Review: Obsessed – T.R. Ragan

4

Lizzy Gardner #4

SYNOPSIS: Desperate for better ratings, radio psychologist Madeline Blair tells her listeners she’s being stalked, unaware that her long-time listener and biggest fan, Seth Brown, will do anything to protect her. When her publicity stunt is revealed, Seth becomes enraged by her deceit and dangerously unhinged.

When her friends mysteriously begin to vanish and damning evidence points to Madeline, she turns to private investigator Lizzy Gardner for help. Lizzy knows her way around a murderer’s mind, after surviving her own horrifying ordeal at the hands of a serial killer years ago.

As Lizzy closes in, Seth Brown is undeterred. Madeline wanted a stalker and now she has one. Nothing is going to stop him. He’s obsessed.  – via Goodreads

Ah, another better entry to the series. I thoroughly enjoyed A Dark Mind, and was interested to see if Ragan was able to continue with the series, which started dismally and forgettable for me, and has moved on to better things. Obsessed is another decent entry to the series, and continues to step up the darkness that Ragan is setting up.

The book picks up two years after the events following the Lovebird Killer, and Lizzy’s life seems to be much better – not constantly being stalked, attacked, etc. and she’s engaged. It seems to be going well. Hayley, however, seems to be stuck in this Brian Rosie obsession (har har) still, and not letting up. It is really getting a bit old to be reading about her fixation on him (even though I get it) and take all this Punisher-style stuff seriously. It just… doesn’t come across as genuine or realistic. Kitally featured previously before, and gets a much bigger role here. I must admit, I quite like the character, and I am interested in reading more about her, even though her story is, as with the rest of the backstories in these books, a bit out there.

I cannot quite believe Jessica slipped off the radar for two years and conveniently pops up for this chapter in Lizzy’s life, but okay. Again, these books require a lot of suspension of belief. Numerous cases are juggled again, and once again it is handled better than the first two books. Obsessed also features another compelling villain, one that I was quite intrigued with, especially what with reading about things from his perspective, and how he set out to do things. Bizarre, and handled well.

Obsessed barrels along nicely and is engaging throughout, provided you are willing to accept this world as not completely grounded in reality as we know it. Not a bad entry, and it definitely contributes to me checking out more from Ragan, a writer who is rising in my esteem with each book.

Review: Outrage – T.R. Ragan

2

Faith McMann #2

SYNOPSIS:  The happy life Faith McMann knew as a wife, mother, and teacher was destroyed when vicious criminals murdered her husband, kidnapped her children, and left her for dead. After paralyzing grief, fear, and despair, there was nothing left for her to feel…except fury. But striking a staggering blow against a brutal ring of human traffickers was just the beginning of her uphill battle.

Though her daughter remains missing and her son is lost in the wilderness, Faith’s relentless efforts have reunited some children with their families. They’ve also made her and the rest of her family the targets of a sadistic crime boss. But Faith has learned plenty about survival in the lawless underworld she’s storming. And she’s forged an unbreakable bond with two no-holds-barred allies in the war against evil. As they dodge assassins and take down predators, Faith travels deeper into the heart of darkness, determined to rescue her children at any cost. – Goodreads

So I blew through this one directly after having finished the first as I liked it that much. I thought that this was another solid read, and I quite liked it. There are a lot of things going on in this one, but it never gets messy in the way that it detracts from the story.

We get a closer look into the relationship between Beast and Rage, and especially with Little Vinnie in the mix, you have to appreciate it. It is also nice to get to know a little more about the characters and make them tick. Faith, too, grows a lot more and you can totally understand her frustration. Yeah, there are plenty “convenient” plot devices and things, sure, but it tells the story. Naturally you are not expecting a totally realistic story when going in for something like that. I still really like the family bond in Faith’s family, they truly do stand together.

This trilogy deals with a rather heavy concept – trafficking is not a light subject, and this book takes the horrors and weaves a fictitious story between it, but never minimizes the fact that the issues are real and truly despicable. The suffering is real and never undermined or forgotten. Miranda gets some more time and some payback in here, and I like that.

Outrage barrels along just as rapidly as Furious, never losing you along the way and keeping you hooked throughout. Again, it doesn’t feel like there is a lot of filler in this, which makes for another great read. As you guys can tell, I am highly enjoying this series of T.R. Ragan, and highly recommend it, providing you can deal with a heavier story than most authors are willing to tackle.

Review: Furious – T.R. Ragan

2

Faith McMann #1

SYNOPSIS: Faith McMann comes home to a nightmare: her husband is killed and her son and daughter are taken. Although the intruders leave her for dead, she survives. Crippling grief and fear for her children make life unbearable. Until her anguish turns to anger…and she trades victimhood for vengeance.

