For me, the Pepper Dennis series has been one of the reliably best series out there. The stories never get stale, the characters are great and the wriFor me, the Pepper Dennis series has been one of the reliably best series out there. The stories never get stale, the characters are great and the writing’s kept me interested. So I was shocked by what a huge disappointment this book was.
Someone’s kidnapped Dan, Pepper’s former friend/boyfriend/scientific accomplice in figuring out her gift and to ransom him back they want the bones of Chester Goodshot Gomes the sharpshooter star who put a curse on the city of Cleveland’s sports teams. Of course this duty falls to Pepper, who has to steal the bones from her former place of work, Garden View Cemetery, and haul them back to where good old Chester wanted to be buried in New Mexico. Supernatural road trip! Sounds like fun, right?! Wrong.
The whole story was a bit ridiculous and while I like the idea of her speaking to the dead, the books have never looked too much into how she can do what she does. This book really reached deep into the spiritual bag of tricks to explain (sort of) her ability to see and talk to the deceased. Of course American Indians have a huge part in this, and they completely believe in her ability without question, particularly one hot police chief named Jesse. And this is where the story completely falls apart for me. Pepper completely disregarded not only her feelings for Quinn and everything they’ve been through, but worst of all, she showed a complete lack of regard and respect for him. Pepper’s always been a bit of horndog if there’s a hot guy around and I’ve always found it amusing. This time I most definitely did not. (view spoiler)[I couldn’t believe how fast she hopped into bed with Jesse. He didn’t show up until almost halfway through the book and she took forever to hook up with Quinn yet she barely knew Jesse, but because he believed in her ability and thought it was a super awesome one sent from high above she screws him in record time?! Without even breaking up with Quinn?! I mean, the poor guy has no idea what’s going on, she didn’t even tell him she was leaving, and wants to talk to her and she just blows him off. (hide spoiler)] Pepper just acted in a way that was completely out of character, so much so that I didn’t even really care what happened regarding the plot or her gift.
Unfortunately the story wasn’t even good enough to counter my newfound hatred of Pepper. Unlike the others where there was an actual mystery to solve, this plot was pretty weak, and the storyline surrounding Dan was completely absurd and unbelievable. He used to be a good character, then he got booted out of the storyline early on and now he just seems like a pointless joke that gets dragged out to be tossed around whenever the author needs to get Pepper emotionally invested in something else. And her obsession with fashion, while usually good for a laugh, was downright ridiculous and over the top at times in this book. Who gives a shit about your shoes or jeans with everything else that’s going on?!
It was pretty obvious a while ago that the next book in the series, Supernatural Born Killers would be the last since I never saw word of a new one being printed, and while I would’ve been really upset before, now I really couldn’t care less. As a matter of fact, I’m not sure I even want to read the last one, though I’m sure at some point I will since I’ve already bought the damn thing, just to have some closure with the series. Ugh. ...more
Jay Nazzaro (I don’t understand why everyone had a thing with rhyming his name with Sbarro, I never would’ve thought of it and it’s not rea3.75 stars.
Jay Nazzaro (I don’t understand why everyone had a thing with rhyming his name with Sbarro, I never would’ve thought of it and it’s not really funny or mean. I mean, it’s a freaking pizza place) isn’t a popular kid in school. He’s actually wasn’t even in school until recently. He left to be homeschooled in the ninth grade after he had a seizure in the middle of a pep rally and lost control of his bladder. He is, however, a top-notch hacker and bound and determined to find out who threw acid on Nicole Castro, the most beautiful and popular girl in school, six weeks prior in the hallway between classes, burning the left side of her face.
For some reason, I liked Nicole less and less as the book went on ((view spoiler)[maybe it’s because I don’t get the whole cutting as releasing something while feeling in control at the same time. She hates being in pain so she’s going to inflict more on herself? I think there are other ways to do that and cutting was a huge and odd leap, one that didn’t work for me (hide spoiler)]). It’s not like I hated her or anything, and she was dealing with a lot and trying to rebuild her life, and I loved that she became friends with Jay, I just didn’t find her to be as strong as a character as I would’ve liked.
I absolutely loved Jay. I have the hacking skills of a newborn (none), but he seemed to know his shit and was very good at getting into absolutely everything. This part of the story was very interesting and was the way he began to break the mystery of who attacked Nicole. It was really easy to relate to him and his problems and I really wanted to smack the people at his school who were insensitive tools. I found it funny that, more than once he used his size to his advantage. Though he admitted he wasn’t a tough guy, people often equated height with strength, so he used that belief in his favor whenever he could.
