The Hunger Games (Hunger Games, #1) by Suzanne Collins

Published July 6th 2010 by Scholastic, Inc, Paperback, 374 pages, ISBN13: 9780439023528

 

WINNING MEANS FAME AND FORTUNE.

LOSING MEANS CERTAIN DEATH.

THE HUNGER GAMES HAVE BEGUN…

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on life TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before – and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

**Review:**

**Spoiler Alert!** If you plan on reading the book, you may not want to read my review. … Okay, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

What an incredible book!!!

Collins creates an alternate world where North America is no longer as it stands now. Divided into 13 districts, each has their way of life. Not liking the powers that be, a rebellion had been formed, and squashed, which explains how District 13 no longer exists. Now new rules make just about everyone’s lives absolutely miserable. Poor, starving, people do what they need to stay alive – and pray they don’t get caught.

Katliss Everdeen, 16, is one of those people. After her father had died in the coal mine explosion, she has done what she needed to do to keep her family alive. Her father had taught her well. She hunts, she barters, and does what she can.

And then enter the Hunger Games, created after the rebellion. It was Capitol’s way of keeping the people, the Districts, under their thumbs, a constant reminder that – look what we can do. We can take your children and make them kill each other. Rise against us and it will become infinitely worse for everyone. Children from the ages of 12 to 18 are at risk, male and female alike. Thrown into a situation where it becomes kill or be killed, and be the last person standing – the victor, do whatever is necessary to stay alive. At the age of 12, their name is entered once. At 13, twice. 14, three times, and so on, until their 18th year. After that, no more. Obviously, the older you get, the more at risk you are. A catch to that: say you are poor and starvation is knocking on your door. As an adolescent between the ages of 12 and 18, you can exchange your name for tesserae, which is worth one meager year’s supply of grain and oil for one person. And the entries are accumulative. Your names from the year before, from each tesserae, stays in that ball, until your final year. And this just raises the stakes – your name could be next.

This year, Katliss’s sister, Prim, turned 12, and her name had been entered, but only once. And yet… her name was pulled. Out of desperation and panic, Katliss volunteers herself, to take her sister’s place.

Already nervous, anxious and fearful, her heart sinks to her stomach when the boy’s name is called. Peeta Mellark’s name is pulled from the boys’ ball. The baker’s son, he had risked a beating at the age of twelve and stole to stale loaves of bread and gave them to a starving Katliss. She had never spoken to him, before or since, but she was always grateful for that small act of kindness. And then reality hits – only one victor, one person can win. How is she supposed to be able to kill Peeta, the first person to give her that small act of kindness.

From District 12 to the Capitol, it’s an experience no one will ever receive – unless their name is pulled from that ball. From rich foods to clothes and costumes, from training and judging and scoring, Katliss takes it all in, no matter how much she abhors it, no matter how much it twists her stomach. She has to, for reprecussions would fall on her mother and sister and the rest of her district.

And then the Games begin, and it is all about survival. (I won’t go into details – except to say there are times were you become furious and times where a box of Kleenex is handy.) Strategy comes into play, and some of it leaves Katliss’s mind reeling. It seems the strategy is that Peeta is supposed to be in love with Katliss. Yet, she doesn’t know if it’s real or not. Then an announcement sounds – rules have been changed. The two people from the same district can both be the victors, if they are the last alive. Now Katliss is determined – she won’t have to kill the first person who showed her an act of kindness. They can both live, and both go home.

More twists, fighting, trying to stay alive. And just when they believe they make it, another twist occurs that makes your own stomach drop, your heart rip out, and you may have to put the book down to wipe your tear-filled eyes.

And just when Katliss thought the “star-crossed lovers” strategy was simply that, strategy, it turns out, Peeta wasn’t lying. She doesn’t know what she feels, but she is warned. Play it up, cause both of their lives depend on it.

**An incredible book, one of the best YA novels I’ve ever read. I think it surpasses Twilight!**

The story sucked me right in from the beginning, and quickly became an unputdownable book. If you are a YA fan, this book is a definite must-read and a book for your “keeper” shelf.

Those who know me know I’m not big on YA novels. Because they are written with young adults in mind, the dialogue isn’t quite adult. The scenes aren’t adult. I have a hard time putting myself in that frame of mind to really enjoy it. But I have to admit, this one sucked me right in. While it’s YA, I personally feel that the violence may be a bit much for younger YA. However, my niece is going on 12, and she’s loving it, so what do I know? *shrug*

The violent scenes are just that – violent. But, even though they are quite violent, it’s so well written that you are literally in the characters’ shoes. You feel what they feel; hope, fear, adrenaline, loss, sadness, anger… the author pulls them out of you, no matter your age.

The characters are superb! You get a feel for what their lives are like, what they go through, how they live, what they feel. You become the shadow over their shoulder, watching and hearing everything they do, right there in the story with them.

You root for them, and root hard. Then you hit the end of the book and immediately want to grab the second. So, ladies and gents of all ages, make sure you have Catching Fire on hand. Like me, you’ll regret it if you don’t, LOL!

