A Merciful Death by Kendra Elliot

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Mercy Kilpatrick is a quiet, lonely woman, her life marked by a tragic incident from her past. She was forced from home at eighteen when she became alienated from her parents by trying to protect her sister, Rose, and her brother, Levi, and spent fifteen years hiding the secret that pulled them apart. She was raised in a small town, but found living in a big city a challenge she was ready for. Her heart yearned to see the world beyond where she grew up, so she learned to support herself, graduated college, and eventually joined the FBI.

Now, Mercy is being sent to the last place she wants to be; she is being sent home to investigate several murders of ‘preppers’, people who spend their lives preparing for the end of government and high-tech society. Many are loners and hoarders, who actually have a great deal of knowledge about preparing for the end of the world. Mercy has no qualms handling this investigation, but knows people will recognize her. She fears who will welcome her and who will give her the cold shoulder.

Having arrived in town with her fellow FBI agent, Eddie Peterson, the first priority is to establish themselves with the current police chief, Truman Wade. He has his own painful memories and it doesn’t take him long to see that Mercy is also a troubled soul. Being alone for many years, Mercy is completely tied to her job, but as the investigation delves deeper she realizes the police chief has his eye on her. He appears to be quite curious and she becomes concerned that he knows something of her past. Nervous, she attempts to get him to admit she can handle the investigation without his help.

Gradually, Mercy makes contact with her four siblings and joyfully finds that, although she may not be accepted by all of her family, the two she held closest in her heart, Rose and Levi, seem genuinely happy to see her. The time apart was difficult and she looks forward to beginning anew with her family once the investigation is complete.

With the concern over her family lightened, Mercy jumps into the murder cases and begins to see similarities between these murders and two that happened right before she left home, fifteen years ago. She doesn’t want to bring attention to her past, but knows that these facts cannot be ignored. As the case takes another turn, Truman is determined to become more to Mercy than just a police chief. On the other hand, she is determined to keep him at arm’s length.

This is a well-written story. There is a certain amount of tension that all thrillers must have. However, I was disappointed with the lack of dialogue between Mercy and Truman, which could have drawn them together. They suddenly acknowledge their attraction and the investigation simply moves on. Also, I suspect that Mercy would have needed some kind of assistance in her investigation, but mostly she wanders around, picking up what clues she can. I thought Eddie would turn into a strong character, but he appears mostly on the sidelines. Mercy’s father is a unlikeable man. His arrogance such that he can never be wrong. His wife seems to like him well enough, though, but I just couldn’t see how she refrained from booting him out of the house on occasion. Several characters were interesting and it would have added depth to the story if they’d had more involvement. That said, overall, I did like the story.

The rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – Suspense for older teens and adults.
  • Level of sexuality – It was very low-key.
  • Is there graphic language? Mild, for the most part.
  • Did I cry? No.
  • Did I laugh? No.
  • Is this part of a series? I have not seen a sequel mentioned, however, the ending sounds like there could be more.
  • Level of character development – The characters are fairly strong and I didn’t notice much change.

I give this book ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 stars.

Available here on Amazon

The Body Reader by Anne Frasier

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Welcome to the life of Jude Fontaine, a terribly traumatized young woman, who is abducted, imprisoned in a basement, and tortured for three years by a malevolent man. This is an impressive chapter in the fact that the author focuses not on Jude’s continuous rape, but on the fact that Jude in time comes to a place where she needs to love this man. While I absolutely despise him, to save her sanity, Jude releases her hate and turns it to love, a false love, but love nevertheless.

After a fantastic and emotional escape, Jude’s desire is to return to her occupation as a police detective. She is given back her old position, but is assigned a new partner, Uriah Ashby. Her previous partner hovers around the borders of her new life as a detective. He thought he was in love with her at one time and isn’t too happy when she lets him know that is never going to happen. He is a continual and important character to the plot, but he is not given a lot of action.

Although her new partner, Uriah, is certain she’s not ready to return to her job, she does a commendable job at convincing him she is good to go. If he could read her mind, like the reader is allowed to, he would definitely be worried about her sanity. I sure did. For years, she was able to read her captor’s body language and now, as a detective, she finds she can easily read others and even, sometimes, the bodies of the dead. Her first time reading the body of a murdered teen freaks Uriah out, but he finds out that when it comes to Jude, what you see is what you get. I think this is the reason that I really like Jude. Her courage is impressive and, while she is looking at a long recovery for overcoming the trauma she endured, she refuses to be destroyed by it.

