September & October 2017 Reads

Well….. it’s obviously been awhile 😦 September saw a HUGE reading slump…. I went from reading anywhere from 6-9 books to a whopping 3 in September…. October wasn’t that much better….. Here’s to hoping November is better 🙂

So I’ll do a quick mini-review round up of my September and October reads. It’s so impressive, I tell ya …. ::eyeroll::

Sate of the Onion
Title: State of the Onion
Author: Julie Hyzy
Read: Sept. 3-6, 2017
Pages: 325
Source: Paperbackswap
Rating: 4/5

Thoughts: This is the first in the White House Chef Mystery series …. it was a fun read that I enjoyed! It was cute, but not cutesie …. if that makes sense? I definitely am looking forward to reading the next book in the series!

Where They Found Her
Title: Where They Found Her
Author: Kimberly McCreight
Read: Sept. 10-19, 2017
Pages: 326
Source: Purchased New
Rating: 4/5

Thoughts: So this one I found in the bargain bin at Barnes & Noble. I had my eye on it when it first came out because I had read and LOVED her previous book, Reconstructing Amelia, so I think I had high hopes for this one. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t grab me right off the bat and I struggled to really get into it. And when it was all revealed in the end, it wasn’t as surprising as I had hoped for. So good, but not great.
Obstruction of Justice
Title: Obstruction of Justice
Author: Perri O’Shaughnessy
Read: Sept. 20-29, 2017
Pages: 512
Source: Paperbackswap
Rating: 4/5

Thoughts: This is the 3rd book in the Nina Reilly series. I have read and enjoyed the previous two so I was looking forward to this one! I enjoyed it and it definitely left me wanting to read the fourth book … if only they weren’t so long, I often find myself too intimidated by longer books these days….
Her Last Breath
Title: Her Last Breath
Author: Linda Castillo
Read: Oct. 2-5, 2017
Pages: 320
Source: Paperbackswap
Rating: 4/5

Thoughts: This is the 5th book in the Kate Burkholder series. I read and LOVED the first 4 in 2016 and had tried to pick this one up shortly after I read the 5th, but realized that I was a little burned out on the series. In fact, I can recall feeling like the books were all too similar to each other. So I set it aside and decided I’d come back to it later. Apparently a year later I decided it was time …. I’m glad I waited because I thoroughly enjoyed it! I had no trouble jumping right back into Kate’s life and I can’t wait to see where her and Tomasetti go in the future. I definitely recommend this series!
Pop Goes the Weasel
Title: Pop Goes the Weasel 
Author: M.J. Arlidge
Read: Oct. 8-13, 2017
Pages: 390
Source: Paperbackswap
Rating: 3/5

Thoughts: I read the first book in this series, Eeny Meeny,  back in January of this year and I absolutely adored it! So I had high hopes for this one, but I wanted to let it sit for awhile (series burnout is real!) … and while I did enjoy this one, it definitely didn’t grab me as fast as the first book did. It was gruesome and a roller coaster ride, but I felt like it was a letdown from the first book. Yet I still want to continue on with this series, so it wasn’t terrible either. A solid thriller.
Beautiful Storm
Title: Beautiful Storm 
Author: Barbara Freethy
Read: Oct. 6-25, 2017
Pages: 321
Source: B&N Serial Reads
Rating: 3/5

Thoughts: This book was October’s selection for Barnes & Noble’s Serial Reads…. I don’t read a lot of romantic suspense, mainly because I don’t read a lot of romance. So I was a little unsure going into this one, but I was immediately intrigued by the storyline – the missing person’s case. If only it had been a little more on the intrigue and less on the romance (which really, wasn’t overbearing honestly…) it would have been a lot more interesting to me. So not something I would ever pick up on my own, but definitely a decent freebie read.
Winter Prey
Title: Winter Prey
Author: John Sandford
Read: Oct. 21-27, 2017
Pages: 400
Source: Paperbackswap
Rating: 4/5

Thoughts: I remember very clearly thoroughly loving the previous book in this series, Silent Prey, so I was looking forward to getting to this 5th book in the Lucas Davenport series. Why did I wait so long between books?!? I really enjoyed this book. It was so creepy and suspenseful. I know I’m only on the 5th book in the series, but other than #2 they’ve all been home runs for me! Definitely makes me look forward to continuing on sooner rather than later!

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Review: Beastly by Alex Flinn

Beastly
by Alex Flinn

Beastly

Copyright: 2007

Pages: 336

Read: May 5-25, 2017

Rating: 3/5

Source: Barnes & Noble Serial Reads

 

 

BlurbI am a beast.

A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright—a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.

You think I’m talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It’s no deformity, no disease. And I’ll stay this way forever—ruined—unless I can break the spell.

Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I’ll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly.


Review: This book was the title featured on Barnes & Noble’s Serial Reads for the month of May. I was really hesitant to start it to be honest, it’s completely outside of my comfort zone. Not only is this book a YA, it’s also a fairy tale re-telling. I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy this … I mean how many ways can Beauty and the Beast really be spun? But I figured it was free and if I didn’t like it I could always walk away from it.

Since I’m reviewing it here, I obviously finished it. It was a cute read for the most part. You could definitely tell it was a little dated (MySpace?!?) and more juvenile than I normally read. But overall it wasn’t a bad book. It was a pretty standard re-telling in my opinion. But there was just enough there to make it feel a little more original.

Not a bad book, but probably not one that will be very memorable for me in the long run. But it was good to read something out of my comfort zone. I’d recommend it if you’re into young adult and/or re-tellings.

