The Devil’s Own: A tantalizing historical mystery by Maria McDonald – #BookReview – #TuesdayBookBlog

Rosepoint Rating: Five Stars 5 stars

Book Blurb:

A set of century-old diaries found in an attic draws an Irish couple into a tale of murder and madness, in this absorbing new suspense.

The Devil's Own by Maria McDonaldAfter forty years in the Irish army, Brian is looking forward to retiring and spending time with his wife—though he worries about adjusting to civilian life. While clearing the attic before they move house, he makes a discovery: three journals dating back to the early twentieth century.

One was written by Arthur, an ex-Connaught Ranger; another by Arthur’s wife, Edith, a colonel’s daughter; and the third by Henry, a British soldier and Arthur’s best friend.

Brian and his wife are soon engrossed in reading the diaries and following the intertwined stories of these three people from the past. But it soon becomes chillingly clear that these diaries contain more than the daily adventures of ordinary lives. Because one of the three is a killer . . .

My Review:

Well, how much fun was this?

This is one of those that I continued to read, fascinated, while my breakfast cereal became soggy.

A dual timeline novel that begins approximately 1880 to 1924 and the other present day. The main POV is that of Brian, retiring after spending forty years in the Irish army. His wife is thrilled with the new digs they’ve planned for years and eagerly looking forward to retiring with her hubby. It’s when Brian tackles the attic of the home previously occupied by myriad military families that he discovers journals hidden in a covered chest that date back a century where the real mystery suspense begins.

Brian and Jean become engrossed in reading what must have been the separate diaries of Arthur and his wife Edith, and that of Henry, Arthur’s best friend. The journals, however, turn rather dark and Henry’s diary becomes shocking.

The Devil's Own by Maria McDonaldThe journals take turns as the narrative progresses through the story of Arthur as an orphaned child and his eventual history with the Connaught Rangers. Edith has given up being the privileged child of an officer stationed in India at the Curragh Camp with all the privileges attendant to the British military of the time. Their union is marred by Arthur’s drinking encouraged by his army buddy Henry.

I loved the chapters with Arthur and Edith; Henry’s chapters turn grisly as he describes his exploits. The descriptions of the bases or camps are vivid with detail and include interesting tidbits of military life of the time. The characters are fully developed and evoke immersion into the storyline, creating a bond between both the current angst-filled Brian and the tragedy of Edith’s marriage.

So engrossing the laying out of the backstory of the individuals, it’s easy to be fully invested in them by the time the well-plotted and paced storyline plays out. I suspicioned Henry’s story early on, but the novel is so absorbing I had no problem burying myself in the pages in a race to the conclusion.

Gripping, it is indeed tantalizing and a particularly satisfying read. As with most journeys, the fun is not always in the destination—it’s the ride.

I previously read Charlie Mac back in May 2018 and enjoyed it. The author outdid herself this time–loved it. I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bloodhound Books and the author that in no way influenced this review. These are my honest thoughts. This is one that will make my suggested favorites list for #readingirelandmonth in March.

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Book Details:

Genre: Historical Thrillers, Psychological Fiction
Publisher: Bloodhound Books
ASIN: B0BQ6LP15Y
Print Length: 348 pages
Publication Date: January 11, 2023
Source: Bloodhound Books and the author

Title Link(s):

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo

Maria McDonald - authorThe Author: Originally from Belfast, Maria McDonald lives in Kildare, with her husband Gerry.

Maria is an avid reader who loves to write but only indulged in her passion for writing fiction after retirement. Since then, her short stories and articles have been published in Woman’s Way and Ireland’s Own, as well as numerous anthologies; Intermissions, Grattan Street Press Melbourne; Same page anthology, University College Cork; Fragments of Time, Amber Publishers. Maria is a founder member of Ink Tank Writing Group, based in Newbridge library and contributed to their anthologies, Timeless in Kildare and Let Me Tell You Something.

©2023 V Williams

#TuesdayBookBlog

When Irish Eyes Are Lying: The Kilteegan Bridge Story-Book 4 by Jean Grainger – #BookReview – #TuesdayBookBlog

#1 New Release in Historical Irish Fiction

Book Blurb:

Kilteegan Bridge, Ireland. 1975 

Despite the best efforts to the older generation to maintain standards, short skirts, long hair and loud music are all the rage in Kilteegan Bridge.  

When Irish Eyes Are Lying by Jean GraingerEmmet Kogan has set his sights on an education at the prestigious Stanford University in California, while his cousin Nellie also longs to get away, but for very different reasons. If she’s to escape too, it will mean wrapping herself in a web of lies, but it’s a price she’s willing to pay. 

