Review: Thirteen – Steve Cavanagh

Eddie Flynn #4

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: They were Hollywood’s hottest power couple. They had the world at their feet. Now one of them is dead and Hollywood star Robert Solomon is charged with the brutal murder of his beautiful wife.

This is the celebrity murder trial of the century and the defence want one man on their team: con artist turned lawyer Eddie Flynn.

All the evidence points to Robert’s guilt, but as the trial begins a series of sinister incidents in the court room start to raise doubts in Eddie’s mind.

What if there’s more than one actor in the courtroom?

What if the killer isn’t on trial? What if the killer is on the jury? – via Goodreads

You know, this book impressed me because I really didn’t expect much from it at all. I did not know that it was a part of a series because it didn’t read like it was. Sure, references are made which will likely make way more sense if you have read the other books in the series, but did not stand out as an issue while reading, like you were missing something. Mentions of past actions or characters, etc. just felt like musings in the book, or indicators of how certain things came together, and it is rare that a book in a series can be read so successfully as a standalone.

Okay, now that I have marvelled the ability of the novel as a standalone, let’s get to the story itself. It was quite an interesting one, though it does require you suspend reality altogether, otherwise you are going to have a bad time. The pacing is super fast, and the book barrels along, which makes for an entertaining and fast read. The plot is constantly twisting and turning (albeit predictably at times), it is still fun. There are also quite a few characters to like in here.

It was pretty cool to read about this crazypants killer, but the reality of the killer did not quite live up to my expectations completely, but then again, maybe that is just due to the “suspend belief” thing. I found Thirteen to be quite a solid book for the story it tells. I liked it enough that I would happily check out other books in the series at some point. I would definitely recommend Thirteen if you are looking for a fast paced, crazy thriller, as it will definitely deliver on those fronts.

Review: Odd Thomas – Dean Koontz

Odd Thomas #1

SYNOPSIS: “The dead don’t talk. I don’t know why.” But they do try to communicate, with a short-order cook in a small desert town serving as their reluctant confidant. Odd Thomas thinks of himself as an ordinary guy, if possessed of a certain measure of talent at the Pico Mundo Grill and rapturously in love with the most beautiful girl in the world, Stormy Llewellyn.

Maybe he has a gift, maybe it’s a curse, Odd has never been sure, but he tries to do his best by the silent souls who seek him out. Sometimes they want justice, and Odd’s otherworldly tips to Pico Mundo’s sympathetic police chief, Wyatt Porter, can solve a crime. Occasionally they can prevent one. But this time it’s different.

A mysterious man comes to town with a voracious appetite, a filing cabinet stuffed with information on the world’s worst killers, and a pack of hyena-like shades following him wherever he goes. Who the man is and what he wants, not even Odd’s deceased informants can tell him. His most ominous clue is a page ripped from a day-by-day calendar for August 15.

Today is August 14.

In less than twenty-four hours, Pico Mundo will awaken to a day of catastrophe. As evil coils under the searing desert sun, Odd travels through the shifting prisms of his world, struggling to avert a looming cataclysm with the aid of his soul mate and an unlikely community of allies that includes the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. His account of two shattering days when past and present, fate and destiny converge is the stuff of our worst nightmares, and a testament by which to live: sanely if not safely, with courage, humor, and a full heart that even in the darkness must persevere. – via Goodreads

So for years I have been meaning to get to these books after I watched Odd Thomas and learned that the movie was based on book. I, contrary to what most people felt, really enjoyed the movie. I thought it was fun. I didn’t see the twist coming. I adore Yelchin, so it all worked. So then I finally got myself together and actually got to reading this the other day and, well… yeah. I liked it. I just didn’t love it. I wanted more from it.

Odd Thomas breezes by. Seriously, it is an easy book to read, and the characters are fun, albeit a little thin. There is the Elvis angle, and then there is Odd himself, who is truly just a sweetheart, simple and pure. There is the whole backstory with his mother that could legitimately be way more messed up than was delivered here (who knows, it might be different in later books), but I just felt it was a little flat, like just glossed over? Plus two, what a hideous woman. His dad, too, was no real great shakes.

