Book Review: The Sentinel by Lee Child and Andrew Child @LeeChildReacher @Andrew_Grant @DelacortePress

The Sentinel
A Jack Reacher Novel #25
Lee Child and Andrew Child
Delacorte Press, October 2020
ISBN 978-1-9848-1846-1
Hardcover

Jack Reacher is back.  This time the novel is written by Lee Child and his brother Andrew Child, who will be taking over writing Jack Reacher novels.  Andrew Child is a successful author in his own right having written nine mystery thrillers.

I was eager as always to catch up with Reacher, and more than a little curious to find out how this joint effort would fare.  I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed.

Reacher, on the road after helping out a group of four struggling musicians in Nashville, hitches a ride out of town with a young man who is heading to a small town of Pleasantville.

On arriving in Pleasantville, Reacher thanks his companion for the ride, and heads to the nearest diner.  As he crosses the street, he quickly senses that something criminal is about to go down.  His antenna is telling him that a man, who has just left the diner, is about to be kidnapped.

Reacher stops the potential kidnapping, but the local police aren’t impressed with his efforts.  As a result, Reacher and the potential victim are taken to the local precinct.  After some questioning, both men are released.  Rusty Rutherford, the man he helped, thanks Reacher and together they head to the diner.

Reacher asks Rusty why someone would want to kidnap him.  Rusty explains that the town is under a Ransomware attack.  A malicious computer program has been used to lock up the entire network in town and everyone blames him for the ongoing disruption.  Rusty was in charge of the system but was fired from his job and the whole town blame him for the current situation.

The perpetrators are demanding a huge ransom which is meantime being negotiated, but that doesn’t explain Rusty’s attempted abduction. Reacher believes there has to be more happening here. And of course there is.

There are good guys and bad guys and Reacher, in his inimitable fashion, creates as much chaos and upheaval as he can as he unravels the  truth. Suffice it to say there’s lots of action and intrigue along the way.

Check it out….

Respectfully submitted,

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, November 2020.

Book Review: For Better or Cursed by Kate Williams @DelacortePress @favouritepages

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Title: For Better or Cursed
Series: The Babysitters Coven #2
Author: Kate Williams
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: December 15, 2020
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Google Play
Amazon // Book Depository // Indiebound

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For Better or Cursed
The Babysitters Coven # 2
Kate Williams
Delacorte Press, December 2020
ISBN 978-0-525-70741-7
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Adventures in Babysitting meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer in this funny, action-packed sequel about a coven of witchy babysitters who realize their calling to protect the innocent and save the world from an onslaught of evil.

Esme Pearl’s life used to be all about bumming rides and babysitting. Sure, it wasn’t glamorous, but it was predictable. All that changed when Cassandra Heaven came to town, and they discovered their complicated, and connected, legacy: Esme and Cassandra are Sitters, supernaturally-gifted teens armed with an ever-changing grimoire of Sitter witchcraft to help them protect the innocent and keep evil demons at bay. You know, the typical teenage stuff.

But just as Esme is starting to adjust to–and maybe even like–her new normal, life lobs another glitter bomb her way. The Synod–the Sitterhood’s governing circle–has called a Summit, a once-in-a-generation gathering that promises training, education, and whole lot of ice-breakers.

Esme should be excited–a Summit might mean she can finally get the answers she desperately wants–but she can’t shake a building sense of panic. Especially since Cassandra’s not acting like herself; Esme’s dad is MIA; Pig is out of dog food; Janis is scared to be alone; and there’s a guy who seems too good to be true, again. Worst of all, it soon becomes clear, there’s no one watching the kids. It’s obvious the Summit is a haute mess, but will it be a deadly one, too?

You know the TV commercial for Geico that shows a group of teens trying to escape from a Michael Myers-esque killer and they choose to get behind the chainsaws instead of getting in the running car? I must have seen it a gazillion times and I still always chuckle, point being, this book’s description somehow made me think of that commercial. I was primed for some good, snarky laughs and Ms. Williams did not disappoint. Now, granted, some of the language is a bit rough but not excessively so especially when you consider that this is teens defending humanity from demons.

