Red Hail [Book Review]

2020, Book Reviews, By Year

To me, there’s two kinds of good: the “devoured in a single sitting good” and the “I want to savor every page” good and Red Hail was the latter.

Book Name: Red Hail
Series: Standalone Book: N/A
Author: Jamie Killen
Book Type: Ebook > Kindle 
Obtained: Review Request
Pages: 356
Genre: Mystery, Mystery Thriller, Sci-Fi
Rating: 5/5 

A copy of this book was provided to me by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are mine. 

Bookshop Link >HERE<
Goodreads Link >HERE<
Amazon Link >HERE<
Author’s Site Link >HERE<

Instead of the pale color of fresh ice, though, the hailstones had the raw crimson hue of uncooked meat. As Anza watched, they piled and began to melt while new stones fell onto the slush. It only took a minute for Dove’s front yard to transform into a red mass of gore. It sluiced down her driveway and into the road, forming a river of blood flowing down the slope

Page 6, Red Hail by Jamie Killen

Summary

Taking place in two timelines, 2020 and 1960, Red Hail weaves a story that connects both timelines together with a mysterious illness. Those that lived and survived through that horrid summer, back in 1960, wanted nothing more than to forget about the incident. 

The 1960 Red Hail was described as an incident where pieces of red hail fell from the skies in Galina, Arizona. Residents of Galina had no idea where it came from or what it was, only that it came suddenly and that the mysterious illness quickly followed. Paranoia and mass violence began to rip the town apart, in a witch hunt style, as fingers were pointed and races and religions were blamed to be the root cause of this madness. And then, just as instantly as the red hail and illness arrived to plague Galina, it had disappeared without a trace. In the end, the incident was written off as a summer of mass hysteria, there were no other new patients to follow nor did those already plagued with the symptoms continue to have them.

60 years afterwards, we follow the story of Professor Colin Ayres and his partner Alonzo. Colins had spent years researching the incident and had concluded it to be mass hysteria. However, soon Alonzo begins to exhibit the same symptoms as the Galina residents had several decades ago. As Alonzo’s condition worsens and others begin to show the same exact symptoms, Colin must get to the bottom of what’s happening and quick. 

Review

My take on this book? I loved it. To pieces. I shivered under blankets because of this book. Not particularly scary in any paranormal way, the symptoms that the people suffering from the illness displayed where horrifying to imagine. Coming in stages, the first stage wasn’t particularly terrifying but the second sure was. Hell, even when the illness progressed further, I think it was the second stage that still terrified me the most. Because it wasn’t human. The symptoms shown by those struck with the illness felt unreal, nightmare-like, and were very otherworldly. The chills crept in when you could feel Colin’s cold almost-lonely fear, through the pages, as he watches these symptoms develop in his beloved partner and he can’t do anything about it because nothing makes any medical sense! Even medicine can help alleviate symptoms when you can’t cure the disease, but what medicine do you give for symptoms that have no explanation? Alonzo (and the others suffering) doesn’t recall any of this. He just blacks out, one minute talking and the next wondering why people were staring at him.

I loved the split between the two set of characters and timelines. In the present day timeline, we have Colin, his partner Alonzo, and another person who makes contact with the professor after they also begin to exhibit symptoms. In 1960, we have a similar group of people who are going through the same thing. One tale shows the very beginning of when everything started and one tale uses the clues left behind by those same people to understand what’s happening in present day.

I loved both settings and characters, though the story in 1960 was much more riveting to read as people tried to piece together what the hells happening, but since they couldn’t, they turned to violence. The 1960 tale revolved around a much larger set of characters (besides the main three, there were also many different families, different churches, politicians and such). If I had to briefly sum them both up 2020: time to solve this mystery using clues from the first “plague” and 1960: chaos.

Absolutely a shining gem, the characters felt so real and all their fears tingled my own heart. People were frustrated, no answers were given, and by the end of the first “plague,” back in 1960, the residents didn’t even get any closure, the mysterious illness simply vanished. They just…had to move on with their lives like they aren’t all traumatized bringing us to 2020 where the mystery continues.

There were also several very strong female characters that I loved; a single mother who just wanted to get to the bottom of this thing plaguing both her and her son, and two in 1960 Galina who were there to experience the beginning of the end of the town when the hail first fell. 

The violence and riots that summer in 1960 felt so real. It gave the reader an huge sense of insecurity and it felt like nobody was safe, be it from the illness or the violence. You never know who was up next to fall ill. You don’t know whose is getting blamed next. Religion played a huge part because the first thing many folks think, when the sky rains blood, is that the end of the world is coming or it’s the devil’s work. And in times of uncertainty, many turn to prayers and look towards the church’s guidance and it’s up to the church leaders to act appropriately because desperate people are probably the scariest people out there. They will believe any theory and will do anything to get rid of the illness in a very violent “ends justify the means” way.

Eyes glued to the book, I went in slow, I went through slow, and when I realized the book was beginning to draw to an end, my paced dropped even further, I didn’t want it to end. 

Yet another hidden sci-fi gem, I had an amazing read.
Thank you Jamie for reaching out and for the amazing book!

The Contractor [Book Review]

2020, Book Reviews, By Year

Book Name: The Contractor
Series: The Fellowship Trilogy Book: 1
Author: David Scott Meyers
Book Type: Physical > Paperback
Obtained: Review Request
Pages: 302
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Crime, Suspense
Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided to me, by the author, in exchange for a fair and honest review. The fact that the book was given to me did not alter my ratings/judgement of the book in any way. All opinions in this review are of my own.

Book’s Amazon Page >HERE<
Author’s Website >HERE<
Book’s Goodreads Page >HERE<

🥡 Book Review To Go Please!! 🥡

The first book of the Fellowship Trilogy, this book sets in the fictional town of Fellowship, Tennessee. Elias Morgan is the descendent of one of the first settlers, the farm belonging to his family even before Tennessee was a state! But now the farm is in need of repairs and it’s pretty hard to keep up maintenance when you’re getting old! Morgan hires a contractor to help sturdy up the barn, but he soon disappears during construction.

This book was a pretty good book. A quick read, I managed to power through it in a few days, always eager to see the next scene and chapters. I was intrigued in the beginning and I was intrigued to the end. Things happened that I wanted resolved but the book ends up on a cliffhanger (sort of).

The writing is VERY interesting. This book is heavy on dialogue with two separate times where a single character went into a 6 page speech describing two different memories. The book seems to divide into two separate “arcs” of sort where the beginning revolved around Morgan and the hired private contractor and the second half revolving around the town’s deputy.

The book has interesting font that took a bit to get used to, but was refreshingly new to read and actually made it easier to fly through the story. There are lovely drawings in the book to help with imagery, illustrated by the author’s daughter, Hannah Nicole Meyers and the drawings made me realize how much I missed reading the books I read as a kid. Those always had plenty of pictures to go around.

A good read and looking forward to book two, this one gets a 3⭐️

The book was illustrated by the author’s daughter, Hannah.

🍽 Book Review for Here! 🍽

The first book out of my reading and blog hiatus: The Contractor by David Scott Meyers. The most captivating part about this book was the fact that there were pictures (illustrated by the author’s daughter, Hannah Nicole Meyers). While there are some adult books out there with a few pictures in them, I don’t come across those books often and it took seeing these illustrations to realize just how much I’ve missed reading books with pictures in them. Part of a trilogy, “The Contractor” is the first book of the three taking place in the fictional town of Fellowship, Tennessee with two main POV characters and another minor but just as important character.

The author, David, discussed in his preface, how the book came to be. Knowing that he had written a screenplay for another film, David’s brother, Jeff, had gone to him with another idea for a script. Several handwritten pages of notes later, the foundation of what eventually became “The Contractor” was born. I don’t usually read the preface page of most books. I have a tendency to skip everything until I reach either the prologue or the first chapter of the book. For this book, however, I ended up reading the entire preface explaining how “The Contractor” was started and written. I think having read that the book started out as a script idea helped me through the book because I’m going to end up talking a lot about the interesting writing style here. 

I noticed a few things going into the book. The font, first of all, was bold and popped right out at you. The change up of fonts from the traditional sets of writing fonts to something so…different took a little getting used to, but man it made reading a lot of fun. Heck, even middle grade books aren’t written in fonts like these and it helped make “The Contractor” really stand out. I feel like the font was part of the reason I managed to fly through this book when I was already going through a tough month. 

The Font

Then, there were the pages and pages of dialogue and monologues or memory scenes. I counted one dialogue, where a character was telling another of what their relationship was with each other. While it started off as an exchange between the two men, it eventually ended up being roughly 6-7 pages of one man’s story as the other laid there listening. There was, however, a couple of brief sentences (about five) to break up the speech.

