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Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Category: Series (page 1 of 5)

Call Me Cass by Kelly Stone Gamble

Cass Adams is finally happy. She has a man who loves her, a family that understands her, and a baby on the way. Other than seeing the occasional dead person, Cass feels normal. But pregnancy has an unwelcome side effect. Cass is having visions of the future, just like Grams does. While some are cloudy, Cass knows one thing for certain. Her best friend, Maryanne, is going to die.

Police Chief Benny Cloud has his own problems. His father has been released from prison and is on his way home to surprise Benny’s mother, who’s been keeping time with the county sheriff. Fat Tina’s Gentlemen’s Club is under siege by protestors. And it’s growing dark outside.

A devastating storm is coming to Deacon, Kansas. In its wake, the town must deal with tragic losses that force everyone to reevaluate their lives.

Thanks to the author for this review copy!

One thing about Kelly Stone Gamble is that she is adept at creating character backstory. In CALL ME CASS we see all of our favorites from her previous two books but with more depth. This is accomplished by having each chapter told from a different point of view – something that I usually dislike – but it works here. We are privy to each character’s deepest thoughts and fears and learn who dislikes who (and why). These inner thoughts are both poignant and hilarious at the same time.

In this 3rd book of the series, Cass is ready to give birth while a massive tornado is bearing down on Deacon, Kansas. She is also struggling with one of her visions – her best friend Maryanne is supposed to die. Each character experiences the huge storm in their own way, and no one is unaffected. Deacon is destroyed and we stay with Cass & Co. while everyone picks up the collective pieces.

Gamble’s real talent lies in her ability to create friendships and deep connections in her storytelling. It feels like there are true bonds between Fat Tina, Angus, Clay, and the rest of the Deaconites. Kindness shines through on nearly every page no matter which character is telling the story at the moment. The characters are quirky and fun, and they all show compassion when the situation warrants.

The storm creates serious suspense while also serving as a cleansing for the town, since a few of the characters experience revelations about their life, their relationships, and their dreams. This proves to create a satisfying ending despite the fact that some of the characters did not survive the storm. I felt truly sad for these characters and wish things turned out differently. This shows how strongly the author is able to create lasting emotions in her readers through her writing. Anyone who can make the reader feel for a fictional character is a winner in my opinion.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

Bloody Genius by John Sandford (Virgil Flowers #12)

Virgil Flowers will have to watch his back–and his mouth–as he investigates a college culture war turned deadly in the latest thriller from #1 New York Times-bestseller John Sandford.

At the local state university, two feuding departments have faced off on the battleground of PC culture. Each carries their views to extremes that may seem absurd, but highly educated people of sound mind and good intentions can reasonably disagree, right?

Then someone winds up dead, and Virgil Flowers is brought in to investigate . . . and he soon comes to realize he’s dealing with people who, on this one particular issue, are functionally crazy. Among this group of wildly impassioned, diametrically opposed zealots lurks a killer, and it will be up to Virgil to sort the murderer from the mere maniacs.

Thanks to NetGalley for this review copy!

No one is getting Virgil’s jokes. This is because he is knee-deep in academia land, investigating the murder of a well-respected but also generally disliked professor. Apparently those who work at the University of Minnesota do not have a well-rounded sense of humor.

Virgil teams up with Detective Trane from the Minnesota police department, a partnership that starts out shaky but solidifies when Virgil proves himself to be an affable companion. Trane is at a dead end until Virgil discovers some evidence that starts the ball rolling, leading to some of the strangest characters ever seen in a Flowers novel.

I felt that the book was slow going until the last third, when the action started to pick up a bit and the loose ends started to come together. There are a lot of characters and subplots, and unless you keep them straight it will end up being confusing.

The plot blurb notes there is an interdepartmental feud going on, but I found that portion of the story a bit underwhelming. There is less going on there than the publisher would have you believe. I feel it would have benefitted the book to have noted there was a murder on campus and Virgil had to deal with a lot of functionally crazy people; after all, the murder does take place in the beginning of the book and the rest is just smoke and mirrors until the end. At times I wanted to skip ahead, looking for more action and less talking, but I was afraid I would miss something.