 

Review: The Outsiders by Anthony Franze

The Outsiders
by Anthony Franze

The Outsider

Copyright: 2017

Pages: 320

Read: March 1-6, 2017

Rating: 4/5

Source: Partners in Crime book tour

Blurb: A young law clerk finds himself caught in the crosshairs of a serial killer in this breathtaking thriller set in the high-pressure world of the Supreme Court, from renowned lawyer Anthony Franze.

Things aren’t going well for Grayson Hernandez. He just graduated from a fourth-tier law school, he’s drowning in student debt, and the only job he can find is as a messenger. The position stings the most because it’s at the Supreme Court, where Gray is forced to watch the best and the brightest―the elite group of lawyers who serve as the justices’ law clerks—from the outside.

When Gray intervenes in a violent mugging, he lands in the good graces of the victim: the Chief Justice of the United States. Gray soon finds himself the newest—and unlikeliest—law clerk at the Supreme Court. It’s another world: highbrow debates over justice and the law in the inner sanctum of the nation’s highest court; upscale dinners with his new friends; attention from Lauren Hart, the brilliant and beautiful co-clerk he can’t stop thinking about.

But just as Gray begins to adapt to his new life, the FBI approaches him with unsettling news. The Feds think there’s a killer connected to the Supreme Court. And they want Gray to be their eyes and ears inside One First Street. Little does Gray know that the FBI will soon set its sights on him.

Racing against the clock in a world cloaked in secrecy, Gray must uncover the truth before the murderer strikes again in this thrilling high-stakes story of power and revenge by Washington, D.C. lawyer-turned-author Anthony Franze.


Review: I was immediately intrigued by the description of this book when I was pitched it. I don’t accept a lot of review books anymore, so a book has to really draw me in immediately for me to accept it for review. For some reason this book really caught my eye. And I thoroughly enjoyed it!!

I enjoy legal thrillers in general. But this one was different – coming from the perspective of a law clerk for the Supreme Court. It gave a really interesting insight into the Supreme Court, something that seems to be somewhat shrouded in mystery and intrigue in my opinion. I took to the characters immediately. They were well-developed and each provided meaningful substance to the storyline.

I’m glad that I read this book and introduced myself to Mr. Franze. I will definitely be keeping my eyes open for any future books because he’s a very talented writer. I highly recommend this book. It would probably help to enjoy legal thrillers, but I still think the target audience would be any suspense fans. Very good book that left me wanting more!!

I was provided a copy of this book for free in conjunction with Partners in Crime Book Tours in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts expressed are my own.


Book Details:

Genre: Legal Thriller
Published by: St. Martin’s Press | Minotaur Books
Publication Date: March 21, 2017
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 1250071666 (ISBN13: 9781250071668)
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗


Anthony Franze.jpgAuthor Bio:

ANTHONY FRANZE is a lawyer in the Appellate and Supreme Court practice of a prominent Washington, D.C. law firm, and a critically acclaimed thriller writer with novels set in the nation’s highest court. Franze has been a commentator on legal and Supreme Court issues for The New Republic, Bloomberg, National Law Journal, and other major media outlets. He is a board member and a Vice President of the International Thriller Writers organization.

Franze lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family.

Catch Up with Anthony on his Website 🔗 &  Facebook 🔗.


Giveaway

There is a giveaway in conjunction with this tour! Please click HERE to enter for your chance to win a $20.00 Amazon.com gift card.


Excerpt

PROLOGUE

When her computer pinged, Amanda Hill ignored it. This late at night, she shouldn’t have, but she did.

All her energy was focused on tomorrow’s closing argument. Her office was dark, save the sharp cone of light from the desk lamp. She’d waited for everyone to leave so she could run through her final words to the jury. So she could practice as she’d done a thousand times, pacing her office in front of imaginary jurors, explaining away the evidence against the latest criminal mastermind she’d been appointed to represent. This one had left prints and DNA, and vivid images of the robbery had been captured by surveillance cameras.

She glanced out her window into the night. Normal people were home tucking in their children, watching a little TV before hitting the sack. Her little girl deserved better. She should call to check in, but she needed to get the closing done. Amanda’s mother was watching Isabelle, and her mom would call if she needed anything.

There was another ping. Then another. Irritated, Amanda reached for the mouse and clicked to her email. The subject line grabbed her attention:

URGENT MESSAGE ABOUT YOUR MOTHER AND ISABELLE!

Amanda opened the email. Strange, there was no name in the sender field. And the message had only a link. Was this one of those phishing scams?

She almost deleted it, but the subject line caught her eye again. Her seven year old’s name.

Her cursor hovered over the link— then she clicked. A video appeared on the screen. The footage was shaky, filmed on a smartphone. The scene was dark, but for a flashlight beam hitting a dirty floor. Then a whisper: “You have thirty minutes to get here or they die.”

A chill slithered down Amanda’s back. This was a joke, right? A sick joke? She moved the mouse to shut down the video, but the flashlight ray crawled up a grimy wall and stopped on two figures. Amanda’s heart jumped into her throat. It was her mother and Isabelle. Bound, gagged, weeping.

“Dupont Underground,” the voice hissed. “Thirty minutes. If you call the police, we’ll know. And they’ll die.”

The camera zoomed in on Isabelle’s tear-streaked face. Amanda’s computer began buzzing and flashing, consumed by a tornado virus.

