Review: “One for the Money” (Stephanie Plum #1) by Janet Evanovich

A review by Vanessa

This book is from my own personal library; this review takes a look at the popular novel through the lens of the major motion picture it became.

Stephanie Plum is no stranger to desperation. It’s not like she hasn’t been through the ringer before, but when she loses her job as a lingerie buyer and is forced to go to work for her perverted cousin Vinnie at his bail bonds office, she knows she has hit a new low. But when a big FTA (failure to appear) hits Vinnie’s desk, Stephanie thinks things might just be looking up. The FTA is the man who took Stephanie’s virginity, Joe Morelli, and she’s got a big score to settle with him. Tracking him down and dragging his ass back to jail is the perfect opportunity to do just that, and make some big cash as a bounty hunter. Of course she has no skill-set, no training, no tools, and no cash to get what she needs to get started. Blackmailing her cousin into letting her take the case is just the first step. If she wants to make a real go of this new career, she’ll have to get serious. Enter Ranger. The guy is big and scary to the max, with attitude, gorgeous eyes, and muscles for days; but he’s the real deal, and he’s willing to mentor Stephanie so she has a chance at catching Morelli. Now all she has to do is survive telling her traditional Italian family that she’s about the take on a job where she has to start carrying a gun.
Things get crazy, hilarious, and terrifying quickly when the case surrounding Morelli’s arrest turns out to be far more complicated than Stephanie thought. Luck is on her side when she finds Morelli fast, but doesn’t have the clout to bring him in. Her only option is to follow the evidence, and the trail of criminal activity that Morrelli is tracking to try and clear his name. Maybe she can catch him unaware and force him to bring himself in. But getting more involved means getting into the line of fire of a psychotic murderer, some big time drug runners, and her crazy grandmother who is unnaturally fascinated with Stephanie’s new line of work. She has got to get Morrelli to come in before someone gets really hurt. She just hopes it isn’t her. But maybe with a whole lot of dumb luck, a little strangely accurate intuition, and the right timing, she’ll get her man in the end.
This book is the first in a long series that got its start back in the mid 90’s, and was made into a movie in 2012. For a book series that now spans multiple decades, it’s no secret why it’s still going: Evanovich is a master of character writing. She weaves the story together in sometimes interestingly haphazard ways, but always the characters that drive the action are multi-layered, unfailing entertaining, and admirably lovable or the kind you love to hate. Stephanie Plum is the perfectly inept heroine of her own story; brassy, bold, unpredictable, totally independent, and completely unprepared for everything she gets herself into. And boy, does she get herself into some crazy stuff, often with her hilarious Grandma Mazur in tow. This book made me fall in love with Stephanie and all her wacky hi-jinks, so I was of course ecstatic to learn that it was being made into a movie. But as always when a favorite novel goes Hollywood, there is bound to be some disappointment.
Overall, I have to say I was impressed with how the movie was able to modernize so many aspects of the story, without ruining the essence of what made the original story so great. Throwing cell phones, modern technology, and an update to Stephanie’s iconic fashion habits into the mix could have played out of tune with a story that was written in the 90’s, but they did a good job. What was lacking was the backbone of what made Evanovich’s writing so great; the strength of the characters. Katherine Heigl is no slouch in the acting business, and I certainly appreciated the independence, determination, and attitude that she tried to bring to the Stephanie Plum character. But there is a certain element to Stephanie, an untenable unpredictable ability to bullshit her way through almost anything, that was lacking in her movie persona. Morelli, played by Jason O,Mara, was a bit more satisfying with his passionate anger, and lust filled attitude, but even he was bit too much fiery Irish-man and not enough smooth-and-simmering Italian.
But I was most let-down by Grandma Mazur. The lovely Debbie Reynolds is a wonderful actress, and her brashness on screen was entertaining, but her liveliness was no match for the Grandma Mazur of my imagination; the one who sports spandex shorts to match Stephanie’s coolness factor and somehow pulls it off better than she does; is innocently fascinated with Stephanie’s gun right up to and including when she shoots the gumpy off the chicken at family dinner; and is fiercely loved and protected by Stephanie who feels they are kindred spirits. I still enjoyed seeing the personification of my favorite characters on screen, but I do hope one day they bring it back as a TV series, and spend a lot of time picking out the perfect people to capture the fantastic essence of the characters.

4.5 out of 5 stars for the book
3 out of 5 stars for the movie

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Review: “SINthetic (The New Lyons Sequence #1)” by J.T. Nicholas

cover of SINthetic (The New Lyons

A review by Amanda.