As you might expect when it comes to fighting evil, things don’t always go well and Cassandra is suffering some pretty important amnesia, leaving Esme not exactly on her own but definitely with a partner who’s not on top of her game. The timing for that isn’t great since their coven has to host the upcoming Summit and we all know that trouble is likely to ensue. It does, of course, but this is a fun read although I wish Esme were more aware of behavior that’s somewhat dismissive of Cassandra’s LGBTQ concerns; still, I have to remind myself that, as unenlightened as we might be today, it was worse in the 1990’s when this is set. Having said that, Cassandra has developed her own unpleasant ways so neither girl is entirely likeable. The pacing in this book is also a little slower than I like and, in fact, I think the plot takes a back seat to the characters.

Although I’m rarely bothered by not reading books in order, I do think it probably would have been best in this case and I recommend that anyone wanting to try this series start with the first one, The Babysitters Coven, to have a better understanding of how Esme and Cassandra came to be Sitters. After all, being a witch, even a good one, isn’t exactly “typical teenage stuff” 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2020.

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An Excerpt from For Better or Cursed

Chapter 1

The sun was setting, and up and down the street, I could see Christmas lights flicker on and blow-up snowmen fill with air. It was supposed to be festive, but I found it ominous, the snowmen especially. I’d seen demons that looked almost exactly like them, and now anything white and puffy automatically put me on guard. My breath billowed in front of me, and I pulled up the collar of my shearling-lined jacket, accidentally tugging it too close to my nose. I stifled a gag and immediately folded it back down.

The jacket was killer. It was pale-peach suede, had a ’70s Foxy Brown cut, and was about the warmest thing I owned. I’d found it at a thrift store the night before, and it was a serious score except it was dry-clean only. I thought I could get away with wearing it without spending more to have it cleaned than it actually cost, but nope. Breathe too deeply and I definitely got a whiff of weed, BO, and a third note I couldn’t identify. Maybe canned corn? I tried breathing through my mouth.

Cassandra wasn’t wearing a coat. Of course. Even in December. She sat next to me on the wooden bench, in just one of her brother’s hoodies over a flannel, her hair pulled back into a ponytail and anchored with a plain old rubber band. Cassandra doesn’t worry about split ends. She was gnawing on her thumbnail, making really gross sounds that were at odds with her I-sell-detox-tea-on-my-Instagram kind of beauty. Her right leg bounced at 180 bpm, and she spit a piece of nail onto the ground.

There were only three kids left on the playground, all bundled up like little marshmallows. Their shouts echoed off the school’s brick walls, and the swings made a metallic creak in the wind. The kids were taking turns throwing a red rubber ball at a basketball hoop, and one of the boys hurled the ball at the girl. She caught it and immediately turned and drop-kicked the ball away from him, sending it flying out into the playground. I stifled an urge to cheer her on.

“What do you think?” I asked.

“I swear it’s here,” Cassandra said. “It’s just weird that it’s waiting so long.”

Cassandra was right. It was here. I could tell by the sadness that tickled the edges of my mind, and the way I shivered more from disgust than the cold every time the air moved around me. It was the reason Cassandra was so nervous, even though we were about to do something that, in the past month, had become as routine to us as going to school or not doing homework. We’d been in its presence for a while now, and exposure to a Negative demon always brings nerves and despair. Even to Sitters.

On the basketball court, one of the little boys was on the ground crying, while the little girl stood over him doing some sort of dance and kicking at his shins, her dangling mittens giving her the appearance of having four hands. I was trying to decide whether I was still on her side when Cassandra jumped up and started running across the playground. I was right behind her, my eyes straining in the crepuscular light, to make out what she saw.

There. By the monkey bars. A Shimmer. Barely visible, but I saw it nonetheless, like a glitch in reality. I detoured to the basketball court and held up my hands, palms facing the kids. “Mnemokinesis!” I shouted at them. They stopped fighting and turned to look at me with blank stares, arms hanging limply at their sides. Cass and I now had five minutes to do what we needed to do before the spell wore off and the kids would remember everything they saw.

Except Cassandra had stopped, and she was bent over, staring at the ground. I caught up to her, my heart pounding. “Cass! Are you okay? What’s wrong?”

She looked up at me and smiled. Her pupils were huge, which made her dark eyes look like deep black holes. Her expression was peaceful. More than peaceful–euphoric. “Esme,” she said, her voice an excited hush. “Have you ever noticed there’s glitter in the concrete? Look at how it sparkles.” She reached down and ran a hand over the dirty ground. “We are literally walking on rainbows. A million tiny rainbows.”

What the?