Flowers novels are like pizza – it may not always be the best tasting, but it’s pizza. Despite the flaws I noted above, it is always good to see what Virgil is doing. Hopefully the next outing will be more suspenseful and action packed.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

Tracking Game by Margaret Mizushima (Timber Creek K-9 #5)

Two brutal murders, a menacing band of poachers, and a fearsome creature on the loose in the mountains plunge Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo into a sinister vortex.
An explosion outside a community dance sends Mattie Cobb and Cole Walker reeling into the night, where they discover a burning van and beside it the body of outfitter Nate Fletcher. But the explosion didn’t kill Nate–it was two gunshots to the heart.
The investigation leads them to the home of rancher Doyle Redman, whose daughter is Nate’s widow, and the object of one of their suspect’s affection. But before they can make an arrest, they receive an emergency call from a man who’s been shot in the mountains. Mattie and Robo rush to the scene, only to be confronted by the ominous growl of a wild predator.

As new players emerge on the scene, Mattie begins to understand the true danger that’s enveloping Timber Creek. They journey into the cold, misty mountains to track the animal–but discover something even more deadly in Tracking Game, the fifth installment in Margaret Mizushima’s Timber Creek K-9 mysteries.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

This is another winner for the author! I’m a big fan of the series about troubled cop Mattie Cobb and her K9 partner, Robo. The love and respect Cobb has for her dog shines through in each book and this one was no exception.

A twisty murder mystery is the setting for this latest installment, with the backdrop of the Colorado mountains looming large as usual. Unique to this story was a subplot of big game hunting and a ferocious big cat on the loose. Mattie must depend on Robo to keep her safe from both human and animal as they track a killer.

We learn a bit more about Mattie’s past – the author loves to peel back the layers bit by bit in each book, which helps develop the character, as well as adding to the reader’s kinship with Mattie. She is a troubled soul, fiercely independent and devoted to her canine companion Robo. The ways in which Mizushima describes their interactions is both heartwarming and jaw-dropping – this German Shepherd is such a smart dog!

I was also happy to see Mattie’s romance with veterinarian Cole Walker developing some more – there is a lot of chemistry between them and he is so good for Mattie’s wounded soul. In fact, there are a few ways that Mattie overcomes some of her fears in TRACKING GAME – I was proud of her for getting out of her comfort zone.

If you love backcountry mysteries, you will love the Timber Creek series. There is just enough fast-paced intrigue plus a little romance to keep nearly every reader interested. This book could be read as a stand-alone, but some of the references will go over the heads of readers. This will not detract from the plot or outcome, but it is always recommended to start with the first book and go from there. I am anxiously awaiting the next mystery from Mizushima; she is one of my favorite authors and I’m always ready to dive into her next work. Grab your copy here!

Old Bones (Nora Kelly #1) by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

 

The first in the groundbreaking Nora Kelly series from #1 bestselling authors Preston & Child blends the legend of the Donner party with a riveting suspense tale, taking the dynamic duo’s work to new heights.

Nora Kelly, a young but successful curator with a series of important excavations already under her belt, is approached by the handsome historian, Guy Porter, to lead an expedition unlike any other. Guy tells his story–one involving the ill-fated Donner Party, who became permanently lodged in the American consciousness in the winter of 1847, when the first skeletonized survivors of the party stumbled out of the California mountains, replete with tales of courage, resourcefulness, bad luck, murder, barbarism–and, finally, starvation and cannibalism.

Captivated by the Donner Party, Nora agrees and they venture into the Sierra Nevada in search of the camp. Quickly, they learn that the discovery of the missing starvation camp is just the tip of the iceberg–and that the real truth behind those long-dead pioneers is not only far more complex and surprising than they could have imagined…but it is one that puts them both in mortal danger from a very real, present-day threat in which the search for the lost party, and its fabled fortune in gold, are merely means to a horrifying end.

