Book Review: Thriller & Suspense

Book Review: Restless Souls and Shallow Graves by Rebecca McNutt

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Today I am sharing a review of a short story by a fellow blogger, Rebecca McNutt. Check out her blog @ https://rebeccamcnuttcobwebs.blogspot.com/

Restless Souls and Shallow Graves: A Short StoryRestless Souls and Shallow Graves: A Short Story by Rebecca McNutt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In this short story by Rebecca McNutt, we are treated to a few scenes between gravediggers during a rainy day; can you already feel the suspense, thrills, and drama? Restless Souls and Shallow Graves is one of many stories Rebecca has written, but it’s the first I’ve selected to read. There will be more in the future, and if this is a hint at what’s to come, she will have a wonderful writing career.

I enjoyed the imagery and foreshadowing in the story. The plot, not lengthy nor complex, is just enough to whet your appetite. You know they’re digging graves. You get some backstory. You feel a bit of tension but perhaps some respect. There’s something else going on, yet we can’t quite tell what might be happening.

The story is dark but not morbid. It provides great character insight between dialog and descriptions, but it also allows for you to decide for yourself what you think of each protagonist. I like the similes when comparing who someone looks like, but the drops of rain are the most effectively described. I could almost feel them. Looking forward to more.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

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Book Review: Recycled Love by George Henry

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Recycled LoveRecycled Love by George Henry
Recycled Love is the second book I’ve read by George Henry. While undeniably the same witty and strong writing style, there is a huge difference in the ultimate genre of the story and the complexity of all the relationships between the characters. Since I am a larger fan of mystery than I am action adventure, I must say, I found this one even better. That said, both are jam-packed full of thrills and suspense, so you’ll enjoy either no matter which you choose.

One of my (if not the most) favorite books is ‘And Then There Were None’ by Agatha Christie. When you have ~10 possible suspects in a murder(s), and you knock them off one by one, it’s kinda exhilarating to see how it all turns out. While Recycled Love doesn’t kill off victims one by one, it does throw out a cast of ~10 suspects for a previous string of murders. Through (mostly) the eyes of Dan, we get to know all his traveling companions, eager to discover which one (or couple) is lying about their identity. Where this reminded me a bit of the Christie tale (not in style but in format and POV approach) is that the author carefully drops enough clues that we as readers should’ve realized much sooner what was going on. Henry gives us ~10 suspects but he also gives us ~10 very different backstories, motives, and versions of chaos to unravel.

The characters are well drawn. A few were absolutely horrible people, but they served their purpose. One in particular (a certain ruthless mother) was the most unrealistic person I could’ve ever met…but her over-the-top dramatics were truly fantastic to witness and experience. From there, the traveling companions all grow exorbitantly decisive and intense. Henry throws us back and forth in deciding which couples should get together. Sometimes it’s a shocker, others it makes sense. What popped the most for me in this story was the severity of the international antics that occurred. It mostly takes place in India and Nepal, and Henry takes great care to show the kinder and the more miserable aspects of living in these countries, dependent upon your wealth and connections. I couldn’t possibly tell if this happens in the real world but from a book’s perspective, it made for excellent drama.

If you like action/adventure, a bit of romance, tons of suspense and thrilling chases, as well as an intense psychological ride of the mind, drugs, and alcohol, you’ll come away with a wonderful new author to add to your top lists. Be prepared, you will never be comfortable because Henry likes to jolt you when you least expect it.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Breakdown by Sara Paretsky

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Breakdown  (V.I. Warshawski, #15)Breakdown by Sara Paretsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The ‘V.I. Warshawski’ books by Sara Paretsky were one of the first mystery series that I began reading years ago. I’d stopped reading for a few years, then when I picked ’em up again, I’d somehow forgotten this one. I added it to my TBR and recently decided to get caught up this summer. After the first chapter, I thought… ‘oh no, this isn’t very good.’ But I persisted and forced myself to finish it while procrastinating about packing for a trip. By about 10% in, I was hooked again. I’m happy to share my feedback on this book, and if you’ve struggled with the first few chapters, push yourself to get past them. It’ll be worth it.

