Book Review: The Cartographers by Peng Shepard

The Cartographers by Peng Shepard is a mesmerizing tale of map makers and the hidden treasures of maps. This book is an adventure/mystery that dips into science fiction and fantasy. The love of map making is explained really well and why some people dedicate their lives to it. This book has some great characters that I was drawn to. The book has a really cool twist midway through that changes what this book is about and makes it truly unique. The writing and the words are really powerful in this story. The pacing was a little slow at the beginning, I was losing interest right in the middle when, the book hits it’s twist which immediately interested me and the second half moved rapidly. The Climax was good I figured out one twist pretty early on of who a hidden figure was, which made the climax good but not great. I do feel the book repeated its self a little to often, which was one of my complaints in her debut novel The Book of M. Peng Shepard has only written two books and I have been really impressed by the writing and the descriptions and just how unique the storytelling has been. This novel was on Goodreads best of 2022 so far reads. The Cartographers was published on March 15 2022.

Plot Summary: 8 year ago Nell was fired from her dream internship at the New York Public Library, she found three maps in storage that she thought held value and could really help the funding for the library. She was fired by her father at the time and has not spoken to him since then. She receives a call early in the mourning from the library thinking it is him, but it’s the police who want her to come down since her father was found dead. I looks as if her father fell or could have been pushed off a ladder. She meets with the director who was always found of her ask her to collects some of her fathers things, she finds a secret hatch with a 1930’s gas station of upstate New York, a map that she got fired for that he called junk. She takes the map and finds it not in the data base she adds it and plans to return it. but when she comes back the next day she finds a guard murdered and a break in occurred right after she logged the map, with no items stolen. She researches the map and finds it is wanted for a high price by a group that is called the Cartographers, a group that will kill to get it. Nell discovers her father was once part of the group and fired her when she found the map to protect her. Nell must find out what is so special about the map before it is too late.

What I Liked: Really cool twist in narrative half way that took the book to another level. Because of that level the book is hard to define which I liked. The book had some great fleshed out characters. I liked the details in map making and the history of it in the book. The flashbacks were one of my favorite parts and thought they did a great job of connecting to the present. I really liked how unique the overall story is.he ending could have been better but it ended on theme of maps coming from love and the perfect map is one with a purpose. I really enjoyed the cover art a lot.

What I Disliked: The novel repeats it’s self a little bit too much. One of the twist that figured out early on is baby stepped so much and has three instances, two of the instances are repeats, to point to the twist. I felt like Shepard didn’t trust her audience to figure it out, without it getting spelled out. I see it a lot in new authors which Peng Shepard is but the rest of the book is so mature.

Recommendation: The Cartographers is a really fun unique story that I recommend checking out. I did like Peng Shepard’s other novel The Book of M just a little bit more. She has written two solid first and second novels that are both unique stories full of beautiful writing and characters. I rated The Cartographers by Peng Shepard 4 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: All Dressed Up by Jilly Gagnon

All Dressed Up by Jilly Gagnon is a murder mystery with a 1920s theme, where a real murder might have taken place but is it all part of the game? This novel was hard to get into, and that’s a problem because I love murder mysteries. I think this book has a good mystery in that is buried deep in mediocrity and a bad mystery. We only see glimpses of the real mystery at the end. The climax was not bad and the only highlight of this novel. The dialogue was bad in a lot of spots and hard to tell some characters apart since they sounded so similar. I thought about not finishing more that a few times but powered through this is easily the worst book I have read that was published this year. I hate to give bad review knowing how much time and dedication went into it but this book did not work for me on multiple levels. Thanks to Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam for letting me read All Dressed Up by Jilly Gagnon. All Dressed Up is published on September 6 2022.

Plot Summary: Becca is invited to a 1920’s weekend but really it is a murder mystery set in the 1920’s weekend that she doesn’t figure out until she finds the dead body and starts freaking out like its real as her husband and guest laugh. Becca and her husband Blake are having a rough patch since he got caught cheating, and this weekend was a making up for it getaway. They came with Phil and Heather two of Blake’s friends who are a couple in sync in Becca’s mind. The Becca runs into Bethany the who played one of the character’s and who breaks character to have a real conversation but overreacts when her husband is scene talking to her alone. Becca ants to apologize but Bethany is gone, and the other cast announce she has broke her contract and returned to New York. Becca having just talked about living situation knows this can’t be true. Becca on an exploratory mission finds Bethany’s cell phone and clothes and needs to solve this mystery.

