Categories
Crime Suspense Thrillers

ARC Review: The Nemesis Manifesto by Eric Van Lustbader

  • Title: The Nemesis Manifesto
  • Author: Eric Van Lustbader
  • Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books
  • Release: May 19, 2020
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ probably

Thank you to Bookish First and Forge for the raffle win ARC! I loved his work in the Bourne series and was psyched to have a chance to read this one early.

Here is the description from GoodReads:

Russian meddling, American fragmentation, and global politics collide in this action-packed, international thriller.

In The Nemesis Manifesto, New York Times bestselling author Eric Van Lustbader,the master of the smart thriller,”* delivers an epic and harrowing adventure of the predatory forces that are threatening the very fabric of democracy and kicks off a compelling new series with a singular new hero for our time.

Evan Ryder is a lone wolf, a field agent for a black-ops arm of the DOD, who has survived unspeakable tragedy and dedicated her life to protecting her country. When her fellow agents begin to be systematically eliminated, Evan must unravel the thread that ties them all together…and before her name comes up on the kill list.

The list belongs to a mysterious cabal known only as Nemesis, a hostile entity hell-bent on tearing the United States apart. As Evan tracks them from Washington D.C. to the Caucasus Mountains, from Austria to a fortress in Germany where her own demons reside, she unearths a network of conspirators far more complex than anyone could have imagined. Can Evan uproot them before Nemesis forces bring democracy to its knees?

As the description makes obvious, The Nemesis Manifesto has a massive scope.  It is a classic spy novel with modern day conspiracy theories and such a tangled web of operatives and agencies that I could hardly keep track of the layers of intrigue. It was very well written and so full of action that it was quite hard to put down at times. From Washington D.C. to Russia, Georgia to Germany, arching eyebrows to immaculate suits and a Russian mafia style  blood feud, this is a huge sweeping MUST for fans of spies and international intrigue

The book introduced Evan Ryder.  She is a truly kick ass agent, proficient and deadly and wanted all over the world.  After a small dissertation on why females do or don’t work as agents, the book smoothed out and let her do her job. There was a fairly slow start in general but once the action started it moved so quickly.  The other female agent, Brenda, seemed to be there to serve as an example of a bad female agent.  She was a bit of a mental loose cannon which issues that seemed to stem from seeing her dad in a compromising position.  For example there was some clearly consensual sex going on in her adult consensual relationship, but then as soon as she found out the guy was a double agent she started on a rape tirade and made all sorts of terrible field agent decisions.  Crying rape is never cute and omg did I want to reach through the page and shoot her!  Thankfully throughout the book a handful of other agents, and ultimately Evan was there to bail her out.

Other than a few analogies and similes that seemed a bit over-written, the writing was fantastic and I don’t have much to say about it. The author is a strong storyteller.

Other than Brenda, my other small qualm is that I don’t know if quite enough loose ends were wrapped up.  We were dealing with everything from a hilariously childish interagency blood feud to some fucked up family ties to Nazis, and somehow the DOD got thrown back in at the end.  Nemesis seemed to provide a lot more questions along with their answers, and I never quite understood how things pieced together.  Why were they ever targeting Butler, and what happened to him?  I think, maybe these questions are going to be the basis of book 2, which had it’s own can of worms opened up by a minor cliffhanger.

The most impressive part was how relevant the plot is to today’s world.  The American left and right are so obnoxiously far divided that it almost feels believable that Russian based dezinformatsiya is fueling it.  Why not?  They were alluding to a Trump type of POTUS as well, and it was even more interesting to consider who else in the international committee could be involved.

Last but not least – it’s time for the @OneReadingNurse infamous medical rant.  The book states a patients IV was pulled, and the nurse rushed to “put the needle back in.”  Guys that is not a thing, once we get it into the arm THERE IS NO NEEDLE, just a plastic cannula.  There is NO way to reinsert it.  Huge cringe moment but otherwise the book passes inspection.

