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Obsidian Blue

Government drone by day and book lover and geek girl by night!

Currently reading

Cold Hit
Linda Fairstein
Progress: 34 %
Dead Beat
Jim Butcher
Wonder Woman: Warbringer (DC Icons Series)
Leigh Bardugo

Hilarious but Short

Dabwaha, Curran Twitter -  Ilona Andrews

This was hilarious but short. Go here if you want to read this:


Hearing how Curran ruined Kate's dress and how a demon just came out wanting to fight made me snort laugh for five minutes.

FYI it will never not drive me nuts that Booklikes took away our ability to type periods in the freaking tags. Bah. 

3 ways to fill up your BookLikes profile information

Reblogged from BookLikes:

BookLikes is a blog platform for all book lover. Thais means that when you register you set up your own book blog with an endless virtual bookshelf (YAY!). Here are three places to add your details in order to fill up your BookLikes profile information and to present yourself to other readers and bloggers. 


1. Settings


When you log into BookLikes you see Dashboard -- your feed, a place where you see the  blogs' reviews and bookshelf updates. Remember that in order to add a blog to your Dashboard you should start following the blogs! If you're looking for new blogs to follow, go to the Explore page (menu->Explore), click the blog name and click FOLLOW in the upper right corner.


Remember that all your actions done in your Settings and in your Dashboard view will be presented on your blog page (your account on BookLikes IS your BOOK BLOG). The Dashboard view is internal and will always stay the same. 

Your blog page on BookLikes is: yourusername.booklikes.com.


Let's get back to Settings. So once you're on Dashboard, you gonna view one menu button in the upper left corner. Click it and go to Settings. In Settings, select tabs to add your details:


Settings: add your photo and username, e-mail, change password, select language and e-mail notifications, connect your social media

Settings/Blog: add your blog name, your short bio, select comments settings, and a blog theme

Settings/Import: import your books & reviews collections from Goodreads and other book social sites

Settings/Pages: add a new subpage to your book blog

Settings/Affiliate Programs: add your affiliate IDs to earn on your book blog

As you can see, each Settings tab let's you fill up your personal information.

Make sure to click Save once you add new information. 



2. The Customization tab


Your book blog needs personalization. Make sure to visit the Customization tab to select a blog's layout and add your social profile links.


To enter the Customization tab view, go to Settings/Blog, scroll down and click Customize.



Here you are! Add your short bio, your social profile links and widgets. You can also select a new blog theme and customize the color and layout. 


Remember to Save all the changes and check how your blog looks like (your blog is at yourusername.booklikes.com). 



3. Add a new Page OR new links


If you prefer to add a new sub-page with your longer bio, you can do it in Settings/Pages. 



If you wish to add links, to your other webpages, you can also do it in Settings/Pages. 



Your new pages and links will be visible in your Settings/Pages:



Remember that all your actions done in your Settings and in your Dashboard view will be presented on your blog page. Your blog page on BookLikes is: yourusername.booklikes.com



You may also want to check our previous tutorial and how-to posts:


How to start a book blog on BookLikes 

6 ways to blog about books

7 tips how to write a book review on BookLikes

BookLikes How-to: Advanced Shelving Options

BookLikes How to: book search tips

It's time for a reading challenge!


Reading progress update: I've read 34%.

Cold Hit - Linda Fairstein

Seriously though. Mike is an ass. I just cannot like this guy. I met too many guys like this in law enforcement. I hope that he and Alex don't have a romance down the line. Unless he changes significantly, here's hoping that he takes a header into a wall or something in the later books.

"Cold Hit" has Alex, Mercer, and Mike investigating when a dead woman is found raped and murdered and left in the water. Alex and her two besties (sorry being snarky) eventually find out the dead woman is named Deni Caxton who was going through a nasty divorce. She and her husband were well known in the art world, and it looks like that may have something to do with Deni's death. 

So far just okay. Nothing is grabbing me. Mike goes through the history of Hell's Kitchen and even I found myself not caring. I usually don't mind history dumps in books. For some reason this dumps keep taking me out of the story. 

