Monthly Archives: March 2012

Review: Zero by Tom Leveen

Author: Tom Leveen
Title: Zero
Series: Standalone
Genre: Contemporary
Source: Netgalley
Format: Galley
Pub. Year: April 24, 2012
Purchase: Amazon/ B&N

For aspiring artist Amanda Walsh, who only half-jokingly goes by the nickname Zero, the summer before college was supposed to be fun—plain and simple. Hanging out with her best friend Jenn, going to clubs, painting, and counting down the days until her escape. But when must-have scholarship money doesn’t materialize, and she has a falling out with Jenn that can only be described as majorly awkward, and Zero’s parents relationship goes from tense to relentless fighting, her prospects start looking as bleak and surreal as a painting by her idol Salvador Dali. Will life truly imitate art? Will her new, unexpected relationship with a punk skater boy who seems too good to be real and support from the unlikeliest of sources show Zero that she’s so much more than a name

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Cover Love: I really like the cover because it gives the illusion of punk elements inside the book. How awesome is that Mohawk. I find it a little deceiving since it made me expect a darker type of story and Zero is not a dark story.

It took me awhile to get into the book so I had to read it in three sessions. The first session (one-third of the book) just blasts us with the problems Zero (otherwise known as Amanda Walsh) has. Leveen drop us in the middle on a bad situation and expect us to feel bad for her. She literally has no one to turned to in times of trouble because she no longer has a best friend and what teenager truly talks to their parents (not many of them) yet I couldn’t bring myself to care about her. Maybe it was the whole “woe-is-me” attitude but more importantly, it was where her family alliance was. Zero was hard on her mother for being protective of her and inquiring about her whereabouts  meanwhile,  she was soft on her father who is an alcoholic and constantly instigating verbal fights with his wife. It was hard to relate to her (she is an art major, I prefer music) so I quit reading but before I did that, I did like Mike the drummer and the music elements in the story. A band named Gothic Rainbow is awesome.

Second half of the book was more interesting. We finally learn why Zero is not talking to her best friend, Jenn. I’m not going to spoil it but I will say that I would not have stopped talking to my best friend if that happen. I would have laughed it off as a joke and sure, it would have been awkward for a little while but nothing that I couldn’t live with. Jenn was an interesting character, she was the rich girl who was emotionally abandoned by her parents yet she finally has realized she is worth more than what she is, so we see her grow up (from her perspective).  We also meet Sybil the Art teacher at the community college, she is an eccentric character that I like and boy, was I wrong about her. I thought she was going to be a light beacon for Zero but she turns out to be that type of person that puts a kitty on top of a tree and then forgets about it so she is a bit thoughtless about the effects of her actions. She still rocks though.

The final part of this book really save the book for me. Everything just falls into place and it is so fast paced. Zero finally stops calling herself Zero and starts to realize she can control the reins of her life instead of just going with the flow. Amanda/Zero stands up to her father about the problems he is bringing to the family. Her relationship with Mike really helped her grow from an indecisive 17 year old to a more secure version of herself.

What I really like about this book are the quotes by Salvador Dali at the start of every chapter. My favorite one was at the start of Chapter 3.

I do not paint a portrait to look like the subject. Rather the person grow to look like his portrait.

It sums up the overall story of Zero. It is a coming of age story. It is a good book but just not memorable enough for me.

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3.5 BB-Pretty to look at, maybe capture

22nd in the 150+ Reading Challenge

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Review: The Apprentice by Tess Gerristen

Title: The Apprentice
Author: Tess Gerristen
Series: Rizzoli & Isles 2
Genre: Crime thriller
Format: Hardcover
Source: Public library
Pub. Year: 2003
Purchase: Amazon/ B&N/ TBD

Blurb from Amazon:
It is a boiling hot Boston summer. Adding to the city’s woes is a series of shocking crimes, in which wealthy men are made to watch while their wives are brutalized. A sadistic demand that ends in abduction and death.