 

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

OLD BONES is the first of the Nora Kelly series. As you may recall, Nora was the intrepid curator/archaeologist in some of the early Pendergast novels. The authors have decided to give Nora her own series, minus the usual Pendergast characters save one. Newly minted FBI agent Corrie Swanson is here also, investigating a murder.

Nora is on site excavating remains found of the famous Donner Party of 1847. What begins as a typical excavation turns into terror when members of their dig turn up dead. Corrie and the FBI are investigating these murders because they took place on Federal land, plus they tie in with another investigation involving grave robbing. Apparently, the robbed graves were descendants of a member of the Donner Party – but why the interest in them all of a sudden?

The premise sounds thrilling, but the telling of the tale is middling. Much of the action takes place on the dig and seems repetitive. Nora and Corrie butt heads during the course of the investigation and Corrie has to deal with the “good old boys” of law enforcement who mock her lack of experience.

The winning points of OLD BONES are the strong female characters – Nora, Corrie, and Nora’s boss Dr Fugit. It seems as though their characters are drawn well with good backstory, while the men are secondary. You won’t hear a complaint from me; I appreciate the authors giving Nora and Corrie their feisty personalities and strong work ethic.

Most of the book reads like a weak version of a Pendergast novel. I did keep expecting him to pop up somewhere to save the day. Final verdict – not the worst thing by far I’ve read, but just sort of dull. The best parts were the history, albeit gory, of the Donner Party and how they managed to survive.

Nora is a great character and I am looking forward to seeing her handle her next adventure. Perhaps the authors will hit their stride in the next book. Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

 

Neon Prey by John Sandford (Davenport #29)

Lucas Davenport pursues a prolific serial killer who has gone undetected for years in the newest nail-biter by #1 NewYork Times bestselling author John Sandford.

It was a relatively minor criminal matter, all things considered, but enough that the US Marshals obtained a warrant to enter the home. They didn’t expect to unearth trophies from a score of killings.

Now Davenport is on the trail of a serial murderer, one who was able to operate for years without notice or suspicion. But there’s even more to this killer than meets the eye…

 

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

It’s hard to believe that this is Davenport’s 29th adventure. He’s gotten shot, stabbed, punched numerous times, and suffered various other indignities. In NEON PREY he and his fellow Marshals Bob and Rae are hot on the heels of a cannibal. Multiple bodies have been found in the yard of Clayton Deese, and the Marshals want to ask him some questions. Deese, however, is not cooperating.

When Lucas and Co. discover that the livers from the bodies are missing, and the barbeque grill from Deese’s house has been used, they realize that they are not looking for a typical run-of-the-mill killer. Bob, Rae, and Lucas share the spotlight equally, which is different from previous books. It almost seems as though Lucas is part of the supporting cast rather than the main character. Even his “cop talk” is secondary to that of Bob and Rae.

Las Vegas is a quirky setting that provides both sparkle and squalor. There is a section of the book where Deese and his crew hang out at a friend’s ramshackle trailer. As I read on, I could hear the banjos from “Deliverance” in the background – it was that eerie!

My thoughts on this one is that it’s a firm middle-of-the-road Prey novel. What stood out for me was that Davenport seems to be feeling his age (both mentally and physically) here. No spoilers; but I was not ready for some of the plot twists. Kudos to the author for keeping his characters human with relevant emotions.

I’d love to know what you think of #29 – leave me a comment with your thoughts. You can pick up your copy here.

 

Past Tense by Lee Child (Jack Reacher #23)

 

 

Family secrets come back to haunt Jack Reacher in this electrifying thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author Lee Child, “a superb craftsman of suspense” (Entertainment Weekly). Reacher, the eternal drifter, happens by chance on the small New Hampshire town he remembers his father was supposed to have come from. But when he starts looking for his dad’s old home, he finds there’s no record of anyone named Reacher ever having lived there.

 

 

Thanks to Goodreads for the ARC! This latest outing for Reacher is unputdownable.

