Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Search for Anne Perry by Joanne Drayton

This book and story has been a long time coming, and I for one am glad someone has written it.

It clears up a lot of unanswered questions and more importantly we get to hear the story from Perry's own perspective.

I can remember when the story broke about Anne Perry and the life she left behind her many years ago. The life of Juliet Hulme, a young girl convicted of conspiring to and actually killing her friends mother. This young girl, murderess at the age of 15, was to go on and become a world renowned author of murder mysteries.

The true story reads like script for a television crime drama.

I along with many others was and still am, an avid reader of Perry's books, and the revelation of her past was and still is a topic of conversation among bookworms. Where do you draw the line between the book and the personal life of an author? Can and should the personal opinions, personal choices, religious beliefs or political affiliations of authors influence the reader and their decision to buy a book?

Each reader or buyer must make that choice themselves. I own my buying power and you own yours.

Where Perry is concerned I personally think she has paid her debt to society in form of her imprisonment and I can imagine she will still be looking for forgiveness and redemption till she draws her last breath. It is certainly a common thread in many of her books. She is also known for her critical assessment of gender inequality, misogyny, abuse and human suffering in general, regardless of whether it is centred on the Victorian era or in her mythological fantasy.

Her faith and religion plays a major role in some of her books. Tathea is heavily laden and influenced by the Book of Mormon. I think it is safe to say that her faith and the church have been her beacon and support system for a very long time.

What becomes very apparent in this book, is the way Anne is perceived by those that have gotten to know her without knowing her true identity and how those friendships or relationships have stayed intact even after learning the truth. They know and celebrate her as the adult Anne, the person they have learnt to love and admire.

Juliet is the past. Her actions will always be part of who Anne is, but Juliet is merely a chapter in her life. A book and story unto itself, which should be closed and placed on the bookshelf. Nothing will change what happened to Honora Parker.

I think this book could have done with a wee bit more structure. The author weaves in and out of the past and present, from book plots to real life events. Some of the details and comparisons are superfluous, however I think the point the author was trying to make comes through clearly. That point being the use of the crime and Perry's old or new identity to create media hype over and over again to sell stories.

Only a few of those tasked with writing about it have actually managed to recognize the fact that the penal system has done its job. Juliet acknowledged her guilt and Perry has worked extremely hard to never forget.

I was and still am surprised by the lack of compassion and interest shown towards her both before and after the crime. Neglect, disinterest before and during her internment in an adult prison neither parent visited her. Both mother and father left the continent. Even if Perry managed to rebuild or chase relationships with her parents after her release, their behaviour speaks volumes about they way they treated her.

There is a passage in the book in which Perry talks about the fact she and her mother never spoke about the crime, because her mother didn't want to. Perry also alludes to the lack of care, parenting, rules and even restraint in their parenting.

Part of me would really like to hear her story, written in her own words and style, but I think she will probably remain stoic in her shouldering of the burden and in doing so lessening the burden for her childhood friend.

I think this book gives an excellent overview of long journey of Anne Perry's books, with many intricate descriptions and explanations for plots and various new ventures. It is a must have read for fans of Perry. It really gives an outsider a good insight into the extremely long process of publishing and lengthy journey to become a very popular author.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of Edelweiss.

Without Shadows by Olivia Owens

This is second book in the Soulless series by Olivia Owens.

One of the points I made about Nick in my review for the first book Windows of the Soulless,was his constant internal battle with himself. Instead of being without a soul I believe he lives with two, which is why his behaviour is very erratic and it can often seem as if the reader is reading about two completely different people.

There is the ruthless killer, who has no conscience and acts like an animal hunting human prey. He is insensitive, rude and lacks any kind of endearing quality. Then there is the other side of Nick, the humane and caring side. The side that makes sure a young Jane Doe feels safe in an extremely difficult situation.

Although these two sides of Nick inhabit the same body I am not sure if he is aware of the almost multiple personality like quality he is exhibiting.

The conflict between the werewolves and the vampires is heating up and possibly heading towards a climax and boundary issues.
The relationships and complicated hierarchy of the vamps is strained almost to breaking point, especially when Nick finds out that the monster who ended his previous life is connected to his present in a most unfortunate way.