The pattern suggests one man: serial killer Warren Hoyt, recently removed from the city’s streets. Police can only assume an acolyte is at large, a maniac basing his attacks on the twisted medical techniques of the madman he so admires. At least that’s what Detective Jane Rizzoli thinks. Forced again to confront the killer who scarred her—literally and figuratively—she is determined to finally end Hoyt’s awful influence . . . even if it means receiving more resistance from her all-male homicide squad.

But Rizzoli isn’t counting on the U.S. government’s sudden interest. Or on meeting Special Agent Gabriel Dean, who knows more than he will tell. Most of all, she isn’t counting on becoming a target herself, once Hoyt is suddenly free, joining his mysterious blood brother in a vicious vendetta. . . .

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Thought to consider: Read for the emotions instead of the serial killer

The second book in the Rizzoli and Isles series doesn’t disappoint very much. We are introduce to more characters that appeared in the TV show and a love interest for Rizzoli. The same serial killer, Warren Hoyt, is back to torment our main character and company. His perspective is still creepy.

This book introduces Dr. Maura Isles or also known as Queen of the Death. I was looking forward to her appearance but she is not like in the TV show because she doesn’t have the camaraderie with Rizzoli yet. Detective Korsak comes into the picture as well. Gerristen constantly reminds the reader that he is overweight. Rizzoli constantly describes him as greasy, sweaty, plus with unhealthy coffee habits. I’m not sure if I’m fond of the repetition of him being overweight.

Let’s talk serial killer. In this segment, Hoyt and unknown serial killer team up (after Hoyt escapes from prison) and attacked women. Technically, they only killed one woman together but nonetheless, proceed to play psychological games with Rizzoli. I personally like the in-deep analysis behind Rizzoli. It makes her more human than in the first book. The Surgeon was about Rizzoli proving her worth in a male-dominated business whereas this book focuses on the scars she obtained from Hoyt and how it affects her life. I find this to be an important step because events leave fragments in people and it is important to acknowledge that those memories change our way of thinking or perspective of life.

There was this emphasis on portraying Rizzoli’s vulnerabilities as a woman in terms of her family and her job. Her family considers her the black sheep in the family which is quite sad. She performs her duty as a daughter yet it is the absentee male son that her family prefers. It is really hurtful and adds to the complexity that is Jane Rizzoli. Her family life isn’t the only place where her vulnerabilities are seen. The FBI agent Gabriel Dean also wants her to admit her status as a victim because she is a woman who was tortured by an unsub. He classified her as a damaged woman and tried to get her to admit this fact in a confrontational and psychological conversation which she obviously did not respond very well. I have to admire that; she will not see herself as a victim even if certain behavior allude to this fact. A romance does develop between them which I like because she deserves some something happiness in her life.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the romantic relationship develops between Rizzoli and Dean or if it is going to drop dead in the next book. With the intro of Dr. Isles, I’m wondering how Isles and Rizzoli become friends outside of the morgue.

I realize that I didn’t emphasize the serial killer so I’ll end with him. I was not expecting all the bureaucracy that this particular unsub brought. It was interesting because it was a war criminal. Very similar to the serial killer in the second book of Dexter. He was definitely not as creepy as the serial killer from Dearly Devoted Dexter though.

5 BB- Total Keeper

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21st book in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies for: Serial Killer, Second in a Series, Rizzoli & Isles,

Review: The Emerald City by J.A. Beard

Title: The Emerald City
Author:  J.A Beard
Series: Standalone
Genre: YA Fantasy
Source: VBT Tour
Format: E-book
Pub. Year: 2012
Purchase: Amazon/ B&N/ Smashwords

Blurb from Amazon:
When her parents die, teenager Gail Dorjee retreats into an angry, sarcastic shell. She hopes it will ease her pain, but all it gets her is a one-way trip from Kansas to a Seattle boarding school, the elite Osland Academy.

As soon as she arrives, Gail clashes with Diana, the leader of the school’s most powerful clique. The Winged make Gail’s life hell until she find allies: her airhead roommate; a cowardly fellow victim of the Winged; and, bit by bit, Diana’s boyfriend–the seemingly heartless Nick.

