The Spires by #KateMoretti

Five friends through university become five co-dependents in the year following graduation when they find that none of them are quite ready to move past the relationships that they have formed. Now twenty years later the strangeness, tragedy and secrets of that year have come back to haunt of the “spires” as they called themselves. But why? And who is doing this to her, to them?

There appear to be many books lately on the shelves dealing with “reunions.” Since I didn’t form these types of relationships during university nor have I ever attended a reunion, the idea of these hard and fast friendships and the secrets that go with them both intrigue and irk me. In The Spires, there are five struggling young people, none of whom have a strong family background or even family at all, who cling to one another at the exclusion or anyone else and, literally, all else until tragedy strikes and someone is killed. The five pay the psychological price for the next twenty years, a few even pay with their lives. It is the unraveling of one, Penelope, that is the focus of the story and Moretti does an excellent job of making her both interesting and sympathetic.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Spires. I had to suspend a bit of believability at the end but the very end was beautiful, quite worth the read. I will note that this is NOT a thriller. Labeling it as such does a disservice to an otherwise very good book. I’m growing quite tired of publishing houses sticking “thriller” on every mystery or domestic noir book that comes their way. Readers expecting blood and gore will be disappointed and readers who don’t like thrillers won’t read an otherwise very engaging book. Publishing houses should do better!

FANTASTICLAND by #MikeBockoven

I was searching for something similar to Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre and FantasticLand was recommended multiple times. Similar in writing styles, both are written after the fact as follow up accounts of “true crime” too terrible to comprehend. The first time I read FantasticLand was just during the Covid lock down. Thinking that my mindset might have been influenced by the circumstances, I just read it again. Perhaps my thinking is still influenced by the circumstances. 😉

Several years ago, my family and I visited Silver Dollar City in Missouri. A crazy storm blew up out of nowhere and they shut down the park trapping a handful of families inside the park. In between tornadoes going overhead (typical for Missouri) and bursts of sunshine, the families would come out and enjoy the characters from the park or “play” with the various old timey gadgets that the park had all around. It was the strangest, most surreal day. I thought about that day while reading FantasticLand.

Set along the coast of Florida, FantasticLand was an amusement park lover’s dream. Similar to Disney Land but even better, it was divided into sections e.g. Pirate’s Cove, Princess Kingdom and the characters and rides were amazing. The problem is that it was far closer to the coast than Disney and the mother of all hurricanes was bearing down on it. The contingency plan, should something happen, was to get out all of the visitors and a core group of “employees” would stay in the lock down storm shelter and then, after the storm passed, ensure that the park remained safe. As with most amusement parks, the employees were mostly teenagers but no one really expected anything major to happen so it was all good. Until the storm hit.

What happens after the storm is one of the most chilling, horrifying tales I ever have read. Ever. The first time I read it wasn’t as bad as the second for the mere fact that I – we all have – watched as the world has devolved over the last year or so. We thought people would come together in a crisis, embrace and help one another, didn’t we? Instead we’ve seen the opposite happen culminating in the US with the insurrection at our US Capitol. People, humans, are behaving worse now than they have since…. when? The Middle Ages? So just imagine what would happen if you trapped some teens in a park for weeks on end and expected them to survive. It would put the television show Survival to shame. Horrifying with a capital H!

If you like horror, podcasts, fictional true crime then you should love FantasticLand and, by the way, I LOVE that cover art!!

Red Widow @AlmaKatsu

Of course I’ve read The Hunger and The Deep and I assumed that Red Widow would follow along those lines, lines which I loved for the record. I could not have been more wrong. How can an author write such completely different genres!? Aaaaah, but lest you think that I was disappointed, I was not. This is, by far, one of the best spy novels I’ve ever read and, wow, I’ve read all of the original Tom Clancy novels, the ones before he jumped the shark and then, well, he died. Red Widow is amazing! Fabulous. Incredible. Just wow.