Overall I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes international thrillers and spy / black ops novels.  There’s even a little agent holding a gun on the cover.  Thank you again to BookishFirst and Forge for my copy.  It releases in May so keep an eye out for it or preorder now!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

ARC Review: Ruthless Gods by Emily Duncan

I have been sitting on this review for weeks and with the release now imminent, I should probably post it.  I believe the review is spoiler free for both books.

Thank you so much to Wednesday Books via NetGalley for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own.

I read Wicked Saints as an ARC last year and enjoyed the basis of the story, but if you all remember I just absolutely hate her writing style. I found Duncan’s writing repetitive to the nauseatingly “I need to skim” point of being terrible.  A good author would take that significant round of criticism from Wicked Saints and build a better novel in Ruthless Gods….but OH god was I wrong in thinking it would happen.  (My review of Wicked Saints

Here is the description for Ruthless Gods:

Darkness never works alone…

Nadya doesn’t trust her magic anymore. Serefin is fighting off a voice in his head that doesn’t belong to him. Malachiasz is at war with who–and what–he’s become.

As their group is continually torn apart, the girl, the prince, and the monster find their fates irrevocably intertwined. They’re pieces on a board, being orchestrated by someone… or something. The voices that Serefin hears in the darkness, the ones that Nadya believes are her gods, the ones that Malachiasz is desperate to meet—those voices want a stake in the world, and they refuse to stay quiet any longer.

The first thing to note is that book one was supposed to be Nadya’s (HAHAH), this is  Serefin’s (got it, he was no hero though) and book three is to be Malachiasz’s.  I don’t think Duncan is doing a great job of clarifying this but Serefin did have a very large, if not incidentally passive at times role in this book.  I will come back to him later on but do appreciate the title character having a firmer role.

So. Duncan’s writing. If I had to read “*one of 5 adjectives* + boy” one more time I would have DNF’d, and almost did. Again.  Duncan has the continent’s ENTIRE future political leadership trekking across the country together in this book and all they do is continue to pine and chase each other’s tails. Maybe the hunter couldn’t have done much politically but can we treat Serefin like the actual king of Tranavia? The entire trek could have been EPIC and brilliant and all we got was more of “blah blah I was betrayed blah and now I’m afraid but let’s kiss again…” and Nadya’s broken record just played, and played, and played.  The plot and mechanisms did advance but it took a lot of weeding through nonsense to get there.

Oh yeah, Nadya thinks that she learned but she really learned nothing from book 1 and she’s still terrible. She is changing but doesn’t seem to be internalizing any of her lessons, although Kostya comes back long enough to force some true self-reflection. That particular dynamic was surprising and one of the more interesting ones.  Nadya is basically a punching bag and while she knows it, she doesn’t seem to care.

Duncan did do a better job showing monstrosity versus just talking about it, but again it was so repetitive. I liked the shifting faces and did like her take on the gods and monsters and older beings, but she could have used Nadya’s broken record headspace to talk more about some of the Slavic lore she was throwing out in names and titles only. That is something I’d like to have read about.  Think Winternight Trilogy – if you’re going to mention the Chyerti why not talk about them?

Serefin was my favorite character again because he is amazing, even though Duncan turned him into the token “other” character. I really think Ostyia would have been enough in that department but she got sidelined plot wise. Serefin and his moths and his bad vision and his nonexistent brutality (talk talk talk, never shown) just make me happy, and I think he had the most interesting arc in this book. If nothing else Duncan did use his and Malachiasz’s time together to explain all of the Tranavian political hierarchy that was missing from Wicked Saints.  I fully enjoyed the parts in Serefin’s head where he was grappling with the God-Monster-Deity-Chyerti-Other.

The ending sounded cool but that last sentence…was a terrible word choice.  It sounded cool but ENTROPY doesn’t even fit, just say his name already.  It was almost enough of a cliffhanger to make me think about book 3, but the plot is not enough to cancel out Duncan’s writing. I will be waiting for the cliffnotes version.

