Bites

Pub Date: August 1, 2017
Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Katie Wallace has never given much thought to 9/11. She was only a year old when terrorists struck American soil. But now her dad has landed in a mental institution after claiming to know what really happened. He insists the attacks were part of a government conspiracy. And he claims that Katie is living proof: the lone survivor of a massive cover-up.

Hoping to free her dad, Katie sets out to investigate his bizarre claims. Soon she’s drawn into the strange and secretive world of 9/11 conspiracy theorists known as the “Truthers”.

Wading through a dangerous web of fact and fiction, questions and distortion, Katie no longer knows what to believe. But she does know that she’s being followed — and that someone is determined to stop her search for the truth.

A novel for teens, exploring 9/11 & our conspiracy culture… (goodreads.com)

My interest was piqued with TRUTHERS, however, when I started reading I was very afraid of where the book was going to go. I have huge problems with people capitalizing on 9/11 in the form of entertainment, like fictionalized books or movies. Same goes for other big tragedies, like the BP rig explosion and that movie with Mark Wahlberg. Gross. No. You’re making money on the backs of dead people with survivors still alive to tell you exactly what happened. No.

So I was afraid because 9/11 is very close to me. I don’t like to call myself a survivor because I wasn’t downtown when it happened. I was in my dorm at 55th between 2nd and 3rd, having been dropped off eight days prior for my freshman year of college. I don’t feel like I actually survived anything being that far uptown, yet it’s such a monumental moment in my life that I’m still to this day grossly affected by it. I didn’t witness the planes crashing into the buildings or see the towers collapsing, but I can tell you how yellow the air was the next day when the wind shifted and what thousands of burning bodies and cement and steel and asbestos and office equipment smells like. How long it stuck to our hair and our clothes, how news anchors advised people to stay indoors. I can tell you it took between 7 and 8 hours to get a hold of my parents that day because cell services were jammed, pay phones were for emergency only, and no one had long distance on their dorm phones. So my parents had no idea whether I was alive or dead. I can tell you what a silent New York City feels like, what hordes of people walking across the Queensboro looked like because the island was locked down. What’s it like to walk in streets that were previously flat but were now rippled and bulging because of the underground force created by the falling towers. I can tell you what it’s like to have a fundraiser variety show for one of our friends whose dad, who didn’t work in the towers but were nearby, ran in to help people and never came out. They buried an empty coffin that November and in March his body was finally extracted from the wreckage, intact.

I know our government’s down some really shitty things, but I can’t accept that they would allow something like this to happen let alone actually orchestrated it. So I had a hard time going into this book, and I had a hard time writing what I did above, and I was afraid of what Girard was going to do. My 18-year-old self was very directly affected by 9/11 and my 34-year-old-self now is very protective of that piece of me. But I gave it a chance.

And once things started working out and cracks started to form, I stopped reading the book as if I were anticipating a hit. I waited until the very end to see how he would tie everything together just so I didn’t jump the gun and was like WHEW. TRUTHERS ended in a very satisfying place. Not one where I anticipated it ending, but a respectful place.

The basic premise is Katie’s dad has been not well for a long time and at his last breakdown before being hospitalized he drops a bomb: that we was involved in a secret conspiracy to orchestrate 9/11 and Katie is really the daughter of a woman off of Flight 93 who handed her over to him to save before the woman was carted off and murdered by the government. This is at the front of the book, and it’s a very insulting conspiracy which was why I was so apprehensive going into it. I was really hoping the book would ultimately be a comment on mental illness, which is kind of ends up being. It just takes a while for that point to develop.

So here’s the thing: conspiracies are not mathematically viable. Effectively the more people who know a secret the less amount of time that secret is going to stay a secret. That article effectively proves that based on prior real conspiracies that did come to light. The thing about covert operations is that very few people know about them. Exceedingly few. That’s to mitigate leaks. There is stuff that’s buried very deeply within the government that not even Julian Assange can get his hands on. The shit the government really doesn’t want people to know, they hide it well. Everything else . . . well, the government at large is terrible at keeping secrets, if you couldn’t already tell.

