Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Review & Excerpt: The Third to Die by Allison Brennan

Publication Date: February 4th 2020 by MIRA
Pages: 464
Source: Publisher

About the book:
New York Times bestselling author and gifted storyteller Allison Brennan's new standalone thriller features a troubled female police detective and an ambitious FBI special agent who wind up at the center of a ticking-clock investigation into a diabolical serial killer.

Brennan's novel will launch a book-a-year series featuring a fabulous cast of recurring characters. It’s the story of a troubled female police detective and an ambitious FBI special agent who wind up at the center of a ticking-clock investigation into a diabolical serial killer; and the bond they forge in this crucible sets the stage for the future books in the series.
Detective Kara Quinn is visiting her hometown of Liberty Lake, Washington, after being placed on administrative leave by the LAPD, when she comes upon the mutilated body of a young nurse during an early morning jog. The manner of death is clearly ritualistic; she calls it in. Meanwhile back in DC, special agent in charge Mattias Costa is meticulously staffing his newly-minted Mobile Response Team. One of his first recruits is the brilliant FBI forensic psychologist Catherine Jones. When word reaches Matt that the Washington state murder appears to be the work of the Triple Killer--it will be the first case for the MRT. Jones has done the only profile on this serial killer, but she is reluctant to join the unit, still shaken by the death of her sister a year ago under circumstances for which she holds herself responsible. But only she holds the key to understanding the killer's obsessive pattern--three murder victims, three deep slashes a piece, each three days apart, each series beginning on a March 3rd--3/3, then a three-year hiatus before he strikes again.

This time they have a chance to stop him before he claims another victim strikes, but only if they can figure out who he is and where is is hiding.

My Thoughts:
The Third to Die is the first in a new series by Allison Brennan, following the newly formed FBI Mobile Response Team, a team set up to help small towns with limited policing resources to solve complex crimes.  Mathias Costa, the Special Agent in Charge lands the first case before he even has time to fully staff the team, but all that must be put on the back burner because this killer will murder two more people unless they catch him quickly. 

Undercover Detective Kara Quinn is on a forced vacation in her hometown of Liberty Lake and while out jogging she catches sight of a body. Her quick response and thinking yields useful information, and Mathias gladly accepts her help as he’s short handed and in need of smart investigators. Kara was a strong, intelligent investigator, with knack for reading people, and a superb memory. She was a bit prickly, spoke her mind, and seemed to hold people at arm’s length, which made her a complicated love interest for Mathias, but I’m definitely rooting for them in the long-term.  I’m looking forward to peeling back Kara’s layers in the coming books and seeing her progress emotionally (I hope) in the future.

We get a little glimpse of Mathias’ past involving his reluctant profiler, Catherine Jones. Not all is explained, but somehow a prior case led to the death of Catherine’s sister who was involved with Mathias.  It seems it was more of a superficial relationship for Mathias, but not all the particulars were spelled out, so I’m not sure. I think more will be revealed in future installments. Catherine is dealing with a lot of guilt from the death of her sister, affecting her marriage and family and had her questioning her decision to be a profiler.

After reading and loving Allison Brenan’s Max Revere series and other mysteries, I was excited pick up her newest, and it did not disappoint! Ms. Brennan excels at writing suspenseful, action-packed thrillers, and this one had me on the edge of my seat so that, even though the story was a little on the long side page-wise, I didn’t really notice it. Any fan of crime procedurals with smartly written, and multi-layered characters should enjoy The Third to Die, and really any of Ms. Brennan’s books.  I’m a huge fan of her writing!

The immediate case was solved, but the character’s lives, and past cases are not all wrapped up, leaving a lot of room for future stories.  I’m eager to find out what’s next!

4 Suns

Wednesday, March 3 
Liberty Lake, Washington 
12:09 a.m.