Last but not least: the @OneReadingNurse infamous medical rant. Have you ever actually seen a pupil blow? I have. Someone having a stroke? A blown pupil is TERRIFYING, and having someone’s pupils “blow open” is A TERRIBLE choice of phrase for someone surprised or experiencing adrenaline. Not only that but I think it was used at least 3 times throughout the book and I just don’t understand why an editor didn’t clam this up

This is the second book this year that shut me down in the middle of a trilogy, *cough* Heart of Flames * cough*.  These are the authors that must not read their critical reviews and editorial advice at all.  I haven’t posted it yet but when I feature The Silvered Serpents, I will highlight and throw praises down on Roshani Chokshi for elevating her second book above and beyond the first in every conceivable way.  Duncan and Pau Preto need to learn from her!

In summary: if you liked Wicked Saints, read Ruthless Gods, if not or if you were on the fence, stay away. Ruthless Gods IS marginally better but I personally can’t do it for a third novel.

Categories
Science Fiction

Book Review: Sixteenth Watch by Myke Cole!

Thank you so much to my partner Angry Robot Books (thank you!) for the finished copy of Sixteenth Watch by Myke Cole! The book was provided in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own.

Here is the description from GoodReads:

The Coast Guard must prevent the first lunar war in history. A lifelong Search-and-Rescuewoman, Coast Guard Captain Jane Oliver is ready for a peaceful retirement. But when tragedy strikes, Oliver loses her husband and her plans for the future, and finds herself thrust into a role she’s not prepared for. Suddenly at the helm of the Coast Guard’s elite SAR-1 lunar unit, Oliver is the only woman who can prevent the first lunar war in history, a conflict that will surely consume not only the moon, but earth as well.

I usually enjoy books with fictional military bearing and love my sci fi, so this book seemed like a natural pick.  It is my first romp into  current American military fiction, featuring mainly the Coast Guard and Marine Corps/Navy.  Sixteenth Watch is what they call a tour in space, and one central plot is a huge military branch jurisdiction battle…in space.

Captain Oliver is trying to prevent a war with China.  Tensions have been heating up on the moon and the Coast Guard is the branch for the job, but the Navy has pushed them into a corner.  The solution seems to be to win a military competition that the Marines have been dominating for years in order to win public support.   The Coast Guard team is capable but still reeling from losses incurred in a surface skirmish years ago where they lost two team members and Oliver’s husband.  There are also overarching themes of dealing with grief, self forgiveness, teamwork, and standing up for yourself and your team when things get hairy.

I did enjoy the book a lot but the plot was scattered all over the place at times. Boarding Actions were interesting enough to carry the action for the most part, and jurisdictional conflicts were individually interesting, but I wanted more cohesion.  The SAR-1 team went from disgruntled to cohesive VERY quickly after a few weeks and one particular incident in the field, and I think even before presenting the team competition there should have been a little more proof of their friendships forming and teamwork solidifying.   Cold packed way too much into the end and then just ended the book with a sense of closure that I didn’t feel, at all

I did absolutely love Oliver and the team though, she was such a bad-ass. I wanted to root for her team of Coasties, like who doesn’t love watching a team come together??  The pacing of the entire novel just felt off even though they only had a few weeks together,  most of the action was in the last quarter when the book got interesting.  Prior to that the story seemed to be a cycle of grief and exposition, which was needed but set it off to a slow start for me.

The other thing I need to mention are all the abbreviations and editing.  A glossary is provided for us non-military people but it was a bit of a struggle for me to keep up sometimes.  There are also multiple typos and areas that needed another read over,  and since this is a finished copy I allowed it to distract me a bit.

This is definitely a must for military fiction readers.  I think sci-fi readers will enjoy it too but it was less about sci-fi and more about the military and strategy and Marines waving their d!cks (sorry I lived with one for a LONG time and this seemed quite accurate).  I would still recommend it too for those who like kick ass female characters and stories with team competitions.