Gail soon has bigger problems than Diana. One of her teachers hates her. Glasses shatter and fountains erupt around her. She can’t swear no matter how hard she tries. An unseen force is keeping her on campus. And worst of all, she uncovers a plot that will give one person a precious gift at the cost of thousands of lives. Now Gail and her friends must stop the plot–not just to save lives, but to win a brain, the nerve, a heart and a home in this modern urban fantasy take on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

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What I love: The use of quirky quotes. “The personality of a serial killer crossed with a sponge”

I love this book. It was an interesting take on the classic Wizard of Oz. It fused the yellow brick road (that was mentioned briefly) with the modern world. And used a troll as the disguise for “the man behind the curtain.” No red slippers were used but it was still a great read.

The characters are fun and entertaining. Gail Dorjee is a much stronger Dorothty and actively tries to help her friends (even when they weren’t friends at that time). Lydia is the Scarecrow, quite obvious with the nickname of Brainless, but she says these awesome misconstrued quotes such as  “Charlotte Bronte said, ‘I try to avoid looking
forward or backward and try to keep looking in Utah.’” (26) and “‘God has given yourself one face, and you make yourself a tiger’” (21).  I find them to be funny because they are moments that say what? Utah? I don’t think Utah was a state when Bronte was around but I could wrong.  Leandra is the Cowardly Lion with her being so afraid of everything. Nick is the Tin Man by being emotionless.  I love that the evil Flying Monkeys are represented by the Winged clique. I love those monkeys.

What I found was interesting is that good side is pretty much determine but the bad side is not. At any given time, there were multiple individuals who could stand for the Wicked Witch because that’s how good the writing is. It makes the reader question who is the Wicked Witch because it’s not just one character feels  that can fulfill this role. Diana is the antagonist to Gail but then another person could be the villain of the story as well. The villain identity has this transferability that makes the story interesting because we are not certain who is the witch until the end.

The whole concept of the Rift Watchers was really interesting. It was carefully woven into the novel as well.  The Rift Watchers can use magic to stabilize Rifts in the world, which are centers of power. Gail is water, Lydia is plants, Leandra is earth and Nick is metal.  The school isn’t meant for everyone to learn about the rifts, it’s more like the school draws magical people to it. I have Buffy in my head so the rifts remind me of the Hellmouth where it completely collapses on itself at the end of the series but before that, it tended to draw people to it. It is sort of what the rift would have done if it have collapse.

Overall, I really like this novel. It does a great service to the original book and this manages to be original by itself. I don’t like the fact that the characters cannot cuss but I won’t deduct a half butterfly for it. It makes it interesting and adds to the mystery of the Academy.

5 BB- Total Keeper

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21st in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies for: E-book, Self Published, Where are you reading?-Seattle, Washington

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I am a member of The Virtual Book Tour Cafe’ and a copy of this book was provided to me by the author. Although payment may have been received by The Virtual Book Tour Cafe’, no payment was received by me in exchange for this review nor was there an obligation to write a positive one. All opinions expressed here are entirely of my own and may not necessarily agree with those of the author, the book’s publisher and publicist or the readers of this review. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.*

Review: Vampire Knight Vol. 2 by Matsuri Hino

Title: Vampire Knight Vol. 2
Author: Matsuri Hino
Series: Vampire Knight # 2
Genre: Manga, Paranormal
Source: Personal purchase
Format: Paperback
Pub. Year: 2007
Purchase: Amazon/ B&N/ TBD

Blurb from Amazon:
Cross Academy is attended by two groups of students: the Day Class and the Night Class. At sunset, when the students of the Day Class return to their dorm, they cross paths with the Night Class on their way to school. Yuki Cross and Zero Kiryu are the Guardians of the school, there to protect the Day Class from the Academy’s dark secret: the Night Class is full of vampires.

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Thoughts to ponder on: Why is the act of feeding a vampire real blood consider forbidden?