“Are you serious?” I looked away from her as something flickered in the corner of my eye. Now that we were stationary, the Shimmer thought it was stalking us, and not the other way around. I looked back at Cassandra, and her expression shifted in a split second, like she’d just been snapped by a rubber band. She gave her head a quick shake and broke into a run again, jumping a merry-go-round in two strides. She collided with something midair and went pixelated as she crashed to the ground. Shoot. The Shimmer was on top of Cassandra, and her limbs were going in and out of focus as she thrashed. My breath caught in my throat as the Shimmer surrounded her head, lifting it like it was about to smash her skull against the teeter-totter.

I held out my palm and wedged my powers between Cassandra and the ground so the Shimmer was just pounding her into the air. The sensation disoriented the Shimmer enough that it loosened its grip for a second, and a second was all Cassandra needed to wrench free. She rolled away and pushed herself up to her knees, her palms held out in front of her. Instantly, the Shimmer erupted in a blaze. With it outlined in flames, I could see that it was as big as at least two jungle gyms. It let out a piercing hiss, and I clamped my hands over my ears.

Her fire bathed Cassandra in flickering orange light for an instant. Just as quickly as the flames appeared, they were out again. She’d put them out. She had one palm extended and was gripping something tightly in her other fist. She raised it, but in a split second the Shimmer swung and connected with her, knocking her through the air. I winced as she smacked against the monkey bars and she fell to the ground in a heap.

“Cassandra!” I yelled. “What are you doing?”

She was back up in no time, her fist raised again, and now I could see what she was holding: a rope I didn’t know she’d had. She unfurled a length of it behind her and started to swing it over her head. I was so confused that I stopped for a second. Was she trying to lasso this thing?

“Pin it!” she yelled back at me. “Don’t let it go!”

I glanced up. The Portal was here, swirling over the playground like a curdled latte, which meant we only had a few seconds to flush the Shimmer before the Portal closed again. Pinning the Shimmer and not letting it go was not part of the plan. “What?” I screamed back, but before I could do anything, Cassandra had swung the lasso. Only, instead of being pinned, the Shimmer caught the rope and gave it a hard yank, pulling Cass off her feet and toward it.

“What are you waiting for?” I screamed. “Torch it!” That was how we usually did this: she set something on fire, which disabled it just long enough for me to grab it and flush it into oblivion. But she was over there playing tug-of-war like we were at a barbecue, and the Shimmer seemed to be having a grand old time.

I glanced up. The Portal was already starting to shrink, and Cassandra was still cowgirling. I had to act. I held up a hand and took hold of the demon, then focused my energy and gave it the biggest, hardest yank I’ve ever given anything. And, crap, it weighed as much as a baby elephant. Who’d been snacking on Kälteen bars. I held out my other palm, as this was a two-powered-hands job. Cassandra was yelling something at me, but I couldn’t make it out. I sucked a breath in through my nose, and yanked.

I felt the Shimmer’s energy course through me. It was hot and angry and still writhing in pain, and I didn’t care one bit. I started to swing it around in a circle, gathering speed. With each swing, I grew more powerful and it got lighter. I looked back at the Portal, still burbling above us, and took aim. With a final swing, I let go of the Shimmer. It hurtled toward the swirl and sailed right through the middle. As it always did, the Portal flushed, a sound that never failed to send a rush through my body, from my eyebrows down to the tips of my toes.

Then I turned to Cassandra. “What the crap was that? Did you want it to stick around and hang out?” She wouldn’t meet my eyes as she stood there, dirty from the scuffle and trying to catch her breath. “And that whole walking-on-rainbows thing? When did you become a flower child?”

Her eyes locked on mine. “What are you talking about?” she said. She seemed genuinely confused, but I was not going to let her put me on the defensive.

“You were wasting all sorts of time out there!” I snapped. “And you got distracted by the concrete! Of all things.”

She was coiling the rope back up. “I just wanted to do it a bit differently this time.”

“And you didn’t think that this was something you should tell me?”

“It’s no big deal,” she said.

“Yes, it is, Cassandra,” I said. “It could have gotten loose. What were you trying to do, anyway? Tie it up?”

She turned and started to walk away from me. “I wanted to interrogate it,” she said. Which made such little sense that I needed her to repeat it.

“You wanted to do what to it?”

“Interrogate it,” she said. “You know, ask it some questions.”

I still didn’t get it. “I know what interrogate means, Cassandra,” I said. “But it’s a Shimmer. It doesn’t even have a mouth.” We passed a trash can and she tossed the rope in it. It landed on a bag of dog poop and a Wendy’s box. A bigger question hit me, and I stopped. “Wait, you wanted to talk to it?”

