Mini Reviews #8 The Missing Girls & The Last Weekend

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Hello! We’re back with a Mini Reviews post, this time, though, I really liked the books. Both were great mysteries.

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When a girl’s body is found at a Midlands storage unit, it is too decomposed for Detective Robyn Carter to read the signs left by the killer. No one knows the woman in blue who rented the unit; her hire van can’t be traced. But as the leads run dry another body is uncovered. This time the killer’s distinctive mark is plain to see, and matching scratches on the first victim’s skeleton make Robyn suspect she’s searching for a serial-killer. As Robyn closes in on the killer’s shocking hunting ground, another girl goes missing, and this time it’s someone close to her own heart. Robyn can’t lose another loved one. Can she find the sickest individual she has ever faced, before it’s too late?

The Missing Girls is the third installment in the Robyn Carter series and I’m glad to say I liked this one better than the second book (not quite as much as the first one, though). I really like how Caroline Wyer plots her stories and the focus on the investigation as well as her relationship with her ex-boyfriend’s daughter. The case was quite intriguing and there were lots of suspects. I couldn’t wait to know more. The story featured a good and satisfying ending, too. I like Robyn more and more as the books progress, but I also want to know her team a bit more. I feel like I don’t know them as well as in other similar series and I’d love to!

On the other hand, and I know it’s not anyone’s fault, but if every review keeps saying that the ending is totally unexpected, for some people, it will be the opposite. I don’t want to say anything more about that.

Netgalley, Bookouture, 2017

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Every year for a decade, five college friends spent a weekend together at the atmospheric Chateau du Cygne Noir. Then, tragedy struck. Ten years later, Laurel Muir returns to the castle for the first time since the accident, hoping to reconnect with her friends and lay the past to rest. When a murderer strikes, it rips open old wounds and forces the women to admit there’s a killer in their midst. The remaining friends make a pact to unearth the truth, but suspicion, doubt, and old secrets threaten to tear them apart. Unsure who to trust, Laurel puts herself in harm’s way, risking it all for friendship and long-delayed justice.

I admit that when I started this book, I didn’t expect to enjoy it this much. In fact, I almost DNF’d after only one chapter. I wasn’t in the mood. A group of friends received a mysterious letter and I found those first introductory scenes quite repetitive. However. I read some great reviews, so I gave it another chance. By the end of the day, I had already finished it. The premise was very “Agatha Christie” and the moment those women arrived at the castle, I was completely on board. I enjoyed their interactions and I was super intrigued. Who had pushed Evangeline? What had happened this time? Were the two events related? I’d love to discuss The Last Weekend!

The ending was satisfying and I finished the book feeling really happy and relieved that I had kept on reading. I would surely recommend this cozy mystery for those who’re looking for a quick and smart whodunit.

 

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#ThrowbackThursday Gods in Alabama by @JoshilynJackson

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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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For 10 years Arlene has kept her promises, and God has kept His end of the bargain. Until now. When an old schoolmate from Possett turns up at Arlene’s door in Chicago asking questions about Jim Beverly, former quarterback and god of Possett High, Arlene’s break with her former hometown is forced to an end. At the same time, Burr, her long-time boyfriend, has raised an ultimatum: introduce him to her family or consider him gone. Arlene loves him dearly but knows her lily white (not to mention deeply racist) Southern Baptist family will not understand her relationship with an African American boyfriend. Reluctantly, Arlene bows to the pressure, and she and Burr embark on the long-avoided road trip back home. As Arlene digs through guilt and deception, her patched-together alibi begins to unravel, and she discovers how far she will go for love and a chance at redemption.

I haven’t had time to read much this past week, so I thought I could feature an old title today. I read Gods in Alabama back in 2010 and it was one of those books that make me realize what kind of books I like. It depicted everything I love about a story. The kind of novel I’d love to write one day. And it might not be the best in the genre, but it was my first and so it’s still today one of my favorite reads.

Gods in Alabama deals with various themes like family, racism, rape, feminism and, it’s set, obviously, in Alabama. It’s a mystery and a drama at the same time, but the characters stayed with me forever. In addition, it made me laugh. Despite all the drama, the writing was sharp and witty.

