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The Little Shop of Monsters by R.L. Stine and Marc Brown

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 40 pgs.
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The Little Shop of Monsters by R.L. Stine and Marc Brown is a fun book that kids will love. It has monsters who are slimy, ones that smell, and more. The kids are asked not to feed the monsters and to not get too close. Some are hungry and others just say, “hi”, differently. The illustrations look like colored pencil drawings and each monster has its own unique look.

My daughter loved these monsters and their gross habits. Some sneezed all over you and others tickled you. It’s a great book to be interactive with. While your child is shopping for a monster of their own, they soon discover that the monsters are doing a little shopping too! The Little Shop of Monsters by R.L. Stine and Marc Brown is just a fun book, but beware, monsters might follow you home.

RATING: Cinquain

Chimera by Mira Grant (audio)

Source: Purchased from Audible
Audiobook, 16+ hours
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***If you haven’t read book 1, read my review for book 1, Parasite, and if you want to, read my review of book 2, Symbiont.***

Chimera by Mira Grant — this is book 3 in the Parasitology series — narrated by Christine Lakin, is an excellent conclusion to the series, in which Sal Mitchell matures and chooses the side she was always on — evolution and peace. She wants humans and chimera to live together, and while that may not be the ultimate conclusion of this trilogy, it seems as though it might be possible. Lakin does an excellent job of narrating the characters, including the subordinate military personnel, and it’s clear she spent enough time with the book to learn how to nuance them and make them different.

What’s fantastic about this series is its uniqueness, it’s nuanced characters who are both good and bad, as well as the evil masterminds — and yes, there are more than one. Another great part of the series is that it brings to light a number of ethical questions about experimentation, human trials, and corporate greed. It would make an excellent series for discussion, though you may only need the first book for that.

Chimera by Mira Grant — this is book 3 in the Parasitology series — narrated by Christine Lakin, is thrilling, dramatic, and thought-provoking. Grant is a master in this genre, and her plots are twisted and suspenseful. There may be moments where the plots are predictable, but overall, readers will just enjoy the ride.

Other Reviews:

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Born and raised in Northern California, Mira Grant has made a lifelong study of horror movies, horrible viruses, and the inevitable threat of the living dead. In college, she was voted Most Likely to Summon Something Horrible in the Cornfield, and was a founding member of the Horror Movie Sleep-Away Survival Camp, where her record for time survived in the Swamp Cannibals scenario remains unchallenged.

Mira lives in a crumbling farmhouse with an assortment of cats, horror movies, comics, and books about horrible diseases. When not writing, she splits her time between travel, auditing college virology courses, and watching more horror movies than is strictly good for you. Favorite vacation spots include Seattle, London, and a large haunted corn maze just outside of Huntsville, Alabama.

Mira sleeps with a machete under her bed, and highly suggests that you do the same.

Symbiont by Mira Grant (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 16+ hours
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Symbiont by Mira Grant, narrated by Christine Lakin, is the second book in the Parasitology series, so if you haven’t read book 1, stop here. Read my review for book 1, Parasite.

Our protagonist Sal Mitchell finds herself in the hands of the enemy more than once in this book. Upon escaping from her father’s government facility, she finds herself thrust in the hands of another enemy. Much of the book is spent unraveling the plots of the fully-functioning tapeworm humans (chimera) who want to rid the world of humans — naturally. Led by Sherman, her sometimes handler at SymboGen, Sal finds out that the tapeworms were not only engineered to help people with health problems, but they also seem to have specific skills.

Like any species that is evolving, there are those that have fully taken over their human hosts and there are others who act more like zombies and devour humans on sight with little cognitive function. Sal is frightened of all of the above because she is on the side of life — living in harmony. Is humanity ready to accept these tapeworm takeovers as people and are the tapeworms ready to let bygones be bygones and make peace with their creators? Even when she returns to Dr. Kim and his mother at their undisclosed lab location, the ethical lines of science are blurring further than she could imagine, especially when Dr. Stephen Banks enters the picture.

