Book Review: I KNOW EVERYTHING by Matthew Farrell

i know everything

From the publisher:

A psychiatrist grapples with his own sanity as murder evidence mounts against him.

Police investigator Susan Adler is ready to close the book on a deadly car accident, but after the medical examiner discovers evidence of foul play, she knows she has a murder on her hands. The victim was the wealthy wife of Randall Brock, a renowned psychiatrist who treats patients with disturbing, brutal fantasies. And just like that, Susan’s got a suspect.

Randall has a violent past but knows he didn’t kill his wife. In the midst of his crushing grief, Randall receives a visit from a stranger with information to share about his wife’s death. But there’s a catch: in exchange for the stranger’s information, Randall must reveal dark secrets he’s kept hidden for years. As this shady figure applies more pressure and Susan closes in, Randall begins to doubt himself, clinging desperately to the pieces of his sanity.

Revelations and suspicious coincidences send shock waves through the investigation, and circumstances spin out of control. Susan must race to put it all together before it’s too late—before the next murder strikes too close to home.

From me:

I’ve been curious about Matthew Farrell ever since I heard a lot of acclaim for him after the release of his first novel, What Have You Done. Well, one thing I personally haven’t done yet is read that book, but I plan to get to it soon – especially since he impressed me so much here with his second novel, I Know Everything.

I read a lot of mysteries and thrillers and I’m a little picky about them. This makes me sometimes cautious with books by authors that I’ve never read before. If I begin reading it and I start to see plot points or predictable story “twists” that I’ve seen repeatedly in other mysteries/thrillers, I can then quickly become bored and then lose interest in the book and then stop reading it.

There were a couple of times here when I thought those kinds of things were starting to happen and I was afraid the book was beginning to lose me. However…a big “however” here so let’s go with big letters…

HOWEVER, things in the story DID (I really like big letters) quickly turn around and I was given some nice, very unexpected twists and turns that kept me interested in the story throughout the entire book. Actually, “interested” is a bit of an understatement here. I got totally wrapped up in the story and found it to be VERY (there I go again) compelling.

Author Matthew Farrell has a lot of talent as a storyteller. I thoroughly enjoyed reading I Know Everything and I’m definitely interested now in reading more by him.

*This book will be published on August 6, 2019. I received an advanced reading copy of it from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for a fair review.

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Book Review: MILTON IN PURGATORY by Edward Vass

Milton in Purgatory

From the publisher, Fairlight Books:

Milton Pitt leads an uneventful life, with a dull job and a secret longing for adventure. One morning, after he is hit by a speeding car, he suffers an out-of-body experience and awakens back in his bedroom. Everything is just the same – that is, except for the bloody footprints leading to the chimney…

Is this his chance to lead a better life? Was it just a dream? Or is he simply dead?

In this richly inventive and humorous novella, Edward Vass brings the themes of Dante’s Divine Comedy 700 years into the future.

From me:

As I first read the above description of Milton in Purgatory, I instantly became curious about the story. I was also very intrigued by the book’s cover and I immediately had several questions. Is there something evil going on with the sharp-looking objects above the person in the chair? Speaking of which, do people get comfortable-looking chairs like that in purgatory? Also, what’s going on with that butterfly in front of that person’s obscured face? Are there butterflies in the afterlife? I’m not too keen about butterflies as it is, so will I have to continue to deal with the nasty little things after I die?

My personal feelings about butterflies aside, I decided to press on and see what this book was all about. And I’m so very glad that I did. I can honestly say that I’ve never read anything quite like Milton in Purgatory before. I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.

This is one of those books that is quite difficult to say too much about without giving away too many things about the plot. It’s a very clever and highly original story and I feel that readers of it would be best served by not knowing too much about it before they begin reading it.

And they should definitely read it. You, the person reading this review right now, you should be part of the “they” that I just mentioned. If you read Milton in Purgatory, you’re going to be experiencing some very good writing from author Edward Vass, who is an incredibly talented writer. In this book, he gives us a unique story that is all over the place. It’s funny. It’s dark. It’s surreal. It’s uplifting.

A book has to be very special for me to already want to re-read it, directly after I read it for my first time, but that’s exactly how I feel right now about Milton in Purgatory. I think it’s brilliant. I loved it.

*This book will be published on August 1, 2019 by Fairlight Books. I received an Advanced Reading Copy of it from them, via NetGalley, in exchange for a fair review.

 

 

Book Review: HOPE RIDES AGAIN by Andrew Shaffer

hope rides again

From the publisher, Quirk Books:

In the sequel to the New York Times best-selling novel Hope Never Dies, Obama and Biden reprise their roles as BFFs-turned-detectives as they chase Obama’s stolen cell phone through the streets of Chicago–and right into a vast conspiracy.

Following a long but successful book tour, Joe Biden has one more stop before he can return home: Chicago. His old pal Barack Obama has invited him to meet a wealthy benefactor whose endorsement could turn the tide for Joe if he decides to run for president.

The two friends barely have time to catch up before another mystery lands in their laps: Obama’s prized Blackberry is stolen. When their number-one suspect winds up full of lead on the South Side, the police are content to write it off as just another gangland shooting. But Joe and Obama smell a rat…

Set against the backdrop of a raucous city on St. Patrick’s Day, Joe and Obama race to find the shooter, only to uncover a vast conspiracy that goes deeper than the waters of Lake Michigan—which is exactly where they’ll spend the rest of their retirement if they’re not careful.

From me:

While I enjoyed HOPE RIDES AGAIN, I enjoyed it a little bit less than I enjoyed HOPE NEVER DIES, which is the first book of the Obama Biden Mysteries.

