Review: Bluebird, Bluebird (Highway 59, #1) by Attica Locke

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★★★

Mulholland Books | 2017

Filed Under: Makes Racists Afraid Again


This is a tricky review to write because there are two different elements to this book that require attention. The first is the atmosphere and setting and all the social issues that go along with writing a novel set in a small one-horse Texas town with deep ties to America’s racist history.

The other is the mystery itself, because this is a mystery novel. Why were a black man and a white woman murdered together, and who did it?

The setting and the mystery work together and separately, propelling the plot forward while also giving the reader a glimpse into what small-town southern life is like when the local bar is full of Aryan Brotherhood members and up the road is a black-owned Jim Crow-era restaurant.

Honestly, is it just me or is the idea of travelling to the U.S. as an outsider just like, no thanks? I’m gonna quote Bowie here and say, I’m afraid of Americans. Obviously not all Americans, but as a whole? No, thanks again. I think if I was going to travel to the U.S., I’d pick places where my risk of running into bigoted, racist assholes and people carrying guns for no reason is significantly lowered. I don’t want to die just because I wanted to see the Grand Canyon, you know what I mean?

But, I digress…

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Review: The Girls Weekend by Jody Gehrman

“Bitter, cold, barren. These are words thrown at women without children. Like we’re a Montana winter. Either we’re to be pitied or we’re to be blamed, depending on how much choice we had in the matter.”

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★★★½

Crooked Lane Books | 2020

Filed Under: The horror of a baby shower invitation


If you’re looking for an easy read that will also satisfy your need for murder and mayhem, then I’m going to recommend this book. Honestly, it’s nothing special. It isn’t deep or complex, the plot elements are basic and it’s on the lower side for word count, but I actually mean none of that in a bad way for once in my life. Sometimes you just want to read a book in your preferred genre that isn’t going to require a lot of brainpower or emotional investment. And that’s this book.

It’s fun, it’s light, it’s a little bit sinister and it’ll keep your attention firmly on its fictional world instead of on our real sucky one.

In the middle of a stressful pandemic, that’s exactly what I was looking for. And it’s what I got. I mean, I’m not going to give it 5-stars just for that, but on a fantasy five-star scale that exists only for soapy-mystery novels? Sure.

The cherry-on-top is that Gehrman infused this female-centric, locked-room mystery with all the feminist sparkle and questions about expectations of women that I love and relate to.

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Review: The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

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★★★★

St. Martin’s Press | 2020

Filed Under: Sarah Keonig’s soothing tones


Remember when I was on the blog tour for this last August and said I’d have a review posted “soon?” Man, I’ve got some hilarious jokes.

Listen, I’m blaming everything on 2020. I’m double-digits deep on back reviews and triple digits up in unread ARCs because I just… couldn’t. And I didn’t know how to even explain what was wrong/is wrong with me. But it’s literally all the Pandemic’s fault. I have the science to back it up! Research shows that the high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) that we have been producing extra for a prolonged period because of the pandemic, can inhibit perceptual learning and memory formation. This interferes with our ability to assimilate facts and focus on work. So, if you’ve been having trouble working, reading and or just general concentration has been difficult for you, then this is why. STRESS, bitch! That you got from a Panny!

I just learned this after a whole fucking year of screaming at my husband, “why can’t I do any of the things I like to do?”

Now I know.

I had big plans for last year. I was going to get my reading life organized, tons of reviews posted and make a serious dent in my ARCs, None of that happened. Now, we’re days away from the one-year anniversary of this goddamn pandemic. How can it be March 2021 when I’m still processing March 2020!?

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Anyway, it’s officially six months since I was supposed to review this book, so let’s get this shit posted.

Continue reading “Review: The Night Swim by Megan Goldin”

Review: Nothing to Lose (Ziba MacKenzie, #2) by Victoria Selman

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★★★★

Thomas & Mercer | 2019

Filed Under: Déjà vu


Listen, I like this series!! Maybe it won’t sound like it for the bulk of this review, but I do. I like the character of Ziba. I think she’s interesting, layered and a tough female character in this genre. But this sequel to Blood for Blood persists in my biggest problem from the first book – Ziba, and the rest of the cops, are starting to seem really fucking dumb. Ziba is described as a highly skilled criminal profiler and ex-special forces badass, but she consistently whiffs on seeing the very obvious answer to a mystery. She takes FOR👏EV👏ER to pick up a clue the reader will catch immediately. That’s a problem.

This is mostly an author issue. The being, you think you’re writing something very twisty and hard to figure out, but objectively you’re not, so the highly-skilled main character doesn’t live up to the big description she’s been given. The reader will be screaming “HELLOOO!!! How are you not getting this?!” at Ziba about halfway through.

I wish it wasn’t so. I truly do. Because this UK-based crime series is heads above other UK-crime series in a lot of ways – no recycled tropes or character types, and no fucking book covers of a woman in a red coat walking through some kind of goddamn field.

Where are you going, lady?! The crimes happened in central London! There’s nothing in that field!

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Review: Cut to the Bone (Agent Sayer Altair, #3) by Ellison Cooper

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★★★★

Minotaur Books | 2020

Filed Under: STEM stands for Soon They’ll End up Murdered


Not that it matters in the long run, but I wish this had a single-word title. The first novel is Caged, the second is Buried. And the third one, Cut to the Bone, is fucking up the title flow for me. But whatever, I’m weird so shit like this bothers me. I’ll talk to my therapist about it.