I honestly feel like there is barely anything for Mercer to do in these books. I wonder why he manages to not be an asshole to Alex, but she seems to turn to Mike more and more. Alex is dating someone new and it looks like it has been a year (she is 35 in this one and turns 34 after the events in Likely to Die) since book #2. The new guy so far seems barely in this story. He keeps trying to call her.

Things are a bit repetitive, but thank goodness Fairstein seems to edit things out since she realizes (I hope) that readers should know the backstory to the characters at this point. 

Likely to Die (Alexandra Cooper #2)

Likely to Die (Alexandra Cooper Mysteries) - Linda Fairstein

The second book in this series got a bit off track (when Mike and Alex fly to England for a two day conference) but for the most part this was an interesting read.


Alex is called into a case where a world renowned neurosurgeon, Gemma Dogen, is found murdered. The police believe that Gemma was also raped, so Mike calls Alex to come to the scene with the hope this new case will get her out of her exile since the events in book #1. 

Alex is feeling gloomy and honestly you may want to smother her a bit in this one. I liked that Fairstein's secondary character who is friends with Alex even blew up at her. Alex still feels raw and betrayed after realizing her ex-boyfriend was cheating on her. She sits around a lot of the book wondering why is she alone. She does meet someone in this one, but starts to question things way too early after only meeting this guy twice and having just a handful of phone conversations. 


I still find it weird that Alex's parents and siblings are missing in action. I do love that her close friends check in and call and leave each other messages. My friends and I do the same so that seems realistic to me. 


We get some more details about Mercer in this one (thank goodness) but I started to feel that this book and book #3 which I am in the middle of are repetitive. I already know Alex's, Mercer's, and now Mike's backstory. We don't need to get into it every time. I know that Alex and Mike like to bet on final jeopardy questions. Let us not go into the backstory on every little thing. The only reason why I say this is because this case was so good. Fairstein does a great job with not showing her hand until you realize what is going on. Honestly though if I were Mercer, I would start calling out Mike for never seeming to be involved with police work, but is there to go to England with Alex (which I still called BS on by the way). 


Mike. Still an ass.

The book's setting is mostly the hospitals in the New York area. We read a lot about the differences between neurosurgeons and other doctors. 

The ending was really good and I didn't see it coming. I do hope though this doesn't mean that Alex is going to be in peril in every book. It doesn't seem that realistic to me. There is a dangling loose thread after we get to the end of this book, so that did surprise me. I wonder if we will see this character again. 

Alexandra Cooper #1

Final Jeopardy - Linda Fairstein

I just went on a legal kick and am getting immersed in the world of Alexandra Cooper. My mom had some of her books and I of course just grabbed a random one (The Deadhouse) and remember being really annoyed by the character of Mike Chapman. Yes, even at the age of 21 I called him an ass and didn't see what his friendship with Alexandra (Alex) was all about. Through the years I randomly grabbed and read two of her other books and never thought about reading them in order. I finally decided to do that and started in book #1, "Final Jeopardy."


"Final Jeopardy" takes place in New York in 1997. The lead character is Alexandra Cooper. Alex works for the DA's office and heads up the Sex Crimes Unit. Alex is passionate about putting away those who would rape and abuse women and children. When one of Alex's old friends, Hollywood movie star Isabella is murdered at her Martha Vineyard's home questions abound. Was Alex the real target? Or was a stalker after Isabella? Alex is told to stay out of the case, but she helps out her friend Mike Chapman, a detective with the NYPD with the investigation.


I liked parts of Alex that we see her. She is shown as a wonderful advocate and she knows her stuff legally. Fairstein shows attorneys coming to Alex to discuss cases and she provides them information and help along the way. She respects her boss, Paul, and wants to make sure she obeys his directive about staying out of the case, but she can't help being pulled in.


Probably the only thing I disliked about the character is how she allows Mike Chapman to talk about her. He is derogatory to the extreme and the only time I could even stand this character was when something came to light about someone close to Alex and Mike called their mutual friend Mercer and they came and hung out with her. Fairstein via Alex tries to make it that Mike just can't bother with being PC, but he is outright nasty about women and derogatory towards other races, so enjoy reading that mess. I started to skim anytime he talked. The only slightly cute thing about these two is their shared love of Jeopardy and betting on the Final Jeopardy question.


