{Book Review} The Freedom Broker

{Book Review}

The Freedom Broker

By K.J. Howe

Thea Paris, nicknamed “Liberata,” is an expert in the kidnap-and-ransom field, working for a private consulting firm. She routinely negotiates for the release of hostages, but sometimes, works with an elite team to bring the hostages home through covert missions and/or forceful means.

When Thea’s father, a prominent oil executive, is abducted from his home in Greece, she sets off to find him. Thea jets from Greece to Africa, unsure of who she can trust and having no idea what she’ll unravel.

Review/Recommendation: Super short summary, right? The truth is that, while the above is the main plot line, there are a lot of smaller stories that run through the course of the book, all tying into the above at the end.

This mystery/suspense novel was a breath of fresh air from others in the genre. With a lead character a profession other than a cop, federal agent, or a lawyer, it was still fast-paced and very engaging like others in the genre. There were a number of connected story lines that the reader had to puzzle through – how were those story lines connected to Thea’s missing father? Who was lying and about what? Who was trustworthy and who was not? Some answers were clearer than others, which is part of what made the novel so entertaining.

I also appreciated how Howe drew upon the childhood experiences of the main characters. Thea’s brother was kidnapped when the two were children and was missing for about a year. Thea was the intended target. These experiences shaped Thea and her brother’s paths in life, from their occupation to their relationships with others.

If you enjoy mysteries and suspense novels, I’d encourage you to pick up this one.

The Freedom Broker is K.J. Howe’s first novel. It was published in February 2017.

This book is available on Amazon

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{Book Review} The Max Revere Novels

Max Revere Series

{Book Review}

The Max Revere Novels

By Allison Brennan

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Book .5: Maximum Exposure
Book 1: Notorious
Book 2 :Compulsion
Book 3: Poisonous

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Maxine Revere, Max, is an investigative reporter specializing in cold cases. After a couple of hit books to accompany her journalism career, her college friend talks her into hosting a television show focused on criminal justice, Maximum Exposure.

This series follows Max and her sidekick – assistant/bodyguard David Kane – as they investigate cold cases through their employment at NET. Max is outspoken, righteous, and a firm believer in the truth. In fact, she pursues the truth relentlessly, viewing the idea of ‘knowing the truth’ in black and white terms. The truth is always better than not just a lie but also the unknown, a view that frequently puts her at odds with friends, adversaries and sometimes, the people she’s trying to help.

Review/Recommendation: This series (so far) is a light, quick read. The first four parts of the series have been published recently, beginning in 2014, with the most recent being released in April of this year. Max’s role as a reporter makes the series stand out from others in the genre, who favor law enforcement personnel as leading characters.

I enjoyed the characters in the series. Max was referred to numerous times as a “bitch,” but the truth is that she’s blunt, honest, and determined. She’s a strong protagonist and while she may not see eye-to-eye with others, she stands firmly behind her beliefs, for better or worse. The supporting characters add some lightness and depth to the series – Max bickers constantly with her friend-coworker; her love interest flits in and out of the books and reveals a bit of a playful side to Max.

The plot lines are entertaining but not generally too deep, which is pretty much what I expect for books in this genre. Overall, I’d recommend it to anyone looking for an easy, light book (beach-read anyone?).

Grade: B+

 

 

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{Book Review} Orphan X

Orphan XThis was the first book I’ve read by Hurwitz, and I’m super bummed that the next book in the series isn’t out yet. Since I can’t wait, I’ve already picked up one of his older books to see if its as good as this one!

{Book Review}

Orphan X

By Gregg Hurwitz

Trained from a young age as a mercenary for a off-the-books U.S. government program known as the Orphan program, Evan Smoak (Orphan X) is known as The Nowhere Man. Evan left the program under devastating circumstances. After a month of wallowing, he reinvents himself, using his training for good – to help those who are desperate for help. The system he creates is simple. He helps someone in need, and as payment, that person gives his phone number to someone else who is in need and worthy of help. He works with one person at a time, on this referral basis.

However, a mission to help a woman supposedly being hunted for a gambling debt (with her father held hostage) just doesn’t seem quite right. Is the woman the person who she claims she is? Evan is suspicious of her, but eventually realizes that he himself is the target himself. Not sure who he can trust, Evan must tread carefully – to protect not just the innocent but himself.

Review/Recommendation: This is the first book I read by Hurwitz and I couldn’t put it down. It was a suspense with a plot line very different from other books in the same genre – a pleasant surprise. I loved that Evan Smoak was a killer with a conscience, someone who was trained to be ruthless, but who, deep down, empathizes with those in need.

I also enjoyed seeing Evan evolve and grow, as a direct result of a relationship with a neighbor and her son. As his neighbor sucked him into her life, he gradually came out of his shell, experiencing emotions that he had long ago buried deep.

The completely different plot line, coupled with unexpected twists and turns, had me completely into this book. I binge-read over the course of a weekend and can’t wait to read the next in the series. If you are into mysteries and suspense, don’t miss out on this one!

Winter in Books and J.D. Robb’s In Death Series

Winter In Books: 

Yes, this title is appropriate – spring just arrived this week! 

