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Mailbox Monday #376

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

15th Affair by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro from my mom.

Detective Lindsay Boxer has everything she could possibly want. Her marriage and baby daughter are perfect, and life in Homicide in the San Francisco Police Department is going well. But all that could change in an instant.

Lindsay is called to a crime scene at the Four Seasons Hotel. There is a dead man in one of the rooms, shot at close range. The man checked in under a false name with no ID on him, so the first puzzle will be finding out who he is.

In the room next door are a dead young man and woman, also shot. They are surrounded by high-tech surveillance equipment. Could they have been spying on the man now dead in the room next to them?

And in the utilities cupboard down the hall is the dead body of a house maid. The murders are all clearly linked and professionally executed. But what is the motive behind it all? Lindsay will need to risk everything she has to find out.

Obliterations by Heather Aimee O’Neill and Jessica Piazza for review from Red Hen Press.

Every day we are forced to integrate the world’s news into our personal lives; we all have to decide what parts of the flood of news resonate with us and what we need to turn away from, out of necessity or sensitivity. Obliterations—a collection of erasure poems that use The New York Times as their source texts—springs from that seemingly immediate process of personalizing news information. By cutting, synthesizing and arranging existing news items into new poems, the erasure process creates a link between the authors’ poetic sensibilities and the supposedly more “objective” view of the newsmakers. Each author used the same articles but wrote separate erasures without seeing the other’s versions, highlighting the wonderful similarities and differences that arise when two works—or any two people with individual tastes and lenses—share the same stories.

What did you receive?

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

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 9 CDs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

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
I am an Amazon Affiliate

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.

MasterClass: James Patterson Teaches Writing

JamesPattersonMC1MasterClass contacted me about their James Patterson writing course in June 2015.

James Patterson is a best-selling author in the crime, children’s, and other genres, and many critics have said that his books are more plot than characterization in recent years, while others have decried his use of co-authors.  This is a review of the course, not Mr. Patterson’s writing (just so we’re clear).

The course has 22 videos ranging in topics from passion and habit, outlining, first lines, suspense, and his personal story, as well as collaborating with co-authors.  Along with the videos, there are accompanying lesson plan PDFs and a discussion section for the students taking the course.  This allows you to get feedback from other students on the lesson and to share ideas.

There are two versions of the class workbook — one has the full outline for his book Honeymoon, so you can see how he outlines. This was a very helpful document for me because I haven’t written an outline of anything since high school.  This is not your high school outline with Roman numerals, etc.  It is much more detailed, and when he discusses why he outlines, you’ll understand the level of detail and why it is needed.

Patterson also holds office hours in which questions are submitted by students on video, and they answered by the author in the same manner.  He also offers critiques on raw ideas, research assignments, character development, and other topics from students.  The videos and the coursebooks were helpful, and I think his advice about agents, editors, selling books to Hollywood, and other points about writing are well expressed and should provide enough direction for writing students.  He stresses the need for an economy of words, no wasted moments, and clipping out the excess.  He’s amusing and self-deprecating.

MasterClass courses are an affordable $90, but their true worth will be in how dedicated you are to the lessons and the actual work.  One thing to keep in mind as a writer, is that if you are writing about something in science fiction, for instance, Patterson might not be the best mentor/teacher for you.  So, as you look for affordable writing classes to take, think about what kind of feedback and how much help you’ll need.

MasterClass also has offerings in photography, the art of performance, acting, and singing, and these courses are taught by big names like Dustin Hoffman, Usher, Serena Williams, Kevin Spacey, and more. 

14th Deadly Sin by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 384 pgs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

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
I am an Amazon Affiliate

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
I am an Amazon Affiliate

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
I am an Amazon Affiliate

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
I am an Amazon Affiliate

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.

