Bites
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

February 7, 2017

Published: August 28, 2012
Publisher: Angry Robot
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Miriam is trying. Really, she is.

But this whole “settling down thing” that Louis has going for her just isn’t working out. She lives on Long Beach Island all year around. Her home is a run-down double-wide trailer. She works at a grocery store as a check-out girl. And her relationship with Louis–who’s on the road half the time in his truck–is subject to the piss and vinegar Miriam brings to everything she does.

It just isn’t going well. Still, she’s keeping her psychic ability–to see when and how someone is going to die just by touching them–in check. But even that feels wrong somehow. Like she’s keeping a tornado stoppered up in a tiny bottle.

Then comes one bad day that turns it all on her ear. (goodreads.com)

Ugh. I love Chuck’s writing. Like seriously. It’s so gritty and raw and sometimes it just scrapes my eye drums the wrong way yet I can’t help but love it. Plus he has a really spectacular way of spitting out insults that really just tickles me down in my cockles. Like this gem:

He said peen.

The Miriam Black books are laced with these kinds of genius word orgies and I can’t get enough of them.

MOCKINGBIRD, book two in the Miriam Black series, was everything I expected with a little bit of meth dusted on there for good measure. Also, I didn’t think smoking meth out of a light bulb was actually a thing. Knowledge is power.

I did find myself, as times, thinking Miriam to be a bit too much to handle as a reader. She’s rather huge on self-sabotage for the sake of self-sabotage and it felt a hint plot-serving at times, but it wasn’t enough to throw me out of the story. Miriam’s a tough character. Sometimes she’s downright unappealing and I kind of revel when she takes a boot to the head. But most of the time you see how damaged she is and how she’s doing the best she can (most of the time) with the hand she’s been dealt.

As for the plot, I felt like I was on a rollercoaster and at times I did feel like I was going to vomit. That would have been unappealing at work. It just got a little graphic in places. Nothing I couldn’t handle. There was one point where it seemed like the story was wrapping up, but I still had a good chunk of pages to get through and I’m like HUH? And then it kept going. Like I was on a rollercoaster in a black tunnel and couldn’t see the drop coming. My stomach’s still at the top of the hill.

Reading MOCKINGBIRD it makes me wonder where the story’s going to go next in THE CORMORANT. Because MOCKINGBIRD went in a hell of a weird direction and it was a little disorienting, but totally thrilling. And inappropriately hilarious (PEENS). It makes me itchy to keep reading in the series.

So if you’re looking for a super gritty yet incredibly witty story about a completely grungy woman that shits on herself more than life does, who drinks and smokes too much and treats the people who care about her pretty crappily but feels really bad about it, be sure to read MOCKINGBIRD. I mean start with BLACKBIRDS first because you can’t start in the middle of a series (I don’t care what anyone else says) and then read MOCKINGBIRD for more Miriam goodness. And Wendig wittiness.

4.5

January 10, 2017

Published: January 3, 2017
Publisher: Dutton
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

A young woman is found strangled in the stairwell of a college library, only her sneakers missing. With no physical evidence, no signs of sexual assault, and no witnesses, all the police have to go on are the three men who were in the library with her: her boyfriend and two campus security guards . . . all of whom have secrets, none of whom can be proven guilty.

Five years later, ex-FBI profiler Pierce Quincy and his wife, former police officer Rainie Conner, agree to consult on the still-unsolved case, delving into deep background to comb for any clue that will lead to the woman’s murderer. But with no leads and the case colder than the body, will they be able to build a case against one of the three suspects, or is there a fourth man out there? And if the killer has eluded the police this long, how far will he go to ensure justice is never served? (goodreads)

This is a super short story that gives you a peek into the Quincy and Rainie series of books Gardner has out and I have to say, I liked it. So far I’ve only read the DD Warren books and while they’re all interconnected in some way, this series focuses on two different characters in Gardner’s work and they were just as intriguing.

The story focuses on the interrogation of suspects in a cold case and that’s all you get, but I was still riveted by the story. Through her characters Gardner paints incredible scenes. I saw everything playing out as the characters talked and they never left the interrogation rooms. They picked apart stories and the characters leapt onto evidence previously overlooked and word after word it was just hook after hook.

Gardner’s storytelling is evident even in these few short pages and now I have yet more books to add to my reading list. Hooray!

4.5

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

6242978Published: June 15, 2009
Publisher: Clarion Books
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Two 13-year-old boys, Arthur and Logan, set out to solve the mystery of a murder that took place some years ago in the old house Logan’s family has just moved into. The boys’ quest takes them to the highest and lowest levels of society in their small Maryland town, and eventually to a derelict amusement park that is supposedly closed for the season. (goodreads.com)

Really what attracted me to CLOSED FOR THE SEASON was the creepy, rundown amusement park on the cover. How could I resist?

Hahn does an excellent job of setting the tone of the story. She really takes the time to build up the small-town feel of the place and sets the derelict amusement park right in the middle of that. It’s something people want to revere and save and at the same time it’s the source of a murder that these boys are thrust (or thrust themselves) in the middle of. The story relies heavily on ambiance and character-building than anything else, and she creates these flesh-and-blood characters that pop off the page and for whom you can really feel what they’re going through.

