Nine Lives – Book Review

Nine Lives by: Peter Swanson
Narrated by: Jacques Roy, Mark Bramhall
Published on: March 15, 2022
Publisher: William Morrow
Number of Pages: 340
Audio Book: 7Hrs 11 Min

Description

Nine strangers receive a list with their names on it in the mail. Nothing else, just a list of names on a single sheet of paper. None of the nine people know or have ever met the others on the list. They dismiss it as junk mail, a fluke – until very, very bad things begin happening to people on the list. First, a well-liked old man is drowned on a beach in the small town of Kennewick, Maine. Then, a father is shot in the back while running through his quiet neighborhood in suburban Massachusetts. A frightening pattern is emerging, but what do these nine people have in common? Their professions range from oncology nurse to aspiring actor.

FBI agent Jessica Winslow, who is on the list herself, is determined to find out. Could there be some dark secret that binds them all together? Or is this the work of a murderous madman? As the mysterious sender stalks these nine strangers, they find themselves constantly looking over their shoulders, wondering who will be crossed off next….

Review

I am a sucker for any book with a number in the title. It is obviously a ploy to grab my attention and I freely admit that it works on me. You add on a not so subtle nod to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, and then I am doubly interested. So now that I’ve finished it, did it work for me? Yes and No.

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The Book of Cold Cases – Book Review

The Book of Cold Cases by: Simone St. James
Published on: March 15, 2022

“The wind groaned in the eaves. The handprint faded. The figure moved back into the darkness. And the house was still once more.”

Shea is a divorced, 29-year old receptionist at a medical office. Outside of work she has is obsessed with true crime and runs a blog called The Book of Cold Cases that has quite a bit of followers. But her blog is also therapeutic for her as it helps Shea work through a traumatic experience that occurred when she was a child. While at work one day, Beth Greer, a woman who was acquitted for multiple counts of murder back in the 70’s, walks into the office. Everyone believes Beth got away with murder and Beth’s attitude during the trial made her infamous. But Beth and the events fascinate Shea and she can’t help herself – Shea asks if she can interview Beth and get her side of the story.

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The Stranger Diaries – Book Review

The Stranger Diaries (Harbinder Kaur #1): Elly Griffiths
Published on: March 5, 2019

In Stranger Diaries, Elly Griffiths has written a wonderful gothic story that combines a fictional Victorian-era short story with a modern murder mystery.

Clare is the single-mother of 15-year-old Georgie. She teaches high-school English in the house where R.M. Holland, the long-deceased author of short-story The Stranger, used to live. In her spare time, she researches the various mysteries surrounding R.M. Holland, mostly relating to rumors about his wife and possible daughter. Shortly in, Clare learns that her coworker and friend, Elle has been murdered. DS Harbinder Kaur and her partner Neil are assigned to the case, however, they find plenty of roadblocks during their investigation as the people who knew Elle feel compelled to hide certain truths from them.

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God of War – Book Review

Op-Center #19 By: Jeff Rovin
Published On: August 4, 2020

Ha! The timing of this book… I didn’t read the description closely enough when I started reading this book several months. All I knew was that it was a Tom Clancy/Jeff Rovin military thriller and I was all in! So imagine my surprise (and maybe discomfort) when the story reveals that the threat is a new, unknown supervirus. The story was good so I kept going, but eventually real life and my hobby (reading) were colliding a little too much so I had to put the book on hold.

My favorite part about these books is always the build-up. The ‘unknown’ happening over and over again with everyone scrambling to figure it out. This particular ‘unknown’ starts in multiple locations – a plane in mid-flight and the South African navy on a surveillance mission among some other instances. Although I’ve just met the characters in the story, the narrative still gave me enough to care about their survival or situation. It’s this part that keeps me hooked on the story and God of War did this part well. Then add the the political dynamics between the U.S., South Africa, China….it all made for a very entertaining story.

In the end, I enjoyed the book very much and found it a good way to escape even if it did mirror real life a little too closely this time around.

Rating: 4 stars

Description:

In Jeff Rovin’s Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: God of War, after the devastating outbreak of a killer super virus, the Black Wasp Team must prevent America’s enemies from gaining access to the most dangerous weapon the world has ever seen.

The passengers and crew on an Airbus en route to Australia suddenly begin coughing up blood and hemorrhaging violently as the plane plunges to the ground. There are no survivors.