I stared at the back of her head as she kept walking. She reached up to redo her ponytail as she nodded, and I winced when she ripped the rubber band out of her hair, taking several strands with it. “What did you think it would say?” I asked, catching up to her. But she picked up her pace and I could tell she was starting to get annoyed with me.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I thought maybe we could learn something. Let’s drop it, okay? I won’t do it again.” Then she said something that really blew my mind. “I’m sorry.”

Wow. I had to play my cards right with this one. What she had just done was weird, there was no doubt about it, but it was also clear that she didn’t want to discuss it. She so seriously didn’t want to talk about it that she’d even apologized, which she never did. I wasn’t going to get anything more out of her, so sure, I’d drop it. For now, at least. It was hard to tell when Cassandra was being weird and when she was just being Cassandra. I did know that she kept her word, though, so if she said she wouldn’t do something again, she wouldn’t. But interrogate a demon? Maybe she’d been watching too many cop shows? “What about the sidewalk rainbows, though?” I asked, figuring that was at least a different subject.

“Huh?” she asked, looking over at me like I was the one not making any sense.

“Do you not remember that? Your pupils were huge. It looked like you were on a different planet.” Something flickered across her face, too fast for me to decipher it.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said, looking away from me and down the street. “I got really light-headed there for a minute. I didn’t really eat anything today.”

“Oh,” I said. “You should eat lunch. And breakfast.” She nodded. “Something with protein, like yogurt, or an egg . . .” Cassandra smirked.

“What’d you have for breakfast today?” she asked. I knew exactly what I’d had for breakfast: six Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and a venti iced coffee.

“Irrelevant,” I said, “as I’m not the one who had a . . .” I wasn’t sure what to call what had just happened to Cassandra. “Tripping balls” seemed most apt. “Episode,” I said finally. “In the middle of a Return. It did not seem like you were okay.”

“Thank you for your concern, Nutritionist Esme,” she said, reaching out to squeeze my shoulder. “I will make sure it doesn’t happen again.” Before either of us could say anything else about the subject, my phone started ringing. An incoming call from Jim Halpert, which is how I had Brian Davis–Cassandra’s and my Counsel, and also my dad’s best friend, hence the code name–saved in my phone. Brian always called me because he knew that Cassandra’s phone was usually broken, missing, or dead, and sometimes all three.

I answered and put him on speaker so Cassandra could hear too. “Hey,” I said. “What’s up?”

“Where are you?” he asked, his voice sounding more clipped and businesslike than usual.

“At the playground by Woodland Elementary,” I answered. “We just Returned a Shimmer.”

“Stay there,” he said. “I’m coming to get you.”

“It went well!” Cassandra called out. “Thanks for asking.” But Brian had already hung up.

“What do you think this is gonna be about?” I asked her.

She shrugged. “Something to do with his balls, probably.”

I nodded. She was probably right. Brian’s true passion was interior design, and he had a flair for mixing boho patterns and textiles with mid-century silhouettes. Overall, his style was very sophisticated and clean, yet it still felt cozy. But I digress, because Brian’s day job was as the football coach at our high school, and “his balls,” as Cassandra fittingly called them, stressed him out to no end. So much so that he neglected our training, which resulted in serious disaster. In the month or so since then, even though the Spring River Bog Lemmings (yep, the lemming is our school mascot) managed to close out the season and take home a trophy that they all spit in, or whatever it was you did with a trophy, Brian had been working overtime to get us up to speed. Which meant that Cassandra and I were working overtime too. We hadn’t planned to meet up to train tonight, so Brian’s urgent call was kind of a bummer. I was looking forward to a night off. I had plans. I mean, I was going to put a blackhead mask on my nose and watch the Versace American Crime Story for the fourth time. Those were plans, right?

Excerpted from For Better or Cursed by Kate M. Williams. Copyright © 2020 by Kate M. Williams. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Original Link: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/592191/for-better-or-cursed-by-kate-williams/

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About the Author

I’m the author of the YA novel The Babysitters Coven.

I also write for magazines, including Cosmopolitan, NYLON, Elle, Women’s Health, Shape, Time Out New York, Monster Children, Russh, Oyster, The Fader, NME, H&M, Smith Journal, Gather Journal, KnitWit, Popular, Style.com and more.

