The Huntress

By Kate Quinn

We don’t hunt the helpless, luchik. We hunt the killers. Is like villagers going after a wolf gone mad. Only when the wolf is dead, villagers go home and we find the next mad wolf.

Ian Graham, a former British war correspondent teams up with Nina Markova a former Night Witch, one of the legendary female Russian night bombers. Their mission is to find and bring to justice a vicious Nazi predator, The Huntress, with whom Nina has a personal score to settle. They track her to Boston, where Jordan, a young budding photographer’s widowed father has just brought home Anna, his serene and reserved new fiancée, and her traumatized daughter, Ruth. From Germany.

I hovered between 3 stars and 4 stars for this one. I re-read the ending pages again, and 4 stars it is. Part of the problem, if 3 stars is a problem, was that I didn’t really take to Nina or her lengthy story while she was in Russia. It wasn’t until she came to the United States that I really warmed to her.

“Is a Russian thing. Sit around, drink too much, talk about death.” She pushed her empty plate away. “It makes us cheerful.”

I guess it was because I just prefer light over dark. I was much more intrigued by Jordan’s domestic adventures with Anna and Ruth on the home front.

I hope there is a sequel someday. I would like to see all of the characters again and read more of Ruth, all grown up. I would also like to see more Nazis caught.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

July 14, 2019

Dark Matter

By Blake Crouch

“Imagine you’re a fish, swimming in a pond. You can move forward and back, side to side, but never up out of the water. If someone were standing beside the pond, watching you, you’d have no idea they were there. To you, that little pond is an entire universe. Now imagine that someone reaches down and lifts you out of the pond. You see that what you thought was the entire world is only a small pool. You see other ponds. Trees. The sky above. You realize you’re a part of a much larger and more mysterious reality than you had ever dreamed of.” Daniela leans back in her chair and takes a sip of wine.

Dark Matter is an original concept that delivers a lot of suspense, wonder, some shocks, and twists aplenty. Jason, an ordinary physics professor with a wife, Daniella, and son, Charley, is knocked out and kidnapped. He wakes up to learn he is really a celebrated world-renowned genius who has cracked the code to other worlds and alternate realities and how to go there. But Jason loves the only other life he knows. He loves his wife and son. Can he find that life again in the infinite other parallel lives he has lived and is living?

It was hard to get my mind around the science so I didn’t even try. I just went with it. I must give it all the stars, even though It didn’t affect me very much emotionally and it wasn’t funny which are two qualities which are usually very important to me in books. There were times that I didn’t like Jason, the hero, very much. But it was well-written and kept me reading. There were several difficult concepts and Mr. Crouch handled them very well and very believably. It is a real page-turner. I did figure out what Jason and his family were going to have to do to stay together. I loved the way his wife Daniela cut through the mess and took charge at the end. I wish Mr. Crouch would have figured out a way to involve Amanda, his fellow traveler through their alternate lives, at the end. Primo sequel material there!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

October 5, 2018

The Chemist

By Stephanie Meyer

“Kevin rolled his eyes. “I bet you always have a plan, don’t you, shorty? ”She regarded him with flat eyes. “I can’t rely on muscle, so I rely on brains. It appears you have the opposite problem.”

Stephanie Meyer can write a good page-turner. Say what you will, all of the books I have read by her have really engaged me, and The Chemist was no exception. It is a light thriller with a fair share of romantic mush. Although it has lots of violence and a high mortality rate, it is not very dark, terrifying, or heart pounding. Somehow you know everything is going to turn out OK. Our heroine is an emotionally damaged female John Wick, Jason Bourne, or Equalizer type, except she has the special superpower of being a brilliant chemist and former torturer who uses her expertise to protect herself and wreak havoc on bad guys. At least she hopes they are bad guys. She is on the run from a certain U.S government agency that is trying to kill her because she knows too much. She agrees to do one last job for them in exchange for them ceasing and desisting. A common trope, yes.