Again, only two chapters later, we have the same man telling a waitress another story; one of how he finally bested his long time bully in one thing, when a woman had chosen him over the bully and how she eventually became his wife. At this point, I just sat there reading and going, “Man this guy sure likes to talk. Like. A LOT.” 

But I chalked it up to his character. The man doing all of this talking is Elias Morgan, the story revolves around him, a contractor, and the town deputy. Old and lonely, his wife having passed only 6 months ago, Elias doing a whole lot of talking was only natural. 

The only other reason I could come up with, in explaining the heavy dialogue/speeches, was because the book started out as a script idea. When I’m thinking about scripts (at least for me), dialogue and single-man speeches come to mind easily. There was a bit more of showing versus telling and when I wrap it all up, it does indeed feel a bit like a script where actors are given dialogue to read out loud with actions and cues to nudge the direction of where the scene is going. It made for an interesting read.

The most interesting moment came in the beginning of the book when there was a quick character POV change from one character to another in the middle of the same paragraph before returning to the initial character’s POV in the next paragraph. It was the strangest thing and it threw me off for a bit. 

The book, as promised, was a quick read. I was able to fly my way through the book. The writing style was interesting, the plot made me angry (the ending annoyed me), and honestly I wanted to get through the book as quickly as I can to see if retribution and justice would be served. I was disappointed to be left on a cliffhanger so I guess we’ll just have to see in the next book what happens. 

All in all, it was a pretty good book that I devoured in days. There are books that just feel slow and ten pages feel like a hundred while other books go by with a hundred feeling like ten pages. “The Contractor” was the latter and I just wanted to keep flipping just so I could SEE if what I wanted to happen was going to happen (like every mystery book I was painfully wrong. This is why I’m not a detective ah haha). However, unlike the rest of my favorite mystery thriller books, in which cases are usually solved by the end of the book, this is a trilogy. Who knows? Maybe I’m right about my list of sketchy people by the end of the third book!

There wasn’t much I was unhappy about. The font was pretty cool and different from the rest of [literally all] of the other books I’ve ever read and it felt kind of refreshing (albeit needing to get used to it first). The writing is the thing that really pops out at you. The characters felt a little rushed (I can’t explain it. It’s just a feeling). The writing was full of dialogue and twice did a man just go into a speech, talking about his memories (breathe Elias breathe!!) and there was that weird POV change mid-paragraph. 

At the end of the day, the writing wasn’t such a bad thing. It just made for an interesting and new experience. 

David, thank you for a great read. I’ll be sure to check out the second book when I have the time! 

Now, time to refill my coffee mug. Toodles!

Storm Front [Book Review]

2020, Book Reviews, By Year

Book Name: Storm Front
Series: Virgil Flowers Series Book: 7
Author: John Sandford
Book Type: Physical > Hardcover
Obtained: Library > Borrowed
Pages: 376
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Crime, Suspense
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️✨ (3.5)

Link to Goodreads >HERE<
Link to Amazon >HERE<

Goodreads Summary

In Israel, a man clutching a backpack searches desperately for a boat. In Minnesota, Virgil Flowers gets a message from Lucas Davenport: You’re about to get a visitor. It’s an Israeli cop, and she’s chasing a man who’s smuggled out an extraordinary relic — an ancient inscribed stone revealing startling details about the man known as King Solomon.

“Wait a minute,” laughs Virgil. “Is this one of those mystical movie-plot deals? The secret artifact, the blockbuster revelation, the teams of murderous bad guys? Should I be boning up on my Bible verses?” He looks at the investigator. She’s not laughing.

As it turns out, there are very bad men chasing the relic, and they don’t care who’s in the way or what they have to do to get it. “They’re crazies,” she says.

“What kind of crazies?”

“Palestinian crazies, Syrian crazies, Egyptian crazies, maybe a couple of Israeli crazies. Turks. Some Americans, too, I suppose. Maybe the Pope.”

Perhaps Virgil should start praying.

Review

Moving on to the next book in the Virgil Flowers series, I found myself reading Storm Front; book 7. Like with every book (and most products when I go shopping), I made sure to take a quick peek at the reviews, first, and wished I hadn’t.

Storm Front was written by John Sandford who had mentioned that this novel was written with the help of his partner, Michele Cook. That alone, I had absolutely no problems with until I came across a couple of reviews that wondered if the book was even written by Sandford. I ended up going into this book with a “different set of lens,” ones that had me constantly looking for moments of “Is this Sandford’s writing? Is this the Virgil I know and love?”

That said, I ended up enjoying it anyways. I didn’t even know what I was so worried and worked up over. By the end, I was even disappointed that I questioned anything. While I did get a sense of “Virgil seems more on edge this time around” compared to all the previous times he (and others) have been in serious danger, I chalked it up to him being very angry over Jone’s actions throughout the book, considering his role as a professor and a minister. Weren’t ministers supposed to be good and not cause harm…?

The BCA agent had been working on a fake antique lumber case when he was called in to investigate a dying runaway Lutheran minister and professor who had found and later stolen an ancient stone, a stele, from an archaeological dig in Israel. Jones had grabbed the stone [in the middle of the night] sped down an Israeli highway [in a stolen car], pretty much threatened his way into landing a boat ride and then managed to smuggle the stele into the US where he remained in hiding. All Virgil wanted to do was track the stone down, send it home to Israel, and continue with his lumber case. A simple thief and smuggling case, how hard would it be?

Except things are never that simple with Virgil Flowers; his luck simply would not have it. Dying from cancer and knowing he had a short time left in this world, Elijah Jones had stolen the stele with plans on auctioning it off to the highest bidder so that he could obtain enough funds to cover for his wife, who is residing in a care home with Alzheimer’s, after his death. Now, not only do the Israelis want the stone back, but with the discovery of the stele, it’s what’s written on the stone that’s important. If what’s inscribed on the stele is true, history could be upturned and would need to be rewritten and there are people who aren’t going to just sit there and let that happen.

When Davenport starts the call off with “Got an assignment for you…easy duty” you probably shouldn’t believe it. It was wild from the beginning to end; “Don’t things like this only happen in movies?” kind of wild. With plot twists sprinkled in, this book is fast paced and I found myself occasionally lost and having to flip back to understand what the hell was going on and what the hell just happened. There are multiple parties involved, most of them being the bidders: A Texan, some TV celebrity of sorts, a pair of scary(ish) Turks, Hezbollah, an Israelis antique dealer, and maybe even the Israeli intelligence agency.

The plot, boiled down, is really just chasing after Jones, and the stone, making sure nobody else gets their hands on the stele, and making sure nobody gets hurt. Get the stone, send it back, and get back to lumber business.

The book was pretty humorous at times (considering the stakes and people getting hurt). There were bits of comedic relief in between all of the craziness that I appreciated. It made the book fun to read and get through. The plot and storyline may not have been my favorite, but by the time I finished I was well surprised. I had gone in expecting it to be as bad as the reviews made it out to be but ended up being disappointed in myself for thinking so at all. Virgil, even if he’s a bit more tense, is still the same old Virgil that I love. There wasn’t much of his usual womanizing this time around, which I found as strangely relieving, but his humor and quick thinking remains the same. Virgil being Virgil? That’s all I care about. That’s all I NEED when reading a Virgil Flowers book.

Not my favorite book in the series, but still a highly enjoyable read. I can’t wait to get into book 8.

The Existence of Amy [Book Review]

2020, Book Reviews, By Year

Book Name: The Existence of Amy
Series: Standalone Book: N/A
Author: Lana Grace Riva
Book Type: Physical > Paperback
Obtained: Review Request
Pages: 281
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Mental Illness
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided to me, by the author, in exchange for a fair and honest review. The fact that the book was given to me did not alter my ratings/judgement of the book in any way. All opinions in this review are of my own.


TW/CW: Mental Illness > This book covers and portrays these topics: depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder.

Goodreads Link: The Existence of Amy by Lana Grace Riva
Amazon Link: Available on Kindle and Paperback

Goodreads Blurb

Amy has a normal life. That is, if you were to go by a definition of ‘no immediate obvious indicators of peculiarity’, and you didn’t know her very well. She has good friends, a good job, a nice enough home. This normality, however, is precariously plastered on top of a different life. A life that is Amy’s real life. The only one her brain will let her lead.

Review

This book is exhausting…

This book is exhausting to get through, to read, and to “experience.”

“The Existence of Amy” revolves around our main character, Amy, as she battles her hidden struggle with OCD, anxiety and depression. On the outside, with the exception of being known as a canceler, she’s perfectly fine and functional. She greets her coworkers at work, she makes small chatter, she gets through the workday, meets with clients, has work meetings, and has laughs with friends. Yet, behind each of those activities, she struggles terribly and everything gives her anxiety. Most of her day’s energy is being spent on making the right enough decision to “look normal to others.” The thoughts that run through her head are enough to make you need to sit down and breath.