There was a lot going on in this book, perhaps a sort of interim leading up to the next, because it lacked a little of the plot structure the first book had. Nevertheless this is still a series with lots of potential and room for scope.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of the author.

Windows of the Soulless by Olivia Owens

The author portrays the main character as someone who has two distinct personalities within him and he is fighting to control both. Each of those personalities is trying to gain the upper hand at all times.

One personality represents the humanity left within him. The person who doesn't want to kill and allows himself to show mercy towwards others. The other personality is the vampire, the hunter, the killer and the one that will destroy at the mere smell of blood.

Obviously this also means that the people who surround the main character are never quite sure who they are dealing with. It also explains how he can seem to be caring in one second and then utterly without a conscience the next minute.

I didn't feel this was about loving a person he is not allowed to have. For me it was about that fight within him. Depending on whether the ruthless part of him wins also dictates the fate of those he supposedly cares for.

At this point I would also like to say kudos to the author for the twist in the plot during the hospital melee. It was completely unexpected, both how it came about and the way it was planned.

The book takes a complete U turn about halfway through into a deeper plot involving shifters. The setting of the book is Germany during WWII so the inevitable German military villain turned up.

Whether it was done on purpose or not and I would to think yes, there was a certain element to the villain Ulrich. Without revealing a spoiler I think his experimentation and enjoyment of said experiments were a subtle reference to the sadism which was a huge part of the horror that took place during that era. All in the name of science, as they liked to say.

Overall this was both an entertaining and well written story.
I received a free copy of this book for my review.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

Excellent.

I have read an abundance of Urban Fantasy werewolf stories but this is Wolf done a la literary fiction and done very well indeed. The plot is simple and doesn’t suffer from the usual story killers such as a too many characters, a hundred sub-plots, cheesy B-film dramatics or awkward dialogue.

Instead the simplicity is also what makes the story so powerful. It is driven by just one character and his inner beast.The author had both man and his relation to his inner animal down to a fine art.

So much so, that if I didn’t know any different I would be taking a close look at Mr Duncan during specific lunar phases. It is really so in-sync with the thoughts, emotions and actions of Jake and later on with Talullah, it was quite impressive.

The reader gets a real sense of the hunger, the need and the utter helplessness when it comes to the inevitable change. The feeling of despair that invades his mind at the thought of being completely alone without a kindred spirit and no possibility of a mate, all whilst battling for control with the beast within him.

It was a compelling read with an unexpected ending and most certainly a series I will be following.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.

Believe by Erin McCarthy

Carrying on the storylines of the romantic relationships between members of Tyler’s family and the college roommates,this is the story of Robin and Phoenix.

Robin has retreated into herself and become a mere shadow of the fun loving party girl she used to be. Her clothes are drab, loose and conservative instead of tight, bright and flashy. She has stopped taking care of her appearance. She seems to be suffering from some sort of depression linked to an incident a few months ago.

That incident was one that offered up quite a quandary of reactions and complications.
So you wake up in the bed of a very good friends boyfriend and the two of you have quite obviously had sex. You have no recollection of the previous night, in fact Robin specifically says the phrase black-out when describing the night. Instead of mutual appreciation or an afterglow, which would be the case if the night had been consensual, the female participant awakens feeling repulsed.

I know what I was thinking when I read it but somehow the all too convenient scenario was never questioned.

Instead the morality and legality of having intercourse with someone who is so drunk or physically impaired that they can’t give consent or wouldn’t give consent under normal circumstances, is presented to both the characters and readers.

I was really disappointed at the amount of victim blaming being thrown at the girl by so-called friends.
Unfortunately this is usually what happens in a real life scenario. Always blame the abused and never the abuser.

The relationship between Phoenix and Robin is built on the dysfunctional aftermath of his upbringing and her present issues. Not exactly a recipe for success, and yet they both connect and find comfort with each other.

The secret Robin has been keeping implodes in the circle of close knit friends. It creates a series of events that might just be irreversible.

This is a stronger book by McCarthy with issues that question the reactions of society in relation to certain controversial topics. I thought it lacked an acknowledgement of guilt when it came to Nathan and perhaps a reluctance to call it what it actually was.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.

