Debut Thriller

The Mulholland Files

The Mulholland Files by Sandy Jones

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Synopsis: <I>”Edward is enjoying his semi-retirement, but when a mysterious photograph lands on his doormat, he knows it spells trouble. Pulled back into a world he thought he’d left behind for good, his new relationship with Abby is put to the test and both of their lives are in danger…

The mystery deepens and Edward’s choices are limited. Who are the people in the shadows and just who should he trust? Why did this woman contact him and what does she know?

As Edward’s comfortable life is blown apart by the revelations that unfold, he desperately searches for the truth and struggles to keep one step ahead of his pursuers. Will he recognise the danger confronting him before it’s too late?”</I>

Another fun story found on NetGalley.

I enjoyed my experience with Edward and Abby, I don’t feel like I have gotten to know either of them very well, but they entertained me for our few hours together. This was a fast-paced thriller. There was quite a bit of intrigue and I was never sure who (if anyone) I should trust.

Being unfamiliar with British Intelligence and the general geography in this book, I may not have gotten as much out of this read as another reader. However, I did find myself wrapped up in the intrigue as Edward and Abby moved through their region and investigated the super secret plans of some in the espionage world.

I would have liked to see the characters more fully explored. I felt I couldn’t keep all of Edward’s former colleagues straight and never trusted any of them. But for a debut novel, that may have been part of keeping the reader guessing.

There were some convenient coincidences to make Edward and Abby’s experiences more comfortable. Anyone have a couple of spare houses and cars just laying around? It is a different life than mine, but I found it a bit unlikely at times.

Still, this was an interesting adventure into a conspiracy that was tightly drawn. I would recommend this story to others and would happily get better acquainted with the main pair and their future exploits.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my review copy. I leave this review voluntarily.



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Resolutions

Starting a new month, and a new year, and maybe a new decade, can offer an opportunity to set out new goals for anybody. I am not prone to New Year’s Resolutions; but I do like setting goals, and this feels like as good a time as any to set up some new reading goals for myself.

In 2019, I liked to read and share my reading of mystery stories. This was a little stifling and I did not share as much as I would like. So, I am going to not read and review only mysteries in 2020. I do like to read deeply within genres, comparing and contrasting styles techniques and especially changes over time. I expect to spend a month to six weeks on a few genres throughout the year. These will pop up, but not be continuous.

I also limited myself mostly to new and soon-to-be-released titles through much of 2019. I want to continue sharing new titles I find on NetGalley and BookSirens, but I am going to spend some more time with the classics and titles I have missed and post more of my thoughts about such titles.

One of the ways I choose books is by participating in reading challenges. These challenges set out a list of criteria, and encourage me to seek out titles I may or may not have had on my radar. I am looking forward to sharing more of my responses to various challenges I follow in 2020.

In general, I want my 2020 to be filled with interesting reads, and hope to share more of my thoughts and responses to the things I read! Once I have my lists organized, I will post some links to the challenges and my reading plans for you to peruse.

Good Bye 2019!

It’s the last day of the year, again! Unbelievable. The end of the year is a great time to look back at all we have for which we can be grateful and the joys we were offered. For me, I know it was a spectacular year. My husband and I bought a house in a new town which we love. We adopted a very special dog who has brought much happiness to our home. We have watched our nephew play football with a team he has always followed, our nieces have started kindergarten and third grade and we are getting ready to welcome a new niece early in 2020.

Through the year, I have been blessed to find good books, be recommended good books and to revisit good books. I have read some not so great books, but it’s the good ones that tend to stick with me. I am hoping 2020 will continue to be filled with enjoyable and thought-provoking reads.

My hope is that all who read this also have much for which they can be grateful and are looking forward to exciting new things in 2020! Happy New Year to all.

Days of Rock and Roll-Book Review


Days of Rock & RollDays of Rock & Roll by Kelly Holm
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book Synopsis: “Ariana is a very talented photographer who agrees to photograph her ex-boyfriend Zak’s band, Dark Horses, for Sound Trip magazine. Zak is thrilled and plans to use the occasion to win her back. However, when Ariana arrives, she catches Zak in a very compromising situation with Hollywood starlet Josie Winters, who wants Zak for herself.
Before Zak can explain to Ariana that what saw was a complete misunderstanding, Ariana mysteriously disappears in the middle of the night, and Zak is filled with guilt and wonder. When he realizes that she has been kidnapped, he’ll stop at nothing to find her. Will Zak find Ariana before it’s too late?
Days of Rock & Roll is a compelling tale of suspense, intrigue, and humor that will keep you reading until the last page.