I enjoyed the story well enough, and as I said, it breezes by. It was an easy read, nothing too hectic to commit to, nothing too major to sink your teeth into, so that means you feel that you have missed a little by the end of it. It leaves you feeling a little wanting. That being said, I had a good time reading Odd Thomas and will read more of the books at some point, though I won’t be rushing for the next in the series anytime soon if I’m being honest. I suppose Odd Thomas prescribed to the typical Dean Koontz recipe of being entertaining and fun and all that, but not really staying long after as it doesn’t pack a major punch.

Review: Her Last Secret – Barbara Copperthwaite

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: There are some secrets you can never tell.

The last thing to go through Dominique Thomas’s head was the image of her teenage daughter’s face and her heart lifted. Then the shot rang out.

They were the perfect family. Successful businessman Ben Thomas and his wife Dominique live an enviable life, along with their beautiful children; teenager Ruby and quirky younger daughter, Mouse.

But on Christmas Day the police are called to their London home, only to discover a horrific scene; the entire family lying lifeless, victims of an unknown assailant.

But when Ruby’s diary is discovered, revealing her rage at the world around her, police are forced to look closer to home for the key to this tragedy.

Each family member harboured their own dark truths – but has keeping their secrets pushed Ruby to the edge of sanity? Or are there darker forces at work? – via Goodreads

Okay, so this one was something that I went back and forth on. I was interested, but I was also frustrated with the pacing of it, as well as the slew of characters and the rate the reveals were put forth. Not because it was agony to wait for the next reveal, but because there was a bit of drag between things. That being said, Her Last Secret is not a bad read.

There are an array of characters, and you are introduced to each one and their struggles, and get a clear look at how communication could have made such a difference here. Ruby suffers extreme bullying at the hands of her school peers and only has her boyfriend Harry to prop her up, and resents her parents for not seeing there is something wrong. Dom is dealing with Ben cheating on her, and is so fixated on that and wrapped up in it and keeping her family going she is missing everything. Ben is a cheating dweeb who is so wrapped up in stroking his ego by having a mistress and proving to the world he is so important. The only person who might not know exactly what is going on but is more aware of the distance and issues between people is Amber, the youngest.

All the characters have their own secrets, and all of these come together to paint a bigger picture at the end of the day, and it is an interesting one. The book flips between the lead up to Christmas day and the events of Christmas day. This works, but sometimes you totally forget that there is a flip back to Christmas day, so when it happens it is rather jarring.

Her Last Breath is a decent read and has a pretty good story to it. You can see the innocence of youth, the desperation and powerless of it, too, as well as the issues that come up when you are an adult. I like that it deals with a lot of themes, and it handles them well. While the writing sometimes frustrated me in terms of laying things out, I was certainly engaged. The final third of the book definitely barrels along and finally ties everything together and it does smoothly. I thought this was worth the read.

Review: The Roses of May – Dot Hutchison

The Collector #2

SYNOPSIS: Four months after the explosion at the Garden, a place where young women known as the Butterflies were kept captive, FBI agents Brandon Eddison, Victor Hanoverian, and Mercedes Ramirez are still entrenched in the aftermath, helping survivors in the process of adjusting to life on the outside. With winter coming to an end, the Butterflies have longer, warmer days of healing ahead. But for the agents, the impending thaw means one gruesome thing: a chilling guarantee that somewhere in the country, another young woman will turn up dead in a church with her throat slit and her body surrounded by flowers.

Priya Sravasti’s sister fell victim to the killer years ago. Now she and her mother move every few months, hoping for a new beginning. But when she ends up in the madman’s crosshairs, the hunt takes on new urgency. Only with Priya’s help can the killer be found—but will her desperate hope for closure compel her to put her very life on the line? – via Goodreads

I gave The Butterfly Garden a read quite some time ago, and while I liked it, I didn’t love it. It requires a lot of suspended belief before you can get into it, but if you picture it all happening in some alternate reality, it works. I was interested to see how Hutchison would continue the story of the escaped butterflies and all the trauma that followed, so I picked this up at the first opportunity I got.