Thank you again to Angry Robot Books for the book (Gemma is amazing)! All opinions are my own.

Categories
Crime Suspense Thrillers

Book Review: I Know Where You Sleep by Alan Orloff

Thank you so much to Ellen at Books Forward for the review copy of I Know Where You Sleep by Alan Orloff!  The book published in February through Down & Out Press so pay attention if you enjoy private investigators and crime solving!

I don’t read a ton of private investigator novels but I love The Rockford Files.  Any time I read a PI story I am picturing Jim, and when the author mentioned The Rockford Files not once, but TWICE in the press release interview, I said “OK sign me up!”  I will elaborate on this at the end of the review as well but I have a guest post from Mr. Orloff coming on Thursday!

Here is the description from the rear cover:

“I know where you play,” rasps an ominous voice on the phone at Jessica Smith’s gym. “I know where you pray,” whispers the same voice at her church. The police are no help, so Jessica, tired of fleeing and unwilling to be cowed into hiding, turns to her last resort — P.I. Anderson West.

West dives into Jessica’s case, pro bono. With some overzealous help from his loose-cannon sister Carrie, he unearths a horde of suspicious men in Jessica’s life — vindictive ex-beaus, squirrelly co-workers, skittish boyfriend wannabes. But are any twisted enough to terrorize her?

After the stalker breaks into Jessica’s bedroom — “I know where you sleep” — and she goes missing, West must find her before the stalker does.

Anderson West seems to be a moderately successful P.I., running a firm with his otherwise unemployable sister as his office manager.  When Jessica Smith starts getting progressively creepier and more frequent phone calls from a stalker, she turns to West for help.  With perfect chapter length and easily flowing language, I managed to get sucked right into the story and finish the book in a day.

West is a likeable enough character. He is in decent shape for chasing and intimidating suspects when needed, but he seems to prefer a more intellectual approach.  Carrie, his sister, drove me absolutely nuts as a vigilante type character who abuses Megan’s Law and breaks into people’s houses, getting West in trouble multiple times with various suspects.  She was almost comically terrible and should probably have shown some gratitude that she’s still employed while risking her brother’s license on a daily basis.  My favorite character might have been their mom, a selectively deaf momma-bear who keeps the family together.

The pacing of the book was perfect for me.  There were plenty of suspects including a few red herrings, well spaced clues and investigation, some interrogations, and just enough action and truly suspicious activity that I always wanted to keep reading.  One thing that drove the story was Jessica playing an unreliable victim – as readers we know that she’s hiding her past and won’t come clean about it, so we get to watch Carrie & West run down a bunch of false leads while the past catches up to the present.

The action heats up as this meshing of storylines occurs, and does get a little breakneck after the stalker breaks into Jessica’s house.  I think that I would have liked to spend some time inside the stalker’s head but his viewpoint was not included.  I did like how the reveal was done, even if the whole story got a little muddled at the end with a LOT of new information coming out.  A good mystery crime reader might have guessed who the stalker was based off a clue or two but I definitely didn’t.

I would definitely recommend the book to any fans of P.I. novels, thrillers, crimes, and stalker type bad guys.  I’m sure there are some girl-power type readers who will love Carrie too, but she just seemed perpetually ungrateful to her family and broke some pretty vulnerable laws.  I will 100% recommend any book I am compelled to read in one day though, and I really do hope to see more of these characters in the future!

Last but not least I have a guest post coming up from the author!! It will post on Thursday so that everyone can be looking out for it!  Alan Orloff talks about his time spent at citizen’s police academy, including a ride along and an incident with rifles!  The guest post can now be viewed at https://onereadingnurse.com/2020/03/20/alone-under-the-lights-guest-post-by-author-alan-orloff/

Categories
Fiction Suspense Thrillers

ARC Review: The Wife Stalker by Liv Constantine

Thank you so much to Harper Books and GoodReads for the giveaway win of The Wife Stalker by Liv Constantine!

