Monday, May 30, 2022

Alex Finlay: The Night Shift

Alex Finlay where murders 15 years apart are only connected by one thing "Goodnight Pretty Girl":

New Years Eve 1999, the whole world is worried about whether computers will delete everything as the code 00 coming at midnight and there is a lot of chaos. But things seemed normal that night in a blockbuster just before closing up. It wasn't tell the next day where the murders discovered and a loan survivor. The killer was identified but somehow he evaded capture and there were no murders similar until 15 years later. This time a ice cream shop is targeted and there is only one girl left alive. Are these murders connected? Has the killer come back into town?  The town police don't seem to think so, but Agent Sarah Keller is not so sure, all she know is that something about the original murder investigation seem off and she has to everything she can to find the killer before more people die.

I really enjoyed Finlay's debut novel and I had high hopes for this book as well. You never know if a debut author is going to be able to capture what you enjoyed in their first book but in a different way. I am happy to say that Finlay succeeded. I personally think that it is better than Every Last Fear, his debut novel. This book was interesting, suspenseful and kept me guessing till the end (and that does not happen very often) with all the twists and turns that Finlay employs along the way. Just when you think that you have figured it out, Finlay would prove you wrong.

There are three main POV in this book, each with a different perspective of the murders / investigation what is unfolding. We have the return of the amazing Agent Keller from Finlay's first book and I am very happy that she was back in this book as she was one of the standouts in the book. This investigation is much more what we would normally see from an FBI agent in a book (no economic crimes in this one.). Ella who is the first final girl who is introduced, is now a therapist who helps people who have had major traumas in their lives and Chris Ford, now a lawyer who's brother was arrested for the Blockbuster murders but he disappeared before his trial could take place. This is part of the reason Chris became a lawyer. You really feel for Chris in the book and how he longs to find his brother every day.

Final girl idea for books seems to be a thing these days. I think i have read around 3 or 4 in the past year. I'm not sure what started the trend, but I am enjoying it but at the same time the troupe is going to become a tired one soon I think.

People keep talking about all the 90s nostalgia in this book, but other really than the murders occurring in a Blockbuster I did not find that the nostalgia aspect was that high. I mean little tidbit here and there but not so much that these points overwhelm the story.

I really enjoyed this book, it is not often that a book keeps me guessing till the end and Finlay is able to achieve that here. Highly recommended book if you like mystery / suspense novels. I cannot wait to see what Finlay comes out with next and I hope he keeps Agent Keller around.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Vincent Tirado: Burn Down, Rise Up

In Vincent Tirado's debut novel, they show the latest internet game sensation that leads missing teenagers:

Every city has it's own urban legend and they are often associated with people going missing. But people going missing is just a fact of life growing up in the Bronx and Raquel does her best to ignore it. But when her old friend and crush Charlize's cousin goes missing and Raquel mother, who is a nurse, come down with a mysterious illness, Raquel can ignore it no longer. She discovers a terrifying urban legend game called the Echo. The game is rumoured to trap the people in the echo if they go against the rules of the game. Raquel and her friends will risk it all by playing the game, to help the ones that they love. But this game is a deadly one and the Echo knows if you break the rules.

This is Tirado's debut novel and I will say that there are points within this book that it reads like a debut novel and some of the the plot points are not fully fleshed out at time. That said I found the story extremely interesting as it drew from popular culture with the internet challenges as well as a stranger things vibe with the Echo. Personally I would classify this book as a YA horror romance book as it has elements of both of these. While the horror aspects are not extreme in this book, I could see people being disturbed by some of the events that occur especially in regards to the Echo. 

The echo is such an interesting concept and I do not want to give that much away about it as part of the best part of the book revolves around the echo, but it is basically a place in time that the City, as an entity remembers. So for the Bronx it is in the 1970, when the Bronx basically burned down. I will admit, I did not know that the Bronx burned down in the 1970s, so this was a history lesson for me. I liked that Tirado explained why it was burning and what lead to it, so the background information was appreciated. I also like that they included a link to another Echo in England which showed why an Echo would occur at a certain point in time from a city.

