Welcome to my train of thought. Just a warning, there might be turbulence. I'm a little eccentric, but hopefully you'll find something here that'll make the crazy worth it. Stay tuned for book reviews, ramblings on random things, and all sorts of stuff that tickles my fancy. But keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times. My brain is a scary place!

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Review: The Kaiser's Web

The Kaiser's Web The Kaiser's Web by Steve Berry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

I love Cotton Malone. It's no secret. I have followed this series for years, give it consistently high ratings, and buy a hardcover copy of every entry for display on my bookshelves religiously.

Alas, it was inevitable that eventually one would come that I didn't love. This novel deals heavily with the conservative and far right movement taking over through the use of propaganda and misinformation, specifically in the nation of Germany - a country with a notorious history involving the far right and the damage that it can do to the world. Sadly, while this would normally intrigue me, the similarities in the fictional German election in this novel and the last four years of conservative politics in the US were too much for me. It felt all too similar and all too real. That made it harder to read, for me at least, because my anxiety and disgust with a huge chunk of people in our nation who could support and vote for a monster were all overwhelming feelings.

In addition to this, there was one thing I absolutely despise in books/movies/tv shows (the unnecessary death of a beloved animal/pet), and I also was appalled at the ending to this novel, what Cotton essentially condones and participates in. It bothered me deeply.

All in all, I would probably give this book around 2.5 stars. Because I have faith that the author will redeem himself in the next book, I can round that up to 3 stars... but it does mean I'm going into the next installment with a wary and guarded attitude.
My least favorite entry in the series, and almost earned a lower rating than this one - my lowest rating in the series thus far.

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Review: The Russian Cage

The Russian Cage The Russian Cage by Charlaine Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

I was hesitant to pick up this series as Westerns aren't really my jam, but I requested this one off of Netgalley thinking it was a new series from Charlaine Harris and didn't realize it was third in the Western-esque Gunnie Rose series. So, after approval, I saw that it was book three and went to find books one and two.

I'm really glad I picked these up and I should have trusted Charlaine Harris. Yeah, the series is a little Wild Wild West adjacent, but it's got magic and mystery as well.

This installment finds Lizbeth going west to the Holy Russian Empire (formerly known as California) to rescue an ally from the prior books. It put her WAY outside her comfort zone, and was a refreshing change of pace from Western settings of the first two books.

Plenty of character growth, some romance, and a lot of magical explosions, this one was a riotous amount of fun.

Definitely recommended, but only after reading the first two.

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Review: Calculated Risks

Calculated Risks Calculated Risks by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley and Berkley for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

I love pretty much everything Seanan McGuire writes. Seriously, she's one of my favorite authors and she's highly prolific at releasing content. She writes at least one installment in each of her three main series (Incryptid, October Date, Wayward Children) every year, along with short stories and novellas every month, comic books, and usually at least one other novel a year. So there's the caveat - I'm a fanboy, so you'll probably see me raving over the books even when they have flaws. :)

This one picks up like half an hour after the last one ended, give or take. And boy is this one a doozy - they've ended up in an unexpected place and in a very unexpected situation. Yikes, the situation is bad. Annie, Artie, James, Sarah, and Mark have to navigate the new territory while also navigating each other, which adds some fun to the mix. But as someone who has high levels of empathy, it was also hard to read because I kept feeling so bad for Sarah! Trying not to spoil anything here.

So basically, this book involves all the usual fun of Incryptid - witty banter, great characters, weird situations... but for the first time we've got zombies (okay, sorry Annie, "husks"), giant bugs (sorry if you're afraid of spiders... Calculated Risks might exacerbate that greatly), and multiple-mooned-orange-colored skies.

Basically, it was a lot of fun, with a minor annoyance of the repetitive discussions on good and bad cuckoos.

This series is HIGHLY recommended - but please start at the beginning.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Review: The Project

The Project The Project by Courtney Summers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I requested a copy of this book through Netgalley for a few reasons. First, I had heard some very positive things about one of Courtney Summers’ earlier books, Sadie. Second, the blurb indicated that the book involved a cult, which intrigues me. We live in a time where people seem to be more likely to be extreme in their views, and even political leanings have shifted into an almost cult-like following, so the topic of the book felt fitting to me with the current culture/climate. Lastly, I love a good mystery thriller where the main character is a reporter, digging up the dirty and juicy details.

The book didn’t thrill me but didn’t disappoint me much either. I felt like some sections of the plot were a little dragged out, but not too many, as most of the book actually moved at an excellent pace. It was fast enough to keep you interested, but had enough backstory and detail to flesh out the story in your mind. One plot device used had a nice surprise reveal - the author didn’t go the expected route, but made you think she was. I really liked that she got that one over on me.

