Thriller Book Review: Pray for Silence by Linda Castillo

Pray for Silence
By Linda Castillo

My review: 4.5 of 5 stars

Pray for Silence features gruesome, disturbing violence that haunts the reader in much the same way as it haunts the cops in this story. Castillo spares no detail, increasing the horror quotient ten-fold. The characters, the police procedures, and the Amish practices feel authentic, and the author also knows when to throw in a bit of humor to take the edge off. Fast-paced and tense this Kate Burkholder book is (like the others) hard to put down and even harder to forget.


“There is an underground society that runs beneath the Norman Rockwell-facade of most small towns, and Painters Mill is no exception” (p. 25).

“The mind of a killer is a dark, malignant place, viscous with a cancer of black thoughts and secret hungers most people can’t imagine” (p. 91).

“For a reason I can’t readily identify, I’m reluctant to leave. I feel if I walk out, I’ll be closing the door on unfinished business” (p. 216).

If you like gruesome, gritty murder thrillers, you might also try:

Tami Hoag’s Kovac and Liska Books

Book Review: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
My review: 4 of 5 stars

Featuring a vampire-like menace and a tenacious, strong heroine, NOS4A2 is instantly creepy, magical, dark, and disturbing with a sense of humor. NOS4A2 is unique in its premise with fascinating characters. I’ll never listen to “Holly, Jolly Christmas” the same way again. Always tense and suspenseful, sometimes even grotesque with vivid imagery, NOS4A2 drops the reader into a horrifying, heart-pounding narrative. I felt like cheering when the bad guys got their comeuppance even though it came at a heavy price. Recommended for fans of horror stories. Note: This book contains mature themes and foul language.


“She had crossed the bridge almost a dozen times in five years, and always it was less like an experience, more like a sensation” (p. 79).

“…a room full of books smelled like dessert: a sweet snack made of figs, vanilla, glue, and cleverness” (p. 94).

“…there was something awful about Christmas music when it was nearly summer. It was like a clown in the rain, with his makeup running” (p. 153).

“Fantasy was always only a reality waiting to be switched on” (p. 613).

Tami Hoag’s Kovac and Liska Books

the bitter season tami hoag

I met Tami Hoag when she visited Atlanta in January of this year. I read a few of her books about 15 years ago, and remembered enjoying them. She was touring to promote The Bitter Season, the 5th book featuring detectives Kovac and Liska. So, before reading The Bitter Season, I decided to return to the beginning and read all of the Kovac and Liska Books in order. I finished The Bitter Season last week, and I really enjoyed my journey which took me back to 1999.

1 – Ashes to Ashes (1999)
2 – Dust to Dust (2000)
3 – Prior Bad Acts (2006)
3.5 – The 1st Victim (novella, 2013)
4 – The 9th Girl (2013)
5 – The Bitter Season (2016)

1) Ashes to Ashes (Kovac and Liska Book 1) by Tami Hoag (borrowed from the local library)
My review: 4 of 5 stars

A serial killer (The Cremator) who burns the bodies of his victims has a witness, a teenager who refuses to talk with the FBI. Kate Conlan, victims’ advocate and Special Agent John Quinn combine forces to solve the case at great personal cost. Set in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Hennepin County. Chilling and adreniline inducing, including a wry sense of humor. Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska (homicide detectives) are first introduced in Ashes to Ashes. Raw and realistic dialogue with a conversational, fast-paced rhythmn. Attention to detail brings the story and the characters to life – including each scene and procedure. Not for the faint of heart as some details are graphic and gruesome. Also contains foul-language. Delves richly into the psychology of both the cops and the killer. Recommended for fans of romantic suspense, crime thrillers, and mystery novels who don’t mind blue language and gory details.


“Rationalization: the key to a clear conscience” (p. 56).

“If there was one thing she had learned in life, it was that you could escape circumstance, but you could never escape who you were” (p. 87).

“Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac” (p. 153).