The Roses of May is completely different from what I was expecting. For one, the butterflies are not the focus of this one or the aftermath of the explosion. This is not a bad thing at all, just unexpected. In a series titled The Collector, I was expecting more of… I don’t know, the Gardner collecting more girls? His trial? Anyway. The story focuses of a young girl named Priya, whose sister was brutally murdered years ago by a serial killer, and it is likely he is stalking her. We get a long look into Priya’s life and mind and relationship with her mother Deshani, and it is something I quite enjoyed.

The agents of The Butterfly Garden return, and we learn so many more things about Eddison, Hanoverian, and Ramirez. I find that really interesting, as in the first book they were just there as the officials getting the story out of Inara, whereas here they are characters with lives and emotions and everything. I was interested in how Hutchison brought Priya, Bliss and Inara together, too, and thought it worked quite well.

The Roses of May is a little predictable, but the writing (I feel) is more solid this time around. It reads faster and with less drag. I know there is a lot of comparison in this review between  this and the first book, but the first book essentially set things up that this was to continue, and made the agents minor characters, etc. so the expectation going into this was totally different.  While predictable, it does not take away from it being an entertaining read nonetheless. I enjoyed reading about Priya in the park with the veterans playing chess, and it was nice to read about the relationship between Priya and Eddison, too.

The Roses of May is worth the read, that’s for sure. Hutchison polished up some of the issues from the first book, and gives us another compelling story to get into.

Review: I Know Where She Is – S.B. Caves

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: On the tenth anniversary of her daughter Autumn’s abduction, Francine receives an anonymous note containing just five words: I KNOW WHERE SHE IS

When a young woman approaches her the next day claiming to have sent the letter Francine wants to dismiss it as a cruel, twisted joke.

But the stranger knows things that only Autumn would know.

It soon becomes clear that Francine must go to dark places in order to learn the truth about her child’s kidnapping.

She will discover that danger comes from unexpected sources. She will do things she never imagined herself capable of.

But will Francine get her daughter back – or is it too late? – via Goodreads

You know, I picked this out a while ago, but never got to it. I recently decided to give it a go, and I had just finished Jaycee Dugard’s A Stolen Life, and drew so many parallels between this fictitious world and her horrible experience. Not because I was supposed to, but Dugard’s story was so fresh in my mind, the concept of snatched kids returning after all that time, hence the link for me, I suppose, because they aren’t really alike aside from that.

Right off, I would like to say that there are absolutely no likeable characters in this book. Francine, our main peanut and perpetually grieving mother, is just… meh. I understood the concept of her, and I felt for her, but this does not mean that I had to like her. And I didn’t. Next up in her permanently exasperated husband. Sure, another character I understood and felt for, but again didn’t like. Not to mention all the other characters peppered throughout this novel, none of them with actual stories, none of them real characters, but there to move the story along. While that was hollow at times, it also served the purpose really well that the only two characters who actually really meant anything were Autumn and her mother, for better or worse.

I think the concept was decent, and you know, nobody wants to think of the ugly world we live in, and that some seriously sick, nasty stuff really does happen. This book hits on that, but there are a lot of things that remain vague and never detail out, and are never explored in more depth. For instance, the pregnant girls, where the babies go, who raises them, how much more of this could possibly go on, how extensive it is, how the cops are involved but nobody is saying anything – so many loose ends. Still, you are drawn in and the story hooks you pretty early on.

I Know Where She Is wasted no time in getting started and barrelled along throughout the time I read it. It was also a quick read, and I think the flow of it helped a lot for that, too, and it quite well written. Even with its flaws, it is an engaging read, one you would like to know what happens, and what has happened, although you might not get the most satisfactory answers in those quests. But the story is good, Autumn is the only decent character, and it all comes together alright. I see that many people enjoyed this more than I did, but I think it might just have been the fact that I expected more from the conspiracy and brutality of it all, and a more well thought-out read than was ultimately delivered. Still, not a bad read, especially if you want something fast that has dark sections to it.