What I Liked: The end when we finally get to the mystery within a mystery. I enjoyed the who dun it? and the explanation for it. I did like the characters of Gabby and Drew and there commitment to stay in character while playing the game, the only characters that had interesting dialogue.

What I Disliked: The 1920’s theme was used all that well. I really disliked that Becca couldn’t figure out this was a murder mystery weekend. The dialogue is really bad at times an added nothing to the characters. The pace was way too slow. I was not interested in the murder mystery plot at all which was the main plot with the other mystery beneath the surface. I had a hard time visualizing the description because they were lacking.

Recommendation: Stay away from this book! There are so many great mystery’s out there, this book sadly is not one of those. I rated All Dressed Up by Jilly Gagnon 2 out of 5 stars, it is more like 1.5 stars.

TBR: September 2022

September 2022 TBR list: last month I read all 7 books from my TBR list and added 2 books. I’m going to stick with 7 because I feel it works best for me. I am currently at 62 books out of 80 so far this year.    

Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson is a historical fiction set in 1920’s London.  It’s focus is night clubs of Soho, featuring starlets and gangsters.  Kate Actkinson is the writer of one of my favorite books ever Life After Life, so I feel honored to be selected by Netgalley and Doubleday Books. Shrines of Gaiety is published on September 27 2022.

The Cartographers by Peng Shepard is a murder mystery adventure.  A map makers father is killed, the estranged daughter find and old map hidden in his desk that is very valuable and others will kill to get it.  Peng Shepard wrote a sory called Book of M which was so amazing and original one of my favorites 3 years ago for her debut.  The Cartographers is on Goodreads best of 2022 so far list.

All Dressed Up by Jill Gagnon is a murder mystery with a real murder mystery.  The theme of the mystery is the 1920’s.  This novel seems like a fun Agatha Christie–like mystery.  I received this book thanks to Netgalley and Bantam.  All Dressed Up is Published on September 62022.

Muir’s Gambit by Michael Frost Becker is a prequel to the hit film Spy Game starring Brad Pitt and Robert Redford.  I love the movie Spy Game it is a very smart spy thriller.  Michael Frost Becker is returning in to the world he created and wrote a trilogy.  Thanks to Netgalley and Montrose Station Press for letting me read this the first book in the trilogy. Muir’s Gambit is published on September 5 2022.

The Poet by Michael Connelly is a mystery thriller and the fifth book in the Harry Bosch Universe.  This book doesn’t feature Harry Bosch but the characters will meet up eventually.  The poet is a dark tale where a reporter searches for a serial killer that sets up cops to look like suicide and add poems to the notes.

Dark Harvest by Norman Partidge is a creepy tale where every Halloween the October Boy rises with a butcher knife in hand and boys from the community fight and are either the hunted or the hunter.  Dark Harvest is soon to be a movie. The cover art is amazing for this book.

Night of the Living Dummy 2 by R. L. Stine Slappy is back! Need I say more this is book 31 in Goosebumps original series order. This book is the half way point on 62 Goosebumps books.

Wrap Up: August 2022 Book Reviews

Dear Readers, August was a great month, I’m still in my reading groove. I completed my goal of all 7 books this month from my TBR, and added 2. I read 1 graphic novel, 1 horror, 3 mysteries, 1 young adult, 2 middle grade and 3 new releases thanks to netgalley. I Read 2 books from a book series with Goosebumps and the Harry Bosch Universe which I’m going to continue into next month. I read zero 5 star books , six 4 star books, two 3 star books and one 2 star book.