Anxiety in every corner…

Amy’s OCD comes with a gang of their own lovely friends: anxiety and depression. She avoids her colleagues/friends by making up whatever excuses humanly possible to get out of a social gathering, even when every bone in her body craves to be there. Consequently, one of her friends is getting more and more upset with her for her lack of attendance in many of the events that Amy is invited but fails to show up to.

But she can’t help it. There is danger in every corner of the world and in every spec of existence. Everything gives her anxiety. The need to converse with others in a “normal way” is draining. Her mind races with thoughts when she’s boarding the bus. Flying in a plane was a terrible experience as she has to chose between being cold or using her jumper as a makeshift pillow because she didn’t want her head to touch the chair as she slept. She couldn’t even accept a gift from someone because the voices in her head told her that the object would contaminate the things in her purse and she follows up by discarding the gift and then washing her hands several times afterwards.

The first chapter was hard to get through (pacing), but when I finally settled down to read it, I found myself eating through the book and devouring it in days. I have countless sticky notes tabbing different sections and pages of the book; quotes are marked, scenes are picked out, conversations are noted. I absolutely loved this book.

I think, the worst part about this entire book was how exhausting it was to be in Amy’s head. It’s real and it’s relatable. For me, I teared up every now and then because, Hey! Sounds a bit like me… I, too, never show up to social gatherings. I crave to be hanging out with friends, but the thought of being there invites stones in my stomach. Though Amy’s reasons for avoiding gatherings and hanging out with her friends are different than mine, I found myself relating to her in a good few scenes.

Normal on the Outside…

The sad part is reading her day at work. On the outside, Amy is someone I’ve always admired and maybe been envious of. She participates in meetings, something that would nauseate me. She still makes it to some gatherings, at least. She converses and chats with her coworkers. She goes on business trips to another country! All of these I find nearly impossible to do, but she does it. On the outside, she’s that professional office worker I’ve strived to be since always! On the inside, poor Ames is on fire trying to decide which sentence to use to look normal by her standards.

“This makes me incredibly sad because people don’t understand. Why would anyone reject a kind act? It makes no sense to them. So, they can only assume I must be rude. I must be ungracious and unappreciative. I am none of those. I am. simply. scared. So. Very. Scared. All. The. Time.”

Characters…

Characters wise, I liked two of the three friends. I can tell that they all show love and worry for Amy’s odd behaviors. The last friend, I can’t tell if the author specifically wrote for them to act like so, but she felt like a very real representation of someone who is not particularly considerate of what others might be going through. Everybody in this world fights secret battles and people seem to understand that. I, for one, have never been angry for anyone’s constant cancelling on me. Well, this character was beginning to get on my nerves because they just simply never thought about “Maybe something’s up with Amy.” I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me, but I just didn’t like them. Personal opinion.

Hyperaware of every action…

This isn’t the OCD that has taken over on the internet in a meme form. This isn’t the OCD that people joke about when a tile is misaligned or you wash your hand once too many times on a single occasion. This is the OCD that begins by disturbing your life slightly, slowly creeping up and turning into destructive waves until Amy needs to call in sick to work because she can’t leave her bed.

You are taken into Amy’s mind and you experience her view on life with her. Through her eyes, you become almost hyperaware of the little actions that the average person doesn’t think about. For example, when you ride the bus, you have a very autopilot way of thinking… ticket out, scanned ticket, ticket into pocket, quick grab the pole, lemme play on my phone, my stop!, pull the bell, get off. For her, every second is filled with anxiety from having to worry about being 1 second too late to board, to bothering a fellow passenger, the looks others give to her, the choice of seats, the germs, the feeling that others are more productive than she is, silently begging someone else pulls the bell instead of her, and so on.

Beautiful, realistic, and heartbreaking, this book really draws you into Amy’s head, essentially trapping you in with her. You begin to see the warped way she views the world. Throughout the book, I had moments where I had to rationalize with her like, “Aw come on Ames! They probably aren’t thinking that about you!”

A lovely book. It was tiring to get through, not in a bad way, but in an eye opening and experiencing way.

Walks with Sam – Book Review

2020, Book Reviews, By Year

Book Name: Walks with Sam: A Man, a Dog, and a Season of Awakening
Series: [Standalone] Book : N/A
Author: David W. Berner
Book Type: Ebook > Kindle (Netgalley)
Obtained: Netgalley > Read Now
Pages: 169 (Kindle)
Genre: Animals > Dogs, Non-fiction > Autobiography > Memoir
Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Disclaimer: An e-copy of this book was provided to me via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are of my own.

Goodreads Summary:

A man, his dog, and a long walk can lead to unexpected discoveries. In the tradition of many literary walkers, David W. Berner sets out on foot hoping to reexamine his life, look back and forward, and most importantly, through the help of his young dog, Sam, try to find harmony in new beginnings and the uncertainties of the present.

In a series of chapters, each dedicated to one walk during a summer of hiking, the author finds that it is his beloved pet that allows him to awaken to a new spirit of mindfulness, finding beauty, wonder, and comfort in the ordinary, and to see a life, a neighborhood, and even a country with brand new eyes.

Review:

Slow paced and an easy read, I found myself feeling “bored” but not really. Maybe the word I’m looking for is tranquil or meditative. A page turner in its own way, I quite enjoyed reading this book because of how different it is to my usual reads. I think with so much rushing around in life, we tend to forget about the smaller things. This is a nonfiction book about a man, his dog and their walks. A beautiful concoction that mixes the daily mundane task of walking the dog and rediscovering yourself, Walks with Sam sparked a warmth in me that left me craving adopting a dog of my own an attempt to slow down and just muse about the wonders of life. I don’t have a dog of my own, but I do commute to and from work via walking and both journeys I tend to power walk to the destination, on auto mode, with nothing in mind except for my day ahead and the day gone past.

For some of us, walking the dog (or commuting from point A to B), even with an abundance of time, may be a bullet point, a check box, a line off your daily to-do list. When your brain goes into auto mode, it’s no harder or different of a task than getting your coffee, climbing into your car, and heading to work. Walking the dog is part of [a dog owner’s] life. It’s not something we think about. The task just gets done.

Walks with Sam is written from the viewpoint of the author, David. Having turned 60 and taking a break from teaching, David begins to document his walks with Sam looking for new meanings in life along with the little older ones hidden by the fog of the hustle and bustle of youth and work. We rush to the coffee shop to find the long line there so you end up rushing to the train that [now] you’ve just missed, and then rushing 5 minutes late into work with half the coffee already consumed. Of course you’re not going to take a moment to smell the flowers. But when you’re 60, and taking a sabbatical from work, you had a lot of time to think about a lot of things.

The chapters in this book are broken down into walks around the block such as Walk 4 revolving around David’s interaction with a neighbor that he, at first, deemed as a little off or Walk 22 revolving around training Sam via the goodness of bacon (😩 🥓) or Walk 26 as David contemplates about the concept of Aloneness.

Filled with the muses of one man, inspired by his dog and the world around him (and books!), each chapter is full of thoughts or little philosophical moments. He started documenting these walks with the purpose of rediscovering himself, what he loved and held close to him, who he was before and who he is now. The entire tone and mood of the book is calm, quiet, and soothing and it’s definitely a book to reread every now and then when you’re looking for things to think about.

I absolutely adorned the book, author and his dog. Sam has the playful energy of any puppy turning into an adolescent. Exploration and discovery comes in all forms from the grass to that rustle up there in the tree. Trains are scary. People are exciting. Bacon is delicious. Catch me if you can. The conversations between David and Sam are endearing and adorable. He’s having whole conversations with Sam, with the assumption that hopefully Sam actually understands a good portion of it. There’s even a chapter/walk in there where David, himself, muses about how there are some owners, like his wife Leslie, that speak to their dogs with words that most dog owners say: phrases, discipline, and announcements and then there are those that speak of whole stories with their dogs.

There was a lovely moment in the book where David is pretty much talking and musing out loud to Sam who is just being a dog, taking in the environment and not really paying attention. I loved that scene the most because it reminds me of the times I have lived with dogs myself and sometimes it’s better to just have someone listening to you, even if they aren’t particularly paying attention or even understanding what you are saying. It’s nice to have someone just lay there (or walking) and listening to you ramble on and on and not judge you.

A lovely read with plenty of things to learn off of, this is a book that I could honestly reread again or at least flag certain walks to glimpse through on during bad days.