“Negative emotion was still emotion. Indifference was the thing to dread” (p. 197).

“Everyone was a victim of something” (p. 410).

2) Dust to Dust (Kovac and Liska Book 2) by Tami Hoag (borrowed from the local library)
My review: 4 of 5 stars

Two cops investigate the death of a Minneapolis Internal Affairs cop, Andy Fallon. Officially ruled an accident, Kovac and Liska come to believe the death is a homicide and somehow to to Fallon’s work. However, the political climate and other factors mean they must put their careers and lives on the line to reveal the truth.

The author paid exquisite attention to detail. The climate of the time (2000) was reflected in the attitude toward homosexuality and added to the potential motivations for the crime. Hoag managed to answer questions for the reader before the reader even thought to ask them. Authentic sounding cop dialogue with gallows humor. Both a psychological and philosophical novel, I recommended it for fans of writers like Karin Slaughter and anyone who enjoys crime thrillers.


“Some days life just sucked when you were a decent human being” (p. 36).

“If you never want anything, then you can’t be disappointed when you don’t get it” (p. 98).

“Which was worse? Being too hard to feel, too remote to be touched, or being open to being hurt by that contact?” (p. 144)

3) Prior Bad Acts (Kovac and Liska Book 3) by Tami Hoag (borrowed from local library)
My review: 4 of 5 stars

Even with several years having passed between Kovac and Liska books, Hoag manages to maintain consistency in their characters – even the ongoing saga between Kovac and his neighbor with the Christmas lights. With several mysteries interwoven, Prior Bad Acts is riveting, chilling, dramatic, suspenseful and terrifying. The characters are well-rounded, and the relationships are complex. The story is heartbreaking with well-written, emotional scenes. Recommended for fans of crime/suspense novels.


“It’s not about right or wrong. It’s about rules and fairness, and making sure no one has the common sense to form an opinion” (p. 16).

“People never had a clue what an illusion their sense of safety was” (p. 41).

“This is what it’s like to lose your mind…” (p. 153).

“Zeal is right up there on the list of suspicious emotional behaviors like joy and despair” (p. 177).

3.5) The 1st Victim (Kovac and Liska short story/novella) by Tami Hoag (e-book purchase)
My review: 4 of 5 stars

To have the full Kovac and Liska experience, I recommend spending the $1.99 for The 1st Victim. Not only does it complete all the Kovac and Liska books up to this point, it serves as an enticing prequel to The 9th Girl.

4) The 9th Girl (Kovac and Liska Book 4) by Tami Hoag
My review: 4 of 5 stars

The 9th unidentified female victim of the year falls from the trunk of a car on New Year’s Eve in Minneapolis. Kovac and Liska must identifiy her remains and find her killer. Their fear is that she may be the victim of a vicious, transient serial killer whom they’ve nicknamed Doc Holiday for his penchant for killing on or around holidays.

After reading four of Hoag’s Kovac and Liska books back to back, I noticed repetitions that might have passed by me otherwise. She has a tendency to describe characters the same way repeatedly. For example, Kovac as the “poor man’s Harrison Ford.” While on one hand, such repetition provides consistency when years pass between novel, it feels redundant when the reader has just read that same description in the previous novel. One consistency that is consistently amusing is the ongoing Christmas decor of Kovac’s neighbor that he is aggravated by each and every year. It provides for a little light humor in what is often a dark novel. Hoag follows through on story threads, keeping the reader up-to-date on the lives of Kovac and Liska even though there have been several books in between. With secretive, surly teenagers and mysteries within mysteries, this Kovac and Liska novel was stressful, sad, disturbing and frustrating. (Note: foul language and graphic violence). The story kept me riveted and on edge, so I was relieved when the nightmare was over and the horrible crimes were solved. I also had to go find something happy to read afterward. Recommended for Karin Slaughter fans and those who enjoy crime fiction of the down and dirty, more graphic variety.


“Happy freaking New Year” (p. 12).