The book kind of bogs down at the beginning with the setup and her preparations to capture her prey. It was interesting and admirable but went on a bit too long. I almost quit. I hung on and it picked up considerably after her target proves himself to be a sweet, innocent victim with an extremely dangerous twin brother (Kevin), who turns out to be also targeted by another branch of the government. Alex, our heroine, reluctantly teams up with him to extricate themselves from their mutual dilemma and keep his beloved, but naïve, (and, sadly, a bit dim,) brother safe. And therein lies my main complaint about this book. I actually prefer beta heroes as opposed to the Alpha male heroes. But they don’t work so well when the book is set, not in the real world, but in the nether world of constant danger, evil, and death. Especially when our heroine is such a badass. I didn’t understand the romance. She had more in common and more chemistry with his crazy and dangerous brother. They really got each other. By comparison, Daniel seemed ineffectual. But a super-nice guy. A mensch. Yeah. He actually expresses qualms about stealing a car when they were running for their lives, pursued by the powers of hell. And he was apologizing all the way through the book for being so stupid. At one point, Kevin, the uber-tough agent, tells him to shut up so he can talk to his nemesis, Alex, because at least she has some sense. Those two are hostile towards each other through the majority of the book accompanied by a lot of amusing banter and snark, but they had mutual respect. They bonded over rolling their eyes at his brother and her love interest. But, to my disappointment, it was not foreplay.
Towards the end, I kind of sped-read, not feeling compelled to savor every word and development. As a side note, Kevin’s dogs also were a little over the top and added an almost fantasy element. (Think Dean Koontz’s Watchers). The ending was a little pat, but I didn’t mind that so much either. I like the way the epilogue was done. It was clever. All in all, an intriguing concept, competently done, but lacking any surprise or twists. She is not a great writer, like some non-literary entertainment-only novelists are, but she can spin a tale and keep you engaged. I’d give a sequel, if there is one, a chance. But please, first, a sequel to The Host!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

February 28, 2017

The Blind

By A. F. Brady

This was a well-written book that mostly kept my interest throughout. I cared about and hoped that Sam the psychologist heroine would conquer her demons and find the courage to save her own life from the personal and professional disaster in which she was engulfed.

**Spoiler**

Well everything ended up hunky dory! She conquered her raging alcoholism by just deciding to quit drinking. Who knew it was so easy? She finally left her monster boyfriend by simply ignoring his text messages. Pretty great final farewell scene in her office though! I hope it was final. She escaped being exposed at work and kept her position and status despite severe ethical breaches and being partially responsible for the death of one patient and the almost death of two others. But hey, they weren’t that important in her life, after all. As we see in the last chapter, she even managed to keep the relationship of her good friend and potential love interest. All do to confessing her Borderline Personality Disorder to her “mystery” patient. Hopefully, she will be getting some professional help for that, but maybe, like her alcoholism and her toxic relationships, she just decided not to have it anymore. And what about the smoking? Did she quit that cold turkey as well? And by the way, why was Richard, who turns out to be perfectly sane, always carrying around those old newspapers that held the key to the mystery? **End Spoiler**


The relentless descent of her fortunes and health was pretty gripping, but unfortunately, it was not balanced by a gripping hard-fought recovery. Like many others, I thought the wrap up was too quick and left too many problems and questions just sitting there. I guess it was done for shock value if you are a reader to whom the big reveal was a shock.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

June 25, 2019

My Best Friend’s Exorcism

By Grady Hendrix

“The devil is loud and brash and full of drama. God, he’s like a sparrow.”

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel about the friendship and loyalty of Abby towards Gretchen. Of course Gretchen was Abby’s friend too, as we see especially in the concluding pages, but for almost half of the book, Gretchen wasn’t there. She’d been replaced.
I loved the humor in the face of the horrific. Not especially the gross details of some of the fates of the teens involved and of course the possession and exorcism, but really the uselessness and terrible behavior of the adults. That was the scariest evil in this book.

“Families like that don’t listen to other people,” Mrs. Rivers said. “You get in the middle of whatever this is and you’ll be giving them an excuse to blame you for everything.”

Mrs. Rivers, Abby’s mother, was not a good parent and was a bitter person although not without good reason. But she was right in all of her observations. Her portrayal was fascinating and unpredictable. One of many gripping characterizations in the book.

Of course, some of the events just could not have played out the way they did for real. When confronted by the sights and smells and devastation that Gretchen’s possession caused, including what happened to one friend in particular, surely at least one parent, teacher, doctor, law enforcement, or clergyperson, would have stepped in, Like in The Exorcist. Denial caused by cognitive dissonance can only continue to a certain point. But that would have defeated the purpose of the book, I guess.