I received an e-copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Detective Jason Campbell has been called to investigate a gruesome murder. A young woman has been found, murdered and disemboweled. She isn’t the first, and she isn’t human. Synthetics are human-like beings who are “born” in a lab and raised for the sole purpose of doing any number of less than desirable jobs. They are expensive, and have no rights under the law. Synthetics bleed, feel, and think but they are programmed to follow instructions and are incapable of hurting humans or other synthetics. They are property and nothing more. Detective Campbell should dismiss this case as destruction of property, at best, and move on. A mysterious source calls the detectives attention to the previous murders of other young, synthetic women, and Campbell knows that he cannot let it rest. His own history informs his decision to investigate these as serial murders, without the knowledge of his superiors, and with only a unique synthetic to offer limited assistance. His life is on the line, as he sniffs out corruption at the highest levels of society.

This book has the feel of an old detective noir film, but without the rampant sexism. Detective Campbell is an individual with layers and depth, which come to light at a steady pace. Supporting characters are few, but reasonably developed and well-rounded. Hopes for more depth and background on these characters in future books are high. Even so, the limited knowledge of these characters works with the story, as readers see it from Campbell’s perspective. He’s a bit of a loner and wouldn’t know too much about the people around him, so this makes sense. While this hampers the readers’ ability to connect to other characters, it does enhance the story to be so ensconced in the main character’s point of view.

SINthetic’s plot is primarily a wonderfully twisted mystery, with decent action sequences, and moral quandaries that will raise ire and make readers think and question what they know about humanity. The story moves quickly and makes for a fast read. There are descriptions of violence and sexual assault but they come across as detached, more like a police report, and details are scant.

Book one is available now, with the second due in March 2018.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review: “Stillhouse Lake (Stillhouse Lake #1)” by Rachel Caine

Review- Stillhouse Lake (Stillhouse Lake #1) by Rachel Caine

A review by Amanda.

I read this book for free as part of the Prime First program, offered to those with Amazon Prime memberships.

Gwen Proctor, new resident of Norton, Tennessee, used to be Gina Royal. Gwen’s former life ended the day she, and the rest of the world, discovered that her husband was a serial killer. An accident revealed the truth about Melvin Royal and everything turned upside down for Gwen and her two children. Not everyone was satisfied with the outcome of his trial; many people believe that Gwen knew about her husband’s heinous activities, or that she was his accomplice. Vile threats against Gwen and her children prompted her to run and hide with them, changing identities as needed.

In the four years since the discovery, Gwen has trusted no one. She has taken precautions against potential threats and only accepts help when absolutely necessary. Her first and only priority is making sure her children are safe even when it causes friction. When she realizes that her paranoia is causing more problems than it solves, Gwen considers putting down roots and trusting a few people. But then a woman is murdered in a fashion eerily similar to her ex-husband’s M.O., she discovers that she can’t protect them from everything, and that sometimes it pays to stay vigilant.

This book was thrilling in the truest sense of the word. The author offered a unique twist in a classic thriller trope, and raised several excellent questions that aren’t typically considered in the mystery genre. The perspective from the family of a serial killer is a complex one full of horror, rage, betrayal, guilt, and plenty of doubt. The story is told exclusively from Gwen’s point of view in present tense. This added a sense of urgency that complemented the fast pace and made it impossible to stop turning pages. The story is character-driven, with the mystery acting as a catalyst rather than the main focus. Readers will be immediately drawn into Gwen’s life. She is intelligent, fierce, driven, and very human. She doubts her decisions, questions her parenting abilities, and makes mistakes. She appears cold at times but doesn’t apologize for it. Her kids, Lanny and Connor, are balanced precariously between childlike and adult attitudes tipping back and forth throughout the book. The other supporting characters are richly developed. Even those who appear sparingly give a feeling of being actual people with histories that extend beyond the pages of the book.

There are several fairly graphic descriptions of violence and death throughout the book, as well as mentions of torture and rape, but nothing that seems gratuitous.

Rachel Caine is also the author of the young adult series The Morganville Vampires, as well as The Great Library series, the Weather Warden series, and several others. Stillhouse Lake will be released on July 1st, 2017.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR Review: “Unforgiving” by Alisic Adnan

BOOK TOUR Review- "Unforgiving" by Alisic Adnan

A review by Domoni.