Review: I Know A Secret – Tess Gerritsen

Rizzoli & Isles #12

I received this in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: The crime scene is unlike any that Detective Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles have ever before encountered. The woman lies in apparently peaceful repose on her bed, and Maura finds no apparent cause of death, but there is no doubt the woman is indeed dead. The victim’s eyes have been removed and placed in the palm of her hand, a gesture that echoes the terrifying films she produces. Is a crazed movie fan reenacting scenes from those disturbing films?

When another victim is found, again with no apparent cause of death, again with a grotesquely staged crime scene, Jane and Maura realize the killer has widened his circle of targets. He’s chosen one particular woman for his next victim, and she knows he’s coming for her next. She’s the only one who can help Jane and Maura catch the killer.

But she knows a secret. And it’s a secret she’ll never tell.  – via Goodreads

As you all probably know, I am a long time reader of Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles series, and I was pretty excited to be granted an advanced copy of the latest novel in this series, and I got to it as soon as possibly. I Know A Secret is a relatively fast read, but this is truly one of the novels in this series I found to be rather flat. Hear me out…

For starters, I Know A Secret never hits the heights you expect it to. It starts off running, but doesn’t ever go anywhere. Some grisly deaths, to be sure, but nothing special, not on the death scene, but the investigation. It just feels like it never goes anywhere, like there are moments it wants to break out and go somewhere, but instead it just gets stuck. All the material comes across as a rehash of sections of the previous novels and offers up nothing new.

There is no real character development here, either. Twelve books down, you would expect some more development coming in, because so many situations have been set up in previous books, and instead all just feels tired. Gerritsen explores nothing new, and instead just falls back into old patterns – Angela leaves Frank (thank goodness), Barry Frost returns to his ex-wife, Alice, and Maura and Daniel run right back into each other’s arms. Just like that, we are back to where we were a couple of books ago – no real growth or change, unfortunately. I thought there would be some major changes, especially with Amalthea Lank passing on. On that note, it also felt like she was forced into this, and I honestly thought she would have more to do with the book, especially after the way the novel opened.

I was quite pleased to read about Gabriel once again, though my (constant) wish is still that he would feature more prominently in the books, he is a great character, and he and Jane work really well together when we go get to read about them. I did like the concept of this book – kids being hunted down and butchered after all being involved in some heavy witch hunt as kids, and one that seems to be rather flimsy as the novel progresses. Holly Devine, too, was a character I never warmed to. She sort of felt like a caricature of a dangerous character, not someone who was actually dangerous. She had the potential to be more, but just like the rest of this novel, she just felt a bit tired

I Know A Secret is not a terrible read, and there were aspects I enjoyed, I just felt that it was quite a flat affair when all was said and done, an idea that never really spread its wings and took flight. It was uninspiring all round, and I am hoping that the next instalment proves to be a worthier addition of the series.

Review: The Follower – Koethi Zan

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.


Julie has the perfect life.

A kind boyfriend, loving parents and good grades. She has everything ahead of her.

Cora’s life is a nightmare.

A psychopath for a husband, a violent father and a terrible secret. There’s no way out.

But one night, their worlds collide.

Locked in an isolated house together, they must work out what has happened – and who they can trust to set them free. – via Goodreads

Well, what a read this has been! The Follower is a pretty quick read, and rather messed up. I do not say that in a disparaging way, you all know how I like a dark, gritty psychological thriller, and I must say that I feel Zan delivered on those fronts.

It takes a while for The Follower to find its rhythm, but when it does, the story barrels along. It maintains a creepy, depressing feeling to it the whole time, even though the actual horrendous parts are mostly glossed over. It is the setting and the snippets of information that we glean as we progress and the repercussions and consequences of actions that highlight the horrors that the characters have faced in the past, and what they are presently up against.