Frustrated with the law’s efforts, she takes action to rescue her children—and wreaks havoc on the brutal criminals who tore them from her. With her family and newfound allies at her side, Faith descends into the hellish underworld of human trafficking, determined to make those who prey on the innocent pray for mercy.

The forces she’s up against have already proven that their ruthlessness knows no bounds. And there’s nothing they won’t do to turn Faith’s crusade into a suicide mission. But they’re about to learn that nothing is more dangerous than a mother fighting for her children—especially one who’s earned the nickname Furious. – via Goodreads

Well, well, well. I picked this trilogy up on special on Amazon the other day as I was interested to see how Ragan would put this trilogy together. So far I have felt her books can be hit or miss, and upon thinking about it more, it’s mainly her Lizzie Gardner series that annoys me, as I am rather enjoying the Jessie Cole books and then there was this outing for Faith McMann and I was hooked! The more I read from Ragan, the more I look forward to checking out her work.

Furious deals with an icky story. It’s a little preposterous in the beginning, and takes a few seconds for you to give a damn about what is going on, but before you know it, you are dragged into this whirlwind horror of human trafficking and a mother going above and beyond to recover her children. The book flows really well, making this a super fast read, and it is engaging throughout. It doesn’t have any sections that drag too much, either, which I appreciated.

For the most part, the most fleshed out characters are our lead protagonist and shortly after that we have Beast and Rage, and they are more fleshed out than other characters. The others all serve their purpose, but they are just there. Faith really has a solid, supportive family, too, which I like.

Trafficking is not a joke, and it sheds a little look into the horrors of it, but doesn’t linger too long on the super nasty bits. I think if it delved into that too much there are a lot of people that would not be reading this based on the content. I wasn’t uncomfortable so much as sad to know that trafficking is a real thing and it is horrendous how people would use actual people as commodities without giving a crap about them being real people. This is a tough topic I am not going to get into, just know that it is a driving factor of the book.

Furious is a fast read that truly gets under your skin but keeps you coming back for more. It is an interesting story, albeit far fetched in some places, with a lot of things happening conveniently. It does not detract from the read, making it a fast paced action you cannot resist. Highly recommended.

Review: Deadly Recall – T.R. Ragan

0

Jessie Cole #2

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: When you search for the missing, there’s no telling what you’ll find. PI Jessie Cole learned that painful truth firsthand when her sister disappeared. Now a new case will test Jessie and Ben once again.

Owen Shepard, the public face of one of the country’s biggest health insurance companies, has become the target of a vengeful father. The man blames Shepard for his child’s death and plans to make the CEO know what it’s like to live with a broken heart—and watch others die. After killing two employees, the desperate father kidnaps Shepard’s daughter. Tasked with finding her, Jessie and crime reporter Ben Morrison are running out of time to save her.

Meanwhile, Ben is still seeking insight into the man he used to be before a car crash erased his memories. And each discovery is leading Jessie and him down a frightening road. What they find could scar both of them forever. – Goodreads

You know, I have read the majority of the Lizzy Gardner series, and I am really not a fan. It’s like… they are okay to read, but nothing special at all. When this series launched, I thought it would be worth giving it a shot, and I was actually impressed with Her Last Day. I didn’t expect to be, but I was. I am pleased to say that the second instalment in the Jessie Cole series is also a pretty good read.

There really are so many parallels between the Gardner books and the Cole books, but I honestly feel that the execution and characters are far better in the Cole books. Again, the pacing is a lot better in this. The book speeds by and is interesting throughout, not suffering from a lot of unnecessary bloat, and the multiple cases being dealt with are handled really well here, neither being forgotten or wasted away.

Zee returns in this book, and I am glad about that, as she is a character who is odd but I like her. Deadly Recall also gives us a bit more time to chew on Ben Morrison and who/what he is, as this book spends some more time digging into that. I really like this aspect, and I think Ragan is handling it really well.

Overall, Deadly Recall is a solid follow up to Her Last Day, and I am really interested to see where Ragan takes it from here. The book reads quickly, is interesting, and has characters that are more memorable than her other series. All in all, it works better, and is well worth the read if you are looking for a little something new to look into.

