‘Overkill’ by Sandra Brown is about finding love when confronted with the worst of humanity

Overkill by Sandra Brown

We often read in the most salacious of news pieces that the scions of the ultra wealthy are prone to arrogance and delusions of grandeur. They act entitled, as if the laws and rules that apply to “normal” people don’t apply to them. And very often, they are correct. Those who fill our prisons aren’t necessarily those found guilty of criminal behavior but rather those who couldn’t afford top-notch legal representation to defend them in court. In “Overkill,” we see the result of being a criminal in a family so wealthy that they consider flying on their private jet the only way to travel. That criminal is Eban Clarke, the son in a filthy rich Atlanta family; and author Sandra Brown effectively contrasts him with the two main characters, Zach Bridger, a former pro football player who lives in a secluded home in the mountains of North Carolina, and Kate Lennon, an assistant state’s attorney on a mission. Zach and Kate, for reasons that will become clear, butt heads over the fact that Eban Clarke has been released precipitously from prison, and sparks ensue.

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‘Killers of a Certain Age’ by Deanna Raybourn is humorous, thrilling, and written for a woman like me

I love the concept of “Killers of a Certain Age,” perhaps because I am “of a certain age.” Deanna Raybourn certainly writes authentically about women in their 60s and these particular women who have been assassins for decades, working for an organization nicknamed “The Museum.” Their job has been killing bad guys, beginning with Nazi escapees; then when those were mostly dead either from natural causes or murder, assassinating drug overlords, crime bosses, and other really bad people. Now the four women, who trained together in their 20s, are taking the first steps toward enjoying a well-deserved retirement by embarking on an all-expense-paid cruise courtesy of their former employer. But what happens when they realize, on that very cruise, that instead of the cruise being the beginning of the rest of their lives, it’s intended to be the end of their lives?

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‘Girl, Forgotten’ by Karin Slaughter a fabulous sequel to ‘Pieces of Her’

Girl, Forgotten by Karin Slaughter

With “Girl, Forgotten,” author Karin Slaughter pens a worthy sequel to “Pieces of Her,” which became a huge hit as a Netflix series. My slight problem with “Pieces of Her” was that main character Andrea was, at times, an incompetent, insecure, fumbling fool. Well now, two years after the events in the first book, Andrea has matured and grown into a formidable character whose insecurities have taken second place to her intelligence and a bit more confidence. She has learned to control her emotions, mostly, and is quite able to start her first assignment as a United States Marshal.

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‘Upgrade’ by Blake Crouch is a thrilling sci-fi novel about the future

Upgrade by Blake Crouch

Blake Crouch’s newest novel, “Upgrade,” doesn’t start with a bang but rather a slow, uphill journey that draws us in gradually. But don’t relax, because before Chapter 2 begins, the action ratchets up, and by the end of the second chapter, you’ll find you want to keep reading to find out what happens next — quickly. That level of excitement and wonder continues to the very last page. Crouch is a master at creating stories about fantastic events and the people who are affected by them. There are few real bad guys in this story; instead, there are characters who, because of their arrogance, believe they can save the world.

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‘A Rip Through Time’ by Kelley Armstrong is a time travel mystery in Victorian Scotland

A Rip Through Time by Kelley Armstrong

After ending her fabulous “Rockton” series, prolific author Kelley Armstrong presents us with “A Rip Through Time,” a mystery boasting a different twist. Instead of exploring a unique location, we follow a modern police detective who is flung back in time to the Victorian Era, into the body of a housemaid in Edinburgh, Scotland. When Vancouver detective Mallory Atkinson is out jogging in Edinburgh while taking a break from visiting her dying grandmother, she is brutally attacked. She wakes up days later; but in what seems like a never-ending nightmare, she realizes that she is in the body of a maid and that she has been somehow transported back 150 years in time.