I have ghostwritten New York Times bestsellers, celebrity tell-alls, memoirs, how-tos, and beauty bibles (Shh…. I was never here, and you haven’t seen me.)

And, just ‘cause we’re still talking about me, I’ve also written windows, billboards, emails and captions, captions, captions for brands such as Urban Outfitters, Nasty Gal, Vans, Calvin Klein, Nike, Lively, BAGGU and more.

I love to write about witches, teenagers, girls behaving badly, palm trees, and other forms of magic. Teenage girl witches behaving badly under the palm trees is my penultimate subject.

AUTHOR LINKS

Website | Goodreads | Instagram

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

Win a physical copy of FOR BETTER OR CURSED
by Kate Williams (INT)

Starts: 23rd November 2020
Ends: 14th December 2020

Enter here.

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A Passel of Teeny Reviews, Part 5

Once again, big surprise, I find myself with
an overload of books read but not yet reviewed
so I think it’s time for a roundup or two…

Peachy Flippin’ Keen
Southern Eclectic #3
Molly Harper
Pocket Star, April 2018
ISBN 978-1-5011-7894-8
Ebook

Molly Harper has a ton of books but I had never “met” her until I came across the first book in this 4-book series and fell deeply, madly in love with Lake Sackett, Georgia, and the McCready clan, not to mention the folks in their town. These books are Southern fiction at it’s best and this novella is no exception. Nothing earthshattering happens here as it’s pretty much a set-up for the book coming out in June, Ain’t She a Peach (and I can hardly wait to start that one).

Frankie McCready has to be the cutest, most unusual county coroner and embalmer you ever did see but she fits right in with the family and the McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop which is exactly what the name says. One day, there’s a new lawman in town, Sheriff Eric Linden, fresh from Atlanta, and he apparently never read the Southern charm book. Pranks are being perpetrated on the McCready premises but it’s questionable whether the sheriff will help solve the case or drive Frankie to murder (of him) first. Then again, they did have a previous encounter so keeping that secret is one thing they have in common, probably the only thing. Can you guess where this is headed?

These books can be read out of order because each one focuses on different members of the family but, for a real treat, read these in order.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.

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Death Promise
Jacqueline Seewald
Encircle Publications, May 2018
ISBN 978-1-893035-94-2
Trade Paperback

On the surface, this sequel is a thriller involving human trafficking and organized crime as well as maybe Russians and international intrigue but, for me, the core story is that of Daniel Reiner and the family dysfunction that suddenly mushrooms when he learns he has a much younger teenaged sister, daughter of the father who abandoned him as a child. Who is Beth and is she truly his half-sister? International consultant Michelle Hallam agrees to help Daniel look into the situation but what they learn in Las Vegas sends them into a tornado of more and more questions with frightening answers. This is a nice blend of suspense and romance with lots of action to keep the pages turning.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.

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The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place
A Flavia de Luce Novel #9
Alan Bradley
Delacorte Press, January 2018
ISBN 978-0-345539991
Hardcover
Random House Audio
Narrated by Jayne Entwistle
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

Great sadness and a near-cliffhanger enveloped our cheeky pre-teen detective at the end of the previous book and fans had to wait, with huge anticipation, for this newest book to find out what would become of the de Luce family and its faithful servants, Dogger and Mrs. Mullet. When Aunt Felicity becomes overbearing and a bit of a bully, Flavia decides to do away with herself but Fate intervenes when Dogger suggests an outing, a boat trip on a nearby river. Is anyone surprised when Flavia quite literally catches a corpse, setting her off on another investigation?

Rumor has it the next book, The Golden Tresses of the Dead (January 2019), will be the last we see of Flavia but, oh my goodness, I hope not and the surprise at the end of The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place gives me a little bit of hope for her future. Who knew, back in 2009 when the series began, that so many mystery readers would fall in love with this kid?

As always, narrator Jayne Entwistle kept me entranced and, at times, sitting in the car in my driveway or a parking lot so I could continue to listen. I’ve said it before and it bears repeating: Jayne Entwistle brings Flavia to life and I highly, highly recommend the audiobooks and/or the print books (I do both so I won’t miss anything) but reading in order is a must.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.

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The Library Ghost of Tanglewood Inn
A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Short Story
Gigi Pandian
Henery Press, November 2017
ISBN 978-1-63511-314-3
Ebook

“Jaya, for the love of all that’s good and holy, please remember that not everything is a murderous plot.”