Lena and Eli are terrified they will lose their boy to the bright lights of America forever, while Emily and Blackie make a decision to keep a dangerous secret, despite knowing the damage such duplicity can do.  

On the exciting streets of 1970s San Francisco, two young Irish people have to learn to navigate this new world of wonderful opportunities and dangerous vices, and learn that no matter how open and accepting a society is, there are always rules.  

Rules that if broken, carry a heavy penalty.

My Review:

This installment in the Kilteegan Bridge series had me ripping one direction and then another. I felt at the beginning like it might have been a bit of déjà vu with Lena.

Several storylines in this episode that included Nellie (déjà vu Lena), Nellie’s cousin Emmett and his birth dad Malachy, as well as Fintan Slattery’s misunderstanding of the power of the “Good People.”

Granted, I loved the insight into the “fairy” tales (the Good People) who can get downright dangerously vindictive when crossed. So many origins in our customs today that stem from ancient myths, gospels and superstitions handed down and still observed. (Leave the Hawthorn tree alone and do not violate the fairy ring!!)

When Irish Eyes Are Lying by Jean GraingerTo escape Nellie’s unhappy experience, she is invited and allowed to go to Palo Alto where Malachy is living with his birth father in preparation for going to Stanford. Another very eye-opening storyline that had me remembering my grandmother’s dread of what was happening in San Francisco. Totally involved in our own drama at home, however, none of that scary scene really touched me at the time. The drug and free love culture was spreading far afield, but I don’t remember it hitting Sacramento quite that hard. Or, maybe I was just that far removed.

Meanwhile, back at home in Kilteegan Bridge, Lena and Eli immersed in helping family Emily and Blackie takes a tragic turn, one that was gut-wrenching. I haven’t recovered from that yet and not happy with the turn the narrative has taken also hope it doesn’t go the way I suspect Book 5 will lead. Ms. Grainger pulled no punches in this one!

I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed each of the entries in the series, the last one More Harm Than Good, following each of the characters so well developed they are part of the neighborhood, I know and love them, each with immersive stories of their own. But this one hurt.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author that in no way influenced this review. These are my honest thoughts.

Rosepoint Rating: Four Stars 4 stars

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Book Details:

Genre: Historical Irish Fiction, Historical Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Fiction, Saga Fiction
Publisher: Gold Harp Media
ASIN: B0BLTP1YCY
Print Length: 285 pages
Publication Date: January 17, 2023
Source: Author ARC
Title Link(s): When Irish Eyes Are Lying [Amazon]

 

Jean Grainger - authorThe Author: JEAN GRAINGER is a USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR

SELECTED BY BOOKBUB READERS IN TOP 19 OF HISTORICAL FICTION BOOKS.

WINNER OF THE 2016 AUTHOR’S CIRCLE HISTORICAL NOVEL OF EXCELLENCE

Hello and thanks for taking time out to check out my page. If you’re wondering what you’re getting with my books then think of the late great Maeve Binchy but sometimes with a historical twist. I was born in Cork, Ireland in 1971 and I come from a large family of storytellers, so much so that we had to have ‘The Talking Spoon’, only the person holding the spoon could talk!

I have worked as a history lecturer at University, a teacher of English, History and Drama in secondary school, a playwright, and a tour guide of my beloved Ireland. I am married to the lovely Diarmuid and we have four children. We live in a 200 year old stone cottage in Mid-Cork with my family and the world’s smallest dogs, called Scrappy and Scoobi..

My experiences leading groups, mainly from the United States, led me to write my first novel, ‘The Tour’. My observances of the often funny, sometimes sad but always interesting events on tours fascinated me. People really did confide the most extraordinary things, the safety of strangers I suppose. It’s a fictional story set on a tour bus but many of the characters are based on people I met over the years.

[truncated—please see author’s page for full bio]

Many of the people who have reviewed my books have said that you get to know the characters and really become attached to them, that’s wonderful for me to hear because that’s how I feel about them too. I grew up on Maeve Binchy and Deirdre Purcell and I aspired to being like them. If you buy one of my books I’m very grateful and I really hope you enjoy it. If you do, or even if you don’t, please take the time to post a review. Writing is a source of constant contentment to me and I am so fortunate to have the time and the inclination to do it, but to read a review written by a reader really does make my day.

©2023 V Williams

#TuesdayBookBlog

The Huntress by Kate Quinn – #Audiobook Review – #ThrowbackThursday

The Huntress by Kate Quinn

Goodreads Choice Award Nominee

Rosepoint Publishing:   Five Stars 5 stars

Book Blurb:

From the author of the New York Times and USA Today best-selling novel The Alice Network comes another fascinating historical novel about a battle-haunted English journalist and a Russian female bomber pilot who join forces to track the Huntress, a Nazi war criminal gone to ground in America.

