In the Never Game, Colter Shaw finds people for a living. Not for honor. Not for glory. For the reward money.
Taught rules for hunting by his survivalist father from a young age, Colter uses his skills to find missing people.
When Sophie doesn’t return home, her father is convinced that she wouldn’t leave without her beloved poodle. The local police are not convinced and assume the nineteen year old is just a runaway rather than a victim. Desperate, the father advertises a $10,000 reward for information leading to her return. Enter Colter.
Never Game begins a new series for Mr. Deaver. The twisty thrill ride of a plot keeps the reader engaged. The premise of a modern day bounty hunter is unique. Colter is a intriguing hero. His own history was the best mystery in this book so I’m looking forward to the next entry in the series.
This book is highly recommended to fans of CJ Box’ Joe Pickett and Dean Koontz’ Jane Hawk series. All three heroes are willing to work occasionally on the shady side of the law in pursuit of a greater good. Plus all three of the series provide a pulse-pounding ride. 4.5 stars!
Thanks to G.P. Putnam’s Sons and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
No Saving Throw is a cozy mystery set in the nerdy world of Dungeons & Dragons. If the D&D term “No Saving Throw” is unfamiliar, it means you can’t roll the dice to prevent or mitigate the awful thing that just occurred. Also, it means this book may not be a good choice for you.
Autumn is the owner of a gaming store especially role-playing ones like Dungeons & Dragons. When a gamer dies, Autumn decides to protect her gaming friends, and her store’s reputation, by finding the murderer herself.
No Saving Throw’s setting in high school makes the book seem very young adult. Descriptions of scenes are scant and similar to Adventure games like you enter a dark room. For old school nerds like me, it was fun to spot the old television, movie and game Easter eggs. The mystery was easy to solve—but not Scooby Doo level easy. I wanted to understand the core group’s motivations, which were only here almost as an afterthought. Since this is only book one of a planned series, I hope that issue will be addressed in the next book. If you are into gaming or just can’t stomach another knitting or bookstore cozy, this book will be a pleasant read. 3 stars!
Thanks to Diversion Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
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It’s time for Jane Hawk to finally get some payback for her husband’s death and so much more in Night Window.
The Techno-Arcadians have chased former FBI Agent Jane Hawk through four books already. Jane is trying to bring to light a massive conspiracy of billionaires. The Arcadians inserted a nanobot into Jane’s husband’s brain. When activated, he was forced to kill himself. In previous books, the nanobots were used to create both assassins and sex slaves.
Protecting her young son Travis is Jane’s highest priority as well proving her husband’s innocence. However, Jane’s ultimate goal is to expose the Arcadian’s evil plan to the public. This time she has some help from a former colleague, computer hacker Vikram.
I have been lucky enough to acquire the entire Jane Hawk series as Advanced Reader Copies. While Night Window can be read as a standalone, it is rather like reading the last chapter in a book. You would be cheating yourself out of a suspenseful ride. The conclusion is definitely worth the wait.
The author’s writing style is not for everyone. Mr. Koontz has never met an adjective he didn’t like. While effective in horror, it feels rather out of place in a thriller. It does rather slow down the pace. However, the use of such detailed imagery intensifies the atmosphere and allows a closer connection with the series’ characters. The plot, over the entire series, is engaging enough to compel the reader through each book.
Overall, an excellent conclusion to an outstanding series. 5 stars! Now, please Mr. Koontz, write another excellent paranormal thriller like Watchers.
Thanks to Ballantine Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
The less you know about the plot, the better the surprises will be in The Night Before.
Rosie forces her sister, Laura, to go on a date arranged on a dating website. When Laura doesn’t return that night or the next morning, Rosie investigates what happened.
The Night Before is a compulsively readable thriller where nothing, and no one, is what they appear. The twists, especially at the end, were intense. It is highly recommended for suspense fans. 4 stars!
Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
The next time you upgrade a perfectly good phone because of a rebate that is denied two months later, don’t feel bad. Humans: A Brief History of How We F*cked It All Up will introduce you to much worse human errors in judgment.
We celebrated when our hunter-gatherer ancestors started farming. Wrong! That practice started class divisiveness and wars over land.
We romanticized the middle-class Shakespeare fan who brought Henry IV’s starlings to New York City. Wrong! The starlings ate our crops and spread disease like salmonella coast to coast. The starlings’ kinsfolk also killed 62 air travelers in 1960 while forcing a plane to crash land.
There are many more examples of unintended consequences here. If you enjoy irony, Humans: A Brief History of How We F*cked It All Up is a gem. It also explains history with an eye to the human factor. Disneyland’s Cinderella’s castle is based on a Bavarian castle created by theatrical set designers at Mad King (really just homosexual) Ludwig’s behest as a tourist attraction. It is ironic that it worked for current and olden day Bavarian sightseers but also for copycat Disney. Killing Ludwig after he had built only three castles was the gaffe here.
Other reviewers characterize this book as funny and depressing. However, I think it is empowering knowing that everyone makes mistakes. 4 stars!