The Milan Job by Krista Cagg Blog Tour – Excerpt and Review

2020, Book Reviews, By Year

Happy Sunday!! Today is my stop for the Milan Job Blog Tour by Psst Promotions! Thank you so much for inviting me to participate in my very first blog tour. I had a blast of a time reading this and putting together this post.

For this tour, I’ll be sharing an excerpt and my review of the book!


Meet Captain Alexandria de Sade, the proud and once loyal captain of Naviwerks chrono-ship #25.
When she learned the truth about how the company was fleecing their customers she turned her back on the promotion they offered her, left the man she loved without a word, and disappeared with her ship.

With a plan in mind to undermine Naviwerks’ business of artifact and heirloom retrieval, Captain Alex hired on several like-minded misfits to crew her chrono-ship which she re-christened The William’s Hunt. They are: An awkward but genius Horotech, an irascible ex-marine, a flamboyant playboy, a churlish physician, and a hot-shot pilot.

Their first venture: go to Milan, Italy 1490 and retrieve the working model of Leonardo da Vinci’s Gran Cavallo before Naviwerks does. What should have been a simple snatch and run mission for the newly formed band of pirates goes south nearly immediately. In their struggle to recover, they learn that there is much more behind Naviwerks’ actions. Captain Alex and the crew of The William’s Hunt are the only ones that stand a chance of putting things right, and it seems as if her crew’s every step takes them deeper and deeper into discovering just how nefarious Naviwerks truly is.


Print Length: 203 pages
Publisher: Corrugated Sky Publishing, LLC (January 18, 2020)
Publication Date: January 18, 2020
Language: English
ASIN: B083VQV8SR
ISBN10: 1950903141
ISBN13: 978-1950903146
Buy it now on Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/ybh2xekw

Excerpt:

Agent Nash was crouched amongst some scrub on the side of a hill that overlooked the walls of Milan. It was mid-morning when they arrived. He had watched them come down the road in the cart then had shifted his position to one knee. With well-practiced movements, he removed from the sack beside him pieces of a rifle to assemble. All the while he kept his eyes on the target. Line of sight was perfect, but from this distance his point of interest was unclear. With steady motions the rifle clicked together piece by piece as the cart drew closer to his position. 

The final piece to fit into place was the tubular sighting apparatus. He polished the magnifying glass on the end with a soft piece of chamois, and then put the rifle butt to his shoulder so he could peer through the sight. Some might find the motion of the world through the lens nauseating, but it didn’t affect Nash as he swung the rifle from side to side until the passengers of the cart came into view.

He observed them for a few moments. Anger welled up within him to see them, the traitors. Other similar emotions tried to join that sentiment, but the neural therapy worked within his brain and suppressed them, as it was designed to do. Nash hadn’t even noticed the adjustments. He simply made use of the focus that remained to load a plasma cartridge into the rifle. He would need only one.

He returned the rifle to his shoulder as he shifted his crouch to allow for recoil, and then he brought his target into view through the lens. He took a moment to admire her. Even Naviwerks and their nanotechnology couldn’t eliminate basic human behavior, and she was certainly worth a second look. But that didn’t change the fact that she was a renegade, a thief, and would-be pirate. His orders were clear.

His finger slid through the trigger guard and curled around the small metal arm as he took aim. “Hello, Alex.”

BLAM!

Review:

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐✨

For a while now, I’ve been searching for a good Steampunk book. There’s probably a couple in my TBR list, but I never actually got around to reading any of them. So, when I was sent an email about a blog tour featuring Steampunk, floating ships, strong female characters, time travel, and pirates that have a better moral compass than the antagonists (the “good guys” of the world)…yeah! I was picking it up!

What really caught my attention was Captain Alexandria de Sade. She sounded like a badass Captain, leaving her old employment and stealing an entire ship on her way out! She sounded cool and I’m all for a cool female protagonist especially one that’s now a pirate!

The great monopoly of a company, Naviwerk, is known to make generous contribution to mankind and history by using time travel to retrieve long lost artifacts, antiques, and family heirlooms for their clients; families and museums. They are quite successful in their business…a product of charging these families and museums insane prices for turning over those artifacts that they retrieved from history. Big corrupted businesses do not fly well with Alex and she refuses a promotion before leaving the company, stealing one of Naviwerk’s chrono-ships on her way out!

The book, The Milan Job, is a compilation of five shorts, episodes, written by Krista Cagg and starts off with the introduction of the former hopelessly unemployed Laurence Kane on the first day of his job. He’s quickly picked up by Nigel Wellington III (the historian) to board the chrono-ship. Laurence eventually meets the rest of the crew: the scary and quick to anger ex-marine turned security officer, Gerald (Geri) Reynolds, the crew’s not quite friendly doctor, Abraham Hennessey, the Pilot, Angelica (Angel) Flynn, and of course Captain Alexandria de Sade.

Third person is my favorite POV and, naturally, I come across a good deal of them, but this is probably my first experience with an omniscient third person POV (and I had to look it up) where there’s more of an overseer to the story and not just to a limited single character’s thoughts or actions. The first time I caught on to this was when, during his tour of the ship, Laurence noticed the lack of luxurious seating that he might have expected to find in the ship’s dining hall, which was decorated to be suitable for even nobility. This comes up again when the reader spends a little time, in the following chapter, with Angel and Alex having a private conversation and this line pops up as the narrator goes to describe Alex’s chair:

“Here were the plush accommodations Mr. Kane had expected in the mess hall.”

It was just something interesting to note upon (at least…it is for someone, like me, whose has never read anything but limited perspective 3rd POVs).

Overall, I enjoyed the book! It was a pleasant and a quick read and while you might have tons of questions by the end of the book, you’re never left stranded without a life jacket here. World building and technical terms of horotechnology, chronotechnology, and time travel is well explained in this book. There is a lot of detail and I really mean…there’s a lot of detail. On one hand, I loved the details because…guess whose never lost?? On the other hand, there are readers that may find this as a turn off.

Not only is the technology well described here, but it includes every single little detail you would need to completely picture the scene, from the details of Alex’s chair (the finishes, the type of wood, the pattern of the etchings) down to Nigel’s fingernails (which Laurence noted to be well-manicured). It’s amazing the level of detail being placed here. For me, I didn’t mind it but it’s something to note on. This was my first steampunk and while I have a good grasp on what cyberpunk might look like, I struggled to picture the chrono-ship because it’s just…so out of my imagination’s grasp.

The crew is a ragtag bunch with only the best of the best (and did I mention ragtag groups are one of my favorite troupes?). We have a comical playboy of a historian and a grumbling retired (but caring) physician. Laurence, I especially liked. I have a soft spot for the poor socially awkward lad. He reminds me so much of myself on my first day on any new job, bumbling, anxious and awkward, and tripping over his own clumsy thoughts. An unrecognized genius, who previously couldn’t find any employment, Laurence is the newbie to the crew and he’s trying his best to see where he fits his personality and talents into this group of people who seem to all already know each other (anyone new to a previously established friend group can relate). Angel knows her stuff as a pilot (a “hot shot pilot” even better at flying ships than Alex) and when I first met Alex, I fell in love. She was calm and cold; she was so cool (I literally said that out loud to myself). She just exuded a commanding vibe.

The pros and cons:

What I loved about this book was the storyline. We’re talking about time travel via a ship that runs off steam, electricity and stimulated atoms. We’re talking about pirates who have a moral compass better than the “big generous corporation that provides historical contributions to museums and retrieve lost antiques and heirlooms to families.” We’re talking about a cool captain with her handpicked and talented ragtag bunch of crew-members. We’re talking about big corrupt corporations. We’re talking about steampunk…all in one book.

I loved that the gang is small. This book gives off Fire Emblem vibes; a small group of six people against a monopoly of a corporation (and thus it’s “we got what we got” versus a corporation with what seems like endless funds to expend on their goals and evil plans). Yet, even with only six people, they manage to do well because each member is brilliant in their own roles. Even our bumbling bundle of nerves, Mr. Laurence Kane, the horotechnologist, is a confident and a capable man of genius ideas and great inventions. When he’s placed in the right environment (say in front of a chrono-engine), Laurence will forget his nerves and notices only the oh so beautiful engine, forgetting about his surroundings.

The concept behind horotechnology and chronotechnology is mind blowing in the fact that…the idea behind time travel, this that world, is so…simple and yet so complicated and complex. With a bit of electricity, steam, and stimulated atoms you could punch through time! I had tons of questions by the end on time travel, of which I’m sure would be answered in the following books.

There was one thing that I did not like and it was pretty disappointing. One of the main reasons that I was so interested in this book was because of the strong and proud, Alex . However, she and Angel did not get much of “screen time” or scene time. She comes in with a sword and plasma pistol but both weapons are unused because…well…she never got to be part of the action. She’s still the mentally strong and ready to kill you with a glare woman I expected out of her, but I had expected something a tad bit more.

