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.

Continue reading “An Unequal Defense – Book Review”

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.

Continue reading “Her Last Mistake – Book Review”

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.

Continue reading “Dragon Head”

Wall of Silence – Book Review

By: Tracy Buchanan
Published on: April 1, 2020

Wall of Silence opens with the inner thoughts of the person who has stabbed Patrick Byatt, the husband and father of the family. It is automatically clear that one of the three children is responsible for it and there is a cover-up being formed, not to mention overall panic. Soon, Melissa comes home from a bike-ride to find her husband bleeding on the kitchen floor. The children provide some responses to her questions on what happened, but being their mother it doesn’t take her too long to realize the answers aren’t completely truthful.

As you read, the author gives you a very well-rounded view of what a gossipy small town neighborhood might be like. The Byatt’s live in a village called Forest Grove labeled “Utopia of the Woods,” where everything is seemingly perfect and serene. That is except for the Byatt’s, who have had their share of tragedies due to the death of one of their sons several years prior – Joel – and one involving Melissa’s mother.

The neighbors and the village play a decent-sized role within the story as well. Sprinkled through-out the book are “Forest Grove Facebook Chit Chat Group” chapters, where we read the messages being sent in real-time by their neighbors and what they are relaying to each other in regards to the events and what they think about them. In these text/chat messages we get a more accurate sense of their inner feelings and prejudices that social media tends to bring out of some. Sniping, conjectures, rumor-starting….

One of the main factors that will most likely determine whether or not you fully invest into this story is whether you can related to the style of the narrative and overall storytelling. It has a different type of presentation than other thrillers especially with the ‘chit-chat’ group chapters, but probably accurately reflects a lot of what you might see in different social media outlets. It wasn’t quite my style, but that is just me and I feel confident this will work for others.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Description:

Melissa Byatt’s life in Forest Grove seems as perfect as can be: a doting husband, three loving children and a beautiful house in a close-knit community. But appearances can be deceiving.

One evening, Melissa arrives home to the unimaginable: her husband lies stabbed on the kitchen floor, their children standing calmly around him…With horror, she realises that one of them is to blame. But which one? And why would they attack their own father?

Her loyalties torn, in a split second she decides to protect her children at all costs—even if that means lying to the police. But when someone in the neighbourhood claims to know more than they should, Melissa discovers that some secrets are beyond her control…

Can she find out the truth of what happened before the rumours spread? And can the family unite to escape the spotlight of scandal—or are none of them as innocent as Melissa insists?

Hide Away – Book Review

Rachel Marin Thriller #1 by Jason Pinter
Published on: March 1, 2020

To be honest, this month I wasn’t 100% drawn to any of the Amazon First Reads options and almost didn’t select one, but ultimately liked the idea of a police procedural type of mystery and chose Hide Away.

My ultimate fear was that the story would drag or that I would feel obligated to finish a book that didn’t really interest me. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case. I found myself so entranced by it that I would mean to read only a chapter and then several chapters later look up to realize what I had done. At one time I was so engrossed in the book that I discovered that I had completely missed the time I had planned to go to lunch.

Continue reading “Hide Away – Book Review”