Warm blood covered him.
               His arms, up to his elbows, were slick with it. His clothing splattered with it. The knife—the blade that had taken his retribution—hung in his gloved hand by his side.
               It was good. Very good.
               He was almost done.
               The killer stared at the blackness in front of him, his mind as silent and dark as the night. The water lapped gently at the banks of the lake. A faint swish swish swish as it rolled up and back, up and back, in the lightest of breezes.
               He breathed in cold air; he exhaled steam.
Calm. Focused.
As the sounds and chill penetrated his subconscious, he moved into action. Staying here with the body would be foolish, even in the middle of the night.
He placed the knife carefully on a waist-high boulder, then removed his clothes. Jacket. Sweater. Undershirt. He stuffed them into a plastic bag. Took off his shoes. Socks. Pants. Boxers. Added them to the bag. He stood naked except for his gloves.
He tied the top of the plastic, then picked up the knife again and stabbed the bag multiple times. With strength that belied his lean frame, he threw the knife into the water. He couldn’t see where it fell; he barely heard the plunk.
Then he placed the bag in the lake and pushed it under, holding it beneath the surface to let the frigid water seep in. When the bag was saturated, he pulled it out and spun himself around as if he were throwing a shot put. He let go and the bag flew, hitting the water with a loud splash.
Even if the police found it—which he doubted they would— the water would destroy any evidence. He’d bought the clothes and shoes, even his underwear, at a discount store in another city, at another time. He’d never worn them before tonight.
Though he didn’t want DNA evidence in the system, it didn’t scare him if the police found something. He didn’t have a record. He’d killed before, many times, and not one person had spoken to him. He was smart—smarter than the cops, and certainly smarter than the victims he’d carefully selected.
Still, he must be cautious. Meticulous. Being smart meant that he couldn’t assume anything. What did his old man use to say?
Assume makes an ass out of you and me…
The killer scowled. He wasn’t doing any of this for his old man, though his father would get the retribution he deserved. He was doing this for himself. His own retribution. He was this close to finishing the elaborate plan he’d conceived years ago.
He could scarcely wait until six days from now, March 9, when his revenge would be complete.
He was saving the guiltiest of them for last.
Still, he hoped his old man would be pleased. Hadn’t he done what his father was too weak to do? Righted the many wrongs that had been done to them. How many times had the old man said these people should suffer? How many times had his father told him these people were fools?
Still, he hoped his old man would be pleased. Hadn’t he done what his father was too weak to do? Righted the many wrongs that had been done to them. How many times had the old man said these people should suffer? How many times had his father told him these people were fools?
Yet his father just let it happen and did nothing about it! Nothing! Because he was weak. He was weak and pathetic and cruel.
Breathe. Focus. All in good time.
All in good time.
The killer took another, smaller plastic bag from his backpack. He removed his wet gloves, put them inside, added a good-sized rock, tied the bag, then threw it into the lake.
Still naked, he shivered in the cold, still air. He wasn’t done.
Do it quick.
He walked into the lake, the water colder than ice. Still, he took several steps forward, his feet sinking into the rough muck at the bottom. When his knees were submersed, he did a shallow dive. His chest scraped a rock, but he was too numb to feel pain. He broke through the surface with a loud scream. He couldn’t breathe; he couldn’t think. His heart pounded in his chest, aching from the icy water.
But he was alive. He was fucking alive!
He went under once more, rubbed his hands briskly over his arms and face in case any blood remained. He would take a hot shower when he returned home, use soap and a towel to remove anything the lake left behind. But for now, this would do.
Twenty seconds in the water was almost too long. He bolted out, coughed, his body shaking so hard he could scarcely think. But he had planned everything well and operated on autopilot.
He pulled a towel from his backpack and dried off as best he could. Stepped into new sweatpants, sweatshirt, and shoes. Pulled on a new pair of gloves. There might be blood on the ATV, but it wasn’t his blood, so he wasn’t concerned.
He took a moment to stare back at the dark, still lake. Then he took one final look at the body splayed faceup. He felt nothing, because she was nothing. Unimportant. Simply a small pawn in a much bigger game. A pawn easily sacrificed.
He hoped his old man would be proud of his work, but he would probably just criticize his son’s process. He’d complain about how he did the job, then open another bottle of booze.
He hoped his father was burning in hell.
He jumped on the ATV and rode into the night.

Excerpted from The Third to Die by Allison Brennan, Copyright © 2020 by Allison Brennan. Published by MIRA Books. 

About the Author:

Allison Brennan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of three dozen thrillers and numerous short stories. She was nominated for Best Paperback Original Thriller by International Thriller Writers, has had multiple nominations and two Daphne du Maurier Awards, and is a five-time RITA finalist for Best Romantic Suspense. Allison believes life is too short to be bored, so she had five kids. Allison and her family live in Arizona. Visit her at allisonbrennan.com

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Sunday Post #60

The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated reviewer book blog, and is a post to recap my bookish and non-bookish things from the last week. 