I really enjoyed Raquel as a character. She is loyal to a fault, admits when she is wrong and will fight to the very end. She is someone you want to have your back as she will do anything possible to help you. The one aspect of the story around Raquel's character that I did not get was the Slum Lord. Raquel is extremely smart, book worm smart and you’re trying to tell me she doesn’t know what a Slum lord is? Nope don’t believe it, especially given what is wrong with her dad’s home.

Please save me from teenage romance, lol. I understand that this book is in the YA genre, so the aspects of the romance that Raquel are feeling in the book would probably be what any teenager would feel when talking to their crush and trying to tell if they like her back or not. That said, I found that the plot often got side tracked at times as Raquel was trying to figure out her feelings. I wasn't looking for a coming of age novel with this book, I was looking for the horror aspect. I think the romance could have been downplayed a bit without hindering the flow of the story, as the romance is an integral part of it and shapes some of Raquel actions, it just seemed that the romance sidetrack Raquel more that I would have liked. She seemed to forget about her mom, dad, friends and what was at stake so.

This book is probably one of the most creative novels I have read in a long time and really did enjoy the book, especially the aspect surrounding the Echo. I look forward to seeing what Tirado comes up with next.

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Monday, May 16, 2022

Katherine Center: The Bodyguard

Katherine Center shows that opposite can attract, especially when there is a stalker in the mix:

Hannah Brooks is the best of the best in the bodyguard security and you would never know she is the bodyguard, but that is what makes her so good at it. When the newest client turns out to be a famous movie star Jack Stapleton, there are a few women in the service that would love to protect his body. Hannah is not one of them, but with a job promotion on the line she knows that she cannot say no. There is just one catch, Jack does not want his family to know that Hannah is his bodyguard, so he has hatched the plan that Hannah is his girlfriend. What Hannah did not plan for was loving being in a family atmosphere and the more it starts to feel real. Protecting Jack is one thing, protecting her heart is a whole other problem.

I do not read many contemporary romance books each year, but when I do decide to pick one up it will most likely be one by Center. I love her writing style and easy way that she creates her story. This book is probably the cutest of the books that I have read by her with very much an opposite attracts type of book. This is a slow burn romance which is very much in line with the other Center books that I have read.

Hannah is a fun character, she is sure of herself and her abilities but not so sure about he love life. She seems to question everything that is relationship related even with friends. She just seems unable to tell what is true and what is not. Also she seems to have nothing for dealing with farm life, which i feel like most city people would be confused about cows and such. I especially liked how she handles her ex-boyfriend who also is her co-worker (whom is a POS and makes multiple stabs at Hannah throughout the book).

I wish there was more suspense/bodyguard action within the book. I mean I get that this falls more to the romance side of things, I just wanted something a bit more. More danger, more threats that type of thing. I just felt that by not having these things, it felt a bit redundant and slow at times.

I really liked the crazy fan that Center created for this book. I don’t think I have laughed so much in a Center book and it was 100% each time they mentioned Jack corgi-breeding stalker who has an insane ability to knit portrait sweaters and apparently take nude photo. Honestly, some of the best parts of the book were about this lady.

Another great book but Center, and while I wish there was more action in the book, it was a cute easy read that I know fans of Center will enjoy. Also bring on more corgi-loving stalkers (lol).

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Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Anne Bishop: Wild Country

In the second book in a Anne Bishop's spinoff of her Other series, she takes readers to an Others' controlled town, but there are always humans looking to take over:

There are many ghost towns throughout the world, and the Other know that it is only a matter of time before humans try to reclaim them again. Therefore, a small group of Others, Wolfgard and Sanguinati decide to reopen the town to not only Others but to humans as well. The Elders and the Others want to see if the example that has been set by the Courtyard can occur elsewhere and on a larger scale. One of these towns is Bennett, a town at the end of the rail line. A young female police officer is hired to help manage the people and more humans come to open stores. But with the good also come the bad, those that covet more; more money, more power and they wish to control Bennett. The people and other will have to uncover the Blackstone Clan before it is too late and the town is in ruin.

