#ThrowbackThursday: The Power of the Dog by @donwinslow ‏

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Renee @It’sBookTalk began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of our old favorites as well as sharing books that we’re FINALLY getting around to reading that were published over a year ago. I’ve wanted to join this meme for a long time and I thought it would be a great idea because it forces me to read books from the TBR and not only new releases. And, of course, I can also include some old favorites!

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The prequel to The Cartel, and set about 10 years earlier, The Power of the Dog introduces a brilliant cast of characters. Art Keller is an obsessive DEA agent. The Barrera brothers are heirs to a drug empire. Nora Hayden is a jaded teenager who becomes a high-class hooker. Father Parada is a powerful and incorruptible Catholic priest. Callan is an Irish kid from Hell’s kitchen who grows up to be a merciless hit man. And they are all trapped in the world of the Mexican drug Federación. From the streets of New York City to Mexico City and Tijuana to the jungles of Central America, this is the war on drugs like you’ve never seen it.

The Power of the Dog is one of the most popular books by Don Winslow. Up until this year, I hadn’t read any of his books, but now, after The Force and this one, I know he’ll become one of my favorites authors. These are not mystery books, they aren’t psychological thrillers either… they’re just books about cops and criminals, about gangsters and drug cartels. And they’re books that you can’t help but picture the movie in your head while you’re reading.

The Power of the Dog is an epic saga spanning many years and it tells the story of Art Keller and his never-ending obsession. His own particular war against drug cartels. Reading this book was like watching the show Narcos or El Chapo (it’s supposedly inspired by the latter) and let’s be honest here, the book is full of despicable people and evil criminals doing terrible stuff. Still, what I loved about this story was that you could root for the main character, Art. He didn’t always play nice, but only because there’s no other way to do things in Mexico. I find that fascinating. I also loved the priest, Juan Parada, and Nora, as complicated as she was.

My edition had over 700 pages but I never got bored and I completely devoured the last 200 pages. The ending is equally good and devastating, but I guess life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It was almost comical. I’ll hopefully read the sequel: The Cartel, soon.

P.S They’re doing a movie based on The Cartel and directed by Ridley Scott. I read that they wanted Leo DiCaprio to play Art, but come on, he’s supposed to be part Latino! As much as I love Leo, I don’t want him playing that part. You know who I’d love to see? Oscar Isaac. He’s a great actor, he was born in Guatemala and, he’s handsome 😉

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Review: A Lesson In Violence by @jordan_harper @simonschusterUK

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Meet Polly: eleven years old and smart beyond her years. But she’s a loner, always on the outside, until she is unexpectedly reunited with her father. Meet Nate: fresh out of jail and driving a stolen car, Nate takes Polly from the safety of her quiet existence into a world of robbery, violence and the constant threat of death. And he does it to save her life. A Lesson in Violence is a gripping and emotionally wrenching novel that upends even our most long-held expectations about heroes, villains and victims. Nate takes Polly to save her life, but in the end it may very well be Polly who saves him.

As soon as I read the synopsis, I knew this was going to be an unforgettable ride. It seems like complex father-daughter relationships are a popular theme in recent books and I couldn’t be happier. A Lesson In Violence (aka She Rides Shotgun) was one of my favorite reads of the summer.

I don’t usually enjoy action-packed stories in books as much as in movies, but A Lesson In Violence was the exception to the rule. I was completely addicted from the moment I started it. This book tells the story of a man, Nate, who has just been released from prison but is wanted by some dangerous men. The Aryan Steel gang wants him and his family dead and Nate can’t allow them to harm his daughter Polly. So he picks her up from school and makes her travel with him.

Road trip stories are usually wonderful and this one is just the perfect adventure. You will read it quickly and you will immensely enjoy the ride. Polly and Nate’s bond grows strong, she learns how to be brave and fierce and he discovers that he might have a weakness, after all. The novel is dark and gritty, but with a lovely side at the same time.

As for other characters, I think that the detective’s perspective was interesting as well and I couldn’t wait to find out how he would behave when catching up with the fugitives. Help them or hurt them? And how is this journey going to end? It surely can’t go on forever…

Haven’t read Jordan Harper’s short story collection, but I’ll surely pick up his next book. A Lesson In Violence is an unforgettable tale of family and redemption.