Rating:

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The Postcard Killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund

Hardcover, 400 pages, Published August 16th 2010 by Little, Brown and Company, ISBN13: 9780316089517

The Postcard Killers

by

James Patterson and Liza Marklund

NYPD detective Jack Kanon is on a tour of Europe’s most gorgeous cities. But the sights aren’t what draw him–he sees each museum, each cathedral, and each restaurant through a killer’s eyes.

Kanon’s daughter, Kimmy, and her boyfriend were murdered while on vacation in Rome. Since then, young couples in Paris, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, and Stockholm have become victims of the same sadistic killers.

Now Kanon teams up with the Swedish reporter, Gabby Larsen. Every killing is preceded by a postcard to the local newspaper–and Kanon and Larsen think they know where the next victims will be. With relentless logic and unstoppable action, The Postcard Killers may be James Patterson’s most vivid and compelling thriller yet.

*Please note: I cannot quote anything from the book. I’d won and received an ARC copy through the contest on the author’s website.

NYPD Detective Jacob Kanon has been all over Europe for almost six months. His on the trail of a serial killer, one that sends postcards and pictures to the newspapers before and after each killing.

But it’s for sure the murders are being committed by a serial killer. Victims are of young couples in love, either boyfriend/girlfriend, engaged, or newlyweds. The victims are drugged, murdered (throats slit), and posed, and polaroid pictures are taken and sent to the same person they previously sent the postcards to. The murders are committed once, in one city, then the killer moves on.

Jacob is on the hunt for what he calls The Postcard Killers, and won’t stop until they’re caught. At every murder, he becomes more and more frustrated, and despair is crashing on him. You see, he’d sent his daughter on vacation to Rome with her fiance, and she was one of the Postcard Killers’s victims. Guilt-ridden, he’s determined to catch them, no matter the cost.

Dessie Larsson, a Swedish reporter, received a postcard and wonders what it’s supposed to mean. But then the polaroid arrives, and she’s dragged into the case, against her wishes. She’s persuaded by the police to write a letter and publish it in the newspaper, meant to capture the killers’ attention. It does, in a gruesome way, and now Dessie feels responsible for the second set of victims, believing that, if she hadn’t written the letter, the killers would have moved on and the victims in Stockholm would still be alive.

Together, Jacob and Dessie comb through the evidence, the postcards, the polaroids. There’s a pattern, but just when it seems obvious, it floats away. One picture in particular haunts Dessie, for the posed victims remind her of something. After talking to her ex-husband, she’s figured out what all the polaroids have in common; the victims are posed to immitate reknown paintings, famous paintings.

When clues fall into place, pictures of the killers are released to the media, and a widespread manhunt ensues, only to have the tables turned on them. The killers give themselves up, acting like a pair of tourists caught in the middle of the whole fiasco. Jacob is sure they are the killers, but there’s not enough evidence. No prints, no DNA, no nothing.

But when they’re released, Jacob loses it. He needs to find evidence it’s them, and decides to investiage their pasts – in Los Angeles. The more people he talks to, the more he’s certain that Sylvia and Malcolm Rudolph, twins, sister and brother, are the killers.

As more clues fall into place, he returns to Dessie, and together the find another clue: a website created about their art group. One page needs a password to access, and no matter what they try, the password is denied. That is, until they hit the right password. What they find, is indescribable.

The killers aren’t just Sylvia and her twin brother, Malcolm, but several other people, all over Europe. All part of the same art group, and art group formed by Sylvia and Malcolm.

Jacob and Dessie are hot on the twins’s trail, through northern Sweden, where Dessie had enlisted the help of her cousin to see if they could find and track the twins. When news of a second car theft reaches them, Dessie passes on the information to her cousin, and the car gets spotted.

The climax of the story is swift and brutal, but the epilogue is very sweet.

**Not your garden-variety killers. Ha! (If you read the book, you’ll catch the pun, LOL!)

I liked Dessie right from the beginning. Even though she was a small-time reporter, she didn’t want to be reknown. That wasn’t for her. She didn’t care if her byline was under the biggest story. She wasn’t in it for the prestige. Her morals and beliefs grounded her, and I liked that about her very much. When the police persuade her to post a letter to the killers, offering them a large sum of money for an interview, she’s viewed in the media as unethical and immoral, and this really disturbs her.

Jacob is on a one-track mind: to find his daugther’s killers, no matter the cost. Severely depressed by guilt, believing that if he hadn’t sent his daughter and her boyfriend/fiance to Rome on vacation, she’d still be alive, he’ll stop at nothing to find and capture her killers. I liked his tenacity, even if I found him to be immoral at times. For him, morality flew out the window the minute he confirmed his dead daughter’s body was his daughter’s. I also loved how the walls he built around himself came crashing down when Dessie came into the picture, and how her face kept coming to mind while he was away from her. I think Dessie was his “saving grace.”

The killers, Malcolm and Sylvia Rudolph… what a pair of psychotics. I think the most disturbing to me was watching them interact with their victims. *shudder* Reading a murder-mystery, you expect gruesome crime scenes, so I was prepared for it. But you don’t really get into the killers minds, you just see them interact with everyone around them, how they act with their victims, how they “put on a show” about being simple art students and tourists, taking in the sights and museums… that was disturbing.