One thing that I really loved about this book was the depth of pretty much all of the major players. Lo was a strong, independent and ambitious young woman, but we also saw her vulnerabilities and weaknesses in a powerful way. Lev’s history and ability to charm were developed perfectly, leaving the reader to wonder if his patience and loving behavior were a facade or his true nature. Bea’s need to believe in something bigger, her latching on to a spot of light in her time of darkness, and her innate drive to connect with others is superbly written. Lev’s right hand Casey, Unity Project members Foster and Emmy, Lo’s boss Paul, Unity Project member Jeremy’s father Arthur - all are fleshed out and we’re allowed to see what pushes them forward, what has broken them, and glimpses into their inner selves. Honestly, I’d say this author’s best skill is her ability to write characters extremely well.

This is marked as a young adult novel, but while it wasn’t super gritty, it got pretty dark at times. It didn’t read as a young adult novel, at least to me. So please don’t let that genre tag stop you from giving the book a chance.

Overall, I’d say it’s a little more than three and a half stars, but a little less than four, so I’ll round up to four. I enjoyed this book enough that I’ll definitely be going back and picking up some of the author’s other books, including Sadie.

I’d also like to thank Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Monday, February 1, 2021

Review: The Sanatorium

The Sanatorium The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, the medical community opened a new type of institution: the sanatorium. Designed to be a place where tuberculosis patients could receive treatment for their illness, these care facilities were usually built in high altitude locations in order to provide the freshest of air, as at the time, that cold and fresh air was believed to be the best treatment for diseases of the lung. They offered nutrition, sunlight, peaceful rest, and cool, crisp mountain air as the ideal course to help patients heal. Having a beautiful and cold mountain region that fit these criteria perfect, Switzerland was home to many of these sanatoriums. This was, of course, before the discovery of antibiotics, which provided an actual cure for tuberculosis and other diseases. After this breakthrough, these places either shut down or were repurposed for other uses. Unfortunately, sometimes these places also have sordid histories…

Sarah Pearse’s debut novel takes one of these treatment facilities and gives it new life. Architects Lucas Caron and Daniel Lemaitre took an old sanatorium and turned it into a hotel, redesigning this place of illness and suffering into a top of the line luxury resort, tucked deep into the mountains of Switzerland. Main character Elin Warner and her boyfriend Will are headed there to celebrate the engagement of her brother Isaac to their childhood friend, Laure. Alas, someone has other plans for the hotel guests and as winter storms cut them off from the rest of the world, a murderer’s plot unfolds. What the killer doesn’t know is that, even though she’s on leave, Elin just so happens to be a detective, and she’s thrust into a thrilling hunt for a clever killer.

I love a good mystery thriller, especially one set in a locale that’s cut off from the rest of the world, where one (or a few) characters have to use the limited resources they have to solve the case. This book reminded me of some of my favorite stories, with elements reminiscent of The Shining, one of my absolute favorite horror novels and also set in a snow-isolated hotel with a sordid history; of Agatha Christie, a Master of mystery and the Queen of devious plotting with a limited cast of suspects; of the masterpiece PlayStation 4 game “Until Dawn,” in which a group of friends go to a remote cabin lodge that just so happens to have creepy mines and an abandoned sanatorium nearby - and of course, a fantastic, deliciously horrifying storyline.

The Sanatorium was a superbly written amalgam of the aspects I loved best about these stories, minus the paranormal, of course. It’s hard to believe that this is Pearse’s debut novel, as it reads as if it were written by a seasoned author. While I did suspect the killer early on, my theories as to why and how were way off base, and there were some twists and turns that knocked my suppositions off their feet. I love when a mystery author can find new ways to shock and confuse, and Pearse definitely had me second-guessing myself the whole way through.

All in all, highly recommended read for those who love mystery, thriller, and almost-horror suspense novels.

Thanks to Netgalley and the Penguin Group/Pamela Dorman Books for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

Originally posted at mysteryandsuspense.com

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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Review: The Scorpion's Tail

The Scorpion's Tail The Scorpion's Tail by Douglas Preston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

The creators of Pendergast have done it again. I've always loved both Nora and Corrie, and was super excited to hear about their first book, Old bones, in which they come together to solve a historical mystery *and* a modern mystery. Lucky for us, Preston & Child had bigger plans than just one book, and from this plan comes The Scorpion's Tail.

Interestingly enough, it's pretty clear early on who the bad guy is. The fun in this story is all the twists and turns it took to get there - all of the clues, all of the dead ends, all of the puzzles and conundrums that build towards an explosive finale.

I'm really interested to see, after that ending, where the next Nora and Corrie book will take us. I'm *so* along for this ride.

Highly recommended but pick up book one first. (Honestly, you don't have to read all of the Pendergast books first, but you'd know so much more about these characters if you did.)

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