I must be honest and say that I did not like any of the characters in the book really. Adam is supposed to be one of the three main characters, but he just grated on me, and was unhealthily obsessed, and the biggest plot holes came from him without a doubt. Then there is Julie, and you would expect the kidnap victim to be more of a main character in this, but the shining glory all goes to Cora, which makes this book very strange. Julie you sympathise with, you want her to escape and overcome all the awful things that Cora and James are putting her though, but the book spends a large chunk of time focusing on Cora, and the damaged individual she is, and how exactly she got to this place in her life.

There is a lot of religious fanaticism going on here, and I am interested in reading about cults, and the people that get sucked into them. Unfortunately, most fiction in that genre doesn’t live up to that and doesn’t hold your attention. There is crazy cult like stuff going down here, and it is important, but mostly this book focuses of Cora, and how James and his crazy views have infected her life, and how she has internalised it all. It works though. The book is definitely very character driven.

I found The Follower to be quite a decent read. Not the best in this genre, but it was just fine. It takes a while to get into, but as soon as you get into the flow, it zips by. One of my biggest issues was the end though, but the book worked well enough to override my distaste for that close. Surprisingly, even with characters you either can’t relate to or just don’t like, the book remains engaging throughout.

Rapid Review: The Nice Guys (2016)

the nice guys poster

“I think I’m invincible… I don’t think I can die!”
– Holland March

SYNOPSIS: A mismatched pair of private eyes investigate the apparent suicide of a porn star in 1970s Los Angeles. – via IMDB

the nice guys gun toss

GRADE 7You know, I went into this with pretty high expectations. Not impossible, but pretty high. You all know I freaking love Lethal Weapon and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. I wasn’t expecting anything on that level, but I was expecting more than I got. The Nice Guys looked and sounded good, I will give it that. The outfits were fantastic and it was shot well, and the movie did pay attention to little details, and I always appreciate the smaller things. It was consistent with that, too. I also really liked the ’70’s vibe here, it was great. But then there were the pitfalls. For one, the little girl irked me. Hell yeah she did. What the heck is up with Shane Black writing in these pesky little kids as huge characters (hem hem Iron Man 3)?! It is so grating. Not because Angourie Rice isn’t a decent young actress, but because I do not want to be watching a movie with private investigators and having them drag some obnoxious little rugrat around. Okay, I will stop there on that. As you can tell that irritated me no end. Moving on from the little girl, the movie isn’t as smart as it would like to be, either, and the humour was not as sharp, and the dialogue was not as witty as I was expecting from someone like Shane Black. The cast was really good though, all things aside. Gosling was on fine form here (though I expected no less, and he can totally handle a comedic role), and Crowe was solid, as always. The two also work wonders with each other, so at least Black’s pairings still work without a hitch. There were scenes that entertained (I thoroughly enjoyed the elevator scene), but I did not have any real laugh out loud moments. Oh well. The Nice Guys is a decent, albeit hollow, watch. Nothing I will be rushing out to see again, that’s for sure, and not something I will be in a hurry to add to my collection. I will give it another shot again sometime. Maybe something changes, but I don’t really think so.


Review: She’s Not There – P.J. Parrish


SYNOPSIS: They say it’s better to battle the devil you know. But what if you don’t recognize him before it’s too late?

She knows her name is Amelia, but after waking up in a hospital battered and bruised with just the clothes on her back, it’s all she knows. Unable to piece together her shattered memory, she’s haunted by a vision: menacing faces and voices implying her nightmare is far from over.