Mercer is in this, but barely it felt like. He is dealing with a serial rapist and I wanted to hear more about that case. The case dealing with Alex's friend was nasty at times. I wondered why Alex was even friends with her since she barely seemed to like her.

Alex has a boyfriend named Jed who seemed like a non-entity throughout the book.

We hear about Alex's parents and brothers' but they don't figure in this at all. We just hear how her father became rich and how he passed on that wealth to his children.


The writing was pretty crisp and Fairstein proves enough legal insights to make you gnash your teeth at how terribly sex crimes used to be prosecuted back in the day. Heck, they still don't sound awesome. I have to mention though that my Kindle version had a ton of typos. It started to get a bit distracting after a while. I wish this had been re-checked after being released via Kindle.


The flow was good, though there were a couple of hard pause points. One was when Alex goes into her doomed lost love and I maybe laughed. I also had some wine at that point so maybe that was what was making me crack up. It was very Gothic Romance for a bit there.


The setting of New York and Martha's Vineyard is interesting. Fairstein obviously studies the locations that appear in her books, so enjoy reading the history of a lot places. That does distract from the overall plot at times, and I hope in later books Fairstein manages to balance that better.


The ending was a bit out there. I definitely didn't catch on until all was revealed.

When Koontz Does Comedy

Tick Tock - Dean Koontz

Not going to lie, when I first read this years ago I actually loved it. I see the weaknesses now in the re-read though and gave this four stars. Also there is a dog and I just maybe sighed so hard I caused my poor cat's fur to ruffle. Aside: Not my fault she likes to get close when I am reading. Tick Tock actually shows that Koontz has a sense of humor. There are parts of this that are funny though when you find out the why behind this mess you are going to shake your head. 


"Tick Tock" has Tommy Phan on the run for his life. Tommy is a successful writer who is dealing with his mother's constant disappointment that he is not a traditional Vietnamese son. Due to his success she is upset that Tommy has forgotten where he has come from. Tommy comes home and finds a rag doll on his steps and stupidly decides to bring it inside with him. When the doll turns into something monstrous, Tommy finds himself on the run from it along with a weird woman named Deliverance who seems to know more than she is letting on and her dog she calls Scottie. If Tommy can live til dawn, the rag doll monster thing won't be able to hurt him. 


I felt bad for Tommy. I used to get those phone calls from relatives telling me how I forgot about them and now that I am all successful I don't come home anymore. Bah. Tommy pushing back against his mother by eating a cheeseburger was hilarious.

Tommy is worried about Deliverance (Del), but they are both really funny together. I didn't guess Deliverance's secret, and I doubt readers coming into this cold will either. It really does come out of nowhere and you are going to love it. Deliverance is very much a kick ass female heroine in this one. I think many of the reasons it didn't bother me in this book was because everything is being played for laughs. I started to chuckle and outright laughed several times while reading this one. 

The writing was really good and I think that this may be the first and maybe last Koontz novel that featured a POC. I really wish that Koontz had followed up on this one, or even put out more lighter fare. This one is not bogged down by being overly descriptive and off the wall like later Koontz books. You are dealing with a horror book with fantasy elements in it and things tie together nicely. 


The ending was pretty brilliant and also funny as hell. I don't want to say too much cause just a little bit will spoil you. 

One of the main reasons why I didn't give this five stars, Tommy should have put two and two together a lot quicker to realize what was going on. Really again with the dog thing Koontz? 

This Book Was Endless

The Face: A Novel - Dean Koontz

This freaking book was over 600 pages! I don't even remember a lot of it since I started to skim. I have this in paperback and started to read it and started to skim in self defense. Not a lot of it makes any sense and then we get to what I think Koontz thinks is a killer ending and I maybe booed aloud for a full minute. 