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‘The Deepest of Secrets’ by Kelley Armstrong is the twisty seventh book in the gripping Rockton series

The Deepest of Secrets

The “Rockton” murder mystery series by Kelley Armstrong has long been popular with mystery fans for many reasons. The setting — a very remote and wild area of the Yukon; the concept — a town where people needing to hide or escape from violence go for a two-year period; the characters — including detective Casey, Eric the sheriff, Mathias the butcher, Isabel, who runs the bar and brothel, and many more townspeople whom we come to know over the course of the novels. While most of the novels in the series can be read as stand alone pieces, that is not as much the case with this one. “The Deepest of Secrets” is the last novel in this gripping series. So it’s perfect timing for those who are looking for a new mystery series to read because they can start from the first book, “City of the Lost,” and immediately read each subsequent novel. There’s something satisfying about not having to wait a year to read the next book in a series.

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‘Reckless Girls’ by Rachel Hawkins: When “paradise” is anything but

Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins

With her latest twisty thriller, “Reckless Girls,” author Rachel Hawkins presents us with four young women who end up together on what would appear to be a tropical paradise. A deserted island near Hawaii where the beaches are golden, the water is warm, and the sunsets stunning. With plenty of good food, wine, and charming male companionship, what more could anyone ask for?

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‘City Spies: Forbidden City’ by James Ponti is the third in this thrilling middle grade series about an MI6 group of kid spies

City Spies: Forbidden City by James Ponti

Let me begin by saying I love the “City Spies” series by James Ponti, and his newest entry, “Forbidden City,” is no different. The story is gripping from the start as we read about Paris, one of the young spies, climbing the side of a mansion to return to the billionaire owner a priceless Fabergé egg which, unbeknownst to him, had been swapped for a exact copy containing a bug that allowed British Intelligence to spy on him. He is loaning the priceless treasure to a museum where the deception would surely be uncovered. Paris is named for the city where he was recruited. All the young spies are thusly named, Kat was recruited in Kathmandu, Sydney in that Australian city, Rio in Brazil, and Brooklyn in that New York borough. All live together in a manor home in Scotland with Mother and Monty, two MI6 agents. They attend an exclusive private school and work on spycraft in their spare time. And, in each novel, they have a mission.

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‘Just Like the Other Girls’ by Claire Douglas a suspense-filled mystery

Just Like the Other Girls by Claire Douglas

Sometimes, we read a murder mystery, and almost from the start, we feel as if we know who did it. Don’t worry. “Just Like the Other Girls” by Claire Douglas is not like that. Douglas does present us with several red herrings, and a few seem as though they just must be the real killer. But then she reveals more and more about the characters’ backgrounds and motivations, and boom—what we thought we knew is wrong.

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‘Lucky’ by Marissa Stapley is a story about love, deception, and family

Lucky by Marissa Stapley

The best books are often the ones that grab you by the collar and hook you so thoroughly that you can’t stop reading, no matter the time of day, no matter other pressing responsibilities. Sometimes, we need books that don’t present complex philosophical insights or force us to consider world problems, but rather books with a wonderful story that is engaging and fun to read. “Lucky,” by Marissa Stapley is a perfect example of a novel in which the main character, Lucky, is a sympathetic and likable person. We like her immediately and want to keep reading to see where her madcap life will take her next. We learn about her at three stages of her life: as an infant abandoned in front of a church; as a child growing up with her charming grifter father; and in her current situation as it grows more and more dire.

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‘No Beauties or Monsters’ by Tara Goedjen is filled with surprise and mystery until the lovely ending

No Beauties or Monsters

“No Beauties or Monsters” by Tara Goedjen is the ultimate mystery novel. For most of the story, we have little idea what is happening. Why does main character Rylie lose track of time—for hours—and have no recollection of what happened? What is going on in Twentynine Palms and the nearby military base to which her mother was just transferred and where they visited her grandfather when Rylie was a child? And, in fact, what happened when Rylie was a child to estrange them from her grandfather?

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‘Billy Summers’ by Stephen King is a brilliant study about what makes a “good” person

Billy Summers by Stephen King

How do we know whether an individual is a good person or a bad person? Children like my five-year-old grandson know that there are heroes and villains — interestingly, he chooses to be the villain in his fantasy play. But we adults know that there is more to “goodness” than a superficial title. And in “Billy Summers,” Stephen King forces us to consider whether a hired killer can be a good person or must always be a villain by virtue of his profession.

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