The climax was perfect. And the epilogue was sweet. One thing, though… I’d have liked to see Jacob “say goodbye” to his daughter with Dessie beside him.

Another perfect James Patterson novel. No unneeded details or descriptions, vivid descriptions bring mental pictures to mind that make you shudder, characters that are complicated with simple words, and short chapters make this a quick, but very enjoyable, read. Highly recommended!

Rating: .5

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1) by Stieg Larsson

Published September 22nd 2009 by Penguin Canada, Mass Market Paperback, 841 pages, ISBN-13: 9780143170099

A spellbinding blend of murder mystery, family saga and financial intrigue.

Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from the secluded island owned by the Vanger family. No one saw her leave the island, and no body was ever found. Her uncle, Henrik, is convinced she was murdered by a member of her own dysfunctional family. Disgraced journlaist Mikael Blomkvist is hired to investigate.

But when Blomkvist uncovers new evidence, it suddenly becomes too dangerous to proceed alone. Enter Lisbeth Salander, a twenty-four-year-old pierced and tattooed genius hacker with the wisdom of someone twice her age – and a terrifying capacity for ruthlessness to go with it. She’s unwilling to take orders, rides a motorbike like a Hells Angel, and handles makeshift weapons with a skill born of rage.

Together this unlikely team unravels a dark and appalling family history. But the Vangers are a secretive clan, and Blomkvist and Salander are about to find out how far they’re prepared to go to protect themselves.

**Solid mystery-suspense, 4 Stars out of 5!

Mikael Blomkvist, early forties, a finacial journalist and part onwer of the magazine, Millennium, has just been convicted of libel against industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. He’d rather take the conviction and jail sentence than fork over the name of his source. To protect the magazine, he steps down.

Lisbeth Salander, 24, has been a ward of the state since the age of thirteen. Under a guardian, her life is pretty much topsy-turvy. While a brilliant hacker with a photographic memory, she is emotionally shut down. Questions asked that she doesn’t want to answer remain unanswered; she clams up. No one really knows her, and she’s keeping it that way.

Industrialist Henrik Vanger followed the trial, and had his lawyer hire a security firm to check into Mikael. He wants to hire him. Back in 1966, Vanger’s niece, Harriet, disappeared without a trace and is feared dead. Obsessed, Vanger wants his niece, or her killer, found. Every year, since her disappearance, on his birthday, he receives a pressed and framed flower, just like Harriet used to give him. He believes he’s being tormented, and he wants answers. Adding incentive, he promises Mikael dirt against Winnerstrom. Very reluctantly, Mikael agrees to a one-year contract, on the premise of ghostwriting Vanger’s autobiography, which would help open doors to questions he needs answered.

The Vanger family is very extensive, with several oddballs in the bunch. It takes a while to sort through who’s who, and in the meantime, Mikael is going through every stitch of paper, every photograph, that was put together on Harriet, right down to police reports. He believes he’s on a wild goose-chase, believing that, if the police weren’t able to find anything, than neither would he.

How very wrong he was. With bits of information, and old pictures found and located, Mikael begins piecing what happened to Harriet together. Later, with the help of Salander and her photographic memory and her computer skills, they break the case. Only, it’s much worse than anyone could have imagined.

And with a sweet added bonus to end the novel, and again, with the help of Salander, Mikael blows Winnerstrom and his illegal activities right out of the water.

**A lengthy mystery with a happy ending… for some of the characters.

Right from the beginning, I had a hard time with the relationship between Mikael and his partner, Erika. I could understand the long-time friendship, and I could understand the partnership with the magazine, but I really didn’t understand their sexual relationship. His marriage fell apart because he couldn’t stop sleeping with Erika, even though he loved his wife and daughter. She’s married, and yet her husband is completely okay with it. Now, I’m happily married (10 years this July 1st and have been with my husband for 15 years), so maybe that’s why I don’t understand that aspect of their relationship? *shrug* Who knows?

Despite her emotional hang-ups, I admired Lisbeth and wish I had her courage. She doesn’t take anything lying down, and plots her revenges meticulously. She’s brilliant in her strategies, a genius hacker who will find whatever it is you’re trying to hide.

I liked how Mikael treated Salander right from the beginning, never pushing for information she didn’t want to give, but he explained the terms of what a true friendship is, and gave Salander the right to choose for herself if she was willing to accept Mikael’s friendship.

While I found the book slow-paced for about the first-half of the book (of 841 pages, that is a long first-half), I could understand that the author was setting up all the characters so that, like Mikael, you can fgure out who’s who. It was needed, even though it was frustratingly slow. But by the second-half, the mystery, the action, the danger, started heating up, and I was actually surprised at who the “bad guy” was. I had my ideas on someone else, until information that Mikael and especially Lisbeth unearthed. I rooted for them both, was just as creeped out, just as fearful, just as disgusted as they were. Lisbeth ends up having to really examine her emotions, something she never did, and just when she “man’s-up” and decides to lay it all out on the table for Mikael, at the very end of the last chapter, my heart broke for Lisbeth. I won’t say what and spoil it for those who haven’t read it yet. I’ll simply state: Go get this book! It’s a must-read!