Lakin continues to narrate this winding and repetitive story well, but the repetition got to me by the end. Symbiont by Mira Grant, narrated by Christine Lakin, could have been a great middle book with better editing and less back-tracking over plot points established in the first book. Certain aspects of the backstory from the first book seemed to be too constraining for the author, who reinvented some of the backstory here to suit her needs. This middle book just seemed like one bad car chase after another toward the end, and Grant did herself a disservice in that. However, the cliffhanger at the end and the overall story mean I must see this one to its conclusion in Chimera.

RATING: Tercet

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Born and raised in Northern California, Mira Grant has made a lifelong study of horror movies, horrible viruses, and the inevitable threat of the living dead. In college, she was voted Most Likely to Summon Something Horrible in the Cornfield, and was a founding member of the Horror Movie Sleep-Away Survival Camp, where her record for time survived in the Swamp Cannibals scenario remains unchallenged.

Mira lives in a crumbling farmhouse with an assortment of cats, horror movies, comics, and books about horrible diseases. When not writing, she splits her time between travel, auditing college virology courses, and watching more horror movies than is strictly good for you. Favorite vacation spots include Seattle, London, and a large haunted corn maze just outside of Huntsville, Alabama.

Mira sleeps with a machete under her bed, and highly suggests that you do the same.

Parasite by Mira Grant (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 16+ hours
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Parasite by Mira Grant, narrated by Christine Lakin, is another series of books in which the world has been turned upside down. Sally Mitchell was involved in horrific car accident and a genetically engineered worm is introduced to her body. When she wakes up, she has no memory of her life before and must begin again, learning how to walk, talk, and interact. In a world where germs are eradicated and worms are used in symbiosis with human bodies to ensure the immune system functions properly, it’s no wonder that things go haywire in 2027.

With only six years of life to build upon, Sal Mitchell must create a new life for herself and leave the old Sally behind. With her doctor boyfriend and continued checkups at SymboGen Corp., her life is pretty carefree, unless you like being poked and prodded. Her father, a general, works in a lab that keeps a check on the nation’s diseases and outbreaks, and her sister works there too as an intern. Sal may be a lab rat, but everyone around her seems to be a scientist. The entire world has bought into the Intestinal Bodyguard worm marketing of SymboGen, except for Sal’s boyfriend Dr. Kim.

Grant has become a go-to author for me when I want something fresh. Her books push the envelope of science as far as it will go to create a world that resembles our current reality but is horrifying. Her ability to create a believable world in which science has gone beyond the bounds of ethics and created something they can no longer control is nothing short of a miracle. You could step into these worlds and believe they are your reality. And that is very scary.

Lakin does an excellent narrative job as she voices Sal and the other characters, making each one distinct without making them sound ridiculously accented. Parasite by Mira Grant, narrated by Christine Lakin, is spell-binding and would be great for a book club discussion about medical and scientific ethics. This is book one, and you can bet I’m reading the rest of this series.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Born and raised in Northern California, Mira Grant has made a lifelong study of horror movies, horrible viruses, and the inevitable threat of the living dead. In college, she was voted Most Likely to Summon Something Horrible in the Cornfield, and was a founding member of the Horror Movie Sleep-Away Survival Camp, where her record for time survived in the Swamp Cannibals scenario remains unchallenged.

Mira lives in a crumbling farmhouse with an assortment of cats, horror movies, comics, and books about horrible diseases. When not writing, she splits her time between travel, auditing college virology courses, and watching more horror movies than is strictly good for you. Favorite vacation spots include Seattle, London, and a large haunted corn maze just outside of Huntsville, Alabama.

Mira sleeps with a machete under her bed, and highly suggests that you do the same.