"The Face" is about Channing Manheim who is known as "The Face." Manheim is a movie star with a lot of fans. His security chief, Ethan Truman, is an ex detective who is now hoping to hunt down who is after Manheim's 10 year old son Aelfric (otherwise known as Fric) (I misread that name as Eric like ten times when I first started this book) who is getting mysterious phone calls. 


I cannot with the bad guy in this one. Nothing he did made sense and I just didn't care. I swear that Koontz has some lackluster villains for most of his newest books. This guy is no It, Outsider, Randall Flag, Crimson King, etc. 


Ethan is not interesting enough to hold this book together. He has a sad story (like most of Koontz's heroes in his books, he is a widower) but I just didn't care. He is trying to figure out the clues that are left behind in 6 black boxes (nope, still serious) and you barely get any movement on things. Just a lot of overly descriptive things you will not care about that make you want to scream. 


We hear about Ethan's dead wife Hannah a lot and apparently she was perfect (as the dead wife's or alive heroines are in Koontz's books). She also weirdly started to remind me of Odd Thomas's girlfriend Stormy. Probably because there is an allusion to other things to come after death that sounds like her. 

The writing for this one was tough to shift through. Too many off the wall things happen in this one (i.e. a mob guy named Dunny with ties to Ethan dies and becomes a guardian angel....no I am not drunk that did happen). This book needed trimmed. The flow was awful too. I still say that Koontz cannot write a child to save his life. Fric was not great and I hated his name too (I already said that, but going to bring it up again.)


The ending was dancing towards absurdity. I guessed what was going on with Dunny and Typhon and I just rolled my eyes a thousand times. 

Memories of my Father

Bag of Bones - Stephen King

"Bag of Bones" was the last book I read with my father. For those who have followed my blog for a while, you know that he was a huge Stephen King fan along with loving Science-Fiction and Fantasy novels. Once my dad realized how fast I read (he was pretty fast too) he always gave me the new King first and then I would wait impatiently for him to finish so we could talk about the book. So this is going to include just a snippet from what I remember to this day when my dad finished "Bag of Bones." 


Blue's Dad: I cannot believe how he ended this! Mike could have been happy with [redacted] and I ended up being so upset about how [redacted] died I almost put the book down!

Blue: I started to cry when that happened. I still don't understand that, but I loved though when he had [redacted] return and she told [redacted] she was Mike's Little Guy now.


Blue's Dad: I don't care. Can no one ever be happy in a King book?


Blue (stares at dad): Um....no?


Blue's Dad: Also I felt bad for [redacted] she was raped and murdered, I am not upset she was killing people for what happened to her and her child.


Blue: Oh I agree. I think though that is why he wrote it though? That maybe Mike going on to be happy again didn't make a lot of sense for what we found out as we read. Also this is near Castle Rock...how many times is that place going to be in a King book?


Blue's Dad: Go write down how many books take place in Castle Rock.


Present day Blue: I seriously did go and do that. We ended up picking up the conversation later on about this book and argued and agreed with each for the most part. We both loved this book, but wanted Mike to have a happy ending. He does get one, just a different one than we would have thought he should have gotten. 


"Bag of Bones" deals with best-selling author Mike Noonan (thank God he's not another Thad) who is still grief stricken 4 years after the death of his wife. Since his wife's death, Mike has avoided the lakeside home he and his wife loved and fixed up in Derry, Maine called Sara Laughs. After having writer's block since his wife's death, Mike finally returns to Sara Laughs after dreaming of it. 


Mike starts to piece together his dreams to what his wife Jo was doing at Sara Laughs before she died.  I know that this is considered a horror book, but I also think it's very much a mystery too. As readers we follow along with what possibly could be going on at Sara Laughs and why a woman named Sara Tidwell seems to be at the center of things.


Mike ends up getting himself back into the world with connecting with his dead wife's family and also befriending a young mother, Mattie Devore and her daughter Kyra. Mattie and Kyra are so real and you end up loving them both. Mike ends up doing what he can to protect Mattie from her husband's father, Max Devore, who is insistent on doing what he can to gain full custody of Kyra from Mattie. 