Netgalley, Simon and Schuster UK, 2017

Mini Reviews #4 | Jaybird’s Song & The Breakdown

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Again? So soon? I’m afraid so. I liked Jaybird’s Song by Kathy Wilson Florence and it’s perfect for lighter southern fans, but I was quite disappointed with The Breakdown by BA Paris. Let’s see…

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Affectionately called “Jaybird” by the father she adores, Josie Flint’s idyllic childhood in 1960s Atlanta is defined by her role as the oldest of the three Flint sisters and crowned with the presence of her grandmother, Annie Jo— the maypole that centers the Flint family. Surrounding their world, however, is the turbulent South as Jim Crow laws come to an end. As Josie’s school desegregates and the country meanders through new ideas brought about by the Civil Rights movement, a personal tragedy breaches Josie’s world and shatters that perfect childhood. Josie’s story is told from her early teenage years and 35 years later when her beloved grandmother dies. And when a long-kept secret unfolds for the Flint family, a new kind of heartache begins.

I was looking for a change after a couple of serial killer books and I still had this book on my Kindle, so I thought it was time to read it (as it was published in February). This is the story of Josie, a woman who grows up in Georgia in the 60s. Many years later, in 2003, her grandmother passes away and she remembers her childhood and teenage years.

I had a small issue with the way the book was written. The flashback parts felt like the author was telling us stuff that had happened but we didn’t get to enjoy. Lots of paragraphs filled with sentences like: “She became my best friend and we did everything together. And two years passed and then we grew apart. And on my 15th birthday, I had a big party and everyone came”. In spite of that, Jaybird was a lovely novel, a nice, feel-good southern saga that made me imagine a different kind of life. So yes, I enjoyed reading it although it didn’t leave a lasting impression. I think I had similar feelings with Dollbaby: the secrets weren’t surprising enough because I had already read and watched tons of similar stories. Would I recommend it? Yes. Because that’s just my experience, after all.

Netgalley, Smith Publicity, 2017

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Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped. But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby. The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt. Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

Most of you know that Behind Closed Doors was one of my favorite books of 2016. I knew that The Breakdown would be a different kind of experience because I read a lot of reviews, so I wasn’t as excited as I would’ve been otherwise. This isn’t a matter of simply being disappointed.

I must say I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I wanted to know what was going on and it was an easy read, just like BCD was. On the other hand, the first half of the book, maybe until 60% was quite repetitive and I didn’t think it was going anywhere. Yes, we get it: Cass is forgetful. She is confused, she forgets things. My main issue with the plot was that there were too many situations that felt coincidental and seemed too contrived for my taste. Unrealistic, even. I don’t want to dive into spoiler territory, but for example, there’s a scene where our main character, Cass, discovers the truth about something and it was so improbable that I couldn’t believe that was actually happening. And once we all begin to learn the truth, there were too many coincidences, just so everything could be connected. Like the weapon thing. I mean, really? Why would someone do that?

Still, I really liked how the ending played out, maybe because it reminded me of Behind Closed Doors and I’m a fan of that type of situations. But I can’t ignore all those coincidences.

Netgalley, St Martin’s Pres, 2017

Mini Reviews #3 | Here and Gone & The Fourth Monkey

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And it’s that time of the month again! Today I want to talk to you about two of my most recent reads: Here and Gone by Haylen Beck & The Fourth Monkey by JD Barker. Both thrillers, one action, the other  a serial-killer mystery.

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Here and Gone is a gripping, wonderfully tense suspense thriller about a mother’s desperate fight to recover her stolen children from corrupt authorities… It begins with a woman fleeing through Arizona with her kids in tow, trying to escape an abusive marriage. When she’s pulled over by an unsettling local sheriff, things soon go awry and she is taken into custody. Only when she gets to the station, her kids are gone. And then the cops start saying they never saw any kids with her, that if they’re gone than she must have done something with them… Meanwhile, halfway across the country a man hears the frenzied news reports about the missing kids, which are eerily similar to events in his own past. As the clock ticks down on the search for the lost children, he too is drawn into the desperate fight for their return

Here and Gone is a thrilling and nail-biting book that depicts a situation that felt realistic and scary at the same time. I think the beginning was my favorite part, as I got super nervous while reading Audra’s encounter with the sheriff. You could feel the heat, the silent violence, the threats, the tension. I could picture it all in my head.

