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ARCs Biography Book Reviews Books Featured Historical Nonfiction Mystery Nonfiction Thriller

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep

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The stunning story of an Alabama serial killer and the true-crime book that Harper Lee worked on obsessively in the years after To Kill a Mockingbird.

Reverend Willie Maxwell was a rural preacher accused of murdering five of his family members for insurance money in the 1970s. With the help of a savvy lawyer, he escaped justice for years until a relative shot him dead at the funeral of his last victim. Despite hundreds of witnesses, Maxwell’s murderer was acquitted–thanks to the same attorney who had previously defended the Reverend.

Sitting in the audience during the vigilante’s trial was Harper Lee, who had traveled from New York City to her native Alabama with the idea of writing her own In Cold Blood, the true-crime classic she had helped her friend Truman Capote research seventeen years earlier. Lee spent a year in town reporting, and many more working on her own version of the case.

Now Casey Cep brings this story to life, from the shocking murders to the courtroom drama to the racial politics of the Deep South. At the same time, she offers a deeply moving portrait of one of the country’s most beloved writers and her struggle with fame, success, and the mystery of artistic creativity.

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper LeeFurious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Penguin Random House for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the First to Read program.

This book was absolutely fascinating! I would recommend it to anyone. If you have fond memories of reading Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird as a child or are looking to read classics this year, be sure to put this one on your TBR. It’s also a type of story within a story about a story whose final works (those being Harper Lee’s) were never published in which readers of true crime/thrillers will appreciate.

Furious Hours made full circle as it encompassed the published/unpublished works and the personal and literary life of author Harper Lee. As the first chapters unfolded into a compelling story of the accused Reverend Maxwell, I gained incredible insight into the norms of Southern living as well as the cultural and political climate of the times. From the perceptive value of the aesthetic and functional features of the Alabama courthouses to the practice of law itself, the intriguing writing style kept my full attention.

The author, Casey Cep, did an amazing job articulating and organizing the depth and reach of Harper Lee in a way that was captivating. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about influential circumstances and notable people who crossed paths with Harper Lee, including Truman Capote. All these details added so much biographical context to how Harper Lee lived her life, the choices she made, and how it shaped her writing as an author. This is one book you won’t want to put down!

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ARCs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Historical Fiction Mystery Thriller

The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye

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The new and exciting historial thriller by Lyndsay Faye, author of Edgar-nominated Jane Steele and Gods of Gotham, which follows Alice “Nobody” from Prohibition-era Harlem to Portland’s the Paragon Hotel.

The year is 1921, and “Nobody” Alice James is on a cross-country train, carrying a bullet wound and fleeing for her life following an illicit drug and liquor deal gone horribly wrong. Desperate to get as far away as possible from New York City and those who want her dead, she has her sights set on Oregon: a distant frontier that seems the end of the line.

The Paragon HotelThe Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Penguin Random House for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the First to Read program.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I would recommend it to those who enjoy history within the time periods of the 1920s and 1930s and within the setting of the U.S. It really takes you back in time to the days of the prohibition era.

The writing style was excellent. Though I was definitely absorbed into the story from the beginning, I did have a slight bit of difficulty following at first, but ultimately really appreciated the detailed descriptions and changing POV, as well as the dialogue, which was well written to reflect deep emotion and the social climate of the time. The characters were rich as well as the plot, which made for very interesting revelations. There were so many intriguing layers within the plot, including cultural and social dynamics that added incredible dimension to the mystery of the story and brought an interesting perspective to well known events that I hadn’t realized before.

I would really like to listen to this via audiobook as I think it would be a great one.

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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Mystery Thriller

Bullseye (Michael Bennett #9) by James Patterson

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Caught in the crossfire of a deadly standoff, Detective Michael Bennett must kill…or be killed. 

Tensions between America and Russia are the highest they’ve been since the Cold War. As the countries’ Presidents travel to the United Nations to iron out their differences, a fashionable husband and wife team of lethal assassins prowls the streets of Manhattan hunting their prey–a professor hiding a scandalous secret. Their next target: the extremely popular President of the United States of America.
Pulled away from his family and pressed into service, Detective Michael Bennett must trace the source of a threat that could rip the country apart–and what he finds may turn the Cold War red hot once again. With allegiances constantly in doubt and no one above suspicion, only Bennett can step into the line of fire to save the President before the deadly kill shot hits its mark.