Even though I liked it less, this one is still good. Actually, there are even some ways in which I think it’s slightly better than the first one. For example, I think this one may actually be a little bit funnier than the first book. Also, the character of President Obama seems more well-rounded in this one. Not that I felt there was anything wrong with him in the first book, but there’s something in this one that makes him a little bit “better.”

I think it’s because author Andrew Shaffer keeps growing as a writer. He did an awesome job on the first book and has even stronger writing in this one. What I especially was impressed with was the many times he’d have Joe Biden refer to things that were going on in “the real world.” Even though this is a work of fiction, Shaffer kept it very much tied to reality. And he does it in a way that’s respectful to people in the real world too. There are some instances where Biden or Obama might refer to the current administration or to others in politics, but it’s done in a way that’s not directly slamming those people. For example, you might get the sense that the Joe Biden character doesn’t care for a particular person, but it’s done in a way that’s not rudely insulting them.

Considering how heated things often are in the real world of politics, I’m sure it could have been easy for Shaffer to write the book in that way, where it got heavily into the “nastiness” that we see daily coming from famous politicians. But since this is a humorous fiction story, I’m glad he avoided those kinds of things and wrote it the way he did.

Personally, I read books like this one because I want to have a fun journey into a story that I can get lost in and have a good time reading. That definitely happened for me here with HOPE RIDES AGAIN.

So, why did I like this one less than I liked the first book? Well, without giving away anything about the story itself, I felt that Joe Biden’s motivation for investigating the mystery here wasn’t as strong as it was in the first book. In that one, he had a very personal connection to the case and I could easily see why he got wrapped up in it the way that he did. In this one, he barely even knew the victim of the crime that he was investigating, so his reasons for doing what he was doing seemed a little less believable to me this time around.

Having said that, I’d still very much be interested in reading future books in this series. I’m also interested in seeing what other types of stories Andrew Shaffer writes later in his career. I think that he’s a very talented writer and I bet he’s going to be giving us many great stories for a very long time.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review. Thank you to Quirk Books and NetGalley.

Book Review: THE UNEXPECTED VACATION OF GEORGE THRING by Alastair Puddick

George Thring

From the publisher:

George Thring runs away from home. By accident.

Depressed, lonely and tired of life, George Thring leaves work one night but never makes it home. Before he knows it, he’s driven over 200 miles in the wrong direction and finds himself in a strange little town, in the middle of nowhere, during their annual Elvis Presley appreciation festival.

As he stumbles from one mishap to another, George meets the woman of his dreams, unwittingly aids in a bank robbery and finds himself pursued by both the police and a gang of angry criminals.

With a big life decision to make, and a girl to try and win over, George is given the chance to become the hero he has always wanted to be. But is he brave enough to take it?

From me:

As you can probably guess from the description of this book, this is a very quirky story. Personally, I’m a bit of a quirky person myself, so I tend to enjoy stories that are on the sort of “far out” side, which The Unexpected Vacation of George Thring definitely is.

It’s a clever and unique kind of story. Author Alastair Puddick is a very talented writer. He does something here which I think a lot of writers of humorous stories fail to do: he makes you care about the characters, even when they’re in the middle of ridiculous situations. Humorous novels can sometimes be difficult to read because they often get too silly and then become ludicrous to the point that the plots become very unbelievable and the characters become almost impossible to relate to.

Is this story silly? Yes, absolutely. But it’s not too silly. It’s just the right amount of silly. At least it was for me. Your silliness mileage may vary, of course.

I was very entertained by this novel. However, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I thought it was totally perfect. There were some parts in the book that were a little too repetitive. Also, there were some scenes that went on a little longer than I think they needed to, sometimes to the point that I started to lose interest in what was going on and I then wanted to skip ahead in my reading.

But those kinds of things were very minimal and I happily kept reading. In fact, once I completed the book, I instantly searched for and then purchased the next novel from Alastair Puddick. He has a new fan in me.

If you enjoy quirky and clever stories, I highly recommend The Unexpected Vacation of George Thring to you. It’s a very fun read.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review.

Book Review: Thin Air by Lisa Gray

thin air cover

From the publisher:

Private investigator Jessica Shaw is used to getting anonymous tips. But after receiving a photo of a three-year-old kidnapped from Los Angeles twenty-five years ago, Jessica is stunned to recognize the little girl as herself.

Eager for answers, Jessica heads to LA’s dark underbelly. When she learns that her biological mother was killed the night she was abducted, Jessica’s determined to solve a case the police have forgotten. Meanwhile, veteran LAPD detective Jason Pryce is in the midst of a gruesome investigation into a murdered college student moonlighting as a prostitute. A chance encounter leads to them crossing paths, but Jessica soon realizes that Pryce is hiding something about her father’s checkered history and her mother’s death.

To solve her mother’s murder and her own disappearance, Jessica must dig into the past and find the secrets buried there. But the air gets thinner as she crawls closer to the truth, and it’s getting harder and harder to breathe.

I was very pleasantly surprised by this book. Since it was from a first-time author and the title itself was slightly generic-sounding, my guard was a little bit up when I started reading it. However, that changed after just a few pages because I quickly saw what a talented writer Lisa Gray is.

I was instantly impressed with her very good descriptions of things. How a building looked, how a character reacted to situations they were in, how mysteries were revealed and unraveled, etc.

Author Lisa Gray’s skills as a writer and storyteller made it all very compelling. In fact, I was just a few chapters into the book when I realized that in addition to already becoming a fan of the author, I was also already a fan of the main character, Jessica Shaw. I knew that, unless this book flip-flopped and ended up disappointing me, I was going to be reading the future books in this series with no hesitation at all.

But it stayed very good throughout the entire book and my opinion didn’t change. I enjoyed this story a lot. Mystery is my favorite genre and I read quite a few mysteries every year. If you’re a fan of the genre, I highly recommend this book to you.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.