Let me state up front that I hate spy novels. Hate! Tom Clancy actually ruined them for me. I loved them until I realized that the majority of them always (!) are nothing more than US propaganda. There always (!) will be the bad guy (them) and the good guy (the US) but somewhere along the line I became a real live adult with a brain and recognized that the world operates in shades of grey and the US sure as hell is not always the “good guy,” not even most of the time. So I stopped reading spy novels even though I loved them. (sigh) Had I known that is what Red Widow was about, I never would have read it and then I would have missed out on one terrific book!!

This is set in current time and involves – yes – the US, Russia and other modern day players. There are references to current events that you will recognize and some of the things that happen in the book will make you pause and think “wait, didn’t that just happen,” but even if you search for it, it’s not there. The premise is, perhaps, too realistic which is why I love it. The characters are spot on and there’s a reason for that. Did you know that Alma Katsu used to work for the CIA!? AND the DoD!? Yeahhhhh, there is a reason she gets it so right and I love the book for that!! Not to mention that the ending is the best, absolute perfection.

So, can you tell I highly recommend this book? There also is a movie in the works for this one and I may just have to break my no t.v. or movie rule to see it. READ THIS ONE!!!!

Snow by John Banville

Not realizing that John Banville was actually one of my favorite authors who used a pen name, I wanted to read Snow, literally, due to the title. We were under a blizzard warning and it seemed quite a appropriate. Imagine my surprise when I discovered I was reading the famed Booker prize winning author whom I’ve always love but by a different name!

Snow is a very traditional piece of crime fiction. St. John Strafford is sent out on a murder inquiry in a small town in Ireland. The year is 1957 and the Catholic church is well in control of everything. As St. John carries out his duty, Banville provides us with a critique of the Catholic church at the time, and the present because not much has changed, the Irish “troubles,” and does so while beautifully using the Snow as a character all unto itself. At times the Snow is beautiful; at times it is oppressing but always it is present as Strafford works to uncover the killer.

Banville has a style of writing that is slow, methodical, atmospheric and brilliant. I’ve grown a bit weary of “fast paced thrillers” and their formulaic gimmicks, so I truly appreciated the writing that Banfield provided in Snow.

The Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves

Finally! I’ve seen Ann Cleeves books for years but never could find the time to go back to the beginning. I’ve even watch the television show, Vera, based on these books but never got around to reading the actual series. With Covid, the time arrived and I’m so glad!

The Crow Trap is divided into sections devoted to the primary characters ending with Vera. We aren’t really introduced to her until halfway through the book, although we do get a glimpse of her early on. There is a suicde, a murder, lots of suspicion and another murder before the book finally settles down into a proper police procedural. For some readers I suspect that the book would read “too slowly.” Cleeves is well known for her descriptive, atmospheric, very detailed writing and it really comes through in these early books more so than in her later series. It is this style of writing that I particularly love about British writers, however. Perhaps you remember books from an earlier time period and recall that it took us more than one day to read them. Yes? That is because of the detail; they contained more than fast paced action and tons of dialogue. I had started to miss that type of writing despite really adoring crime fiction. My answer – Ann Cleeves. If you like crime fiction told with very well developed characters, a great whodunnit with loads of atmospher then give Ann Cleeves a try. She is worth every minute (days) of your time.

The New Husband by #DJPalmer

This is one of those strange books that I read, reviewed and the review disappeared so I read it again and, hopefully, this time around the review will “stick.”

I really like Palmer’s domestic thrillers. They are well written, the women are stronger than you generally find in these types of books and the kids aren’t too annoying. That is certainly the case with The New Husband. In fact, if you didn’t know you were reading a domestic thriller, you would think you were reading a book about second chances until about mid-way through when you start getting the hibbie-jibbies because things just don’t add up or feel right. Then you have to hurry to the end to find out why and, wow, that was a surprise.

I realize I’m late to game with this one since it was published in 2020, but if you have not read The New Husband then you should definitely check it out. It’s a good read!