In the aftermath of war, the hunter becomes the hunted….

Bold and fearless, Nina Markova always dreamed of flying. When the Nazis attack the Soviet Union, she risks everything to join the legendary Night Witches, an all-female night bomber regiment wreaking havoc on the invading Germans. When she is stranded behind enemy lines, Nina becomes the prey of a lethal Nazi murderess known as the Huntress, and only Nina’s bravery and cunning will keep her alive.

Transformed by the horrors he witnessed from Omaha Beach to the Nuremberg Trials, British war correspondent Ian Graham has become a Nazi hunter. Yet one target eludes him: a vicious predator known as the Huntress. To find her, the fierce, disciplined investigator joins forces with the only witness to escape the Huntress alive: the brazen, cocksure Nina. But a shared secret could derail their mission unless Ian and Nina force themselves to confront it.

Growing up in post-war Boston, 17-year-old Jordan McBride is determined to become a photographer. When her long-widowed father unexpectedly comes home with a new fiancée, Jordan is thrilled. But there is something disconcerting about the soft-spoken German widow. Certain that danger is lurking, Jordan begins to delve into her new stepmother’s past – only to discover that there are mysteries buried deep in her family…secrets that may threaten all Jordan holds dear.

In this immersive, heart-wrenching story, Kate Quinn illuminates the consequences of war on individual lives, and the price we pay to seek justice and truth. 

This audiobook includes an episode of the Book Club Girl Podcast, featuring an interview with Kate Quinn about The Huntress. 

My Review:

I was diverted to this novel by a blog buddy who wrote a glowing review of another work by this author. That one not being available at my library (unusual, I know!), I chose this one instead and from the moment I had my earbuds comfortably embedded could find it almost impossible to turn it off for anything. Finally, I didn’t bother, and just sat and listened to it.

This turned out to be one very mind-blowing audiobook, I’m sure in no small part owing to the amazing narrator who slid Russian names off her tongue as easily as German or English.

The Night WitchesThis masterful work carries a sinister, skin-crawling aura of suspense from the first chapter to the triumphal conclusion. This is a profoundly compulsive read that begins with the story of Nina Markova that gradually evolves into an extremely powerful protagonist—formidable in her staunch unwavering focus, passionate in her role as one of the first Soviet women pilots of WWII known as The Night Witches and extremely profane in expression. Oh, God, she is amazing and I loved every chapter that was hers!

The Huntress by Kate QuinnNina, however, is but one of three main POVs that take turns in chapters devoted to each character and the timeline that evolves over years from the war to 1950s Boston that sees seventeen-year-old Jordan McBride—equally passionate in her exploration of photography goals at a time most young girls were thinking marriage and babies. It is her widowed father who marries a German widow, Annaliese, who brings along a four-year-old daughter, Ruth. Jordan captures a photo of Annaliese that sets her hackles up and fires potent suspicions.

Following the end of the war, Nazi war criminal hunter and British war correspondent Ian Graham is joined by his buddy and Nina in the hunt for die Jagerin, The Huntress—a deliciously disturbing woman who escaped her palatial lakeside estate, site of decadent Nazi retreats.

The pace is frenetic. Each chapter reveals more about the protagonists and the dark Annaliese. Jordan, who knows she captured the real woman behind the façade, Nina with as much incentive to find her as Ian, gradually reveals more about her own harrowing war efforts piloting a plane made of wood and canvas.

This could be a suspense thriller that takes place seventy years ago as much as a historical thriller. It is an incredible narrative that hooks, revs, and speeds to a satisfying conclusion, producing a hugely character-driven story that will reverberate long after you’ve finished the book. Will easily be a memorable favorite that straddles years.

I downloaded a copy of this audiobook from my local well-stocked library. These are my honest thoughts. Whether or not you like historical fiction, this is intense reading and is heartily recommended.

Book Details:

Genre: World War II Historical Fiction, War & Military Fiction, Espionage Thrillers
Publisher:  HarperAudio
ASIN: B07GXZNPSB
Listening Length: 19 hrs 4 mins
Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld
Publication Date: February 26, 2019
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: The Huntress [Amazon]
Barnes & Noble
Kobo

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Kate Quinn - authorThe Author: Kate Quinn is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction. A native of southern California, she attended Boston University where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. She has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance, before turning to the 20th century with “The Alice Network”, “The Huntress,” “The Rose Code,” and “The Diamond Eye.” All have been translated into multiple languages. Kate and her husband now live in San Diego with three rescue dogs.

