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review 2018-01-17 04:07
Sleepy Little Murder Town
Zero Day - David Baldacci

I am a huge fan of the Will Robie series, so I thought I'd try the John Puller books. Plus action/adventure and suspense fans really recommend this series. John Puller is more like Jack Reacher than Will Robie. He's enlisted army and he's an investigator of crime scenes with military ties. His father is a three star general and his brother is in max security prison for treason. John is a by the books guy who follows the evidence. He is a decorated combat veteran with PTSD, but he manages to work past the flashback and triggers and uses the lessons he learned in Iraq to stay alive.

What seems like it should be a routine investigation into the murder of an Air Force officer and his family in one in a dying mining town in West Virginia leads to a conspiracy that goes much further and wider, and much deadlier.

Baldacci can write. John Puller is man of great self-control but he is no pushover. He can handle himself and is no fool. Highly intelligent and methodical in his work, he thinks on his feet and uses his logic and intuition expertly. I listened to the audiobook and the male narrator nails Puller. His diction is precise in speaking John's dialogue, making him feel distinct from other characters. The female narrator also does a good job, especially with the regional dialects. I liked having both a male and female narrator, because it gives the audiobook flow a vibrant energy.

The descriptions of the forgotten mining town and its citizens in comparison to the luxury enjoyed by the rich man who owns most of the town has a realism that grounds the story. The theme of broken promises and environmental rape and pillage, taking advantage of the workers and the townspeople for that extra dime in the pocket.

The suspense is expertly written. What starts as a grisly murder of a family that seems completely random leads to a climax that puts the lives of John, Samantha, the town sheriff, and the whole town and perhaps the region in jeopardy. The clock is ticking while Puller works to solve the puzzle of who, what, where and why.

The action is very good and it's balanced by a plot that is free of holes. I play a game when I read mysteries, trying to guess whodunit. I didn't guess this one, but fortunately John figures it out.

At first glance, John seems to be a very rigid guy, but glimpses of a sense of humor, empathy, pathos and vulnerability shine through his tough facade. His principles are rock solid, and it's clear that he doesn't like bullies or those who harm innocents. He's not moved by people who try to use their power and influence as bargaining chips. To him, bad is bad, no matter how big their bank accounts are. His relationship with his father is nuanced. His father is suffering from dementia and it's clear that interacting with his father through his fog of memory loss is very painful for John. But he's a man of duty and loyalty and honors his father, even when it's hard for him. I like John a lot. I'll be adding him to list of Kickbutt heroes.

I prefer Will Robie over John Puller, but I definitely enjoyed this book and plan on continuing to read it. It's just me, I like the Black Ops Asssassin trope a lot. But Puller is great for a procedural with a hero who is intellectual but also very capable of kicking butt. I think the mystery of Puller's brother Robert's treason a mystery worth delving into, and eventually I know that John will put his skills to work on it. John is a good 21st Century hero, a man of honor, integrity, intellect but also physical skills and capabilities that carry him through and make him an interesting and admirable lead character.

I'd recommend this to action/adventure suspense fans, especially for those look for an NCIS-style book.

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review 2018-01-17 00:39
The Dead List - Jennifer L. Armentrout





I recently read an arc with a similar story to this…Pretty Dead Girls…I didn't really like that one, and this had a similar feel to it in the beginning, minus the mean girls.  I was worried but it wasn't long before I realized this was different in a lot of ways.  This only had me eye-rolling a couple moments and the other had me constantly eye-rolling.  In this, the mystery surprised me, actually.  The characters were likable…and the best part…when the MC is being chased down by the bad guy, she actually does the smart thing, at least 80% of the time.  My issue and this could be a tad spoiler-ish, is with the promiscuity of 17-year-olds. I can't read explicit sex scenes when the MC's are under 18.  It's just weird.  If she had just left that out of the book, it would have been a 5-star all the way.






Plot~ 4.5/5

Main Characters~ 4.5/5

Secondary Characters~ 4/5

The Feels~ 5/5

Pacing~ 5/5

Addictiveness~ 4.5/5

Theme or Tone~ 3.5/5

Flow (Writing Style)~ 4/5 could have used a proofreader…

Backdrop (World Building)~ 4.5/5

Ending~ 5/5  Cliffhanger~  Nope.


Book Cover~  Compelling, and it kept me guessing as to how it fits with the story

Setting~ Martinsburg, West Virginia

Source~ Kobo eBook


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review 2018-01-16 17:01
First Kovac and Liska Book
Ashes to Ashes - Tami Hoag

Even though this is called the first Kovac and Liska book it's really not. The book focuses on Kate Conlan who is a former FBI agent and her former lover Special Agent John Quinn. These two do appear in "Ashes to Ashes" but after that, I can't even remember if we see them again. This is a pretty good start to the series that stars Kovac and Liska. not everything is going to involve serial killers though, some of it just involves terrible people doing horrible things to someone else. I did love the dialogue in this one and the ending was really good. 


So I finally finished "Mindhunter" the other day and started going back through my Hoag backlist. She did a really good job with the mystery/thriller aspect of this, while also including profiling in this. 