The Murder House by James Patterson and David Ellis (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 9 CDs
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The Murder House by James Patterson and David Ellis, narrated by Therese Plummer and Jay Snyder, is a thrill-a-minute, as Det. Jenna Murphy gets re-acquainted with Bridgehampton at a time when Noah Walker is on trial for murder.  7 Ocean Drive, the Murder House, has a violent and unforgiving past, and Walker finds that he gets caught up in that darkness no matter how much he wants to stay under the radar.  Murphy has resigned from her Manhattan police gig and returned to a place she hasn’t been in more than two decades.  As she strives to put the man in jail who she believes killed her uncle, the police chief of Bridgehampton, she’ll have to compromise the one thing she’s held onto since then — her integrity.

Therese Plummer and Jay Snyder do an excellent job of narrating this suspenseful murder mystery, with Jay’s voice even creepier as the killer’s, whose identity remains unknown until the end.  In this twisted tale, Jenna and Noah embark on parallel journeys that lead them into one of the darkest places in the tourist trap — the Murder House.  It’s history dates back to the 1800s, and the family that owned it was always under suspicion but never tried or convicted of any crimes.  Long-since dead, the family’s secrets come to light, and one of them hits very close to home for Murphy, who has lost her uncle and her job as she continues to ask questions about the recent murders of a powerful Hollywood player and his mistress and Walker’s role in them.

Despite moments that seem forced and lines that are repeated a little too often, as well as bad decisions that are made by a supposedly talented cop, The Murder House by James Patterson and David Ellis, narrated by Therese Plummer and Jay Snyder, is a heart-pumping thriller that will leave readers on the edge of their seats.

Rating: Quatrain

About the Author, David Ellis:

David Ellis is a lawyer and the Edgar Allan Poe Award winner for Best First Novel for Line of Vision. Ellis attended Northwestern Law School and began his legal career in private practice in Chicago in 1993. He served as the House Prosecutor who tried and convicted Illinois Governor Blagojevich in the Impeachment Trial before the Illinois Senate. He was elected to the Illinois Appellate Court in 2014 and took office December 1, 2014. Ellis currently lives outside Chicago with his wife and three children.

About the Author, James Patterson:

James Patterson has created more enduring fictional characters than any other novelist writing today with his Alex Cross, Michael Bennett, Women’s Murder Club, Private, NYPD Red, Daniel X, Maximum Ride, and Middle School series. As of January 2016, he has sold over 350 million books worldwide and currently holds the Guinness World Record for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers. In addition to writing the thriller novels for which he is best known, he also writes children’s, middle-grade, and young-adult fiction and is also the first author to have #1 new titles simultaneously on the New York Times adult and children’s bestsellers lists.

Cross Justice by James Patterson (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 8 CDs
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Cross Justice by James Patterson, narrated by Ruben Santiago Hudson and Jefferson Mays, is another fast-paced thriller in the Alex Cross series of books, and this one has a lot of twists and turns that will provide even greater insight into the character of Cross and where he comes from.  Alex Cross returns to his North Carolina hometown for the first time since the death of his parents and his grandmother, Nana Mama, moved him and his brothers north.  He’s on vacation, but we all know that never lasts.  He, his wife, and the kids are quickly enveloped into the loving arms of Cross family, but they also find themselves unraveling the mystery behind their cousin’s arrest for the murder of a young boy.

Patterson is a great artist when it comes to creating suspense and chapter cliffhangers that will force readers to keep going, even as he shifts points of view between Alex Cross and a killer.  The narrators for this one did a great job, especially Jefferson Mays who narrates several characters — male and female. Patterson tied up the crimes in this novel very neatly, with socialites being murdered for jewels in one case and finding the killer of a young boy in another. While these cases connections often seem unlikely, somehow Patterson seems to make them plausible.

The backstory of the Cross family is a stunner, and even Alex Cross is thrown for a loop.  Nana Mama doesn’t figure into this one as much, but the kids are front and center, as is his new wife, Bree.  The family history and the unraveling of Cross’s past are riveting.  Cross Justice by James Patterson, narrated by Ruben Santiago Hudson and Jefferson Mays, is a nice mix of murder, mystery, and family secrets.