While I enjoyed the writing and story, there was one area where I thought the author was a bit weak. When he wrote about either of them breaking down or crying, it felt a bit quick and stilted, and like it almost came out of nowhere. This only happened a few times and maybe it’s just me, but I felt it was kind of awkwardly written when it happened.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The story was good, and while I had a little bit of a problem with the reasoning behind the acid throwing portion of the attack (view spoiler)[not really sure I buy why she did it, though the person ultimately behind it, while seemingly weird, is believable because this syndrome is real (hide spoiler)], I found the unraveling of the mystery to be well done but Jay was by far the best thing about this book. I wish there were some way to turn this into a series (with or without Nicole), as I really enjoyed reading about his skills and about him, because despite being dealt more than one shit hand, he was a really decent guy. ...more
Okay. Anne’s gotta go. Seriously. A freaking cruise ship??!! Yep, that’s where The Counterfeit Agent starts out. And John’s getting a gut.4.25 stars.
Okay. Anne’s gotta go. Seriously. A freaking cruise ship??!! Yep, that’s where The Counterfeit Agent starts out. And John’s getting a gut. It’s bad enough that Berenson keeps harping on about how old John’s getting to be for the jobs he takes on (which has been making me nervous about Berenson retiring him soon, one of the reasons I’ve always wished John had been in his early to mid-30s in the first book), now he’s making him fat and lazy?! Luckily for us, he doesn’t stay that way and it’s not long before he’s being sucked back into international intrigue and espionage, courtesy of everyone’s favorite guy, Vinny Duto.
A typical Berenson baddie, a seemingly random crazy looking for forbidden weapons-grade material, surfaces at the beginning of the story, yet we don’t know what her plans are, as she can’t actually build a bomb with the amount of uranium she has. When Salome’s plans eventually unfold well into the book, let’s just say she’s cooked up a complex, long-planned doozy! Since Vinny’s past dealings from when he was the director of the CIA are coming back to bite him in the ass, he needs John’s help to cover said ass.
I honestly don’t know if, regarding what he writes about governments, weapons, insurgents, etc., the author does a ton of research, makes all of this shit up or some combo of the two, but everything he writes is so believable, even if it’s on the outer edges of believability, it’s really inventive and makes for a fantastic read. The way Berenson weaves the tale of how Glenn Mason came to work for Salome, the work he’s done and how it all ties together is intricate and the way Wells unravels everything is, as usual, phenomenal.
What was a bit unusual, but not unwelcome, is that I felt like John wasn’t in the first part of the book much. A good deal of time is spent on the backstory, as well as the current missions of Mason, and Vinny and especially Ellis get a lot of page time as well.
And something we’ve never seen before comes about at the end of The Counterfeit Agent. A cliffhanger! And an exciting one at that! I’m really looking forward to reading Twelve Days and though I prefer reading paperbacks (they’re easier to lug around and to read. What can I say, I’m weird, I like the smaller type!), if I get a good deal on the hardcover, I may have to pick it up. I feel like I’m on a loop in every review I write when I talk about these stories, but Berenson does such a good job of keeping each one fresh, I’ll keep reading them as long as he keeps doing such a terrific job writing them! ...more
Maddie Fynn is a teenager with a unique ability. She can see the death dates of people on their forehead. This works in real life and with photos. ManMaddie Fynn is a teenager with a unique ability. She can see the death dates of people on their forehead. This works in real life and with photos. Many people are skeptical of her talent, but she earns money telling people their dates since her mom is basically a barely functioning drunk who doesn’t work because she fell apart after her husband was killed in the line of duty. Poor Maddie is stuck doing everything and is actually the one who takes care of her mother.
Things go south when a woman comes to her to find out about the date of one of her children, who is sick, and Maddie notices that another one of her children has a death date that is rapidly approaching. The woman becomes outraged and leaves and unfortunately for Maddie, the boy is found dead on the date she gave his mother. The police become involved and Maddie immediately becomes a suspect, one that is not treated very kindly by the men investigating what becomes multiple murders of children. While she’s always believed that the death dates are unchangeable because she’s never seen one change in the years she’s been seeing the dates, ever since she was a child, she’s determined to stop whomever is doing the killing before they strike again, enlisting the help of her best, and only friend, Stubs.
I’ve read both of Victoria Laurie’s other adult series (well, I stopped when they started coming out in hardcover and haven’t gotten back into them yet, even though most of them have now been released in paperback) and have really enjoyed them, but this is by far my favorite book of hers.