A luxury yacht in the South Indian Sea blows up, and a lone woman escapes the contagion that has inexplicably killed everyone else on the boat.

A helicopter whose occupants have been stricken by an unknown illness crashes into a bridge in South Africa, killing motorists and pedestrians.

The world is facing a devastating bio-terror event, and a game of brinksmanship gets underway as the major powers jockey for position: China sends a naval flotilla to seek the source of the plague and find a way to weaponize it; Russia maneuvers quietly on the sidelines to seize the deadly prize in its quest to regain an empire; while back in Washington D.C., Chase Williams and his top secret Black Wasp special ops team must find out who is behind these deadly attacks before war is unleashed.

What is the secret linking an illegal diamond mining operation, a controversial cure for AIDS, an apartheid-era conspiracy to cover up attempted genocide, and a brilliant but utterly amoral entrepreneur with a score to settle? Black Wasp mounts an ingenious attack on two fronts, from the storm-tossed seas off South Africa to an edge-of-the seat-chase as they seek to find the truth behind this lethal disease before millions of innocent lives are lost. 

Her Final Words – Book Review

By: Brianna Labuskes
Published On: August 1, 2020

While only my second book by this author, it’s clear that the setting and mood are important characteristics to the stories she tells.

Her Final Words centers around a small town in Idaho called Knox Hollow. Within its borders is a church known for its strict doctrines and tight control over its members. While FBI Agent Lucy Thorne investigates the murder of Noah Dawson, this church and their beliefs are woven into the story. None moreso than their belief that there should be no medical intervention when someone is sick or hurt. The state’s Shield Law protects parents in these instances, but it is no less controversial. Throughout the story we learn how difficult it is for the small police department to coincide with this church.

One of the fascinating aspects of the book is how little we know of our main character, Agent Thorne. Often, this genre will provide a detailed character description along with a list of their flaws and demons. Instead, Agent Lucy Thorne enters the story with very little background given. As the story progresses we learn about who Lucy is not by her history, but by her actions and by how she interacts with Sheriff Hicks and Deputy Grant.

While Lucy’s narrative is the central POV, mixed in are chapter’s from the events leading up to when Eliza confesses to FBI. Initially, I feared I would get bored of seeing only one person’s flashback. So I was pleasantly surprised when the past events were told from multiple points of view. By doing so we are given an incomplete picture of what transpired that helps to keep us guessing until the pieces finally start to fit together at the end.

In general, Her Final Words comes across as a straight mystery/suspense story with no alternating story lines told. For me, this approach worked as it allowed me to focus only on the story at hand. Once started, I became engaged rather quickly and am glad I picked it as this month’s First Reads choice.

Rating: 4 stars

Description:

It seems like an open-and-shut case for FBI special agent Lucy Thorne when Eliza Cook walks into the field office. The teenage girl confesses to murdering a young boy. Disturbingly composed, she reveals chilling details only the killer could know. Beyond that Eliza doesn’t say another word, leaving a vital question met with dead silence: Why did she do it?

To find the answer, Lucy goes to the scene of the crime in the small Idaho town of Knox Hollow. But Lucy’s questions are only mounting. Especially when she’s drawn deeper into the life of the victim. Then a combing of the woods yields unsettling evidence that Eliza isn’t the only one in this close-knit rural community with secrets.

Getting to the truth is becoming Lucy’s obsession. And it’s a dangerous one. Because for the good folks of Knox Hollow, hiding that truth will take more than silence.

The Voter File – Book Review

Jack Sharpe #3 By: David Pepper
Published On: June 2, 2020
No. of Pages: 431

Once upon a time this was fiction. When the thought of foreign influence was just something you would read in a thriller novel. Over the past few years, we’ve heard many different accounts and facts regarding elections, rights of voters, voting infringement, election stealing… We’ve also heard about how elections are being influenced through social media. And even though we have heard this on the news for several years now, I wonder how much the typical individual actually knows about voter files and voter data. What The Voter Files brings is an entertaining thriller that helps shed some light on how voter data is collected and used along with other major issues and dilemma’s the U.S. is facing.

It all starts when something astounding and unexpected happens. Tori Justice’s candidate won. Except…he wasn’t supposed to. Tori was the voter file manager for a local campaign. She knew the voting files backwards and forwards and no matter how she looked at it – nothing added up. Her candidate was supposed to lose. Most of us would take the victory lap. Tori, instead, called newspapers and journalists. She called anyone who would listen and Jack Sharpe is the one that answered her call. While Tori and Jack begin their investigation, we see “investors” buying up millions of land from farmers of all types – dairy, wheat, soybeans. Farmers giving up due to conglomerates squeezing the market, allowing foreign investors to see a way in.

