Throw This Motherfucker in the Trash! Killer Choice by Tom Hunt

•June 19, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Ok, I think I won this in a Goodreads giveaway. I hope someone didn’t send it, although it is wholeheartedly possible. This is already out in hardcover in your local bookstore. To say I didn’t like it? Understatement of the year!

Gary and Beth are excitedly awaiting the birth of their first child when tragedy strikes. Beth is out shopping when she goes into convulsions and is rushed to the hospital. After many tests, the couple are stunned to learn that the medical crisis was caused by Stage 4 brain cancer, complete with an inoperable tumor. Without a miracle, they give her 3-6 months. They tell Beth and Gary that she qualifies for a clinical trial with a high success rate in Germany. The only problem is it will cost $200,000. The couple doesn’t have that kind of money, so Beth and her friends set up a GoFundMe page. Within days of it going up, Gary gets a blocked phone call from someone who mentions the fund and tells him to not say anything and meet him in the park. Normal people would question this and not go, but Gary does. A thug named Otto appears and hands Gary a duffel bag full of $200,000 and tells him it’s his for his wife’s medical procedure if he kills a bad cop who lives in Detroit. Gary asks for a few days to decide and despite expressing doubt, buys the thug’s word that he will give Gary the entire sum upon execution of this cop. I did, dear reader, say “This guy is an idiot.” This comment was proven chapters later, after Gary kills the cop, lies to everyone including Beth and his brother (with whom he owns a business), and goes to the locker where the money is supposed to be, and finds the locker empty. So not only did he kill someone in cold blood, but he doesn’t have the money for the clinical trial. The detective in charge of the murder investigation is onto Gary, due to his ineffective answers and a hat that was retrieved from the scene of the crime and is sold only in his outdoor wear and gear store. The detective questions Gary’s younger brother, to whom Gary then spills the whole sordid story. His brother helps him figure out Otto’s real identity, and he spills the name to the detective as someone who was “hassling” his brother (thereby allowing Gary another excuse to prove his innocence). Otto contacts Gary and orders him to meet him somewhere. This culminates in his brother following him there and Otto deciding to shoot the innocent brother in cold blood, in front of him, to send Gary a message. Gary is destroyed, but still allows the cops to assume his brother was involved in shady business along with the murder of the cop. What follows is more lies, including to his very suspicious wife and grieving sister-in-law. I could not sit there and read the entire scene. I was sick to my stomach. Finally, Beth breaks through the bullshit and calls Gary out on his suspicious story and he confesses. However, shortly afterwards, Gary has yet one more run-in with Otto. This one ends in Otto and his thug dying on the spot. Gary grabs all of the money, goes home, and tells Beth that a miracle has happened and they have the money. Wait. What? Take a ride eith suspended disbelief if you choose to read this. The book ends with them toasting the clinical trial with champagne. The inference is that Beth is quite possibly going to survive. The baby boy has been born in the interim, and is healthy. Talk about a quick fix. I just cannot get past Gary’s lies costing his brother his life. The brother, along with Beth, was the truest character in this mess. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but wow. This is an all-time super duper shitty thing to do. I know the author needed a way to really blow the lid off the plot, but letting his innocent brother take the fall? After paying the ultimate price for trying to help his brother out? The first cut is the deepest, indeed. Gary is one of the most seemingly self-absorbed idiot characters I have run across in a long while. I have not thrown a motherfucker in the trash in a long, long while. Until now. You can’t cheer for someone who is such an unsympathetic character. And the chapter of mourning his brother’s passing is moot when he continues to let his dead brother take the fall for his crimes. Ugh. Avoid this one at all costs.

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The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas (4 out of 5)

•June 13, 2018 • Leave a Comment

The third book by Kara Thomas was a pleasant surprise in the mail a few weeks back. Obviously, this is an advance sent to me by the publishing folks at Delacorte Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. This young adult thriller isn’t out until July 31, 2018, so put it on the ever growing list of July titles. Don’t miss out on Kara’s previous titles, Little Monsters and The Darkest Corners. Those are reviewed on my blog, if you are curious.

Sunnybrook is an idyllic name for a town that’s feeling and looking nothing like that. Five cheerleaders are dead. Two crash into a tree on a rainy night. Two others are having a stay over and are murdered by a creepy loner who lived next door with his elderly mom. Jennifer, Monica’s sister, kills herself. The high school dismantles the squad, out of grief and disbelief. Five long years have gone by, and Monica hasn’t forgotten her sister or the other girls who died. She finds threatening letters and her sister’s old cell phone in her stepfather’s desk. Did I mention Tom, the stepfather, is a police officer who was on the scene of all of these deaths? Monica absconds with the phone and after going through the call list, sees that her sister spoke with one last person for 17 minutes before she died. She starts texting the mystery person, who tells her not to trust anyone. Now shit is really starting to freak her out. With help from Ginny, a friend, she begins to delve deeper into the deaths, meeting locked doors at every turn. People in Sunnybrook definitely know more then they are saying. Monica needs to watch herself real good the closer she gets. If you have read Thomas’ other books, you know why I am saying this. Thomas knows how to set the dial to sinister and effectively wrap it up at the end. If your teen digs the darker side of human nature and wants a compelling whodunit, Kara Thomas is the author to start them on.