One of Katie’s contacts, a guy with the handle Benevolus522, states that people who know too much and who are deemed a threat by the government get eliminated. That’s not untrue. However the government actually needs to think you’re a threat with the information you know. Ben here’s been working on his truther crap for more than a decade and he considers himself hunkered down under hacker protection from the government and in hiding. 1) Hubris to think his tech skills are better than the government’s when it comes to spycraft. Ha. 2) By that same logic if he was actually on to anything he’d already be dead. Since he’s not, by that logic, he knows jack shit. But, you know. Truthers aren’t logical so that concept flies right out the window.

Max is a leveling factor throughout the story, poking holes in Katie’s logic the entire time and he really grounds it all out. He waters down every truther concept, picks it up and turns it around so it can be seen from the other side of the coin. He’s really the voice of reason as Katie devolves into this whole mess.

As for Katie herself, she gets points for the research she does and the time spent. The crux of this whole thing, as outlined by one of the cases she found, it to prove that the truther conspiracies are believable by people of sound judgment and mind, not just by “crazies.” And this is brought up very early on in the story so if you hang on to this notion, keep it in the back of your mind, it’ll help you carry through everything, from the cut-aways to the “men in black” talking about spying on her to the questionable scare tactic moments that arise. She’s also a vaguely inconsistent character, but that’s just one mention that really stood out: considering 9/11 ancient history, however, she quotes the movie Se7en, which is even older than that event. Literally before her time. But whatever. Small hiccup, ultimately.

There are a lot of hidden pieces in TRUTHERS that if I start talking about them they’ll just be outright spoilers. So I’ll just end it with this: it’s a book that ultimately keeps its distance. 9/11 is THE BIG THING in the book, but that’s not how it ends. Girard is respectful and ends up making various comments about the mentality around conspiracies, PTSD, mental illness, and persistence toward truth. It started off rough and ended quite well. I would recommend giving it a chance.

He puts a note at the end, before the bibliography, just commenting on the sites and books he referenced when researching the book and how it’s not an endorsement, just a research list. InfoWars is on there and it made me twitch. Ugh. Talk about conspiratorial drivel. I’m sorry he had to go there, but I think it shows the lengths to which he went in order to understand the mentality of that side of thinking and even that isn’t presented in a mocking way in the book, but just as another way of thinking without being disrespectful to those directly affected by 9/11.

So if you’re looking at the blurb and you’re skeptical in a way that I was, give TRUTHERS a chance. You might be surprised.

4.5

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

July 8, 2017

Published: June 27, 2017
Publisher: Dutton
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

A riveting psychological thriller inspired by the never-caught Zodiac Killer, about a young detective determined to apprehend the serial murderer who destroyed her family and terrorized a city twenty years earlier.

Caitlin Hendrix has been a Narcotics detective for six months when the killer at the heart of all her childhood nightmares reemerges: the Prophet. An UNSUB—what the FBI calls an unknown subject—the Prophet terrorized the Bay Area in the 1990s and nearly destroyed her father, the lead investigator on the case.

The Prophet’s cryptic messages and mind games drove Detective Mack Hendrix to the brink of madness, and Mack’s failure to solve the series of ritualized murders—eleven seemingly unconnected victims left with the ancient sign for Mercury etched into their flesh—was the final nail in the coffin for a once promising career.

Twenty years later, two bodies are found bearing the haunting signature of the Prophet. Caitlin Hendrix has never escaped the shadow of her father’s failure to protect their city. But now the ruthless madman is killing again and has set his sights on her, threatening to undermine the fragile barrier she rigidly maintains for her own protection, between relentless pursuit and dangerous obsession.

Determined to decipher his twisted messages and stop the carnage, Caitlin ignores her father’s warnings as she draws closer to the killer with each new gruesome murder. Is it a copycat, or can this really be the same Prophet who haunted her childhood? Will Caitlin avoid repeating her father’s mistakes and redeem her family name, or will chasing the Prophet drag her and everyone she loves into the depths of the abyss? (goodreads.com)

An overlong blurb for what is actually a succinct, riveting story by a great author. Gardiner delivers a thrilling, fast-paced story about a serial killer with a rather explosive ending in UNSUB.

I’ve only read one other book by Gardiner, THRILLER, and I loved it. She just has this poignant way of writing that expresses so much with so few words with no need for flair. The story itself and the development of her characters sucks you in right away and you’re rocketing from one development to another as everything unfolds. You can’t help but try and guess who the UNSUB actually is as you try to put the clues together. It’s non-stop. You get to the end of the book and your head’s spinning a little because so much stuff happened and the ending is AMAZING and you’re like shouldn’t there be more? Oh there’s always a sequel.