Maddie was such an amazing character. She was strong yet still acted like a teenager, one who was still grieving the death of her father, a death she predicted (well, the date, anyway) while carrying around guilt that she couldn’t do anything to change it. Add to that her mother’s inability to function, the pressure of not being able to pay bills, schoolwork, troubles with her best friend and the fact that the FBI agents, particularly Wallace, don’t buy her story and still think she’s a serial killer, and it’s surprising she finds the strength to get out of bed in the morning. Yet she doesn’t stoically forge ahead sloughing off all of the pain, fear and anguish she’s feeling, we start to see how it affects her and it’s really heartbreaking to see her come close to giving up. The scene in the hospital? Gut-wrenching. And it’s not because I’m a sap, my heartstrings disappear when people start to get overwrought and needlessly dramatic, but this girl had every right to act the way she did and Laurie hit every note just right.
The secondary characters were equally as brilliant. Stubs was such a good guy and friend, but you can understand why he backed off a bit when they became too entangled in the murders. And I can’t say enough about her uncle Donny. He hated the way her mother was but he was there for Maddie and was such a good influence and source of comfort for her. Even Faraday redeemed himself in my eyes, which is saying something because he was such a dickhead to Maddie from the word go. And while I usually like my books to have a romance in them, there really wasn’t any here. Maddie does have one guy that she’s had a crush on for years but he goes to another school and their interaction is limited to her stalking him at sporting events a couple of times a year. And I know this is going to sound contradictory, but despite the lack of actual romance, this was one of the most romantic books ever, just not in an overt or sappy way. Trust me, most people would kill for this type of non-romance!
A couple of issues I had with this book didn’t involve the characters or storyline. First off, there is no Brooklyn PD, everything’s the NYPD, it’s not broken out into boroughs, they cover the whole city. Second, the reason behind Maddie’s near poverty level of living was because her father was killed while on duty, which is totally unrealistic. If he’d been killed on the job, his family would’ve gotten his pension, likely tax-free, and he would’ve been promoted and gotten a bump in pay. Also, there are police benefit funds and cops pretty much take care of their own, so they wouldn’t have been hurting for money, not matter how much Maddie’s mom drank. And while others had a problem with the actions of the FBI agents and the fact that their actions weren't believable, I didn’t really mind it. Yeah, I don’t think in real life things would’ve gone down that way, but then again, I don’t believe anyone can see people’s death dates, so belief, suspended.
I can’t even say how perfect the last few pages were. Someone else called them cheesy, I call them sweet (I have a serious aversion to cheese). I had a feeling about something, or someone, and I was right, though I didn’t guess the extent of things or how they were connected (view spoiler)[This is a MAJOR spoiler, however cryptic, for one of the sweetest moments of the book, it has nothing to do with the plot, so you really shouldn’t read it unless you’ve read the book! I’d noticed the kid on the cover as well as the date as soon as I picked up the book, so when I read the end my jaw dropped. I’d also noticed that only one (actually two) people never had a death date listed, so I became curious about that, but never connected anything. I just found the way things played out to be flawless! (hide spoiler)]. I thought that Sea of Tranquility had one of the best last lines ever, but the last few paragraphs of this book definitely give it a run for its money. I love that this is a standalone because as much as I adored these characters, especially Maddie, any attempt to further the story might tarnish a book that was perfectly balanced between mystery, empathy, humor and amazing characters and storytelling. I can’t recommend this book enough. ...more
Sounds a lot like the Pepper Dennis series. It'll be interesting to see just how much like it it actually is.
I tried not to, but I just kept coSounds a lot like the Pepper Dennis series. It'll be interesting to see just how much like it it actually is.
I tried not to, but I just kept comparing this book to the Pepper Dennis series and, unfortunately, I found it lacking.
Emma Lee Raines is an undertaker at the family business run by her and her sister in Sleepy Hollow, Kentucky. Ever since a plastic Santa fell on her head and hit her, she’s been able to see the dead. This time, it’s the recently departed Ruthie Sue Payne, a local innkeeper who was at odds with her business partner, her ex-husband’s widow and Emma Lee’s grandmother.
The story didn’t ever really seem to go anywhere, there really wasn’t much sleuthing involved and Emma Lee just sort of stumbled upon clues. Literally.
The characters were pretty one-dimensional. I know that when you have a cozy mystery with people who solve mysteries with ghosts in them that there will be some goofy moments, but this book was seriously lacking in drama and tension. Emma Lee seemed to love fostering people’s ideas that she was suffering from “Funeral Trauma,” a condition of becoming unstable after being around so many dead people, in order to accomplish what she had to, and if I had to read about it one more time (yes, it was always in quotes), I was going to scream. She also acted like a lovesick teenager anytime she was around or even thought about the guy she’s had a crush on since she was a kid, Jack Henry Ross.