Unfortunately, it is soon apparent that Uriah has his own ghosts to deal with. While Jude manages to hide some of her issues, he is not quite as adept and she quickly discovers that she knows more about his troubles than she’d like to. Soon, trust issues develop and nearly destroy her opportunity at being a detective. The ending is surprising and I thought it was very cleverly done.

Although there are not a lot of supporting characters, the ones that are included are fascinating and add a lot to the story. I found this to be an extremely powerful read that hit me on an emotional level. I think readers who enjoy thrillers and suspensful books will appreciate this one.

Now, for the rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – Mystery/Thriller and adult or older teens.
  • Level of sexuality – Not a whole lot. Even the rape scene was centered on Jude and not the sexual act.
  • Was there graphic language? Not that I noticed.
  • Did I cry? It’s not that kind of story.
  • Is this part of a series? No.
  • Level of character development – I found it to be highly developed from the get-go.
  • Did I laugh? No, it’s not that kind of book.

This story is very well done. I think that it flows well and I was sorry when it ended. So, with that said, I give it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

Available here on Amazon

Infected by Scott Sigler

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Originally, this was a slow read and took me several days to finish. It’s not bad writing, just wordy with a high page count. I would get bored and wander away – for the whole day. But that’s only for the first half. It gets better.

The writing is somewhat centered on Margaret and Amos, who are the only scientists in the nation that are allowed to know about the infection (the title gives that tidbit away) and will hopefully soon understand how to defeat it. This requires a good amount of guesswork and fiddling with disintegrating, goopy bodies. Overall, they’re almost as clueless as I am. I did grow to like them, but not a whole lot. They are trying to save the nation from this horrible infection, so I would expect to see a little more drive and ambition. Definitely some demands made upon their employer; they have very little to go on and a small amount of help or tools.

When Perry Dawsey was introduced, I was fascinated with his character. He’s full of emotion, a need to be the best, and the ambition to overcome his childhood raised by a highly abusive father. Fortunately, he has his best friend, Bill, who is the only source of stability Perry has ever had in his life. They met in college where he had earned the name of “Scarey Perry” as a football player. It’s safe to say that he’s got some anger management issues. He’s also the main character who is infected. I believe that it is his mental hang-ups that make him a man who will not go down without a fight.

Perry, along with several others, has no knowledge of being infected and when he starts having a most amazing case of itching, he thinks he can wait it out. When this turns into a continuous distraction and hinderance, he is finally sent home by his employer. Perry sees no purpose in doctors or anti-itch creams, but comes to think that he just might need both. Pulling up his sleeve, he sees a blue triangle under his skin and soon discovers others on his body. I found the triangle intriguing, but the itching business needed to be dealt with straightaway. Fortunately, it does subside, but the triangles don’t. In fact, they’re rather busy making themselves at home in his body.

I don’t want to give away the whole story, but the second half of the book is where I got caught up in the story. We follow Perry as he battles physically and mentally against the infection. Also, the other characters come into play and, finally, we have a fascinating story. Suddenly, everyone, including me, is enlightened and we get an inkling as to who, what, why, and maybe when. I couldn’t tear myself away from it and finished the last half in one day. My final say on this book, is give it a try.

Now, the rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – Science fiction and for adults.
  • Level of sexuality – There wasn’t enough room in the plot for sex.
  • Was there graphic language? Yes. If I had uncontrollable itching and blue triangles I’d swear too.
  • Did I cry? No.
  • Did I laugh? No, it’s not that kind of story.
  • Is this part of a series? This is a cliffhanger. The second is Contagious, which is followed by Pandemic.
  • Level of character development – They developed slowly and not fully to my satisfaction, except for Perry.

Because I found the first half of the story slow, but a powerhouse of action in the second, I have to give it ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 stars. Perseverance paid off. The last half was powerfully written, grab your skirts (ladies) and go, go, go!

Available here on Amazon

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

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Battle Royale, a Japanese book published in Enlish in 2003, is an amazing powerhouse punch in the gut. It is the wilder, crazier, bloodier version of The Hunger Games. Any reader of Suzanne Collins’ bestselling series should invest in this book that predates her version of population control through the gruesome manilpulation of teenagers.