Caitlin’s development throughout the book was fantastic. I really like how Gardiner paralleled her father there. Even though we don’t actually see her father go through his portion of the story (he was the detective when the killer started killing twenty years prior), you get enough pieces of it and you see her start to get consumed by it despite her insistence that the very thing she’s fighting against isn’t happening (although it kind of it).

She’s also a character, a woman, surrounded by people who love her. Her boyfriend and his daughter, and she’s even good friends with her boyfriend’s ex-wife. It’s almost a sickly sweet kind of set-up that’s almost too perfect, but it’s so antithetical to female relationships in a lot of books that I gladly welcomed it. Granted there was some tension between her and a more senior woman in an involved force and that was kind of annoying, but at least it was pitched in a way that it was more of a personality thing with the other woman  because she was like that with everyone than a girl on girl dislike because vaginas are immediately adversarial. Caitlin had her moments too with the various other men she was working with but the head-butting with the woman just appeared more in-your-face, I guess, due to my own sensitivities to it.

The story itself was compelling as hell, especially when Caitlin started putting all the puzzle pieces together and she started figuring out just what the killer was modeling his kills after. Super freaky and terrifying. Have I mentioned the ending yet? Holy crap, someone get me the sequel immediately! I need it. I NEED to know what happens. I’m addicted at this point.

There really isn’t much more I can say without spoiling things so I’ll end it here. If you’re a thriller fan you won’t want to miss UNSUB. You won’t be able to put it down once you pick it up. Who needs sleep anyway?

5

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Published: August 1, 1997
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

On an overcast night in Washington D.C. a group of highly trained killers embark on a mission of shattering brutality. A shocked country awakens to the devastating news that three of their most powerful and unscrupulous politicians have been brutally murdered. In the political firestorm and media frenzy that follow, the assassins release their demands: either the country’s leaders set aside their petty, partisan politics and restore power to the people, or be held to deadly account. TERM LIMITS is a tour de force of authenticity and suspense, an utterly compelling vision in which the ultimate democratic ideal – a government of the people – is taken to a devastating extreme. (goodreads.com)

This was a freebie through BookShout and a few people whose opinions I trust really like Vince Flynn so I figured why not. TERM LIMITS is his first book and it’s not a Mitch Rapp book. If I’m not mistaken this is the title that Flynn self-published that basically rocketed him to author stardom.

Initially I was a little skeptical. It started out with the killings which is, of course, exciting and edge of your seat type of stuff. But that quickly flashed to budget conversations among the president and his people and it had me going uhhhh. But between the writing style (that was a little mediocre and over-telling at times, but largely engaging) and the shitbaggy characters I didn’t have a problem staying with it.

Luckily it didn’t take much more than that before the action really started and even more people started dying and I couldn’t stop flipping through the pages. I think what really did it for me, though, was how relevant the story is. Like eerily relevant. This is a twenty year old book. Yet considering what’s in office and the current political climate I couldn’t help but make the connections. Sometimes elements were so relevant they gave me goosebumps. I’d love to @ the president with my review, but considering the number of dead people and the blackmailing and everything that happened with the plot I don’t want to have the secret service knocking on my door because of some implied threat. Besides, it’s not like Trump reads anything other than tweets and the scrolling marquee on Fox anyway.

I did like how a lot of the intrigue and the tension wasn’t action-packed. Yes, there were a few deaths and toward the end there were certainly moments. But the majority of the book was focused on the dynamics of individuals, the mounting tension between people, and the secrets everyone was keeping from each other. Definitely a political thriller. And probably my first. The thrillers I read are usually more action-based, but the way Flynn writes certainly makes all of this intriguing.

As for his writing I did say it was mediocre at times. I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s almost like Flynn has trouble trying to describe something or transition a character so he resorted to very basic writing, outlining in the most basic way what was going on. It would be like “this character moved over here. he picked up x. he walked back over to the other person.” Almost stilted, but just rather . . . stereo instructions. Not all the time. But when a moment got slow is when I noticed this. Granted I’d prefer this to flowery prose considering the source, but it’s description that the reader didn’t need. Lighting cigarettes and all of that.

