Friday, September 3, 2021

Review: The Camelot Betrayal by Kiersten White

 


Goodreads Overview:

EVERYTHING IS AS IT SHOULD BE IN CAMELOT: King Arthur is expanding his kingdom’s influence with Queen Guinevere at his side. Yet every night, dreams of darkness and unknowable power plague her.

Guinevere might have accepted her role, but she still cannot find a place for herself in all of it. The closer she gets to Brangien, pining for her lost love Isolde, Lancelot, fighting to prove her worth as Queen’s knight, and Arthur, everything to everyone and thus never quite enough for Guinevere–the more she realizes how empty she is. She has no sense of who she truly was before she was Guinevere. The more she tries to claim herself as queen, the more she wonders if Mordred was right: she doesn’t belong. She never will.

When a rescue goes awry and results in the death of something precious, a devastated Guinevere returns to Camelot to find the greatest threat yet has arrived. Not in the form of the Dark Queen or an invading army, but in the form of the real Guinevere’s younger sister. Is her deception at an end? And who is she really deceiving–Camelot, or herself?

Review:

This is the second book in the Camelot Rising trilogy. I enjoyed the story, but I don't feel like a lot of progress was made in the plot or character development. Arthur is still dedicated to Camelot and I do not think there will ever be a real relationship between Guinevere and Arthur. The few times Mordred appeared, there was an undeniable spark and connection between him and Guinevere. I am hoping things will eventually move in that direction even though I know she feels a sense of obligation to protect Arthur and Camelot. 

Lancelot wants to be just like all of Arthur's other knights, but as skilled as she is, she will never be one of the boys. She is assigned as Guinevere's knight and the two develop a friendship that eventually becomes strained. Guinevere can see that their relationship is impacting how Lancelot is viewed by her piers and tries to put some distance between them. Lancelot is one of the few people who knows the story of who Guinevere really is, so the two are able to speak freely with one another. They work together and take part in some quests along the way, which added the only real action and adventure to this story.

We do not learn any more about who Guinevere was before coming to Camelot or what has happened to Merlin. Without her memories, she feels like she is an imposter simply playing the role of Queen.  When the real Guinevere's sister arrives, she is convinced she is going to be outed. We do learn more about the real Guinevere from her sister, which I did find interesting.

The ending was a bit shocking, so I am looking forward to reading the final book to see what happens next. I'm not sure this story will have a happily ever after for everyone involved. Fortunately, The Excalibur Curse, is scheduled to be released December 7, 2021, so we will find out soon enough. 

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Review: Confessions The Private School Murders by James Patterson

 


Goodreads Overview:

In the sequel to the #1 New York Times bestseller Confessions of a Murder Suspect, James Patterson keeps the confessions coming breathlessly as Tandy Angel delves deeper into her own tumultuous history-and proves that she can rise above the sordid Angel legacy.

Wealthy young women are being murdered on Manhattan's exclusive Upper West Side, and the police aren't looking for answers in the right places. Enter Tandy Angel. The first case she cracked was the mystery of her parents' deaths. Now, while she's working to exonerate her brother of his glamorous girlfriend's homicide, she's driven to get involved in the West Side murder spree. 

One of the recent victims was a student at Tandy's own elite school. She has a hunch it may be the work of a serial killer, but the NYPD isn't listening to her...and Tandy can't ignore the disturbing fact that she perfectly fits the profile of the killer's targets. Can she untangle the mysteries in time? Or will she be the next victim?

Review:

This is the second book in the Confessions series and was equally as captivating as the first. I enjoy listening to these books vs. reading them since Tandy is speaking directly to the reader. She is telling her story and sharing her secrets, which comes across very effectively through the audiobook. 

This time around the family is broke. The courts freeze all of their assets due to the pending legal cases against their parents. Their Uncle Peter is assigned as their guardian, but delegates the job to Jacob, who is an uncle the Angel kids didn't even know existed until he moved in with them. He has a military background and runs a tight ship. He installs a sense of discipline and accountability the kids desperately needed.