Rating: Quatrain

About the Author:

James Patterson has created more enduring fictional characters than any other novelist writing today with his Alex Cross, Michael Bennett, Women’s Murder Club, Private, NYPD Red, Daniel X, Maximum Ride, and Middle School series. As of January 2016, he has sold over 350 million books worldwide and currently holds the Guinness World Record for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers. In addition to writing the thriller novels for which he is best known, he also writes children’s, middle-grade, and young-adult fiction and is also the first author to have #1 new titles simultaneously on the New York Times adult and children’s bestsellers lists.

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon (audio)

Source: Hachette
Audiobook, 12 hours
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The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon, narrated by Kate Reading, is rough story with a shining light of hope at its center.  Beautiful girl, who has a developmental disability, meets a deaf African-American man at the School, which is really just an institution for disabled people, in 1968.  Spanning about 40 years, readers are taken on a mysterious journey with beautiful girl, Lynnie, and with Homan as they seek to achieve self-actualization, while still hoping that their dearest wishes will come true.  After a fateful escape from the school and leaving her baby with Martha at a farmhouse nearby, Lynnie is recaptured and returns under the secret tutelage of Kate, who helps her learn to speak again.  As Lynnie grows as an artist and as a young woman, she still harbors the desire to see the man she loved, even though she did not know his name, and her baby again.

Lynnie and Homan are drawn incredibly well and with a compassionate hand by Simon, and the narration by Kate Reading is superb.  Readers will be drawn into their hardships, their hopes, their dreams, and their friendships along the way, and like them, readers will hope for the best possible outcome.  Despite speech difficulties, learning to read, learning sign language, and overcoming harsh disappointments, Lynnie and Homan never become more than human, while they have buried their hopes inside and think about them, they face their disappointments as many of us would.  They despair, they cry, they worry, and they dream.

As a sister of a disabled brother, Simon’s novel hit home in a lot of ways because we knew about these institutions and my parents had decided to keep my brother home and found him area programs that would help him when they could afford them.  The abuse that the disabled suffered in these institutions was nothing short of horrific, and I cannot imagine how my brother would have endured those things.  Lynnie and Homan are discriminated against, made fun of, and more, but its the moments of kindness, compassion, and love that field their journeys.

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon, narrated by Kate Reading, is stunning, compassionate, and emotional.  It is a testament to a world in need of healing and greater inclusion and understanding.  I’m only sorry that it took me so long to listen to this phenomenally touching story.

About the Author:

Rachel Simon is an American author of both fiction and non-fiction. Her six books include the 2011 novel The Story of Beautiful Girl, and the 2002 memoir Riding The Bus With My Sister.

 

About the Narrator:

Kate Reading has been a freelance narrator for over twenty years. She received an Audie Award for Bellwether by Connie Willis; an Audie nomination for The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, recorded with her husband, Michael Kramer; and an Audie nomination for Blow Fly by Patricia Cornwell. She has also received numerous Earphones Awards from AudioFile magazine, which has named her Narrator of the Year and, for two years running, Best Voice in Science Fiction and Fantasy for her narration of Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. As Jennifer Mendenhall, she has worked as a stage actor in the Washington, D.C.

14th Deadly Sin by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 384 pgs
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14th Deadly Sin by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro brings to light the possibility of police corruption in San Francisco, and Lindsay Boxer doesn’t know who to trust.  When drug houses get hit and all of the perps are killed by men wearing SFPD windbreakers and latex masks, Boxer and her team have to determine if those men are really cops or if they are criminals trying to smear the reputation of the police department.

Meanwhile, Lindsay’s husband, Joe, has to adjust to a new set of circumstances when he becomes a stay-at-home dad.  While he loves his little girl, Julie, the adjustment is a lot harder than he expects.  A former FBI agent at home doing laundry and other household chores, while his wife is chasing bad guys all over the city, what could be more of an adjustment, especially with the long hours she keeps.  At least, that’s until he and his wife begin working on an off-the-books case regarding stabbings that happen on the same date every year.