Rating:

Bewitched & Betrayed (Raine Benares, #4) by Lisa Shearin

Published April 27th 2010 by Ace, Paperback, 384 pages, ISBN-13: 9780441018727

Impending war is the least of her problems.

My name is Raine Benares. I’m a seeker. I find lost things and missing people – usually alive. Finding the specters of six evil mages who escaped the Saghred, a soul-stealing stone of unlimited power, was easy. Stopping them before they unleashed Hell on earth just may be the death of me.

Being bonded to the Saghred wasn’t my idea – neither is hunting down its escapees. Especially not when one of them is also hunting me. He’s regenerating his body by taking lives of powerful victims, along with their memories, knowledge and most important of all, their magic. The dark mage wants control of the Saghred, and if he gets it, he’ll become an eveil demigod whom no one can stop. The only thing in his way is me.

One of us doesn’t stand a ghost of a chance.

**Review: Completely “UNPUTDOWNABLE!” Just like the first three!**

Okay, you’ve read my reviews before. I usually give a brief detail of what happens in the book, then my thoughts on it. This review is going to be all over the place, LOL! Fair warning.

**Spoiler Alert!** If you plan on reading the novel and don’t want to know what happens, do not read past this point!

Lisa Shearin has done it again!!! This is only the fourth book she has published, and already, with her style, she resembles a veteran; an author who’s been around for years! She’s that good!

Raine’s back, with our entire favourite cast of characters.

The spectres are running rampid all over Mid, including Sarad Nukpana. Raine is now after them, to put them back where they belong. The opening line is, and I quote: “I was being chased by a pissed-off guy with a knife. A really big knife.” My first thought: And we’re off!!!

Then, not halfway down the page, I cracked up when I read: “And believe me, I got to see enough manhoods and fleeing pasty white posteriors to last me a lifetime.”

When a shriveled up body is dumped at her feet by none other than Sarad Nukpana, she’s warned that the whole situation is about to get worse. Sarad is going to “eat” as much power as he can, and will eventually find a way to control her and the Saghred (stone). And he’s going to go after everyone she cares about and everyone she loves before he gets to her.

Raine will stop at nothing to find him.

We see another side of Mychael; now we learn where he came from before he became Paladin. Their umi’atsu bond grows stronger, and both finally admit to being in love with each other.

Talon gets himself into even more trouble – on a couple of separate occasions. Piaras keeps himself out of most of it, until he goes after Talon. And when Tam learns of where his son has gone, he takes off before anyone can stop him. But of course, Tam is captured by Sarad, and Raine has to make the hardest decision she’s made so far.

The whole scenario gets more and more complicated as the book moves along, and the deeper Raine gets, the more you’re rooting for the home team. A war is averted, for the most part, although the threat is still there. A duke is thought dead, but isn’t. Imala Kalis, head of Goblin Intelligence (with the cute dimples), needs Tam’s help. Imala has a secret of her own as well.

And if I keep going, you’ll end up getting more of the story than I intend to give you. This book has great characters that you love to love and hate with a passion. This book is non-stop intrigue and action, from beginning to end. Figths (magical and non), arguments, truths and lies, conniving deceptions and set-ups, power-hungry elves, mages and goblins, and love-making that was 3 books in the making.

This book, this series, is one of the top fantasy series I recommend to anyone who asks me. Why? Because it deserves the recognition. Run, don’t walk, and get your copy today! What are you waiting for?

Rating:

 To the FTC: I shouldn’t even have to post this; I’m Canadian. But, just to keep you happy (and keep me away from a possible $11,000 charge against me *eyeroll*), I will state that I purchased this book at Coles (Chapters) for my own reading pleasure. I was in no way paid for this review.

The Screaming Room (Lt. John Driscoll, #2) by Thomas O’Callaghan

Published May 1st 2007 by Pinnacle - Paperback - 352 pages - ISBN-13: 9780786018123

Every serial killer has a special place…

John Driscoll has laid the ghosts of his past to rest. He’s ready to start over – both personally and as an NYPD homicide commander. But it seems that a serial killer has other plans for Driscoll.

The victims’ bodies are found, brutally mutilated and carefully arranged for the world to see – grotesque visions to all except for the depraed killer, who considers them masterpieces. These blood rituals spell out a message to Driscoll. And they are just the beginning…

Driscoll’s investigation will lead him down the darkest of journeys, toward an evil beyond his worst nightmares. In a hellish landscape conceived by the all-too-clever mind of a twisted schemer, Driscoll must play a killer’s deadly game. It’s up to him to save his city – or die trying.

**Gruesome, chilling, a killer’s game.

Driscoll has finally made peace with the ghosts of his past and has accepted things he cannot change. And just when it starts getting better, his wife Colette, who was comatose for over six years from an accident that also killed his daughter, takes her last breath. And just when John lays her to rest, a serial killer is loose in New York City, leaving gruesome bodies in the most public places possible.

What begins as a strange case only gets worse, for more bodies are lining up. At first, the only connection to the victims are that they are tourists, all of different nationalities. Stranger yet, each victim was clubbed on the left side of the head hard enough to be fatal, and each has been scalped.