The family's primary focus is trying to clear their brother Matthew of murder charges, but the situation isn't looking good. Matthew was heavily intoxicated at the time of the murder and isn't even sure of what happened. He is very strong and has a known temper, which can definitely be used against him.

As if that weren't enough, girls Tandy's age that meet her exact demographic are being murdered not far from her home. The police do not see the connection, but Tandy does and decides she needs to solve this case before she becomes the next victim. 

Even off their "vitamins", which were prescription medications their parents gave them to enhance their performance in just about every way, the Angel kids are extraordinarily talented. Tandy has a gifted IQ and can conduct an investigation and work through the evidence more efficiently than investigators with decades of experience. She did get lucky with a few of her discoveries, but I guess that is probably the case with most investigations. 

Tandy also begins to remember her relationship with James Rampling. James is the son of one of the investors that lost millions of dollars in their mother's investment scandal. He is now suing their estate and wants his son to stay as far away from Tandy as possible. Her parents were in agreement prior to their deaths and sent her to a mental institution to put an end to the relationship. While she was there, her memories of the relationship were erased. I'm not sure how one can maintain a genius level IQ and have only certain memories erased, but that is what happened. 

I don't want to give everything away, but will say that I was happy with the ending. All of the pieces came together nicely and in a believable fashion. I wish they would have shared the motivation behind the Private School Murders, but the case is solved and Tandy can breathe easier. The future of the Angel children is up in the air and I look forward to seeing how things will unfold in the next installment in the series.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Review: The Innocent Man by John Grisham

 


Goodreads Overview:

In the town of Ada, Oklahoma, Ron Williamson was going to be the next Mickey Mantle. But on his way to the Big Leagues, Ron stumbled, his dreams broken by drinking, drugs, and women. Then, on a winter night in 1982, not far from Ron’s home, a young cocktail waitress named Debra Sue Carter was savagely murdered. The investigation led nowhere. Until, on the flimsiest evidence, it led to Ron Williamson. The washed-up small-town hero was charged, tried, and sentenced to death—in a trial littered with lying witnesses and tainted evidence that would shatter a man’s already broken life…and let a true killer go free. Impeccably researched, grippingly told, filled with eleventh-hour drama, John Grisham’s first work of nonfiction reads like a page-turning legal thriller. It is a book that will terrify anyone who believes in the presumption of innocence—a book no American can afford to miss.

Review:

I read all of John Grisham's books as they were released from A Time to Kill through the Runaway Jury. Then I was too busy with college and eventually work and got really far behind. In fact, I didn't even know he had a nonfiction book until I was talking to my brother and he mentioned that he had just finished reading The Innocent Man and it was his favorite Grisham book yet.

This book is about two men who are accused and convicted of a murder they did not commit. The police refused to look at evidence that would have exonerated them and based their entire case on lying witnesses and trumped up evidence. It was absolutely shocking that with DNA evidence these men even went to trial let alone were convicted.

The story reads like one of Grisham's fiction novels and I was immediately engrossed in the story. Ron Williamson was a star baseball player with hopes of playing in the major leagues. He played for several seasons in the minors, but never hit it big. He struggled with depression and bi-polar disorder and required medication and treatment to stay balanced, which he didn't always take. He also enjoyed partying and drinking, which didn't help his situation. He got into some trouble here and there, which made him an easy target for the police when their investigation came up empty. Dennis Fritz was simply guilty by association.

I couldn't help but feel sorry for these two men. They insisted they were innocent and the legal system completely failed them. The corruption in the District Attorney's office and with the investigators working the case was appalling. It is scary to think that this can really happen to innocent people. 

I haven't watched the Netflix series yet, but I look forward to seeing some of the live footage that is described in the book. I also hope to hear some of Grisham's thoughts on the case and the events that took place during the investigation and the trial. As a fiction author, I don't think Grisham could have written such an unbelievable series of events and made it sound believable. It is crazy to think this can really happen in a place where people are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. 