Saskia Maarleveld - narratorThe Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld is an experienced audiobook narrator and voice-over actress based in New York City. Raised in New Zealand and France, she is highly skilled with accents and dialects, and many of her books have been narrated entirely in accents other than her own. In addition to audiobooks, Saskia’s voice can be heard in animation, video games, and commercials. She attributes her love and understanding of reading books aloud to coming from a large family where audiobooks were the only way to get though car rides without fighting! Visit saskiamaarleveld.com to learn more.

©2023 V Williams

Book hangover

Night Witches attribute: History.com

Borderline (Anna Pigeon Mysteries Book 15) by Nevada Barr- #Audiobook Review – #throwbackthursday

Book Blurb:

Agatha and Anthony Award winner Nevada Barr, New York Times best-selling author of Winter Study, enthralls millions with the exploits of roving park ranger Anna Pigeon.

The killings on Isle Royale have left Anna drained and haunted, her memories of her time with the wolf study group forever marred by the carnage on the island. Diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, she is on administrative leave, per her superintendent’s urging. Anna wonders if the leave might not be permanent, either by her own choice or that of the National Park Service.

The one bright spot in Anna’s life is Paul, her husband of less than a year. Hoping the warmth and the adventure of a raft trip in Big Bend National Park will lift her spirits, Paul takes Anna to southwest Texas, where the sun is hot and the Rio Grande is running high.

The sheer beauty of the Chihuahuan Desert and the power of the river work their magic-until the raft is lost in the rapids and a young college student falls overboard, resulting in an even more grisly discovery. Caught in a strainer between two boulders and more dead than alive, is a pregnant woman, hair and arms tangled in the downed branches. Instead of the soul-soothing experience they’d longed for, Anna and Paul find themselves sucked into a labyrinth of intrigue that leads from the Mexican desert to the steps of the governor’s Mansion in Austin, Texas.

My Review:

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I decided it was high time I listened to another Park Range Anna Pigeon mystery. I do sooo enjoy these books, not in no small part due to the narrator, Barbara Rosenblat.

Anna Pigeon has been a park ranger long enough to have experienced various jobs all over the US in some very unique national parks. Reading about these parks is always enlightening, educational, and fascinating. But the predicaments that Anna Pigeon gets herself into truly amaze. Is she a strong protagonist? Oh yeah, and then some, at times pushing disbelief, but, hey, she can handle it.

This episode follows what was apparently almost her swan song in the last book that resulted in her being put on temporary leave, diagnosed with PTSD. She is married now to Paul, so she and hubby Paul decide to take a nice relaxing raft trip in Big Bend National Park. Breathe in the clean air, absorb the atmospheric desert fragrance and experience the Rio Grande in all its glory. Should be fun.

Unfortunately, they share the raft with several college students, one of whom falls overboard resulting in the loss of their equipment, and her rescue results in the discovery of a very pregnant young woman caught in the reeds more dead than alive. The alive part doesn’t last long forcing Anna to try to deliver the baby with little more than a pocket knife.

Borderline by Nevada BarrOkay, okay, but I told you you might have to suspend some disbelief so just go with it. It quickly becomes a question of who the young woman was running from when they are suddenly dodging bullets. With a river rapidly progressing toward flash flood stage, bad guys on the ledge above, and a newborn in trouble they are forced to find ways to evacuate safely.

Mercy! No one writes a faster-moving plot than this author! The tension ramps up as the river rises and the situation more dire. I love the way the author digs into the multiple personalities—those of the college students—pampered, green behind the ears, petulant to the point you want to slap one upside the head. Their mannerisms are so well described, the inflections, body language, you can see them–hear them. Anna and Paul combine brainstorms on the best way to escape their predicament. Snatches of humor lighten a dark situation and amid dialogue so realistic it seems she must have been recording conversations somewhere.

“That vein of conversation mined out, they fell silent again.”

This one so action-packed you can’t put it down even while decrying the characters could NOT have survived the circumstances. Yeah, but it’s thoroughly engaging and entertaining. I’ve listened to a number of the books in this series, now working back from Book 19, Boar Island and Destroyer Angel, although my favorite so far might be Deep South.

If you like wild and wooly non-stop action, well-developed characters, and strong female protagonists, you’ll enjoy this series. I downloaded a copy of this audiobook from my local well-stocked library. These are my honest thoughts.

Book Details:

Genre: Women Sleuth Mysteries, Suspense
Publisher: Recorded Books
ASIN: B0026PVY6G
Listening Length: 11 hrs 53 mins
Narrator: Barbara Rosenblat
Publication Date: April 15, 2009
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Borderline [Amazon]

 

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Four point Five Stars 4 1/2 stars

Nevada Barr - authorNevada was born in the small western town of Yerington, Nevada and raised on a mountain airport in the Sierras. Both her parents were pilots and mechanics and her sister, Molly, continued the tradition by becoming a pilot for USAir.