Meho is a teenage boy with teenage problems. He lives at home with his family, goes to school every day, can’t figure out how to talk to his crush, and has problems with a bully. Meho also has problems a typical teenage boy doesn’t have. Meho is from Sarajevo. His village destroyed, he was adopted by an American family; a mother and father who give him everything he needs and a brother, Bucky, who worships him.  Meho is haunted by what he has done to survive and what he will do to those who destroyed his home and family.

This was a dark but interesting story. In a lot of ways, it was easy to relate to the way Meho behaved. His early life was harsh and cold. Killing meant survival, and who wouldn’t want to off the people who have taken so much from them? Many of the things in this story were just too farfetched though. Meho and Bucky are incredible hackers, who were able to hack into the biggest banks and siphon off millions and not get caught.  They also were trained in biochemistry by their grandfather, enough to work in a lab alone apparently. The calculated way a teen can plan and execute professional killers was a bit of a stretch.  Looking past that, Meho is not an average boy and the story has some twists and turns I did not expect.

The author is a good writer and does an excellent job of fleshing out the characters and keeping the reader on their toes. The world is full and vibrant so the story is easy to read. I think it would have been easier for me if the characters were a little bit older as some things wouldn’t feel as implausible. Overall, it is a good read and I would read more by this author.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Alisic Adnan
Publication date: January 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

12 years after surviving horrific massacre, 15-year- old Meho commits ruthless murders and sets in motion the event which could change the world order.

The murders are followed by the trial of the century, where media vilifies Meho as a psychopath, mass murderer, and a monster — all under the influence of FBI, who are trying to conceal the identity of the victims and protect the National Security.

The only person who believes that Meho is innocent is his 10-year-old brother Bucky, who will turn heavens and earth to free Meho. After learning the truth, Bucky is devastated, but not all things are as they seem, and the truth will be revealed at the very end.

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Author Bio:

After witnessing terrible war atrocities, Adnan Alisić escaped from Bosnia and came to Phoenix, Arizona where he became a successful businessman. Entangled in a gambling addiction, he was forced to execute this sensational casino heist. He can be reached at or http://www.AlisicAdnan.

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BOOK TOUR Review: “Fallen Star” by Allison Morse


A review by Domoni.

Kate Bloom wants to make movies. She doesn’t want to be in movies like her famous grandmother she so resembles, though. When she finds the missing footage from her grandmother’s lost film, she sets out to preserve it and try to expose who murdered her grandmother. She enlists the help of her great aunt and fellow film maker Dylan to help repair and protect the old film. Kate’s frequent nightmares seem to be telling her to leave, but are they nightmares or a message from beyond?

This book opens with a 13 year old Kate dressing up as her famous grandmother to impress a director who tried to rape the child. The story then continues nine years later and though Kate is affected by that event, she has grown to be a strong woman. This story does a good job of capturing the portrayed eras of Hollywood. Kate is a stubborn woman and the type of feminist that bristles at a man holding the door open for her. She is determined to be who she wants to be and has no interest in being who other people want her to be.

I struggled to like this book as many of the characters just bothered me. They were hardly likable and each had an ulterior motive of their own. I felt like the story couldn’t decide between being a supernatural mystery and a sort of noir mystery. Though the writing style was good and the author can create a clear picture easy to imagine, the story did not capture my attention easily and I struggled through it. I did manage to connect enough to enjoy it in the end.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Fallen Star

by Allison Morse


GENRE:  Psychological Mystery with Strong Gothic Elements


Who killed 1940s screen goddess Gloria Reardon? Her unsolved murder hypnotized the public with its scandalous details and shocked two generations. 

In this coming of age gothic tale, avid feminist and aspiring filmmaker Kate Bloom discovers long lost footage that holds the key to who murdered her grandmother. Legendary movie star, Gloria Reardon, may be dead, but friends and lovers from the Golden Age of Hollywood’s heyday are still very much on the scene, and it seems everyone has something to gain or lose from Kate’s discovery. Enlisting the youthful and brash film restorer Dylan Nichols as her closest ally, Kate becomes haunted by Gloria’s glittering past. Caught between glamorous Old Hollywood and the gritty, exciting New Hollywood of the 1970s, Kate is determined to find out what really happened to her grandmother and in the process, becomes the killer’s new target.


Two hours later, she sat in Dylan’s rumbling Mustang, heading toward her childhood home. The companionable silence of the drive was made all the more soothing by the summer sun dappling through the shade of the elm trees lining blocks of Claremont Village. That was, until he parked in front of her house.

She felt the now familiar lap of moist heat brushing her skin.

She gritted her teeth. Weren’t ghosts supposed to be cold! This feeling was too warm, too seductive to be ethereal.