Overall I liked TERM LIMITS. Definitely enough to dive into the actual Mitch Rapp series. There was a snippet from one of the post-humous titles at the end of this book and there are a couple of characters who were introduced here who have stayed on for the long haul. I’d like to see how they all grew up. Now I can add political thriller to my repertoire.

4

To quote myself:

Gardner really capitalizes on blending the realistic with the astronomical with the gruesome and the compelling and weaves it all together into a story that sucks you in and doesn’t spit you back out until the very end.

You can read the rest of my review here.

FIND HER’s protagonist, Flora Dane, is a survivor. After being kidnapped and held by her captor for over a year, anyone would say that her matriculation back into a “normal” life was an all-around success. But normal isn’t exactly how Flora feels. When a college student–who reminds her far too much of herself–goes missing in a strikingly familiar fashion, Flora knows that she must do something to help, despite that fact that it could mean putting herself in danger. Flora is the only one who knows what a captor like that is capable of, even after all these years.

The search to find the kidnapper at large and unravel Flora’s past twists together in a compelling dual-narrative. Gardner dives into the dark underbelly of Boston’s nightlife while also casting light onto one of the lesser-known branches of the FBI, Victim Specialists.

FIND HER in its trade paperback format will be the beach bag accessory of the summer. It’s a perfect introduction to Lisa Gardner for new readers and an exciting addition for dedicated fans.

April 18, 2017

Published: December 18, 2007
Publisher: Touchstone Books
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

With his hand trapped in the door of a speeding car, a man struggles to remain upright as he’s dragged along a deserted stretch of San Juan Road in Phoenix’s South Mountain Preserve. It’s the perfect place to drive a man to his grave — literally. Starting with a crime so gruesome even prowling coyotes keep their distance from the remains, a killer begins crisscrossing the Southwest on a spree of grisly murders.A hundred miles away, Ali Reynolds is grieving. The newscasting job she once delighted in is gone and so is the philandering husband she loved and thought she knew. When a member of the family who gave Ali a generous scholarship for her education decades earlier suddenly asks her for a meeting, Ali wonders what it can mean. Before she can satisfy her curiosity, though, Ali receives another startling call: a friend’s teenage daughter has disappeared. Ali offers to help, but in doing so, she unknowingly begins a quest that will reveal a deadly ring of secrets, at the center of which stand two undiscriminating killers…. (goodreads.com)

I liked how it was set where I live. I guess she does that fairly often because Jance lives down in Tucson. But I like being able to really picture where everything is because I’ve actually been there. What I didn’t like was that it felt like there wasn’t enough to really support the main plot so there were all these subplots fracturing out from the main plot that I felt were just distracting.

So you have the dragged dead person plot, the missing girl plot, the pedophilia plot, the rest stop beatings plot, the MC adjusting to her new life plot, the MC meeting her son’s girlfriend plot, and MC taking care of said missing girl plot. There’s just a lot going on here and a lot of it not necessarily connected to each other. There were effectively two separate books in this one title and I felt like they were smashed together because their stories are decent, but there just wasn’t enough for them to stand alone.

On top of all of that there wasn’t a whole lot of action going on. A lot of sitting in a house, writing blog posts, sitting in a hospital waiting room, driving around, meeting people at their houses. It was just stagnant for most of the time. The characters were compelling enough. I didn’t not like any of them. Each individual story in here was interesting and I found myself following it all along. But there wasn’t nearly enough action to balance out all the mundane storytelling going on in order to get the characters from point A to point B. HAND OF EVIL didn’t hold me like a Lisa Gardner novel regularly does.

It was kind of difficult for it to hold my attention because it kept flopping around to a bunch of different plots. If the book had a little more focused maybe I would have liked it better. Again, neat that I could actually picture where the characters were because I live around here. And there’s some good storytelling here. But the plotlines fractured too much, there was too much going on, and not enough actual action to sustain it. I was never bored by the book; I just couldn’t really connect with it at all. I felt like I was reading interconnected short stories as opposed to one cohesive novel.

I’m not about to write Jance off entirely. I’m pretty sure I have more of her books in my pile. But if this is regular plotting for her then I’m not going to be on the train much longer. I can handle a couple subplots, and fully expect them in any book I read. But HAND OF EVIL just felt aimless.

3