The Voter Files! My favorite chapter(s) and part of the story was when Tori and Jack meet for the first time and Tori explains to him all about how the voter files and voter data works. As voters, when we respond and say “I will never, ever, ever vote for “Candidate X”, you are then given a number between 1-5 that indicates your likeliness for voting a certain way. The number you are given will determine what type of ads or messages you then receive, it also prompts them to help send you reminders for voting. You see, it’s all about ensuring you remain engaged and excited to vote. It’s all about ensuring you vote. So, if you are a strong “Yes! I will vote for Candidate X”, then you could receive ads generated to ensure you remain emotionally engaged. An example would be an ad that others may see as over-the-top or emotionally charged. They aren’t there to change your mind, just ensure you still have the desire to vote the way you said you want to. Others that are in the middle – moderates, independents, and those still undecided might receive an ad or message more tailored to how the candidate will work across the aisle, or one that gives examples on their more moderate views. But the voting file is much, much more than that. State and national information mixed together with vendor information – all stored at the national level – always adding, never subtracting. The story goes into greater discussion and depth than I do here and it was fascinating.

I loved Tori. I loved her tenaciousness. It’s not just anyone would who question why their candidate won and then seek out someone to help look into her story. Even the losing candidate’s voting file manager was surprised by her when he found out what she was looking into. But beyond that, I found Jack’s and her partnership very enjoyable. Upon meeting her he immediately notices how their different generations respond/react differently, but even so they meshed very well together.

All in all, this thriller has exactly what you might expect: murder, subplots, certain individuals tracking and following other individuals, foreign actors, investigative work – just to name a few. It was a fun read that was very educational too. Although the title says The Voter Files it also covered other topics as well such as gerrymandering and monopolies.

Voting and elections are a very hot topic right now in the news, especially as the U.S. grows closer to November when the presidential elections will take place. This is the perfect time to read this book, especially if you are looking to become more educated on how some of the process works, but in an entertaining way.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley and Penguin Group Punnam for the advanced reader copy and opportunity to provide an honest review.

Description:

Investigative reporter Jack Sharpe is down to his last chance. Fired from his high-profile gig with a national news channel, his only lead is a phonefull of messages from a grad student named Tori Justice, who swears she’s observed an impossible result in a local election. Sharpe is sure she’s mistaken…but what if she isn’t?

Sharpe learns that the most important tool in any election is the voter file: the database that keeps track of all voters in a district, and shapes a campaign’s game plan for victory. If one person were to gain control of an entire party’s voter file, she could manipulate the outcome of virtually every election in America. Sharpe discovers this has happened–and that the person behind the hack is determined to turn American politics upside down.

The more he digs, the more Sharpe is forced to question the values–and viability–of the country he loves and a president he admired. And soon it becomes clear that not just his career is in jeopardy…so is his life. 

No Signal – Book Review

iME Series Book 2 By: Jem Tugwell
Published On: June 4, 2020
No. of Pages: 336
Published By: Serpentine Books
Available Formats: Paperback, Ebook, & Audio

iMe knew where everyone was. It saved their signal so that it also knew where everyone had been. There was nowhere to hide.

The beauty of this story lies in how it is set in a future that feels so close that you can almost touch it. Even now there are events mentioned in the news about how governments from certain countries are using devices, such as a bracelet, to track an individual’s location and health stats due to the coronavirus. The iME series takes it all a step or two further, but there is enough truth in the core of story to make it all very plausible and far too realistic.

Clive is the main protagonist in the series. He’s by far my favorite character and is so incredibly relatable. Dragging his feet into this future that he does not want is very taxing as it affects his job opportunities, his love life, and his personal freedoms. Choosing to not exercise or not to eat properly is a luxury we all currently have, but in Clive’s world freedom is a dream of yesterday. The iME sees it all and is determined to help Clive choose a better lifestyle. And if he doesn’t, then there is always the vending machine to turn him in to the Freedom Unit Enforcement under the Ministry of Well-being and Health branch of government, where you can be disciplined for not following the expected guidelines. What hope is there for Clive when he can’t live the life he wants?

The vending machine said: ‘Clive, my friend. What can I get you?’

