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The Witch Elm by Tana French

Tana French has done it again. Even though The Witch Elm isn’t part of the Dublin Murder Squad series, it’s just as good.

Title: The Witch Elm
Author: Tana French
Publish Date: October 9, 2018 by Penguin
Genre: Suspense
Source: Library

Publisher’s Description: Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who’s dodged a scrape at work and is celebrating with friends when the night takes a turn that will change his life – he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Struggling to recover from his injuries, beginning to understand that he might never be the same man again, he takes refuge at his family’s ancestral home to care for his dying uncle Hugo. Then a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden – and as detectives close in, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed.

A spellbinding standalone from one of the best suspense writers working today, The Witch Elm asks what we become, and what we’re capable of, when we no longer know who we are.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent Annie says…

Tana French’s protagonist, Toby, experiences a severe beating and the resulting mental and physical anguish he goes through is so realistic, it seems as if the author has experienced something similar first hand. I also really enjoyed all the secondary characters, particularly Uncle Hugo. He is such a delight and really seemed to prevent Toby from derailing completely. Reading this book was like being part of Toby’s family and I felt as if I was participating in the complicated relationships.

As the characters are asked to remember their teen years, I found it absolutely believable that each of the three cousins remembered things very differently and that those very different memories were at the root of the mystery.

I give this book 5 stars and highly recommend everything Tana French has written.

Bleak Harbor by Bryan Gruley

Bleak Harbor is a fast paced who-done-it with a twist as the kidnapped child in question is on the autism spectrum.

Title:  Bleak Harbor
Author: Bryan Gruley
Series:  Bleak Harbor #1
Publish Date:  December 1, 2018
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller

Publisher’s Description:  Their son is gone. Deep down, they think they’re to blame.

Summertime in Bleak Harbor means tourists, overpriced restaurants, and the Dragonfly Festival. One day before the much-awaited and equally chaotic celebration, Danny Peters, the youngest member of the family that founded the town five generations ago, disappears.

When Danny’s mother, Carey, and stepfather, Pete, receive a photo of their brilliant, autistic, and socially withdrawn son tied to a chair, they fear the worst. But there’s also more to the story. Someone is sending them ominous texts and emails filled with information no one else should have. Could the secrets they’ve kept hidden—even from one another—have led to Danny’s abduction?

As pressure from the kidnapper mounts, Carey and Pete must face their own ugly mistakes to find their son before he’s taken from them forever.



Agent Annie says…

 

Bleak Harbor is a fast paced who-done-it with a twist as the kidnapped child in question is on the autism spectrum.  I enjoyed the family dynamics of a mother, son and step father and all the various entanglements they each are caught up in.  I was definitely kept guessing as to who did the kidnapping. Unfortunately, I thought the last quarter of the book introduced too many possibilities and added more characters than I could keep track of.  Many of whom seemed just a distraction to the main story. I also thought the final reveal and the manner in which the kidnapping was pulled off was too complicated and I found myself doubting that the character was given enough backstory to make it believable. I also felt a connection to the small town on the shore of Great Lake Michigan since I am familiar with actual towns that are in the same locale.  The history of the town and the matriarch’s interaction with the townspeople was well done and I appreciated the “justice” that was meted out at the end. I would give this book 3.5.

 

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Origin by Dan Brown

Title: Origin
Author: Dan Brown
Series: Robert Langdon, #5
Publish Date: October 3, 2017 by Doubleday Books
Genre: Mystery
Source: Library

Publisher’s Description: Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to attend a major announcement—the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.” The evening’s host is Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old billionaire and futurist whose dazzling high-tech inventions and audacious predictions have made him a renowned global figure. Kirsch, who was one of Langdon’s first students at Harvard two decades earlier, is about to reveal an astonishing breakthrough . . . one that will answer two of the fundamental questions of human existence.

As the event begins, Langdon and several hundred guests find themselves captivated by an utterly original presentation, which Langdon realizes will be far more controversial than he ever imagined. But the meticulously orchestrated evening suddenly erupts into chaos, and Kirsch’s precious discovery teeters on the brink of being lost forever. Reeling and facing an imminent threat, Langdon is forced into a desperate bid to escape Bilbao. With him is Ambra Vidal, the elegant museum director who worked with Kirsch to stage the provocative event. Together they flee to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret.

Navigating the dark corridors of hidden history and extreme religion, Langdon and Vidal must evade a tormented enemy whose all-knowing power seems to emanate from Spain’s Royal Palace itself… and who will stop at nothing to silence Edmond Kirsch. On a trail marked by modern art and enigmatic symbols, Langdon and Vidal uncover clues that ultimately bring them face-to-face with Kirsch’s shocking discovery… and the breathtaking truth that has long eluded us.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent Annie says…

I had quite given up on Dan Brown books after not enjoying The Lost Symbol. In fact, I never even read Inferno, but for some reason, I picked up Origin, probably because the cover had a chambered nautilus on it.