Patterson and Paetro make a great writing team for this series.  These women are full of spunk and passion, but they’re also not married to their jobs like some.  They love to be able to come home to their families and friends and just have a good time.  These gatherings of the Women’s Murder Club are often pow-wows about their cases or stories, but they also are a great way for the ladies to blow off steam.

14th Deadly Sin by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro is a solid addition to the series, and while the audio for this one was unavailable at my library, I’m sure I would have enjoyed it much the same.  This one has got a little of everything — mystery, fun, relationships, and adjustments to new career/life situations.

About the Author:

James Patterson is a prolific author of thrillers, mysteries, young adult novels and more. His first successful series featured psychologist Alex Cross.

About the Co-Author:

Maxine Paetro collaborates with best–selling author James Patterson, co–writing The 4th Of July, The 5th Horseman, The 6th Target, The 7th Heaven, The 8th Confession, The 9th Judgment, 10th Anniversary and The 11th Hour, just released in May 2012. All are New York Times #1 best–sellers in the Women’s Murder Club Series.

Hope to Die by James Patterson (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audio, 9.5 hrs
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Hope to Die by James Patterson, narrated by Michael Boatman from Spin City and  Scott Sower from Cracker, wraps up the search for Marcus Sunday, leading Cross from D.C. to Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New Orleans.  Det. Alex Cross has hit his lowest point, effectively having lost everything that matters to him most — his family.  Sunday has found exactly the weakest point in Cross’ character, and he seeks to exploit it to prove his own theories that the perfect detective does not exist.  Patterson is at his best with these latest two novels — Cross My Heart and Hope to Die — because Alex Cross is tested beyond anything ever before.  As he is emotionally low, he has to wrestle with the moral dilemma before him — give in to the murderous demands of a kidnapper or lose his family forever.

Cross has to take a backseat for a while as Sunday keeps tabs on his suffering remotely, but even that doesn’t last for too long.  Concussed Alex Cross is soon on the road with his foster daughter, seeking answers to the mystery of Sunday and his desire to see Cross and his family suffer.  The audio books are the best way to listen to this series because they are thrilling productions with music and sound effects, and actors who do not merely read the books but act them out.

Hope to Die by James Patterson, narrated by Michael Boatman from Spin City and  Scott Sower from Cracker, is an edge-of-your-seat thriller that will leave readers of the series on the edge of their seats.  Will the entire Cross family survive this ordeal and if they do, how will it change them?  Patterson has taken this series to the next level and gotten back to the roots of what has made this series an enduring hit.

About the Author:

James Patterson is a prolific author of thrillers, mysteries, young adult novels and more. His first successful series featured psychologist Alex Cross.

Cross My Heart by James Patterson (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audio, 9.5 hours
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Cross My Heart by James Patterson, narrated by Michael Boatman from Spin City and Tom Wopat from the The Dukes of Hazzard, is a slowly evolving novel that demonstrates not only how much family anchors Det. Alex Cross, but how it can become a weakness when the wrong people decide to target you.  With one kid away at school, another child just getting a handle on her high school work, and a seven year-old son just looking forward to growing up, Alex Cross has a lot to loose when killers come knocking.  As a series of murders push the murder rate up across the city and the police department continues to feel the pressure of a possible federal government takeover, Cross is under even more pressure than usual.  In the midst of all this, a woman is kidnapping babies.

Thierry Mulch has stalked Cross and his family, and despite all the signs, Cross is simply spread to thin to put the evidence together in a clear picture.  His wife, Bree, Nana Mama, and his children Ali, Jannie, and Damon always have filled in the gaps left by Cross’ busy schedule as a detective, and while there are family resentments about his absences, they are all well aware that his job is important.  Patterson slowly unravels how Cross finds himself on the razor’s edge of revenge at the beginning of the novel, and readers are anxious throughout as the stalker gets closer and closer.  Many villains have tried and failed to beat Alex Cross, but Mulch has been studying a long time to become the perfect criminal.