But No Signal also begins to explore how it affects other areas of governing too. Even tourists entering the country for a short period of time are required to wear a special bracelet called the iTourist. Honestly, I would think this might discourage tourism and have a monetary impact that goes along with that, but if so there is no mention of it.

In No Signal, Clive is still at his same job, but this time he has a new partner – Ava. Zoe is still around, but she has moved on to another position. Life is boring for Clive in the Proximity Crime Unit, but what they don’t know is that four individuals from outside the UK are about to enter the country. They are playing a game with the goal of getting to a destination before their opponents can get to their own destination. It is all a pretense though and the real goal is much deadlier and with a purpose. While that goes on, Clive begins to sense a much broader conspiracy in place concerning members of government and perhaps something new called The Church of the New Modelists. But, in the end perhaps Clive is not alone in his frustration with how much iME really controls.

I like this series. I like how fully-fleshed out the idea of iME is within the context of this world – how far-reaching the technology is and the stranglehold it has on all aspects of society. Given how prevalent technology like this is becoming, I really like how it begs you to begin asking questions about how far is too far in terms of technology, freedom, and privacy, while giving you a rather thrilling and entertaining story all at the same time.

Rating: 5 stars

Description:

In a breathtaking follow-up novel to ‘PROXIMITY’, Serge says it’s the ultimate Augmented Reality game. He’s chosen his Ten carefully – the reckless, driven and strong. He tests them. Ten become Four.

DI Clive Lussac wants to fight the system that controls everything, but he’s ill and losing the people closest to him. In the middle of eco-protests, he’s lost four tourists. As Clive’s world unravels, he and his partners DC Ava Miller and DS Zoe Jordan race to find the tourists and the true reason behind the game. It may already be too late.

A CONTROLLED POPULATION
The UK has embedded technology – iMe.
It knows where you are…all of the time. It controls what you eat.
It has eradicated crime and made everyone healthy.

A DEVASTATED WORLD
The world is on the brink.
The Government talks but it doesn’t act.
It thinks it’s safe.

TIME FOR CHANGE
Who will ignite change?
Who has the determination to see it through?
What will be sacrificed for the cause?

No Signal is Available at the Following Locations:

Serpentine Books is running a Copter competition to give a way 2 signed copies of Proximity (open to UK addresses only):
Rafflecopter Giveaway

Jem Tugwell Author Profile:

Jem Tugwell is a crime fiction author with a Crime Writing MA from City University.

NO SIGNAL is the second book in the iMe series and follows his thrilling debut novel PROXIMITY. 

Jem is inspired by the fascinating possibilities of technology, AI and the law of unintended consequences. In a past life, Jem had a successful career in technology and investment management, and he lives in Surrey with his wife and dog. He has two great children. Outside of his family and writing, Jem’s loves are snowboarding, old cars and bikes.

Please visit Jem’s website (www.jemtugwell.com) to read more.

Follow Jem:
Twitter: @JemTugwell
Facebook & Instagram: JemTugwellAuthor

An Unequal Defense – Book Review

David Adams #2
By: Chad Zunker
Pages: 247
Published On: May 19, 2020

What a delightful read to run across. It’s been a while since I’ve picked up a conspiracy thriller and boy have I missed them. I had almost forgotten how fun they can be and how sucked in I can get as pages furiously fly by as I get caught up in all the twists and turns. This is also my first novel to read by Chad Zunker.

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Her Last Mistake – Book Review

Detective Gina Harte #6 by Carla Kovach
Published: May 7, 2020

Her Last Mistake opens to the wedding reception of Kerry and Ed Powell. Kerry is one of Holly’s closest friends, which also includes Lilly and Francesca. Together, the four girls have called themselves the “Awesome Foursome’ since school days. During the party, the man Holly has been secretly seeing tells her he wants to talk to her. She’s hoping he has finally come to terms with some news she has shared with him so she does as she’s asked and goes to the meeting place. The reader is never given the man’s name, so we have no idea who is approaching her when she is attacked and killed.

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Dragon Head

Aleksandr Talanov Thriller #4 By: James Houston Turner
Published On: April 2, 2020

Money. It’s all about money. Actually, a lot of money (1.5 billion). The boss of a Hong Kong crime syndicate named Dragon Head wants that money and he almost has it in his reaches when he hits a snag. This particular snag requires Talanov, and so “associates” of Dragon Head are sent from Hong Kong to hunt him down and bring him back.

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