Amanda drove erratically from her downtown office to Dupont Circle. She kept one eye on the road, the other on her smartphone that guided her to the only address she could find for “Dupont Underground,” the abandoned street trolley line that ran under Washington, D.C.

Her mind raced. Why was this happening? It didn’t make sense. It couldn’t be a kidnapping for ransom. She had no money— she was a public defender, for Christ’s sake. A disgruntled client? No, this was too well organized. Too sophisticated. Common criminals, Amanda knew from her years representing them, were uneducated bumblers, not the type to plan out anything in their lives, much less something like this.

She checked the phone. She had only fifteen minutes. The GPS said she’d be there in five. She tried to calm herself, control her breathing. She should call the police. But the warning played in her head: We’ll know. And they’ll die.

She pulled over on New Hampshire Avenue. The GPS said this was the place, but she saw no entrance to any underground. It was a business district. Law firms and lobby shops locked up for the night. She looked around, panicked and confused. There was nothing but a patch of construction across the street. Work on a manhole or sewer line. Or trolley entrance. Amanda leapt from her car and ran to the construction area. A four-foot-tall rectangular plywood structure jutted up from the sidewalk. It had a door on top, like a storm cellar. The padlock latch had been pried open, the wood splintered. Amanda swung open the door and peered down into the gloom.

She shouldn’t go down there. But she heard a noise. A muffled scream? Amanda pointed her phone’s flashlight into the chasm. A metal ladder disappeared into the darkness. She steeled herself, then climbed into the opening, the only light the weak bulb on her phone. When she reached the bottom, she stood quietly, looking down the long tunnel, listening. She heard the noise again and began running toward it.

That’s when she heard the footsteps behind her. She ran faster, her breaths coming in rasps, the footfalls from behind keeping pace. She wanted to turn and fight. She was a god-damned fighter. “Amanda Hill, The Bitch of Fifth Street,” she’d heard the defendants call her around the courthouse. But the image of Isabelle and her mother’s faces, their desperation, drew her on.

The footsteps grew closer. She needed to suppress the fear, to find her family.

The blow to the head came without warning and slammed her to the ground. There was the sound of a boot stomping on plastic and the flashlight on her phone went out. The figure grabbed a fistful of her hair and dragged her to a small room off the tunnel. She was gasping for air now.

A lantern clicked on. Amanda heard the scurrying of tiny feet. She saw the two masses in the shadows and felt violently ill: her mother and Isabelle. Soiled rags stuffed in their mouths, hands and feet bound. Next to them the silhouette of someone spray-painting on the wall.

Amanda sat up quickly, and a piercing pain shot through her skull. She averted her eyes, hoping it was all a nightmare. But a voice cut through the whimpering of her family.

“Look at them!” Amanda lifted her gaze. She forced a smile, feigned a look of optimism, then mouthed a message to her daughter: It’s okay. Everything’s going to be okay.

It was a lie, of course. A godforsaken lie.

CHAPTER 1

Grayson Hernandez walked up to the lectern in the well of the U.S. Supreme Court. He wasn’t intimidated by the marble columns that encased the room or the elevated mahogany bench where The Nine had been known to skewer even the most experienced advocates. He calmly pulled the lever on the side of the lectern to adjust its height, a move he’d learned watching the assistant solicitor generals showing off. He stood up straight and didn’t look down at any notes; the best lawyers didn’t use notes. And he began his oral argument.

“Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the court—” He was immediately interrupted, not uncommon since the justices on average asked more than one hundred questions in the half hour of oral argument allotted to each side. But the voice, which rang though the chamber, wasn’t from a justice of the highest court in the land.

“I’ve told you before, Gray, you can’t be in here.” The beam of a flashlight cut across the empty courtroom. Gray held up a hand to shield his eyes. He smiled at the Supreme Court Police officer making his nightly rounds.

“Someday, counselor,” the officer said. “But for now you might wanna focus on getting the nightlies delivered.” The officer swung the ray of light to Gray’s messenger cart filled with the evening’s mail.

Gray waved at the officer, and returned to his cart. The wheel squeaked as he rolled it out of the courtroom and into the marble hallway.

In Chief Justice Douglas’s chambers, two law clerks were sitting in the reception area, fifteen feet apart, tossing a football between them. They seemed punchy, wired after a long day at the office, talking about one of the court’s cases.

“A high school has no right to punish a kid for things he says off school grounds. The court needs to finally say so,” one of the clerks said. He was a stocky blond guy. Gray thought his name was Mike. Mike spiraled the ball to the other clerk who looked kind of like a young JFK.

“You’re high if you think the chief is going to side with the student,” JFK said, catching the ball with a loud snap. “You upload a violent rap song on YouTube saying your math teacher is sexually harassing students, you’re gonna get suspended.”

“Even if it’s true?” Mike said. The Supreme Court had thirty-six law clerks, four per justice. It was an internship like no other, promising young lawyers not only a ticket to any legal job in the country, but also the chance to leave their fingerprints on the most important legal questions of the day. The current clerks were all in their late twenties, the same age as Gray, but that’s where the similarities ended. Like the two throwing the ball, almost all were white, from affluent backgrounds. Gray didn’t think there were any Mexican Americans in the clerk pool, and certainly none who grew up in gritty Hamilton Heights, D.C. They’d all gone to Harvard or Yale or institutions that, unlike Gray’s law school, had ivy instead of graffiti on their walls. And they certainly weren’t delivering mail.

Gray nodded hello as he lifted the stacks of certiorari petitions out of his cart and dropped them in the metal in-boxes for the chief ’s clerks.