For a ghost, Ruthie was pretty lackluster and practically zero help in solving the mystery of her death. As a matter of fact, I’m not really sure how that got solved because most of the people in this book seemed pretty inept. And Emma Lee’s grandmother didn’t have much to do except act cryptically, perhaps to imply her guilt in Ruthie’s death, nor did her sister, Charlotte Rae, who was your typical snotty sister and didn’t add anything to the story except to act as a constant reminder that she behaved in a much more appropriate manner than her sister.
The love interest (a sheriff, shocking) was bland with his looks, personality and demeanor towards the ghost-seeing MC pretty much being the textbook description of what the male romantic interest in a cozy mystery should be like. As I said before, there was zero tension between the two and also zero chemistry. It’s like he was the love interest simply because he was the sheriff, had known her forever and the author needed someone to stand in as the romantic lead.
The murderer was pretty easy to figure out (though not necessarily one of the connections) and the ending bordered on the absurd and not in a good, S. J. Bolton kind of way. Unfortunately, there wasn’t even a secondary character that I really liked, they were all your typical crazy, small-town goofballs.
And there were certain things and some errors in it that drove me nuts, but I’ll limit my complaining about that. First, it seemed like absolutely everyone had two names. Not most people. Everyone. And though I know someone who read this book knows that yeah is the equivalent of yes because it was used correctly at least once, yea was also used in place of yeah more than once. In case you don’t know the difference, unless someone is government is voting the affirmative, yea is typically used to express excitement, as so aptly portrayed in Schoolhouse Rock’s lesson on interjections.
Most other people seem to love this book and the second one has an even higher rating, so A Ghostly Undertaking may be for you, however, everything was just too over the top for my taste. I’d recommend picking up the Pepper Dennis series by Casey Daniels instead. ...more
Jess is a spoiled rich girl who’s acting out in the typical way, boys and booze. That is until her actions at a friend’s house have her fat3.75 stars.
Jess is a spoiled rich girl who’s acting out in the typical way, boys and booze. That is until her actions at a friend’s house have her father volunteering her to work at a missionary shelter for what’s left of the summer in an effort to keep her out of trouble and teach her some humility (though the fact that he’s not quite as class-blind as he’d like his daughter to think) in a not-so-great neighborhood.
The story threw me for a little bit of a loop because I expected the usual tons of tension, the main characters hate each other until they realize they actually don’t, you know, the usual YA contemporary and especially NA drama. While there was something that worked to keep these two apart, think Romeo and Juliet, but because of class, not family.
I can’t say I really liked Jess right from the beginning. She’s best friends, by default, with Nance, a girl she really doesn’t have a lot in common with and I’m guessing doesn’t really like, and is doing stupid shit like getting drunk and getting into cars with guys she doesn’t know (how I think half the Lifetime movies start out), seemingly as a pathetic cry for attention because she somehow lost her best friend, Penny, though how she did this isn’t immediately known to the reader.
What was good about Jess was that after being forced to work at the shelter for the rest of the summer and having her phone taken away from her and being unable to party, she actually began to take a harder look at the way she’d been acting and, though she’d known it all along, realized how stupidly she’d been behaving, that, though her family has problems, she’s lucky to have everything she does. Though she still does some dumb things, she begins to mature during her weeks as a volunteer and confronts the mistakes she’s made, attempting to reconcile with Penny and cutting the dead weight from her life while making an effort to change the way her family has, or in this case, hasn’t, been dealing with what happened in the past.
Flynn was supposedly the opposite of monogamous, we’re repeatedly told he constantly has a different girl hanging around him, but he doesn’t come off as the usual man whore so common in these books. And Jess tried to come off as being super wild, but despite the drinking and hanging out with a bunch of selfish douchebags, she wasn’t anywhere near as bad as she could’ve been (see Nance).
These two were a cute couple and I liked that a lot of the story revolved around Jess dealing with her family issues as well as being at the shelter a lot and spending time in the greenhouse with Wilf, the older volunteer who works there and becomes an unlikely friend of Jess’, who has a green thumb.
While at first I was disappointed that there wasn’t serious tension between the characters and nothing major going on, I eventually decided that I was glad there wasn’t, the events that happened in this book were more true to life than some of the overly dramatic garbage that often occurs in other books, so less is definitely more in this case.
I have another book of Gurtler’s Who I Kissed that I’ve been putting off reading, but since this was a cute, easy read, I’ll likely be picking that up in the near future. ...more