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Friday, January 31, 2020

Spotlight: The Third to Die

I partnered with Harlequin Trade Publishing to bring you guys an exclusive first look at The Third to Die by Allison Brennan! Below you'll find the first chapter of her new Mobile Response Team Series! 

Wednesday, March 3
Liberty Lake, Washington
12:09 a.m.

Warm blood covered him.
His arms, up to this elbows, were slick with it. His clothing splattered with it. The knife- the blade that had taken his retribution- hung in his gloved hand by his side.
It was good. Very good.
He was almost done.
The killer stared at the blackness in front of him, his mind as silent and dark as the night. The water lapped gently at the banks of the lake. A faint swish as it rolled up and back, up and back, in the lightest of breezes/
He breathed in cold air; he exhaled steam.
Calm. Focused.
As the sounds and chill penetrated his subconscious, he moved into action. Staying here with the body would be foolish, even in the middle of the night.
He placed the knife carefully on a waist-high boulder, then removed his clothes. Jacket. Sweater. Undershirt. He stuffed them into a plastic bag. Took off his shoes. Socks. Pants. Boxers. Added them to the bag. He stood naked except for his gloves.
He tied the top of the plastic, then picked up the knife again and stabbed the bag multiple times. With strength that belied his lean frame, he threw the knife into the water. He couldn't see where it fell' he barely heard the plunk.
Then he placed the bag in the lake and pushed it under, holding it beneath the surface to let the frigid water seep in. When the bag was saturated, he pulled it out and spun himself around as if he were throwing a shot put. He let go and the bag flew, hitting the water with a loud splash.
Even if the police found it- which he doubted they would- the water would destroy any evidence. He'd bought the clothes and shoes, even his underwear, at a discount store in another city, at another time. He'd never worn them before tonight.
Though he didn't want DNA evidence in the system, it didn't scare him if the police found something. He didn't have a record. He'd killed before, many times, and not one person had spoken to him. He was smart- smarter than the cops, and certainly smarter than the victims he'd carefully selected.
Still, he must be cautious. Meticulous. Being smart meant that he couldn't assume anything. What did his old man use to say?
Assume makes an ass out of you and me...
The killer scowled. He wasn't doing any of this for his old man, though his father would get the retribution he deserved. He was doing this for himself. His own retribution. He was this close to finishing the elaborate plan he'd conceived years ago.
He could scarcely wait until six days from now, March 9, when his revenge would be complete.
He was saving the guiltiest of them for last.
Still, he hoped his old man would be pleased. Hadn't he done what his father was too weak to do? Righted the many wrongs that had been done to them. How many times had the old man said these people should suffer? How many times had his father told him these people were fools?
Yet his father just let it happen and did nothing about it!
Nothing! Because he was weak. He was weak and pathetic and cruel.
Breathe. Focus. All in good time.
All in good time.
The killer took another, smaller plastic bag from his backpack. He removed his wet gloves, put them inside, added a good-sized rock, tied the bag, then threw it into the lake.
Still naked, he shivered in the cold, still air. He wasn't done.
Do it quick.
He walked into the lake, the water colder than ice. Still, he took several steps forward, his feet sinking into the rough muck at the bottom. When his knees were submersed, he did a shallow dive. His chest scraped a rock, but he was too numb to feel pain. He broke through the surface with a loud scream. He couldn't breathe; he couldn't think. His heart pounded in his chest, aching from the icy water.
But he was alive. He was fucking alive!
He went under once more, rubbed his hands briskly over his arms and face in case any blood remained. He would take a hot shower when he returned home, use soap and a towel to remove anything the lake left behind. But for now, this would do.
Twenty seconds in the water was almost too long. He bolted out, coughed, his body shaking so hard he could scarcely think. But he had planned everything well and operated on autopilot.
He pulled a towel from his backpack and dried off as best he could. Stepped into new sweatpants, sweatshirt, and shoes. Pulled on a new pair of gloves. There might be blood on the ATV, but it wasn't his blood, so he wasn't concerned.
He took a moment to stare back at the dark, still lake. Then he took one final look at the body splayed faceup. He felt nothing, because she was nothing. Unimportant. Simply a small pawn in a much bigger game. A pawn easily sacrificed.
He hoped his old man would be proud of his work, but he would probably just criticize his son's process. He'd complain about how he did the job, then open another bottle of booze.
He hoped his father was burning in hell.
He jumped on the ATV and rode into the night.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020