Warshawski is a tough-as-nails Chicago private eye, reminiscent of the Golden Age detectives from nearly a century ago… with one difference: V.I. is a woman! Tougher than Kinsey Millhone but with a feminine side and a tenderness for some of her family, Victoria Iphigenia is the person you’d want to find the killer. It doesn’t matter if she gets beaten up, shot, drugged, tortured, or stabbed, V.I. always pulls through in the end. In this novel, her cousin, Petra, is running a book group for preteens, and the latest craze is a YA vampire / paranormal series. When some of the girls act out a ritual in the nearby cemetery, they’re unfortunately in for a lot more than expected. Another private eye is stabbed with a stake by a murderer who reminds the girls of a vampire. Throw in a few parents with political ambitions, a wealthy international business mogul, some Nazi / Polish immigrant histories, and a few vengeful but loving mothers, and you’ve got quite a story.

At first, the vampire angle threw me off. I felt like it was gimmicky and silly, not the Warshawski I knew. But once it began settling out, and I ignored the way the preteen girls behaved (seriously, one was just a witch because she didn’t want to get in trouble–and with a murder ten feet from her, what kind of parenting led to that abomination of a child who thought it acceptable to act so spoiled and lie for such reasons!) Then the subplots began to take over, and I felt like the meat and substance were front and center. I enjoyed the twisty path, the historical connections to wars of the past, and the methodical approach to solving the crime.

I’m glad I picked up the series again and will order the next one when I return from vacation. There are 4 more before I’m current, so I can finish them this summer… then what will I read if all my tough female detective series are up to date!?!?! If you haven’t read these before, you don’t necessarily have to go in order, as V.I.’s life is fairly low-key. A few people that die in later books might be alive in earlier ones, so the order could be confusing, but never in regard to the main mystery. Onward I go…

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: The Mirror Pond Murders by Ted Haynes

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The Mirror Pond Murders (Northwest Murder Mysteries #2)The Mirror Pond Murders by Ted Haynes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Mirror Pond Murders is the second book in the ‘Northwest Murder Mysteries’ and was published by Ted Haynes in 2019. I enjoyed the first book, Suspects, last year and said yes when offered an opportunity to read this follow-up in the series. While there are elements of suspense and thrills, the book falls under the classic mystery genre, offering deep insight into the characters and a grave look at the past. Let’s chat a bit about the story.

A skeleton is dug up in the Mirror Pond in former Native American territory in Oregon. Based on an agreement with the tribe, the state must make every effort to properly address remains that might belong to them. An autopsy is performed, citing potential Cherokee or Asian heritage; not enough is left behind to be sure. However, they do know a few things about the victim, and when Sarah Chatham, an attorney handling the case, hears those facts, she’s stunned. It’s her long-lost sister, and Sarah wants answers.

Haynes has a simple but direct storytelling style. The POV and perspective of this book changes by chapter to cover several key characters, including the local police, the representative of a local tribe, a few involved lawyers, and a couple of others who I will leave out for now (no spoilers). While several of these characters continue from the first book, we find unexpected connections in the stories that provide a fantastic surprise and “ah-ha” moment. I am really fond of the way the author connected the two books, as it’s not obvious at first. I remembered some of the names and the key plot elements, but I’d forgotten a few of the details that were important to this case. Luckily, Haynes does a superb job at covering the past info without it feeling repetitive or unnecessary.

While the book touches on Native American culture, it’s primary focus is on a spiritual religion that was popular in the 1980s in Oregon. See more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rajnees…. I was unfamiliar with the history of Rajneesh but glad to learn more about it. Haynes takes some of the facts from these events and uses them as a backdrop to his murder mystery. When he connects the death of Sarah’s sister to this cult and to someone else we’ve met before, it becomes quite a spiderweb. One of my favorite things about the book is how methodical Haynes’s characters are; the 2 or 3 primary ones searching for Sarah are lawyers, so they are required to do certain things in order to ensure they can convict someone of the crime. Haynes makes it easy to follow but intriguing.

Another cool aspect of this story is a sub-plot revolving around a main character’s wife, who we met in the prior book, and her disinterest in conversing with the not-so-nice father who abandoned her years ago. He’s got a connection to the main story, which makes everything fit together nicely. Haynes has a clear and consistent writing style. A few times, a new chapter starts off with some time having passed. I wanted to know more about how he got from A to B, but that’s just my reading style and preference. It was certainly an opening shocker when he revealed something out of the blue, but it drew me further into the book too. On a few other occasions, I felt a slight distance between the characters and me as a reader. It might be an effect of the author’s writing style for lawyers processing a case, but I would have liked a bit more emotional connection in those few instances. For example, Sarah is obviously hurt over the loss of her sister and something else that happens, but she handles it too stoically for me. I understand who she was as a character and why Haynes probably took that approach, but at the same time, a bit more would’ve endeared her to me at the right level.