Ghosts? No. That’s crazy talk.

Yet, maybe gothic castles and windswept moors weren’t the only places where spirits lingered. Here, at her celery green home with its single car attached garage, small lawn, and one lonely palm tree, she sensed her mother’s anger at a world that had taken so much from her. And she felt Gloria as if she sat right beside her.

With a sense of panic, Kate double checked what she was wearing. No swan pin, no revealing bathing attire, only her wonderfully large tee shirt, scuffed jeans and boots.

Yeah! She was still herself!


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Allison is the author of two novels: The Sweetheart Deal and Fallen Star. She lives with her husband in a house in the hills that’s filled with books.

For book club resources and to learn more about Allison and her new fiction, please visit her Website at


Twitter ID:  AllisonMorseLA

Buy links:

Amazon –

Barnes & Noble –




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Review: “The Assassin Game” by Kirsty McKay

The Assassin Game by Jesse McKay

A review by Amanda.

At Umfraville Hall, an isolated Welsh school for gifted and genius teens, The Game is everything and sixteen year old Cate is ecstatic when she is invited to play. Cate isn’t particularly gifted, nor is she a genius. She attends Umfraville because her parents own the island that it was built on. Being initiated into The Assassins Guild is her dream come true because it means the she has been accepted by the in-crowd. It also means that she and her two closest friends, also members of the Guild, get to have some extra fun this school year. The Game is known by many names in other parts of the world – Assassin, Murder, etc. One player is secretly chosen to be the “Killer”; they have to “kill” their fellow players one by one without getting caught. There are rules, of course. The kills are actually harmless pranks meant to simulate gruesome deaths. No one should ever actually be injured while playing The Game. They must also be discreet enough to not disrupt school life and annoy the staff. The Killer must eliminate everyone in entertaining ways while the rest of the players have to do their best to figure out who the Killer is before being taken out and removed from play. Whoever is left standing at the end is the winner.

The Game begins as it always does, with a disgusting initiation for the newest members. Then, chaos happens. Rules are bent to allow a new student to play, a boy from Cate’s past whose appearance rattles her in more ways than one. Awkwardness abounds as Cate has to deal with the emotions of two boys that she kissed and then jilted, as well as some threatening notes that may or may not be part of The Game. Her focus is torn when people start getting hurt, for real. Is someone taking The Game a little too seriously, or is there a wannabe serial killer at Umfraville?

The Assassin Game had plenty of intrigue and thrills to keep my attention. Cate narrated as though she was confiding in a friend; she even addressed the reader directly once or twice. The mystery was a good one and the author did a great job of concealing the culprit until the very end. I definitely enjoyed the thriller aspects, as well as the descriptions of the setting. Emotionally, however, I felt like I was in the mind of a sociopath – Cate reacted to various situations appropriately but it felt as though she was simply going through the motions. I knew what emotions Cate was supposed to be feeling, according to the writing, but I could not connect those emotions to her character. It was a struggle to care about what she was experiencing. The other characters had even less depth, which made the story feel oddly lacking.

Ultimately, I liked this book but did not love it.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

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Review: “The Axe Factor” by Colin Cotterill

The Axe Factor by Colin CotterillA review by Hannah.

Jimm Juree was a crime reporter in the big city of Chiang Mai, Thailand, until her family moves to a rural village in southern Thailand.  Now, she splits her time between running the family resort, editing the English signs in the area, freelancing for the local paper, and stumbling upon mysteries.  She is assigned to interview a farang (European) author who writes award winning murder mysteries.  At the same time several local women have left town abruptly, leaving their possessions behind.  Among these women is the author’s young Thai wife and a local doctor.  With a severe storm coming in, can Jimm Juree solve the mystery and save the day?

Jimm is an excellent guide to Southern Thailand.  Even though Maprao, the small village she now lives in, is a fairly backward place, there is a wry fondness in the way Jimm sees her new home.   The joy of riding her bike in the rain, the frustration of trying to find a solid internet connection, and the nosiness of her neighbors all add up to a charmingly rural fishing village.

Jimm loves her country, but she is very aware of its shortcomings.  From the English signs so badly translated that they’re comical, to the blatant corruption of the local authorities, Jimm doesn’t shy away from telling it like it is.  The author’s depiction of Thailand is done in such a way that the foreign is familiar.  As a reader, you get to experience a new country without feeling like a tourist.

Jimm is lead to believe one thing while the reader is lead to believe another.  Both the Jimm and the reader are wrong in the best way possible.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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