Okay, I'm probably in the minority here. But this book killed my soul.
You know that old saying, "If a tree falls and there's no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?" That's kind of how this book is written. It's every philosopher's dream and every sane person's nightmare.  What you think you know, you must forget you know. History is rewritten every single day. But if you somehow remember the past (because humans actually have memory believe it or not) then you are guilty of thoughtcrime. Meaning you thought something outside of what "Big Brother" wants you to think. They want a dictatorship in the purest sense of the word. But even that idea isn't what bothered me. What bothered me was that Winston and Julia opposed Big Brother while working directly for them. When the opportunity arose for them to join the Brotherhood, they jumped on it. But really they were just trading one dictatorship for another? They literally were not gaining a single thing by joining the Brotherhood, it did not help them in any way, shape, or form. But they were prepared to put their lives on the line for another all knowing entity??? For Winston to want free will so badly, he sure didn't act like it.
Now in the beginning, Winston starts by buying a journal and writing stories of his past for a future generation. One he knows he'll likely never be a part of, but his words might. Honestly his like.....three journal entries were the best part of the entire book. If the whole thing was written like that instead of him just kind of gallivanting off with Julia every chance he got, I might have given this story more than 3 stars.
The last 50 or so pages were also incredibly well written. But again, the logic behind what O'Brien was doing to Winston still made zero sense to me. I understand that Winston was set up by O'Brien to commit thoughtcrime. I understand that Big Brother masterminded this entire thing to trick Winston into thinking he was acting on his own free will. But logically, everyone in the Inner Party would also be committing thoughtcrime because they're divulging past information to the prisoners as they try to reform them. Maybe that was the idea behind this entire book? That the wealthy control everything?

I don't know but I'm not going to keep trying to figure it out.

Friday, January 10, 2020

The Phantom Prince

When I first took an interested in true crime, Ted Bundy's name popped up. I was so intrigued by him. I devoured all the articles and books on him. So when I took a Serial Killers course in college, I wrote my final paper on Ted Bundy. That's when I found this book, written by his ex-fiance.....for $1000+ on a wide variety of book retailers. When they announced the movie Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile (which is based off of this book) I had high hopes for a re-release of his original book. 3 days ago, I got my copy in the mail.

So that's a lot of hype that I was putting into this book.
But Liz, oh man, Liz.She was so young, so naive, so vulnerable when she met Ted. She had no idea this would become her life. She really, truly humanized Ted in her original manuscript. She got to write about a side of him that the general public following him never got to see. She saw the love of her life, playing with her daughter, playing house, dreaming of a future. Which is how she missed all the red flags that kept popping up even before the kidnappings and murders. She abused alcohol, she trusted a man she hardly knew, she stuck with him until he was arrested in Florida. FLORIDA. AS IN WHERE HE COMMITTED HIS LAST 3 MURDERS. And then she still couldn't turn him away when he called after that! 

I know love is a tricky thing.
The phrase "Blinded by love" is no joke.
But Liz and Ted were toxic for each other. Their entire relationship was based on their own selfish needs and codependent behaviors. The hardest part for me, was watching Liz battle herself over the details directly in front of her. He tried to drown her, he abandoned her for days, she knew he spent time with other women, she found a hatchet under the seat of his car, she turned him into the police multiple times and still could not see a future without him in it. It was sad, really.

Looking for other books on Ted Bundy?