This is the first Jack Reacher book in a while that I literally could not stop reading. Our hero is caught up in a small town in New Hampshire attempting to find out information about his father and family tree, and as usual, trouble follows him. There is also a converging plotline about two travelers with a mysterious suitcase. Their car dies and they check into a motel of dubious origin. The author doles out tidbits of information on these people in a way that kept me hooked. Consider eating a single M&M or potato chip….then having to wait for another one. This is exactly how I felt – I was so eager to find out what happened to the couple, what was really going on in that motel, and WHAT THE HELL was in that suitcase!!

In the meantime, Reacher is doing his thing, making friends and enemies along the way. There are some wonderful punch-ups and delicious retribution that will gladden the heart of every Reacher fan. We learn more about Reacher’s family (his father in particular) and the town he grew up in. The description of the town was amazing, as I enjoy urban exploring and wanted to go there right away to walk around this abandoned place. However, the information about Reacher’s dad was probably the weakest part of the plot for me. I may have been expecting more detail or a plot twist, but was satisfied enough with what I got. Minor complaints about a nearly perfect book. It was also refreshing to not have Jack caught up in a passionate but short hookup with one of the available women in town. Sometimes that detracts from the action.

As I said before, this is a nearly perfect book and would work well as a stand-alone for those who have not read this series before. I’m very grateful to the publisher for offering this as a giveaway.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

After The Bubbles by Susan Berliner

One touch and you’re dead…

One minute, Erin Fredericks is daydreaming in geometry class. The next minute, she’s running for her life. Oddly shaped bubbles are falling from the sky all over the world, transforming everyone who comes into contact with them into extraordinary beings that are no longer human. And these monsters want to kill people, which they can do just by touching them.
Phone systems in the United States immediately fail, followed soon after by the collapse of the power grid. With communication impossible, society disintegrates into chaos as bubble-generated monsters prowl the streets, searching for human prey.
Erin, her family, and her neighbors are trapped in their houses by Cyndy Louise, one of the evolving creatures Erin calls “touchers.” As the situation worsens, Erin and the remaining residents of Walnut Lane—along with a handsome young stranger—must fight for their food, their homes, and their very lives. Facing a seemingly invincible foe, how will they manage to survive?

Many thanks to the author for this ARC!

AFTER THE BUBBLES has a unique science fiction flair to it. A quiet town is disrupted by floating bubbles that transform people into zombie-like creatures with a deadly secret – they can kill merely by touch. This twist provided a spine-chilling effect, sort of like a game of tag where you are no longer “it”, but “dead”. Think about all the close calls the characters have, doing their best to avoid the slightest pressure of the fingertips of these creatures.

Erin Fredericks and her family become trapped inside their house by a neighbor girl that was transformed into a zombie (or Toucher, as Erin names them). She marches up and down the block, effectively jailing people inside their homes. The only thing that affects Touchers is water – so when it rains the prisoners are happy to leave their house and seek food and other human interaction.

As Erin and her other neighbors explore their town, there is a great post-apocalyptic feel to the surroundings – there are dead bodies strewn about in the supermarket, starving dogs roam the streets, and houses are eerily devoid of occupants. Multiple Touchers attempt to stop Erin and the others from finding food or seeking other human contact. As the book progresses, the Touchers get smarter and stronger. The author does an excellent job of conveying the characters’ frustration of being cooped up inside the house, waiting for a rainy day so they can move about freely.

AFTER THE BUBBLES is written in a slightly different style than the author’s other books. It has a slightly YA flair to it, yet it will appeal to readers of all ages. Teen readers will especially identify with Erin’s melancholy, as she wonders if she will ever have a boyfriend or be able to hang out with girls her own age again. Her brother is too young to worry about anything other than video games, while Erin is of an age where she is thinking about more adult things.

The book’s story line alternates between suspense, as Touchers are dealt with, and waiting for rain. I felt that the book could have been trimmed down a bit by eliminating some of those scenes, since there were more than enough passages that conveyed that illustrated the plight of Erin and her family. That is the only issue I had while reading. Otherwise, I was engaged with the characters and hoped they would escape unscathed. The cover states that this story is “Book One” so I know there is more action to come in the future. I will definitely be looking for the second book in the series to find out what happened!