With that, Jaya and Tamarind (the latter wearing stylish purple combat boots) are rescued from the Denver airport in a snowstorm by a pair of friendly guys and are soon ensconced at a Victorian hotel, the Tanglewood Inn. Did Jaya really see someone at the window of the turret room she’s been assigned? Kenny thinks the hotel is perfect but it puts Jaya more in mind of a spooky haunted house. Sure enough, the owner, Rosalyn, shares the tale of her hotel library’s “avenging ghost”.  A former guest, a Mr. Underhill, died there in the 1930’s and an Agatha Christie book had something to do with it in a classic locked room mystery.

And then they hear a scream in the night…

I’m already a devotee of Jaya’s historic treasure hunting adventures and this little story is a perfect interlude before the next novel. Besides, who could ask for more than a locked room mystery?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.

Book Review: The Truth Beneath the Lies by Amanda Searcy

Continue reading

Book Review: No Middle Name by Lee Child

No Middle Name
The Complete Collected Jack Reacher Stories
Lee Child
Delacorte Press, May 2017
ISBN 978-0-3995-9357-4
Hardcover

From the publisher:  Lee Child’s iconic anti-hero Jack Reacher is the stuff made of legend – a larger-than-life man who is “loved by women, feared by men, and respected by all”.  Now, following twelve consecutive #1 New York Times bestsellers, Child offers the ultimate Reacher reading experience . . . which includes an exciting, all-new Reacher novella, as well as Child’s eleven previously published short stories featuring Reacher. This pulse-pounding collection marks the first time that all of Lee Child’s short fiction starring Reacher has been available in the same place at the same time.  No Middle Name begins with “Too Much Time,” a new work of short fiction that finds Reacher in a hollowed-out town in Maine, where he witnesses a random bag-snatching but sees much more than a simple crime.  In his trademark tight and propulsive prose, Child sets Reacher and his “lizard brain” off for a case where there is more than meets the eye – and Reacher, as always, won’t rest until a wrong is righted.

The longest of these tales runs 68 pages, with most falling between 36 and 53 pages in length, the shortest running 4, 6, 10 and 11, but no matter the brevity or length, these are all tales of Jack Reacher, and that’s pretty much all it takes to make it a must read.  The very first, referred to in the previous quoted paragraph, was written contemporaneously, in 2017; the others between 1999 and 2016.  Reacher’s brother, Joe, makes an appearance more than once, which I found very interesting (Joe has been in previous books).  As readers know, Reacher is a military cop, at present 35 years old, a major with twelve years in, with rare attributes:  He is brilliant, with admirable reserves of intelligence and strengths (both mental and physical, at 6’ 5” and 250 pounds.   In one of the tales, which takes place in Paris, Reacher is 13 years old; in another, he is 16, and in another he is approaching 17.  One story is in Georgia, in 1989.  A few of the stories take place in New York City, primarily in sites in or around area bars in Greenwich Village.  (In another, Shea Stadium is referenced, with, unfortunately, the Mets losing to the Cubs by two to one.  (Full disclosure: I am a die-hard Mets fan.)  But Yankee Stadium gets a mention as well, although without a game in progress.)  And two of the tales take place on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, interestingly.

So obviously there is a wide range of geography and time found here, but the most (only?) crucial thing can be summed up in two words:  “Child” and “Reacher.”  And what could be better than that?

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, May 2017.

Book Reviews: Night School by Lee Child and The Second Life of Nick Mason by Steve Hamilton

Night School
A Jack Reacher Novel #21
Lee Child
Delacorte Press, November 2016
ISBN 978-0-041-7880-8
Hardcover

From the publisher:  It’s 1996, and Reacher is still in the army.  In the morning they give him a medal, and in the afternoon they send him back to school.  That night he’s off the grid. Out of sight, out of mind. Two other men are in the classroom – – an FBI agent and a CIA analyst.  Each is a first-rate operator, each is fresh off a big win, and each is wondering what the hell they are doing there.  Then they find out:  A Jihadist sleeper cell in Hamburg, Germany, has received an unexpected visitor – – a Saudi courier, seeking safe haven while waiting to rendezvous with persons unknown. A CIA asset, undercover inside the cell, has overheard the courier whisper a chilling message: “The American wants a hundred million dollars.”  For what?  And who from?  Reacher and his two new friends are told to find the American.  Reacher recruits the best soldier he has ever worked with:  Sergeant Frances Neagley.  Their mission heats up in more ways than one, while always keeping their eyes on the prize:  If they don’t get their man, the world will suffer an epic act of terrorism.  From Langley to Hamburg, Jalalabad to Kiev, Night School moves like a bullet through a treacherous landscape of double crosses, faked identities, and new and terrible enemies, as Reacher maneuvers inside the game and outside the law.