Four Star Reviews:

The Diamond Eye By Kate Quinn is a historical fiction taking place during World War II from the perspective of a former Russian teacher now a sniper nicknamed Lady Death. This story is based on a true story of Russia’s Number 1 female sniper. This story has action. drama, and romance. The story is paced pretty well from the start making it pretty hard to put down, it dips a little when it’s focus goes away from the battlefield. The book is like two stories in one the history of Lady Death and then a time where she campaigns for US involvement and a presidential murder plot. The presidential murder is teased throughout the book until the story catches up. I loved the lead up and thought this was going to be my favorite part but the murder plot keeps having problems and keeps getting delayed, it eventually had an exciting climax. but there was a lot of give or take with the reader.

Black Cake By Charmaine Wilkerson is a family history drama with a unique voice from a debut author. Black Cake is on Goodreads’ and Amazon’s Best of 2022 So Far list, which is a reason I checked it out. Black Cake is a pretty ambitious debut novel with over 15 different perspectives, and it makes sense. Wilkerson writing to her credit did not make me feel like I was reading a brand new author more in the middle of seasoned pro. The flow of the story is a little disjointed as the narrative is telling a life in the past and a couple lives in present day at the same time. I loved the ending for this story so much, and it fixed a big hole in the story for me. The story itself is interesting and I have not read many stories of the Caribbean, so I loved the detail and insights.

Nothing More to Tell by Karen McManus is a fun Young Adult mystery that hooks the reader fast. The mystery hooked me really fast and wanted to know who done it? The set up worked as Brynn pitches the murder to a true crime podcast she wants to intern, but actually pitching it for the reader, and I was sold. We get two perspectives Brynn who moved soon after the murder who wasn’t involved but knows all the suspects and Tripp who might me involved but is definitely covering up something. The twists are through out the book and changed who I thought had done it multiple times and at the end I did not guess who did it? And once you read it you find that is not the only mystery. The pace for this book is so fast I was able to read it pretty quick. I was happy to get an advanced Reader’s Copy thanks to Netgalley and Random House Children’s, Delacorte Press. Nothing more to Tell is published on August 30 2022.

Stay Awake by Megan Goldin is a mystery with a very unreliable lead character. Liv has a condition that when she sleeps she forgets everything that has happened in the last 2 and a half years of her life. She is determined to solve the mystery of what happened to her. This is a fun who done it? and What happened mystery. The plot reminded me of the excellent Christopher Nolan film Memento where a man can not from longterm memories, and must place notes and rely on tattoos to remember, but if someone knows your condition it can be messed with. This is what is really intriguing about this book, you don’t know who to trust. The story is told with us following Liv and the perspective of two detectives that are solving a murder with everything pointing at Liv. The opening for this story hooked me right away, we fell the character’s confusion and was intrigued by the found bloody knife. I feel like the novel did repeat it’s self just a bit too much, as a reader I get it she has no memory, lets do more with this concept then going into places and being confused. I read Stay Awake thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for giving me an advanced reader’s copy. Stay Awake is published on August 12 2022.

Gangland by Chuck Hogan is a 1970’s gangster novel that is inspired by true events. The plot of this story feels really small but then you open up the paranoia of both the gangsters and the thieves, then heads will roll. There’s scenes in both Goodfellas and Casino where a lot of people die because of what they are involved in the scene last 5-10 minutes. This novel is one of those scenes expanded into the tracking, the execution, and the planning. The novel follows Nicky “Two Pins” a man with secrets who runs a legitimate business the bowling alley, but what most other people don’t know until it’s too late is he is the guy that handles the executions, he’s also an FBI informant, and closetly gay. The secrets are what he does and there’s no one better. The climax was very worth while and exciting. The epilogue is long and many years after the climax it answers some of the questions but not all. The opening scene is a little rough and felt cliché, but the ending to that scene starts this easily readable novel going. The pace of Gangland is very fast. Thanks to Netgalley and Grand Central Publishing for letting me read the ARC. Gangland is published on August 2 2022.

It Came From Beneath The Sink by R. L. Stine is one weird Goosebumps tale. This book is number 30 out of 62 in the original Goosebumps series order. This book added the jump scares back and they were set up pretty well. This story starts fast and stays focused on what came from beneath the sink, and what happens if you take it out. This book reads fast because there is a ticking clock if the kids don’t do this one thing then someone can die. The monster is weird but I did like the origin and what it’s powers were. I liked what it took to defeat it and reminded me a lot of the ending to Ernest Scared Stupid. The twist at the end was okay I like that it was foreshadowed earlier. I think this is one of the better brother and sister relationships you can feel the love in their sibling rivalry. The plot feels like it came out of a 50’s B-movie.

