Thursday, 31 March 2016

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Admittedly I am late to this series, but hey better late than never.  I actually bought all the books in the series for one of my children. I have just never found the time to read them.

I can definitely see the influence this book has had on other authors and vice versa. Also the obvious parallels to the Hunger Games (HG was released first). It's an eclectic mix of dystopian and sci-fi.

The inevitable romance element kind of messed up the intricate dystopian idea a wee bit, but then it's become an 'expected' part of YA books.

Society is split into factions, each being known for certain personality aspects. Being selfless, not telling lies or being recklessly brave. Then at a certain age they have to choose their life faction, after being accessed which one they are most suited for.

There is also another option, however it is also the option that pegs people as possible rebels.Those with no clear affiliation can think beyond boundaries and rules.They question the norm. It makes them a danger to leadership.

Aside from the huge secret Tris carries around with her she also has to deal with the violent and competitive ways of her new faction. Not good enough and you end up a nobody, too good and the others want to get rid of you. It isn't exactly a welcoming environment. Friends become enemies and trust is a thing of the past.

An interesting start to the series, although I hope the emphasis is on the dystopian element rather than her love life.

Buy Divergent at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read Insurgent (Divergent #2) by Veronica Roth.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

No One Knows by J.T. Ellison

Aubrey has been distraught since the disappearance of her husband five years ago. Her mother-in-law blames her and thinks she has killed her son. Aubrey is subjected to the bitter attacks and suspicions, even after so many years.

A court of law decided there wasn't enough evidence to convict Aubrey, but the shadow of suspicion still hangs over her every day.

There were a few things that didn't gel for me. Chase turns up and a few days later he is the boyfriend. Seems a little hasty for someone apparently so upset about the disappearance of her husband. Perhaps the mother-in-law isn't so wrong after all.

The whole Chase connection was a little daytime soap opera for my taste. A pity really, because it is kind of the weakest link in the plot.

This is one of those stories where you have to be careful how much information you reveal or it spoils the plot for other readers, so with that in mind less is more on this occasion.

The twist was good and the end a little unexpected. Not sure who I believe deserved to be punished the most though.

No One Knows has a good premise, but the delivery could have been much better.

Buy No One Knows at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Night Study by Maria V. Snyder

If you are new to Maria V. Snyder then it might help to know that Night Study is the second book in the Soulfinders series and that it is a spin-off from two other series, the Study series and the Glass series or the Chronicles of Ixia.

Yelena is in the most difficult position she can be in. She is incapable of defending herself without her powers. She isn't welcome in one place for being a magician and just as unwelcome in the other for being a magician without power. Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place.

On top of that someone has decided to mess with her personal life in an attempt to get rid of Valek. Unfortunately it has far-reaching consequences for the two of them. It makes each step the two of them take so much more important.

Integral to the series is the relationship between Valek and the Commander. It's taken a turn for the worst to say the least, and finally Valek is forced into making a bold statement and choice between the man he swore to protect and the woman he loves.

I have to say the Commander could definitely get lost if it were me, regardless of whether he is being manipulated by Owen or not. Valek needs to smell the roses and get the heck out of Dodge already.

Night Study isn't Snyder's best, not by a long shot. She is a spectacular fantasy writer, which is certainly evident in her earlier books. Not so much in this one.

Buy Night Study at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Art of Not Breathing by Sarah Alexander

Essentially The Art of Not Breathing is about guilt, grief and loss. The focus is on Elsie and the way she deals with the death of her brother.

Everything revolves around water, because that is how Ethan disappeared. In the sea with plenty of people around, and yet he is still gone without a trace.

Elsie can't really remember what happened that day. She is drawn to the water and the flashbacks she gets when she is at the last place Ethan was seen.

There is some element to being submerged, to diving under water and being unable to breathe, which initiates the flashbacks and memories. This realisation drives Elsie to push herself to the point of dangerous excursions and even beyond that.

The story is strangely compelling without being overly dramatic or too young adulty. It is interesting to note that the author hasn't put much of an emphasis on the missing child. Instead it's more about the family left behind and how grief can destroy relationships. Regardless of whether it is via neglect, anger, guilt or just overwhelming sadness.

I liked it, it was subtle and heartfelt without a lot of squee.

Buy The Art of Not Breathing at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Sneak Peek: The Long Drop by Denise Mina

This mini review is based on the Sneak Peek of The Long Drop.
You have to be at the top of your game to be able to pull in the readers with literally just the first chapter of the book to go on.

A sample of goods, a taste of what is yet to come, and leaving the reader with a burning need to know what comes next.

It's almost like opening the door just a smidgen and letting you peer round the corner at the unfolding story, only to be yanked back and have the door shut in your face rather abruptly.