Surprisingly, I’ve spent a lot of time reading (on and off) over the past few months. Amid frantic knitting to finish a baby blanket for my BFF, I’ve managed to get multiple books going at a time – one audio for the car, one on my iPad, and one hardcover (for when I can’t bring my iPad along). I read and reviewed a light romance novel for you and a few mystery-suspense novels that I don’t plan on reviewing on here. If you’re interested, you can check out the list of books I’ve read on Goodreads or check out my profile for what I’m currently reading.

In addition, Paperback Book Swap changed their policy, from providing a free service enabling members to swap books at will (you pay the shipping), to charging 50¢ per transaction. I haven’t used the site much in the past few years, since I have been doing most of my reading on an e-reader, so I decided it wasn’t worth keeping my account active. I quickly cashed in my remaining 5 credits for old copies of a few J.D. Robb mysteries before the policy change kicked in and retired my account.

J.D. Robb’s In Death Series

Winter_Reading

Cashing in at PBS, along with the audio books that have been sitting in my car this summer, inspired the rest of this – a review of J.D. Robb’s In Death series. There are almost 40 books in the series (published 1995-present), of which I’ve read or listened to about half of them.

The Story: In Short The series begins in the year 2058. The 50+ years into the future setting is well established and apparently through the made-up vocabulary and technology used consistently throughout the series. Characters drink “tubes” of Pepsi and encounter droids as servants and security personnel. There are a number of references to the existence of human settlements “off planet,” including both prisons and vacation destinations. Both legal (i.e. Sober Up, blockers) and illegal (i.e. Zoner) drugs are foreign to the present-day reader.

This is the world of Eve Dallas, a leading homicide detective in New York City. Throughout the series, the reader watches as Dallas solves case after case and rises in the ranks of the New York City Police Department. The further into the series one reads, the more that the reader learns about what makes Eve, well, Eve – from an abusive father to living in the foster care system to her eventual relationship with a sketchy Irishman turned legitimate businessman.

Review: Over the past several years, I have enjoyed several of these books. I find them easy to pick up and although the stories are loosely linked, I’ve found it them easy to read out of order. I don’t find any of the story-lines particularly complicated, but they’re entertaining, which is the reason I regularly return to the series (and most of books in the mystery and suspense genre) anyway.

One of the strongest features to the series are the characters. Each of the major characters, and there’s several that appear in each book, all have their own distinct personality. Eve is the hard ass; sidekick Delia Peabody is a little wonky, electronics division Ian McNab reminds me of a surfer, and husband Roarke is highly intelligence and slick. As I read (or listen to) one of the books, I’ve grown to imagine the characters based on Robb’s description of the characters but also their very unique voice, which shines through best in the audio version of the books.

This series is actually one of my favorites to listen to on audio book. The content is light and fast-paced so that I don’t get distracted. However, I think the best part is that the narrator, Susan Ericksen, is excellent. She has narrated every book that I’ve listened to (as far as I can tell, she may have actually narrated the whole series to date). For me, this continuity makes a huge difference in which series I will continue to listen to on audio book and which ones I’ll switch back to the old-school books.

If you’re a fan of mysteries/suspense novels and haven’t given J.D. Robb a try, I’d recommend it. The futuristic setting is a fun twist. Bonus points if you give the audio books a shot.

{Book Review} Carved in Bone

Carved_in_Bone{Book Review}

Carved in Bone

By Jefferson Bass

Dr. Bill Brockton runs the Body Farm, a nickname for the Anthropology Research Facility, a “postmortem-decay research lab” at the University of Tennessee. Brockton is a forensic anthropologist who studies rates of decomposition and effects of nature, among other things, upon victim’s bodies at the Body Farm. He regularly assists local law enforcement on cases and testifies in court.

In Carved in Bone, Dr. Brockton is asked to assist in a case in Cooke County, Tennessee. The body of a young woman is discovered, oddly well preserved, deep in a cave. But the case is more than what Dr. Brockton bargained for. Before he knows it, he’s knee-deep in Cook Country’s illicit activities, surrounded by people he doesn’t trust, and a target for who knows who.

Review/Recommendation: The first book in the Body Farm Series, published in 2006, Carved in Bone starts off pretty slow. I felt like I was reading an episode of FOX’s Bones, but much slower-paced and without the wit and fun banter of the tv show’s characters. The story starts to pick up about a third of the way through the book, when the characters are all introduced, although there are still parts that seemed to drag a little bit.

That being said, I did like the story, once it got going. Actually, the story line was the best part, for me. I read a lot of mystery and suspense novels, and I definitely didn’t feel like this was a story that I had already read elsewhere.

However, I do feel there was significant room for improvement. I could have used a bit more wit and humor in the dialog. In addition, the investment in the characters was also lacking. There was a good mix of characters – some more likable than others and a few that evoked feelings of pity – but I didn’t have strong (positive or negative) feelings towards any of them.

I am not sold on whether or not I’ll be hooked on the series like I am books by some of my favorite mystery authors, but I thought the book was entertaining enough to reserve the second book in the series from the library. I’m hoping that the slow start and lack of attachment to the characters was due to setting the scene for the series and won’t be repeated with each book.

Grade: C+/B-