It turns out that’s fitting because, in my opinion, it was the best thing about the book. Not only did the nautilus represent a specific piece of artwork in the Guggenheim museum in Barcelona, Spain, but also the golden ration and the idea of infinite love and the perfection of the universe.

I know, that’s deep, but I think that is what Dan Brown has done with this book. It didn’t feel like an action thriller in the same way that DaVinci Code and Digital Fortress did. It was more like Brown’s commentary on religion versus science. Dan Brown is obviously on the side of science, but very strongly included in that is Love. One of the beautiful quotes in the book is a prayer that the character Edmond Kirsch wrote:

May our philosophies keep pace with our technologies.
May our compassion keep pace with our powers.
And may love, not fear, be the engine of change.

I  like that Robert Langdon is starting to show his age and had a harder time keeping up with the “damsel in distress,” Ambra Vidal, who is a decade or two his junior. There were some very tender moments when Langdon feels a closeness to Vidal that is more fatherly than romantic. That’s a nice change from the typical action hero lover persona that is a part of so many thrillers today. In fact, Ambra Vidal even says to herself towards the end of the story,

“[She] suddenly understood what Edmond had been saying about the energy of love and light… blossoming outward infinitely to fill the universe. Love is not a finite emotion. We don’t have only so much to share. Our hearts create love as we need it… Love truly is not a finite emotion. It can be generated spontaneously out of nothing at all.”

I give this book 4 stars because Dan Brown found a way to use an action-packed thriller to convey the message that Love is Universal. I also really enjoyed learning more about the art and architecture in Spain. I found myself looking things up on the internet and trying to see pictures of these amazing buildings and works of art. I hope the publishers create an edition that has hyperlinks or references or color illustrations like they did with DaVinci Code.

Other recommendations…

If you liked this book, you might try any other book by Dan Brown, The Art Forger by BA Shapiro, The Lady in Gold by Anne-Marie O’Connor, or Guernica by Dave Boling.

Anubis by Kris Michaels

A new suspense romance series written by a fabulous artist.  If you like an action packed ride, this is one for the books.

Title: Anubis
Author: Kris Michaels
Series: Guardians of the Shadow World
Publish Date: January 30, 2018
Genre: Romance Suspense
Cover: Digitally Imagined
Source: purchased by reviewer
Publisher’s Description:  In the Shadow World, he was the God of Death, and he was called many names. The monsters he hunted called him Anubis. Those who saw his face died. To Guardian Security, he was a number, a surgical weapon they wielded against monstrous evil. One woman called him Kaeden Lang. Anubis never meant her to be anything except an interlude, a moment of light in the darkness of his life, a one-time escape from the ever-present haze of death. He committed an unforgivable sin—he saw her again—and again—and again. She held back the shadows that threatened to consume him.

Sky Meyers made a grave mistake six years ago. She fell in love—only to have the man she knew as Kaeden Lang disappear. Now, his daughter needed him to save her life. As the office manager for the State District Attorney, Sky accessed national databases in a desperate search for her baby’s daddy only to discover the man she knew as Kaeden Lang didn’t exist. She’d already lost the man she loved; she couldn’t lose her daughter.

Other eyes noticed Sky’s search. Abruptly recalled and informed of the existence of his daughter and her illness, Anubis slipped through the shadows to help Sky—but found death threatened more than his daughter. In her attempt to find Kaeden Lang, Sky unknowingly jeopardized his Shadow World existence by alerting an enemy Kaeden Lang can’t eliminate–only Anubis can.

Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel. In some cases…spoilers. *BEWARE*


Nervous Nellie says..

This is a romance – my favorite kind – one with a happy ending.  There is sex involved and some swearing. There are assassins involved, but they play for the good guy side.  There isn’t any graphic death – not like a horror story might have, but there is a couple of dead people involved.

I really love the Kings of Guardian series.  If I had to choose, my favorite to date is Jewell and here is that review.  However, we are on Anubis right now.  This is another series that author Kris Michaels is writing.  It’s called Guardians of the Shadow World.

This series has recurring characters which is the part of the series I like.  Even after their story is done, the characters pop up in other stories.  It’s like being part of a family.  I get to see them joke and tease as well as watch their progression with the family and their position within the Guardian world.

I know the concept of having assassins on the payroll might be tough to think about in real life and it might be hard to reconcile taking the life of someone else because of their penchant to kill and destroy lives.  I get that.  However, I am sure there really are people that have this job to make our lives less frightening.  With that being said, I do not have a problem with the Shadow World of Guardian.  In a perfect world, karma or whatever you want to call it -would punish those that do atrocities to other innocents just because they can.  We all know there is no such thing as a perfect world.