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

 

Burning Ridge by Margaret Mizushima

Featuring Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo, Burning Ridge by critically acclaimed author Margaret Mizushima is just the treat for fans of Alex Kava.

On a rugged Colorado mountain ridge, Mattie Cobb and her police dog partner Robo make a grisly discovery—and become the targets of a ruthless killer.
Colorado’s Redstone Ridge is a place of extraordinary beauty, but this rugged mountain wilderness harbors a horrifying secret. When a charred body is discovered in a shallow grave on the ridge, officer Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo are called in to spearhead the investigation. But this is no ordinary crime—and it soon becomes clear that Mattie has a close personal connection to the dead man.
Joined by local veterinarian Cole Walker, the pair scours the mountaintop for evidence and makes another gruesome discovery: the skeletonized remains of two adults and a child. And then, the unthinkable happens. Could Mattie become the next victim in the murderer’s deadly game?
A deranged killer torments Mattie with a litany of dark secrets that call into question her very identity. As a towering blaze races across the ridge, Cole and Robo search desperately for her—but time is running out in Margaret Mizushima’s fourth spine-tingling Timber Creek K-9 mystery, Burning Ridge.

 

Thanks to Netgalley for this advance reviewer’s copy! This is Margaret Mizushima’s fourth book in this series, and I’m happy to say that it’s holding my interest just as much as the first one did.

Mattie and loyal K9 partner Robo are handling a crime that hits too close to home. Mattie is slowly coming out of her emotional shell, but still has a long way to go when it comes to opening her heart to veterinarian Cole Walker. As she is preparing to reconnect with her brother, whom she has not seen in many years, she becomes involved with a body that is found deep inside the forest. Is she really surrounded by people that she can’t trust – or does she need to let her guard down and see what happens?

Mizushima’s characters are true to life and nuanced. Mattie is definitely more emotionally grounded, but still views her German Shepherd, Robo, as her closest ally. Robo is superb as the K9 officer, who can alternatively tug at your heartstrings when he plays with Mattie or make you cheer as he takes down the bad guy. We should all have a dog as loyal and supportive as he is.

Twists and turns kept me reading for hours – I didn’t want to put it down! This police procedural is just the right mix of action, dialogue, canine antics, and suspense. Most of the suspense comes in the last 20% of the book, but it’s worth waiting for. Robo’s skills are put to the test as he handles his most daunting task so far, and I held my breath to see what would be happening next. Mizushima’s writing is easy on the brain, despite some plot nuances and characters that appear in the beginning, only to disappear, then pop up again. The love the author has for the Colorado mountains and forests is evident in her thorough description of Mattie’s surroundings. I felt as if I were right alongside the characters, fully immersed.

The only concern I have is early on, when veterinarian Cole shows up at his clinic early in the morning. Some patients stayed overnight, and they are described as just waking up from anesthesia. It’s not proper medical practice to leave a patient unattended immediately after anesthesia, much less overnight without care. Yes, the procedure was a “routine” spay – but there is no mention of any veterinary nurses other than Cole’s coworker. This was jarring to me and it took me a while to get past that. Every other instance of veterinary work was perfect, and an excellent layer to the book. Note to the author: add more veterinary scenes to your book! It’s always a good thing to have the public see how hard vets and nurses work to care for pets and livestock.

If you have not read any Timber Creek mysteries yet – pick this up! To better gain an understanding of Mattie and what makes her tick, start with the first book. This one could stand alone, but the backstory will help some of the details make more sense.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

Twisted Prey by John Sandford

Lucas Davenport confronts an old nemesis, now more powerful than ever as a U.S. senator, in the thrilling new novel in the #1 New York Times-bestselling Prey series
Lucas Davenport had crossed paths with her before. A rich psychopath, Taryn Grant had run successfully for the U.S. Senate, where Lucas had predicted she’d fit right in. He was also convinced that she’d been responsible for three murders, though he’d never been able to prove it. Once a psychopath had gotten that kind of rush, though, he or she often needed another fix, so he figured he might be seeing her again.
He was right. A federal marshal now, with a very wide scope of investigation, he’s heard rumors that Grant has found her seat on the Senate intelligence committee, and the contacts she’s made from it, to be very…useful. Pinning those rumors down was likely to be just as difficult as before, and considerably more dangerous.
But they had unfinished business, he and Grant. One way or the other, he was going to see it through to the end.