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Review: Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra

 


Goodreads Overview:

Black Swan meets Pretty Little Liars in this soapy, drama-packed novel featuring diverse characters who will do anything to be the prima at their elite ballet school.

Gigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama. Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance—but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette's desire to escape the shadow of her ballet-star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever.

When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab to be the best of the best.

Review:

I picked up a copy of this book at BEA several years ago. I was finally motivated to bump it up my TBR list when I started hearing all of the gossip about the Netflix series. Always one to read the book before watching the TV show or movie, I started reading. I have since watched the series and let me tell you....Netflix really took some liberties with this one. The book is definitely YA, but the series is NOT. 

Both the book and movie tackle some difficult issues with eating disorders, the fierce competition in the performing arts, racism, coming out, and substance abuse. 

The book seemed very realistic and could be an insiders view of what it is like trying to make it to the top of the ballet world. Everyone is looking out for only themselves and nobody can be trusted. Netflix took the story and sensationalized it. They added a ton of content for shock value that did not add to the value of the story. In fact, their additions were embarrassing to watch and I was glad my sixteen year old son didn't watch the series with us.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and will read Shiny Broken Pieces, which is the final book in the duology. Cassie is a character that had a distant role in this book. She held the top position as the prima until something happened (the versions of this are drastically different between the book and movie) that sent her away from the school for a while. She returns at the very end of Tiny Pretty Things and I am sure she will shake up the dynamic at the school. There are so many little cliques and everyone seems to have something to hide. Who was really involved in what happened to Cassie is still up in the air. I have my ideas, but I do not see her as a victim. I think she is just as ruthless as the rest of them and will come back with a vengeance. She may have even had it coming in the eyes of most of the other students.

After reading this book, I will not watch a ballet in quite the same way. There is a lot more that goes into a performance than hard work, grace, and elegance. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Review: Seven Up by Janet Evanovich

 


Review:

Stephanie Plum is not your typical bounty hunter. She is all luck and minimal skill, but she always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Or maybe it is the wrong place at the wrong time depending upon how you look at it.

This time around she is after Eddie DeChooch. He is an elderly man with connections to the mob who skipped his court date for smuggling cigarettes. If you watched The Sopranos, I was picturing Junior. He is a feisty old guy with a lot of tricks up his sleeve. It doesn't make sense that he would run from the law for such a minor offense when you compare it with his usual dealings. Stephanie begins to realize there is more to the story when a couple of mobsters start following her around trying to get to Eddie first.

Two of Stephanie's friends, Mooner and Dougie, disappear without a trace and then her Grandma Mazur is nowhere to be found. She realizes she is in way over her head and calls in Ranger for assistance. Ranger is one of the other bounty hunters with Navy Seal level skills. I wouldn't want to cross him if I were a fugitive, but his assistance doesn't come without a price. While Stephanie is technically engaged to Joe Morelli, neither of them is ready to go through with it. Ranger is one of the nagging what ifs that is constantly in the back of Stephanie's mind. She is attracted to him, but he is not the marrying type. 

Overall, this is a light and funny mystery series. Each book is an independent story or case, but the characters and relationships do evolve. I would recommend reading them in order, but it isn't completely necessary. It is a VERY lengthy series with 29 books currently available. I'm not sure if I am in for the long haul or not, but I have enjoyed them so far and will continue plugging along. I am intrigued by the possible love triangle and want to see how that eventually plays out. I do not feel compelled to binge read the series, so I will continue reading one or two a year and hope I don't fall even further behind.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Review: One by One by Ruth Ware

 


Goodreads Overview:

Getting snowed in at a beautiful, rustic mountain chalet doesn’t sound like the worst problem in the world, especially when there’s a breathtaking vista, a cozy fire, and company to keep you warm. But what happens when that company is eight of your coworkers…and you can’t trust any of them?

When an off-site company retreat meant to promote mindfulness and collaboration goes utterly wrong when an avalanche hits, the corporate food chain becomes irrelevant and survival trumps togetherness. Come Monday morning, how many members short will the team be?