Believe Me by JP Delaney (5 out of 5)

•June 11, 2018 • Leave a Comment

JP Delaney’s last book, The Girl Before, was a revelation to me. I had seen it in hardcover, but for some reason, I never got to it until it came out in paperback. And I loved it because it was quite unconventional in not only the premise, but also the execution. I had so many feels going on after I was done. And so many questions! This title is out on July 24, 2018. I suggest you put it on your TBR list if you like “Whoa!”-style psychological thrillers. This is going to be one of them for the summer.

Claire is a struggling actress who does side work. That side work is to cozy up to married men, get them to proposition her, get proof, and deliver it to her boss to bring to the spouse. Acting, it seems, doesn’t quite pay the bills for Claire. Besides that, she also uses this side assignment as a way to expand her acting repertoire. It’s all going okay until the wife of one of her lures ends up murdered. The same woman that Claire has met and who warned her to be careful of Patrick, the husband in question. Harry, the detective who hires Claire for these assignments, tells Claire that Patrick is the main suspect. Not unusual, given this is the case in many crimes of passion. He tells her that they want to hire her to get close to Patrick, in hopes of smoking him out. There’s also the added bonus of her getting her green card and not being deported. She goes for the offer. There’s only one problem- she falls head over tail for Patrick, and tells Harry and the shrink to stuff it, she is quitting out of love. But is she still playing a part? Patrick starts to wonder, the reader starts to wonder, even Claire herself starts to wonder. This whole book is a twisty pretzel. Every chapter is a nail biter and I was fucking stunned at the end of it. Similar to Delaney’s first book, but more so. They just get better and better. This one is out the end of July. Give it a shot.

Into the Raging Sea: Thirty-three Mariners, One Megastorm, and The Sinking of El Faro by Rachel Slade (4 out of 5)

•June 6, 2018 • Leave a Comment

It’s so funny how things work out. I had read an article in Vanity Fair last month about this. I hadn’t remembered it when it happened, but not a surprise with my advanced age of 45. 😉 I passed that article onto Nancy’s husband, because he likes anything with weather. This book is described on the back as being a cross between The Perfect Storm and Into Thin Air. I would say that describes it perfectly. I enjoyed the narrative, although sometimes the epic battle of Mother Nature coupled with loss of life gets a bit old. The nautical terms really lost me, but otherwise, a harrowing read from start to finish. Mother Nature is not to be messed with. You just hope that people will pay heed and not throw caution to the wind, but human nature doesn’t work that way. All nature shows, weather programs, books, and the daily newscast are full of people who just go with the thrill of it and the adrenaline rush and sadly, not everyone makes it out alive. This is a prime example.

In October 2015, a container ship named El Faro is heading into the Bermuda Triangle (THE Bermuda Triangle of infamy), trying to steer around Hurricane Joaquin. Captain Michael Davidson is an enigmatic presence in the pages leading up to the tragedy and the aftermath. What possessed him to believe he could outrun a hurricane? I did spend a good portion of the book swearing at the captain. I felt like I personally knew all of the doomed crew, because Slade does such a thorough job at telling the reader about all of them. The fact that the crew was questioning many of Davidson’s commands makes this even more tragic. You almost hope that they would overpower him and take control, but this isn’t a Hollyweird movie. This really happened, and it wasn’t a happy ending. This isn’t just about a misguided captain, the unpredictability of Mother Nature, and The El Faro’s doomed fleet, but it blows open one of the oldest industries in the US- the shipping industry. You come away from a narrative like this hoping that this kind of tragedy won’t happen again, but the likelihood of it happening is still there, unless changes are made to the way this cutthroat industry operates in this country. That’s right; I DID use the word cutthroat. Not to mention global warming putting its own stamp on things with unpredictable weather patterns spawning all sorts of massive natural disasters. All in all, this ship and its occupants never stood a chance. I hope the collective public takes note of Slade’s expose on the shipping industry, and things change, so this kind of crap doesn’t happen again. A great read. The folks at Ecco Press, an imprint of Harper Collins, brought us this book. I thank whomever sent me the advance. It is out in hardcover in your local bookstore. Definitely worth a read.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou (3.5 out of 5)

•June 4, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I like to read business books. Unfortunately, many times they are books about companies gone bust, or some crooked thieves. This was about crooked thieves. Two, to be exact.