In the second volume of Vampire Knight, things start to unraveled and the world Hino is building shows more complexities than before. We learn of a vampire hierachy that consists of five levels. Purebloods like Kaname at the the top, aristorcrats are second, third are common vampires, fourth are humans that have been turned into vampires and the most dreaded of all levels, Level E for end (extinction). Level E are that vampires that were once humans but have lost their sanity so they go on killing sprees. I think the hierachy is interesting because the vampires of the Night Class have a disdain for the human-turned-vampires being which makes me wonder where do vampires come from? And what is a true Pureblood? Since the manga implies that Purebloods are in short supply.

Of course, there is always tension between vampires and vampire hunters, especially when one comes into the school. Yagari Toga is a vampire hunter and the former master/teacher of Zero before Zero’s family was murdered. Remember, Zero is now a vampire, a reluctant one, but still a vampire. What Zero is causes a lot of tension for Yuki because Zero is rejecting the blood tablets that are supposed to keep his blood lust at bay. She ends up committing the “forbidden act” of giving Zero her blood. Now, Yuki is trying to protect Zero from going insane and at the same time, keep it a secret from Kaname.

Yeah, there wasn’t anything groundbreaking in the manga. The Vice President Ichijo had a birthday party and Zero and Yuki where invited. Only after they were attacked by a Level E vampire in the city. That was interesting because once again, Yuki was incapable of defending herself against a rogue vampire. She does not appear to be a fighter at all.

My favorite scene is actually the short little bonus story after the novel has ended. In this scene, Kain calls Kaname a “gang leader” and Aido replies with call Kaname a “supreme gang leader.” Kaneme overhears this and decides to place a water-filled bucket on top of Aido’s head (and I find it hilarious). Supreme gang leader, that’s right.

4 BB-Ready for capture

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20th in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies for: Second in a Series, M/V/G Challenge

Guest Post with Peter Anthony Kelley of Paraglide

Let’s give a warm welcome to author Peter Antony Kelley, author of Paraglide. He is here today to discuss the importance of locations in novels.

Peter Anthony Kelley is the author of the young-adult novel, Paraglide. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife, two daughters and a cranky nineteen-year old cat named Brownie. When he’s not writing he loves travel, biking, watching soccer and jumping on Venetian gondolas.

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Location, Location, Location

In real estate location is king. In fiction, not necessarily so much.  At best, the setting of a story snags the role of a prince behind King Plot and Queen Character Development, occasionally slipping to lowly duke or even vanishing entirely.  Think of stories that could happen anywhere, a bland small town, an anonymous big city. Yet a stellar sense of place, an evocative description of the landscape, even a singular building can send a novel soaring. How much does Hogwarts add to the work of Harry Potter.  What about Dickensian London? The very term evokes such vivid imagery, it’s impossible to imagine Oliver Twist or The Christmas Carol with it.

What’s your favorite literary location? Do you prefer a fictional universe, a world that bears little or no resemblance to the one we inhabit, a place to really get away from it all? Perhaps Middle Earth from Lord of the Rings or the sprawling creations of George R.R. Martin. Do you enjoy known places that are turned on their ear: New York City as a giant prison, super volcanoes erupting in Yellowstone, gods and goddesses living in country bungalows or city tenements?

Some writers anchor their stories in real places. In my own novel, Paraglide, the main characters start in modern-day London, travel to Italy and end up trekking through the Swiss Alps. Their adventures are shaped and at times, guided by actual buildings and topographical features.  Is it easier to imagine a place that actually exists?

Occasionally place does rise to the top, becoming a character in its own right.  In Erin Morgenstern’s recent novel, The Night Circus, the title character overshadows the rest of the cast. The Amazon jungle nearly takes over Ann Patchet’s State of Wonder. Frank Herbert’s Dune is so vivid, it inspired a host of sequels and spinoffs, movies and miniseries. Do these places take away from the plot or add to it?

What do you think? What fictional world would you like to explore or live in? Is it real or imagined, somewhere exotic and exciting or comfortable like a favorite sweater? What do you tell that real estate agent to look for?

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Thank you Peter for stopping by and providing a great guest post. Here is Paraglide.