Bullseye (Michael Bennett, #9)Bullseye by James Patterson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked this book. I listened to it via audiobook. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys action crime with political twist and plots that take place in NYC.

The characters were easy to follow and somewhat predictable. There wasn’t as much room for imagination as a reader but the descriptions and use of language was candid and straightforward which complimented the NYC setting and law enforcement culture. Though there were different points of view presented, the plot was very linear, told with rigid structure, and was occasionally mechanical at times. The author James Patterson remained true to his typical talent for a strong, focused, plot-driven storyline which I did enjoy, in addition to the subplots which helped to add depth and color to the main story.

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Adventure Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Thriller

Gale Force by Owen Laukkanen

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For all lovers of maritime adventure comes an electrifying thriller of treachery and peril on the high seas featuring a dynamic new heroine, from multi-award-nominated suspense star Owen Laukkanen.

In the high-stakes world of deep-sea salvage, an ocean disaster can mean a huge payoff–if you can survive the chase.

Gale ForceGale Force by Owen Laukkanen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved, loved, loved this book! Maritime reads are my absolute favorite and this book did not disappoint. I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys seafaring adventure with a bit of a thrill.

The author Owen Laukkanen did an excellent job with character development. I was so grateful to learn that the romantic part of storyline was certainly present but did not overshadow the love of the sea and all the author has to offer with his credibility in writing about admiralty, navigation, and seamanship.

MY FAVORITE LINES:

“At first, the stricken ship was just a smudge on the horizon, a formless mirage, visible only from the tops of the swells. As the Gale Force plowed closer, the smudge separated, and McKenna could see the Coast Guard cutter, stately and proud, and the Pacific Lion herself, a half-sunk bathtub toy on an enormous scale, ungainly and wallowing in an uneasy sea.”

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Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Horror Humor Mystery Science Fiction Thriller

The Urban Legion by Dave Agans

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What if the Conspiracy concealed its crimes by calling them urban legends?

As organic food critic Lynn Grady savors the duck pâté, a phantom voice invades her head. A stranger appears, blocks the voice with an improvised tin-foil hat, and claims to be an urban legend survivor. Lynn doubts his story. But a surprise attack by armed French waiters plunges her into the Urban Legion’s underground war with a pervasive consumer products conspiracy. As she fights to save her teen daughter from corrupt golfers, taser-packing car salesmen, and her sold-out grunge-star ex-husband, Lynn discovers the sinister purpose behind everyday annoyances.

The Urban Legion puts a new spin on conspiracies and urban legends. Food courts and airport restrooms will never be the same.

The Urban LegionThe Urban Legion by Dave Agans

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was so incredibly entertaining. I would recommend it to anyone with a good sense of humor and sense of adventure who is looking for a fun read with a satyrical spin on pop culture, conspiracies, urban legends, human desire, and corporate greed.

The author Dave Agans is a creative and clever writer. The plot and subplots are formulated in such a way that the suspense is maintained, characters remain well-developed, and everything comes together at such a good pace. I loved the story line, it’s hilarious, relevant, and the description are great, it’s one that you’ll want to read straight through. I’ll never look at truffles and mall food the same.

MY FAVORITE LINES:

“[Pungent, garlicky bouquet.]
It smelled right. She placed it on the plate and sliced it open. The aroma filled her awareness, and her empty stomach purred with anticipation. She carved off a sliver, noting the properly complex inner structure. She hesitantly placed it on her tongue.
[Silky. Earthy. Hint of linden.]” -Dave Agans

“As a Trail Boy Manual says, intelligent strategy requires strategic intelligence–and we can keep tabs on enemy strategy from the comfort of our living room.”
“By monitoring the news?”
“By monitoring the ads.”
– Dave Agans

“You can fight popular culture, but you can’t be popular at the same time.”
– Dave Agans

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Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Mystery Thriller

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

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Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar. Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train… (less)

The Girl on the TrainThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Picture this: It’s the slowest moving train on the planet and you’re sitting next to a voyeuristic drunk who is constantly belching and reeks. When it finally moves fast, it goes around in tight circles around repetitive stories of repressed bitterness, anger, and depression. Everyone is talking and competing for your attention so they can tell you their story yet you can’t distinguish each character’s voice. No one has any ounce of sympathy for each other. The end.

I would like to try reading another book by Paula Hawkins in the future though.

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