Thanks to Netgalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Twisted Prey is the 28th book in the bestselling series by John Sandford. The teaser here is that Federal Marshal Lucas Davenport may finally be able to put paid to the evil Taryn Grant, who got away a few books back (see Silken Prey). An “accident” involving a US Senator is brought to Davenport’s attention, and soon enough, all the wonderful characters of Sandford’s imagination come out to play. I especially enjoyed reading the pithy cop talk between officers Bob and Rae; the scene with the donuts was spot-on!

Taryn Grant is quite the narcissist in this book, as she manipulates others to do her bidding. Despite Davenport’s more-than-a-hunch feelings that she is the bad guy, there is no clear evidence linking her to the accident in the beginning of the book. She’s got plenty to hide, though, and does it well. Shame that such a smart female character has to be so evil. She is not my favorite bad character – despite her ambition she seems too flat for my liking.

There was a bit too much politics in this installment to be perfect; all the discussion of defense contracts and the like bogged the story down a bit. This was a middle-of-the-road book; familiar characters doing familiar things, yet it took just a touch too long to wrap up. This may be due to the setting being Washington, DC – when the stories take place in Minnesota there is something oddly comforting about the location. I wonder how much of the story was written out of inspiration vs having to wrap up the Taryn Grant situation?

However, no Prey book is truly heinous. We also find that Davenport isn’t untouchable, as an encounter with some bad guys leaves him screaming like a little girl (one of the funniest vignettes in the book). He is getting older and feeling it, which is a refreshing touch.

Twisted Prey is an enjoyable way to spend a few hours of your time, however, long time Sandford fans may feel a little let down with the heavy concentration on the politics. Let’s see what happens in the next installment – maybe Lucas will be back on his home turf again.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up on Amazon.

Autumn of Fear by Glede Kabongo

An ambitious girl with a promising future, a charming manipulator with a diabolical secret—the truth will destroy them both .
When college student Abbie Cooper wakes up in a hospital bed barely alive after a violent assault, her world comes crashing down. She has no memory of the attack or her assailant, and no idea how she ended up in the Emergency Room.
As she grapples with the horrific aftermath, Abbie is determined to uncover the truth about what happened that night. But to catch a monster, she must piece together the events in the weeks leading up to the assault. Why did charming senior Spencer Rossdale take a sudden interest in her, and why did her quiet study group partner Justin Tate want to meet with her alone?
The deeper Abbie digs into the events leading up to that fateful night, the more she unravels a stunning web of lies that stretch back decades. Revealing them will change everything but the truth is the least of Abbie’s problems. A vicious predator is watching her, and he’s willing to kill to protect his secret.

Thanks to the author for giving me this ARC in exchange for an honest review! Abbie Cooper is enveloped in intrigue again when she is the victim of an accident. Unfortunately, she cannot remember what happened. We follow her journey in flashbacks and present day as the author takes us into Abbie’s life.  Once you get used to switching  back and forth from the past to the present, the book flows smoothly. The tension mounts as we get closer to the day of the accident, and we learn about some difficult decisions she needs to make. Loyal friend Ty is at Abbie’s side, which frustrates his girlfriend (whom I love to hate!). Former acquaintances attempt to break Abbie’s tight control of her personal life, and it seems as though no one can be trusted.

Kabongo’s writing style is easy to read, and the suspense quietly builds until everything implodes. Abbie needs to make a life changing decision that will hit home with a lot of readers. I cannot say that I am happy with the way this part of the story turned out, but I know the author has her next book in mind and this twist will be a large part of that story.

The character of Abbie Cooper is growing and maturing. She is letting others get close to her and understands that sometime life throws a curve ball at you. The events taking place in Autumn of Fear are believable for the most part. This was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I look forward to see what adventures Abbie will experience in the next chapter of her life.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”0692082611″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

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