For siblings Jim and Erica Winters, a summer vacation to London promises adventure and a bit of freedom from their overprotective mother. But once they arrive, they end up with more excitement than they bargained for. Their mother is kidnapped and her captors demand the one thing they can’t produce – their long-absent father. Unable to trust the authorities, Jim and Erica set off in pursuit of their father, racing across Europe and fending off mysterious assailants. As the trail of clues dries up, help arrives in the form of a raven-haired beauty. Is she the answer to their prayers, a romantic distraction, or something more sinister? With the kidnapper’s deadline looming, the truth about their father’s shadowy past is revealed. In a last ditch effort to save their mother, Jim and Erica must climb high into the Swiss Alps where a perilous choice confronts them. Can they trust their father who has repeatedly betrayed them? Their family’s survival may depend on it.

Peter Anthony Kelley can be found at his blog and Facebook.

Paraglide can be purchased at Smashwords, B&N, Amazon

Review: Dark Visions by Jonas Saul

Title: Dark Visions
Author: Jonas Saul
Series: Sarah Roberts # 1
Genre: Thriller
Format: E-book
Source: Amazon
Pub. Year: 2011
Purchase: Amazon/ B&N

Amazon Blurb:
Sarah Roberts has a unique problem. She experiences routine blackouts, but what’s different about her temporary unconsciousness is, she wakes to notes written by her own hand. These notes are prophecies. Dark Visions. Future events with dire circumstances. Circumstances that she can avert, because Sarah is an Automatic Writer.

The novel begins with Sarah responding to one of her messages: Sit under the Elizabeth St. Bridge at 10:18am. Bring hammer.

Her next task is to avert a kidnapping. She’s done it before. Couldn’t be that hard. Things go wrong. The kidnappers recognize her. People are killed. Witnesses place Sarah at the scene. The police find her notebook riddled with prophecies of accidents and crimes. They want answers.

All this happens while the eighteen-year-old star in this first novel of the Sarah Roberts series suffers from trichotillomania, which means she’s a puller.

The story has numerous twists and turns and finally ends with a massive climax and a lead in to The Warning, which is Part Two of this series.

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Dark Visions loves to jerk your chain around. It’s that type of book where if something can go wrong, it will. It’s emotionally exhausting because one moment Sarah Roberts, our protagonist, is going to be free of her kidnapper but it turns out that she just exchange one kidnapper for another. Its’ like “Nooooo.”

Sarah Roberts is an automatic writer meaning she receives messages from the dead and those messages (if she acts on them) can save the lives of people. Only problem is that in order to receive the messages, she has to black out. She also suffers from Trichotillomania; a compulsive hair pulling disorder. It was my first time hearing about it so I ended up looking online for it. It’s not physically that bad but I’m glad I don’t have it.

Like I said, this book is all about jumping through hoops. Sarah gets kidnapped because she foils a kidnapping plot. From there, all hell breaks loose. Her parents are working with the local cops to help find her. A psychic is enlisted to help find her and he is reluctant to do so. There is a tarot card reader and her estranged daughter who is selling art to a mobster. A kidnapping ring is discovered.

Sarah spends about 80% of the book in the stage of “kidnapped victim.” First, it’s by the kidnapping ring, then by an associate of Daphne (the tarot card reader’s daughter) when Sarah manages to escape the first time. A massive shoot out happens where she is taken back by the original kidnapper and the FBI gets involved. Why does the FBI get involved? The shoot out involved members of the mob. Sarah ends up escaping again but she goes back to the original kidnapper when he starts playing a chicken car race with an innocent bystander. She meets the psychic and they both get kidnapped by the ringleader of the kidnapping circle (I wasn’t expecting that particular person to be the ringleader). And more chaos ensues. That is the plot in a nutshell.

Even though the world is constantly placing Sarah in danger, she takes in strides and maintains a strong personality. She never once thought that she needed to be rescue. Instead, Sarah actively tried to rescue herself, either by escaping and fighting back when necessary. She was a strong protagonist that could never escape her bad circumstances.

I’m not particular fond of the epilogue because it leaves so many unanswered questions that from the blurb of the second book may not be answer. Like how did Sarah explained her notebook to the police? Why are her parents flip-flopping personalities? Why did the parents not tell her about her sister and how does she know it is her dead sister providing the messages? (<-This question should be answer in the next book, I hope). It’s been four years since she was first kidnapped and she is still is pretty bad at giving life saving messages to people.