The whole book is a big “gaslighting” episode and it makes you feel so powerless that you wish you were there helping the main character get her kids back. It reminded me of Little Deaths by Emma Flint, although that one had a mystery component, whereas this one was more of a straight-forward thriller. Perhaps, the fact that there were no surprises is what prevents me from “loving” this book a bit more. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I admired Audra and Danny’s determination, but I thought the forum messages meant that there was someone else involved, and instead, I found the “chase” a bit predictable overall.

Netgalley, Harvill Secker, 2017

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For over five years, the Four Monkey Killer has terrorized the residents of Chicago. When his body is found, the police quickly realize he was on his way to deliver one final message, one which proves he has taken another victim who may still be alive. As the lead investigator on the 4MK task force, Detective Sam Porter knows even in death, the killer is far from finished. When he discovers a personal diary in the jacket pocket of the body, Porter finds himself caught up in the mind of a psychopath, unraveling a twisted history in hopes of finding one last girl, all while struggling with personal demons of his own. With only a handful of clues, the elusive killer’s identity remains a mystery. Time is running out and the Four Monkey Killer taunts from beyond the grave in this masterfully written fast-paced thriller.

This was a lovely buddy read with Zuky @Bookbum. Sometimes, I’m in the minority and I’m afraid this is one of the cases. I believe The Fourth Monkey was a fun and entertaining thriller, but unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my expectations. I enjoyed it for the most part (especially the first half), but the whole third act felt too predictable and it didn’t impress me.

I’m a big fan of serial killer books and the comparisons to Se7en and The Silence of the Lambs made me incredibly excited to read this one. At first, I was sure it was going to be one of my faves, just like Ragdoll & Kill The Father, but once my initial suspicion turned out to be true, I was quite disappointed. I couldn’t believe Zuky and I had guessed something so important within the first pages. However, I did love the last scene and the fact that the main character wasn’t young, but I didn’t connect with the police team dynamics and I was expecting a more explosive and shocking ending, I guess.

ARC, HQ, 2017

Review: The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne @KarenDionne @LittleBrownUK

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‘I was born two years into my mother’s captivity. She was three weeks shy of seventeen. If I had known then what I do now, things would have been a lot different. I would have been a lot more understanding of my mother. I wouldn’t have adored my father.’ When the notorious child abductor known as the Marsh King escapes from a maximum security prison, Helena immediately suspects that she and her two young daughters are in danger. No one, not even her husband, knows the truth about Helena’s past: they don’t know that she was born into captivity, that she had no contact with the outside world before the age of twelve – or that her father raised her to be a killer. And they don’t know that the Marsh King can survive and hunt in the wilderness better than anyone…except, perhaps his own daughter.

Most of you know that The Marsh King’s Daughter was, probably, my most anticipated release this year. I was obsessed with the book before I even got it. I love stories about kidnappings and the way the blurb described the events had me all curious and excited.

When you read the synopsis of a book, sometimes you get some ideas and, without even realizing it, you might create unrealistic expectations. To be honest, I expected this novel to be something like Still Missing by Chevy Stevens or even Room, but the truth is The Marsh King’s Daughter was nothing like those books. Hint: It was better. If you’re wondering which book could offer the same vibe, I’d say 12 Lives of Samuel Hawley. However, I enjoyed this one way more.

I’m fascinated by stories where people don’t recognize right from wrong because they don’t know any better. A child born into captivity is the perfect way to explore those themes and The Marsh King’s Daughter does it beautifully. Helena is the absolute main protagonist of this book. Helena wants us to discover her story and she wants us to know this tale is only hers. Not her mother’s (we don’t even learn her name) or her father’s (the notorious child abductor). Because how can Helena not love her father? He’s the only man he knows and practically the only person who interacts with her, as her mother barely acknowledges her. Helena herself is a fascinating character too. That doesn’t mean she’s likable, because she isn’t, really. Still, I couldn’t help but become completely absorbed in her twisted fairy tale.

The alternate timelines worked so well here. On the one hand, we learn about the years in captivity, Helena’s childhood and relationship with her parents. Her unconventional skills, her ties to nature and the wilderness. On the other hand, many years later, Helena is free, married, and with two kids of her own. Her father has escaped prison, and she’s determined to track him down and kill him. But can she really do that?

A haunting, unique and atmospheric novel that is bound to become a big success. I’m already thinking that this would make a fantastic movie.

ARC, Little Brown UK, 2017