Stone Bruises by Simon Beckett

The main character stumbles into a bag of worms bigger than the current one he is trying to escape from. In the midst of a forest he is taken in by a very eccentric family.

Each member of the family is creepier or more unstable than the other.Not quite the sanctuary it appears to be and beginning to seem more like a trap, as time passes by.

Sean is drawn into the mystery, the drama and the secrets that lie heavily upon the family. He is torn between wanting an out and needing to know the truth.

What exactly is the truth?
Is one of them guilty of murder most foul or just a victim of village Chinese whispers and spiteful tongue wagging?

Some of them certainly seem not only capable but also quite comfortable with the rumours.
It is almost as if Sean believes that he will be absolved of his own sins if he reaches out to release the burden of sins weighing upon the shoulders of others. By doing so he also thinks he can set Mathilde, Michel and Gretchen free.
He just doesn’t understand that the layers of this dysfunctional family quagmire are far deeper than he ever imagined.

The truth is far more damaging than he could ever imagine.
It is quite well paced story with an interesting twist at the end.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.

HeartBeat by Elizabeth Scott

Raw, emotional and heartbreaking.
It is all that and also manages to hit upon a key ethical medical and moral issue.
Sustaining and keeping alive a person, who is brain-dead for the sole purpose of growing and harvesting the child within them.

If a person has made arrangements or signed documents to the effect that they do not wish to be kept alive if they have no brain activity for instance, if they happen to be pregnant those wishes become secondary to those of the person left in charge and able to make medical choices. The patient becomes little more than a highly effective incubator.

Now, one can argue about the life of the child, but the fact remains the mother in that situation is used and abused to get the end product ready.

I can understand those choices being made if a fetus or baby has reached a stage in the pregnancy that they are able to survive outside the womb, then a few days or a few weeks is understandable. However if the woman is in the very early stages of pregnancy and the mother would have to be kept  alive for most of the duration of that pregnancy, well to me that is a highly contentious issue.

That is what made this story more than your average tale about a troubled teen.

I enjoyed the way it was written from Emma’s very self-obsessed teenage point of view. Her voice rang out with the singular focus only teenage girls can aspire to. No other person or their emotions are relevant, just her pain and her anger. How dare the husband grieve for his wife or worry about his unborn child.

Filtered subtly into this highly emotive storyline is the beginning and blossoming of a new relationship for Emma. She has connected with Caleb on a level no other person can comprehend. They have both suffered a loss, which has changed them and their lives forever. Their mutual understanding helps each one of them to move forward in their lives.

I really thought it was an excellent read and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of Harlequin UK and MIRA Ink.

Tesla's Attic by Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman

A wonderful children’s book will appeal to both older and younger readers. It manages to sneak in references to science and the some of the great scientists/inventors who have shaped the world as we know it.

What could be more mesmerizing to a child and their imagination than an attic full of objects that are capable of mysterious deeds? Normal items like toasters, vacuum cleaners and some unidentifiable inventions. The main character Nick finds out that there is a connection between the items and the famous scientist/inventor Nikola Tesla. Each of the objects seems to be able to do something other than what it is actually supposed to do. Some of them make situations quite uncomfortable and even dangerous.

Nick and his friends stumble upon a secret society that seems very eager to recover all of the inventions. Apparently it is for the good of the world, except Nick thinks there is a far bigger secret at stake, perhaps even one the society is trying to avoid or control.

It is actually quite funny.

It is full of witty quips and the kind of nonsensical thought processes that only kids can come up with and still sound completely sane, such as one of the children requesting not just a bible but an intimidating bible. The children understand this reference as something completely normal and one of them just happens to have something to fit the bill.

It is a great combination of science, history, mystery and a good old sense of humour.

American Quartet by Warren Adler


Fiona is a highly complex character. She spends three-quarters of her time inside her head either questioning her own motives or having internal debates with herself.

I don’t think I have ever experienced a female lead with such an intense desire to understand why her relationships will probably not work out. In her case it is almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. It will certainly be entertaining to watch her meet her real match one day.