I’m going to give it three black butterflies. It was entertaining but man, does it jerk your chain around. There are unresolved issues and events that are not properly explain. Sarah was interesting but the supporting cast wasn’t really there for me.

3 BB-Pretty to look at

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19th book in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies: 1st in a series, E-book,  Why Buy The Cow? (I got this book free of charge from Amazon)

Review: Dearly Devoted Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

Title: Dearly Devoted Dexter
Author:  Jeff Lindsay
Series: Dexter# 2
Genre: Crime Thriller
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Pub. Year: 2006
Purchase: Amazon/ B&N/TBD

Blurb from Amazon:
Life’s tough for Dexter Morgan. It’s not easy being the world’s only serial killer with a conscience, especially when you work for the Miami police. To avoid suspicion, Dexter’s had to slip deep into his disguise: spending time with his girlfriend and her kids, slowly becoming the world’s first serial killing couch potato. Then a particularly nasty psychopath starts cutting a trail through Miami — a killer whose twisted techniques leave even Dexter speechless. When his sister Deborah, a tough-as-nails cop, is drawn into the case, it becomes clear that Dexter will have to do come out of hiding and hunt the monster down. Unless, of course, the killer finds him first. . .

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What I will remember: So many words that start with D can be used to describe Dexter

Oh Dexter, how I have miss your sarcastic nature. He is the most charming and funny serial killer I have ever read. The fact that Dexter is the protagonist doesn’t hurt either.

I find this novel more exciting than the first novel. Dexter was much more intelligent in pursuing his killer instincts and is very patient. Dexter is patient when it comes to acquiring the man the Dark Passenger wants to kill, patient in dodging a stalker, and patient to play a domestic man. Dexter shows  he can actually track down other serial killers through computers and his careful planning instead of receiving cryptic dream messages (like in the first novel).

In this novel, Dexter isn’t the one doing most of the killing. He is playing a domestic man because Sergeant Doakes is pretty much stalking, oh, I mean, has placed Dexter under surveillance. It forces Dexter to reluctantly spend more with Rita because that is what a normal man does; hangs out with his girlfriend and her children.  She places Dexter in a situation he had never imagined before. It’s quite hilarious. Sands further shows Dexter’s gentle side and love for children. He is very caring to Rita’s children and does not want to hurt children (in general). Unfortunately for the readers and fortunately for Dexter, Astor and Cody(Rita’s children) have a bit of a dark side which raises questions about Dexter as a paternal figure. I’m looking forward to learning about Henry’s rules more in depth since Dexter is going to be teaching them soon.

Dr. Danco is one creepy serial killer. He removes the eyelids of his victims and places them in front of a mirror so the victim can see every injury that happens to his body. Twisted is all I have to say about that. He then proceeds to remove body limbs. And what is worst is how he chooses in what order to remove them. I will never be able to look at this particular children’s game the same. But it is very interesting that Dr. Danco chose this game. Let’s just say, the creepy factor is very high.

My one issue with this novel is the use of FBI agent Kyle Chutsky. I think he was created solely to be torture by Dr. Danco. He serves no purpose (that I can see). He doesn’t provide Dexter with important information; Dexter figure out most of the information by himself and he had Sergeant Doakes fill in the blank spots. All the agent did was buy crack, fall for Debbie and get mutilated by the good doctor. He didn’t even contribute to the capture of the doctor. He is literally the most useless agent I have ever seen. I don’t know if this was Sands intention but this agent was just design to be a victim. Even if he was the love interest of Debbie and accidentally cause Dexter to become engaged (oops, spoiler). I suppose he was socially useful but not investigation useful.

Great dimensions to the personality of Dexter, sarcastic wit, terrifying serial killer and a useless FBI agent is what this novels brings. I love the sarcastic tone of this book, it’s just too funny.

4.5 BB-Ready for capture, Total keeper

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18th book in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies for: Serial Killer, Second in a Series, Cupcake War