Someone had to do something. Someone had to say something. Teachers weren’t doing it. Her mom wasn’t going to do it. The Langs wouldn’t do it. That left Abby.

This was a real page-turner and one which was emotionally satisfying as well.

P.S. As I always do, I went on Google Earth to find some of the stomping grounds of the characters. Amazingly, Gretchen’s street not only exists, but her exact house is right there too. As are all of the other locations as well. I loved that authenticity.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

May 20, 2020

The Silent Patient

by Alex Michaelides

“I’m forty two years old. And I became a psychotherapist because I was fucked-up. That’s the truth – though it’s not what I said during the interview when the question was put to me.”

This is the kind of book that might be better read than listened to. The narrations were great, no complaints there, whatsoever, and I had no trouble following it or remembering all of the characters, but I wish I was able to page through from the beginning to relive all of the clues and get a better handle on it all.

**Spoiler**

Especially the dual timelines. That was surprising, and a bit of a cheat. Were there any clues in the text, that it wasn’t a chronological story? I think it was signaled right from the beginning that there is something wrong with Theo and he is not a good person. Also that Gabriel was not the paragon that Alicia thought he was. The difference between what Alicia says about him versus how he acts on the page stands out. Theo’s crude language and anger was a giveaway for me. I really thought Alicia was innocent though. It seems like the police would have seen the marks of the wires on her wrists and ankles and figured out that there was more to the story of Alicia tying him up and shooting him. 

**end spoilers**

There were a lot of red herrings that were very well done.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

May 22, 2019

The Twisted Ones

By T. Kingfisher

You got hickory with you, you got a piece of the world that’s normal. It’s so normal it’ll cancel out some of the weirdness. You follow?” Clearly I was losing my mind, because that actually made a kind of sense. I went back to the house with a hickory rosary and a bag of dried roots draped around my neck.

I struggle between 3 and 4 stars for this one. I am going with 4 because of the entertaining humor and likability of our heroine, Mouse. Not to mention her cohort, Foxy. It also has one of the most adorable dogs I have ever read about, Bongo.

I have no idea what he’d actually do if he caught a possum—lick it to death, probably. Coonhounds usually get dumped when they turn out not to be very good hunters. Bongo is an excellent watchdog, by which I mean that he will watch very alertly as the serial killer breaks into the house and skins me.

Yep. 4 stars for this triumvirate. The story itself is not my cup of tea. I do love an occasional horror book and/or movie, but this folk-horror genre is not for me I guess. It was not scary, but bizarre and kind of nuts. I am glad I familiarized myself with The White People and Other Weird Stories by Arthur Machen of which this book is a kind of a sequel. What other reviewers found tedious in its exploration of Cotgrave’s journal, I found very interesting. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

December 30, 2019

Behind Closed Doors

By B. A. Paris

“I can’t help thinking it’s a shame he’s such a sadistic bastard, because he has wonderful manners.”

**This whole review is one giant spoiler***
I haven’t read very many psychological suspense thrillers, domestic or not, that are so popular right now, but I was more than entertained with this one. I couldn’t put it down and read it in one day. It’s not 5 stars because there were too many holes and weaknesses in the plot. There were two main ones. First, why did Jack risk pushing Millie down the stairs and possibly killing her, when the whole reason for his evil plan was to get his hands on her? Second, I loved the justice of his ultimate fate, but Grace took too many chances to accomplish it. Making sure he suffered in the basement jeopardized her successful escape, to begin with. It also practically ensured that an autopsy and investigation would be done. Once law enforcement got a hold of those bars on the windows, her cell, all of the fingerprints, the steel shutters, the forensic evidence in her cell, etc. Etc., the jig would be up. No jury would convict her, ultimately, but what about Millie? Too risky. It comes as a shock to her and (kinda) to the reader, that she is rescued from any suspicion and probable further investigation at the last minute. There are quite a few other quibbles I had with the plausibility of all the goings on, but I won’t pile on.

Other problems? The Molly episode was too disturbing. The ending was too abrupt for me, though I realize it is probably a great way to end it literarily. I wanted more background on Esther. Why was she the one who suspected it was all a charade? What gave her that special insight? She was a great character and I would have loved to see more of her. I would have loved to see the happenings from her point of view. Of course, the wonderful Milly, who was so underestimated.