I'm back up north and have had a nice long weekend up here. I've shared pictures of the wild turkeys that roam the hills up here. Well, sometimes they camp out at my daughter's place at night, sleeping in the trees (see picture below) and then start gobbling when the sun starts to rise. I guess they're East Bays version of a rooster crowing with the rise of the sun.  As soon as it's a little light they start flying out of the trees and start their turkey walkabout all over the neighborhood. Pretty entertaining even if they are waking me up at the crack of dawn.

Turkeys are the black blobs circled in red.

(Click on cover for Goodreads link)

Didn't get a lot read, but I had fun with Cowboy Courage, and like most Carolyn Brown's stories it made me laugh.  The Country Guesthouse was a win as well. 

Received/Purchased/Library Lend:
(Click on cover for Goodreads link)

I was thrilled to get a copy of Unforgiven since I loved the first book so much and because it's Jay Crownover! RaeAnne Thayne's sweet romances are usually a hit with me so I of course I downloaded The Seaglass Cottage. Highland Sword, Home With You and Call it Magic are all from authors I've never read before, so I hope they're good!


I had never seen Finding Nemo, but my grand kids wanted to watch it. It was really cute! Dory definitely stole the show and had me cracking up. Very cute!

How was your week?

Friday, January 24, 2020

Review: Cowboy Courage by Carolyn Brown

Publication Date: January 28th 2020 by Forever
Pages: 400 (including bonus novella)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

About the book: 

Love gets a second chance in this charming cowboy romance from a New York Times bestselling author, perfect for fans of Diana Palmer and Linda Lael Miller.

After spending years traveling the world with the military, Rose O'Malley is ready for a change. Heading back to Texas to hold down the fort at her aunt's bed-and-breakfast will give Rose just the break she needs. But while she may speak seven languages, she can't repair a leaky sink to save her life. When Hudson Baker strides in like a hero and effortlessly figures out the fix, Rose can't help wondering if the boy she once crushed on as a kid could now be her saving grace.

Hud has always been rock-solid and dependable-a quintessential cowboy to his core. But the moment Rose steps back into his life, his world is turned upside down by meddling family, a rescued baby, and one highly mischievous cat. Now he'll have to decide if it's time to throw caution to the wind and do whatever it takes to convince Rose that by her side is exactly where he wants to stay.

Includes the bonus novella, Wildflower Ranch, for the first time in print! 
My Thoughts:
Rose and Hud met in junior high school, fell hard, and never forgot each other. Now as adults they’re both in the same part of Texas, and it’s as if they never parted, but it’s a temporary situation.  Rose is holding down the fort at her Aunt Molly’s B & B while Molly’s off vacationing, but she has no permanent plans yet. Rose has a few weeks to decide if she’ll re-enlist in the military or get a job as a civilian. However, the longer she stays in Texas with Hud, this sweet, caring cowboy, the more she can’t picture leaving.

Hud’s never forgot Rose, and never felt as deeply for any other woman. Can he convince her to stay?

Cowboy Courage was a fun and sexy romance. Hud and Rose had an easy going, low-angst, sweet romance that progressed naturally and I really enjoyed their journey.  I can always count on a good time and a few laughs when I pick up one of Ms. Brown’s stories, and she didn’t disappoint. Rose’s feisty Aunt Luna was a hoot!  I loved how she handled Rose’s chauvinistic father and a pair of ridiculous cops! Don’t cross her when she’s got “Madam” (her pistol) in tow! 

4 Suns

Monday, January 20, 2020

Review: The Country Guesthouse by Robyn Carr

Publication Date: January 7th 2020 by MIRA
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher & Audio Book Purchase
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Audible

About the book:

A summer rental, a new beginning…

Hannah Russell’s carefully crafted plans for her life have been upended without warning. When her best friend died suddenly, Hannah became guardian to a five-year-old named Noah. With no experience at motherhood, she’s terrified she’s not up to the challenge. She and Noah need time to get to know each other, so she decides to rent a country house with stunning views on a lake in rural Colorado.

When they arrive at the house, they are greeted by the owner, a handsome man who promises to stay out of their way. But his clumsy Great Dane, Romeo, has other ideas and Noah immediately bonds with the lovable dog. As Hannah learns to become a mother, Owen Abrams, who is recovering from his own grief, can’t help but be drawn out of his solitude by his guests.