Review: A Dark Mind – T.R. Ragan

0

Lizzy Gardner #3

SYNOPSIS: A serial killer is terrorizing Sacramento, preying on happily married couples and unleashing unspeakable cruelties upon his victims. The ordeal rekindles disturbing memories for private investigator Lizzy Gardner, who barely escaped a serial killer clutches only years ago. But while most Sacramento residents are hiding in the shadows, paralyzed by fear, Lizzy is compelled to go after the Lovebird Killer. So it no surprise that, when a routine workers- compensation case suddenly leads her and her two young assistants onto the killer trail, she welcomes the chase, determined to bring him to justice before he can claim another victim. She never imagines he could be two steps ahead, watching her every move and plotting his bloodiest, most triumphant conquest of all. – via Goodreads

You know what? This is the Lizzy Gardner book I have liked the most. Yes, it still had some hectic issues, but it was so much better than the previous two. For reals. The first two books were pretty bland, nothing special, though still not the worst things I had ever read, but enough to keep me wondering. Okay, I lie, the biggest reason I read this was because I thoroughly enjoyed the start of her new Jessie Cole series, what with Her Last Day. I was like why can’t the Gardner books be better? Well, it seems that they have started to go that way.

The Lizzy Gardner books still require you to suspend a lot of belief, but if you are okay with that, then it is okay. A Dark Mind introduces us to what I feel is the first compelling villain of this series – and he is truly not okay. He is obsessive and creepy and totally delusional, which makes him even harder to nail down. I enjoyed reading chunks of the book from his perspective, to get a look at what made him tick and how it was all put together.

Lizzie and Jared are still kicking it together, and while I like them together, I sometimes feel that the relationship doesn’t feel natural, sort of like it is there because it is expected to be there. Hayley is back in action after chopping off Brian Rosie’s nether regions, and her obsession with breaking rules and just hating the world is also really getting old. I liked her quite a bit in Abducted, I thought she had potential to be more, and instead, Ragan has even managed to alienate me as a reader, so nope, not winning. I enjoyed reading a bit about Tommy, though his character is starting to become (imagine this) a little bit unbelievable (like most parts of it all). Kitally is a new character that Ragan has introduced, and I am interested to see where this goes.

Anyway, A Dark Mind is the most solid read in the Lizzy Gardner series, and has convinced me to keep going with these books. It’s almost as though they get better as time progresses, which is not a bad thing at all. This book is flawed, certainly, but entertaining. The Lovebird Killer is also a character that pushes further than any of the weak (I know how bad that sounds) we have had so far. Alright, that’s all I have to say about that.

Review: Dead Weight – T.R. Ragan

0

Lizzy Gardner #2

SYNOPSIS: Private investigator Lizzy Gardner knows a thing or two about living in the past. As a teenager, she was terrorized by a serial killer, an ordeal that haunted her for more than a decade before the maniac was finally stopped. So when terminally ill Ruth Fullerton begs Lizzy to reopen the cold case into her daughter’s disappearance, it’s hard to say no. More than twenty years have passed since Carol Fullerton vanished, abandoning her car by the side of a California freeway. The police wrote her off as a runaway, yet something tells Lizzy the truth isn’t so simple…

Carol’s cold case has barely begun to thaw when Andrea Kramer shows up at Lizzy’s door. Andrea’s sister, Diane, has been missing for months, and she’s convinced a charismatic weight-loss guru—part Tony Robbins and part Richard Simmons—is responsible. Diane was obese, but could her obsession with losing weight have led to her disappearance?

As if two active missing persons cases weren’t enough, Lizzy is also trying to manage her two teenage assistants, including one as wounded and haunted by her past as Lizzy. – via Goodreads

Decided to check out more of the books in this series (I bought almost all of them on a monthly special on Amazon). I was maybe not the biggest fan of the first, but Lizzy’s past was an interesting enough motivator for me to check out more. Well. Well. Well. Uhm, yeah. This wasn’t bad, but it was essentially more of the same.

The romance that was so hugely built between Lizzy and Jared in the first book is dragged up time and time again in this without actually going anywhere, and then we also  need to deal with Lizzy’s fear of so many things. Then there is Hayley, who is not adjusting to her new life and carries a lot of bitterness and resentment and is incredibly unlikable here, even though I liked her well enough in the first. I understand her anger, just got over reading about her silly inward fights. The competition and edginess between Jessica and Hayley was something I liked.

I didn’t like the pacing for this – it was messy. Lizzy is working two cases, and yet neither case feels like anything as the book is just all over the show. The one case definitely took precedence, but they both felt hollow. The saddest thing about that is that both cases are actually rather interesting, just not handled really well.

Well, considering I have all the others to check out, I will go ahead with that at some stage. I don’t think these are the worst books, and they are decent filler reads that zip along and don’t require too much investment, and that’s decent at least.

