Monday, May 20, 2019

Book Review: High Five by Janet Evanovich

Jacque's Review:
High Five is the fifth book in the Stephanie Plum series. Stephanie works for her cousin Vinnie as a "bail enforcement officer"...AKA Bounty Hunter. 

In this installment, Stephanie's Uncle Fred goes missing.  He went out to run some errands and never returned. They know he was having some difficulty with his account at the garbage company, but a dispute over a couple of dollars is certainly not worth killing someone over.  Fred also has a history of fraternizing with married women, which could have lead to his disappearance. Since business is slow at the bail bond agency, she begins looking into the case.

Fred's case isn't going to pay the rent, so Stephanie begins taking some odd jobs from Ranger, a far more skilled bounty hunter.  He has some side businesses that are more in the gray area, but Stephanie really needs the money. Stephanie ends up in a number of hilarious situations, which could only seem to happen to her.

Joe Morelli has been Stephanie's on-and-off boyfriend going back as far as high school. He is now a vice cop and is somehow working on a case that seems to be connected with Uncle Fred's disappearance. Stephanie becomes frustrated when he will not discuss the case with her, so she takes matters into her own hands. They eventually begin sharing information, but it is amazing how the unskilled Plum always seems to be one step ahead.

This series is more of a comedy to me than an action packed thriller.  Yes, there is usually a mystery to solve or a fugitive to apprehend, but the tone is very light. The interactions between Stephanie and her mother and grandmother will literally make you laugh out loud at times. In addition, there is now a potential love triangle between Stephanie, Ranger, and Morelli that escalated in this installment.  Stephanie is well aware of Morelli's lack of commitment and has been burned by him multiple times in the past, but he is an honest working police officer. Ranger, on the other hand, has a number of fine qualities mixed with an element of danger. She knows she should stay away from him, but it seems to be getting harder for her to walk away. I can't wait to see how things will play out in the next book, Hot Six. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Christina June, author of No Place Like Here

Flo's Note
No Place Like Here publishes next Tuesday, May 21st and I hope you're able to pick up a copy when it does! I had the honor of reading an ARC and thoroughly enjoyed it. While you wait for Tuesday, read on to find a brief summary of the book, followed by an exclusive interview with the author Christina June.

Links to other Christina June reviews

Book Summary
Ashlyn Zanotti has big plans for the summer. She’s just spent a year at boarding school and can’t wait to get home. But when Ashlyn’s father is arrested for tax evasion and her mother enters a rehab facility for “exhaustion,” a.k.a. depression, her life is turned upside down.

The cherry on top? Ashlyn’s father sends her to work with a cousin she doesn’t even know at a rustic team-building retreat center in the middle of nowhere. A self-proclaimed “indoor girl,” not even Ash’s habit of leaving breadcrumb quotes—inspirational sayings she scribbles everywhere—can help her cope.

With a dangerously careless camp manager doling out grunt work, an overbearing father trying to control her even from prison, and more than a little boy drama to struggle with, the summer is full of challenges. And Ashlyn must make the toughest decision of her life: keep quiet and follow her dad’s marching orders, or find the courage to finally stand up to her father to have any hope of finding her way back home.

The author and the interviewer last year at Apollycon.
Interview with Christina June
1. How did you get the idea for No Place Like Here?
Ashlyn started as a character who appears in IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE.  Readers who know her already will be familiar with her poor choices in boys and her unusually strict father.  When my editor and I were brainstorming ideas for my next proposal, I knew I wanted to let Ashlyn tell her own story that would explore how much more than that she is.  The fairy tale framework, Hansel & Gretl, is, at it's heart, an abandonment story between children and their father, which fit Ashlyn perfectly. Since my companions are all set in the summer, my mind went to summer camp as being the ideal fish out of water setting for Ashlyn.  I tweaked it to a wilderness retreat center--summer camp for adults--and voila, her story began to take shape.

