Book Review: Righteous Prey by John Sandford

Happy Thursday, my lovely peeps🐥!
This week’s book review: Righteous Prey by John Sandford!

This was my most anticipated read of the year and I kept pushing it off as if to make the read even more rewarding the longer I wait for it. I finally got around to it, and I absolutely loved it!

Book Title: Righteous Prey
Series: Prey Series / Virgil Flowers
Book # 32 (Prey) / 14 (Virgil Flowers)
Author: John Sandford
Length: ~412 Pages (Based on Kindle Pages)
Publication Date: 4 Oct 2022
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Edition: eARC (NetGalley)
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Mystery > Crime, Thriller, Thriller > Mystery Thriller, Suspense, Police Procedural, Action

Goodreads: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<
Author Website: >LINK<

Disclaimer: A big thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley. An ebook copy was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. This does not affect my review in any way, and all opinions are my own.

Beloved heroes Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers are up against a powerful vigilante group with an eye on vengeance in a stunning new novel from #1 New York Times-bestselling author John Sandford.

“We’re going to murder people who need to be murdered.” So begins a press release from a mysterious group known only as “The Five,” shortly after a vicious predator is murdered in San Francisco. The Five is believed to be made up of vigilante killers who are very bored…and very rich. They target the worst of society—rapists, murderers, and thieves—and then use their unlimited resources to offset the damage done by those who they’ve killed, donating untraceable bitcoin to charities and victims via the dark net. The Five soon become the most popular figures on social media, a modern-day Batman…though their motives may not be entirely pure.

After a woman is murdered in the Twin Cities, Virgil Flowers and Lucas Davenport are sent in to investigate. And they soon have their hands full–the killings are smart and carefully choreographed, and with no apparent direct connection to the victims, the Five are virtually untraceable. But if anyone can destroy this group, it will be the dynamic team of Davenport and Flowers.

5 bitcoin traders, immensely wealthy, and absolutely nuts in the head, conspire along with another individual to commit crimes “for the better of the world.” They kill those they deem worthy of death, post their crimes out as press releases along with the reasons that the individuals were killed, and a hefty amount in bitcoin is donated to a charity afterwards, a test to see if these non-profits would accept the money if they were to come out of these crimes; blood money. Lucas and Virgil aren’t called on, at least not until one of the killings happens on Minnesota soil and the BCA and US Marshal become involved.

Though I’ve seen books revolving around an individual or groups of people going after people who deserve justice, it was still a pretty good book and I enjoyed the plot. Beginning with weeks of staking out their victims, following their every move and tracking all of their personal securities, these five million/billionaire, along with their leader, come up with extremely detailed and well-thought-out plans that fully cover their tracks behind them. It’s nearly impossible to link the crime back to the perpetrator, at least, of course, until the killer in Minnesota slips up and it’s just enough of a clue for Lucas and Virgil to work off of. From there, the plot takes off and it doesn’t take long for the duo to identify some of the members of the Five and begin their pursuit. When The Five’s plans begins to crumble beneath them, people start to get really desperate. And desperate people are dangerous people.

In the first book where Lucas and Virgil worked together, Ocean Prey, Virgil actually worked mostly with Rae and Lucas with another team, covering background. Both having a criminal mind, nabbing clues in not so legal ways (like breaking into a house to investigate with a copy of a key made by pressing clay on it?), they have vastly different personalities when it comes to crime. Lucas sees things like a puzzle while Virgil’s more emotional (not that deaths don’t affect Lucas), but there’s an interesting dynamic between the two of them.

Lucas and Virgil were each other’s closest male friends, in the way men form friendships around shared traumatic stress and a predilection for jockstraps. Though they were friends, they were not alike.

Lucas could look at a body and become immediately absorbed in the technical details of the death: how the killing had been done, possible motives, who had the opportunity. He saw murder as a puzzle. The body was a detail, but not the only one. Murder signaled a competition that he was determined to win.

Virgil sought balance, rather than a victory. He wanted to wrench his world back into what it should be, a peaceful place where people cooperated to create a civilization. He disliked violence and rarely resorted to it. Murder was always a shock to his system.

In Righteous Prey, this time the duo really does work together, starting by visiting the scene of the Minnesota death, and “walking and knocking” on doors. Lucas being Virgil’s old boss, they’re best friends and their conversations can be pretty golden at times. There’s a hilarious supermarket scene with the most cliché undercover cop “quick pretend we’re a cute couple to avoid attention” trope that was the comedic highlight of my read. They’re funny and witty, and fantastic at bouncing ideas off each other. The bicker and banter between them reminds me of siblings and their interaction lightens the tenser parts of the book.

The woman called, “What’d you do? Did he see you?”

A male agent, also inside the store, who’d been looking at tomatoes, said, “They walked by him holding hands. [killer] wouldn’t look at them. He’s a homophobe and thought they were gay.”

Lucas, not transmitting, said to Virgil, “I won’t live this down. You will, of course, being an ambisexual hippie.”

The woman agent said, “That’s so cool. That’s really so cool.”

Lucas: “Ah, Jesus.”