Three Star Reviews:

The Last Coyote by Michael Connelly is the forth book in the Harry Bosch Universe. This is detective Harry Bosch’s most personal case, a thirty year unsolved murder case with the victim being Harry’s mother. Harry is on suspension and is not even a detective with his badge and gun taken away. At first he takes the case as a distraction but he opens up old wounds and might never be the same again. This is the most personal case but also the slowest novel so far. The pace is so slow and gets into it’s stride as the character heads to Florida about mid way through. The novel has a very long ending where you think it’s over but there’s still a mystery to solve and Harry is going to solve it how ever long it takes. This is the fourth book and you do not have to read the other books to know what’s is going on and everything that happened in those books that is pertinent is talked about.

Study Hall of Justice by Derek Fridolfs is a what if story that Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman all went to middle school together and the other classmates and teachers are full of future villains. The story is a mystery where the Trinity try to find out who the mysterious principal that runs the school and recruited everyone. The story is told as a graphic novel mostly but we get all the Batman notes and memos, student evaluation forms, articles from the student newspaper and group chats with the group. The story is middle grade approved but there references to future villainy that will go over a lot of not informed kids head. But that could lead them to look into characters more. I liked the end reveal of the mystery principal that explained why the kids were recruited for the school. There was some obscure villains that I was happy to see inserted like Vandal Savage and the Shriek. The highlight for me was the student newspaper with Mr. Freeze doing the weather report and Poison Ivy doing the nature report. This is the first book in a series called the Secret Hero Society.

Two Star Review:

James Patterson by James Patterson: The Stories of My Life by James Patterson is an autobiographical account of his life growing up becoming a best selling author. If you read this book for insight on the man’s incredible streak of best sellers, then this is not the book for you, it spends maybe 30 percent on writing, and there are some good insights there. But this book is about his life and how he came up from humble beginnings to become the writer he is today. So I already told you it is is 30% about writing what else is this book about, 5% about him growing up, 5% about his family in the present (they seem very nice), 20% about working in advertising, 15% about golf, and 25% about name dropping and celebrity encounters. You will come out of this book knowing James Patterson is a loyal, genuine, at time humble human being who cares about young kids reading and love celebrity encounters and golf.

Book Review: James Patterson by James Patterson: The Stories of My Life by James Patterson

James Patterson by James Patterson: The Stories of My Life by James Patterson is an autobiographical account of his life growing up becoming a best selling author. If you read this book for insight on the man’s incredible streak of best sellers, then this is not the book for you, it spends maybe 30 percent on writing, and there are some good insights there. But this book is about his life and how he came up from humble beginnings to become the writer he is today. So I already told you it is is 30% about writing what else is this book about, 5% about him growing up, 5% about his family in the present (they seem very nice), 20% about working in advertising, 15% about golf, and 25% about name dropping and celebrity encounters. You will come out of this book knowing James Patterson is a loyal, genuine, at time humble human being who cares about young kids reading and love celebrity encounters and golf. I have read 20 or so James Patterson novels most of them being from the Alex Cross series, and I’ve read 6 under his Jimmy Patterson publication, a small portion of his over 300 titles. The man is a machine and it come from detailed outlines of scene breakdowns, that he takes the reigns or lets the co-writer take it after the outline. I came away from this book wanting a lot more about writing he only talks about 15 of those 300 plus novels in this book. The books talked about are Along Came a Spider, 1st to Die, I Funny, Run Rose Run, The President is Missing, The President’s Daughter, The Last Days of John Lennon, Walk in My Combat Boots, The House of Kennedy, All American Murder: The rise and Fall of Aaron Hernandez, Filthy Rich: The Jeffery Epstein Story, Woman of God, Zoo, Suzanne’s Diary for Nicolaus, and The Thomas Berrymen Number.