“You make life more complicated than it needs to be” (p. 31).

“Homicide detectives were to medical examiners what four-year-old children were to overworked mothers” (p. 48).

“Absurdity is the humor of the superior mind” (p. 53).

“We live our lives like hamsters running in wheels” (p. 143).

5) The Bitter Season (Kovac and Liska Book 5) by Tami Hoag
My review: 5 of 5 stars

The Bitter Season takes unhappy childhood bitterness to a whole new level. The beginning grabs you and never lets go. As with all the Kovac and Liska books, the humor is dark but also quite funny. The crime is gruesome and terrifying. The characters fascinate and captivate. The language is foul. The violence graphic. Several mysteries intertwine and grow increasingly complex. The reader senses impending danger throughout the novel. Hoag keeps the tension constant. Though always suspenseful and mysterious, the true thriller aspect comes later in the novel. A fascinating read with lots of dark secrets to uncover. Hoag adds psychological suspense to this Kovac and Liska novel that ramps up the drama and creates a riveting story. Highly recommended for fans of crime/suspense/thriller novels.


“If the Grim Reaper comes chasing me, he can just kill me and be done with it. I’m not spending my last waking moments running” (p. 141).

“Nothing was worse to a control freak than losing his grip in front of people” (p. 223).

“The world was a terrible place full of terrible people doing terrible things” (p. 300).

Novel Cinema: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

In 2013, Rick Yancey promoted his new book The 5th Wave at the AJC/Decatur Book Festival. I bought two signed copies. One for my son and the other for my son-in-law. My husband ended up reading the book too. They all loved it. Not being a sci-fi fan, I didn’t read the book until recently. My reason for finally reading it was because we all went to see the movie and came away feeling quite differently about it.


The 5th Wave the movie: Enjoyable enough if you haven’t read the book and have no idea how badly it’s been massacred. Typical teen dystopian flick that pales in comparison to The Hunger Games, but not bad. The best my son and husband could say about it was that it was so-so. They were obviously disappointed. After reading the book myself, I can easily see why. Some of the key plot points were changed entirely; the complexities of the characters in the books were reduced to stock characters in the movie, and other really good stuff was plain left out.

The 5th Wave novel rates 5 out of 5 stars.

Featuring a spunky heroine with a snarky sense of humor, the premise of the book (an alien invasion) is captivating, well-executed and believable to the point of terrifying. The book also poses a fascinating existential question: “What makes us human?” Engrossing, exciting, and suspenseful, I immediately wanted to read book two after turning the last page on book one.


“You can only call someone crazy if there’s someone else who’s normal” (p. 4).

“How do you rid the Earth of humans? Rid the humans of their humanity” (p. 12).

“It’s hard to plan for what comes next when what comes next is not something you planned for” (p. 28).

“Too many people say something when they really have nothing to say” (p. 271).

The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey
My rating 5 out of 5 stars

This second book in the trilogy gives the reader a generous helping of mystery, suspense, thrills and complex characters faced with impossible choices trying desperately to survive while holding on to their humanity. The teen attitudes felt authentic, and the characters evolve with the story. The action is packed and riveting. Surprisingly philosophical as well. Explores love and sacrifice in a deep and meaningful way with many twists and turns. An unpredictable and fascinating read. Bring on book 3!


“When you look death in the eye and death blinks first, nothing seems impossible” (p. 5).

“If there was any hope left, it lay in love’s hopeless promises” (p. 90).

“You make your whole existence dependent on another human being and you’re asking for a world of trouble” (p. 158).

“I am drowning in an infinite sea” (p. 207).

“It isn’t that the lies are too beautiful to resist. It’s that the truth is too hideous to face” (p. 220).