Aftershock by Judy Melinek & T.J. Mitchell

You know, I realize that I am a horrible blogger. I’m inconsistent. I rarely follow up like I should. My heart is in a good place but my bipolar brain sometimes does it own thing. Then the guilt sets in and I think, oh god, I’m so far behind or my reviews are too lame or too short or too far behind so I just don’t post. It’s a never ended cycle. SO just know that I’m trying. I’m reading like the crazy person that I am and will post as often as my brain allows….

Aftershock is the second in the Jessie Teska series revolving around Teska, an abrasive, hard core forensic pathologist in San Fransicso. I absolutely loved (!) First Cut, the first in the series by this writing duo and anxiously awaited the arrival of this Aftershock. I was quite disappointed with myself, actually, because I simply could not connect with the story line or even with Teska, herself, in this follow up. There is another questionable cause of death, this one at a construction site, but then there is a major earthquake which Teska must survive. Simply put, there was too much going on. Pick one – forensic thriller or earthquake thriller but I didn’t need both on top of Teska’s already bit over the top personality. I’m just not sure I’ll bother with another book, if there is one, in this series despite my love of the first.

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

Dear Edward is the story of Edward Adler, the sole survivor of a plane crash that killed his entire family along with many others. Told primarily through Edward’s perspective, we also flashback to other passengers on the plane and follow their stories leading up to the crash. This, of course, is hearwrenching as we learn of their good and bad qualities, their secrets and their desires, all of which vanish with them in an instant. Except for Edward’s. As Edward physically recuperates, we also see him mentally grow stronger as he deals with his new reality with the help of his aunt, uncle and their wonderful next door neighbors. This is a story of pain, love, growth and giving and it is one that I am so thankful that I read.

So, why not 5 stars? There was a point about midway through where I almost quit reading the book. It meandered to the point of feeling lost and confused. Then, just as I was about to put it down, it turned a corner and the remainder of the book was far better than the first; so much so that Dear Edward will go into my top favorite reads. It is a book that stays with you to remind you just how precious life truly is.

One Last Child by #AnniTaylor

Anni Taylor is a new to me author and, truthfully, it was the starkness of this cover that drew me in and made me want to read the book. I’m very glad I judged this book by its cover because I loved it!

Kate Wakeland is an older homicide detective nearing retirement age but that hasn’t slowed her down at all. When she hears about five children going missing from a park, she doesn’t give it a second thought since it’s not her area – mispers vs homicide – that is, until she finds out one of the missing is her granddaughter. Kate desperately wants on the investigative team but is hampered for multiple reasons. Once the brass finally relents, Kate reviews all of the “clues” and begins unraveling who might have taken the children and why. When the children begin reappearing years later, the case is thrown into turmoil. However, One Last Child does not come home – Kate’s granddaughter!

The storyline is well written and it was marvelous reading about a detective who is a woman, brilliant and older!! Some of us who are not young are growing very tired of only seeing young women cops or screwed up old men detectives. I’ll take more like Kate Wakefield any day!! I loved the all of the characters, even the ones that were unlikeable. This definitely is a series I’m going to enjoy!

She Has a Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be by #JDBARKER

NOTE: I read this book as an ARC and wrote a review that is now missing. How do these things happen? I’ll never know.

JD Barker is rapidly becoming my favorite author. I read his books the moment they are available to me, usually from Barker himeself, and then impatiently wait for the next one. At times my reviews seem a bit harsh, especially considering that I let others books slide, but this is only because I know Barker to be a masterful storyteller and there are times I want more. This book, whose title is unweidingly long, is quite near perfection. It is dark yet beautiful, suspenseful yet a love story, it has crime, suspense and marvelously witty dialogue – as always. The book is LONG but you will read it quickly because you HAVE to know where Barker is taking you, that place that resides deep in his very dark mind. To say that I loved She Has a Broken Thing Where Her Should Be is an understatement. It is a book that has now become part me. It truly is a MUST READ. 

PS – How gorgeous is that Cover!?