Theranos is formed in 2004 by the glacial, charismatic Elizabeth Holmes after she drops out of Stanford. At her side is the blustery and blunt Sunny, a guy that no one really likes but he’s dating Holmes and has the second seat of power, so the other employees at Theranos are stuck with him. Theranos is a “unicorn”, aka a startup company that has beaucoup bucks put into it, by loaded investors. In this case, a lot of medical and pharmaceutical companies and bigwigs. The big draw is their “Edison and “4S” models that make blood testing fairly painless and guaranteed quicker results, on a multitude of tests ranging from blood pressure to glucose and heading onto bigger diseases to diagnose. There’s only one problem. Elizabeth and Sunny are lying to their staff, their board, and their investors, all the while continuing to take in more investors and raise more money. Unbelievably, at one point, she was worth 4.5 billion dollars. Turnover is high, and continues to grow as those working with Elizabeth and Sunny begin to question the devices. The minute they question them, they are fired. It’s quite ridiculous how many people come and go in this company through the time the book takes place. Then those same people are threatened, followed, etc. The devices are malfunctioning, being messed with to ensure some result is shown, even if it’s erroroneous and may put lives at risk. The author goes further and begins to look into what’s going on there after several former employees being it to his attention. Once those dominoes start to fall, well, it’s a quick line to collapse. I hope this Holmes gets her just desserts in the end. Several lawsuits and charges against her are ongoing.

As far as business books go, this was a good read, because I had never heard of Theranos prior to this. It made me physically ill to read about all of the messing around these people did with the blood readers, and how many stayed quiet about it and stayed on board, because of acclaim, money, or yes, even fear of retaliation at the hands of the two running Theranos. It strikes me as scary that it went on for as long as it did before Mr. Carreyrou busted her scam in his Wall Street Journal exposes, which turned into this book. A lot of people with blood on their hands. An ironic title in more ways than one. This book is out in your local bookstore now, brought to us by the folks at Knopf.

Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce (4 out of 5)

•June 3, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I’m pretty sure I bugged Wendy at Simon & Schuster to send me a galley for this. I was confused because Goodreads had it listed as already out and the cover is way different (Not unusual, but this cover is so much better. And yellow. Which means the same). I believe it comes out sometime in July. I had read a very disturbing book, and needed something light to take the edge off. This was perfect!

This one is set in London during WWII. Emmeline contributes to the war effort by being a telephone operator. But she yearns for more. That usually means she’ll get more than she bargained for, this being literature and all. And she does, when she takes a job thinking she will be a war correspondent/journalist, only to find through a series of misunderstandings and miscommunication, that this is not the case at all. The job in question is actually as a typist for “renowned” (It’s in quotations for a reason) advice columnist Henrietta Bird. By typist, I should clarify that it basically means she is reading all of the letters, and answering in Mrs. Bird’s stead. There is, of course, a list of “unpleasantness”, or as we know it, forbidden fruit from which we are not allowed to sample. Which means subjects that Emmeline cannot answer, that won’t be answered or published in the paper. Emmeline is a deeply caring, practical young miss who gets too deeply involved in the letters, and she tries her hardest to obey the guidelines set to her by Mrs. Bird, but can she stop herself from giving a fig? Or will she damn the torpedoes and find a way to help these who have entrusted their faith in her? London continues to fall to pieces around Emmeline and her spirited friend Bunty, as she tries to balance her job duties with her personal feelings and a war raging around them.

Really, I have to be honest. This is not the sort of book I normally get into. A premise like this would strike me as “flight of fancy”. But there was something about that synopsis that Wendy sent in her email roundup, that compelled me to ask for a copy. I just recently finished another book that one of our Glenview booksellers loved, “Lillian Boxfish Takes A Walk”, and I enjoyed that immensely. It is also a title I normally would have missed out upon, if not for my colleague’s enthusiastic response to it. I would have to say that this book falls into that category- a pleasant, funny, and lighthearted surprise. July is just around the corner, and this will be a flight of fancy for that book reader who is looking for something to take them away from this crazy world. Here it is!

The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker (5 out of 5)

•June 2, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I am glad I read this one during the day. I would advise you to do the same! Once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. This is the first in the 4MK series (The Fourth Monkey Killer). And before you start getting offended, no monkeys were harmed in this book. And yes, it is now out in paperback, as of Tuesday. The next book, Fifth To Die, is out on July 10, 2018, from Houghton Mifflin. I hadn’t heard of J.D. Barker until this book, but I have a feeling we’ll all be hearing more from him.

Sam Porter is called back from leave, to a case that had all but gone cold. A man commits suicide by jumping in front of a bus. It’s surmised from what he was carrying at the time of his death, that he is the long sought after “4MK” serial killer. The signature calling card is three boxes- a black box wrapped with white string. The first contains an ear, the second eyes, and the third a tongue. Shortly after, the body of the murdered woman is left in a public place, to mock the police for not saving another innocent woman. The man who jumps in front of the bus had a box with an ear..which means that somewhere, there is a young woman dying. Porter and his crack team have to find out where the young lady is. The thing about this serial killer is that he only kills the offspring of those who have committed crimes. So we have a “vigiliante” serial killer. Porter has his own demons and spends his time trying to quiet them by nailing this guy to the wall. In a battle of good vs evil, who is going to win? I spent half the book puzzled, half in disbelief at this 4MK’s backstory and methodology, half in stunned silence as more information is uncovered, and half scared and troubled out of my damn mind. I would definitely put this down as “beyond disturbing but impossible to put down”. Similarities begin and end at Karen Slaughter’s “Pretty Girls”. If you have been searching for a worthy predecessor to that, THIS IS IT.