christmas: he and his 10 adopted children are facing the loss to cancer of his brave wife, Maeve.

But a major crisis calls him away: the funeral of a former First Lady at St. Patrick’s Cathedral goes horribly awry when men storm the church and take hundreds of attendees hostage. Michael is asked to try to reason with a sinister man named Jack. Jack releases all but the most famous people, and makes his demands: he wants several million dollars from each celebrity hostage, including the mayor, a popular comedic actor, a beloved talk show host, and a pop starlet. Once Jack starts killing, Michael realizes he’s up against a truly diabolical foe. Patterson has a knack for creating genuinely likable heroes, and Michael fits the bill.

As readers rapidly turn the pages to learn how the tense hostage drama plays out, they will also be sympathizing with Michael as he faces the agonizing loss of his wife. Totally gripping and downright impossible to put down, this is a promising start to a potential new series.


Run For Your Life – Michael Bennett #2 – by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge – published February 2009 by Little, Brown & Company

A calculating killer who calls himself The Teacher is taking on New York City, killing the powerful and the arrogant. His message is clear: remember your manners or suffer the consequences! For some, it seems that the rich are finally getting what they deserve. For New York’s elite, it is a call to terror.

Only one man can tackle such a high-profile case: Detective Mike Bennett. The pressure is enough for anyone, but Mike also has to care for his 10 children-all of whom have come down with virulent flu at once!

Discovering a secret pattern in The Teacher’s lessons, Detective Bennett realizes he has just hours to save New York from the greatest disaster in its history. From the #1 bestselling author comes RUN FOR YOUR LIFE,

Both books are definitely exciting, typical JP style, fast reads, short chapters, all of the above that he is known for.  Let’s see what sets Michael Bennett apart and how he stacks up:

First – the family life.  Bennett reminds me a lot of Alex Cross in that he is an absolutely fierce dad that would do anything for his kids.  Bennett becomes a widower at the end of book one and I freaking love, love, love, the family dynamic which includes his crazy Irish dad Seamus, nanny, and of course the totally mixed bag that is 10 diverse foster/adopted kids.

Bennett as a cop: he’s competent, he follows probably most of the rules, and isn’t afraid to throw his life down for the job if needed.  I think it’ll be interesting reading forward to see how he recovers mentally from the loss of his wife and if it affects his career

Love interests: thankfully Bennett is still loyal to the wife and then her memory in the first two books.  I loved how they made the most of their time together, it was cheesy but honestly felt like couples goals.  Bennett doesn’t have a partner or a go to person either so I can’t comment on his professional relationships

The cases: Bennett’s specialty was hostage negotiation, and both books ultimately deal with hostages.  The first in a big way, the second in smaller detail. I thought both books were exciting, quick reads, and pretty interesting case wise

The bad guys: ok, I have to admit that while the antics were real, the bad guys were probably the biggest struggle I had with the books.  The ‘clean man’ in Step on a Crack felt so unrealistic upon the reveal of who he was, even while it was a trip to try to guess his identity.

In Run for Your Life – I did like the villain, quite a bit, and found the whole thing entirely pulse pounding, while his motivation and reasoning ended up feeling iffy at best.

Overall: these are good reads, check them out if you like Cross and JP for sure.  I love them as palate cleansers in between more intellectual reads

⭐⭐⭐I rank the JP detectives in this order so far⭐⭐⭐

  1. Alex Cross
  2. Michael Bennett
  3. Jordan + MacDonald (NYPD Red)
  4. Lindsay Boxer (WMC books)

I did briefly check these out on audio, and they were a mixed bag. I like the sound effects. One narrator reads Bennett & Co, while the other reads the villain. I think they’re good audiobooks for driving or when you don’t need your whole brain, but I enjoyed reading more.

Categories
audiobooks Mysteries Suspense Thrillers

Finders Keepers (book thoughts) by Stephen King

Continuing my binge of the Bill Hodges Trilogy, I think Finders Keepers had a lot of great points and quotes and characters. It didn’t quite hold up to Mr. Mercedes but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the sequel, especially to literature and book lovers.  Probably the thing that surprised me the most is how this could read as a standalone

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Finders Keepers
  • Series: Bill Hodges Trilogy, #2
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: Scriber, June 2015
  • Length: 448 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for the book itself, 5 for the audio experience

Here is the blurb:

A masterful, intensely suspenseful novel about a reader whose obsession with a reclusive writer goes far too far—a book about the power of storytelling, starring the same trio of unlikely and winning heroes King introduced in Mr. Mercedes.