Review:

When I first started reading this book and could see where it was leading, it reminded me of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. A group of coworkers from Snoop, a tech company that started a music app, are trapped at a beautiful French chalet after an avalanche hits. One of the party goes missing during the avalanche, but then others start dropping just like the "ten little soldier boys" in Christie's novel. Nobody can be trusted, including the chef and housekeeper, who have done everything within their power to keep things moving forward during this crazy situation.

Topher and Eva are the founders of Snoop. They planned this holiday for their employees to soften the fact that Eva wants to sell out. Topher has bigger plans for the company and wants to hold out until their next update is launched. The two are trying to gain support from the other share holders and need Liz to cast the tie breaking vote. Liz is a former employee that left the company. She could use the money and wants to side with Eva, but she is loyal to Topher and is conflicted. 

When one of the party disappears during the avalanche, everyone assumes it was a tragic accident. When other members of the party start dying of unusual causes, nobody feels safe. Everyone is a suspect and even the original death starts looking less like an accident. With no method of communication to the outside world, they are trapped with a killer until they can either solve the crimes or help arrives. 

The story is told with an alternating point of view between Liz and the housekeeper Erin. Everyone has secrets they want to keep hidden. You could make a case that just about anyone in the party is the murderer, but I just couldn't figure out a motive that justified the extreme measures. The book was filled with suspense and had me sitting on the edge of my seat in anticipation. I was absolutely shocked when I found out who was behind everything and why. I never would have guess in a million years, but it all made sense in the end.

I enjoyed Ruth Ware's The Woman In Cabin Ten and believe this book was equally as good if not better.  If you enjoy a good murder mystery, I have yet to go wrong with one of Ware's books. I will definitely check out some of her others.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Review: Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova

 


Incendiary was the May 2020 Owlcrate selection. Below is a picture from their website showing what was included in the box. I am not really into graphic novels, so I put that book in my little free library to share with others.  I do use straws regularly and like having an additional set of reusable straws. I have some from Tervis Tumbler that I use, but those are fatter and don't fit in some of my cups with smaller openings in the lid. I have also found an additional set of pot holders to be useful. Overall, I was pleased with the gifts included in this month's box. 


Review:

Renata is one of the Whispers, which is a group of rebels working to protect the Moria from the crown. Moria have various magical powers, but the King is trying to eliminate all Moria that are not directly within his control. It is believed the King now has a secret weapon that can strip them of their powers, so they must act quickly to destroy the weapon and get as many Moria to safety as possible.

Renata lived in the palace as a child and was once part of the King's prized collection of Moria. She has the rare ability to steal another person's memories. This skill can be beneficial if someone no longer wants to remember something unpleasant, but it can also be very dangerous. Removing too many memories can leave someone in a vegetative state. In addition, any memories Renata steals now plaque her memory.

The Whispers "rescued" her during an attack on the palace and she has been helping their cause ever since. She isn't trusted by most of the other members because they believe her skill is too dangerous. Dez, who is the leader of her group, believes she could be the key to their success and trusts her completely. 

Renata has witnessed the crown Prince leading the raids agains Moroi and burning towns in his wake. She believes he knows where the weapon is and is the real threat to the Moroi. When the Prince takes Dez captive, she knows it is her responsibility alone to free him. Things do not go as planned and Renata soon discovers there is far more going on behind the palace walls than she ever could have imagined. Her friends and enemies are no longer as clearly defined as she once believed.

I really enjoyed this story and can't wait to find out what happens next. It took a while for the plot to really take off, but when it finally did, we were left hanging in the balance. Everything Renata believed to be true was turned upside down. We finally know where everyone stands and then the book comes to an abrupt ending. 

There was a lot of history, world building, and discovery of Renata's past that took place within this book. I think Illusionary, which will be released on May 11th, should take off like a cannon. This is a duology and there is a lot that still needs to take place if Renata is going to save the Moria and the Kingdom. I am glad I did not read this book as soon as it was released. I now only have to wait a couple of months to see how this story will conclude.

This isn't a book I probably would have selected on my own, but it was another excellent pick by Owlcrate.