What I Learned: To outline your stories is what James Patterson does and preaches. He has made 9 hole in ones, that’s repeated through out the book (being a golfer I was impressed by that). He got a private concert from James Taylor when he was in the nut house. Gives a Christmas bonus to independent book stores. Worked at the Fillmore East where he met Jim Morrison of the Doors and Jimmi Hendrix. He attended Woodstock. Alex Cross was originally a woman named Alexis. Hates all the film adaptations of his work. Talked about his collaboration with his many co-writers.

What I Liked: You can feel his character through his writing which seems very pleasant and easy to talk too. I liked his story about being recognized from Castle as the guy that plays James Patterson. I liked his chapter on actually writing it made me want to read Suzanne’s Diary for Nicolaus, Walk in My Combat Boots and I, Funny. I did like the Jim Morrison story a lot. I did like his story about collaborating with President Clinton and with Dolly Parton, and what they added to the story.

What I Disliked: I wanted this book to be a lot more about writing how did he create his characters especially his bad guys. a lot more insight. He does seem to like true story’s more than fiction right now. The advertising chapters were so boring, should have been cut way down. I felt the biography skipped around way too much. I like golf but I felt it was a little bit too much.

Recommendation: I’m a fan of his Alex Cross series where I have read 18 novels (I haven’t reviewed any for this blog but will reread at some point) and wanted a whole lot more from this book. He talks about all Shakespeare biography’s are made up since we know nothing of the man an his process, with this book we know the man but for got to add the insight to his writing. I will keep reading this man’s very well paced works, but may skip his next biography. I can not recommend this book to my followers but do check out his writing if you need a good fast paced novel. I rated James Patterson by James Patterson: The Stories of My Life by James Patterson 2 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: Nothing More to Tell by Karen McManus

Nothing More to Tell by Karen McManus is a fun Young Adult mystery that hooks the reader fast. The mystery hooked me really fast and wanted to know who done it? The set up worked as Brynn pitches the murder to a true crime podcast she wants to intern, but actually pitching it for the reader, and I was sold. We get two perspectives Brynn who moved soon after the murder who wasn’t involved but knows all the suspects and Tripp who might me involved but is definitely covering up something. The twists are through out the book and changed who I thought had done it multiple times and at the end I did not guess who did it? And once you read it you find that is not the only mystery. The pace for this book is so fast I was able to read it pretty quick. The climax was just okay it went off in a direction I wasn’t expecting and it wasn’t the best choice but the final twist was a good one that saves it a little. McManus is so good at these mystery set ups and hooking me. Nothing More to Tell is my third Karen McManus book after I read One of Us is Lying and it’s sequel One of Us is Next. So far she is three for three on giving my recommendation to her books I was happy to get an advanced Reader’s Copy thanks to Netgalley and Random House Children’s, Delacorte Press. Nothing more to Tell is published on August 30 2022.

Plot Summary: Brynn is having to move back to her old home town half through Senior Year. If that wasn’t bad enough her last days of middle school her teacher was murdered, one of her better guy friends Tripp called her a stalker in front of gym class, and days later he was one of the kids that discovered the body. Brynn desperate to get an internship pitches the murder to a true crime podcast called Motive. They like the idea and she starts investigating when she goes back. She finds that Tripp is one of the cool kids and is now linked to two of the other kids that he found the body with. Brynn is not the only one who notices this connection as the detective wants to know why if you didn’t know the other 2 kids so well what reason would you have to lie. Tripp along with Shane and Charlotte the other kids who saw the the body in the woods get anonymous text of Murderer! Byrnn knows something is not right and will risk everything to solve the mystery.

What I Liked: The set up of the murder hooked me so fast I loved it and couldn’t wait to solve it. I liked the community of friends and how they end up helping solve a piece of the mystery. I loved Brynn’s sister Ellie and how she helps solve the mystery. I like how Tripp was written that character deserves to have angst with his two parents. I really enjoyed the mystery and almost all of the plot points( I only had an issue with one but it was a big one). There are some pretty great twists through out that made it very hard to pinpoint the murderer. I liked the LGTBQ representation and the butterflies of prom with that person, it was a very sweet plot point.

What I Disliked: There is a plot point where a character went to great lengths to get out of a bad situation, is ready to not only go bak to the situation but bring others like it was a great thing. This felt so out of character that I had to read it twice none of the narrative pointed to this way and the conversation where they try to convince the other person was not convincing. It didn’t ruin the book but I felt that it hurt the climax a little.