Overall though it was a well-written page-turner. I loved the “happy” ending, and had no problems at all with Grace, as many of the critical reviewers had.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

May 28, 2019

Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy #1)

by Ilona Andrews

Burn For Me was such a good book in so many ways. I loved Nevada, the heroine, and her snarky humor. I loved her family: They were all interesting and likable and they were all devoted to each other despite the normal family tensions. They also were funny, as was the book. And not that fake funny either. I was genuinely amused many many times. The action sequences were well done and exciting. The antagonists were hateable and scary. It was a page-turner that kept me very intrigued and involved throughout. I have never read an “urban fantasy” book before that I know of, so I found the world-building and premises creative and fascinating and entertaining. Mr./Ms Andrews does what I need in a good writer: They establish an intimate easy rapport with the reader making you part of the story rather than an outsider looking in. Yes, Ilona Andrews is a good writer. I had a lot of fun. And that makes the two things I did not like overlook-able.
Number one is I hated the hero and love interest, Mad Rogan. I will just say that he was a horrible human being. He was not a good man and he was controlling and abusive to our heroine, who was a very very good person.

“You have no regard for human life,” I said. “You saved the city, but I don’t think you did it because you genuinely cared about all those people. I think you did it because Adam Pierce got under your skin. You hire desperate soldiers, but you don’t do it to save them either. You do it because they offer you unquestioning loyalty. You rescued your cousin, but you had been content to ignore the existence of that whole branch of your family. Had you stepped into Gavin’s life earlier, perhaps he would’ve never met Adam Pierce. …You don’t seem to feel bad about things, and you offer gratitude only when you need to overcome some hurdle. I think you might be a psychopath. “I can’t be with you, no matter how crazy you make me, because you have no empathy, Rogan. The gulf between us, both financially and socially, is too great. So no, I won’t go away with you. I want to be with someone who would if not love, then genuinely care, for me. You are not that man.”

She really nailed it there. Sadly, although she stands up to him in this book and pulls no punches with him throughout, I see the handwriting on the wall. I will probably keep reading at least one more in this series in hopes that she whips him into shape as far as being a decent citizen and person is concerned, or at least gives him justification and a path to redemption in future books. The only reason I could tolerate his nonsense was that Nevada does not cave in mentally or emotionally. I’m pretty sure true love will be his salvation, but he needs to be humbled with some serious groveling on the side.

The other bad mark against this book was the author’s constant and repetitive obsession with worshipping at the altar of Mad Rogan’s looks and power. She/he won’t shut up about his godlike awesomeness, and Nevada’s unwilling attraction and physical response to him. I mean we got it the first dozen times, Ilona. Good Job. Now move on! I guess some readers like this type of over the top horny/sexy writing, but it’s not for me. But like I said, the positives greatly outweigh these annoying negatives.

I’ve learned to be very suspicious about authors who seem to produce more than 1 or so books a year and write exclusively series. Well, Ilona Andrews really churns them out, for sure, but if her/his books are this good, I will have been proven wrong in my prejudice. If they all show the same talent this book does, the more the merrier. And I have a lot of catching up to do.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

April 5, 2020

Orphan X

By Gregg Hurwitz

There’s a Cherokee legend. An elder tells his grandson about the battle that rages inside every person.” “The two wolves.” “That’s right. One wolf is anger and fear and paranoia and cruelty. The other is kindness, humility, compassion, serenity. And the boy asks his grandfather, ‘Which wolf wins?’ You remember the answer?” “‘The one you feed.’” “That’s right. Our challenge?” Jack folds his cloth napkin, wipes a smudge of Alfredo from the edge of his plate. Then he looks directly into Evan’s eyes. “Feed both.”

Excellent thriller along the lines of the movies John Wick, The Equalizer, and the Bournes. It also reminded me of Trevanian’s great Shibumi. Lots of twists and turns, action, shocking developments, and a hero you like, admire, and root for. And not only for his physical survival but for his emotional development as well. It has lots of other things including humor (a bit). The ending promises a return of many characters both good and evil in subsequent books. I guarantee I will be reading on. 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

March 7, 2020