The deeper Driscoll and his team dig, the creepier the case gets. For forensics left behind point to a set of identical twins, male and female. Why? Why kill these seemingly innocent people? The more the team uncovers, the more their realize that these victims aren’t innocent at all.

Angus and Cassie Claxonn are in their late teens, and they are killing in vengeance. Abused by their “so-called” father when they were young, Cassie raped and her face disfigured by him, used as child prostitutes, they’d had enough. First they got rid of their father, then decided to rid the world of those disgusting and vile people like him. And the scalping… being sent to the foster mother who’d taken care of them when they were small, a spiteful note of anger at how she could have let their birth mother take them away from what they knew as a happy home, to a life of absolute terror and misery.

The case is heating up. As the team digs, Driscoll gets closer and closer to Angus and Cassie. A thorn in his side, Malcom Shewster, the father of one of the victims and a pharmaceutical mogul, doesn’t just want the killers found… He wants them dead, just as his daughter is now dead. The one million reward he put in the press is boosted to 3 million, and he wants the killers, bad. The tip hotline number is being observed, not only by the police, but Shewster’s team; he’s determined to get to Angus and Cassie first.

And just when Angus and Cassie are located and surrounded, Driscoll faces a terrible surprise, for Angus wanted something against “Lieutenant Bulldog”, and he found her: Driscoll’s sister, Mary. Angus had kidnapped her, and now plans to use her for his get-away.

But that doesn’t happen. Driscoll always gets his man.

**Fast-paced and twisted, this book will not let you down. Creepy facts that get creepier, you want to feel sorry for the twins and what they went through. But the more the bodies pop up, the more disgusted you get and cheer on the good guys.

Driscoll, although he just lost his wife, knows that she’s better off and no longer suffering. While he’ll always love her, he can put the pain to rest.

Margaret is back on his team. Both know their feelings for the other, and while Driscoll wants to pursue it as much as Margaret does, Margaret is terrified at the thought of a relationship with him. She has ghosts of her own that haunt her, which also screws up her feelings on the case.

Cedric Thomlinson is also back, the third in the trio. He knows he owes Driscoll for the second -chance he’d been given, and he’ll push himself as far as he can go.

Then there’s the mayor of NYC. William “Sully” Reirdon is the typical mayor; another one of those mayors everyone reads who’s let the power behind the title fill his head and boost his ego. Sure, like hounding Driscoll will make solving the case go faster. *eye roll* You’ll love to hate him.

And then there’s Malcom Shewster, the father of one of the victims. Another ego-maniac who believes he’ll get what he’s after, and only makes solving the case more difficult than it needs to be. And just when it looks like he’s about to get his way, Thomlinson spoils his plan, to which Driscoll now owes him hugely. If it hadn’t been for spoiling the plan, Driscoll’s sister would have been dead, right along with the killers.

This story will grip you from beginning to end, and you’ll be itching for the next book!

On a side note, at first, I wasn’t sure what to make of the title. Upon finishing the book, you’d think that The Screaming Room had something to do with the killers and their victims. But upon reflection, I think I figured it out; when we read the flashbacks, the killers are young, placed on a table, in a room in the basement. With the torture that went on, I think that’s where The Screaming Room comes in. While the title still doesn’t do it for me, the story sure as heck did!

Rating: !

Evil Without a Face (Sweet Justice, #1) by Jordan Dane

Mass Market Paperback, 377 Pages, Published February 1st 2009 by Avon, ISBN:9780061474125

Evil Without a Face

(Sweet Justice, #1)

by Jordan Dane

Haunted and obsessed . . .

She sleeps with a Colt Python in her nightstand and her senses on alert—Jessica Beckett isn’t taking any chances. Hiding a chilling secret, living in a world of snitches and felons, good cops and bad dreams, Jessica is a bounty hunter who brings lowlifes to justice. But not even she can imagine what she’ll face when she tracks an online predator who has abducted a naïve teenage girl.

Making promises that can’t be kept

Former NFL quarterback Payton Archer swore to his sister that he’d find her only child. But the police have no leads, and the teen’s trail has turned cold. Plagued by personal demons, Payton’s never considered himself a hero, but this time he has to be.

And fighting a faceless enemy

Joining forces to save the seventeen-year-old girl, Payton and Jessica discover that she’s nothing but a pawn in an insidious, terrifying global conspiracy. They’re battling a new kind of criminal . . . and soon their race for answers will become a dangerous struggle for survival.

**Review: **Spoiler Alert!**

Seventeen-year-old Nikki Archer is running away from home, away from her single-parent, alcoholic mother. She wants to start a new life far away from Talkeetna, Alaska. And a friend she met online, promises she and her dad can help her.

And after finally getting to Chicago, Nikki learns all too quickly that her friends isn’t whom she said she was, and neither is her father. Nikki has been kidnapped with a subtle ploy, one where she believed her friend could help her get into a modeling agency. In reality, teenagers no more older than children, are being kidnapped and sold … privately, the biggest sex trade that stretches around the globe.

Payton Archer, an ex-NFL’er, believes himself worthless, and has acted that way for a long time. But when his sister calls, begging for his help, he realizes that he has to face life head-on: he’ll find and help Nikki, no matter what it takes.