Adler always creates a realistic cop on cop partner relationship, especially when one of those is a female. He has a keen eye for the inequality, the daily oppression, the barrage of abuse and general lack of respect, when it comes to gender in the police force.

For females in a male dominated career you don’t have many choices, you either fall in line and put up with it silently or you fall in line and become one of the men. They frown upon the third option, the ones who don’t want to put up with the sexist and outdated order of command in the male world.

Fiona bows down to the higher rank when she has to and tries to accommodate even the most difficult of partners. Indeed even Jefferson grows on her, and in the end he has her back in a way no other person does, even if it costs him everything. He becomes the epitome of a true partner.

The actual plot is quite complex and the book is strewn with conspiracy theories connected to assassinations of Presidents going all the way back to Lincoln. The murderer has lost his timid grip on his sanity, if indeed he ever had a grip on it at all. Plagued with Mommy issues and confusion about his own sexuality he thinks his salvation lies in the culmination of an extremely complex murderous plot.

As always Adler manages to mix facts with fiction to create a story with his very own flair.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley and courtesy of Stonehouse Press.

Power Games by Victoria Fox

Victoria Fox has most certainly got a Jackie Collins vibe. Her characters are large, loud, vivacious and unforgettable. You will either love them or hate them.

The reader follows the lives of the glitzy, the bold and the beautiful, the famous and the infamous.  They are all busy hiding themselves and their secrets behind their celebrity personas.

I found it quite interesting that some of the characters are similar to real life public figures. I will leave other readers to draw their own conclusions about who they sound like. Needless to say some of the comparisons shed an uncomfortable light on the real identity behind the well-staged media images.

The lives of seven people are about to change forever on the whim of a twisted bitter old man, who is set on revenge no matter the cost or fallout. This very meticulously planned revenge is based on minor slights, embarrassments and rejections. Not really any reason to kill a person, let alone try to ruin their lives.

In a scenario reminiscent of Lost the victims are supposed to vanish without a trace, instead they end up depending on each other in an extreme situation. Fake smiles wither, good manners disappear and the real personalities can no longer be hidden from view.

Ever so slowly the strengths of some become apparent and the weaknesses of others could be the downfall of their fellow survivors.

If you’re looking for the kind of read similar to Jackie Collins or Danielle Steel then this should be right up your street.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of Harlequin UK and MIRA UK.

Lingering Echoes by Erica Kiefer


I think it is a story that will appeal to the young romantics with a penchant for heartbreak.

Allie has been taken back to the scene of a traumatic experience, one that fills her with guilt, despite her lack of blame. I was surprised by the fact she had not felt it necessary to share any details about the incident prior to her conversation with Damien. No police? How about the poor parents, surely they would have asked how and why?

There was a wee element I found disturbing, which kept seeping into the story and was part of both Allie and Damien’s story. The way the author described and referred to one of the three youths, who late take the girls to a party. In the second half of the story one of the Samoan guys says something similar. I found it borderline racist.

Apparently this is New Adult, strange I had it pegged as YA, especially due to the teeny feel and lack of romp action. Not that the lack of romp was or is a negative factor, but the story seems to be more geared towards the younger reader, hence my surprise at finding out it isn’t.

Damien and Allie have a connection and they share a past, although only one of them knows it. It is time Allie took a deep breath and a dive into the cold murky waters of her past.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

The Cutting by James Hayman

I think I might have actually talked out loud to this book in the first chapter. Similar to talking to the TV screen when the spooky music comes on and the girl insists on going down into the dark basement to find out what made a noise. This is similar in a sense that the victim doesn't seem to show much common sense at all, and she most certainly can't hear the sinister music playing in the background.

This is a psychological thriller with elements of medical politics and crimes that cross every border and boundary.

There was one thing that bugged me, when the victim used a term of endearment to refer to her captor. Keeping Stockholm Syndrome in mind, I think after a week of confinement it would be too early to suggest that sort of connection between the two of them. Perhaps she used the term to make her kidnapper view her in the way someone in an intimate relationship would, ergo less likely to kill her.

Either way, it was uncomfortable to hear her or read the word she used to refer to her rapist. It was only one scene and one word, and yet it has stuck in my mind.