Recommendation: This book has such a wonderful set up that will have you hooked and have to know the answer to who done it? This is fun quick read that despite the books one big flaw it is pretty enjoyable. I rated Nothing More to Tell by Karen McManus 4 out of 5 stars. I ranked the three Karen McManus book I read in order starting at best. 1 One of Us is Lying, 2 Nothing More to Tell, and 3 One of Us is Next.

Book Review: Black Cake By Charmaine Wilkerson

Black Cake By Charmaine Wilkerson is a family history drama with a unique voice from a debut author. Black Cake is on Goodreads’ and Amazon’s Best of 2022 So Far list, which is a reason I checked it out. Black Cake is a pretty ambitious debut novel with over 15 different perspectives, and it makes sense. Wilkerson writing to her credit did not make me feel like I was reading a brand new author more in the middle of seasoned pro. My biggest complaint of new authors is forced dialogue but it is avoided here. The flow of the story is a little disjointed as the narrative is telling a life in the past and a couple lives in present day at the same time. I loved the ending for this story so much, and it fixed a big hole in the story for me. The story itself is interesting and I have not read many stories of the Caribbean, so I loved the detail and insights. My biggest complainant for the story is I did not connect with one of main characters, I felt they were unfinished and saw no joy from the character. This book has of LGBTQ characters that are represent well one better than the other. Black Cake was published on February 1 2022.

The Plot Summary: Eleanor Bennett has passed away her lawyer has invited her son and Daughter to watch a video farewell that is really a confession. That Eleanor Bennett did not exist and her past has been a lie, and her children have a secret sister. She tells the tale of how all this happened and dark family secrets that made Eleanor the good mom that she was. Her two kids have not seen each other in years they have to come together and meet this new sister as their mother’s dying wish for them all to use the last Black Cake their mother made for the occasion.

What I Liked: he writing is really good I liked the dialogue, the descriptions, and the interesting way that the story was set up. I love the full circle writing and how everything was explained at the end and it wrapped all the storylines up. I like the metaphor of the Black Cake and how it served as the only thing from Eleanor’s past that she got to keep and it was thing she got to pass on to her daughters. The ending was really great and was a great reveal for one of the characters. I liked the story’s little twist and turns that were very subtle but effective.

What I Disliked: The writing style I ultimately called really good took a little while for is too make sense. I do have to suspend belief that her kids did not know that their mom was half black / half asian. I did not like the character of Byron, I feel so much was on Benny that his story was unfinished. I saw no joy from that character, when there was moments of joy to be had.

Recommendation: I recommend you check out this new voice in storytelling. This story has all, drama, romance, family secrets, and betrayal. I will read the next Charmaine Wilkerson novel. I rated Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson 4 out of 5 stars. I really solid first novel. This was a hard one to rate I went with 4 but it is a high 4 star rating.

Book Review: Stay Awake by Megan Goldin

Stay Awake by Megan Goldin is a mystery with a very unreliable lead character. Liv has a condition that when she sleeps she forgets everything that has happened in the last 2 and a half years of her life. She is determined to solve the mystery of what happened to her. This is a fun who done it? and What happened mystery. The plot reminded me of the excellent Christopher Nolan film Memento where a man can not from longterm memories, and must place notes and rely on tattoos to remember, but if someone knows your condition it can be messed with. This is what is really intriguing about this book, you don’t know who to trust. The story is told with us following Liv and the perspective of two detectives that are solving a murder with everything pointing at Liv. The opening for this story hooked me right away, we fell the character’s confusion and was intrigued by the found bloody knife. I feel like the novel did repeat it’s self just a bit too much, as a reader I get it she has no memory, lets do more with this concept then going into places and being confused. It was a bit overstayed but it does stop and they get into lying about not knowing what is going on which is way more interesting. This story takes place in 24 hours and a lot goes on which is good for the pace of the book. I was able to guess the killer at about the 60% mark, and I was kind of bummed about it. There is a couple of red herring characters and events but was able to see through them once all was revealed. I was able to guess the killer early but I still had fun with this novel. I read Stay Awake thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for giving me an advanced reader’s copy. Stay Awake is published on August 12 2022.