The Last Star by Rick Yancey
My review: 4 of 5 stars

The mood of The Last Star is set with a final communion. Somber and philosophical, this final book in the 5th Wave trilogy features shocking actions, complex and secretive characters, and lots of action and suspense. Some action sequences echoed action from the first book, but the author seems to have done this on purpose. He repeatedly writes that the journey is a circle. That truth held out in the book. Although it was appropriate, the repeats made this final book slightly less exciting than the first. Still I highly recommend this series to fans of dystopian teen books.


“Even the longest journey is a circle, and history will always cycle back to the place where it began” (p. 4).

“More than the sum of our experiences, our memories are the ultimate proof of reality” (p. 51).

“Empty the vessel of hope and faith and trust and you can fill it with anything you like” (p. 161).

Favorite phrase:

“Urban vomit” (p. 68)

Book Review: The Bone Tree by Greg Iles

The Bone Tree by Greg Iles
The Bone Tree by Greg Iles
[simpleazon-link asin=”0062311115″ locale=”us”]The Bone Tree (Penn Cage)[/simpleazon-link]

My review: 4.5 of 5 stars

Fascinating, frustrating, and infuriating! Conspiracy theorists will devour The Bone Tree. I had to remind myself that I was reading fiction because the ring of truth kept sounding in my ears. Occasionally the author took the story or the characters so far that I lost a bit of belief, but he always brought me back. Adrenaline-pumping action glued me to the pages. I cheered the good guys (mostly) and longed for the moment when the bad guys would be taken down. The complexities of the story and the mixed motivations of the characters kept me tense and on edge. Reading The Bone Tree was like observing a violent chess match with powerful players and high stakes where every move counted and the carnage was devastating. Highly recommended for fans of political intrigue, suspense and thrillers.

Note: Contains strong language and graphic violence.

*I received a free advanced reading copy from LibraryThing Early Reviewers in exchange for an honest review.


“Mercy is a virtue you can’t afford” (p. 28).

“We’re about to go through the looking glass, Mayor. And on the other side, we both tell the truth, regardless of consequences” (p. 79).

“All history is personal” (p. 95).

“For the dead, all questions have been answered or made irrelevant” (p. 654).

“Those who love heroes must walk a stony road” (p. 717).

Nature of Grace Book Blast and $100 Giveaway

nature of grace
Nature of Grace Boxed Set by S.R. Johannes

The NATURE OF GRACE books have hit many of the top young adult/teen and thriller best seller lists including: Best Debut, Movers and Shakers, Top 100 in Thrillers, and the Top 100 in Teen Action Adventure books.

This new “Nature of Grace” Exclusive Box set is for readers who love wilderness thrillers. 16 year old Grace grew up in the woods determined to make a difference in the North Carolina wilderness. When she comes across conservation threats, she uses her survival and wilderness skills to stop them, no matter what the cost. In addition to being a thriller/mystery – other book themes include conservation, nature, animals, survival, wilderness, endangered animals.

The box set includes all 3 boxes in the Nature of Grace (Untraceable, Uncontrollable, and Unstoppable). It also includes an exclusive short story, Unspeakable from Mo’s perspective) as well as the original Untraceable before it was changed.

The box set also includes a large section of Special Extras that include interviews with the author, characters, and additional information on the nature and animal conservation the books support.

Untraceable (Book 1) – When Grace’s forest ranger dad disappears on patrol, she fights town authorities, tribal officials, & nature to prove he’s alive. Torn between a hot boy and cute ex, she heads into the wilderness to find her dad. Soon, she is caught in a web of conspiracy, deception, and murder.

Uncontrollable (Book 2) – When Grace enters the Red Wolf Reintroduction Program. When wolves start showing up dead, Grace must work through her fears and hunt down clues to find out who is sabotaging the wolf program and why. Little does she know, she is being hunting too.

Unstoppable (Book 3) – When Grace moves to the Everglades to live with her grandmother, Birdie, she makes new friends with Dylan and his girlfriend, fellow animal activist, Sadie. After finding an injured Florida Panther, she stumbles upon a large roadside zoo illegally filled with a variety of endangered and exotic animals. There, she and her friends are kidnapped by the ruthless owner and dragged deep into the Everglades for a hunting challenge. Only this time, Grace is the prey.