Here is the description from GoodReads:

Breezing into the tony seaside paradise of Westport, Connecticut, gorgeous thirtysomething Piper Reynard sets down roots, opening a rehab and wellness space and joining a local yacht club. When she meets Leo Drakos, a handsome, successful lawyer, the wedding ring on his finger is the only thing she doesn’t like about him. Yet as Piper well knows, no marriage is permanent.

Meanwhile, Joanna has been waiting patiently for Leo, the charismatic man she fell in love with all those years ago, to re-emerge from the severe depression that has engulfed him. Though she’s thankful when Leo returns to his charming, energetic self, paying attention again to Evie and Stelli, the children they both love beyond measure, Joanna is shocked to discover that it’s not her loving support that’s sparked his renewed happiness—it’s something else.

Piper. Leo has fallen head over heels for the flaky, New Age-y newcomer, and unrepentant and resolute, he’s more than willing to leave Joanna behind, along with everything they’ve built. Of course, he assures her, she can still see the children.

Joanna is devastated—and determined to find something, anything, to use against this woman who has stolen her life and her true love. As she digs deeper into Piper’s past, Joanna begins to unearth disturbing secrets . . . but when she confides to her therapist that she fears for the lives of her ex-husband and children, her concerns are dismissed as paranoia. Can she find the proof she needs in time to save them?

The Constantine sisters are back with another psychological thriller! Joanna is aggressively forced out of her family life by Leo’s new love interest, Piper, who has a shady if not murderous past. Joanna will do anything to protect her children from this monster, and the story unfolds.  I think the jacket description of the book is way too wordy, it would have thrown me off of the book if I wasn’t familiar with the author duo.  If it sounds flaky just give the book a chance anyway!

The characters are likeable enough.  I love big Greek families and it was fun to see Leo’s  interact a little bit.  Joanna seems like a dedicated enough parent, Piper seems crazy and entirely insensitive, and what is going on with Leo? He seems like a total ass with how he treats Joanna.  Leo’s kids are fun too, they seem realistic for their ages and I enjoyed reading Stelli’s antics.  Evie’s love for books and Nancy Drew is something I can all relate to!  Joanna carries the first person POV, which alternates with Piper’s chapters told in the third person.

Some parts of the book do feel like “too much” even after all the facts. There is no way someone would get a child abuse citation just for swatting a kid’s butt. People are so crazy (but that’s the point of the book)!  I found myself thinking back on the Joanna butt-swat  episode and I think it’s supposed to reflect back on Piper, who is the one supposedly hurting at least one of the kids.  The whole thing feels extremely unfair to Joanna.

This entire book lives for the twist. I was a little dumbfounded and confused until it hit me that … no spoilers but let me just scream UNRELIABLE NARRATORS at you!! They are my favorite psychological thriller trope and the last couple chapters, especially the last sentence of the book, had me shell shocked!

I read the entire book in two days then went back and re-read some parts to see if I missed any obvious clues.  The twist & reveal were sudden but well done, and the answers aren’t necessarily given so I got to make my own conclusions at the end.  I kept looking for redeeming characteristics for certain characters and really just…well… the character changes at the end were just too little too late for me. I’d love to discuss my conclusions with anyone that’s read it.  I appreciate the open ending though and wish those children the best!

There isn’t much to have a OneReadingNurse Medical Rant about.  The only bit that shocked me was… so the father is going to freak out over a slight fever (not really a fever) but not be concerned when everyone says Stelli looks pale?  When he’s constantly complaining of stomach aches?  Wouldn’t Leo start suspecting something?  It could have been a false lead in the book (I honestly don’t know) but I imagine Stelli’s complaints would have been taken more seriously especially since Leo knew Piper had started dosing him with something “natural,” and Leo said multiple times that the kid was a trouper and only complained when things got really bad.

Anyway anyway, I enjoyed the book quite a bit.  The Wife Stalker reads quickly and I think it is a great summertime novel for anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers.

Thank you again to Harper Books for the giveaway ARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.