I really think this is hand's down one of King's best works. Not only does it reference his other works, "Insomnia," "The Dark Half," "Needful Thing," and others, he also calls out "Rebecca" references in this one too. It's really funny that as fond of this book as I am, I didn't seek out "Rebecca" to read until 2016. 


Everything is beautifully explained by King towards the end of the book and you understand why so many deaths have occurred in Derry (well some of them) and why certain families seem to be linked together. 


I also didn't feel bad for certain men in this story, the kids definitely, but I can see why there were hauntings and deaths. I also loved how Mike's dead wife features prominently in this book. This is also the first book that I heard the word "Outsider" so I was curious when King released his latest book "The Outsider." I thought it would have something to do with "Bag of Bones." 


The writing and flow were great. I tend to re-read this one in late summer (I have no idea why, I just do) and will often take it along when I go to a nearby lake in VA. Something about this book causes me to re-read it at least once a year. I am really glad I did re-read this recently since even though the subject matter is grim, it is a comfort read of sorts to me. 


FYI, this book is one reason why I keep a ceramic owl on my mantle in my house. 


The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

I read this book back in 2003. I remember buying the hardcover from a random book shop in D.C. (can't recall the name of the store) and started to read this book while on a bus heading back from the Pentagon metro stop. Within an hour I was in tears and just read it until I finished it sometime before dawn. This book grabbed me back when I was 23 and it still grabbed me more than a decade and a half later at 38. Sebold wrote this book in response to being raped and she takes all of that pain and anger and wrote something that I believe will eventually be considered a classic. That said there are some nits here and there in the book that don't work, she has the main character at one point inhabit someone's body and I don't even want to discuss it anymore cause it was weird and off-putting. The only really false step I got while reading this.


"The Lovely Bones" is about 14 year old Susie Salmon who tells you about how she came to be raped and murdered. Her bones (the lovely bones in this story) are hidden and her family has to deal with the fallout from her disappearance. When a part of Susie is eventually found, her family then has to deal with knowing she is murdered and nver coming home. Sebold provides updates on via Susie about her family, the man who raped and murdered her, as well as a boy she had a crush on before her death.


Susie's character was heartbreaking. Reading about her rape and murder was awful. You want to reach into the pages and keep her safe. I kept wishing for a different ending while reading this book. When Susie is gone, her soul races off to her own personal heaven and from there she keeps an eye on things. Parts of the book made me cry a lot. Reading about Susie meeting and hanging out with her grandfather and the other friends she makes in heaven are wonderful. 


Susie's sister Lindsey is dealing with having suspicions on the man she believes killed her sister and trying to hold on to her family as they slowly disintegrate. The younger brother Buckley is having to adjust to having a family that he remembers before Susie disappeared to after where everything seems to be focused on her. 

I didn't really like Susie's mother. I get people act to grief in different ways, but how she chose to deal with things made me feel sad. I do applaud Sebold though for not trying to sugarcoat things and also for the family to not rush to bring her back into the family fold.


The writing was poetic at times. Sebold has a very strong grasp of words. I could picture everything that was happening perfectly (sometimes too perfectly). 


“My name is Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered.” 


“Murderers are not monsters, they're men. And that's the most frightening thing about them.” 


The flow for the most part was really good. Things just got slow towards the end in my opinion. You are just wanting to get to the end.


The setting of the book takes place in Pennsylvania in the 1970s and then through the next few decades. 


The ending comes for a whisper almost with Susie starting to move on, but still watching her family. She wishes the reader a long and happy life. 

A Day in the Life...

Sorry, haven't been posting much. Been reading tons, but I have turned into a lazy person about posting reviews. Currently reading the Alex Cooper series and screeching at it and finished two more Koontz books. 

My house still is a disaster. I had an insurance adjuster come by on Tuesday who examined everything so hopefully today or tomorrow I hear back and finally get funds released so I can get my house fixed. I am so sick of eating out it is not even a bit funny.


DC is weird right now. It feels like everyday a friend of mine is off to protest and I think I just hit peak fatigue because it doesn't feel like our Congress is going to do one blessed thing. Apparently checks and balances are dead as a door nail.