Relying only on her wits and her will to live, Amelia becomes a fugitive from a mysterious man, and a life she can’t even remember. But the past she’s fleeing has no intention of letting her go. – via Goodreads

GRADE 6.5I have never read anything from Parrish before (I also know now that they are a sister writing duo), and took a stab at it the other day when cruising around Amazon. I found She’s Not There to be quite a decent read, though not my favourite. I always think that books handling amnesia can take total opposites of the good/bad spectrum. I felt that the book dwindled quite a bit, and could have been tightened up more, but this did not mean that I was not interested in seeing where the story would go. It is also quite a quick read. I have to admit that there weren’t any real characters that I liked in there (aside from Hannah). Buchanan and Amelia were the main characters and were better than the others, but they were still not characters I was completely invested in, if we are being honest. At the rate the big reveal was being touted and teased at throughout the book, I seriously expected something far more intricate than we got, which was a little disappointing, to say the least. Anyway, there isn’t an awful lot to say about She’s Not There. It is a quick, decent read, albeit flawed and slightly predictable at times, but an alright filler if you haven’t been able to make up your mind about what’s next. Or you want something engaging but not overly complicated and dramatic. I know it sounds like I am putting this down, but I am not.

Review: The Passenger – Lisa Lutz

the passenger lisa lutz cover

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: In case you were wondering, I didn’t do it. I didn’t have anything to do with Frank’s death. I don’t have an alibi, so you’ll have to take my word for it…

Forty-eight hours after leaving her husband’s body at the base of the stairs, Tanya Dubois cashes in her credit cards, dyes her hair brown, demands a new name from a shadowy voice over the phone, and flees town. It’s not the first time.

She meets Blue, a female bartender who recognizes the hunted look in a fugitive’s eyes and offers her a place to stay. With dwindling choices, Tanya-now-Amelia accepts. An uneasy―and dangerous―alliance is born.

It’s almost impossible to live off the grid today, but Amelia-now-Debra and Blue have the courage, the ingenuity, and the desperation, to try. Hopscotching from city to city, Debra especially is chased by a very dark secret…can she outrun her past? – via Goodreads

GRADE 6Well, this looked like it would be an interesting read, a decent thriller. It was a decent read, but it was flawed. I had a few qualms with it. My biggest one was that the entire book felt slightly incomplete, like there were a bunch of events, and they were all loosely tied together, but it felt somehow as though Lutz was supposed to have gone back and fleshed things out a little better and never did. The story was interesting, and I really wanted to know what was in Tanya/Amelia/Debra’s history, because it must have been something major for her to go on the run and live a life of pain and suffering, and be hunted for something that has happened a decade before. Sadly, the payoff at the end is quite a let down. This major event was alluded to for so long that it actually got a little annoying, so when we finally got to it, all the air went out of me. Like a “really, that’s it?” kind of moment. Which is a pity, because there was so much potential. There were so many opportunities to explore the psychological recesses of our lead character’s mind, but they never really got looked into very closely, which meant the most important character of the book lacked depth, meaning I could not identify with her at all and I found her to be a tad melodramatic, too. No, that didn’t help matters. Blue was a really interesting character that I wished had been explored a bit more, she was just a dash cuckoo, and to uncover more of her secrets would have been fascinating. Maybe not overly believable and her placing was slightly too convenient, but I liked her a lot. Then there is the relationship between our main character and Domenic, which I enjoyed quite a  bit. It was insane, it was strange, but it worked for the whirlwind of a story that we got. The pacing was alright, albeit a little bit confusing initially, it starts to make sense and the book flows from there. I would definitely say that The Passenger is a quick read, engaging although not brilliant, with some interesting characters and events that certainly held more potential than they were eventually granted. A lot of these events I feel were set up and rushed through, and they were given such a big hype up beforehand (looking specifically at the family home that the lead character had stayed at) and nothing came from it ultimately. I enjoyed the book without loving it, wishing for some more thrills, and I was not so enamoured with the way that a lot of the book felt like rinse and repeat, reading the same thing, just slightly different – new name, new hair, new town. Repeat. Repeat. I was hoping for a faster, darker thriller, and this story trundled along, some interesting times, others not so much. What I can say is that if you are looking for a fast, decent read between books, this would be it. I liked the author’s work and would probably try out some of her other stuff should I come across it.