However, this is the first volume and it’s mentioned that there’s more to come. This volume gives you a taste of the world, setting, conflict, and the characters as they begin their involvement with something far bigger than previously imagined. The pacing isn’t too slow. There isn’t a lot of character development yet as The Milan Job helps to give you a peek of everyone’s personalities, quirks, talent/abilities, and where they fit into this crew. A small team, everyone has their own place to belong. So, despite the lack of attention to a couple characters, I am sure they will be further fleshed in the future as everyone gets their fair share of adventures. A great and quick read!

About the Author:

According to her mother, Krista has lived in her own imagination since birth. The real world let her down. It was, frankly, boring beyond belief. After she discovered fantasy novels and comics there was no going back. This didn’t win her any popularity contests (or dates) until after high school. Art school introduced her to other geeks and the wonderful world of AD&D. A love for RP eventually led to LARP (the goth/vampire era of her life). Finally, sci-fi/fantasy/fandom conventions introduced her to the beautiful world of Steampunk. Music. Clothing. And books. She dove into the books she took a shine to and absorbed them. But something was missing. She wasn’t satisfied. During her recovery from neck surgery something she’d heard somewhere stuck out in her mind: “If you can’t find the stories you want to read then write them yourself.” On a couch in Savannah, GA. with Sons of Anarchy playing in the background, The William’s Hunt began.
Currently, Krista lives in her home town in Pennsylvania with five cats, a husband, and a weiner dog, Pete, who watches from the other side of the Rainbow Bridge.
Check out her website: https://www.kristacaggauthor.com/ and follow her on social media.

The Adventures of an Air Force Medic [Book Review]

2020, Book Reviews, By Year

Book Name: The Adventures of an Air Force Medic
Series: [Standalone] Book # N/A
Author: Dave Ives
Book Type: Ebook > PDF (Netgalley)
Obtained: Netgalley > Read Now
Pages: 486 (PDF)
Genre: Fiction > Historical Fiction, Romance
Start Date: 07.22.2020
End Date: 07.31.2020
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Disclaimer: An e-book copy of this book was provided to me for free in exchange for a fair and honest review. A big thank you to Netgalley, the author and publishing company; all opinions are of my own.

Cheers to my third NetGalley read! I picked this one because I knew there was no way I was going to finish the first book of WoT by the end of July and I wanted to squeeze in at least one extra book in there (somewhere). This book had an amusing cover and summary so it was a quick pick with no regrets.

Link to the Goodreads Page: >HERE<

Netgalley Summary:

Imagine ‘The Shaw Shank Redemption’ meets ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ in a crazy, fast paced, action, drama, comedy, romance.
Sean Mitchell finds out, ‘The needs of the air force come first, and the air force needs you to become a medic.’ 
Sean’s visions of high flying aircraft, exciting missions and flight line glamour are shot down. Instead, after six short weeks training in north Texas, he’s assigned to Mather Air Force Base Hospital, near Sacramento California, as a medical service specialist; commonly known as medic; derisively known as ‘bedpan commando.’ 
Sean’s situation turns hopeful when he discovers the air force ‘needs’ engineers more than medics. He locks on to the dream of building an ‘escape route’ from medic to engineer. The dream supercharges him into action causing fellow medics to wonder, ‘What’s wrong with him? Does he work for the CIA? Is he a spy?’ 
In his bid to ‘escape’ the air force medic world, Sean discovers something amazing – his life as a medic is more adventurous than he ever imagined. 
The Adventures of an Air Force Medic is based on Dave Ives’ personal experience as an air force medic in the early 1980s. He brings to life the crazy military hospital world; a world full of exotic characters; a world of mixed up romance; a world of tragedy and pain; a world of offside humor; a world unknown to the outside world.

Review:

I didn’t know what to expect going into this book. I needed a book and, with a brief glance at a few covers and summaries, this was the one that peeked my interest the most and I just grabbed and went with it. No regrets there.

The Adventures of an Air Force Medic is a story based on Dave Ives’ (author) time as an air force medic. Thus, while this book has an overall plot and goal that the main character is working towards, most of the chapters and stories are told in a chronological and anecdotal manner with a focus on “a day in the life of” an air force medic. The book is told in the first person point of view of Sean Mitchell. Having dropped out of college and working at an electronics firm as a “no skill” laborer, he was having trouble making ends meet financially. He ended up at the armed forces recruiters office where he was talked into joining the air force on two choices; guaranteed job (your pick of jobs but could take anywhere from six months to a year) or open general (three months with the down side of not getting a guaranteed job; you do what they assign you). Desperate for a job and a way out of his troubles, Sean sees open general as his quickest way in landing a gig and ends up as a medic.

I had a great time with this book. I got some laughs in, some tears, some cringe, and lots of other in between emotions. A very humorous book, we join Sean through his adventures of joining the air force medics and quickly doing everything in his power to get right back out; in his case studying like a madman to get into the AECP (Airman Education and Commissioning Program). A highly competitive program, you would have to study rigorously to be selected, sent off to a major civilian university (tuition and books included) and have three years to graduate. After graduation, you’d be sent to Officer Training School and eventually you’ll be a commissioned second lieutenant. It’s an awesome deal and all he’s got to do is study hard and make it in!

The majority of the book’s main plot would revolve around Sean studying to get his pre-req classes out of the way, take the AFOQT (Air Force Officer Qualifying Test), his SATs, and send in an application. The rest of the book revolves around his time as an Air Force medic. As someone who initially went into the military, sold on the fame and glory of it all, he’s disappointed to be placed as an air force medic. However, he knows it’s his own doing. Multiple times through the story he reminds himself that he’s there because that was the deal. Sean had chosen to get a job as soon as possible with the trade off being that he wasn’t going to get to choose what job he was going to get (open general) and that means he was going to take whatever was thrown his way; no complaints…seriously…Sean never seems to complain.

The book doesn’t go too in depth with characters and sometimes my memory of individuals meld together. It’s a story to recount his days in the air force as a medic and thus is written like so. Occasionally you might see sentences like “To this day, I won’t go to San Francisco unless I’m packing…packing heat…in the form of warm clothes” (Page 291). His friends are more like acquittances during his stay. It’s an interesting read, however, because despite that, everyone is still so vibrant. Sean’s interactions with his co-workers, friends, lovers, and patients is the main theme in a lot of the chapters. Each story is a retelling of something in the past or stories of his daily life as a medic. He listens as his friends and patients recount their own stories to him; how they are doing, what they’d experienced in life and the diversity here is vast! Every chapter reads like it’s own short story, with some minor details popping up again throughout the later chapters like recurring characters or when you read a sentence like, “And, I heard one of the guys killed, one of the trainees, has a wife here in the hospital, wonder who that is?” (Page 326) and immediately it clicks and you go “Ohh…shit…😢…oh no…I know who he’s gossiping about…”

My favorite thing about Sean is that he’s down to do anything. You give him orders and he will do his best to get it done. In fact, he didn’t even know that refusing to do a task was a possibility. You scold him for a wrong doing that he couldn’t have possibly known about (missing a meeting because he wasn’t told there was one) and he’ll apologize with an “I’ll accept any punishment.” Too nice and too honest, chill on the outside even when getting yelled at (I suppose they train you to toughen up?) I sometimes read and admire Sean. Trouble now, deal with it now. Trouble over, no point pondering on it.

I especially enjoyed the formatting of this book. (Mostly) short and written in an easy to digest language (as opposed to some flowery and lyrical/poetic writing styles [which I love too]) I was able to fly through the book without going, “Wait, wait, wait…read that again? And again? One more time…I still can’t understand that sentence” and it’s pretty refreshing.

The chapters start off with a main chapter title in bold. I read a lot of books, nowadays, where most of the chapters are either not titled (blank) or just numbers and reading titled chapters gave me a special kind of joy I can’t explain… With each chapter title, you get a chapter excerpt; literally a sentence ripped off from somewhere in the chapter and plastered underneath the bolded title and then italicized. It became a game for me to read the sentence and go hunting for it in the chapter. Sometimes I would come across a particularly interesting excerpt and try and guess what the chapter would be about just based off the one measly sentence I get for a clue. Already a fun and humorous book (there are tearful scenes too), the excerpt hunts made it an even more entertaining read. I’d love to see more of that in other books!

If there was anything negative I found about the book it would be the handful of typos and minor proofreading errors. I didn’t know if it was alright to mention them because I don’t know if it’s an ARC thing (as it’s already released on Amazon with the Kindle preview edition retaining the same errors, so I don’t know). I figured to at least mention it. A lot of times, they are hardly noticeable, but it’s enough to go, “Oh, another one.”