Jess Beckett’s past is actual hell, and she won’t bring herself to think about it. She believes she’s moved on. She is now a Fugitive Recovery Agent, aka Bounty Hunter, sleeps with a Colt Python either in her nightstand or under her pillow, and doesn’t trust anyone with a 20-foot poll. The only one that can remotely touch her is her best friend, Samantha Cooper, a Chicago Vice cop.

Most cops don’t like Jess. She pushes to the max, and more times than not, jumps way over the line of the law, to apprehend the fugitive she’s after. But when she bumps into one fugitive she’d love to rid the world of, she does everything physically possible to bring him down, only for him to be let loose again. Seems the pedophile is a paid snitch for the cops, and that grinds Jessie’s cookies to dust. After stealing property, a laptop, Jess has her hired tech employee, Seth Harper, try to break into it, but he’s unable to get much out of it. But both are curious and suspicious of what’s on there, and Seth loads the computer with a device that can keep track of keys that are typed. And when she has to trade the laptop for Seth, both are determined to bring the man down. But the pedophile ends up murdered, and detectives suspect that Jess was the one that took him out. And now Jessie’s racing against the clock – find the killer and stop Globe Harvest.

Meanwhile, Payton and his friend, Joseph Tanu, a retired trooper, follow clues that lead them right to Chicago, and on the trail of Nikki, and what is now known as Globe Harvest.

And now it’s down to the wire. Find the missing and kidnapped kids and shut down Globe Harvest.

**Not bad… not bad at all!

I liked Jess right off. A no-nonsense tough cookie, Jess does what she has to in the heat of the moment. As a character, she had me snort with laughter quite a few times with her one-line quips and sarcasm. She reminded me very much of me in that aspect. While I felt bad about her past, I didn’t pity her, for she’s pushed herself to get passed it, to become better than ‘what could have been.’ If she was a real person, she’d be something to admire.

Payton irked me a little at the beginning of his part in the story. I don’t like characters that are introduced with stupid moves and self-pity. But Payton overcomes my first thoughts about him, and turns into a loving and heartsick uncle who’ll do whatever it takes to find his niece and bring her home.

All the characters are interesting, some coming of in a suspicious manner, but as you learn more about them, you learn who you can trust, and who you can’t.

I liked the mystery, suspense and action in the book. It wasn’t sparsed too wide, and it wasn’t too thick. I liked the romance that started between Jess and Payton, but I can’t see it lasting into anything serious. Their worlds are just too far apart. I also liked how the author put it bits and pieces of what Nikki and the other girls were going through. It added to the suspense and the horror I felt as a mother who can’t imagine what I’d do if my daughter ever ended up in Nikki’s position. Scary.

While not my favourite book, it definitely shows promise to the beginning of a series. I’m looking forward to the second book, The Wrong Side of Dead.

Take No Prisoners (Black Ops, Inc., #2) by Cindy Gerard

Mass Market Paperback, 363 Pages - Published November 1st 2008 by Pocket - ISBN-13: 9781416566748

Take No Prisoners

(Black Ops, Inc., #2)

by Cindy Gerard

New York Times bestselling author Cindy Gerard’s red-hot new romantic suspense series features the irresistible men of Black Ops, Inc., a special team of heroes with a taste for living on the edge…

A dangerous attraction…
Abbie Hughes no longer trusts men, but despite her cool indifference, her long legs and showgirl face still draw plenty of attention. Between working as a blackjack dealer, going to school, and keeping an eye on her younger brother, Cory, there’s no time for romantic adventures–until the night a sexy, mysterious stranger places a wager at her table.

Spurred by revenge…
Sam Lang left Black Ops, Inc. when tragedy struck his family. Although he’s determined to retire his M-16 rifle to lead a quiet life on his ranch, a vengeful quest will send him on a manhunt for the ruthless multimillionaire who murdered his sister.

…reveals a savage threat they can’t ignore.
Though Sam suspects Abbie is in on a lucrative gem-smuggling deal her brother made with the enemy, their attraction is undeniable. Now Cory is missing, and together they search the wild Honduras backcountry to find him. With danger on their trail, they must trust each other completely or face certain death alone…

**Review: Falling for the woman you’re investigating can really weigh on you.

Sam Lang left Black Ops, Inc. when the unthinkable happened. Sam was getting too close to Fredrick Nader and his operation. He was determined to stop the cold, maniacal SOB. But Nader got to him first. Planting a bomb in Sam’s sister’s car, blowing up her and her husband, leaving their daughter behind, was Nader’s warning to Sam: Cease and desist, or more will follow.

Sam is now running his father’s ranch outside Las Vegas, taking care of his niece and his parents, determined that he won‘t be the cause of another heartache. But his team receives a hot tip: Cody Hughes is one of Nader’s mules. If they can find Cody, they just might be able to bring Nader down once and for all. When Cody can’t be found in Vegas, Sam seeks out Cody’s sister, Abbie. She‘s a student and a dealer at a casino‘s blackjack table. She must be involved with Nader: the house, the new car, the new furniture, the big diamond pendant… As a student and a dealer, she couldn’t possible afford all of this.