Kate Conlan is now a crime victim's right advocate. Living in Minneapolis now, she hopes to recover from her broken marriage. When she is called in to deal with a young woman who may be a potential target of a serial killer due to what she saw. The FBI is called in, and there enters John Quinn who is a profiler. Due to their past with each other there's some friction. Quinn is also dealing with the fact the local police are not exactly welcoming at first. Or let's say Kovac is not at first. Liska weirdly keeps hitting/flirting with him or whatever that was. You realize that in the next book, Kovac had a thing for Kate Conlan who he often says resembles Rene Russo. I do wonder what would have happened if Hoag pushed things along more in that line.  


I did like Kate a lot and wish she show up in future books. She's great at her job and has an overbearing and gross boss. John annoyed me a bit here and there with regards to Kate. 


I did like the team aspect when we get down into the local police. Kovac and Liksa complement each other and I can see why Hoag kept writing about them. They may not be in this story as much, but what we do see makes you yearn for more. 


We also get into the "mind" of the serial killer in this book called "The Cremator". 


The writing was really good and the flow works from beginning to end.

The setting of Minneapolis seems bigger than what I always thought it would look like if I ever went there in real life. We get a lot of local politics happening in this one too. 


I did love the ending in this one and have to say that the reveal was very well done. 

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review 2018-01-14 20:36
"Dead Lions - Slough House #2" by Mick Herron
Dead Lions - Mick Herron

"Dead Lions" is the second book in this series about members of MI5  judged to be subpar and cast into the outer darkness of Slough House to rot or resign. I enjoyed the first book in the series, "Slow Horses" but I found "Dead Lions" to be much more accomplished and certain of itself.


The tone of the writing modulates from whimsical through to darkly comic with a default setting of quiet desperation.


The plot is like a Swiss wristwatch: beautifully crafted to a complex but elegant design and assembled in dense layers that work together to drive you forward second by second.


The story starts with the assassination of the memorably named Dickie Bow, an ex-MI5 irregular, a veteran of Berlin during the cold war, by a man he believes to have been a Russian spy. His murder goes undetected until Jackson Lamb, mercurial head of Slough House, who served with Dickie Bow in Berlin, takes a closer look. The foul play he discovers turns out to be only one of several layers of the plot, that are nested inside one another like Matryoshka dolls. The discovery of each doll changed what I thought was going on so fast that I gave up trying to find the lady and just enjoyed the skill of the sleight of hand.


"Dead Lions" does a splendid job evoking the Cold War world-of-mirrors mindset and setting it in a thoroughly convincing frame of modern British Counter-Intelligence.

Slough House is populated with characters that are depressingly real yet capable of being believably surprising. The plot amplifies the characters but is not driven by them.


The pace is perfect, cutting between parallel plot lines in a way that cranks up the tension while demonstrating how deviously everything is connected to everything else.

I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.


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review 2018-01-14 18:13
Highly British YA thriller about boarding school elites; quick entertaining read
S.T.A.G.S. - Bennett D. Hill

As soon as I find out there’s a book about boarding school to read, I’m there. I’m just a little bit spurred on by the fact I went to boarding school myself at the age of 11 (encouraged by reading books by Enid Blyton, in fact), and so I’ll eat up any book on the subject. Harry Potter was quite a thing, after all.
S.T.A.G.S. is far from being Hogwarts, however.
The main character, Greer, is at a prestigious private school (St. Aidan The Great School, which doesn’t in real life exist), on scholarship, among many wealthy kids from aristocracy. She feels out of place and is both somehow reluctant and desperate to fit in.
She gets invited on a fancy ‘hunting, shooting, fishing’ weekend by the top group of kids at the school, known as the Medievals, and led by the dashing but snobbish and rather repugnant Henry de Warlencourt.
Greer is both blown away by the lifestyle of these wealthy young elites, who are used to being tended on by servants, and somehow as if they are grooming her to be one of them, along with two other ‘Savages’ like her. The whole weekend is filled with fine foods, and the activities of Old, (the hunt, shooting pheasant, and fishing), and connection to the outside world is abandoned. The three of these invited students suddenly seem like the hunted and the weekend turns very sour.
While the story was exciting to read in general, I have good things to say about this book and few misgivings. The premise of these three invitees being trapped with these Medievals, these kids who are sometimes so nauseating (and I’ve met some of them in my past) is spot on, and becomes frightening. The hunt and the shoot can be hard to stomach (I am dead set against these antiquated ‘sports of Old) and can’t stand the glee taken by the wealthy in thinking that these pasttimes that connect them to the past should be glorified. But I really relished how the author depicted life in the stately home, and loved how Bennett also wrote about Greer’s connection to
her father through watching old movies together (especially since I’m a film buff).
The ending was pretty clever and wound tightly in a neat bow, and overall this is a entertaining read. I think especially so for American readers, since this is highly ‘British’ in its approach and plot.
While this is already out in the UK, thank you for the early release from NetGalley for the book here in the US.

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