All that said, the mystery is strong. The tone is even and procedural in a good way. There are several surprises I hadn’t expected. I really loved the way the two books were connected. I’m definitely interested to read more from the author in this series or anything else he starts. It’s a different kind of read in some ways, but also a very easy one to digest and understand. Kudos for a solid follow-up that I believe was stronger than his debut in this series.

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You can pre-order now via Amazon and it will launch June 17th!

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Sea Scope by Debbie

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Sea ScopeSea Scope by Debbie De Louise
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sea Scope is the first book I’ve read by Debbie De Louise. It’s a mystery / suspense / thriller novel with a bunch of light moments and several page-turning-gotta-find-the-killer moments. I enjoy books with a great balance, especially when the author also throws in fun facts about the history of lighthouses. I should also mention, a small portion of the book takes place on Long Island, not too far from where I grew up. Of course, I have to read it, right?

Let’s pique your interest a little… someone died in a lighthouse ~20 years ago. All but one member of the family left town. An aunt stayed behind and recently reopened the lighthouse as a bed and breakfast. Before inviting paying guests, she convinces her family and a few friends, who’d been around at the time the man previously died, to visit for a few days again. Although that long-ago death had been ruled a suicide, the facts never quite lined up. A drunk mother. A dead father. A peculiar maid. Her estranged daughter. A recent accident. A marriage falling apart. Rekindled sparks. Another death. We’re all too smart to believe in coincidences like those, so what really happened at Sea Scope ~20 years ago, and how is a dead guy leaving behind phone messages and cryptic notes with crayons, his calling card in his younger (and more alive) days?

At first, I was intrigued by the plot but it was a slow burn. We had hints of an unnatural death, but nothing concrete. We were being led to believe one thing about the victim only to learn many other peculiar things that didn’t fit together (until later on). I started to really engage in the story at about 40% and couldn’t put it down until the very end. I love when books creep at you for a bit before drop-kicking you into their clutches. From a character perspective, I found flaws and potential reasons why they’d all be responsible for the previous murder and the current shenanigans. No one was completely good in my eyes, even the primary character, Sarah, had some curious moments. I like when an author keeps the main players in a gray space.

From a plot perspective, De Louise took us places I hadn’t expected. I knew two characters were ‘involved’ somehow, but when the chips completely fell, the alliances and ties and relationships were far deeper than I imagined. What a family! What an imagination! Kudos to De Louise for pushing the envelope a bit without going into specific details. We get a clear picture of the truth, but we also have a nice layer between us and the impacts it’s left behind. It made for a great story with a ton of red herrings and a brilliant confrontation in the end. There were complex layers, which made some characters see one thing, and others see another thing. Who do you believe? Although we get an ending, it’s the type of novel where you walk away thinking… I’m not sure the story ended there. What sorta tricks does this author have up her sleeve for the future!?!? I’d be thrilled with a follow-up, so no complaints here.

I’m glad I took a chance on a new author… and I look forward to more things to come from her future!

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: The Ghost by H. Berkeley Rourke

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The GhostThe Ghost by H. Berkeley Rourke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Ghost, a thriller, is the first novel I’ve read by author H. Berkeley Rourke. It will not be the last because I find myself very in-sync with his writing style, plot, and characters. Imagine a rapist is loose on a college campus where the administration refuses to do anything but squash all reports? They’re afraid of the school’s reputation and will do anything to keep it under wraps… until the latest victim dies after attempting to report the truth to campus security. All bets are off then, and Rourke takes you on a wild ride of deception, corruption, and salvation. We’ve then got a serial killer on our hands, fellow readers.

From perusing the notes at the beginning and end of the book, I learned this was partially based on some realities, of course, with appropriate author liberties. To think that any administration would keep something like this quiet is abominable. I want to believe that level of dirtiness doesn’t exist, but unfortunately it does. Rourke takes the basic elements of a failed system to show how victims can easily be further harmed after a rape, if proper action and treatment isn’t received. By putting readers at the center of the crimes, we’re almost experiencing the pain ourselves. I wanted to throttle the campus security officers, then the administration, and finally, a few other players who did the least they could. A great writer makes you feel that way; it’s never just the plot alone.