I really enjoyed this story, town and characters that Bishop introduces in this story, and there are a few nods back to the Courtyard as well (which is always appreciated). I was a bit confused as to why this is the second book in the spin off series as it takes place at the same time as the final book in the The Other series, Etched in Bone, therefore, also before Lake Silence. So it was a little confusing to me why Bishop would have this book second, but as the stories do not connect I guess it does not matter overall. Though,  I was hoping that this book would connect in some way to the Juke from the first book as I enjoyed the characters and story in this one.

I really like Jana as a character and her wanting to follow her passion to be a police officer but is only going to be accepted as one in an Other controlled town. I like that she holds her own with the Wolves, mainly Virgil Wolfgard and he calls her the Wolverine, but at the same time knows that she needs to learn their different customs and accept them if she is going to stay. Jana grows throughout the story and it is great to watch her do it. I would have read the book still if it was just her POV, as I really enjoyed her as a character.

The bad guys in this book are quite different from the other books, yes they are still human but they are Inuit, people who would normally respect the Other and are often thought of by the Others as better than other humans. It was interesting to see how they used their gifts to take advantage of people or for the bad sides of things instead of good.

There are quite a few POV in this book, and it can be a bit confusing at times, especially if you have not read any other books in this series, as this is standard for Bishop. Some POV are obviously more prominent than other, but just when you think you have met all the POV, Bishop throws another one at you. This does allow the story to be pretty well rounded, but it can be much at the beginning to keep everyone straight.

These books seem to follow a similar formula, Humans try to take more that what they are allowed and try to force the Others out (stupid Humans) and the Other have to show Humans once again that they are considered Prey. Still I enjoyed the story and I continue to read this series as I love the world that Bishop has created, I just want something a bit fresh each time other than characters.

I really like that Bishop has traveled outside of the Courtyard and more into the Wild Country. I think that it offers new stories for her to explore, and even though the books have seemed a little formulated i enjoyed this story and look forward to continuing on in this series.

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Sunday, May 1, 2022

Leanne Kale Sparks: The Wrong Woman

In her debut novel, Leanne Kale Sparks shows what happens when you mess with the Wrong Woman:
FBI Agent Kendall Beck, is on the one of the toughest cases, a missing child case that turns into a child abuse case and Kendall will stop at nothing to bring justice to the victim. But everything is de-railed when Kendall's best friend and roommate goes missing while driving her vehicle. Kendall wants to be part of the investigation but it is out of her jurisdiction, and when Gwen turns up dead, Kendall drops everything, she needs to find the killer as it seems to be connected to Kendall’s past.
I feel like you can tell that this is a debut novel as Kale Sparks tries to take on too much in one book. There are three very different stories/cases presented in this book, all of which could have been their own books. I think this is why the story felt unfocused at times.The book starts out very interesting with the separate cases and you do not know how the investigations are going to intersect or how the investigators are going to work together and it takes around 20% of the book to get there.

I felt like for the most part of the story she did not focus on the child abduction/abuse case, like it was not important enough for her and solely wanted to help/focus on her friend's disappearance. It was like she forgot about her actual job/case to the point that it felt like Kale Sparks forgot about the other case and the direction she wanted to take the story. It is not till the end that she seems to finally remember she had a case she was supposed to work. I think that Kale Sparks just didn't know what type of book she wanted to write, so changed focus many times.

I liked Kendall as a character when you first meet her and she does what I think a lot of people would do with a child abuser but after that point I felt like i she didn't grow as a character or as an investigator.

I think that Kale Sparks has the ability to write and does have great ideas for stories to follow with her characters presented here, but i think there needs to be follow less is more. There does not need to be multiple cases happening at once in order to captivate their audience. A good who-done-it does not need this. However, I look forward to seeing how Kale Sparks matures as an author.

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