Then again, sticking too closely to a title gimmick can become fucking stupid. Just look at literally any series by James Patterson. At this point, most of his titles don’t even make sense to the plot.

But enough about my arch-nemesis…

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What really matters here is that Ellison Cooper is getting better and better at producing quality thriller stories with each new novel. Cut to the Bone is non-stop action from the very first chapter, and while some moments got a little too extra for me – things I won’t mention because of spoilers – overall this was an intelligent and intricately plotted novel that should be on every thriller fan’s TBR. I would, however, suggest reading the whole series from the beginning because I feel Cooper’s strongest attribute as a writer are character arcs which evolve with each new novel. She really knows how to keep a long-game plot rolling.

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Review: Darkly Dreaming Dexter (Dexter, #1) by Jeff Lindsay

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★★★½

Vintage Books | 2006

Filed Under: Only surprising if you haven’t watched the show.


I honestly have no idea what this review is going to be. Objective? Probably fucking not. I’m a huge fangirl of the Showtime series and it’s taken me basically a decade to get around to the source material, which honestly feels like a crime. Now that I have read it, I’m very confused about what I actually thought.

On one hand, the first season of the show followed this series-starting book very closely. I’m talking nearly word-for-word. The Barbie in the freezer, the nail-polish, the ice truck – it’s all there, save for the fact that Deb was cast differently than she was written. And I didn’t really like book-version Deb.

You would think that because I love the show and this was so close to the book, I would be head-over-heels after reading this.

No.

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Review: Faceless (DI Rosalind Kray, #1) by Rob Ashman

“Being psycho doesn’t make you bad, being bad makes you bad. Being a psycho and bad makes you dangerous.”

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★★★★

Bloodhound Books | 2018

Filed Under: Face/Off without Nic Cage.


If you’re the kind of person who just can’t resist a UK crime procedural with a damaged main character and a twisted killer who masturbates a lot (like a lot,) then this is the book for you, you fucking weirdo.

Lucky for me, I’m a weirdo too, so I was totally into this first instalment in the Rosalind Kray series.

Rosalind is everything you want to be – drunk and eating junk food.

Good times.

She’s also a single mother since her husband was murdered. Rosalind carries around survivor’s guilt by the butt-load, uses alcohol just to sleep, uses casual sex with her partner to numb the pain and investigates murder as a distraction.

So, you know, everything you don’t want to be.

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Review: Anything For You (Valerie Hart, #3) by Saul Black

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★★★

St. Martin’s Press | 2019

Filed Under: What it lacks in thrills, it tries to make up for in oral sex.


First things first, if you’ve never read Saul Black before (aka Glen Duncan) do not get to know him by reading this book. I would suggest reading the very first Valerie Hart novel, The Killing Lessons, and if the style works for you, then you’ve got a new thriller series to read!

I say this because Saul Black is a graphic and gritty author with dark plot points and character arcs that flow from book to book. It’s important to understand the whole character and how he writes the plot around that character, to know whether or not his writing works for you. But it works as a standalone as well, if you’re okay with missing some character building.

There’s also a lot of descriptive sex and violence. So…..

Those of us with more delicate sensibilities would call Black crude or vulgar, and it will knock you off balance if that’s not the kind of writing you are expecting or like. The rest of us will be into his writing style because it’s honest and visceral, and we like gross shit.

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Review: Perfect Little Children by Sophie Hannah

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★★★★

William Morrow | 2020

Filed Under: Off the rails but still moving.


Okay, listen, this book is weird AF. You’re either going to fall down the rabbit hole and have a great time with how nuts it gets, or you’re going to DNF that shit because you can’t take how unrealistic it is. It just depends on the kind of reader you tend to be or the state of mind you’re in when you read it.

For me, I am usually looking for something that’s so nuts and have never read before (fuck cliches!), and that’s exactly what I got, so I don’t mind too much that it was also off it’s goddamn rocker when it came to the plot.

This is my first novel by Sophie Hannah, but if this is any indication of the kind of crazy shit she can come up with, it won’t be my last.

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Review: First Cut (Jessie Teska, #1) by Judy Melinek & T.J. Mitchell

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★★★★

Hanover Square Press | 2020

Filed Under: Don’t bring Bitcoin into this.


If you read my review for Working Stiff by Judy Melinek, then you may recall that I am 100% a Melinek fangirl. This woman is amazeballs. I love everything about her.

Where before she recounted her real-life experiences as a medical examiner in NYC (during 9/11 no less,) in her non-fiction work, First Cut is a work of fiction that focuses on a new medical examiner in San Francisco, Jessie Teska.

Considering that this is a debut work of fiction, it’s top-notch.

If you love procedurals that rely on the science and forensic side of investigation than this is going to be a must-read. It might feel a little bogged down in medical details to the casual reader, however.

Melinek uses all of her real-life experience as a medical examiner to bring Teska’s job to life. Honestly, it’s so authentic I could probably dissect a dead body at this point. And I definitely wouldn’t forget what jar and drawer tissue specimens were meant to go in.

Considering we’re in a current moment in time where we’re talking about defunding police, I’m pretty convinced after reading Melinek’s work that medical examiners could probably solve murders a hell of a lot better than most cops.

Just saying.

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