This book has many similarities; it involves a group of teens chosen to engage in deadly combat until the last one is standing, a highly controlled and engineered environment, an evil government desperate to remain in power, and the test of humanity. In this case, these unknowing students are misled into thinking they are going on a school trip. They are gassed on the bus and wake up in a classroom on a remote island. They come to with no idea of what is happening, each one harnessed by a collar that will detonate upon certain circumstances, such as remaining in a forbidden zone or trying to remove it. The full impact of the collar is purposefully displayed before the innocent eyes of these teens, before they even embark on their journey. The message is clear when their fellow student’s head explodes; do what you are told or you will die, stay out of the forbidden zones or you will die, and kill the others or you will die.

The story follows each of the forty-two students, some pairing off into small groups and some going lone wolf. They are armed with weapons of varying levels of effectiveness, ranging from fork to machine guns. Also, they are given a map with clearly drawn zones. As the “game” progresses, more and more zones are cut off, forcing them into a smaller area, where they are more likely to encounter one another in deadly stand-offs.

Some characters were barely given a chance, therefore, I didn’t become emotionally involved. They literally started dropping like flies. Others made it through harrowing encounters by the skin of their teeth, often enduring deadly wounds that later led to their demise. The book is massive, but I found myself gripping it tightly as I read through it as quickly as I could, desperate to discover the fate of each person. Ultimately, it ended up with an explosive show-down between Kazuo, the epitome of evil, and three friends, Shula, Noriko, and Shogo.

The story didn’t end there, though, as the hero found out the real reason behind this brutal display of power by the military. This event happens over and over as a reminder to the population of the Republic of Greater East Asia, concerning the disasterous rebellion that had happened many years before. Much as the arenas of The Hunger Games kept these kids moving forward towards a bloody end witnessed by the masses, the collars allowed controllers to monitor the students and manipulate them into encounters for maximum impact on the emotional state of the weary citizens. While this public is not forced to watch, they are well aware of what is going down and the parents know that their children are basically guaranteed a horrible death.

The ending is a surprise and leaves you hanging, yet filled with hope. Unfortunately, it has not been followed up with another book, but it has been adapted into a Manga series and several films. The writing is fantastic and fast-paced. While the details of the story are complex, it flows easily and even for English readers, there is little trouble in keeping track of the Japanese-named characters. I held my breath through the entire novel and stayed up late into the night, until I reluctantly fell into bed. Each character has a certain degree of good vs. evil that creates a level of emotive attachment. I was devastated when some met their fate, usually in bloody and excruciating ways, while other characters I was less affected by. The build-up to the huge climax was artfully done and I was not disappointed. This is one of the very rare books that kept me faithfully glued to the pages and rooting for the characters. There wasn’t a moment that didn’t contribute to the plot, which is quite a feat considering the size of the book.

I admit readily that I read The Hunger Games prior to this book and that I loved the series. That being said, I enjoyed Battle Royale far more. While the ending was not completely realized, I was not despondent and a fulfilling conclusion was hinted at. Unlike The Hunger Games, there was no lull or excessive dialogue; it was a perfectly streamlined-story with an almost irreproachable culmination. This book lacked nothing, it even had a touch of teenage love and the testament of true friendship. Full warning, this book is not for the feint of heart or anyone who is not willing to read about teens faced with life and death situations that often have a grisly ending. Due to the overwhelming similarities between this story and The Hunger Games, I am forced to call this a dirtier, more brutal version of the same plot. So, if you enjoyed Suzanne Collins’ series and are a fan of extreme action, you will love this book. I would call it The Hunger Games on steroids, but that is an unfair statement, seeing as this book was written years before.

Now, for my rating:

  • The genre and general reading age – this is action packed with a bit of mystery. The deadly details lead me to say that it’s probably better for older teens and adults.
  • Level of sexuality – there was zero hanky-panky. There was a love interest, but they were too busy running and fighting to even think about it, outside of the fact that it will probably never be realized.
  • Was there graphic language – only if gore and bloody bits count.
  • Did I cry? I got choked up a few times.
  • Is this part of a series? Sadly, no.
  • Level of character development – it was very high, even for the poor teens who were briefly included. I loved and I hated, with little in between.
  • Did I laugh? Of course not.