This book started out interesting. We have two characters with fascinating lives: a travel photographer and a rock star. They have a lot of history and are now becoming reacquainted after almost a decade. The first half of the book almost worked. There were some annoying style choice (Ya instead of Yeah, and also using ya for you; tuff instead of tough, etc), but overall, I was rolling with the story and wondering how things may work out between these two.

And then, the book went a bit off the rails for me. Rick, the crazy ex-boyfriend, kidnaps both sisters (not at the same time) and suddenly the story becomes a very different experience.

I had some personal problems with the early sections, like, if your brother had a heroin problem, why are you comfortable casually snorting coke? Drug use may be a stereotypical rock star issue, but it was treated somewhat cavalierly throughout this story.

This was an OK book, not necessarily for me and I am not sure I will recommend this without reservation, but it was OK for an afternoon of reading.

Thank you to BookSirens for my review e-copy. This review is my own and has been left voluntarily.

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A New Thriller Series

The River Girls (Mercy Harbor Thriller, #1)The River Girls by Melinda Woodhall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book Synopis: “When the body of a missing girl washes up on the banks of the Willow River, the killing is linked to two cold case murders, and the investigation must uncover the twisted motive of a serial killer before he kills again.

Still reeling after her sister’s brutal murder, grief-stricken Eden Winthrop has returned to Willow Bay, where she runs the Mercy Harbor Foundation, a safe haven for victims of violence.

When a teenage trafficking victim disappears from a shelter run by her foundation, Eden is drawn into the search for the sadistic killer. The hunt becomes personal when Eden’s niece is abducted just as the body of yet another victim is discovered in a local river.

In a desperate effort to save her niece, Eden must partner with the small-town police force that had failed to save her sister. And to catch the killer, she realizes she must trust the one man she vowed to never forgive and summon the strength to face her deepest fears.”

I appear to be an anomaly on this title. While I thought it was OK, I had more qualms with it than positives. Some of my problems could have been solved with a better editor. Others were more fundamental in the execution and character development throughout the story.

First, I am not an English teacher, but sometimes, I do feel like a grammar snob. Verb tenses should be consistent and need to match their subject. This was a topic I messed up a lot in high school, but mostly corrected in college. I still struggle with this from time to time in my own writing, but would hope for a published novel, an editor would help get it right.

While on the subject of an editor, they also may help make sure you don’t accidently change the name of your main character to the name of her late sister in the middle of the book. Granted, it may have only been in one or two places, but it still takes a reader out of the situation to correct the error.

As for the main character, Eden, she read like a victim. I am good with a flawed hero, but I have to be able to believe they are a hero with flaws. Eden was not a real person to me, her multiple parts didn’t create a truth. She has had some trauma in her life and struggles with panic disorder (as a result of this?), but somehow manages to run a foundation for battered women. When a man on the street gets angry and loud, she hyperventilates and needs a calmer man to help her collect herself. Not very believable to me.

Like many of the mysteries and thrillers I have read this year, this book touches on several ills plaguing society: drug abuse, prostitution, mental health, human trafficking, failures in the legal system, domestic abuse, and police corruption. These are all important issues which need to be addressed. While these issues are not entertaining, using novels to highlight the problems allows us a common language to discuss them. In this case, I would have liked to see the book better executed to give us that shared language.

I did appreciate Leo and his backstory. It may have been shared in an overly forced way, but I did think it was interesting and made his character stronger.

I am not sure where the author plans to take the series (if she does continue the Mercy Harbor Thrillers), but I would probably be willing to give the next book a try.

My thanks to BookSirens for my advanced digital copy, this review is entirely mine and is left voluntarily.

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A D.B. Cooper Thriller

Cooper's LootCooper’s Loot by Rick E. George
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Synopsis: “It’s 1972, but the Neanderthal editors of reporter Bev Wikowski’s newspaper don’t have a clue. They’ve assigned her to the Women’s Pages and put her desk near the door so she can greet newsroom visitors. It’s a wonder they haven’t asked her to make coffee. Then Bev meets a buddy of the infamous hijacker DB Cooper. Cooper has sent him to gather a posse to find and dig up the loot he buried in the Cascade Mountains. Would Bev like to join the group? Suddenly, Bev’s looking at the possibility of a front-page story on every newspaper in the nation—and maybe a Pulitzer Prize. A young widow whose husband died in Vietnam, she leaves her four-year-old daughter with her parents, hides her work identity, and joins the group. But it doesn’t take long before an even bigger challenge demands every ounce of her strength: Survival.”