Mike looked at Gray. “No, not more petitions, I’m begging you.” Gray smiled, but didn’t engage. His boss in the marshal’s office had a rule when it came to the justices and their law clerks: Speak only when necessary.

The ball whizzed across the reception area again. “Is it printed yet?” JFK asked. “I wanna get out of here.” He looked over to the printer, which was humming and spitting out paper. Gray worked tw night shifts a week, and there usually were no less than a dozen clerks still in the office. Theirs was a one-year gig, but they worked as if the justices wanted to squeeze five years out of them.

“It won’t take long,” Mike said. “It’s a short memo, and I just want someone who’s a disagreeable ass to point out any soft spots before I turn it into the chief.”

“You’re wasting your time. He’s never gonna side with the student, he—”

“This case is no different than Tinker v. Des Moines Schools,” Mike countered. “The court said disruptive speech at school could be punished, but not speech made off school grounds. Off-campus speech, including posting something on YouTube, should be covered by the First Amendment just like everything else. It’s none of the school’s business.”

JFK gave a dismissive grunt. “A rap expert from Greenwich, Connecticut, I love it.”

Mike threw the ball hard at his co-clerk. “Hey,” JFK said, shaking off the sting after reeling in the throw. “I’m just saying, the Tinker case was decided in the late sixties. You can’t apply it in the digital world. You’re in an ivory tower if you think the chief will blindly follow Tinker.”

Gray pretended not to listen, but he lingered, enjoying the intellectual banter.

The ball flew by again. “Ivory tower?” Mike said. “Fine, let’s ask an everyman.” He pointed the football at Gray. “Hey, Greg, can we ask you something?”

Mike had once asked Gray his name, a regular man of the people.

“It’s Gray.”

“Sorry. Gray. We have a question: Do you think if a high school student is off campus and posts something offensive on social media a school can punish him for it?”

JFK chimed in: “It’s not just posting something offensive. It’s a profanity-laden rap that accuses a teacher of sexually harassing students and threatens to ‘put a cap’ in the guy.”

Gray pondered the question as he retrieved mail from the outboxes. “I agree with what Murderous Malcolm said about the case.” The clerks shot each other a look. That morning the New York Times ran a story about the case, in which a famous rapper was interviewed and defended the student’s right to free speech. Every morning the Supreme Court’s library sent around an email aggregating news stories relating to the court. Gray was probably the only person at One First Street who read them all.

Gray continued. “I think the First Amendment allows a kid who saw a wrong happening to write a poem about it over a beat.” Gray wheeled the cart toward the door. “And if the chief justice disagrees, you might mention all the violence in those operas he loves so much.”

“That’s what I’m talking about,” Mike said, spiking the ball, then doing a ridiculous touchdown dance. He strutted over to Gray and gave him a high five.

For a moment, it felt like Gray was a clerk himself, an equal weighing in on the most important school-speech case in decades.

“Hey, Gray,” JFK said. Gray turned, ready to continue his defense of the First Amendment.

“I’ve got some books that need to be delivered to the library.”

When Gray arrived at the gym two hours later, his dad already had his hands wrapped and was hitting the heavy bag. There was a large sweat stain on his shirt. “You’re late,” he called out.

“I told you, I have the night shift on Sundays,” Gray said. His dad didn’t respond, just pounded the bag. He wasn’t going to get any sympathy from Manny Hernandez about the night shift. This was his father’s one night off from the pizza shop. Since his dad’s cancer went into remission, they’d been meeting every Sunday night at the old boxing club in Adams Morgan. Gray would have preferred that they spent these times together somewhere other than a smelly gym, but it made his father happy to see him back in the gloves. It was these moments that Gray was reminded that he probably wasn’t the man his father had dreamed he’d become. With his books and big dreams, Gray was his mother’s boy.
Gray punched the bag, the hits vibrating through him, his thoughts venturing to his earlier encounter with the law clerks. He threw his weight into his right.

Let’s ask an everyman.

Then his left.

I’ve got some books that need to be delivered to the library.

Gray continued to pummel the bag, his heart pounding, sweat dripping from his brow.

“Somethin’ wrong?” His father came and stood behind the bag, holding it in place as Gray kept going at it. “Talk to me.”

“It’s nothing,” Gray finally said, catching his breath, wiping his forehead with his arm. “Just work stuff.”

“I thought it was going well. You’ve loved that building since you were a little kid. And now you’re working there, helping the justices.”

“I don’t think delivering the mail is exactly helping the justices, Dad.”

“It’s a foot in the door. Once they get to know you, see how smart you are . . .”

Things didn’t work that way, but Gray wasn’t in the mood to argue.

“It’ll happen, son,” his father added. “You just gotta pay your dues, Grayson.”

“I know, Dad, I know.”

CHAPTER 2

At seven the next morning, Gray sat at his cubicle, tired and his muscles aching from the workout the night before. He started his day, as always, slugging down a large coffee while reading SCOTUSblog, a website that covered the court. It was the first day of the new term, and the pundits predicted it would be an exciting year with several landmark cases.

Gray turned when he felt a hand on his shoulder. Shelby, one of the marshal’s aides. A mistake he’d made after a night of drinking with the other aides. She made a point of saying she’d never been with “a guy like him,” which he assumed meant a poor kid from a sketchy side of D.C. She worked part-time while finishing her senior year at Georgetown.