When Abbie meets Sam at her blackjack table, her friend Crystal’s words float through her mind. Having been burned by a now ex-husband, she doesn’t trust men, but there’s something about Sam that has her wanting to take a chance. After a week of Sam’s courting, and a fantastic time in the bedroom, she wakes up to Sam and his team, going through Cody’s boxes in her garage. Stung once again by a man, Abbie is confronted by Sam. Give over Fredrick Nader. But Abbie has no idea what they’re talking about. And when Cody goes missing, fright comes to the forefront. And after the message she receives, Abbie’s determined to fly to Honduras to save her brother, who ended up in way over his head. With or without Sam’s help.

And for Sam, Lord help him, he’s falling for a woman he shouldn’t want.

** Excellent second book in the series! The author brings out emotions in her readers like no one’s business. You can feel Abbie’s hope, the hurt from the betrayal, her determination to get Cody out of the fix he was in.

The emotional war Sam ends up in brings out the Kleenex. He wants to protect what’s left of his family. But taking Nader down, plus payback for his sister and brother-in-law, is overpowering, and he’ll stop at nothing until Nader is caught or dead. Preferably dead. But Abbie’s getting under his skin. He doesn’t want to believe that she not involved in any of this, but as they traipse the Honduras backcountry, not only does he come to believe her, but he’s falling for her. But after his betrayal, how can he convince her to love him? Watching it unfold, is the sweetest thing ever. He finally does earn her trust, and it’s absolutely wonderful to see it all come together. Can’t wait to grab Whisper No Lies, Bk # 3, from my TBR pile.

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Love You to Death by Shannon K. Butcher

Mass Market Paperback - 377 Pages - Publisher: Forever; Original edition (October 1, 2009) - ISBN-13: 978-0446510295

Love You to Death

by Shannon K. Butcher

Delicate, expressive hands…long, graceful legs…One man is looking for his perfect woman–and he’ll stop at nothing until he finds her.

LOVE YOU TO DEATH
It’s been days since reporter Elise McBride has heard from her sister, Ashley. She’s convinced Ashley has met with some kind of foul play, especially when she learns that bodies of other missing women have surfaced in and around Chicago–all victims of a brutal serial killer. Convinced her sister is still alive, Elise vows to risk everything to save her…

The last thing ex-cop Trent Brady needs is more blood on his hands. Yet when he catches Elise breaking into her sister’s house, full of reckless determination and fear, he knows she needs his help. But just as desire ignites between them, a twisted madman sets his sights on Elise. Hell-bent on possessing her for himself, this psychopath won’t rest until he has his perfect woman.

**Review: Another incredible book by Butcher!

Elise McBride rushes from Hong Kong to Haven, Illinois, when she couldn’t get a hold of her scatterbrained sister, Ashley. Ashley was known for taking off for a few days at a time, of forgetting things… but she still phone her sister just about every day. When two days went by without word or a call-back, Elise worried that she dropped her assignment as a freelance reporter and hightailed it back to Illinois.

Breaking into her sister’s home and finding nothing, Elise is now sure that Ashley is in trouble. Her car can not be located, her debit or credit cards not used since the Friday night before. She’s disappeared without a trace, and Elise is frantic with worry. But she’s determined to be proactive in finding her sister, even in if puts her in harms way.

Trent Brady is the “Hot Lawn Guy” who lives across the street from Ashley. An ex-cop, he saw Elise trying to break into Ashley’s, and heads over to stop a would-be thief and call the police. The more he’s around Elise, the more he wants to stop her from doing something completely stupid. The more he’s around Elise, the more he’s falling for her. But Elise isn’t the only one with baggage; two years before, he accidentally shot his partner in the back and killed a high-as-a-kite, armed with a gun sixteen-year-old boy. He’s been carrying the guilt around for 2 years. How can he protect Elise when he can’t even stomach the thought of holding a gun again?

Watching the scene/plot unfold was fabulous, from scenes between Elise and Trent, to being inside the killer’s mind. Oh, Butcher knew how to write him in… the character gave me the creeps, how his easygoing/nonchalant behavior about his kidnapping and killing young artistic women sent shivers down my spine! All scenes leading up to the pre-climax, climax and ending … oh, wow! And the Epilogue made it all that much sweeter! A book I definitely recommend to any romantic suspense/triller enthusiast!

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Mania by Craig Larsen

Mass Market Paperback - 376 Pages - ISBN-13: 978-0786021543

Mania

by Craig Larsen

On the foggy streets of Seattle, a serial killer known as the Street Butcher is terrorising the city. Newspaper photographer Nick Wilder is accustomed to seeing gruesome homicide scenes. But when the Street Butcher claims Nick’s brother his latest casualty, the case suddenly becomes very personal. Determined to find his brother’s killer, Nick stumbles into a dizzying labyrinth of deceit and danger. As he digs deeper, Nick discovers his own past holds a key to unmasking a clever, diabolical psychopath. But the real motives behind the murders are as cold and stark as Seattle’s winters – and much more blood will spill before Nick learns the horrifying truth.
 
**Review: A definitely terrific read!

Before I even get started on my own review, I gotta mention: widely known and loved authors, Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Gregg Olsen and William Lashner, all give this book high marks. I’m right there with them! Two thumbs way up, Craig Larsen!