Rourke is direct and blunt in his style. There are no flowery passages that weave you through the life of a victim or the rapist. Through mostly third-person (we do get some passages from the rapist in poetry / first-person narrative), we follow every ‘logical’ step to get from the initial attack to the capture of the villain. I make a point of saying this because the author ramped up the suspense by doing this. I kept flipping pages because the action was so clear, I felt some of the racing heart moments when the cops were getting close to solving the case or discovering the corruption. I loved that approach. Some other stories focus for chapters on the secondary impacts of the crimes (which are also great reads), but it was here where I felt wholly involved and invested in the chase-down-the-bad-guy-and-kill-him mode.

The protagonist, a female cop whose family comes from Mexico, adds a strong arc from both her personal stance on the crimes and the focus / goals of her job. She’s likable, forceful, and crosses the line where necessary to get her job done — always to protect the victim and catch the criminal. It makes you wonder whether always playing by the rules when trying to capture the bad guy is worth it… true, we have to worry about the law and punishment being fair, but still… when the creep is as bad as this one, do whatever’s necessary to stop him! Rourke delivered this story with passion, and while some may want more of the emotional side in what has happened to the victims, this isn’t that type of story. This is the procedure and passion of nailing the rapist to the proverbial wall! Really, really enjoyed its conclusion too.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz

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The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye (Millennium, #5)The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My reading style is eclectic, and I’d probably use the same term to describe this series and book. I first picked up the ‘Millennium’ series when I saw all the hype and read the description of the published novels. I particularly love genealogical mysteries, and when you toss in some thrills and suspense, it’s likely a good fit for my reading preferences. I absolutely adored and rated The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in my top books of all time. I read the next two in the series and was saddened over the author’s death but excited to see another writer’s take on the characters and setting.

Lagercrantz is a worthy successor, and someday, I will read one of his prior books too. I’m troubled when reviewers complain about the choice of a new author to to continue writing a series because all they do is compare the two and start out with a pessimistic attitude. I prefer to have some sense of an open mind and look for the positive in a new take on an old favorite. I’m also an optimist and respect an author’s efforts and talent and find it difficult to give something a poor rating unless it was absolutely ridden with errors and issues. Hence… for Lagercrantz’s versions, I enjoy the style, writing quality, different views, and continuation of a fantastic concept. The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye is the second of his in this series that I’ve read, and while it was a good read, there were a few items that didn’t work in totality for me. I ended up at a 3.5 rating, comfortably rounding upward to account for all the effort that goes into a series and taking over another author’s work.

One of my favorite aspects was the revisit to Lisbeth’s childhood when abuse formulated her outlook on life. In an earlier book, when we learned the extent to which she’d been attacked and damaged, I felt horrific sorrow for her. Seeing what else happened, via this book, I’m even more devastated. Initially, I thought… wait, is this a history rewrite? I didn’t go back to compare the timelines and actions, as I’m sure the editors and author’s did their justice… but I did find myself wondering how this aligned with Zala’s influence on his daughter, Lisbeth. I’m kinda hoping to get a book dedicated to Agneta, Lisbeth’s mother, as there is a bigger story there – I’m certain! For me, these characters are so flawed, yet so lovable (not in a cozy way, but in an ‘I want to help you’ way). Learning what they went through and what forced them to become the people they are today… that is excellent character development. Possibly over-the-top in a few places (not unlike the whole series… just a bit more in this book), I put aside my ‘hmmm…’ attitude and focused on what bond must exist between Mikael and Lisbeth to support each other through these tragedies. These are two friends we should all have. I particularly enjoyed the Muslim-focused story-line, and I was irate over the way these men treated their sister (and in general how certain attitudes still prevail).

The translation (actually, was it translated? The originals were, but I’m honestly not sure about these ones. Did the author write originally in his own language? I checked and the Swedish and English versions came out on the same day.) was good and offered new vocabulary for me to learn. I found some of the individual scenes a bit repetitive, but they moved the story forward. The end was satisfying in terms of catching the bad guys (sort of), but I wanted it to be more of a showdown. The sixth book in the series comes out later this year, and I’m going to try to read it relatively quickly close to this one, as I suspect some of the ending components will continue into it. What did everyone else think of this book?

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.