“Martin wants to see you,” she said. Gray looked across the expansive cube farm. He could see Martin Melnick, their supervisor, through the glass walls of his small interior office in the back. He was eating something wrapped in foil. A breakfast burrito, maybe. Shelby’s expression summed up her assessment of Martin: Ick. Martin was in his late thirties, ancient by aide-pool standards. Overweight with bad teeth, he was the antithesis of the bright young things who worked at the high court, the butt of many jokes. He was never particularly nice to Gray; the opposite, actually. But Martin was good at his job and didn’t deserve the ridicule, so Gray kind of rooted for him in all of his slobbiness. Before Gray made his way over to Martin, Shelby said, “Who’s that?” She pointed to a photo pinned to Gray’s cubicle. It was of a boxer in the ring, bruised and battered, arms in the air, standing over his opponent who was out cold.

“My dad, back in the day. He was a fighter in Mexico.” Gray had pinned it up his first day on the job. His own Facebook motivational meme.

Shelby squeezed Gray’s bicep. “I see where you get—”

“I’ve gotta get over to Martin,” Gray said, politely extracting himself.

Martin’s office didn’t help his image. Stacks of papers everywhere. Post-it notes all over the place. He glanced up at Gray and handed him an envelope.

“We got a rush delivery for E.R.D.’s chambers.” E.R.D. were the initials for Edgar R. Douglas, the chief justice. In his month on the job, Gray had learned that the Supreme Court was obsessed with abbreviations and acronyms.

“Oral arguments start at ten, so get this to his clerk ASAP. His name’s on the envelope.”

Gray fast-walked up to the main floor, shuttling through the impressive Great Hall that was lined with marble columns and busts of past chief justices. He nodded at the officer manning the bronze latticework door and made his way to the chief justice’s chambers. The chief ’s secretary, a tough old bird named Olga Romanov, flicked him a glance.

“I have a delivery for Keir Landon.” “The clerks are getting breakfast,” she said in her clipped Eastern European accent.

“Do you know where?”

“Breakfast. Where do you think?” Gray forced a smile, then headed back downstairs to the court’s cafeteria. He marched past the assembly line of trays and the public seating area and into the private room reserved for the law clerks. A group of four were sitting at the long table.

Gray cleared his throat when they didn’t look up. When that didn’t work: “Excuse me. I have a delivery for Keir Landon.”

The guy from last night who looked like JFK popped his head up. He walked over to Gray and plucked the envelope from his hand.

“What’s up, Greg?” Mike said from the group. Before Gray could correct him again on the name, Gray’s phone pinged. A text from Martin, another rush delivery.

Gray hurried out, tapping a text to Martin as he paced quickly through the cafeteria. He didn’t look up until he bumped into someone. A tiny woman in her seventies. It was only when the elderly woman’s food tray hit the floor that Gray recognized her: Justice Rose Fitzgerald Yorke. She looked different without the black robe. Always weird seeing the teacher out of school. Yorke was one of the most beloved members of the court. Gray had read that when Yorke graduated from Harvard in the fifties, the only woman and number one in her class, none of the white-shoe law firms would hire a woman as a lawyer. A few had offered to make her a secretary. Maybe that explained why she ate in the public cafeteria rather than the justices’ private dining room, or why she organized the office birthday celebrations for every single employee at the court. She knew what it was like to be an outsider. She brought what some would derisively call empathy to her jurisprudence.

Justice Yorke bent over to pick up her spilled plate and silverware.

“Justice Yorke, I’m so sorry. Please, let me clean this up.” Gray lightly put a hand on the elderly justice’s arm.

“It’s no problem, young man, I can clean up after myself.”

“No, really, it’s my fault. Please.”

The manager of the cafeteria was standing there now looking annoyed. He gestured for Justice Yorke to come with him to get a new plate. The manager shot Gray a hard look as he spirited the justice away.

So there he was on the first Monday in October— the opening day of the term—on hands and knees wiping up the floor, the clerks passing by on their way back to chambers.

You just gotta pay your dues, Grayson.

CHAPTER 3

At the end of his shift, Gray headed down to the court’s garage to get his bike. In the elevator down, he contemplated his dinner options. He wasn’t sure if he could take another night of ramen or SpaghettiOs. Maybe he’d go to the pizza shop. Or to his parents’ apartment. Mom could always be counted on for a good meal, and he could bring some laundry. The elevator doors spread open to a field of gray concrete. The bike rack was empty but for his beat-up Schwinn. As he unlocked the chain, he heard a commotion. In the back, behind one of the support beams.

Gray stepped toward the sound. Next to an SUV parked in a reserved spot he saw two men, one had fallen on the ground, the other standing over him. The guy must have slipped. Was he hurt? There was something about how he didn’t try to get up and the stance of the other man that didn’t seem quite right.

“Everything okay?” Gray said. The man who was standing whirled his head around. That’s when Gray noticed the ski mask.

Before Gray could process the situation, the assailant had kicked the man on the ground and charged Gray.

Gray’s father had taught him that when someone is coming at you, in the boxing ring or on the street, time slows. Nature’s way to give you a chance to evade the predator. And that was how Gray dodged the blade that lashed in a wide arc, grazing his abdomen. A panic washed over Gray. And when the attacker came at him again, it wasn’t one of Dad’s bob-and-weaves that saved him, but a crude kick— more Jason Statham than Cassius Clay— that connected to Ski Mask’s chest. The guy slammed into a car, but he didn’t go down. He roared forward at Gray again. Gray did a bull-fighter’s move and pushed the attacker past him, but felt a bite in his side. Ski Mask then jammed something into the small of Gray’s back. He felt a jolt of electricity burning into him— a shockwave up his spine— causing him to spasm and gasp for air. Gray went black for a moment, and then was flat on the cold concrete.