But life throws more challenges at this unlikely trio and they are tested in ways they never thought possible. All three will discover their strengths and, despite their differences, they will fight to become a family. And the people of Sullivan’s Crossing will rally around them to offer all of the support they need.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr delivers an emotional and triumphant novel about the fierce power of a mother’s love.

My Thoughts:
As usual with Robyn Carr’s stories, The Country Guesthouse sucked me right in from the first chapter. 

Hannah’s life is turned upside down in more ways than one when her best friend, Erin, dies unexpectedly and she’s named as the guardian to her five-year-old son, Noah.  Erin and Hannah had been best friends since college, bonding over shared goals and horrible mothers.  Of course, when Hannah agreed to take care of any of Erin’s future offspring should something happen, Hannah never dreamed she’d have to carry out that promise.  She’s determined to cherish and raise Noah right, and to get better acquainted and smooth the transition Hannah takes them on a vacation to a secluded Colorado house. Little does she know that due to a scheduling mishap, the owner, Owen Abrams will be staying on the property as well, but this turns out to be the best thing for Hannah, Noah, and Owen.

Owen Abrams is no stranger to loss, and so Hannah and Noah’s situation tugs at his heart.  His big Great Dane, Romeo, immediately breaks the ice and lifts Noah’s spirits, but it’s Owen’s help and friendship that truly make their vacation special. Days swimming and fishing in the lake and nights spent making dinner and relaxing on the porch make it so Hannah and Noah never want to leave. Hannah and Owen grow closer and closer making leaving a painful prospect. Never fear, love finds a way!

The situation was both heartbreaking and heartwarming, and I was captivated from page one. As with real life, there were bumps in the road.  There’s usually a little suspense and danger with Ms. Carr’s stories, and there’s a situation that definitely put me on edge and had me worrying for Noah’s safety, but Hannah and Noah had love, support, and protection from Owen, as well as many of the residents in Sullivan’s Crossing, most I’d met in the previous installments. 

Characters from past stories pop in, but I think The Country Guesthouse can be read as a standalone since this is very much Hannah, Owen and Noah’s story.  Sullivan’s Crossing has been a thoroughly enjoyable series, and I love digging into every new installment! Set in the Colorado mountains, where the Continental Divide Trail and the Colorado Trail intersect, Sullivan’s Crossing sounds like a beautiful small town, and I’ve grown to love the colorful characters.

I had an ARC e-copy of The Country Guesthouse, but I usually can’t resist buying an audio copy of Robyn Carr’s books because of Therese Plummer’s superb narration.  I alternately listened and read, and loved the story!

4 Suns

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Sunday Post #59

The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated reviewer book blog, and is a post to recap my bookish and non-bookish things from the last week. 

 When we got home last weekend from Sonoma the police were just leaving our street after interviewing our neighbors.  A truck was stolen in the early hours on Sunday and the mail was stolen from anyone with mail in their box. Our Nest cameras picked up the whole thing.   We didn't have anything stolen because luckily we had just had our son come to pick up our mail the day before. It's pretty frustrating because it happened again the next night on another street close. Hopefully the police will catch these criminals.

I'm back up north and it's been cold and rainy but beautiful. We'll be on our way home today and I'm trying to decide on an audio book listen for the drive.

(Click on cover for Goodreads link)

Still working through my Lady Darby binge. Still deciding if I'll listen to the next one on the road home today. 

Received/Purchased/Library Lend:
(Click on cover for Goodreads link)

My Favorite Things is a library lend audio book. I finally gave in and downloaded The Honey-Don't List. Hope it's good, because CL can be hit or miss for me.  Sweep With Me is a novella that I'm really excited to read. Love Ilona Andrews! 


Have watched the first four episodes and it's pretty addictive!

How was your week?

Friday, January 17, 2020

Review: Huckleberry Lake by Catherine Anderson

Publication Date: December 31st 2019 by Berkley Books
Pages: 560
Source: Publisher
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo 

About the book:
Love blooms once more in the quaint town of Mystic Creek, Oregon, from the New York Times bestselling author of Strawberry Hill.

Erin De Laney came to Mystic Creek hoping that the slower pace might rekindle her enthusiasm for law enforcement. Instead she feels as frustrated as she did in the city and when her disillusionment with the job increases, she takes a position on her uncle's ranch.

Her life has enough complications without her attraction to handsome, deaf cowboy, Wyatt Fitzgerald, the foreman on the ranch. Wyatt has sworn off dating, and Erin fears that nothing she does will ever change his mind. Yet while working with an abused horse under Wyatt's guidance, Erin comes to better understand herself. She also learns that love can heal almost anything.