Thanks to Hanover Square Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Secret Agent Brainteasers contains over 100 puzzles in a variety of types from logic and wordplay to algebra and geometry. The chapter introductions link the puzzles to skills needed by secret agents as illustrated with true stories from the British intelligence community from Victorian times through today.
I enjoyed the chapter introductions and could see the relevance of the puzzles to actual secret agent skills. The puzzles were great fun or deeply frustrating depending on their difficulty.
There are a couple of warnings. Since many puzzle answers involve words, the use of British spelling (i.e., armour vs. armor) may confuse non-Britons. Some of the puzzles involve a map or board and so are difficult to play on a kindle or tablet. An actual physical book (remember those?) will allow for working out the answers with a pencil (and probably an eraser) more easily.
Overall, Secret Agent Brainteasers will provide many hours of fun where you can avoid social media and the intrusive light of mobile devices. 4 stars!
Thanks to Quercus and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the Castle on Sunset is not salacious enough. When the topic is the famous Hollywood hotel, the Chateau Marmont, you expect some racy gossip. But if so, you will be sadly disappointed as most of the celebrity stories have been widely told before.
The Chateau was built at the height of 1920s optimism as a homage to a French royal castle. It was finished right before the market crash and the depression began.
The well-researched history of the many owners of the Chateau and its frequent rebranding is the best part of this book. Unfortunately, I was looking for spicy gossip, which is mostly absent. The Castle on Sunset is a serious history. If you are looking for that, you will enjoy this book. However, I wanted more original scoops on celebrities’ lives. 3 stars.
Thanks to Doubleday Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
MAD about the Trump Era has exactly the same feel as the original magazines.
One overriding belief—check.
Various writing styles from prose, to parodies, to poetry, to short comics—check.
Excellent artwork including easily recognizable caricatures of political and pop culture figures—check.
More clever, and occasionally witty, than laugh-out-loud funny jokes—check.
MAD about the Trump Era definitely brings back memories of making fun of President Nixon. If anything, there is more data to mine for laughs with President Trump. Just his tweets alone could fill an entire book. The jokes are hit and miss—compare them to the sketches on Saturday Night Live. I really enjoyed Captain Red America because it works on a surface level of climate deniers. But there is a deeper self-referential humor in the R on his suit referencing Red Robin of DC Comics, which owns MAD magazine.
Obviously, if you are a MAGA hat wearing staunch supporter of the Donald, this book is not for you. However, it is a nostalgic trip down memory lane for us older democrats (socialists to you, Mein President). 3 stars.
Thanks to MAD Magazine, DC Entertainment, and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
In Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale, Catwoman’s backstory is revealed and it is harsh.
Catgirl Selina’s mom brings home a new abusive boyfriend every month until she settles on Dernell. Dernell is physically and emotionally abusive to both Selina and her mother. However, when his cruelty impacts another, Selina runs away from home.
I didn’t know before reading it but this book is published as a young adult comic. I don’t believe teen Catgirl is an example of a good role model. She is a thief. None of the events you would expect, like rape and trafficking, happen to Selina after she runs away from home. She is portrayed as happy living on the street. I know it’s a teenage fantasy but I wouldn’t let my daughter read it.
The backstory of why Selina has a connection to cats and Bruce Wayne is interesting to explore. Making Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale a 4 star read for adults. I’m looking forward to the next volume continuing Catgirl’s transformation into a full grown Catwoman.
Thanks to DC Ink and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
There is a new drug in town in the horror/crime graphic novel, Bone Parish Vol 1. Just don’t ask what they make it out of…
Ash is a new hallucinogen that allows user to experience someone else’s life. It is incredibly popular but also so strong it kills some inexperienced users. The creator and her family can’t keep up with demand—no matter how many gravediggers they hire. Ash is composed of the burned remnants of dead bodies. The more interesting the life story, the better the high. When the family’s profit becomes the talk of the drug underworld, other gangs try to take over the family’s business.
The mixing of necromancy, New Orleans’ gothic atmosphere, and a noir crime family is almost as intoxicating as the drug, Ash. Bone Parish Vol 1 is concerned more with introducing the character’s stories and is rather short on plot in the middle section. However, the beautiful and atmospheric artwork makes the trip stimulating. The conclusion also promises more excitement in the next volume. 3.5 stars!
Thanks to BOOM! Studios and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
FBI Agent Lucy Kincaid is working with County Investigator Jerry Walker on a serial killer case in Nothing to Hide. Unfortunately, Jerry has a distrust of FBI psychological profiles due to an earlier case.
The victims seem to have nothing in common besides being male, under 40 and married. The murder method is identical. Each victim stops while driving home at night, is tased, beaten including crushed hands, and finally shot in the head. The entire crime takes less than five minutes.
Concurrently, Lucy’s stepson, Jesse, is sucked into a situation while trying to help a friend. To resolve this issue, Lucy and her husband Sean must improve their communication and parenting skills.
I love police procedurals. I enjoyed the interactions between skeptical Jerry and thinker Lucy while they were investigating the serial killer case. However, my interest was not held by the family drama portion of the book. This issue was probably caused by my lack of reading any earlier entry in this now fifteen book series.