“Wake up, genius.” So begins King’s instantly riveting story about a vengeful reader. The genius is John Rothstein, an iconic author who created a famous character, Jimmy Gold, but who hasn’t published a book for decades. Morris Bellamy is livid, not just because Rothstein has stopped providing books, but because the nonconformist Jimmy Gold has sold out for a career in advertising. Morris kills Rothstein and empties his safe of cash, yes, but the real treasure is a trove of notebooks containing at least one more Gold novel.

Morris hides the money and the notebooks, and then he is locked away for another crime. Decades later, a boy named Pete Saubers finds the treasure, and now it is Pete and his family that Bill Hodges, Holly Gibney, and Jerome Robinson must rescue from the ever-more deranged and vengeful Morris when he’s released from prison after thirty-five years.

Not since Misery has King played with the notion of a reader whose obsession with a writer gets dangerous. Finders Keepers is spectacular, heart-pounding suspense, but it is also King writing about how literature shapes a life—for good, for bad, forever.

Finders Keepers is a love letter to being a Reader. The way King describes that feeling of finding the book that made you realize you were a Reader. I will just quote it:

For readers, one of life’s most electrifying discoveries is that they are readers—not just capable of doing it (which Morris already knew), but in love with it. Hopelessly. Head over heels. The first book that does that is never forgotten, and each page seems to bring a fresh revelation, one that burns and exalts: Yes! That’s how it is! Yes! I saw that, too! And, of course, That’s what I think! That’s what I FEEL!

“Shit don’t mean shit” and the birthday f*cc quotes are obviously meant to be quotable too, and I loved the book for those one-liners.  The Jerome and Holly scene at the end with the t-shirt was one of my favorites.

Another thing I really liked was how Morris and Peter were really quite a bit alike. Throughout the book King drew parallels between them.  (Morris was a bit like Annie from Misery but he was a whole different take on the theme of obsession). The interesting part was seeing which direction Pete would go.  At the end when Pete kind of broke away and realized that, thankfully, they weren’t alike at heart, it was a nice thought in stark contrast to the horror happening in the background at the end of the book.

Pacing and suspense wise – the first third was a little weird and slow for me since I expected to see Bill and the screw sooner, but it took until the second 3rd of the book. There was plenty of suspense, action, brutality, and gore, and of course the Happy Slapper is back.  With that real sense of danger and suspense it was hard to put the book down.  I feel like King has thoughts on people who’s butt fat you can carve with a hatchet 😂😂

Anyway, what I didn’t like so much was how long it took to get Hodges and the crew involved. Jerome and Holly having bigger roles was awesome, but leaving them out of the first third of the book seemed odd.  It helped the book as a standalone though because even with all the Mercedes tie-ins, there was a new set of characters, new crime, new mystery, etc.  Enough background to get by easily.

Also at least as of yet, I’m not into the tiny supernatural bit poking it’s head out at the end! This has been a pretty straightforward and amazing mystery / thriller series so far, it seems like bringing in a supernatural element is unnecessary? Maybe not. I think I’m just going to binge the series and start End of Watch next.

(P.S. I have already started it and the supernatural aspect is the crown ruler of WEIRD, but I’m on board)

I’m also going to guess that King doesn’t know anything about legal proceedings and doesn’t feel like researching it, because I would have really liked to know about Pete’s legal fallout at the end, if there was any.  He kind of ignores that after book one as well.

My last random thought it about how not only did the book focus on literature affecting people differently, and how readers vary, but about discussing books too.  Ricky the teacher and his whole “this is stupid” speech had me howling but he was so right

About the audio-

Will Patton obviously also rocked it again, although probably for the first time ever I didn’t like how he did a voice – Tina’s. It didn’t help that she was annoying anyway (oh stfu we get it, Pete might be mad), but WP sounded a lot lile Jim Dale trying to do a whiny teenage female. Besides that, the man could sell me a reading of the dictionary.

I say it again that you want the tone, the snark, the snide of the killer, even Holly’s clipped words, I think Patton stands alone at the top of male audio narrators.  Finders Keepers earned him an Audie nominee for best solo male, and I *think* he won it for End of Watch finally.  At 13 hours and change and with a 4.5 rating on Scribd, I’m glad to see others agree!

Long story short:  love love love these characters and their story arc and this trilogy so far.