Pushed out of the nest, Nevada fell into the theatre, receiving her BA in speech and drama and her MFA in Acting before making the pilgrimage to New York City, then Minneapolis, MN. For eighteen years she worked on stage, in commercials, industrial training films and did voice-overs for radio. During this time she became interested in the environmental movement and began working in the National Parks during the summers — Isle Royale in Michigan, Guadalupe Mountains in Texas, Mesa Verde in Colorado, and then on the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi.

Woven throughout these seemingly disparate careers was the written word. Nevada wrote and presented campfire stories, taught storytelling and was a travel writer and restaurant critic. Her first novel, Bitterweet was published in 1983. The Anna Pigeon series, featuring a female park ranger as the protagonist, started when she married her love of writing with her love of the wilderness, the summer she worked in west Texas. The first book, Track of the Cat, was brought to light in 1993 and won both the Agatha and Anthony awards for best first mystery. The series was well received and A Superior Death, loosely based on Nevada’s experiences as a boat patrol ranger on Isle Royale in Lake Superior, was published in 1994. In 1995 Ill Wind came out. It was set in Mesa Verde, Colorado where Nevada worked as a law enforcement ranger for two seasons.

The rest is, shall we say, HISTORY! Nevada’s books and accomplishments have become numerous and the presses continue to roll, so in the interest of NOT having to update this page, books, awards, status on the New York Times Best Seller List — and more — will be enumerated with the relevant books else where on this website.

Barbara Rosenblat - narrator
Attribute: Wikipedia

The Narrator: Barbara Rosenblat has been narrating for more than 20 years, and even had the honor of performing the first book ever recorded at Audible in 1999.

She has also appeared on screen such as in the Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black as Miss Rosa. Rosenblat was born in London, England and raised in New York City. Upon returning to the US, she read books to the blind for four years at the Library of Congress. On Broadway she appeared in The Secret Garden and Talk Radio. Barbara Rosenblat has narrated more than 400 audiobooks.

©2022 V Williams

Christmas typewriter

What Have We Done by Alex Finlay – #BookReview – #suspense

Book Blurb:

A stay-at-home mom with a past.
A has-been rock star with a habit.
A reality TV producer with a debt.
Three disparate lives.
One deadly secret.

What Have We Done by Alex FinlayTwenty-five years ago, Jenna, Donnie, and Nico were the best of friends, having forged a bond through the abuse and neglect they endured as residents of Savior House, a group home for parentless teens. When the home was shut down—after the disappearance of several kids—the three were split up.

Though the trauma of their childhood has never left them, each went on to live accomplished—if troubled—lives. They haven’t seen one another since they were teens but now are reunited for a single haunting reason: someone is trying to kill them.

To survive, the group will have to revisit the nightmares of their childhoods and confront their shared past—a past that holds the secret to why someone wants them dead.

It’s a reunion none of them asked for . . . or wanted. But it may be the only way to save all their lives.

What Have We Done is both an edge-of-your-seat thriller and a gut-wrenching coming-of-age story. And it cements Alex Finlay as one of the new leading voices in thrillers today.

His Review:

Savior House is a foster home for orphans or wards of the court but has a consistent problem with young women going missing. The experience at the home is abusive and their disappearance is explained as them being disillusioned or disaffected and simply running away. The town authorities simply want the problem swept under the rug.

What Have We Done by Alex FinlayThe POV of Jenna, Nico and Donnie are three of five who do not feel this is an acceptable answer to the problem. The five banded together to “bury” a secret and go their separate ways when the group home is shut down. Twenty-five years later something begins to happen to the members of their group. When the surviving trio attempt to investigate, strange things happen to them as well!

Sisters, separated soon after birth, meet in their twenties and cannot believe they are identical twins. Neither are endowed with a moral compass but will figure prominently in the investigation.

The three main characters are all damaged, one fighting addiction problems, and none are wholly engaging or empathetic. There are twists and turns and the pace tends to ebb and flow while keeping sufficient interest to find out the who and why.

The individuals shared a desperate history as the backstories of each are explored. Something happened that someone doesn’t want exposed—even now.

CE WilliamsThis book is entertaining and well-written but I found the subject matter disturbing. The overall tale is engaging and entertaining. Enjoy! 4 stars – CE Williams

I read The Night Shift earlier this year and found it an engaging manipulation of the plot and suspenseful, just a bit stronger with well-developed characters.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with the opportunity to read and review this book. Currently on pre-order to be released March 7, 2023.