Hayman has used an eclectic mix of serial killer and true crime. As the story or plot unfolds a secondary motivation becomes apparent on top of the psychopathic necessity to torture and kill.

This secondary plot has an element of crime we are seeing more often on a global level in our era. Kudos to the author for incorporating it in a way, which does not glamorize for an added portion of gruesome, but instead may make people aware of the issue.

The rich and influential are often willing to do anything to live, and the poorest in the world often desperate enough to pay the price. When the perfect fit isn't there, sometimes there are criminals ruthless enough to find the right fit for the right price. A scary thought.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of HarperCollins.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Convergence by Mike French

Speculative fiction is often like brain gym. The author will often ask the reader to go above and beyond what they deem possible, credible, doable.

To get the bigger picture and a better understanding I think it would be advisable to read the first two books in the trilogy.
The beginning is a little bizarre if you have no previous information on the story. It could have done with a short re-cap or prologue at the beginning.

Pete and Durram play the most important parts and each scenario seems to feature one or the other. Even they have difficulty distinguishing between reality and an alternate universe.

In the midst of it all there is the love story between Pete and Durram. Reality becomes blurred and it doesn’t help that often neither the reader nor Pete can distinguish between the real and fake Durram.

The President gives in to the wiles of Bathsheba,and she plays her puppet on a string like a the violinist with an instrument. Interesting that Reagan has been chosen for this particular role, given the history of the man.

Kent is known not only for pirates coves, but also for being home to the Vatican and His Holiness the Pope. In this case it is more like the mafioso overlord overlooking the demise of society and forcing his views upon others.

You might have to sit back with a packet of  chocolate digestives and a pot of tea with this one. It may well tax your brain just a tad, then again isn't that the whole point of speculative fiction, to venture into places quite extraordinary.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the author and Elsewhen Press.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Suddenly Last Summer by Sarah Morgan

I think I have begun creating my own tiny legion of Sarah Morgan readers. She is one of the first I recommend for romance genre readers.
This book is part of the Snow Crystal series (Sleigh Bells in the Snow Bk 1 Snow Crystal trilogy)), featuring the heartbreak, romancing and escapades of the O' Neil brothers. Sean and Élise feature in this second book in the trilogy.

Morgan has added a slightly darker element to the story this time. Everyone has a past, some of us have parts of our lives we would like to forget and never quite get over. That is exactly what it is like for Élise. Part of her past is stopping her from moving forward and enjoying her life to the fullest.

When you experience abuse in a relationship a part of your soul dies. It can and often does subconsciously determine your future relationships, especially romantic ones. Walls are built, boundaries are drawn and perimeters are not allowed to be breached.

Élise is quite clear on her boundaries and the fact Sean feels the same way makes any interaction very simple. No complications, no strings attached and no extras. Or so they both think.

Life has a strange way of throwing people together even if they clearly do not want to be thrown together at all. What do you do if that happens? Go with it? No, not Élise, she decides to go into full panic and defensive mode.

One other element of the story I would like to mention is what often happens in large families. The dynamics of a large family is such that everyone knows the ins and outs of everything about each person in that particular family.

No secret kept silent, no wishes kept hidden and everyone has an opinion of each of those things. Not an easy situation to deal with and sometimes not all members of big families like the lack of privacy.

The O'Neil family members seem to thrive on being in the middle of each others business, regardless of whether it is private, romantic or hot and heavy secrets.

This tale of tempestuous and passionate emotions combined with the short temper of Élise and the cool-headed Sean makes for an explosive roller coaster ride of a read.

Buy Suddenly Last Summer at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

You can connect with Sarah online at her website: www.sarahmorgan.com on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AuthorSarahMorgan or on Twitter @SarahMorgan_

Read: Holiday in the Hamptons (From Manhattan with Love #5) New York Actually (From Manhattan with Love #4)Miracle on 5th Avenue (From Manhattan with Love #3)Sunset in Central Park (From Manhattan with Love #2)Sleepless in Manhattan (From Manhattan with Love #1)Christmas Ever AfterFirst Time in ForeverMaybe This Christmasor The Notting Hill Diaries, all by Sarah Morgan.

Follow @SarahMorgan_@HQStories and @HarperCollinsUK