Gray watched as Ski Mask turned his attention to the other man who was on his feet now. It was only then that Gray got a good look at the victim: Chief Justice Douglas. The chief had scurried behind a car and was frantically thumbing a key fob, his panic button. The elevator dinged and Gray heard the slap of dress shoes on concrete, the court’s police.

Still on the ground, Gray shifted his eyes toward the man in the ski mask, but he was gone. Gray’s vision blurred. He heard yelling. Then things went dark.

CHAPTER 4

Gray awoke to the scent of disinfectant and the presence of a crowd in the small hospital room. He must’ve been given painkillers because it was like watching a sitcom, one of those Latino family comedies written by white guys from Harvard. There was Mom, hovering over him, wiping his brow, pushing the giant plastic jug of hospital water at him. Dad, looking tired and too thin, wearing a flour-stained apron, staring at the old box television mounted from the ceiling. And big sis, Miranda, wrangling Gray’s seven-year-old nephew, Emilio.

When they noticed his eyes open, they called for a doctor, and soon an intern was checking Gray’s pupils with a penlight.

Gray never got into drugs, but as he sat back in the relaxed haze, he was starting to understand the fascination. And for the next hour, or maybe it was longer, his family kept talking to him— asking about the garage attack— and he gave woozy responses. God knows what he said.

Sometime later, Gray’s attention turned to a familiar voice at the doorway.

“Always gotta be the hero.” One of his oldest friends, Samantha. When they were in elementary school, Gray had intervened to save Sam from a schoolyard bully, only to have the kid then pummel Gray until Sam put an end to it by giving the kid the worst wedgie Gray had ever seen. Sam still gave him shit for it.

As Sam hugged everyone hello, Gray’s father shadowboxed and said, “He used the moves I taught him.”

Gray didn’t have the heart to tell him that most of the credit went to Jason Statham.

Sam came to his bedside and punched him in the arm.

“What was that for?”

“For being so stupid. You’re lucky to be alive.”

“That’s what I said to him,” Mom said. The room grew loud again with his family talking over one another. Gray watched as his nephew reenacted Gray’s confrontation with the mugger. He was feeling the pull of sleep, more drugs they’d put in the IV, and closed his eyes. He was just about to drift off when the room went suddenly quiet, a rarity at any Hernandez gathering.

His eyes popped open at another voice. “I owe you a thank you.”

There was a tall man standing at his bedside. He wore a sports jacket, shirt open at the collar. It took Gray a moment to realize it wasn’t the drugs, it was really him. Chief Justice Douglas. “It was nothing,” was all Gray managed in response. “No, if you hadn’t arrived when you did, then . . .” the chief’s voice trailed off.

Gray introduced the chief justice to his family. He noticed the chief hold Sam’s gaze a beat longer than comfortable when they shook hands. Sam had that effect on men, and Gray supposed Supreme Court justices were not immune to her beauty. To Gray, she was still the flat-chested tomboy he used to play dodgeball and video games with.

After the introductions, the chief pulled up a chair next to Gray’s bed. It was awkward to talk because the room was compact and his family wasn’t too subtle about the gawking.

“Someone at the court told me you’re a lawyer?” the chief said.

“Top of his class,” Gray’s mother said.

“Mom, please.” Gray felt his face flush.

The chief justice smiled. “The doctors said you’ll be out of commission for a few days.”

“That’s what they said, but I don’t think it’ll be more than a day. I’m already feeling—” He stopped when he saw the hard look his mother was giving him.

“It’s always wise to listen to your mother,” the chief said with a dry chuckle.

His mom nodded, giving a satisfied smile.

“But do me a favor, would you?” the chief continued.

“Of course.”

“When you get back to work, come by my chambers.” Before Gray could respond, the chief added, “You’re not gonna be a messenger boy anymore.”

CHAPTER 5

“Nothing? They found nothing?”

Special Agent Emma Milstein asked. Her partner, Scott Cartwright, stood in front of Milstein’s desk in the FBI field office, staring into an open file. Cartwright wore his usual navy suit, white shirt, plain tie clamped around his thick neck.

Cartwright shook his head. “A guy with a knife strolls into the Supreme Court, attacks a justice, and not one camera catches him, no one knows how he got in or out, nothing?”

“Nada,” Cartwright said.

“What about the kid? What’s his name again?” Cartwright flipped a page in the file.

“Hernandez. Grayson Hernandez. The Supreme Court’s squad interviewed him. Been on the job there for about a month, well liked. They’re confident it was just wrong place, wrong time.”

“Criminal record?”

“No, he’s a lawyer, actually.”

“A lawyer? I thought he was a messenger?”

“Yeah, works in the marshal’s office. Times are tough in the law business, I guess,” Cartwright said.

“I guess so. Our guys agree with the Supreme Court’s police? We’re sure Hernandez is clean?”

Cartwright walked over and put the open file in front of Milstein. “We don’t think he was involved in the attack. He got into some trouble as a kid— joyriding in a stolen car with some friends. But that’s like jaywalking in Hamilton Heights.”

“He grew up in Hamilton Heights? Don’t they call that area ‘Afghanistan’?” Milstein looked down at the file, studying the photo of Grayson Hernandez. He was a good-looking kid. Late-twenties. Striking blue eyes, unusual for a Hispanic. He had a scar that ran from the corner of his left eye to his ear. Jagged, no plastic surgery. “Yeah, he’s a regular local boy makes good,” Cartwright said, heavy on the sarcasm.