Nick Wilder isn’t new to gruesome scenes. As a photographer for a Seattle newspaper, he’s seen his fair share of crime scenes. The lastest aren’t any better. But soon enough, a pattern developes, and the Street Butcher is turning into a serial killer.

The deeper Nick begins to dig, the more the pattern developes, for Seattle isn’t the only city seeing these gruesome murders. But things are getting more complicated. Nick’s brother, Sam, is murdered. A public official is murdered, and Nick is having dizzy spells, blackouts with missing time, and is starting to have flashbacks of traumatic experiences from when he and Sam were kids.

But all of this goes deeper than anyone realizes, and who’s to say if it’ll ever stop.

**Incredible first novel by a talented author. Keep ’em coming, Craig!

When Mr. Larsen PM’d me to see if I’d like a copy of his book, I jumped at the chance. His novel is one in a genre I like very much. Who’d say no to a book that’s getting terrific reviews? Of course I said yes, LOL! And, boy howdy, am I ever glad I did!

The confusion, the flashbacks, the twists from past to present, all that blended well. The character is confused and baffled, and the feeling is pressing into the reader. You feel that confusion, and you keep turning the page to see what happens next.

I found it suspicious that Nick met Sara the way he did. I didn’t like her from the beginning. Now I know why. There’s just something about her that puts a person off, especially her “vagueness”. And this is all before Nick follows her when she sneaks out of their bed so as not to wake him.

But I never even thought to think that Sam’s brother had anything to do with this. Or even the detective for that matter. There is a certain amount of predictability, but not enough to put off a reader. A few too many adjectives, but as author Stephen King as an influence, I can see where that comes from. SK is one of my fave authors, LOL, so I didn’t mind the overuse one bit. I did find that the characters, some of them, lacked depth.

Yet still, the confusion, the blackouts, the flashbacks of Nick’s past, all play the part well. Put all together, they turned an incredible book that much better.

Mr. Larsen, you keep cranking out books like this, and you’ll have a fan here who’ll keep reading them. Bravo!

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Published in: on March 11, 2010 at 9:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Small Favor by Jim Butcher “The Dresden Files” Book #10

Paperback: 560 pages - Publisher: Roc; Reprint edition (March 3, 2009) - Language: English - ISBN-10: 0451462009 - ISBN-13: 978-0451462008

Paperback: 560 pages - Publisher: Roc; Reprint edition (March 3, 2009) - Language: English - ISBN-10: 0451462009 - ISBN-13: 978-0451462008

 

Small Favor

by Jim Butcher

“The Dresden Files” Book #10

Wizard Harry Dresden’s life finally seems to be calming down. The White Council’s war with the vampiric Red Court is easing up, no one’s tried to kill him lately, and his eager apprentice is starting to learn real magic. For once, the future looks fairly bright.

But the past casts one hell of a long shadow.

Mab, monarch of the Winter Court of the Sidhe, calls in an old favor from Harry. Just one small favor he can’t refuse – one that will trap Harry Dresden between a nightmarish foe and an equally deadly ally and strain his skills and loyalties to their very limits.

And everything was going so well for once….

Review: You owe me a favor, Harry…

Finally, it seems that life is calming down some for Harry. But you never know when the past will come back to bite you in the ass…

Winter’s Queen Mab seeks out Harry; he owes her two favors, and she’s come to collect on. As Winter’s Emissary, she’s putting Harry in charge of finding Gentleman Johnny Marcone. Seems the man has been kidnapped, and that move is against the Accords. Harry doesn’t want to, but he has no choice.

Summer’s Queen Titania doesn’t like what’s happening and is sending everything she can to stop him.

But that’s not the worst of it. When the Denarians roll into town, Harry knows no good could come of any of this, no matter what side is hitting at him. In an effort to get Marcone back, Harry has asked the Archive to mediate a meeting between Harry and Nicodemus. And Harry walked right into their trap, for it’s the Archive they’re after. Should she be broken and take one of the coins, all hell would literally break loose.

So, now Harry has to find the Archive as well as Marcone, repay the favor, keep from getting killed by Queen Titania’s emissaries, all the while trying to keep his friends alive. Could things get any worse?

**There is no stopping Jim Butcher! One of the best series I’ll continue to read until Harry is no more, and I hope that doesn’t happen for a really, really, really long time.

How can you not like Harry Dresden. He is chivalrous, caring, funny, does whatever he can to keep his butt and those of his friends from getting fried, can be a little slow on the uptake when it comes to women, and is completely selfless. He’ll put himself in harm’s way before standing behind someone else. And when scenes get tense, his quips and one-liners make me laugh sometimes to the point of tears. As a defense mechanism to push back his fear, I love it!

The action scenes are superb and well written; descriptions have you right there in the thick of it, seeing everything around you, without going overboard. All characters are three-dimensional and you care for everyone one of the good guys, all while rooting them on to taking down the bad guys. Oh, and a love interest is starting to bloom for Harry as well, I think. I’m very interested to see where that line goes.

Mr. Butcher, you are one hell of an author and I hope Harry is around for a long, long time. I can’t wait for my daughter to be old enough to read this series!

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