The Plot Summary: Liv has just woken up in a cab and can not getting in the cab. She has no phone no ID put has a a wad of cash and a bloody knife wrapped in a bloody shirt. She also has saying written on her body like stay awake, don’t trust anyone and wake up! Liv shows up at her apartment to find a couple living up there that she has never met. When she looks in he mirror she sees a person she doesn’t recognize. Detective start investigating a murder but can’t seem to find the murder weapon but they do find a bloody message that reads wake up!

What I Liked: The premise is really good and hooked me right away. The twists there a couple that are really good. The modern Art scene is pretty terrifying and written really well, where it made me a tad uneasy. The pace of this book is really fast with small little chapters that lead and compel you to read the next one. I liked the mystery especially the what happened part, once I read that I was able to solve it. I liked the conflicting detectives’ theories. I liked the explanation for Liv’s condition and the psychology behind it. The title really works and I really like the cover art.

What I Disliked: That I guessed the killer pretty early. I was able to solve this so easily because they did investigate someone who seemed really obvious too me and they weren’t even ruled out as a subject, because they weren’t even considered. Basic police policy would have them as the suspect. There’s a couple moments where I had to suspend disbelief, like the moment I mentioned above, that was the biggest but a couple others.

Recommendation: This is a pretty fun mystery that has a lot of fun twist and turns. The novel has such a good hook that pulled me in from the beginning. I recommend my followers check it out, and tell me did you know who the killer was early like me or did get fooled. I rated Stay Awake by Megan Goldin 4 out of 5 stars. This was my first Megan Goldin but reading this made me want to search out more, I’ve been told Night Swim is good.

Book Review: The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn

The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn is a historical fiction taking place during World War II from the perspective of a former Russian teacher now a sniper nicknamed Lady Death. This story is based on a true story of Russia’s Number 1 female sniper. This story has action. drama, and romance. The story is paced pretty well from the start making it pretty hard to put down, it dips a little when it’s focus goes away from the battlefield. The book is like two stories in one the history of Lady Death and then a time where she campaigns for US involvement and a presidential murder plot. The presidential murder is teased throughout the book until the story catches up. I loved the lead up and thought this was going to be my favorite part but the murder plot keeps having problems and keeps getting delayed, it eventually had an exciting climax. but there was a lot of give or take with the reader. The characters in this book are really great and there’s a lot of supporting characters that are memorable. The climax was really good and had a good twist. In the acknowledgments section Quinn goes through everything that happened and did not happened, but the memoir itself was part propaganda so it hard to tell what really happened and what did not. The Diamond Eye was on Goodreads best of 2022 so far list.

Plot Summary: Mila Pavlichenko is a mother and history student that works at the library when the War breaks out. She a mother to one boy and estranged from her husband that she is actively been trying to divorce for 5-6 years, but he keeps avoiding it. Her estranged husband is a surgeon and joins the war effort along with Mila who is a good shot and taught her son to shot since their father is absent. Mila is at first turned away but ends up a better shot than most of the men on her squad. She gets good and starts to rank a kill count that any man would be proud of. She’s given her own command which she finds the teaching easy it’s making the men respect her that is the problem. Eventually she has her squad and gets the nickname Lady Death, which makes her opposition fear. She gets injured and meets with her husband that thanks to all the notoriety wants her back, but she wants nothing to do with him and starts see her commander who she her for the person she is and not the sniper she’s becoming. They all fight until they are overrun with fresh German troops, she is told she is going to America to speak with President Franklin Roosevelt and his First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to try to get American troops to Russia to drive back the Germans. But it the danger is not over as an assassin plots to murder the President and who better to pin it on than a Communist sniper.

What I Liked: The Characters Mila is a fantastic character that feels very real and everything she had to overcome. The climax was pretty intense and it was a combination of tactics that Mila had learned and she was a stranger in a strange land without her rifle or spotter. I liked the friendship that Eleanor and Mila developed. I loved to hate the husband Alexi, he’s the true bad guy of the story and it was nice to see he got what he deserved in the end. I did love how the Afterthought went through the book pointing out everything that happened and didn’t happen, and some lines were direct quotes. I liked the way the war scenes were described I felt I could imagine it clearly. I loved the supporting characters especially the older wood guide whose family was murdered and wanted revenge on every German. I like how diamonds were worked into the story.