Oh, and the ending was brilliant, in my opinion, exactly what I would’ve chosen. I’ve read other books by Jackson and while I’ve enjoyed some, my first is still my favorite. What are you waiting for?

Review: The Late Show by @Connellybooks @littlebrown

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Renée Ballard works the night shift in Hollywood, beginning many investigations but finishing none as each morning she turns her cases over to day shift detectives. A once up-and-coming detective, she’s been given this beat as punishment after filing a sexual harassment complaint against a supervisor. But one night she catches two cases she doesn’t want to part with: the brutal beating of a prostitute left for dead in a parking lot and the killing of a young woman in a nightclub shooting. Ballard is determined not to give up at dawn. Against orders and her own partner’s wishes, she works both cases by day while maintaining her shift by night. As the cases entwine they pull her closer to her own demons and the reason she won’t give up her job no matter what the department throws at her.

A few days ago I said I had never read a Michael Connelly book and then I suddenly had the chance to dive into his new series featuring Renee Ballard, a young detective working the night shift (“The Late Show”). This was a solid start and I quite enjoyed reading about the LAPD and its dynamics.

Renee has been working at night since she decided to file a complaint against one of her bosses. He was sexually harassing her, but he never admitted it and no one ever believed her. Her old partner Chastain didn’t want to help her either so now Renee is working with Jenkins, another detective who wants to work the night shift because of his sick wife. But working at night isn’t easy, because Jenkins and Ballard can never keep the cases (as they have to handle them in the morning). However, one night, Renee deals with two different crimes and decides she wants to keep investigating no matter what.

Renee Ballard is a strong and fierce character and she reminded me of Kinsey Millhone! Renee never gives up, she stands for herself and she’s willing to sacrifice her sleep hours (did she even sleep more than 3 hours straight?) in order to catch the “big evil”. What I liked the most about her is how much she cared about the victims and their life choices. She respected everyone and that is something that I highly value in people (even if they’re fictional).

There are two different cases and both are equally engaging, although there’s one involving police corruption and those are always more interesting because you know there’s going to be a surprising revelation. I kind of expected it, but it’s okay, as it was a good story anyway. All in all, The Late Show was an entertaining police procedural (heavy on the procedural) and while it wasn’t my favorite book ever, I loved that it featured a strong woman dealing with sexism in the police.

Netgalley, Little, Brown and Company, 2017

Review: The Force by @DonWinslow

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All Denny Malone wants is to be a good cop. He is “the King of Manhattan North,” a highly decorated NYPD detective sergeant and the real leader of “Da Force.” Malone and his crew are the smartest, the toughest, the quickest, the bravest, and the baddest, an elite special unit given carte blanche to fight gangs, drugs, and guns. Every day and every night for the eighteen years he’s spent on the Job, Malone has served on the front lines, witnessing the hurt, the dead, the victims, the perps. He’s done whatever it takes to serve and protect in a city built by ambition and corruption, where no one is clean—including Malone himself. What only a few know is that Denny Malone is dirty: he and his partners have stolen millions of dollars in drugs and cash in the wake of the biggest heroin bust in the city’s history. Now Malone is caught in a trap and being squeezed by the Feds, and he must walk the thin line between betraying his brothers and partners, the Job, his family, and the woman he loves, trying to survive, body and soul, while the city teeters on the brink of a racial conflagration that could destroy them all.

I was so excited to read this book that I bought it as soon as Renee told me that I would surely love it as much as she did. And despite its length (+500 pages), I read it in less than two days. I was completely addicted. I think I mentioned before that I’ve had a couple of Don Winslow books for a while but I hadn’t got to them yet. But I knew I would like his books given my love for Narcos and Dennis Lehane (and well, Stephen King said this was like The Godfather but with cops), so I had a feeling I would enjoy The Force and I was completely right.

I had just finished watching NBC’s Shades of Blue and this book was the perfect follow-up, as the theme was exactly the same: corrupt police officers in NYC! But what I find most interesting about this kind of stories is that not everything is black or white. I do love some shades of gray (not Christian’s, eww!). However, I must say Jennifer Lopez’s Harlee Santos -and even Wozniak!- were more likable than Denny Malone.