Rosepoint Publishing: Four Stars 4 stars

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Book Details:

Genre: Suspense Action Fiction, Suspense, Suspense Thrillers
Publisher: Minotaur Books
ASIN: B09Y46CVQW
Print Length: 368 pages
Publication Date: March 7, 2023
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: What Have We Done [Amazon]
Barnes & Noble
Kobo

 

Alex Finlay - authorThe Author: Alex Finlay is the author of the 2021 breakout novel, EVERY LAST FEAR, and one of 2022’s most-anticipated thrillers, THE NIGHT SHIFT. His work has been an Indie Next pick, a LibraryReads selection, an Amazon Editor’s Best Thriller, as well as a CNN, Newsweek, E!, BuzzFeed, Business Week, Goodreads, Parade, PopSugar, Scribd, and Reader’s Digest best or most anticipated thrillers of the year. Alex’s novels have been translated into seventeen languages, and EVERY LAST FEAR is in development for a major television series. Learn more at https://alexfinlaybooks.com/

©2022 CE Williams – V Williams V Williams

Have a Happy Thanksgiving

Bullet Train (the movie) vs #Audiobook #BulletTrain by Kōtarō Isaka – #crimethriller

Bullet Train (the Movie)_ vs #Audiobook

Intro

Are you up for a frenetically paced story located on a Shinkansen (bullet train) in Japan? This is an audiobook (kindle, paperback, hardback) turned into a “major motion picture” from Sony Pictures that stars none other than Brad Pitt—like you’ve probably never seen or imagined Bradley—and Sandra Bullock in a cameo.

The Movie

Brad Pitt stars as Ladybug. The poor man has a history of being unlucky—seriously unlucky—which is interesting as he’s an accomplished assassin coming off the last gig that went sideways on several levels (how did he survive?). Now he’s ready to check in with Maria who is sending him out on a simple mission. Steal a briefcase from a train. You know, that really fast one in Japan? Unfortunately, there is more than one assassin on the same train—others interested in the same briefcase—and with somewhat of an alarming connection. But once he has the briefcase, can he then get safely off the train?

Maybe not.

My Thoughts

Leave it to Hollywood to make an admittedly fast-paced nail-biting satire into an explosively violent but often farcical blockbuster. Brad Pitt (Nanao nee Ladybug) plays it to the hilt and the movie is worth the price of admission to watch the man work. He can produce many a LOL moment with just a look. And he comes off as hapless and innocent (if an assassin can be innocent) when the bodies begin to pile up around him.

Brad Pitt - author
Photo attribution: IMDb

The characters are priceless—most, carefully crafted after their creative author’s original molding of them. I mean—come on—Tangerine and Lemon? And again, the two are perfect, playing off each other, intellectually, in numerous scenes. Joey King - actorAnd The Prince…ah, The Prince, a female (not the high school male sadistically imagined by the author, but a cruel, petite woman). Kimura, poor, sad Kimura who followed in his father’s footsteps driven to save his son now languishing in a hospital in a coma.

Five assassins all with horrific backstories—brought to the fore by flashbacks of each. Can one be more brutal than the other? Amid fiery crash scenes, vicious fight scenes, swords, knives, and blood, there are definitely some gory scenes.

With the exception of The Prince, a viewer might be tempted to begin rooting for a particular character to make it through the chaos to fight again elsewhere. Eventually, you might be so caught up in the non-stop action that you’ve forgotten the mission goal—what was it again?

4 stars 4 stars

Audiobook (Blurb)

A dark, satirical thriller by the best-selling Japanese author, following the perilous train ride of five highly motivated assassins – soon to be a major film from Sony

Nanao, nicknamed Ladybug – the self-proclaimed “unluckiest assassin in the world” – boards a bullet train from Tokyo to Morioka with one simple task: Grab a suitcase and get off at the next stop. Unbeknownst to him, the deadly duo Tangerine and Lemon are also after the very same suitcase – and they are not the only dangerous passengers onboard. Satoshi, “the Prince”, with the looks of an innocent schoolboy and the mind of a viciously cunning psychopath, is also in the mix and has history with some of the others. Risk fuels him as does a good philosophical debate – like, is killing really wrong? Chasing the Prince is another assassin with a score to settle for the time the Prince casually pushed a young boy off of a roof, leaving him comatose. When the five assassins discover they are all on the same train, they realize their missions are not as unrelated as they first appear. 

A massive best seller in Japan, Bullet Train is an original and propulsive thriller that fizzes with an incredible energy and surprising humor as its complex net of double-crosses and twists unwind. Award-winning author Kotaro Isaka takes listeners on a tension-packed journey as the bullet train hurtles toward its final destination. Who will make it off the train alive – and what awaits them at the last stop?