The errors aren’t glaringly distracting and most of the time they’re easy to brush aside. After all, they didn’t take away anything from the story. The biggest distraction came in the first chapter and I couldn’t figure out if it was a play on words and meant to be written as “Wecome to California” or it was actually “welcome” spelled wrong…I think that one simply stuck out the MOST because it was smack on the title page of chapter one and it just bugged me the entire way through the book.

Overall? Yes, I loved this book! I loved the humor, I loved the interaction between Sean and the other characters (and the other characters interacting with others as well), minor annoyances with dorm life, the ups and downs of medic life, coping mechanisms, seeing repeated patients, Sean’s inability to find a partner, and him studying like hell to get into uni. Sean is a competent worker who is honest and quite a humble person whom people love to work with. I held my breath, with him, when he finally gets his results and his letter back from a college.

An engaging read with each chapter, a story of its own, this book is captivating and filled with laughs, tears, struggles, successes, and camaraderie; medics watch each others backs. The quote that stuck out to me the most was “We can fix broken, but we can’t fix death.” Sometimes, you have to push past the fear of giving someone broken bones if it means that you can ultimately save them. A longer read than I had expected (almost 500), I still flew through the book because it was written in an easy-to-read and easy-to-digest way, no fancy flowery language, just what’s happening as it is. It flowed well and if there was ANY medical or military tech/terminology that I didn’t get, no worries Sean/Dave would never leave the reader to guess what the word or acronym means; it’s almost always quickly followed up with an explanation. Some of the times, I hop on Google to look up a term only to feel mighty silly with the definition right there…a few sentences later. Never once did I feel lost because I didn’t understand hospital talk.

A great way to past the last few days of my July wrap up, thank you for a wonderful time, Dave Ives. I had an amazing read and would recommend this to anyone that enjoys a book that has a larger theme and plot but with chapters that are written in an individual short story-like manner.

An Invisible Client: Review

2020, Book Reviews, By Year

When I first got Prime, I went on a little spree to look for whichever books were “Read Now for Free” and came out with two Kindle books, one of them being “An Invisible Client.” Like the other book, “The Family Journal,” I was in a bit of a rush (it was the morning before my shift began) as I had “run out” (the fancy way of saying I’m ‘not in the mood for my current TBR’) of Kindle books and needed something to keep me company during lunch break and the commute to and from work. I normally would have pulled out Goodreads or Amazon and read a few reviews to see if a book suited my tastes or was a good enough match for me so that I wouldn’t end up DNFing, but this time I had about 20 minutes before my alarm went off again and I went with whatever looked decent.

And so…

My very first legal thriller book 😎 (I’ve watched legal dramas before, namely Suits).

Sections

Book Details

Title: An Invisible Client
Series: [Standalone] Book # N/A
Author: Victor Methos
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Book Type: Ebook > Kindle (Comes with audio)
Obtained: Purchased
Pages: 240
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Legal Thriller
Start Date: 07.02.2020
End Date: 07.12.2020

Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️


Trigger Warning: Death of a child, death, mentions of rape, childhood abuse (alcoholic parent).

Goodreads Summary

Link to Book’s Goodreads Page: >HERE<

For high-powered personal injury attorney Noah Byron, the good things in life come with a price tag—cars, houses, women. That’s why he represents only cases that come with the possibility of a nice cut of the action. But as a favor to his ex-wife, he meets with the mother of twelve-year-old Joel, a boy poisoned by tainted children’s medicine. While the official story is that a psycho tampered with bottles, the boy’s mother believes something much more sinister is at work…and the trail leads right back to the pharmaceutical company.

As Noah digs deeper into the case, he quickly finds himself up against a powerful corporation that will protect itself at any cost. He also befriends young Joel and breaks the number one rule of personal injury law: don’t make it personal. Faced with the most menacing of opponents and the most vulnerable of clients, Noah is determined to discover the truth and win justice for Joel—even if it means losing everything else.

Review Summary

When personal injury attorney, Noah Byron, gets a phone call from his ex-wife, he finds himself taking on a case that already looks like a lost cause. 12 year old Joel had taken a dose of children’s cough medicine that caused him to become horribly ill; his prognosis: poor at best. With two other children who previously came up with the same symptoms after taking the medicine, there’s no surprise a lawsuit comes up. However, Pharma-K is locked up behind doors of secrecy with the gates heavily guarded by their very own attorneys, powerful lawyers that even Noah finds hard to win against.

I loved this book and had a fantastic time with it. As my first legal thriller book, it’s worlds away from the other thrillers I have read where people are being gunned down or where the police are chasing a serial mad man. Here, the only bullets fired are the words out of attorney mouths and justice is never a guarantee. The side that wins is the side that makes the least mistakes and the side that wins the hearts of the jury. Anything can happen and solid evidence and witnesses can become trash in seconds as lawyers easily claw through people during cross-examination. This book talks a lot about how unfair the world is and just how powerful corporations can be. With the right amount of money, things can go hush hush really quickly! But as Noah slowly warms up and becomes dangerously attached to the case, things become personal and he’s not about to just let Pharma-K get away with this. Sure, there’s no solid evidence that Pharma-K has done any crimes, hiding behind the guise of “an external mad-man has tampered with our goods”, but something shady is going on behind those guarded closed doors, and Noah is going to get to the bottom of this. It’s a huge gamble with wildly unfavorable outcomes…but Noah is willing to take the case, willing to take the risk, and willing to bet his entire firm and everything else on winning.

Thoughts and Review

When 12 year old Joel takes an innocent looking enough cough medicine and ends up in the hospital, his mother, Rebecca, does everything in her power to get the corporation to answer her questions. Each time she tries to get ahold of someone from the company, there’s barely a response, but when Pharma-K finally shuts her out and begins to just direct her to their attorneys (who won’t say anything either), Rebecca has no choice and tries to get ahold of her cousin, Tia’s, ex-husband, a personal injury attorney, Noah Byron.

Initially turning down the case, after a quick calculation of just how much money this case would cost them considering how little evidence, information, and chance they have against Pharma-K, Noah slowly changes his mind after meeting Joel in his hospital room. While it’s mostly just to appease Rebecca at first, he does keep his promise and goes over to at least talk to Pharma-K. When an ambush awaits him at his meeting, Noah begins to see how sketchy and shady this company is acting. Pharma-K is scared, terrified even, and Noah knows this isn’t just a crazy man tampering with grocery store medications. It’s something internal, and it’s something bad.

“An Invisible Client” is my first audio book and first legal thriller book. I’ve passed by a good few legal fictions before, but they had mostly meh summaries and it was a genre that I didn’t particularly have a taste for. Legal dramas were okay enough, but courts were always pretty boring places (to me). So, when I was came up a little bored for the first half of the book, I wasn’t particularly surprised. I did raise a brow over how much the word “bullshit” is used in both Suits and this book and am starting to wonder if that’s just a legal drama thing…or if lawyers really throw that word out like Halloween candy.

The real heart pumping thrill comes during the final trial, as is expected. Most of the beginning of the book was just a lot of pushing between the plaintiff and the defendant. Plaintiff tries to bring the case to trial for the [internal] contamination of the drugs produced by Pharma-K and Pharma-K tries to make the case disappear from the media, and hopefully people’s memories, by trying to settle out of court. They try to push money onto the table along with a gag order, and pray that the plaintiff will take the money and go away.

For me, the first half of the book was a bit boring, seeing as the case just felt like it was going nowhere, with how strong the opposing lawyers were, but the story still kept me engaged. After the first visit, Noah begins to get attached to the case and its clients Rebecca and 12 year old Joel. Joel was already pretty bad off during Noah first visit, but as time goes on and his prognosis seeming to spell out a death sentence, the case becomes very personal to Noah and he officially takes the case on (previously mostly just investigating). Joel’s role in the book contributes as a huge factor to Noah’s growth.

Mini-Character Analysis

Noah Byron

Noah is an interesting character. In the beginning of the book, I had pegged the lawyer to be cold; in it for the money and without care or emotions. Of course, from a liability and risk standpoint, his logic on not taking a case is pretty sound; a losing case could be costly and becoming too attached to a case or client could bankrupt a company!

“I know, and I’m sorry, but the value of this case is just not very high. The loss of your income isn’t as high as I would need to take the case when liability isn’t clear. It’s true that pain and suffering and your medical bills are important, but those numbers don’t add up to much. I’m sorry—you just don’t earn enough.”

Methos, Victor. An Invisible Client (p. 18). Kindle Edition.