This book will stay with me forever. The Hunger Games affected me deeply, but the details are already starting to blur. I have vivid images burned into my brain from this book. I eagerly give this ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars and hope that you will love it too. This is one that will stay with me forever.

Available here on Amazon

 

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

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This is a story of nasty dudes and naive women. I loved it. It’s being compared to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, but that’s not a good comparison. They are both amazing in their own ways and for very different reasons. This book has so many questions that have to be answered. Is Megan dead or did she run away? Both are plausible. Why is Rachel so obsessed with her? Is it just her imagination? Why is Tom so passive of Rachel’s constant intrusions? Who is sleeping with who? Does Anna have any redeeming qualities?

The characters are flawed and some are downright detestable. The story focuses on three women: Rachel, the drunk who can’t let go of her ex-husband, Anna, the one who stole him away, and Megan, the beautiful missing woman.

Rachel was a great character to read. She is completely broken and her only escape is with alcohol. The story is told from first-person perspective and doesn’t have a whole lot of dialogue, so her chapters were desperate and lonely. I could put myself in her shoes. She is someone who is easy to pity, as she travels the train everyday, pretending to go to a job that she was fired from months ago. Every day she looks at a house, only a few down from where she once lived, and watches a loving couple. She creates a make-believe world around them, perfect in every way. It’s an obvious set-up for disappointment.

Anna is not likeable. At no point in the book did I feel anything for her but contempt. She knowingly begins an affair with a married man, none other than Rachel’s husband Tom, and effectively steals him away. Granted, Rachel’s depression makes it easy for her. At one point, while she’s admiring her and Tom’s sleeping baby, she remembers the days of sneaking around with him and admits that she misses being a mistress. She loved the sense of danger and wishes she could go back to it. All she feels towards Rachel is disgust. She was a good chunk of the book and suffice it to say that her chapters filled me with my own sense of disgust, aimed at her.

Next is Megan, the one I’m not sure how to feel about. Partly, she reminds me of Anna, with her “I don’t care about anyone but me” attitude, but she also reminds me of Rachel, with her struggle against depression and insomnia. Her tragic past is the only part of her character that I could stand, as the rest of the time she’s thinking purely about herself and her memories of when she ran an art gallery and had men drooling over her. Surely, she would be appalled to be compared to Rachel, who is described as being overweight, drunk, and repulsive. Megan’s selfishness is sometimes nauseating, but then a wee bit of humanity shines through. Ultimately, I felt sorry for her, but I didn’t like her.

The men in the story are a puzzle. There’s good and bad. It’s a confusing mess and I wasn’t always sure which man I was reading about through these women’s thoughts. Have no fear, the book did not leave me with a total sense of hopelessness concerning men in general, even though the author did not show them in a positive light.

It’s definitely a mystery. I had inklings all the way through, but it wasn’t until about seventy percent through that I said, “Ah-ha!” I’m always impressed with a book that can keep me guessing more than halfway through and this one definitely did. It wasn’t a huge surprise to me, but it was an unpleasant one. In the beginning, everything is up in the air. No one is safe from doubt, not even poor Rachel. Nothing is completely settled until the very end, as it should be, leading to a perfectly short and powerful climax.

The end was fulfilling, yet a little disappointing. I do not like happy-happy endings, but this one lacked hope. It was hinted at, but only one of these women gets to speak and her thoughts are still terrified and troubled. I would have liked to see more resolution for her. As it was, it felt sort of incomplete. My takeaway is that everyone lives in their own distorted version of reality and when the truth shows up it can have devastating repurcussions. So, don’t lie and don ‘t cheat.

For the rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – it’s a mystery and thriller. Reading age is adult, due to some really difficult scenes and references, including excessive drinking by more than one of the characters. Sometimes I wondered how they were able to stand up.
  • The level of sexuality – for the amount of cheating involved, it was surprisingly mild. There weren’t actual sex scenes, but memories of trysts and a morning after.
  • Was there graphic language? Not much.
  • Did I cry? Nope.
  • Is it part of a series? Nope.
  • Level of character development was very high. Out of the three men and three women who make up the story, only one was a bit weak. The others were strong and I could see them in my mind.
  • Did I laugh? Nope.

This was a fantastically-written story and once I picked it up I couldn’t put it down, literally. I stayed up late into the night with this one. I’m happy to give it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 stars. It was almost perfect.

Available here on Amazon