The narrator for Cross and Sampson continues his good performance, though his voice for Sampson still seemed a bit forced and jarring.  Tom Wopat speaks for Mulch and the other criminals in the novel, and he does an excellent job of maintaining a cunning and dispassionate character.  His villains are practical and diabolical.

This novel shows Alex Cross at rock bottom, particularly as it comes to a close.  Cross My Heart by James Patterson, narrated by Michael Boatman from Spin City and Tom Wopat from the The Dukes of Hazzard, is a cliffhanger that will have readers chomping at the bit to read the next, Hope to Die.

About the Author:

James Patterson is a prolific author of thrillers, mysteries, young adult novels and more. His first successful series featured psychologist Alex Cross.

Alex Cross, Run by James Patterson (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 7 hrs
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Alex Cross, Run by James Patterson, narrated by Michael Boatman from Spin City and China Beach and Steven Boyer from The Wolf of Wall Street, is another suspenseful romp through D.C. chasing bad guys and trying to balance the life of a high-profile homicide detective with family life.  A new marriage, 1 son in college, 1 daughter and young son at home, and 1 foster child keeps the Cross house on its toes, but when a journalist has it out for Det. Cross, things get Topsy-turvy.

Meanwhile, plastic surgeon Elijah Creem has gotten away with things that even Alex Cross doesn’t know about, even though Cross busts him at a party with illicit drugs and underage models.  While dead girls are piling up who are slim with blond hair — or at least that’s the hair color the medical examiner thinks it is since these women’s locks are shorn off and they are nearly scalped — other bodies are discovered along the river.  Cross finds himself in the middle of several cases that could be the work of one or more serial killers.  Michael Boatman does a great job as the voice of Alex Cross, but his rendition of his pal Sampson is a bit forced and comes off a bit comic.  Steven Boyer who does the narration for the killers is fantastically creepy and eerie, and in many ways is the star of this production.

Alex Cross, Run by James Patterson, narrated by Michael Boatman from Spin City and China Beach and Steven Boyer from The Wolf of Wall Street, is a back to basics cop novel with killers on the loose in the city, and less about the FBI, which is good to see once in a while.  Cross still has trouble balancing home life and work life, but it’s good to see that his priorities are straight when their foster child goes missing.  The audio productions are a great way to spend a couple afternoons or a few commutes into work.

About the Author:

James Patterson is a prolific author of thrillers, mysteries, young adult novels and more. His first successful series featured psychologist Alex Cross.

Kill Alex Cross by James Patterson (audio)

Source: Public library
Audiobook, 7 hrs
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Kill Alex Cross by James Patterson, narrated by Zach Grenier, David Lee on The Good Wife and Andre Braugher, Captain Ray Holt on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, has a number of plots going on at one time.  From the kidnapped children of President Coyle — a second high-profile kidnapping of children for Detective Alex Cross — to terrorists making their presence known in the nation’s capital.  Like police work in real life, not all of the cases are solved, and Alex is pushed past his ethical and moral limits as he struggles to find the kidnapped children.

The gem in this book was Zach Grenier’s narration as the kidnapper, who is diabolical and broken at the same time.  He’s shifty and he’s intelligent, and the voices he makes to differentiate between the kidnapper and the terrorists are fantastic.  Hiring actors to perform these books is a stroke of genius because it brings Patterson’s plots to life.  There are a ton of twists and turns, and while I may not approve of Cross’s methods in this one and believe they are out of step with the character he has become, the conclusion of these events was ok for me.

Kill Alex Cross by James Patterson is less about killing Cross than it is about the numerous threats facing our nation today.  Terrorists are often seen where there are none and there are threats that go unseen on a daily basis until it is too late.  Kidnappers are waiting in plain view in some places, while terrorists are blending in with the rest of society.  But then there are those who seem suspicious who are not threats at all.  Patterson’s novel does touch on the idea of perception and what threats we see and don’t see and why.

About the Author:

James Patterson is a prolific author of thrillers, mysteries, young adult novels and more. His first successful series featured psychologist Alex Cross.