The Kindle-Paperback book was given the Editors’ pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

My Thoughts

The audiobook’s main character would seem to be The Prince, as it is his voice, his thoughts, his objectives that drives the plot. The characters are introduced and gradually enfolded into the storyline that revolves in and around a briefcase full of money. The chapters begin with Kimura and proceed to switch between The Prince and Nanao, as well as Tangerine and Lemon.

Bullet Train by Kōtarō IsakaIt’s amazing the philosophical depth to which the Prince advances his thoughts, proposing a subject and then dissecting in ways never before contemplated. You might be examining the meaning of life one minute and the frivolity of it the next. The prince is young—a total psychopathic narcissist—who views himself clearly superior to those of the lives he currently controls like a master with a marionette.

The suitcase becomes the baton stolen, hidden, found, and then passed to the next hideous villain. There are support characters who come and go, the Wolf for instance, but my very favorite was Kimura’s mother and father. Sweetness in the middle of madness.

The fate of several of the main characters is handled very differently in the audiobook than was in the movie, some of which I was sorry about, but kept rooting for Nanao—much the underdog—but not so unlucky anymore. The conclusion is satisfying, though somewhat deflating after all the turmoil (and casualties) and it’s even possible the reader can understand why this is a necessary evil.

5 stars 5 stars

The Author

Kōtarō Isaka - author
Author photo from Goodreads

Kotaro Isaka(伊坂幸太郎, Isaka Koutarou) is a Japanese author of mystery fiction.

Isaka was born in Matsudo City, Chiba Prefecture, Japan. After graduating from the law faculty of Tohoku University, he worked as a system engineer. Isaka quit his company job and focused on writing after hearing Kazuyoshi Saito’s 1997 song “Kōfuku na Chōshoku Taikutsu na Yūshoku”, and the two have collaborated several times. In 2000, Isaka won the Shincho Mystery Club Prize for his debut novel Ōdyubon no Inori, after which he became a full-time writer.
In 2002, Isaka’s novel Lush Life gained much critical acclaim, but it was his Naoki Prize-nominated work Jūryoku Piero (2003) that brought him popular success. His following work Ahiru to Kamo no Koin Rokkā won the 25th Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for New Writers.
Jūryoku Piero (2003), Children (2004), Grasshopper (2004), Shinigami no Seido (2005) and Sabaku (2006) were all nominated for the Naoki Prize.
Isaka was the only author in Japan to be nominated for the Hon’ya Taishō in each of the award’s first four years, finally winning in 2008 with Golden Slumber. The same work also won the 21st Yamamoto Shūgorō Prize.

Book Details

Genre: Crime Thrillers, Suspense
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
ASIN: B0946D2BGX
Listening Length: 13 hrs 38 mins
Narrator: Pun Bandhu
Audible Release: August 3, 2021
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Bullet Train [Amazon]

Overall Impression

The Movie

Five assassins on the bullet train traveling at 200 mph, somewhat connected with several different motives. What could go wrong? All are at odds. Amazing choice of actors with their assigned parts totally selling it. They were a hoot. The action is non-stop. Tons of special effects and some shocking stunts. Flash bang in technicolor and sound.

Absolutely engaging, totally entertaining. Definitely outside the realm of credibility. And fun.

Did I mention fun? Still, with all that, it lacked the psychological nuances, much of the philosophical exchanges with The Prince. Some of those arguments had the ability to get you twisting and turning in the wind and sorry (not sorry) but I thought the part of The Prince was miscast—the only one. I missed some of those theoretical conversations and hated the ending.

The Audiobook

It takes a few minutes to get into the writing style and prose of the well-narrated audiobook. Also, there may be sufficient characters for some to get you grabbing an Excel spreadsheet, but the storyline begins to get the reader entrenched into a wildly unique plot and unusual location. The conversations with The Prince are mesmerizing. Difficult to get into that alien head to grasp the salient points which then become profound. Such a variety feast of characters.

It’s unusual and mysteriously engaging. Looking for something different? Go no further.

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Conclusion

The movie is riotously entertaining—all action and character-driven. No doubt you’d enjoy if this is your thing—lots of sights and sounds. Pitt is great. And Sandra Bullock? (Phoned it in.) It’s a fast two hours.

The audiobook’s twists and turns have your head swimming, trying to keep up. It’s deliciously aggravating while intoxicating. It goes dark quickly. It’s also engaging and entertaining and the characterizations alone beat the movie version even given the performances these individuals turn in. Unusual setting, unique well plotted, and evenly paced, I have to go with the audiobook (author’s original work) to take this one.