Denny Malone is the absolute protagonist here, and, let’s face it, he’s not a really good guy. It’s not only that he steals money and drugs, but the way he behaves. He’s kind of sexist, he’s always violent and he thinks he’s so smart and powerful (and he might be, but come on!). Nevertheless, he was a great character to read about, precisely because of his flaws. Despite the bad stuff, he clearly cares about his family and friends, so of course there’s some good in him. The same can be said about his team: Russo and Montague. Levin was the nicest one, though. They were all cops and they were corrupt, but they were fascinating.

Don Winslow’s writing was just perfect, in my opinion. Full of dialogue, the pace is never slow and there’s no time to get bored: there’s always something going on. The aspect that I enjoyed the most about The Force was Malone’s descent into desperation. He’s hopeless and he knows it. What will he do? Will he betray his partners? Will he give up everything and go to jail? Will his relationships survive? The final act was gripping and unforgettable and I loved the ending so much that I can’t wait to watch what it will surely become one of my favorite movies. This book is perfect film material.

If you’re a fan of gritty thrillers, stories about corruption, epic police sagas and the film The Departed, you will surely enjoy this one. IT’S SO GOOD.

HarperCollins, 2017

Review: All The Wicked Girls by @WhittyAuthor @BonnierZaffre

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Everyone loves Summer Ryan. A model student and musical prodigy, she’s a ray of light in the struggling small town of Grace, Alabama – especially compared to her troubled sister, Raine. Then Summer goes missing. Grace is already simmering, and with this new tragedy the police have their hands full keeping the peace. Only Raine throws herself into the search, supported by a most unlikely ally. But perhaps there was always more to Summer than met the eye . . .

You can’t imagine how happy I was when I checked out my reading calendar and saw that my next ARC was All The Wicked Girls. I had been trying to catch up on physical arcs to be able to focus my attention on Netgalley when I’m on vacation, and Chris Whitaker’s book was next on my to-read list. I was excited. And nervous. What if I didn’t love it as much as I loved Tall Oaks? After all, that one was my favorite book of 2016. High expectations were inevitable.

As soon as I read the first chapter though, I remembered why I loved his debut so so much. The writing is flawless, the story manages to grip you from the very first paragraph and you can’t wait to keep on reading to find out more. If you read the first chapter and you don’t want to know more… well, then I guess we can’t be friends 😉 It’s still July, but I already know All The Wicked Girls will be one of my favorites. It was that good. You know which book I thought of while reading this one? Mystic River. And I liked All The Wicked Girls better.

At the same time, I feel I should warn you that this is much darker and dramatic than Tall Oaks ever was. This book was like one of those epic dramas that leave you exhausted but in a good way. I don’t know how to explain it, but I could feel this was going to be a special novel just after a few pages. There was something magnetic about it, I was completely captivated. And no, this isn’t your typical fast-paced, easy-to-read thriller, it’s way more complex and deep, and I especially love the way the author explores small-town dynamics and relationships between unlikely allies. And how the weather is practically another character.

So what’s it about? All The Wicked Girls tells the story of Grace, Alabama, a small-town filled with broken people keeping secrets. And girls from near towns are disappearing. No one knows what’s going on and the only suspect is someone they call “Bird”. But who is he? Everything changes when Summer Ryan disappears. She’s Grace’s “good girl” and she wouldn’t run away, would she? But then again, she left a note… Did Bird take her? Did she take off? Meanwhile, her wild sister Raine is determined to find out what happened and so she starts investigating with the help of two other teenagers: Noah and Purv. But that’s not all. We will also follow Summer’s months before her disappearance and we might discover things we wish we hadn’t known…

The mystery was hands down fantastic, and it’s exactly the kind of story that I crave for. A southern gothic tale that is completely absorbing and leaves you breathless by the time you reach the tragic final pages.

Even though the book is completely different to Tall Oaks, it still has all those ingredients that made me fall in love with Chris Whitaker’s writing. You can’t help but love Noah from the very first scene with the badge. And he is not Manny, but there’s something about this sweet kid that reminded me of him. The relationship between the teenagers is sweet and devastating at the same time and I’m not ashamed to admit I shed a few tears.

All The Wicked Girls is an unforgettable novel and I want you all to discover its magic.

ARC, Bonnier Zaffre, 2017