There’s a lot of character development over the course of multiple books, for both Lucas and Virgil. Virgil has been writing as a side gig since the earliest books, more so as a magazine column writer, though. Soon, taking nature photographs and writing for magazines became writing fiction books for publishing deals and he’s in the middle of his third novel when Righteous Prey is taking place, with Lucas, a game maker himself, encouraging him. Because cops burn out hard and fast. Lucas, already rich off his games and only picking up the most interesting of cases can only hope that Virgil will follow because neither of them can see the latter continue to run around Minnesota for much longer. They’re getting older and their lives have been constantly at stake. They barely make it through this book (though I’ve definitely said this earlier in a few other books too, so…)

There were some places that were slow, you can’t have promising leads forever, and there are multiple times the duo run into walls. Still, the thrill is always present and there’s always some form of a chase, but the killers are just as slippery as they are elusive. Along with cash to back them up, clever alibis, and this case taking place across multiple stakes, Virgil and Lucas are just running all over the place. In fact, if The Five had kept all of this on the down low, and not going about publishing every hit to the public, they probably could’ve easily gotten away with these killings for a long time!

All in all, I had a wonderful time with it and I’m definitely going to get the physical copy when it comes out next month. My only worry is, with Lucas and Virgil growing older, having promising new careers on their horizon, family, and with Lucas’ adoptive daughter, Letty, having her own spin-off series now, we may very well be nearing the end of both Lucas and Virgil’s adventures. The book ends pretty well though, especially given the scary events that took place in the climax. It has a very open end feel to it, with plenty of possibilities to come. Another gripping and solid book from Sandford. I could not put this one down!

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Book Review: Nolyn by Michael J. Sullivan

Somehow I managed to squeeze Nolyn in with about 5 hours left to spare from midnight.
Sure is reminiscent of a few years back when I finished and met my 10ish yearly books goal with 12 minutes till the bells rung! Ahhaha.

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Michael J. Sullivan is one of my favorite authors of all time and fantasy was also my first ever favorite genre, but I had put leisure reading down during college and when I finally picked it back up, I just stopped reading fantasy, preferring, instead, the thrills of mystery thrillers, police procedural, spy thrillers, and forensic books.

I read a handful of Michael’s books and fell in love with Hadrian and Royce, from the Riyria series, immediately. I never finished the series (due to said break from reading) but I did pick up the first book Age of Myth from Michael’s second series, The Legends of the First Empire and I distinctively remember it was during my Hong Kong trip to visit my hometown and family, the summer after graduating from college.

And then I never picked up any of Michael’s books ever again. It was around that time that reading was still “meh” to me and when I was finally actually ready for books again, years later, I had branched out so wildly (new authors, new genres, new many things) that Michael was buried in the well-known “TBR mountain.”

So when I was given the chance to explore a new series, I was ecstatic!

Book Description

Title: Nolyn
Author: Michael J. Sullivan
Edition: NetGalley > eBook
Length: 487 pages
Genre/s: Fiction, Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy, Adventure, Action
TW/CW: Violence, Blood, Graphic Injuries, Graphic Deaths, War, Child Kidnapping

Disclaimer: An eBook copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. This did not affect my review, and all opinions are mine.

Blurb (Goodreads)

After more than five hundred years of exile, the heir to the empyre is wary about his sudden reinstatement to active duty on the Goblin War’s front lines. His assignment to rescue an outpost leads to a dead-end canyon deep inside enemy territory, and his suspicion turns to dread when he discovers the stronghold doesn’t exist. But whoever went to the trouble of planning his death to look like a casualty of war didn’t know he would be assigned to the Seventh Sikaria Auxiliary Squadron. In the depths of an unforgiving jungle, a legend is about to be born, and the world of Elan will never be the same.

Review

“Sitting snuggly between the Legends of the First Empire series and the Riyria books” this series had little “Easter eggs”, terms and phrases that I recalled seeing in both series. I’m sure there were some easter egg events and lore too, but I hadn’t read the second book of the First Empire series yet. Alas, being that it had been years since I last spent any time with either series, I might as well have read this as if I was coming across Michael’s works as if it were my first time, but then there were the occasional brief moments where I felt a smile creep onto my face because, “I know what they’re talking about!”

But there were also moments where where I felt like I actually needed to go back to (at least) the First Empire books to understand Nolyn; moments where I felt like I was missing something crucial. However, these were far and spare in numbers and in time, I was more focus with the plot than feeling like I needed the complete story. It stands perfectly fine on its own.

I loved this book. I loved all of the characters, the beautiful setting, the camaraderie, the relationships, flaws and all, the magic, gods, lore and all of everything else.

This book is split between three POVs, two main protagonists and a third occasional glimpse of the antagonist’s side of things. Two people with two stories and two different goals, all orchestrated and conducted by a terrifying foe. I recall screaming out loud, “How the f*** are our protagonists supposed to deal with THAT!”