Some authors acted out on Twitter and I rolled my eyes. Linda already went into it on one of her posts. I was happy to see a lot of us online talking about reviews though. 


The last movie I saw was Ant Man and the Wasp. I have purposely been avoiding seeing anything else right now cause everything else looks eh to me.


Going to try to start posting more regularly and finishing up some lists. I am so behind. 

No Thank You! I Said Good Day Sir!

Fallout - Sara Paretsky

Okay let's start with the good, we get into the racial history of a town in Kansas. You can see how things were set up different for those who were white and black. If the book had managed to focus on that this would have been stronger. Instead, Paretsky throws in the military, hidden secrets about germ warfare, Russians (how topical), and the initial investigation seems to be lost in trying to tie into too many things in this town's past.


"Fallout" takes place entirely with VI in Lawrence, Kansas tracking down a man (August) that Bernie (Boom Boom's goddaughter) knows from her hockey teammate. Bernie asks VI to help find him since there was a break in at a gym he worked at and many people are starting to think he had something to do with it. When VI goes to work and finds out August left town to go with an aging African American actress to her hometown in Kansas to film her life, she follows. From there the book flails into a chaotic mess. 


VI is at a crossroads with her relationship with Jake. Yeah things looked great in the last book, but out of nowhere he has gone to Switzerland to play music for a year (I was so confused about this) and gets resentful of VI's job, her life, and her not following him. I hated we just got emails from this character with VI not doing anything to head off what is coming her way relationship wise.

VI's nosy neighbor is missing (thank goodness) and Lotty and Max are barely in this one. Unfortunately we have freaking Bernie showing up in this one again and I swear I loathe this character. I am not the only reviewer that cannot stand her. After this book she better not pop up in one of VI's cases again. 


The secondary characters we meet are interesting in this one. I did laugh at people pointing out that wherever VI went dead bodies or women in need were out there. Small towns are pretty hilarious. So kudos for Paretsky for capturing that in this book. I just wish the book had focused more on the town and the history. Throwing in the germ warfare and what happened in this town in the 80s (which is not believable) was a hard pillow to swallow. I just found myself rolling my eyes through most of this book. There was another big plot point (who was a character's father) that I could not with. I maybe slammed my Kindle at that point and turned on Netflix to watch Death in Paradise for a n hour. 

The writing was typical Paretsky, I just had issues with the logic leaps in this one as I said above. The flow was off mightily in this one though. The whole book felt draggy. Reading about VI trying to work out, or walking her dog (why was the dog even with her???) just became monotonous after a while. 


Moving the action from Chicago to Lawrence wasn't a problem for me. Just the way the plot unfolded. I like it when the main character is out of familiar surroundings. Makes the books more interesting when you get into a long running series like this.

I read an excerpt of the next book, "Shell Game" and it looks interesting. 

This Book Was Bonkers-Not in a Good Way

Brush Back (V.I. Warshawski) - Sara Paretsky

Besides the clever ending which gets at the title of the book, this one was a chore to get through. At first I thought a case tying things back to VI's family, specifically her cousin Boom Boom would be great. But after a while the whole thing sounded so freaking implausible I just could not. I also hated that we get a Petra stand in (Boom Boom's goddaughter Bernie) and Mr. Contreras was maddening. We also get a return of Bobby and Conrad (bah to him, I am glad that VI finally told him to let shit go) and the whole book felt endless. I think the big problem is that there were too many moving parts that didn't make a very cohesive plot. 


In "Brush Back" we have VI being asked by her ex-boyfriend (from high school) to look into his mother's murder case. More than decades has passed since Frank Guzzo's mother Stella went to jail for the murder of his sister Annie. Stella admits to beating Annie and going to bingo (as one does) but claims she was alive when she left. Things seem to be out of VI's hands after Stella refuses her help and acts like an asshole while doing so. When Stella accuses VI's dead cousin Boom Boom of murdering her daughter and her father covering it up, VI starts snooping to figure out who could have killed Annie if not Stella.