Reacher is an imposing figure.  He is a military cop, 35 years old, a major with twelve years in, with rare attributes:  He is brilliant, with admirable reserves of intelligence and strengths (both mental and physical, at 6’ 5” and 250 pounds).   He thinks of himself as “a good street fighter.  Mostly because he enjoyed it.”  He thinks of his new “assignment” as a cooperation school, these disparate government agencies not known for getting along well together.  When the men fly to Hamburg, Reacher thinks:  “He had dealt with German cops before.  Both military and civilian.  Not always easy.  Mostly due to different perceptions. Germans thought they had been given a country, and Americans thought they had bought a large military base with servants.”  The identity of their primary target, known only as The American, is not known till 160 pages in, and the item[s] being sold not known until page 300.  We are reminded of the callous mindset when one character says “soccer wasn’t so bad. He had once seen it played with a human head.”

The book is intricately and meticulously plotted.  It was different from prior books in the series in that it is not as taut and edge-of-your-seat as previous entries, but the reader is carried along from beginning to end, just somewhat more sedately.  It is trademark Lee Child/Jack Reacher, however, and is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, December 2016.

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The Second Life of Nick Mason
Steve Hamilton
Putnam, May 2016
ISBN 978-0-3995-7432-0
Hardcover

From the publisher:  A career criminal from Chicago’s South Side, Nick Mason got his start stealing cars and quickly graduated to safe-cracking and armed robbery.  But he left that life behind when he met and married his wife and settled down with her and their young daughter – until an old friend offered him a job he couldn’t refuse.  That fateful night at the harbor landed him in prison with a 25-to-life sentence and little hope of seeing his wife or daughter ever again.  When Nick is offered a deal allowing his release twenty years ahead of schedule, he takes it without hesitation or fully realizing the consequences.  Once outside, Nick steps into a glamorous life with a five-million-dollar condo, a new car, ten grand in cash every month, and a beautiful roommate. But while he’s returned to society, he’s still a prisoner, bound to the promise he made behind bars:  whenever his cell phone rings, day or night, Nick must answer it and follow whatever order he is given.  It’s the deal he made with Darius Cole, a criminal mastermind serving a double-life term who still runs an empire from his prison cell.  Whatever Darius Cole needs him to be – – a problem solver, bodyguard, thief, or assassin – – Nick Mason must be that man.  Forced to commit increasingly dangerous crimes and relentlessly hunted by the detective who brought him to justice in the past, Nick finds himself in a secret war between Cole and an elite force of Chicago’s dirty cops.  Desperate to go straight and rebuild his life with his daughter and ex-wife, Nick will ultimately have to risk everything – – his family, his sanity, and even his life – – to finally break free.

How does Nick resolve this second life he is now forced to live?  The manner in which he does so is revealed in this fascinating novel by Steve Hamilton, and the suspenseful way he accomplishes it is typical of what we have come to expect from this author, in this newest page-turner, just the first in a new series.  It goes against anything Nick had believed in:  Although admittedly involved with several kinds of illegal acts, he had never – and believed he never could – taken another man’s life.  But after five years and twenty-eight days in prison, and with the hope of re-starting his life with his beloved Gina and their little girl, he would do almost anything.  The book opens with quotes from two very different sources: Nathaniel Hawthorne and Bruce Springsteen.  But expect the unexpected from this wonderful author.  I was delighted to learn that the next book in the series, Exit Strategy, will be published by Putnam in May, and I can’t wait to read it!   The Second Life of Nick Mason is, you will have guessed, highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, February 2017.