2. Who was your favorite character to write? Who was the hardest? Why?
Giving Ashlyn her voice and figuring out who she wanted to be was gratifying.  I collect quotes just like she does, so it was exciting to pick out which ones were most meaningful to her.  I love Baxter, her co-worker and master of the zipline, and how he helps Ashlyn see that it's okay to be vulnerable and let people in.  The hardest character was probably Deb, the retreat center manager.  She's the wicked witch from the original Hansel & Gretl transformed, but she's not outright evil.  In my research, I learned the worst thing someone in charge of that type of business can be is careless, so that's was my goal for Deb.  She may be a little wicked too, though.  :)

3. Why do you think readers will like Ashlynn?
I've been afraid she wouldn't connect with readers because she's a little prickly, she's privileged when it comes to money and material things, and she initially has the worst romantic judgement.  But, early reviews that have come in have have blown me away.  Many readers have noted that they identify with her relationship with her father and the feelings of powerlessness to change things.  I think if a reader has been in a similar situation, they'll enjoy seeing Ash navigate those murky waters.  I hope they'll enjoy how she expresses herself through quotes and how she ultimately learns to take risks and stand up for herself.  And, I also hope that readers who have not experienced difficult relationships might gain increased empathy for their friends who have.

4. A common rite of passage of young adults is realizing that their parents aren’t always right. You hit this in a major way in No Place Like Here. Can you talk a bit about this?
In my day job as a school counselor, I've had the same conversation over and over:  I want this, but my parents want that, so I'm going to keep my mouth shut until I get out of the house and I can do what I want, suffering until the time comes.  It breaks my heart every single time.  They think they have no power or that their parents won't listen thoughtfully to their ideas and desires.  This book is for those kids.  I wanted to give them a hopeful ending and show them that their voices DO matter and they DO have power to make change.

5. Why do you think fairy tales — whether classics or retellings — remain timeless for readers?
These stories last because we identify with them.  We see ourselves in them.  And, in a lot of cases, the nostalgia is high.  Versions of the same stories exist in so many cultures around the world, which proves we're all more similar than we think, and the emotions we experience at every age go on and on.

6. What can we expect from you next?
I don't have anything I can talk about quite yet, but I've been working hard on reclaiming the joy of writing. I've also been exploring new genres and age groups.  So fingers crossed and watch this space!

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Book Review: The Sixth Man by David Baldacci

Jacque's Review:
The Sixth Man is the fifth book in the King and Maxwell series.  Sean and Michelle are former secret service agents who are now working as private investigators.  This time around they are contacted by one of Sean's former law professors, Ted Bergin, to help with a case he is working on.  When Bergin turns up dead, Sean begins to take the case personally.  Even when the stakes are more than they are willing to risk, he can't back away from uncovering the truth behind his friend's murder.

Edgar Roy is accused of killing six people and burying them in the barn on his family farm.  He is one of the smartest people in the world, if not the smartest, so nobody believes he would have been caught red handed if he truly were a killer.  He had to have been set up, but why?  And why is the FBI so involved in a case that is clearly outside their jurisdiction? 

As people associated with the case keep dropping like flies, Edgar is locked away in a maximum security facility in Maine.  He obviously isn't involved in the latest murders.  It is becoming increasingly clear that there are some very high powered players who are determined to keep Edgar's real story under wraps.  

This was a very fast read with a ton of action and some very unique plot twists.  Until the very end, I didn't really know who was on what side or how all of the pieces would come together.  As usual, Sean and Michelle find themselves in immense danger.  They are fortunate to have Edgar's half sister on their side for most of the investigation.  Her background is never revealed, but she was obviously part of the FBI, CIA, or something along those lines.  She is very resourceful and has a very large support network, which helps them out of numerous dire situations.

I accidentally read the last two books in this series out of order, but that didn't make too much of a difference.  There were a few references in King and Maxwell to events that took place in this novel, but I felt like these could be read as stand alone novels.  The characters and their personal relationships develop throughout the series, but each of the cases are completely independent.  

I have thoroughly enjoyed this series so far and sincerely hope Baldacci will continue Sean and Michelle's story.  I know he has a number of other series, which I plan on exploring now that I have read all of these, but this series seems far from complete.