Tuesday, January 7, 2020


Ben Moon was in his mid-20s, living near the mountains, and trying to save his crumbling marriage. This was never the life he wanted, but he began building his new life around climbing, surfing, and photography. That's when he knew he needed a new companion, a dog. Denali was just a few weeks old when Ben spotted him in the shelter. He knew this was the dog he wanted to spend forever with.

Ben and Denali lived in a van, living the "dirtbag" lifestyle. They lived a life on the road, camping near Ben's climbing sites and enjoying every ounce of fresh air nature could offer. Until Ben was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, ultimately halting their nomadic lifestyle for the immediate future. Ben put out the diagnosis for as long as he could possibly handle. When he heard the news that he would have to use a colostomy bag for the rest of his life, his world was turned upside down. How could he continue climbing and surfing? How was this going to affect his career and future? He was an athlete through and through. 

Denali stood by his side through every chemo treatment, every metallic sweat filled night, every trip to the bathroom to vomit. Denali became his only constant throughout his entire journey. So when Denali's body became cancer-ridden, Ben knew he had to step up for his best friend, his confidante, his dog. The two of them continued on adventures until Denali's very last breath.

Denali was a quick read for me.
I expected it to be about Ben and Denali's relationship more so than Ben's cancer diagnosis. With quirky inserts of what can only be described as Denali's innermost thoughts, Ben included Denali in every aspect of the book. It was almost as if a subtle mentioning of Denali made you love their relationship even more. Some people have a rare, raw relationship with their dogs and I definitely can tell that through Ben and Denali's life together. They steadied each other for many years until Denali's time had come. They truly loved one another.

After Denali, Ben wanted to do something special for him.
I'm including the short film Ben Moon, Ben Knight, and Skip Armstrong made in his honor.
 Beware, I cried. A lot.

Huge thanks to Penguin Random House for sending me an arc!
Denali hits shelves January 14, 2020!

Sunday, January 5, 2020

A Dark Night in Aurora

July 20, 2012
People all over America were gearing up in their Batman tee's for the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. Meanwhile James Holmes was gearing up to wreak havoc on those unsuspecting movie goers.
There's a lot that can be said about this case. There's a lot I don't totally agree with and there's a lot that leaves me scratching my head as to why more wasn't done to protect the community and protect James Holmes from himself. Now before you guys start saying, "BUT JESSICA, HE WAS A MASS MURDERER," let me explain. James Holmes was in most ways your average guy, a bit misunderstood, sure. But overall, he never stood out. When he began seeing a psychotherapist in college, she became concerned that he would hurt someone, not necessarily a whole crowd of people, but she definitely knew what he was capable of. Which is why it drives me absolutely CRAZY that more wasn't done to help James Holmes after he intentionally flunked out of grad school. 

James Holmes had this human capital ideology that if he could take other people's lives, it would more or less, reduce his apparent suicidal ideation. Now I'm paraphrasing there, because his idea was based on a point system for each life he took but the points didn't actually do anything. But the overall gist of his explanation was that it calmed his anxiety. Which brings to me agree with Dr. William H. Reid, the author of this book. James Holmes plead not guilty by reason of insanity, but that mean he had to have been impaired at the time of the crime. Giving the amount of planning he put into purchasing guns, stockpiling ammo, ordering cans of tear gas and ballistic gear, along with researching how to make bombs (which he used to rig his apartment to explode), there's no way he was impaired while following out his mission to commit mass murder.

He expected his psychotherapist to be able to read his mind. He never gave her specific details, he never let on that he might actually commit murder, he never told her when he began buying weapons, but he expected her to be able to stop him when the night of his "mission" came. He even went so far as to write everything out in his notebook and mail it to her in the hopes that she might be able to use his story to predict the next mass killer she encounters.

This book had me questioning so many things, like how could he buy over 6000 rounds of ammunition in a matter of weeks and no one was concerned in the least. How was he able to purchase guns when he had a severe mental condition? How did the police mistake him for another officer when they arrested him? How has life treated him so poorly that he felt the need to commit mass murder just to calm his anxiety?

There's so many questions I could ask, but the truth is we can only speculate the "why" behind this happening.