Top Ten Books I Read In 2017

5

So I decided to put together a list of the top ten new (to me) books that I have read this year. Now, I read some amazing books this year, but I also read some really meh books, so without further ado, here are the ten books I enjoyed the most this year.

10. Her Last Day – T. R. Ragan

I was quite impressed with Ragan’s newest offering, especially considering that I am not really a fan of the Lizzy Gardner books. I found this one to be similar but refreshing, featuring a much better story and characters that actually interest me and come across as more realistic. Worth the read, and I will certainly be checking out more books in this series as they come along.

9. The Killer Inside Me – Jim Thompson

First book I have ever read from Jim Thompson, definitely encourages me to check out more! The book is creepy in that it gets under your skin, telling the story from the perspective of a criminal, where you get a good look-see inside the mind. I liked it a lot, and I believe there is a movie now, too. I will certainly be looking into that.

8. The Innocent Wife – Amy Lloyd

Man, was this just something else or what? A debut novel from Amy Lloyd and all! The book tells the story of a woman who falls in love with and marries a man on death row, and we all know how morbidly fascinating that is. Well, The Innocent wife is well worth the read, and I will definitely be keeping my eyes peeled for more from her in future.

7. The Hazel Wood – Melissa Albert

Man, I really liked this. Fantastical, magical, dark adventure, and I quite enjoyed undertaking this journey. It sweeps you up and carries you away, and it is well worth the read.

6. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

Indeed, it took me far too long to read this, but I am glad that I have. I totally get why this book is a classic. It reads pretty easily and has plenty sass and humour to it as well as a ton of social commentary, all the while going with the classic girl meets guy she hates but later doesn’t story. I was so hooked on this, and can see this being something I will return to time and time again.

5. It – Stephen King

This was one of my monster reads of the year, and I have no regrets. It is such a good book. While not King’s greatest work, it is a mammoth story that engages you throughout, and has some truly amazing character work going on. It is such a coming of age story mixed in with some solid horror, and was worth every second I spent on it.

4. The Bone Collector – Jefferey Deaver

Heck yeah, I am so stoked to finally have started this series, and it’s been a blast! The Bone Collector is one hell of an opening for a series, and I truly enjoy reading about Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs. The book reads fast, has so many great twists and has plenty good humour and is good fun while still having some grit to it.

3. The Roanoke Girls – Amy Engel

This book was so my cup of tea. Oh yes. It is dark and gritty and explores some heavy themes, and is set out in such away you are drawn in. Amy Engel was also super cool about it all on Twitter, and I always appreciate it when an author/writer/director/actor/whatever gets involved with their fans. The Roanoke Girls explores a taboo subject, and the book is quite compelling and fascinating throughout, and tells the story of Roanoke in a really chilling way. Plus Cooper is book crush of the year for me. #JustSaying

2. The Good Daughter – Karin Slaughter 

I love Karin Slaughter. She’s amazing, and a brilliantly talented writer. This was probably the book I was most excited for this year, and let me tell you, it did not let me down at all. I was yanked in from page one and got so super invested in the lives of Charlie and Sam. Wow, what a story. I loved it, and could highly recommend this Slaughter standalone. Ballsy, heavy, some absolutely fantastic humour and great characters, this is the definition of a fantastic read.

1. 11/22/63 – Stephen King

Anyone who has been reading this blog knows that, after I finished this book in January 2017, I have yet to stop hanging. This book blew my mind apart. What an amazing read! If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favour, do it. Don’t let the size put you off. King weaves a masterful story with amazing characters. 11/22/63 is engaging, sharp, and stays with you long after. Yes, I am a Kennedy assassination junkie, so this was going to appeal to me, but the book is ultimately more than just attempting to stop Kennedy’s assassination. Read it. Do it. Now.

Review: Her Last Day – T.R. Ragan

0

Jessie Cole #1

SYNOPSIS: Ten years ago, PI Jessie Cole and reporter Ben Morrison each suffered a tragedy that changed their lives—and now these two strangers are about to share a nightmare.

For Jessie, who makes her living finding missing persons, no case has consumed her more than the disappearance of her younger sister, Sophie. But left alone to raise Sophie’s daughter, she realizes that solving the case has become an unhealthy obsession.

For Ben, a horrific car accident resulted in scars both physical and emotional—and amnesia that has made his life a mystery. But curiously, out of his shattered memories, there’s one person he recognizes without a doubt: Jessie’s sister. He just doesn’t know why. Yet.