Noah is a man who puts a price tag on everything and understands that the world truly runs on that: money. The government, the White House and Congress, is a symbol of freedom and leadership, but the true rulers are the rich and mighty corporations, an oligarchy. When the world is a greed factory, it’s no wonder that Noah knows the limits of taking cases; he would only take a case that has a favorable outcome.

Under the law, a person was valued at exactly how much money that person could earn. Anyone who hadn’t gone to an Ivy League school, pulled in at least six figures, or had a family business waiting for them was what PI lawyers called “an invisible client”—one who lived and breathed but didn’t officially exist.

Methos, Victor. An Invisible Client (p. 17). Kindle Edition.

That’s why I felt like Noah was an interesting character; he was written in a way so that he had lots of room to grow; character development. And change he does! Noah begins to warm up and gets attached to this invisible client’s case and Joel grows on him. He see this very sick child and he sees a company doing everything in its power to hide something and he swears to get to the bottom of it.

As he begins to watch the case go downhill, almost in a losing position, Noah is risking a lot more than just a case gone wrong. Money ties to everything and so would a loss; his partners would lose everything, the firm could go bankrupt, and his employees would become displaced. So, seeing Noah pretty much gambling his all into an unfavorable case, end Noah is a quite a ways away from beginning of the book Noah.

Likes/Dislikes

Likes:

I think this book would be the third type of thriller I’ve come across. I’ve made a tiny comparison between military thrillers and mystery thrillers before, so I’m adding a new thriller to the list: legal thrillers. It’s different than the previous two in the fact that no blood is shed (sort of I guess…people are still hurt in personal injury cases afterall). The excitement of a legal thriller is in that last fight, the last trial, the “lose this and lose it all moment”. It’s watching the back and forth in that courtroom. Watching both sides go from being confident to desperate, you watch as every word is chosen slowly for fear of turning the jurynotn away from them, driving them to their opposing side and this applies to both sides.

The thrill is in watching one moment where everything seems to go your way until something is cross-examined or someone is thrown off and it’s a battle of words, no fists thrown, and the one who makes the least mistake wins. In the courtroom, nobody is spared; not the witnesses, not the lawyers, not their clients…

Olivia is brilliant and I’m pretty sure she has hyperthymesia to some extent. When questioning a witness who mentioned a date, she was able to come up with what day it was and what the weather was like that day. With an extraordinary memory and seemingly the ability to read through files in record speed, she’s whip smart and when others thought of law school as hellish, she aced through law school and treated it like it was finally time to relax and get to know her fellow students. If there’s anything I know about law school, it’s that everyone comes out looking like they are ready to drown themselves in a tub of Redbull.

While reading a book with a nearly superhuman genius is a bit cliche, I found myself kind of enjoying reading about Olivia as it’s with her crazy abilities that the case goes on well. Though a bit shy, she knows to challenge others on their views and beliefs and while she casts away her gaze at the beginning, she holds it firm as her confidence grows and it’s nice to read a little side character growth as well.

Dislikes (None really):

I didn’t have much of a dislike for this book as, for me, it’s a solid 5 star book. Relationships ran through too quickly for me, but what can I do? It’s a standalone and you don’t get to drag relationships across multiple books. I could complain that the beginning was slow, but it’s a lawsuit! Gathering evidence that’s being tightly sealed behind a sketchy company’s door is going to be painstakingly impossible to get ahold of and if I had a problem with that, well at that point I would just be nitpicking 😅 So for me, it’s a pretty solid and fantastic read that I throughly enjoyed.

5 ⭐️

The Family Journal [Review]

2020, Book Reviews, By Year

Book Name: The Family Journal
Series: [Standalone] Book N/A
Author: Carolyn Brown
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Book Type: Ebook > Kindle
Obtained: Purchased
Pages: 296
Genre: Romance, Fiction, Contemporary
Start Date: 07.02.2020
End Date: 07.08.2020
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is Carolyn Brown’s 100th book! Whopping 100! That’s amazing! Congratulations to Carolyn 🥳

Goodreads Summary

Link to Book’s Goodreads Page: >HERE<

At the end of her rope, single mom Lily Anderson is determined to move her rebellious children in the right direction. That means taking away their cell phones, tablets, and computers—at least temporarily—and moving to the house where Lily grew up in the rural town of Comfort, Texas. But Lily has a bigger challenge than two sulking teens.

The house comes with Mack Cooper, high school teacher and handsome longtime renter. The arrangement: just housemates. But Mack’s devoted attention to the kids starts to warm Lily’s resistant heart. Then Lily finds an old leather-bound book in which five generations of her female ancestors shared their struggles and dreams. To Lily, it’s a bracing reminder about the importance of family…and love.

Now it’s time for Lily to add an adventurous new chapter to the cherished family journal—by embracing a fresh start and taking a chance on a man who could make her house a home.

review

I usually don’t go for romance books, but I only realized it was romance after I’d purchased the book; a big oops on my part…There was implied sexual content of course, but nothing more than a good kiss on the cheeks or lips was actually written out for the readers to read. For that, I was so very glad. However, it was my fault for not reading properly about the genre and so I just stuck with it. How bad could it be? (Turned out to be a pretty good book that I semi-flew through).

Lily is a mother who has been divorced for a good few years now; her husband having admitted to cheating on her and leaving for a much richer woman, leaving her with her two kids, Holly and Braden. When she discovers fourteen year old Holly with weed and twelve year old Braden with alcohol, she’s decided that enough was enough and decided to move the three of them back to her childhood home in Comfort, Texas, a small community with a population of a little more than three thousand. Along with the move, she confiscates her kids’ electronics…all of them; computers, tablets, phones…

Holding steadfast to her resolve in making a change in her family, she continues with the move as her kids try to negotiate anything to keep them in the city. Nothing was going to make her budge on her decision, not this time. In the years after her divorce, she had began to drown herself in her work and left no time to her children. The combined effects of both the lack of proper family time and the divorce resulted in causing her children to drift apart and become rebellious. This time, she knew that she needed to make a change, and her decision better be solid; no puppy eyes would be changing her mind.

The house that she grew up in comes with Mack Cooper, someone she knew back in her own school days, now her tenant; a school teacher himself with forty goats living in the yard. The arrangement was to remain as friendly associates, a roommate relationship. He gets to keep living in a home that allows him to raise his goats, and she gets to use her house again. They will share the living room and kitchen only when they needed the use of them. With the agreement solid, Lily moves the family back home to get away from the influences of the city.

Thoughts

If I had to describe the book in one word it would be fluffy (heartwarming too). There were ups and downs and the book writes out to be incredibly predictable, but I enjoyed it. There were parts that made me tear up and once the water-work starts going, there’s no turning back. Mack and Lily just fits each other like the perfect puzzle piece. They’re compatible, there’s chemistry between them, each have personal trust issues that stem from the trauma of having to deal with specific people in their lives, and each have baggage they carry.

Lily doesn’t trust herself in another relationship because what if another man like her cheating ex-husband comes by and ruins the little trust and hope she had left? Someone close to Mack had stolen his previous girlfriends not once, but twice! He’s adamant in not getting himself into another relationship, just like Lily, because what’s the point if that someone is going to just stroll back in and steal his girlfriend with his charms and good looks…again!

But as they begin to live under and share the same roof, Lily and Mack begin to gravitate towards each other. Mack, being a vo-ag (vocational agriculture) teacher, is fantastic with Lily’s kids and bonds with her son, who has grown quite attached to the herd of goats outside. While her daughter is a bit more to handle, even Holly begins to settle in to the new rural lifestyle with new friends of her own and even gets along well with Lily’s childhood friends.

The house that Lily resides in now is her childhood home that once belonged to her mother, now deceased. When she finally has the courage to start going through her mother’s things, she finds an old journal that, to her surprise, belongs to the women in her family…spanning across many many years with the first entry starting in June 1862!

With the journal, Lily begins a journey of love and the importance of family. Through the ancient book, she begins to find parallels to her current life as she shares the struggles, hardships, happiness, and even dreams of her ancestors. As she discovers more about herself, she begins to share the journal with her daughter, whom she would love to pass the journal onto one day, and the two’s relationship begins to heal.

It’s a heartwarming story that makes you cry a little. Her kids are at a rebellious stage in their lives and the divorce only catapulted them further away from her; their words constantly laced with anger or I should’ve tried harder to convince dad to move in with him and the likes of such. But with the introduction of the journal, she begins to bond closer to her children, and with Mack, both their hearts begin to thaw as they learn to work through their past problems and learn to love again.

The book is very Christian centric, as well, with many of the scenes taking place at church or mentions of choir practice and Sunday schools. Macks’ old friend is the preacher of this tiny town’s church and it’s these weekends, Sundays especially, whose scenes are the primary focus with most of the weekdays somewhat zipping by (could be me though).