The Long Drop is based on the true crime story about an American born Scottish serial killer called Peter Manuel and the man accused of three of his crimes. In 1956 William Watt was accused of killing his wife, daughter and his sister-in-law. He would have been tried and executed for the crimes, if the police hadn't cottoned on to the fact they had a serial killer in their midst.

Mina turns a meeting of the two men into a cat and mouse game between killer and accused. A literary thriller with the dark city of Glasgow as a backdrop. A city on the brink of change, just about to take a step into literally a lighter brighter time, well at least optically. The black stones of buildings were cleaned, trees planted, whole neighbourhoods ripped down and rebuilt. A massive health and x-ray initiative was launched to combat and eradicate tuberculosis.

It will be interesting to see whether Mina draws parallels between the meeting of Watts and Manuel, and the essence, core and subsequent change in Glasgow.

Mina's writing is expressive, sharp and memorable. Her knowledge of Glasgow and it's people is filtered into her stories in an almost subconscious layering. Mina writes noir with a twist, the psychological tear-downs between her characters is what sets her stories apart from the rest.

The Long Drop looks as if it's going to be an interesting read.

Pre-Order The Long Drop at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The End of Law: A Novel of Hitler's Germany by Therese Down

Down does one thing really well in this story, she says it how it was. Regardless of the upsetting details, the horrific truth, the despicable depths humans were willing to go to just to get rid of unworthy humans.

Instead of the focus being on Karl and his crisis of faith, which is what I believe Down intended, the surrounding drama of domestic abuse drowned out that particular part of the story.

Aside from the personal family drama I think there could have been more focus on the struggle or indeed non-existent struggle of any of the perpetrators.

Guilt or lack of guilt, how do they or did they deal with their unimaginable cruelty, and the design and testing of their calculated killing machinery on a day to day basis?

The efficiency, the structure, the planning and the sheer scale of annihilation is still quite inconceivable, and yet it happened. Not only did it happen, but it took far too many years for other countries to intervene and stop it. Mass murder executed with the precision of a military siege. It's what makes the Holocaust different from any other genocide or mass murder in history.

The research was sound and the details were remarkable, despite the gruesome and atrocious nature of said details. I especially enjoyed the trivia about a certain high ranking Nazi's brother. Very interesting indeed.

Buy The End of Law at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Predator by Wilbur Smith with Tom Cain

I have been reading Wilbur Smith since I was a very young girl. The Hector Cross series isn't one of my favourites. I am at heart a Courtney and Ballantyne gal, when it comes to the Wilbur Smith novels.

The Cross series is more of a modern action adventure thriller, as opposed to the beautiful landscapes and family drama laced with history and politics of some of his other books.

This certainly isn't the best example of Smith's work. I put that down to this particular series and not the collaboration with Cain. It is definitely worth reading some of his other work to get a better overall view of Wilbur Smith's writing style.

Predator is fast-paced, graphic and brutal. Personally I think Cross should have just fed Congo to the crocodiles to save himself and everyone else a lot of trouble.

In the end there isn't much difference between Cross and Congo. Both are willing to kill, torture and inflict great pain to achieve their end goal. The only apparent difference is one is a bad guy and the other a so-called good guy.

If you're looking for action packed scenes with a stereotypical hero and villain then this will be right up your alley.

Buy Predator at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Flawed by Cecilia Ahern

This really is quite spectacular. Subtle in its approach and with a lot of intricate layers, Flawed certainly deserves to be right up there with best reads of the year.

Ahern draws many a  historical, political and anthropological comparison, although they may not be the first things people or readers think of, especially because due to the confines of the sub-genre.

Let's start with this particular society creating two layers of wrong-doing. You have the criminal or 'normal' crimes, which are dealt with by the police and then you have the moral and ethical crimes. Those are policed by a higher tier of Judges, laws or rules.

Any action, statement, behaviour judged to be flawed, ergo ethically or morally corrupt is punished. Depending on the crime the person receives a brand on a specific part of their body.

If accused and convicted you become part of the Flawed community. Not allowed to eat what they want, say or do as they wish and live by curfews and restrictive rules.

It is also a crime to help the Flawed in any way, which also incurs the punishment of becoming flawed. Including showing them compassion, understanding or any kind of humanity. When Celestine gets in trouble it's because she reacts instinctively, despite knowing her actions will get her in trouble.

Suddenly she becomes the voice of the oppressed and the face of the uprising. By telling the truth she has shown the world the flaws in the actual system. Oh, the irony.

Ahern's first venture into YA is an innovative one. The ethical layers  are intriguing, it has a lot of potential, and it will be interesting to see where she takes the series next.