VI was rightfully riled up in this one. I like to see her mad and her investigation skills have not gotten rusty. She knows immediately her cousin could not have done this and starts pulling out threads about the Guzzo family. You also find out how hard things were for VI after her mother passed away and how some of the neighbors were jerks. I can see why she booked it out of South Chicago. 


We get familiar secondary characters in this one: Lotty, Max, Bobby, Conrad, VI's tenant she shares office space with, Mr. Contreas, Jake. We also get some new characters, VI's cousin's god daughter who is obviously a Petra stand-in. I didn't like her much in this book and loathed in the next book. She ends up being a pain in the ass and costs VI in both books cause she doesn't listen and swears she knows all. I hope that Paretsky poofs her in book number 19 (Shell Game).


I have to say though the plot doesn't make a lot of sense. The why behind people trying to set up Boom Boom was dumb as hell. If you met VI even once you have to know that threatening her or her family member's memories would not make her back off. Things don't tie together nicely and I have to say the ending was very frustrating/not believable things at all. VI can't just get people to always come out and rescue her and her doing this I am an independent woman who needs no one shtick. I wish she get a partner again, but looks like we won't see that happening anytime soon. 


Critical Mass- Most I Have Liked VI in a While

Critical Mass - Sara Paretsky

After the last book in the VI Warshawski series I was tempted to just leave the series alone. But I am a completionist at heart and finally just buckled and bought this book. This one actually hangs together very well. VI is focused on figuring out how a daughter of one of Lotty's childhood playmates is doing after it looks like she may be in danger. The plot revolves around that, pre and post War World II, and the arms race. There were so many lines in this book that I found myself loving.


"Critical Mass" has a 50 year old or 50 plus year old VI off to help a childhood friend of Lotty's daughter. Lotty actually washed her hands of the friend and though she tried to help the daughter, eventually gave up on that too. When VI shows up at a meth house, she finds a man dead (the scene described is stomach turning) and realizes the woman is missing. From there VI finds out the woman's son is also now missing and huge tech giant is scared he has stolen their plans and is out there selling  his secrets to the highest bidder.

VI does what she does best, asks questions, and goes investigating via libraries, the internet, and just using old fashioned intuition to put two and two together. She manages to once again find herself in a gun standoff (seriously that part is getting old) and once again has to deal with being so run down and tired but managing to push through. One wonders though when VI is going to just have to retire. I cannot see her still taking punches and getting shot in her 70s. It's already pushing realms of belief that she is able to walk after some of her run ins.

VI is still in a romance with Jake. I do like him and was surprised to see how well they mesh. 

The secondary characters of Lotty and Max were welcomed. I was so glad to see Petra (VI's cousin) banished to the Peace Corps. I wish Mr. Contreas would go with Petra. I don't see how a guy pushing 90 is even doing running around with VI.


The writing was good and of course we get some historical facts mixed in to make this more realistic. I do love that Paretsky has made VI an unapologetic feminist and pushes for more individual rights over the government, cops, and anyone that could oppress them. Even though these are fictional characters, reading about what the fictional Nazis did to people during the Holocaust was awful. 


The flow was actually pretty good in this one and I was able to follow the plot easily enough.


The setting of Chicago continues to surprise and Paretsky manages to make things fresh. 


There were some surprises here and there and the ending was a surprise. We find out a lot of secrets that even the main participants in this one didn't know. 

Not Terribly Cohesive, But Still Interesting Book

The Secrets of Ghosts - Sarah Painter

Well I got on a mini-magical realism kick and finished this book too. I read the first book in this series back in 2015. I gave that one (The Language of Spells) 3 stars, and the sequel to that is a strong three stars too. I think the main issue is that nothing really grabbed me in this one. I thought following both Gwen and Katie didn't really work this time. Gwen is dealing with trying to get pregnant and Katie is hell-bent on figuring out her Harper power. Katie is naive as anything for most of the book and I thought the ending was just so-so.