What I Disliked: This story really needed maps especially during the war just a quick reference to where the characters were. The assassin foreshadowing was nice, we were told assassin is going to happen in two days, but it actually happens like months away, since this moment was fiction, when it was extended it really held up the story and hurt the pacing.

Recommendations: This is a good story with a very interesting character. Quinn’s writing is really clear and I didn’t have too many moments where I was confused by the story. My favorite Historical Fiction time period is the 1940’s during World War II and this is the first book I have read from the Russian perspective and I found it very interesting. I recommend my followers to check it out. This was my second Kate Quinn novel my first was The Alice Network which i liked just slightly more but gave it the same rating. I rated The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn 4 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: Gangland by Chuck Hogan

Gangland by Chuck Hogan is a 1970’s gangster novel that is inspired by true events. The plot of this story feels really small but then you open up the paranoia of both the gangsters and the thieves, then heads will roll. There’s scenes in both Goodfellas and Casino where a lot of people die because of what they are involved in the scene last 5-10 minutes. This novel is one of those scenes expanded into the tracking, the execution, and the planning. The novel follows Nicky “Two Pins” a man with secrets who runs a legitimate business the bowling alley, but what most other people don’t know until it’s too late is he is the guy that handles the executions, he’s also an FBI informant, and closetly gay. The secrets are what he does and there’s no one better. The climax was very worth while and exciting. The epilogue is long and many years after the climax it answers some of the questions but not all. The opening scene is a little rough and felt cliche, but the ending to that scene starts this easily readable novel going. The pace of Gangland is very fast. This is my forth Chuck Hogan book (I read Strain trilogy that he co-wrote with Guillermo del Toro about a vampire war) and Gangland my first Gangster novel since that is what he’s known for with Prince of Thieves also known as The Town (to match the film title). Thanks to Netgalley and Grand Central Publishing for letting me read the ARC. Gangland is published on August 2 2022.

Plot Summary: Nicky “Two Pins” has just done the biggest double cross killing his mentor for a way to move up and works under Tony Accardo who is the boss of Chicago and a protégé under Al Capone. Nicky has kept it all underwraps from FBI since he is an unwilling informant that blackmails him for being gay during the 1970’s. Everything is going smoothly until thieves steal form a jeweler without permissions and steal an anniversary present from Tony to his wife. The thieves get confronted and are told to return everything and maybe they can work together in the future. The guy that set this up had to return his kid and wife’s Christmas present as Tony vacations in Palm Springs. He decides to break into Tony’s house while he’s on vacation and steal the jewels back, but they were not there, but something of value was the books of payoffs, that same thing that took Al Capone down. Tony wants the people responsible and to send a message to thieves no one steals from Tony! It’s a cat and mouse game to find who is responsible before the thief realizes what he has and figures out the code of the books.

What I Liked: I love a good gangster story and this one starts off okay but gets really great as paranoia hits everyone involved, then double and triple crosses start to happen. I loved all the pop culture references, and just how hard it was to get a star wars toy at Christmas. I really liked the character of Nicky “Two Pins” and felt for his secret gay life and the way he treated others fairly in his business. I like how easily Tony could lie even when backed in the corner and the evidence is looking you him in the face. I like how I could feel the 1970’s throughout the novel. I really liked the climax and how intense and chaotic it got.

What I Disliked: The opening scene was very cliche, I was worried the whole book was going to be this way, but it was not. I wanted to see a little bit more of his struggles with being gay and a gangster. I really wanted to see the drunken fight with his wife where he confessed how prison and his cellmate changed him. The epilogue could have answered what Nicky did after the climax instead of 13 years later a little bit sooner.

Recommendations: If you’re looking for a gangster novel that is brutal and features lots of betrayals then this is it. I recommend this novel for it’s super quick pace and when reading this story I kept asking me what’s going to happen next? It’s not a great book but a very solid story. I rated Gangland by Chuck Hogan 4 out of 5 stars.