Unspeakable (Short Story from Mo’s perspective) – When Mo sees a strange girl in the woods, he follows her. He soon realizes they are both in a dangerous position and may not get out alive.
Untraceable’s Original Ending – Never released before!

Exclusive Extras – including author interviews, character interviews, insider scoop on the series, and additional animal and nature conservation information on the issues covered in the series.

Sale!! From now until August 16 the complete box set is only $0.99.


Praise for the books:

“A Modern Day Katniss” -Reel Life with Jane

“A suspense-filled mystery with surprises that keep you guessing all the way to the end.”- IndieReader

Kirkus Reviews called this teen series “a dramatic entanglement of mystery, deception and teen romance”!

add to goodreads
SR JohannesAuthor S. R. Johannes

S.R. Johannes is the award-winning author of the Amazon bestselling Nature of Grace thriller series (Untraceable, Uncontrollable, and Unstoppable). She is a winner of the IndieReader Discovery Award in YA, an IPPY a Silver Medalist for YA Fiction, a Finalist in The Kindle Book Review’s Best Young Adult Fiction, and a Finalist in US Book News Best YA Book.
Since leaving Corporate America, she has followed her passion for writing and conservation by working with The Dolphin Project, the Atlanta Zoo, other animal rescue organizations, and by weaving conservation themes into her books.

Currently, she lives in Atlanta, GA with her two Doodles, English-accented husband, and the huge imaginations of their prince and princess, which she hopes- someday- will change the world.

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Pinterest * Newsletter


$100 Book Blast Giveaway

$100 Amazon eGift Card or Paypal Cash

Ends 8/31/15

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an eGift Card or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Review: Natchez Burning by Greg Iles

[simpleazon-image align=”left” asin=”0062311093″ locale=”us” height=”500″ src=”” width=”280″][simpleazon-link asin=”0062311093″ locale=”us”]Natchez Burning: A Novel (Penn Cage Novels)[/simpleazon-link] by Greg Iles
My rating:4 of 5 stars
Obviously well-researched novel that covers history, civil rights, dirty politics and family secrets. Brutal, heart-breaking, intense, and emotional with the Southern Gothic themes of redemption and regret well-played. The first half of the book takes time because so much information is packed into the narrative: a large, complex network of characters, fictionalized historical events several of which are monstrous acts that are gut-wrenching to imagine, and the unique politics and character of Natchez, Mississippi. Many of the images are violent and graphic. The mysteries are perplexing and compelling. Conspiracy theories and political intrigue weave throughout the story. A heavy, but rewarding read rich in character. While it took me a few days to read the first half due to the amount of information to digest, I devoured the second half, the denouement, in one very late night. Once everything hit the fan, the pace of the novel ratcheted up to an adrenaline-fueled ride. It was all I could do not to pick up [simpleazon-link asin=”0062311115″ locale=”us”]The Bone Tree (Penn Cage)[/simpleazon-link] and keep going right away. Despite a few contrivances that seemed a bit too convenient, I thought this was an excellent book. Fans of Southern Gothic, political thrillers, and civil rights era historical fiction, should definitely read this book.


“…anybody who’d read any history knew that great civilizations always crumbled from within” (p. 31).
“Trying to keep the past buried was like trying to stop kudzu from growing. Short of pouring gasoline on the ground and killing the earth itself, you couldn’t do it” (p. 134).
“The lesson of history was that every great fortune was built upon a great crime…” (p. 151).
“The faith of children is an awesome thing to behold. If only we could all be worthy of it” (p. 295).