Cross Fire by James Patterson (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 6.5 hours
I am Amazon Affiliate

Cross Fire by James Patterson pits Alex Cross against his arch-nemesis, Kyle Craig, and other elements from his past.  While his private psychiatric practice has become more of a part-time gig with underprivileged kids, Cross still uses his skills to profile criminals loose on the city to capture them before they do further damage.  Ripped from the headlines, including the D.C. sniper case (which was a little too close for comfort for me), Patterson has done his homework on the police in the nation’s capitol and has a firm grasp of the ins-and-outs of the FBI.  I was pleased to see Kyle return because he is the kind of enemy that challenges the main character’s morality and wits, while remaining cunning enough to even gain the respect of readers.

These audio productions are more about the twists and turns of Cross and the puzzles he must unwind, rather than like in the Women’s Murder Club series where it is heavy on sound effects and music.  Those audio productions read like high-flying summer blockbusters, while these creep up on you like dark suspense dramas.  This one has two narrators, one for Alex Cross’ chapters and one for those with Kyle Craig, and both are excellent — though for some reason I kept picturing Cross as Tyler Perry because the narrator’s voice is close to his.  Previously, I had pictured Cross as Morgan Freeman, which is probably because those are the movies I saw first before reading the books.

I digress.  Cross Fire by James Patterson places the main protagonist in the middle of Craig’s sights, and his family is right there with him.  The terror permeating the city as the snipers travel around the city adds another layer of suspense, which is handled well in this production.  Patterson is good at creating suspenseful dramas, and this one is no slouch in that department.

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.

Unlucky 13 by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook,  7.5 hours
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Unlucky 13 by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro has the women of the murder club scrambling away from terrorists and searching high and low for a killer bent on revenge.  San Francisco Detective Lindsay Boxer is enjoying her motherhood, even as her job continues to be demanding and murderers and terrorists remain on the loose in the city.  The FBI becomes involved in a belly bomb case that threatens the city, but Boxer is like a dog with a bone — she won’t let go and insists on investigating despite the restrictions.  Even this routine investigation is turned upside down as Mackie Morales reappears in an FBI photograph — she’s the one that got away and she’s been on the run since Boxer and the police killed her lover.

This is another spectacular audio production by Hachette with music and audio gunfire.  I enjoy listening to this adrenaline pumping series on audio more than reading them.  I tend to enjoy them for their pure entertainment, but this one had an oddball case that ensnares Yuki Castellano and her new husband while they are on their honeymoon.  The plot did not seem to be as well thought out, and it seemed like the resolution was a bit too out of character with the stories in this series.  Other than that, Unlucky 13 by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro is a fun listen when your doing the chores.

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.

12th of Never by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 7 hours
I am an Amazon Affiliate

12th of Never by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro, narrated by January LaVoy, is a prime audio production with sound effects and music. This is like watching a fast-paced thriller without the images — but those images clearly come to mind.  There are occasions when the narrator forgets what voice should be used, but it is so rare, that readers will forgive the little slips.  This is how I prefer my Patterson these days.  These are adrenaline filled novels that will have readers eager to finish the books in one day.

While some books in the Women’s Murder Club series have fallen flat or have had too many mysteries going at once, 12th of Never is fantastic.  There was a great balance between the personal lives of the women and the cases they were working — from the case of the corpse missing from the morgue to the case of the husband on trial for murdering his wife and daughter.  Lindsay Boxer is on the sidelines for a big chunk of the book because of her family issues after the birth of her baby, but Cindy and Richie are front and center with their personal issues.  Claire is facing professional problems since the disappearance of the body, and Yuki is juggling her personal life with the high-profile trial of a husband who may have killed his wife and daughter.

12th of Never by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro, narrated by January LaVoy, is a wild ride!  I was riveted from the beginning, probably because I’m invested in Boxer and her family.  I wanted to know what was going to happen with her and Joe and their baby, while I was disheartened by Cindy and Richie’s troubles.  Yuki is the only character I still am on the fence about, and that could be because I instantly liked the former assistant district attorney Jill Bernhardt from earlier in the series.

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.