It's been 7 years since the events in the last book. Katie is now 21 years old and trying to still learn from Gwen so she can come into her Harper powers. Katie is a waitress at a private home turned hotel and is hoping that eventually she will be able to be like Gwen (wise woman that everyone seeks out in the village). When Katie finds a dead body her whole world gets turned upside down and she starts to have birds and ghosts talk to her. Gwen is troubled and hopes that there is someway to shut off Katie's powers since talking to ghosts is not a power anyone wants.


Katie is naive. She ends up liking a bad boy (with honestly no redeeming qualities) and does joint investigations with him as well as trying to figure out things solo. Even though Katie is warned her powers could be dangerous she doesn't care because she doesn't want to be seen as a kid and wants to be special and not ordinary like her mother. There was a lot going on there that I wish I had felt was resolved. I don't see what the big deal would be if Katie didn't have magical powers. And I have to say her "practicing" with Gwen didn't seem to be much of anything. I recall in book number one it didn't make much sense how the magic in this world works and it still doesn't.

We unfortunately don't get too spend much time with Gwen. Gwen is dealing with not being able to get pregnant and no spells or potions are helping. She is feeling lost and vulnerable. Her and her now husband Cam barely feel present in this one. Merely there to prop up Gwen.


The secondary characters are okay, just needed more developing. I was interested when I heard there were more witch families and how they try not to settle near each other cause things would happen. I wish that Painter had explored that more. 


The writing was okay, but the flow was off. I found myself getting bored and wanting the story to hurry up and finish already since it was a lot of Katie investigating, the guy she liked being "charming" and then her being mad that things were not working out how she wanted them.

The ending was interesting, we get to know a bit more about Katie's powers. But everything seemed a little too pat when we found out how much it could be costing Katie to use magic. 


I haven't seen a third book in this series appears, so am assuming that this is the final book. 

Garden Spells - - Magical Realism Done Very Well

Garden Spells - Sarah Addison Allen

Funny, I love this book, but honestly don't remember the last time I read it. After finishing "Garden Spells" I went and read book two in the Waverley family again so that was a nice and and two punch. Allen does magical realism very well. This book deals with a lot of serious issues, rape, abuse, bullying, and the eccentricities of a small but unusual southern town in North Carolina.


"Garden Spells" reunites estranged sisters, Claire and Sydney Waverley. Claire is single and alone making a go of her special catering business in Bascom, North Carolina. She has her whole world turned upside down when she meets a man, Tyler Hughes, who despite her best efforts is interested in her.


Sydney has left her abusive partner and taken her daughter Bay back home to Bascom. She has hated Bascom since she left it and never wanted to be one of the strange Waverley's. All she wanted to do was fit in. Still nursing heartbreak over the first boy she ever loved (and lost) Sydney starts to finally embrace being a Waverley.


The book focuses not just on Claire and Sydney though. We also have Allen including other characters as well, we follow Claire and Sydney's cousin Evanelle, Sydney's daughter Bay, an old friend (not really friend) of Sydney's, and even Tyler and a potential love interest for Sydney. Allen manages to juggle everyone and keep the plot moving forward. I didn't feel lost about who people were and how they were connected. We also got delicious little comments about which each family is famous for in this book and that was pretty cute. 


The writing is magical realism at it's best. Allen makes you feel, smell, and even taste things. If you do things right, you can make the magical elements seem totally natural and Allen does. We hear about the Waverley family home, apple tree, and even how Claire's emotions affect things like having fog in the neighborhood.


The flow was very good and the setting of Bascom felt very real.


Great first book in the series. 

Reading progress update: I've read 44%.

Garden Spells - Sarah Addison Allen

So far a very good book. Estranged sisters Claire and Sydney are doing what they can to be closer after Sydney returns home with her 5 year old daughter Bay. Sydney is on the run from an abusive marriage and returning to her hometown where she was made to feel strange is the only place she can go that she feels safe.

Claire is dealing with the man next door becoming interested in her and she wants him to stay away. She's doing what she can to help him along with that by cooking him food that should turn him away.


Sydney is dealing with old ghosts (old friends and a boyfriend). 


I love their aunt who apparently has a Waverly gift of giving people things for hidden reasons.