A Few Teeny Reviews

thrice-the-brinded-cat-hath-mewdThrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d
A Flavia de Luce Mystery #8
Alan Bradley
Delacorte Press, September 2016
ISBN 978-0-345539960
Hardcover
Audible
Unabridged Downloaded Audio Book
Narrated by Jayne Entwistle

From the publisher—

In spite of being ejected from Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy in Canada, twelve-year-old Flavia de Luce is excited to be sailing home to England. But instead of a joyous homecoming, she is greeted on the docks with unfortunate news: Her father has fallen ill, and a hospital visit will have to wait while he rests. But with Flavia’s blasted sisters and insufferable cousin underfoot, Buckshaw now seems both too empty—and not empty enough. Only too eager to run an errand for the vicar’s wife, Flavia hops on her trusty bicycle, Gladys, to deliver a message to a reclusive wood-carver. Finding the front door ajar, Flavia enters and stumbles upon the poor man’s body hanging upside down on the back of his bedroom door. The only living creature in the house is a feline that shows little interest in the disturbing scene. Curiosity may not kill this cat, but Flavia is energized at the prospect of a new investigation. It’s amazing what the discovery of a corpse can do for one’s spirits. But what awaits Flavia will shake her to the very core.

My favorite pre-teen sleuth (although this is not a series targeting young readers) is back home in England at her beloved Buckshaw but her return from Canada is not a completely happy one what with her father lying very ill in the hospital. At loose ends, Flavia goes in search of something to occupy her mind and a dead body is just the ticket. As precocious as ever, Flavia sets out to prove that this was murder but she’s unprepared for a shattering event. Not precisely a cliffhanger, this event makes me want the next book yesterday.

As always, narrator Jayne Entwistle is Flavia de Luce to a “T” and kept me captivated from beginning to end.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2016.

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michelangelos-ghostMichelangelo’s Ghost
A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery #4
Gigi Pandian
Henery Press, October 2016
ISBN 978-1-63511-069-2
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

A lost work of art linking India to the Italian Renaissance. A killer hiding behind a centuries-old ghost story. And a hidden treasure in Italy’s macabre sculpture garden known as the Park of Monsters… When Jaya’s old professor dies under eerie circumstances shortly after discovering manuscripts that point to a treasure in Italy’s Park of Monsters, Jaya and her brother pick up the trail. From San Francisco to the heart of Italy, Jaya is haunted by a ghost story inexorably linked to the masterpieces of a long-dead artist and the deeds of a modern-day murderer. Untrustworthy colleagues, disappearing boyfriends, and old enemies—who can Jaya trust when the ghost wails?

Jaya Jones is one of the most appealing protagonists I’ve come across in recent years and each book is better than the last. She’s an academic, an historian interested in unique artifacts, and she loves chasing after treasures even though she’s usually reluctant at first. In short, Jaya is a modern-day Indiana Jones, just not quite as much over the top, and I love her for that. Adventure is just around every corner and I happily go along with her on every treasure hunt.  Of course, there’s a mystery or two or three to be solved, including the question of how her former professor died, and having her brother and his girlfriend along this time adds to the entertainment. Oh, and the cherry on top is the secret romance between Jaya and Lane, the man with a thieving past. All in all, Michelangelo’s Ghost is a tale not to be missed.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2016.

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the-stranger-gameThe Stranger Game
Cylin Busby
Balzer + Bray, October 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-235460-0
Hardcover

From the publisher—

When Nico Morris’s older sister mysteriously disappears, her parents, family, and friends are devastated. But Nico can never admit what she herself feels: relief at finally being free of Sarah’s daily cruelties.

Then the best and worst thing happens: four years later, after dozens of false leads, Sarah is found.

But this girl is much changed from the one Nico knew. She’s thin and drawn, when Sarah had been golden and athletic; timid and unsure, instead of brash and competitive; and strangest of all, sweet and kind, when she had once been mean and abusive. Sarah’s retrograde amnesia has caused her to forget almost everything about her life, from small things like the plots of her favorite books and her tennis game to the more critical—where she’s been the last four years and what happened at the park on the fateful day she vanished. Despite the happy ending, the dark details of that day continue to haunt Nico, and it becomes clear that more than one person knows the true story of what happened to Sarah. . . .

There isn’t anything more devastating than the disappearance of a child, the not knowing and the endless questions, but how much worse is it when a family member is not entirely sorry that child is gone? Nico is a normal young girl who misses Sarah and yet can’t help feeling relief that she doesn’t have to contend with her sister’s bullying and meanness anymore but, of course, that natural reaction is loaded with guilt. How Nico and her parents cope and her feelings of inadequacy because she can’t fill the gaping hole are an engaging study in how the ones left behind handle…or don’t…such a terrible scenario. When Sarah miraculously returns, Nico’s search for the truth ratchets up the tension and leads to almost unbearable suspense.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2016.