“Any criminal associates?”

“He was childhood friends with a real charmer, Arturo Alvarez, who’s just out of prison and already at war with a rival sect. But it appears that Hernandez left the Heights and never looked back. The report says no contact with Alvarez in years.”

Milstein read through the rest of the file. “Does the press know he was there when the chief was attacked? I don’t need reporters sniffing around. If they find out there’s a connection to Dupont Underground they’ll—”

“They don’t know anything,” Cartwright interrupted. “The court released a statement about the mugging, but no details. They’re pretty tight-lipped up there.”

“What’s the Supreme Court’s police chief saying?”

“Aaron Dowell? He’s saying we should mind our own fucking business. They’re in charge of protecting the chief.”

“Yeah, they’re doing a great job.” Cartwright said nothing. “When can we talk to the chief justice?” Milstein asked. “They’re still stonewalling. I don’t think they’re taking the connection to Dupont seriously.”

“You told them we think it’s the same perp?”

“Of course I did. I’m working on it, Em.”

“Work harder.” Milstein let out a loud, frustrated breath.

“You want me to get you a snack or something?” Cartwright said. “When my kids get a little cranky, I bring them some Goldfish crackers and it—”

“Any luck on getting the wires?” Milstein said, ignoring him. Cartwright made a sound of disbelief. “Neal says you’re crazy if you think you’ll get a bug anywhere near that building.” As usual, Neal Wyatt, the assistant director in charge of the field office, was being too cautious, playing politics.

“Cowards.”

“You need to tread lightly. This is the Supreme Court.”

“The Franklin Theater fire was on July fifth. The Dupont Underground murders on August fifth. Now the attack on the chief October fifth. And we now know it’s the same perp. What’s it gonna take to get the Supreme Court’s squad to take this seriously?”

Cartwright shook his head. “Hopefully not another victim on November fifth.”

Review: Dark Angel by Ron Felber

Dark Angel
by Ron Felber

Dark Angel

Copyright: 2016

Pages: 316

Read: April 29 – May 4, 2016

Rating: 3/5

Source: Publicist for review

 

 

Blurb: Set on Princeton University Campus in a world where money is measured in billions and success by the control one wields over entire nations, readers will encounter a Nazi geneticist, a renegade CIA operative, a trans-human serial killer, and a Hollywood starlet as deadly as she is beautiful; all gathered together for a horrifying project: the creation of the Fourth Reich.

Review: When I was first pitched this book I was first really excited and then kind of unsure. Excited because I have read and enjoyed the earlier Jack Madson books, A Man of Indeterminate Value and The Kafka Society, and was really looking forward to the final book in the trilogy. Unsure because the description didn’t necessarily grab my attention. But I prefer closure when reading series books, so I took a chance on this one.

Overall I’m a little unsure how to approach this review. The book, while not bad in any way, shape, or form, was not what I felt like was a good fit for me as a reader. I found a lot of the subject matter nearly impossible to follow. I have a history degree and have a pretty good background in the historical aspects of the Hitler era. However, science is not my strong suit at all, and I struggled with a lot of the science aspects involved in this book. I found myself completely skipping over entire sections because it was almost incomprehensible for me and honestly, just not all that interesting to me.

There were a lot of good aspects to the book that kept me reading, though. Jack’s character is a tough one to describe. He has a lot of problems, but he also has a lot of heart. So while his constant drug and alcohol use is not a positive character trait, his dedication to justice makes me keep reading. He’s also given a love interest which adds another positive aspect to his character in this book – underneath everything, he’s got a big heart.

The book moves at a great pace, and honestly if it weren’t for the science aspects that I struggled with so much, this book would have been really great. However, if you’re a science and history junkie, I think you’ll enjoy this book. There’s definitely an audience out there for this book, unfortunately it just isn’t really me. However, I am glad that I read it and finished out the trilogy. (Although I felt like the ending kind of left it open for more Jack Madson…)

Bottom Line: A decent book, one with a character who may be flawed, but is a good man underneath all his issues, but I just didn’t feel like I was the target audience for this one.

**I received a copy of this book for review, all opinions expressed are my own.

2015.2 REVIEW – Dust and Shadow by Lyndsay Faye

Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson
by Lynsday Faye

Copyright: 2009
Pages: 322
Rating: 4/5
Read: Jan. 11 – Jan. 14, 2015
Challenge: No challenge
Yearly count: 2
Format: Print
Source: Personal Copy
Series: N/A

Dust and ShadowBlurb: From the gritty streets of nineteenth century London, the loyal and courageous Dr. Watson offers a tale unearthed after generations of lore: the harrowing story of Sherlock Holmes’s attempt to hunt down Jack the Ripper.

As England’s greatest specialist in criminal detection, Sherlock Holmes is unwavering in his quest to capture the killer responsible for terrifying London’s East End. He hires an “unfortunate” known as Mary Ann Monk, the friend of a fellow streetwalker who was one of the Ripper’s earliest victims; and he relies heavily on the steadfast and devoted Dr. John H. Watson. When Holmes himself is wounded in Whitechapel during an attempt to catch the savage monster, the popular press launches an investigation of his own, questioning the great detective’s role in the very crimes he is so fervently struggling to prevent. Stripped of his credibility, Holmes is left with no choice but to break every rule in the desperate race to find the madman known as “the Knife” before it is too late.