But Sophie isn’t the only phantom drawing Jessie and Ben together. An elusive serial murderer known as the Heartless Killer has reemerged from the shadows. His next move will cut even deeper into Jessie’s worst fears. And for Ben, what happens this time is going to be unforgettable.  – via Goodreads

Ha! This! This was good. I have been reading Ragan’s Lizzie Gardner books, but they have certainly not hooked me and drawn me in like Her Last Day. Initially when I started I saw it was yet another private investigator with a past and a possible boyfriend in law enforcement, and I felt my enthusiasm dwindling, but I was drawn in by the writing that is better than the Gardner books and characters who are more real and far less grating. This world drew me in, and the story is really good.

From the off, minus my initial gripe, I was interested. This is dark and gritty and the characters are good. While a little predictable at times, it is a solid story that is methodically laid out. Jessie has more than one case she is working on, what with Zee Gatley and the Parker Koontz stalking case, not to mention re-investigating her sister’s disappearance. Even with all of that going on, none of the cases is really forgotten. Sure, the stalking case is the least handled of the lot, but it does feature, and I liked how it all balanced. The pacing was also quite good, nothing feeling too forgotten, or shoehorned in randomly at a later stage.

Ben Morrison is a complex character, and I am interested to see where his story goes, as well as find out more about who he was before his accident, as a lot of his flashbacks are a bit dodgy and rather violent, which begs pause. I never really thought he was super involved with any of the cases Jessie was investigating in this (with the exception of his possible involvement with her sister), so that makes me wonder all the more. This has a lot of potential, and I liked how it was not rushed into this, or that Ragan didn’t rush to resolve it all in this book.

The plot flows rather well, and the book doesn’t read like it is chock full of filler to make the book longer or lots of roundabout reasoning. It gets into everything, and does so well. Overall, I think that Her Last Day is a solid read with good characters, a captivating premise, and reads really easily. I am quite looking forward to seeing where Ragan goes with this series.

Review: Abducted – T.R. Ragan

5

Lizzy Gardner #1

SYNOPSIS: Elizabeth Gardner (Lizzy) is seventeen-years old when she tells her parents she’s going out with her girlfriends. Instead, she meets up with her boyfriend, Jared Shayne. As she walks home beneath an inky black sky, her perfect night becomes her worst nightmare.

Fourteen years later, Lizzy is a licensed PI known as the ‘one who got away’. When she’s not searching for runaway teenagers, working on insurance scams, or talking to her therapist, she’s at the local high school teaching young girls to defend themselves. But her world is turned upside down for the second time after she receives a call from Jared Shayne. He’s an FBI special agent now and he needs her help. Lizzy has no plans to get involved. Not until Jared tells her the kidnapper left her a personalized note. – via Goodreads

I picked this up recently on an Amazon deal, and figured it might be worth a read. Not wasted money, that’s for sure, but a lot tamer than I thought it would be. Well, I suppose it was never going to be a Karin Slaughter novel (so few are), but I didn’t expect it to be so romancy. For reals. But okay, we will talk about all these things.

The concept of a girl being trapped with a serial killer for two months before escaping is quite heavy, and there could have been so much more material to work with there. Ragan plays it safe, however, and gives us just enough for our imaginations to cook up the rest of whatever happened to Lizzy while she stayed with Spiderman. The aftermath is also never really addressed, which would be fine, but more about her parents and what happened after would have been something. Also, Cathy’s lack of empathy and support for her sister is shocking.

An issue I had with the book is how one dimensional all the characters are, which is a pity. The only characters you can really feel for are Hayley and Lizzy, no more, no less. Oh, and Jess also had quite a bit going for her. Jared, the love interest, the boy who carried guilt about what happened to Lizzy as well as a torch for her all the way into his adulthood never really becomes real, if that makes sense. Jimmy, the FBI agent who has worked the longest and hardest on Lizzy’s case is a side character who rarely gets brought up, and is supposed to have such a close relationship with Jared,  yet it is never showcased.

I liked the fact that the book was a really quick read, and despite being predictable and not really shocking, it definitely keeps you interested enough to see where it all goes. I felt that the ultimate explanation we got for the Spiderman and his antics was a bit of a cop out, and was also glossed over so quickly. I was not particularly thrilled with how quickly Jared and Lizzy picked up some sort of a relationship, despite having been in one when she was a teen and abducted. It just felt a little far fetched and forced for me. The logic was questionable, and the writing sloppy at the best of times, too.

Abducted may not be the strongest entry to a series of books and is predictable, but it was enough to entertain me (and frustrate me with the ridiculous logic) and convince me to give the next book a shot to see how it works out.