I’d recommend either as entertaining but if you are looking for a stimulating and unique novel—look for the book.

©2022 V Williams V Williams

Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun (The Finlay Donovan Series Book 3) by Elle Cosimano #BookReview – #TuesdayBookBlog

Book Blurb:

From USA Today bestseller and Edgar Award nominee Elle Cosimano, comes Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun—the hilarious and heart-pounding next installment in the beloved Finlay Donovan series.

Dating. Diapers. And dodging bullets. Who said single moms can’t have fun?

Finlay Donovan Jumps the GunFinlay Donovan has been in messes before—after all, she’s an author and single mom who’s a pro at getting out bloodstains for rather unexpected reasons—but none quite like this. After she and her nanny/partner-in-crime Vero accidentally destroyed a luxury car that they may have “borrowed” in the process of saving the life of Finlay’s ex-husband, the Russian mob got her out of debt. But now Finlay owes them

Still running the show from behind bars, mob boss Feliks has a task for Finlay: find a contract killer before the cops do. Problem is, the killer might be an officer.

Luckily, hot cop Nick has started up a citizen’s police academy, and combined pressure from Finlay’s looming book deadline and Feliks is enough to convince Finlay and Vero to get involved. Through firearm training and forensic classes (and some hands-on research with the tempting detective), Finlay and Vero have the perfect cover-up to sleuth out the real criminal and free themselves from the mob’s clutches—all the while dodging spies, confronting Vero’s past, and juggling the daily trials of parenthood.

My Review:

Holy Moses! Finlay is back and again tied in as many plot threads as series books one and two. How can one mommy and crime writer get into so much trouble?

Finlay and her close buddy, nanny, accountant, and crime partner Vero seem to set sparks off wherever they go whether instigated by Finlay or Vero—and Vero certainly is accountable for her share.

These two are almost Laurel and Hardy performing a slap-stick comedy complete with virtual pratfalls, double entendres, smart and snappy dialogue, and threads that multiply as the plot frays. Finlay has an ex, two little ones, and an editor that calls to provide feedback on the last chapter at the worst possible moment as well as arguments as to where the narrative should go. It’s that story in the story concept—Finlay always wrestling with her characters and where she wants them as opposed to what the editor says will sell.

Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun by Elle CosimanoIn Book 3, the duo are busy trying to identify “EasyClean,” a contract killer working jobs through one of the Russian mob’s website forums because it must be he who tried to kill her ex and is possibly working within the same department as Detective Nick. Nick makes it easy to infiltrate his department when he heads up the citizens’ police academy. Oh, that’s fun!

I really like the support characters. Of course, there must be some sort of romance and that’s apparently boiled down to Nick, that hot, but damaged detective, as well as her sister, also a cop. With what Finlay is into, most of which by accident but certainly illegal, there is that tension of working with them while hiding covert activities.

The writer has managed a scatter-shot of genres, combining snarky comments with humorous suspense(?) or mystery with a crime thriller. The brand of humor has created a staccato-like pattern of hit and retreat, advancing the storyline carefully in well-paced choreography that barrels into a conclusion pocked with cliff-hangers.

I enjoyed this tale as much as the first two in the series I listened to in audiobook format, Finlay Donovan is Killing It and Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘em Dead, approved this time for the ARC. While it would help to read the first two in the series, Book 3 might be read as a standalone that will whet your appetite for the first two. I’m looking forward to Book 4.

 I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author and publisher through @NetGalley that in no way influenced this review. These are my honest thoughts.

Rosepoint Rating: Four point Five Stars 4 1/2 stars

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Book Details:

Genre: Women Sleuths
Publisher: Minotaur Books
ASIN: B09Y4666Q4
Print Length: 304 pages
Publication Date: January 31, 2023
Source: Publisher and NetGalley 

Title Link(s):

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo

Elle Cosimano - authorThe Author: Elle Cosimano is a USA Today bestselling author, an International Thriller Award winner, and an Edgar® Award nominee. Her acclaimed young adult novels include Nearly Gone, Holding Smoke, The Suffering Tree, and Seasons of the Storm. Elle’s debut novel for adults, Finlay Donovan Is Killing It, kicked off a witty, fast-paced contemporary mystery series, which was a PEOPLE Magazine Pick and one of New York Public Library’s Best Books of 2021. In addition to writing novels for teens and adults, her essays have appeared in The Huffington Post and Time. Cosimano lives with her husband and two sons in Virginia. You can learn more about her at her website: http://www.ElleCosimano.com.

Photo courtesy of Powell Woulfe Photography

©2022 V Williams V Williams

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