A masterly re-creation of history’s most diabolical villain, Lyndsay Faye’s debut brings unparalleled authenticity to the atmosphere of Whitechapel and London in the fledgling days of tabloid journalism and recalls the ideals evinced by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most beloved and world-renowned characters. Jack the Ripper’s identity, still hotly debated around the world more than a century after his crimes were committed, remains a mystery ripe for speculation. Dust and Shadow explores the terrifying prospect of tracking a serial killer without the advantage of modern forensics, and the result is a lightning-paced novel brimming with historical detail that will keep you on the edge of your seat.


Review: I have signed up for a few challenges on some Goodreads groups this year, and one of the requirements in one of the challenges was to read an author debut. This is the book that I chose. It’s also been sitting on my shelf since 2009, when I received it from Paperbackswap….

Personally, I was hooked by “Jack the Ripper” and “Sherlock Holmes.” I mean, hello? Do I even have to explain any further than that?! To be completely honest, I’m not all that familiar with the Jack the Ripper case, except for the very bare bones (i.e. London, Whitechapel, 1880s, extremely vicious murders – literally, that’s the extent of my knowledge). I also never really read very many Sherlock Holmes stories. But that didn’t hamper my enjoyment of this very interesting historical fiction blend.

Overall, the book flows quite well. I felt like I was right there in London with Sherlock and Watson. Ms. Faye sets the scene effortlessly. She keeps it interesting without going too far to the side of gore that revolves around Jack the Ripper. I felt that she really had a great grasp of Sherlock’s “voice” too.

I enjoyed this one, a lot. I would definitely recommend it. It’s a fun book that has me wanting to know more about the Jack the Ripper case!

2014.42 REVIEW – Executive Power by Vince Flynn

Executive Power
by Vince Flynn

Copyright: 2003
Pages: 482
Rating: 3.5/5
Read: Aug. 20 – Sept. 7, 2014
Challenge: No Challenge
Yearly count: 42
Format: Print
Source: Personal Copy
Series: Mitch Rapp #4

Executive PowerBlurb: Returning from a covert mission, Mitch Rapp was publicly hailed by the president for his role in the fight against terrorism. After years of working in the shadows, Rapp was caught in the media spotlight – and marked for death by virtually every terrorist in the world. Now a CIA advisor, Rapp is ready to battle terror far from the front lines. But when a Navy SEAL team in the Philippines is ambushed, all evidence points to a leak within the U.S. State Department. And a greater threat lurks – a ruthless assassin working for the most powerful men in the Middle East, who are bent on igniting a world war. With the world watching, Rapp must hold back the flames of Armageddon…


Review: This book was from my own shelves, all opinions expressed below are my own.

This is the 4th book in the Mitch Rapp series (or 6th, depending on how you look at it; I go by publish date) and I still really like this series.

This book was really good. There was a lot going on in this book. Personally I prefer the action that involves Mitch Rapp. Unfortunately, there was a large part of this book that didn’t have Rapp involved at all. (Until the end when it all came full circle). I wouldn’t say that this made me dislike the book, but I would have preferred Mitch to be more involved throughout the whole thing. That’s just my personal preference, though.

The writing was good. The storyline was interesting. The characters were well-developed (though I need more Anna/Mitch interaction!!). I recommend starting this series from the beginning, I don’t think you’ll understand who Mitch is without some background.

Overall I’m glad to say that this is another strong installment in the Mitch Rapp series and I look forward to getting to the next one … eventually 🙂

 

2014.25 REVIEW – The Kafka Society by Ron Felber

The Kafka Society
by Ron Felber

Copyright: 2014
Pages: 341
Rating: 3/5
Read: May 24 – May 29, 2014
Challenge: No challenge
Yearly count: 25
Format:  Print
Source: Publicist
Series: Jack Madson #2

Blurb: After a night of clubbing, Jack has no memory of the past twenty-four hours. Who is the beautiful woman he discovers in his hotel room? How did a severed head get into the trunk of his Mustang convertible? Is he a murderer? Before he can answer these questions, Madson finds himself helping his former high school nemesis, Tom Dougherty – now chief the FBI’s East Coast Operations – get disentangled from a blackmail scheme. Nothing is quite what it seems. As his investigation progresses, Madson uncovers a criminal organization that specializes in the most monstrous of enterprises: global human trafficking, run from abandoned tunnels deep beneath the streets of New York City and directed by a coterie of intellectual thugs known as the Kafka Society. Once again, the reader follows Madson through a wealth of dangerous episodes and exotic pleasures before the exciting conclusion of this thrilling page-turner.


ReviewI received a copy of this book for free for review purposes, all opinions expressed below are my own.

I had read and reviewed the first Jack Madson book, A Man of Indeterminate Value, last year. So when I was pitched this book, I was interested simply because I wanted to see what else Jack could possibly get himself into!

Overall, I have to say, I still do not like Jack Madson’s character. I don’t like all the booze, pills, sex and just overall stupidity that he finds himself in. He brings most of his troubles upon himself and he just seems to “prepare” himself with more drugs. I was also a little turned off by all the sex in this book. I don’t mind sex in books as a general rule, but the descriptions were very graphic and at times it felt more like erotica than a crime thriller. Just not my cup of tea.

But all that said, I still kept reading the book! So obviously it wasn’t that bad. I really wanted to know what happened in the end. I wanted to know if Jack would figure it all out in time. And really, I liked the ending. It’s actually made me quite curious to see what Mr. Felber has planned next for Jack Madson.

So while I would say that this book has a few bad characteristics to it, overall, it’s a compelling read, and I will be on the lookout for the 3rd Jack Madson book.