Wyatt yearns to take Erin into his arms, but he's hesitant to pursue a romantic relationship. When their work sends them out alone together into a wilderness area, Wyatt is even more determined to hold Erin at arm's length.

But out of their time alone together on the mountain blossoms a chance for a once-in-a-lifetime love if only he's willing to give her his heart and make her his.

My Thoughts:
Huckleberry Lake is the story I thought I was getting in the last book, Strawberry Hill. Due to some sort of snafu the first book description of Strawberry Hill made it seem like it was focused on Erin and Wyatt, (now since corrected) and they were featured proximately, but it was Vicky and Slade’s book, which was completely confusing when I got to the end and everything was still up in the air with Erin and Wyatt.

 I don’t think you need to read the entire previous book to enjoy this story, but there was one scene at the very beginning where they meet for the first time and another when Wyatt deals with a horse in distress that I think would be unfortunate to miss, and give some much needed background to their relationship here.

I LOVED Huckleberry Lake! This is the book that I read by the fire for four hours straight, and then missed working up my Sunday Post because I was so wrapped up in the story. This is three-romances in one story: Erin and Wyatt, Julie and Blackie, and the start of one with Kennedy (Wyatt’s younger brother) and Jen.

Erin is an officer, bullied into the career path by her father. She hoped the move to Mystic Creek with its slower pace would make her love the job, but Erin’s coming to the realization that she may never be happy as a deputy.  Fortunately, Erin loves Mystic Creek and has the support of her wonderful Uncle Slade, so it’s just a matter of figuring it out. Wyatt Fitzgerald, the deaf foreman of her uncle’s ranch, is another burr in Erin’s side. She’s so attracted to this sexy cowboy, and there were signals that he felt the same, but now she feels like Wyatt actively dislikes her.

Wyatt is very attracted to Erin, but a bad experience in the past made him swear off romance for good. When his reason was revealed I could understand why he felt that way, but I did think it was a bit extreme, and as Erin as spends more time on the ranch it’s harder for Wyatt to stick to his decision. I loved that Erin and Wyatt formed a friendship while slowly falling in love.

Julie and Blackie’s story was just a great, easy going romance, and loved how it all turned out.

Kennedy and Jen’s story really captured my heart, with all that happened! Kennedy’s attending college, working on getting his degree while supporting himself as a ranch hand.  He meets Jen, a high school senior at the local burger joint, and having college and career goals in common they strike up a friendship. There was some danger, and a situation I won’t get into, but it will affect how things proceed in the future. I really, really hope Kennedy and Jen get their own book next.

I’d be remiss not mentioning the picturesque setting of Huckleberry Lake.  Small towns and ranching life appeals so much to me, and the animals were like secondary characters here.  Erin at times found it hard to take counsel from others, but she was able to come to these important truths by working with one of the new horses on Slade’s ranch. Their relationship was so touching, and I just love Slade’s bear, Four Toes!

4.5 Suns

Monday, January 13, 2020

Very Late Sunday Post #58

The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated reviewer book blog, and is a post to recap my bookish and non-bookish things from the last week. 

I'm soooo late posting this, but I've been out of town (yes, again) and super busy, then on Saturday I got caught up in a book I didn't want to put down so I didn't make time to work up a Sunday Post.  I read for four hours straight in front of a cozy fire, since it was pretty cold up in Sonoma this last weekend and it was heaven! 

The pics below are of Far Niente, a beautiful place to visit if you're in Wine Country. 

(Click on cover for Goodreads link)

I'm loving Anna Lee Huber's Lady Darby series! I can't stop reading and listening, so I think I'll get through all my library lends before they're due back.  Huckleberry Lake was the book I was the book I got caught up in on Saturday, which was a happy surprise since I was disappointed by the previous book in the series. This one was wonderful! I enjoyed and have a giveaway going for The Vanishing by Jayne Ann Krentz so be sure and stop by and enter! 

Received/Purchased/Library Lend:

I was excited to get approval for both A Stroke of Malice and The Dark Corners of the Night


My husband and I stumbled on this and it was cute.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Book Releases for the First Half of 2020

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Artsy Reader where each week they post a new top ten list and ask fellow bookish folk to share their lists on that topic.

It was hard to narrow down to 10 even with this only being my most anticipated reads for the first half of 2020.  What about you? Any here you plan on reading?