It’s a very sweet book with lots of sparks flying at every touch they make, accident or not. The “good” characters are all like-able and the “villains” are all very detestable. I enjoyed how everybody seems to have their own comfort groups that mingle well with each other, small town style. Mack knows of the old aloof woman at church, as does Lily and her friends. Holly occasionally gets to hang out with her mother’s friends and gets to hang out with that old woman as well. Everyone knows everyone (and everyone knows secrets in half a heart beat). There’s a sense of eye-rolling small town rumors that is always flying around, though most are generally harmless.

All in all, it’s a very sweet and heartwarming book. I loved the parts where Lily and Mack helped each other through their pasts, even before their relationship began to kindle (did you see what I did there 👀?). Mack is the fantastic father figure that Holly and Braden just needed in their lives. Even from the start, you get a feeling that they were all just meant to be together.

I didn’t expect to power through the book as fast as I did. It flows well and reads well; an exceptional page-turning book. I had read pieces of the first few chapters during work breaks and after work, but then managed to just blow through a good 200 pages in one go as the middle began to pick up.

Lovely read with a beautiful ending: 4⭐️

Mad River [Book Review]

2020, Book Reviews, By Year

Content warning: Rape, implied sexual content, death, violence and graphic content

Book Name: Mad River
Series: Virgil Flowers Book # 6
Author: John Sandford
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Book Type: Ebook > Kindle
Obtained: Amazon
Pages: 418
Genre: Fiction > Mystery > Crime, Thriller
Start Date: 06.03.2020, Restarted reading on 06.26.2020
End Date: 06.28.2020

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Goodreads Summary:

Link to Book’s Goodreads Page: >HERE<

Bonnie and Clyde, they thought. And what’s-his-name, the sidekick. Three teenagers with dead-end lives, chips on their shoulders, and guns. The first person they killed was a woman during a robbery. The second was incidental. Simply in the way. Then, hell, why not keep on going?

It’s not until Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigator Virgil Flowers steps onto the Shinder murder scene that the clues begin to come together. As their crime spree cuts a swath through rural Minnesota, it’s a growing army of cops who join Virgil in trying to run them down. But even Virgil doesn’t realize what’s about to happen next.

Thoughts and Review:

Virgil isn’t even a few hours out of vacation and Davenport is already calling in about a bad one; two deaths, a man and his wife, along with two more on Friday night over in Bigham for a total of 4 deaths and he needs to get over there and investigate them immediately. A few hours later, mostly sober from his night out at the bar, discussing musicians, he finally heads out.

Another thrilling book, though not much of a mystery this time around. Sandford has a signature of sorts to reveal the bad guys to us readers early on via their own POV chapters. Sometimes we, the readers, already know who the criminal is (though the cops do not) but this time, Virgil is able to quickly confirm the murderer’s identities and instead of a “who’s the bad guy” it’s a mad chase. In this book, Virgil and the local sheriff spend their time trying to track down the trio rather than spend a good chunk guessing who might be behind all of this.

In Mad River, we have ourselves a fictional Bonnie and Clyde (and another character) going on a killing spree through the Minnesota countryside. It starts off with a single murder, a bank robbery gone wrong. The killing of Agatha was a little strange as Agatha had been hit and was already down on the ground and the trio couldn’t be identified as they had their flashlights pointed at the two women’s faces. Thus, Agatha’s death seemed pretty unnecessary, but as the story expands, we get to see a larger role involved in her murder. On their way to their getaway car, they gun down another victim, Emmett Williams and steals his car (seeing as their own junk car didn’t ignite). It had started off as a burglary but ended up in two deaths resulting in the trio going on the run.

Virgil arrives to investigate the 4 deaths, starting with the husband and wife, Mr. Welsh and Mrs. Welsh, and eventually moving to Agatha and Emmett. In a small town where everyone knows everyone the fingers quickly point to the Jimmy and Becky; infamous troublemakers back in high school. Everybody in town knew Becky for her good looks, Jimmy for being the biggest bully in school, and both for not being the brightest kids around, while who Tom was was a mystery to most folks.

With no solid reason or evidence to convict the three, Virgil turns to try and find them as leads…but nobody can find them. Not much blind guessing is needed, however as everywhere they stop to steal money or supplies leaves behind a new body. With every body comes one or two missing vehicles, each of which is broadcasted to the world, hoping someone would spot them and report them in. When one of the trio calls Virgil and confessing themselves to be the one of the three responsible for all the shootings, they finally have solid confirmation that the three kids are behind the killings and it turns into a chase and duck hunt to get to the Jimmy Sharp, Becky Welsh, and Tom McCall before they get to someone else. As the search drags on, more and more people are killed as the three search for food, money, weapons, and whatever tools they can get on hand to aid their escape. It’s after a bank robbery gone wrong, where an officer is shot and killed, that the three realize how deeply in trouble they are and how bleak their future now looks. Now wanted fugitives, their chances at escaping alive becomes slimmer and slimmer.

All the while, Virgil digs deeper into Agatha’s death and starts to suspect more to behind her death than just a robbery gone wrong. Towards the middle, the book splits off between chasing Beck and Jimmy and Virgil investigating the circumstances behind Agatha’s murder with both cases being a thrill to follow.

The deaths in this book are pretty gritty, especially the ending scene (what horrifying imagery). Shaking away their first murder, they start to get used to all the killing. Raising a gun at another person becomes almost easy. They were already wanted by everyone everywhere, what was one more body for a pack of pills right? They aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, as noted multiple times throughout the book. They make dumb decisions and leave trails of easy evidence behind them. These were aimless kids with unfortunate backgrounds growing up to be young adults who dreamed big but didn’t have the necessary tools to push them in the right direction. Instead, they make one bad decision after another only to fall deeper and deeper into the crime. Of course, it’s no excuse for what they did.

He remembered a bumper sticker he’d seen in St. Paul that said: “Remember: Half the People Are Below Average.” That, he thought, was probably the key to Jimmy Sharp and Becky Welsh. They were below average, and God had made them that way. There was no way that they were ever going to be anything but that; they could watch all the above-average people they wanted, on television, driving around in big cars and making enormous amounts of money out of nothing . . . or just working at the post office, or going to trade school to be plumbers or carpenters. They’d never be able to do that. They were condemned from birth to a life of hard times and trouble. If people were to tell the truth about Becky, her only route to a condition even resembling prosperity would be to sell herself for sex. That was all she had. The problem with that, morality aside, was that she probably wasn’t bright enough to make the most of selling herself. As for Jimmy—Jimmy had no chance at all. Abused as a child, neglected in school, he probably couldn’t drive a nail. Or generate the ambition to do it.


– Sandford, John. Mad River (A Virgil Flowers Novel, Book 6) (pp. 352-353). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
[[On Virgil Flowers pondering about God, life, and unfair circumstances that might have been one of the causes on why Becky and Jimmy turned out to be the way they are.]]

Virgil, being the son of a Presbyterian minister, has a moral code far stronger than Sheriff Duke (who I started to hate more and more, and who I honestly loathed by the end) and, though he had a few other reasons for doing so, he did his very best to try and bring Becky, Jimmy, and Tom in alive. He’s constantly pondering about God, often thinking about him before he drifts off to sleep at night. Throughout this book, he thinks a lot about God and why people like Jimmy and Becky exist/turn out the way they are now, why they kill people at random, and why people are killed at random. He ponders about if God is a universal computer who is subject to bugs and glitches. He wonders about how, no matter how hard they try, Becky and Jimmy simply weren’t meant to be anything more than below average.

“What part could they have in God’s plan? Were they simply put here to kill people at random, because, for some people, people needed to be killed at random?”

– Sandford, John. Mad River (A Virgil Flowers Novel, Book 6) (p. 352). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

It took me about 3 days to gobble up this book…like I do with all of John’s books. A fantastic thriller where you get to see Virgil chasing the slippery trio only to find their victims instead (as it turns out there are plenty of places to hide in the vast Minnesota countryside). The cops are getting frustrated, Virgil is getting frustrated and very desperate to reach them before the others, civilians are worried and locking up, guarding doors with their guns, the media is in a piranha frenzy (when are they not), and the Governor and BCA staff are getting frustrated and are starting to take heat for not putting an end to this in a timely matter.

It was a great read and I can’t wait to grab book 7. So far, Virgil and Sandford has yet to disappoint me. I loved reading this and easily finished the book. This time though, the ending left a bit of bitterness in my mouth that I can’t fully describe. I felt both unsatisfied and very satisfied at the same time. Happy but also very upset (for how both cases ended). ​It’s the wallowing sad and empty feeling that stems from knowing that, because of the circumstances (and a certain a**hat) this was the best ending you could have possibly gotten.