For series readers, Nothing to Hide probably will rate 4.5 stars. For others, who like me are jumping in here, this book rates 3.5 stars. It is definitely worth reading for the twisty mystery of the killer’s identity and motive. The writing style is fluid. The characters are well-written. Overall, the book rates 4 stars.
Thanks to Minotaur Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
In Silent Footsteps, Constable Hazel Best is deeply disappointed when her CID interview doesn’t result in her promotion. While working a case, Hazel begins receiving anonymous gifts of flowers, wine and candy on her doorstep. Is it an admirer or a stalker?
Trucker Watts was only out of prison three weeks when he was found bludgeoned to death behind a dumpster. His best friend, Rat, is convinced that a rival gang, the Canal Crew, is responsible. Rat and Trucker’s gang, the Maulers, agree.
Silent Footsteps is a great mix of excellent characterizations and a puzzling but fair mystery. Armchair detectives may be able to determine who the murderer is before Hazel, as I did. However, the characters make reading the rest of the book a pleasant journey. This book is highly recommended for police procedural and mystery fans. 4 stars!
Thanks to Severn House and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Whether you are trying to think up the perfect plot for your great American novel, create a new business, or energize an existing business with a new product or marketing plan, Me, Myself & Ideas can help.
Brainstorming is usually done in a group. But what if there is only you in the room? The authors have modified traditional brainstorming ideas so they can be performed by one person. They begin with breakouts and icebreakers to warm up your brain. But the meat of the book is in the brainstorming exercises themselves. Divided into methods using art, English, drama, and science as their muse, it is likely that at least one or two types will work for each reader.
There is nothing really new presented here. However, the style and humor in the book are a welcome addition to the surprisingly dry academic books on creativity. Years ago, I took a Master’s level Creativity Class that was my favorite MBA course. It presented these same ideas (i.e., mind maps and new ways of seeing old ideas). These methods work!
If you want to up your creativity with some pizazz, Me, Myself & Ideas is a good way to do it. Just a head’s up, I wouldn’t read this book from front to back. Stop and do some of the ideas as you read. 4 stars!
Thanks to Andrews McMeel Publishing and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
The Invited is a ghost story of multigenerational family drama rather the mystery I expected.
Helen and Nate decide to quit their teaching jobs and move to rural Vermont. They buy a large parcel of land and begin building their house. The land includes a bog where a suspected witch, Hattie, was hanged ninety-one years earlier. Hattie had told her twelve year old daughter, Jane, to hide in their house’s root cellar until she came back, which now she would never do.
Fourteen year old Olive lives next to Nate and Helen. Ostracized by the town, she wants the new neighbors to go back to the city. Olive is also haunted by her mother’s disappearance one year earlier.
The Invited has many plot threads that are conveniently, maybe too conveniently, wrapped up by the end of the book. While there are mysteries here, the book is really a ghost story that includes many characters that have precognition. If you are in the mood for an atmospheric ghost story, this book is a good choice. However, the mystery’s solution is easily guessed. 3 stars.
Thanks to Doubleday Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Little Darlings is an unusual mix of dark fairy tale and thriller. It is a enthralling ride down a rabbit hole where anything is possible.
In olden days, people believed that witches took newborn babies. Sometimes they exchanged them for demons who looked exactly the same as the newborns, but behaved differently. The witches particularly liked twins.
Lauren has twin boys that only she can tell apart. While still recovering from the birth, Lauren gets a visit from an old woman. The crone wants to trade for one of the newborn. If Lauren doesn’t agree, she threatens to take them both. When Lauren calls the police, they don’t believe her. Only one Sergeant, who has her own issues with babies, believes her enough to investigate. When Lauren sees the witch hiding across the street from her house, but no one else sees her, even Lauren begins to question her sanity.
Little Darlings is an atmospheric read. Multiple times I changed my mind from believing to disbelieving Lauren and vice versa. If you want a bit of paranormal horror mixed into your thriller, this book is a great choice. 4 stars!
Thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Antiques Ravin’ is a humorous cozy mystery with unique characters.
Meet Brandy and her mother, Vivian. Vivian was elected County Sheriff in the preceding series entry when everyone else running was disqualified. Vivian has a revoked driver’s license for driving while not under the influence—of her bipolar medicine—so Brandy is her unpaid chauffeur.
Sheriff Vivian is called to the nearby town of Antiqua to investigate a series of burglaries. The surprising part is that nothing was stolen from the five antique stores. Was the burglar looking for the Poe prize? Part of an annual hunt for one valuable item tagged for a ridiculously low amount among all the town’s antique stores. The hunt begins tomorrow during the town’s Edgar Allen Poe Days celebration. When someone is murdered in the style of a famous Poe story, the story moves forward quickly.
Antiques Ravin’ is the thirteenth book in this series but my first. It is fine read as a standalone. I like the humor and the eccentric characters. However, my favorite part was that this book seems violent enough to almost be a thriller. Most cozy mysteries avoid violence but I think a bit is a welcome change. If you agree, this series will be a great addition to your cozy collection. 4 stars!
Thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.