For more information click here:

Find the author on Twitter: @GregIles

Related articles and sites:

The Civil Rights Cold Case Project

Small-town editor compelled to solve mystery

Concordia Sentinel

‘Natchez Burning’ author Greg Iles discusses ‘The Bone Tree,’ the twist-filled sequel

Tragedy changed Greg Iles book ‘Natchez Burning’

Amazon to make TV show of ‘Natchez Burning’

Book Review: Black Water Rising by Attica Locke

[simpleazon-image align=”left” asin=”B005GNM3ME” locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”” width=”105″] [simpleazon-image align=”left” asin=”0061802050″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”” width=”106″]

[simpleazon-link asin=”B005GNM3ME” locale=”us”]Black Water Rising: A Novel[/simpleazon-link] by Attica Locke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first word that came to mind when I finished the last line of Black Water Rising was WOW! This book, which takes place in the 1980’s, gave me an education on union politics, race relations, and the more militant civil rights movement of the late 1960’s and 1970’s. Attica Locke, not nearly old enough to have experienced these events first hand, nevertheless presented what felt like an insiders view into a dark and complicated world where oil was king in Texas. Even more amazing was that she did so through the eyes of a black MAN as her main character. Jay Porter is a new lawyer working out of strip mall making very little profit and representing the desperate. He is an angry, bitter man who knows he should have more and be more. His background, his race, and his anger hold him back. I lived out his experiences via Attica Locke and walked in another man’s shoes. This is why I read. To experience life through the eyes and heart of another person. Only a strong writer like Locke could help a white woman who was a teenager in the 1980’s understand and empathize with the life of a strong-minded black lawyer in the Texas of that same decade. The book grabbed me from the start with a murder in the middle of the night, dragged a bit in the politics here and there, but captured me in full at the climax, holding my undivided attention all the way to its beautiful conclusion. A conclusion that actually made me pause and reflect with the word “wow” the only thought I could conjure in that moment.

My favorite words:

Dashiki-a loose, often colorfully patterned, pullover garment originating in Africa and worn chiefly by men.

Pecuniary-consisting of or given or exacted in money or monetary payments.

Dulcet-pleasant to the ear; melodious.

Dais-a raised platform, as at the front of a room, for a lectern, throne, seats of honor, etc.

Stevedore-a firm or individual engaged in the loading or unloading of a vessel.

Quote from which comes the title (p.367): “The strike, therefore, made it impossible for the company to hide its crime, which was, by then, starting to come up in plain sight, like black water rising in the streets.”

Favorite quote (p.404): “And standing now in a urine-stained corner of this jail cell, where he paid a toll of six cigarettes to be left in peace, he strikes a new bargain with himself. There is a way out of here, he knows, out of this prison in his mind. It requires only the courage to speak.”

Before I was even finished with Black Water Rising, I was online ordering Locke’s second and highly acclaimed book, The Cutting Season. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a Dennis Lehane, James Ellroy, or Greg Iles fan. I was also reminded of John Grisham at times. Just note that many of the characters use salty language, and the plot contains some violence and sexual situations.

View all my reviews

Audiobook of Oath of Office by Michael Palmer now available

Update: The audiobook is now out! Thanks to Esther from Macmillan Audio, I have a clip to share.

Click here: Oath Of Office webclip

If ever there was a cautionary tale against genetic food modification, Oath of Office is it. The author combines medical mystery with political corruption in a suspenseful, fast-paced thriller that is a real page turner. I was stepping outside my usual genres by picking up this book, and I’m ever so glad that I did. I particularly enjoy books that take me outside of my realm of knowledge and experience and teach me something new while entertaining me. I found that Oath of Office did that very well. I also liked the main characters a great deal and appreciated that they had baggage. Palmer was able to make doctors and politicians into people to whom the reader could relate. This book had high speed car chases, shootouts, medical traumas, radiated termites, murder, and romance. It came together in a plot that was frighteningly believable yet surprising and nearly seamless. I enjoyed it immensely and highly recommend it for a quick read with a bonus adrenaline rush. Note: This book does contain some foul language, sexual situations, and violence.

Please note, in compliance with FTC guidelines, I was provided an advance reader copy by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Click here to read an excerpt.