Anubis is Guardian Security’s asset and he kills with poison.  He is not an up close and personal killer. I could do research and see what that means psychologically, but that would be going too far and besides, I don’t really want to know.  This is a suspenseful story and I loved it just the way it is.

Everyone deserves happiness and this was an incredible story of a ray of sunshine perminating a life lived in the shadows.  It was a story about a path that was set in stone suddenly having a fork in the road that may lead to a better life.

The heroine was not whiny.  She was a strong lady and she didn’t make stupid choices.  She did what needed to be done and did not hesitate to face problems head on.  I think Sky was the toughest woman have met in a story.

The hero, suffice it to say, was struggling with himself.  The things he’d done and the danger he would bring to the doorstep of the people he loved.  It was a battle that ranged from the “right thing to do” and the “right thing I want to do”.  He was rather between a rock and a hard place.  I loved the way it all turned out.  5 stars.

 

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

 

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Jewell by Kris Michaels

Super Geek meets Scary Assassin.  Kris Michaels releases book #8 in the Kings of Guardian.  Technology princess Jewell King will finally meet her match.

 Title: Jewell
Author:  Kris Michaels
Series:  The Kings of Guardian
Publish Date: August 22, 2017
Genre: Suspense Romance
Cover: Digitally Imagined
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Publisher’s Description:  Obsessive. Toxic. Ice Princess. Witch. Jewell King ignored the epithets slung at her behind her back. Hell, after six, or was it seven, personal security officers asked to be reassigned rather than continue to guard her 24/7, maybe she deserved the names. She didn’t care. Good riddance. Well…the last one had kinda weaseled his way into her daily routine with his compulsive cleaning and insistence on health foods. When he left, she noticed and was…hurt. But that didn’t matter. She had no time for emotions. Handling the information and data systems for Guardian required 28 hour days and triple her current staff. On her shoulders rested the weight of defending Guardian against a brilliant hacker determined to take down all billionaire David Xavier had built and destroy her family in the process. He’d tried before. She had frustrated his first attempt by the slimmest of margins. This time he’d made it personal and he just might succeed.

Zane Reynolds waded through several weeks’ worth of empty energy drink cans, cast off candy wrappers and stale pizza boxes, and viewed Jewell’s office with a resigned sense of deja vu. He was back—against his will and despite his best efforts to stay as far away from Jewell as he could get. The fact she hated him would make Jewell a difficult assignment. He should walk away like all the others, except he couldn’t. He’d seen through the woman’s veneer and had witnessed the true kindness of the person hiding under the beautiful, yet caustic façade. This time, Zane had non-negotiable conditions before he’d agree to return as Jewell King’s personal security, and he told the CEO of Guardian as much. This time, he was doing things his way.

Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel. In some cases…spoilers. *BEWARE*


Nervous Nellie says…

 

I love this series.  I think I may label Jewell my favorite throughout the whole series.  There is sex but not that much gore.  A couple of dead guys but not anything that would freak me out.  There is no cliffhanger and there is a happy ending.

Jewell carries the heavy load of communications and technology.  She has to be everywhere all the time.  She’s taken for granted but she is brilliant.  Not one of her brothers know what it takes to do what she does.  She has big brothers that “take care” of little Jewell because she needs protecting.  Jewell has other thoughts.  She knows how to take care of herself…well, sort of.  She can survive – how’s that?  Big brothers decide that she needs a body guard.  A nasty egomaniacal hacker is bent on revenge since she took him down in front of everyone and the Dark Web.  His rep has been torpedoed and he can stand losing.

Zane Reynolds works for Guardian Security and is assigned to Jewell.  He takes all the punishment she can deal out.  It’s not his fault that her brothers never asked her if she wanted to weigh in on her own personal security.  Zane has problems of his own.  He’s coming out of the Shadow World of Guardian Security into the light.  He’s not sure he can be normal but he can’t stay where he was.

When the hacker starts to up the ante, Jason, Jared, Jacob and Joseph decide that Zane needs to protect Jewell again.  Funny thing, the boys don’t want their baby sister involved with Zane but they put them together.  They have feelings for one another and ‘Wham!’.  Uh, duh, boys.  What’d you think was gonna happen?

This is a romance.  I have to keep telling myself that but truth be told, it’s a lot of suspense too.  The story is well written and all the computer geek language was way over my head.  I loved that Jewell was such a powerhouse and stood up to her brothers.  She had leverage and she knew how to use it!  Go, Jewell!!

Jewell stands for all of us behind the scenes folks that make the hard stuff look easy.  5 stars without a doubt.

 

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

Seal of Protection series by Susan Stoker
Delta Force Heroe series by Susan Stoker

 

 

 

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