The villain/antagonist was so strong and felt flawless in the beginning. There were no holes and he was god-like in abilities. I thought back to all of the Gods and “Gods” that protagonists have fought across different books and games and none of them could come close to the absurdity of how soul-shakingly horrifying the villain’s powers were here and that made everything feel worse, more terrifying, and so much more desperate. It felt like war had ended before it even started; lay down your swords, there’s no point in fighting.

The two main characters are Sephryn and the titular character, Nolyn, two descendants of a band of legendary warriors and people who, as told by stories, had descended into the afterlife and returned to the living. Their stories are not connected with one another until towards the middle and end where you realize that the events they experienced were part of a bigger plan, again, orchestrated by the big bad previously mentioned.

Of the two, I had initially enjoyed Nolyn’s story more because it had everything I have ever wanted. His band of Sik-Aux warriors, led by a (more modern) legendary leader was one of my favorite things about this book. The camaraderie, the way they joked with each other, mildly butt heads, but also deeply cared for one another, keeping dangers off each other’s backs. They all came from different backgrounds: a poor man who sends money earned from the army back to his mom, a man who was already headed to his grave, a murderer, a thief, a man on the run…the way they very quickly accepted Nolyn as their own. Oh, my heart.

Sephryn’s was more of a desperate storyline and it felt so hopeless from the start. Once things really got rolling on her end, I began to tear through her chapters much faster and with a clenched fist. Her fear was etched through the entire climax and how it ended was just so frustratingly awful, but the ending was amazing and, yeah, I cried. Points for tears. Always points for tears.

As with all of Michael’s books, I loved his storytelling, writing, and characters. I love all of his characters, regardless of series. The Six-Aux felt had the same bro-vibes as between Royce and Hadrian (only there’s many more of them). Though they did have their fair share of screen time, I wish I got to know them juuust a little more.

Now, in terms of characters, there were plenty of people I loved from the thief who could have asked/taken for more but settled for a hug in payment, to the friend of Sephryn, known to have gone mad in the head, the entire Six-Aux, and of course the two main characters. Relatively same in age, they were so vastly different. Sephryn, despite not succeeding the way she wanted, was still a leader of a council and so mature compared to Nolyn who, despite being hundreds of years old, still felt kind of naive? He did do his fair share of growing in a short span of two-ish weeks, so reading his interactions and development was another favorite thing about the book.

Overall, loved the book, and if you love fantasy with lore that spans across multiple series, I would highly recommend Nolyn. There’s witty banter, there’s great storytelling and dialogue, amazing and desperate plots, characters you love, hate, and feel lukewarm about, funny characters, scary characters, you name it. It’s fast-paced and there are some pretty graphic deaths. The chapter with the city invasion brought goosebumps to me. It was intense, and more than once I had to get up and process the twists that were being thrown in. The ending was pretty sweet, but it’s kind of heavy all the same.

As always, another amazing read from Michael J. Sullivan!
Now I REALLY need to reread his other works again.

Walks with Sam – Book Review

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.

Currently Reading [06.10.2020]

Mad River: Virgil Flowers Series

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
End Date: 06.28.2020

Continuing on with the Virgil Flowers Series, my next VF book is book 6: Mad River! I believe there are now 12 books in the Virgil Flowers series and sitting on the 6th book, I’m getting nervous. I am slowly running out of books in my favorite series. Sure, it’s still ongoing (to my knowledge), but once I’m current and on book 12, it’ll be a waiting game to get my hands on the next book. It’ll be like waiting on the next manga chapter update but even longer (Demon Slayer is oooveerr *sob*)!

I didn’t pick this book up for any special reason other than continuing on in the series. There never needs to be any sort of excuse for me to pick up a VF book. Sometimes, picking up a Virgil book is even a treat for finishing up books I don’t want to finish! In fact, if I run out of books and can’t figure out my next read it’s my default series to go to. Virgil has yet to fail me in the 6 books I’ve read so far (I’ve read 1-5 & 11) so I’m expecting another great read up ahead!

Sorry I Missed You

Book Name: Sorry I Missed You
Series: Standalone Book # N/A
Author: Suzy Krause
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Book Type: Ebook > Kindle (Doc) > ARC
Obtained: Netgalley > Read Now
Pages: 330
Genre: Fiction > Womens Fiction > Chick Lit, Contemporary
Start Date: 06.04.2020
End Date: 06.25.2020

My next book is a read I picked up from Netgalley. This time, I was simply scrolling and hoping to come across a good random read. My last womens fiction left a fantastic impression after I finally broke out of my usual tiny list of favorite genres. I wanted to give this genre another go and eventually landed myself with this book, “Sorry I Missed You.”

Three women move into a rental home and they all have something in common, they have all been ghosted by someone important to them: Sunna’s best friend, Mauve’s fiancé, and Mackenzie’s sister. All up and disappeared without an explanation.

I honestly thought this was a mystery at first but the cover was orange, colorful, and cute and it was listed as a quirky and humorous book. I don’t know…when descriptions read “gone with no explanation” I immediately get a “missing person” vibes. But since it’s supposed to be humorous (with a side of ghost too!), I guess I can breath a sigh of relief that its not as scary as I make it out to be. Who knows. I just can’t wait to dig in.