This was a fantastically paced thriller. An interesting idea of what may have happened during and after a famous unsolved mystery in the late 20th century. The author’s use of setting and weather made the story ring true and dangerous. The character development could have been better executed, but overall a captivating read.

I know a little bit about D.B. Cooper’s crime. It happened before I was born, so I was decades removed from the crime before I heard about it. I am surprised I haven’t come across more fictional ideas about what may have happened. This crime and perpetrator feel fraught with options.

I thoroughly enjoyed the 1970s setting in the Pacific Northwest. While my time in the Pacific Northwest was in Seattle, in the 2000s, the attitudes and landscape felt real on every page. I certainly enjoy reading books set before the Internet took over everything. No cell phones, I will enjoy this story. The forests and the mountains of Washington were carefully crafted. I could see the scene. The end of the Vietnam War was also prevalent in the story; it added to the desperation of the characters and a feel for the time.

Unfortunately, I found most of the characters were not well-fleshed out. I had a hard time keeping track of who was who. I read several times Will was the best of the lot, but honestly I couldn’t remember anything distinct about the man. The women were fighting back and forth and other than Bev, I had no idea which woman was which. It took a bit away from the story for me, but Bev gave me enough of an anchor to continue enjoying the ride.

Finally, the author presented a wonderful use of weather. The unpredictability of the snow and the wind added to the overall sense of foreboding. I am pretty sure my toes froze while reading several scenes in this book.

There was a lot of strong points in this novel, and I will look to reading additional titles by this author.

Thank you to BookSirens and the publisher for a free review copy. This review has been posted voluntarily, and the opinion is my own.

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Another Debut Mystery

The LoopThe Loop by Nicholas Holloway
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Synopsis: “In the heart of the Sierra Nevada mountains, a freezing snowdrift blankets the June Lake Loop. For months, aspiring novelist Gallagher Finch has not written a single word. To pass the time awaiting inspiration, Gal satiates his boredom with Adderall, Evan Williams, and one call girl too many. On the eve of his twenty-sixth birthday, he indulges in all three…

And when he awakens, he discovers a bloody secret tangled in his bedsheets.

Still grieving from a tragic murder in the family thirteen years earlier, Gal wonders if old enemies are drawing near once again. He begins to process his nightmares, anxiety, and fear the only way he knows how – he writes. Quickly realizing his own story could be the best-seller he has been dying to publish, Gal weaves together the truth of who killed Daphne Castro, but in the process, he discovers the story that could launch his career may very well be his own deadly ending.

Family becomes foe, dark secrets resurface, and blood can be found on more than one pair of hands.”

Nicholas Holloway’s The Loop is a clever roller coaster of a book. I found this story to have strong characterization, an ideal setting, lots of unexpected twists, and a sense of word play I haven’t seen much of lately. I wasn’t sure I liked this book when I finished it, but upon reflection, I know that I did, and I liked it a lot.

We meet the Finch family in the midst of their newest crisis (and this family has had several). The siblings have survived a troubled history and now each have a collection of secrets themselves. Holloway has done a fantastic job breathing lives into each of this characters, no matter how broken.

The setting of this book is beautiful; almost a character in its own right. Such beauty hiding so much pain and danger. Northern California is a beautiful place, and the author clearly knows the region and loves it. The lakes make a nice contrast to the terrible things that are occurring throughout the area.

There were many twists and turns in this story. I rarely settled into a suspect before there was another plot twist. The layers uncovered on each page remind us all that there are shades of gray and good and bad in everyone. Anyone could be the guilty party. And the motive was always shifting.

There was a playful note throughout this book. Each chapter was given a colorful title. I thought the playful-ness may be too gimmicky, but I found myself appreciating it and at some times, even loving it. The over-arching color theme connected the threads within each chapter.

The penultimate chapter of this book almost lost me, but after having sat with the conclusion of this story for a couple of days, I have found I appreciate it even more. It was a logical twist, necessary for the ultimate conclusion.

This book appears to be a debut, but I have seen rumors of both a sequel to this one and a new stand alone by this author. I look forward to reading both.
I received a free review copy of this book from Book Sirens and am leaving this review voluntarily.

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