At first Arthur is really annoying and I totally feel for Logan in wanting to distance himself from his new neighbor, but as the story wears on Logan realizes that he’s more like Arthur than anyone else and he’s not someone he wants to abandon. The whole friendship aspect of the story is really touching, and I liked how Danny, the town’s young bully, plays a part in it. He ends up coming in at the end, but it’s not a let’s all skip into the sunset ending. It felt far more realistic and far less like some happy-go-lucky juvenile book that’s meant more to placate parents than anything else.

I also liked how the adults weren’t complete dunderheads either. They were more than just dopes who only existed to prove that the main characters weren’t spawned in a lab or something. They were viable human beings that carried real weight in the story and who ultimately concluded the story the way it should have gone. The boys didn’t get away with their antics unscathed and the adults acted like adults should act. It was refreshing.

You won’t find any kind of supernatural element in CLOSED FOR THE SEASON. This is a book about people and how they cope with loss and change and other people. It breaks down the idea that those who are seemingly perfect actually are and the weirdos are actually weirdos. It shows that there are consequences for a person’s actions, even if those actions are done with good intentions and end up helping someone along the way. It’s about what real friendship is and staying true to yourself while at the same time not lying to yourself about who you are and who others are to you.

It’s a good story. Hahn created a great voice, a great world, and a compelling plot that rounded everything out nicely.

4.5

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

December 3, 2016

25644437Published: February 9, 2016
Publisher: Dutton
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Flora Dane is a victim.

Seven years ago, carefree college student Flora was kidnapped while on spring break. For 472 days, Flora learned just how much one person can endure.

Flora Dane is a survivor.

Miraculously alive after her ordeal, Flora has spent the past five years reacquainting herself with the rhythms of normal life, working with her FBI victim advocate, Samuel Keynes. She has a mother who’s never stopped loving her, a brother who is scared of the person she’s become, and a bedroom wall covered with photos of other girls who’ve never made it home.

Flora Dane is reckless.

. . . or is she? When Boston detective D. D. Warren is called to the scene of a crime—a dead man and the bound, naked woman who killed him—she learns that Flora has tangled with three other suspects since her return to society. Is Flora a victim or a vigilante? And with her firsthand knowledge of criminal behavior, could she hold the key to rescuing a missing college student whose abduction has rocked Boston? When Flora herself disappears, D.D. realizes a far more sinister predator is out there. One who’s determined that this time, Flora Dane will never escape. And now it is all up to D. D. Warren to find her. (goodreads.com)

I’ve enjoyed all of Gardner’s books that I’ve read so far and FIND HER isn’t any exception. While it took me a little bit longer to get into than others I’ve read, once I settled into the plot it rocketed me from one end of the book to the other and I couldn’t put it down.

A good portion of the book is in Flora’s voice and to have it at the beginning, not having any idea who she was, it was a little hard to get through. She has a very distanced approach to life (for obvious reasons) and she came off really detached from the world (again, obvious reasons) and as a result I felt pushed away from the story. When DD starts coming in, and she’s a character I know and like, I start to get a little more settled in what’s going on. Add in the backstory that starts to get trickled throughout the book and I finally get into a Gardner groove and I’m in it till the end.

I really feel like these books are less about DD and more about the character of the moment, in this case Flora Dane. DD had her issues going on in the background, the restricted duty she was on, her home life, things like that. But they paled in comparison to Flora, who took over the page when she was there. Flora’s story was all-encompassing and engrossing and I found myself launching through those parts without her so I could get back to her and find out more. Yes, it’s DD’s job to find Flora, but it’s Flora’s story. Without a doubt.

I’m not sure what draws me to stories like this. My husband thinks I’m weird because I read these types of books (and watch SVU, in my defense that’s the ONLY cop procedural I watch), but I just can’t explain why I like them. I like the mystery aspect. I like getting dangled little bits of information piece by piece until they slowly start to form a whole. Maybe it’s because for a short period of time I wanted to be a detective. Maybe it’s a way for me to process these types of things in a safe environment. He thinks it’s weird that I enjoy watching man do their worst to each other. But only because it’s in a realistic setting. Meanwhile he watches The 100 and Defiance where all the same crap is happening to people, just in a different time or a different world. Does it really matter?

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. It’s never overly violent or gory, but she’ll tell you every aspect of the story necessary to make sure it’s complete. She does her research in regard to things like PTSD and survivor reactions and governmental involvement and things like that and it wraps up together into a setting that’s wholly believable and at the same time it’s almost unreachably fantastical for how incredible the story is. All the little pieces and all the little details work together to create something out of life and I can’t get enough of it.

FIND HER is an excellent addition to the Detective DD Warren series. Flora becomes a reachable entity that holds her nose to the page and won’t let you back up until her story’s done. She’s a fighter and a survivor and a victim and you watch her cope with all of these things from one end of the book to the other and she’s so amazing for it all. I just can’t get enough of Gardner’s writing.

5

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