Buy Flawed from Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

This review is based on the Sneak Peek of Wink Poppy Midnight.

What a sneak preview needs to do is draw the reader in enough that the need to read the rest. Did the sneak peek do that for me? Yes, it did.

It was mysterious and unusual enough to make me curious about the story. The rising tension between Midnight and Poppy, the emerging attraction between Midnight and Wink, and the connection of Leaf to them all.

It could have been a bit clearer when it came to the switching of voices. The reader shouldn't have to spend too much time figuring out who is narrating.

Other than that Tucholke manages to create a certain atmosphere between the characters to set the scene for the rest of the story. Certainly sounds intriguing.

Buy Wink Poppy Midnight at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Aftermath by Richard Crowder

Don't expect any frivolous details or leaning towards the dramatic, this is a scholars book. Politics and history with an emphasis on the great men in power at the time.

Crowder has also added tidbits of information about those men. Idiosyncrasies, odd habits, power games and even unexpected funerals.

I think even now in the 21st century many of the generations are completely unaware of the Cold War machinations. As we speak or read, the wheeling, dealing and political games of chess are happening behind many a door.

I don't believe any of it can be compared to the post-war political agendas. The shaping and creation of post-war treaties and alliances by the political greats and leaders of the 20th century.

Crowder has included such a vast amount of details it often seems like overload, and it seems to lack direction, but that may really have to do with the sheer amount of information.

Buy Aftermath at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Brooklyn on Fire by Lawrence H. Levy

I haven't read the first in the series, but this can definitely be read as a stand-alone novel.

It doesn't seem as if Mary does any real detecting at all. Solutions appear to her suddenly or fall at her feet.

I think it could have done with a little more direction and more detecting for that matter. Everything revolved around the who's who of society and Mary rubbing shoulders with them. Even the potential love interest was shallow and flighty.

A nobody, as per society rules, with a Vanderbilt? Was it ever really going to happen? As soon as you take away the money things change. Love doesn't seem quite so important when your lap of luxury is being threatened.

Of course without Vanderbilt Mary wouldn't have had a direct route to the upper echelon, which is probably why her love interest isn't just someone from her own walk of life.

Overall it was disjointed and suffered a bit from threads going off in different directions and not coming together very well. This could be stronger with a little more focus on crime, perhaps a little less fancy-footing and social waffling.

Buy Brooklyn on Fire at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf

This didn't really do it for me.

I think the real culprit was obvious pretty much from the get go. A wee bit of a psycho vibe going on there. A tiny niggle here and there was later confirmed.

Jack makes it hard for for Sarah to trust him. She has no idea about his past, the murder in his family or his past liaison with his brother's wife.

Sarah feels boxed into a tiny corner by the events in her husband's home-town. Who can be trusted? Is there anyone on her side? Is Jack just playing some kind of sick game with her life and that of her children.

Suddenly the man she has loved for many years is not only a stranger, but also a potential multiple killer. On top of that Jack seems to be really cosy with his ex. Talk about making someone look like a complete fool. I think I would be slightly angry and overly cautious too under those circumstances.

From the very beginning Jack and Sarah appear to be complete strangers, despite the fact they have been married for a few decades and have two children. Perhaps that is what makes everything seem so disconnected. Baring that the characters might just have lacked depth.

Overall it felt a bit messy, but it was an ok read.

Buy Missing Pieces at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night by James Runcie

If you didn't happen to catch the TV première of Grantchester then you are definitely missing out on a treat.The second season has just started on ITV.

The series is based on James Runcie's The Grantchester Mysteries featuring the sleuth Sidney Chambers, the canon detective with a flair for secrets and mysteries.

Perils of the Night is a collection of Sidney Chambers stories, some of which you may recognise from the TV series, although the script writers have changed the plots slightly.

In this book Sidney introduces the two ladies in his life to each other. A recipe for disaster one might think. Personally I am rooting for neither of them. Amanda is way too spoilt little rich girl and Hildegard is a bit of an ice queen. Hildegard also ends up involving Sidney in the rise of the wall in Germany, albeit inadvertently.

One of the main elements of the Sidney Chambers books is the relationship between Sidney and Keating. Their bromance is a highlight of both the stories and the tv series. The two of them come from completely different walks of life, and yet their friendship demolishes all boundaries between them.

I'm not sure if crime follows Sidney around or whether he is instantly drawn to it, because no matter where he goes there is always some kind of incident. Murder, theft, spies, oh and the idiosyncrasies of village life.

The television series really has managed to capture the essence of Sidney and Keating perfectly, and the stories written by James Runcie. Sidney Chambers is the perfect mixture of cosy mystery and small minded morality.

Buy Perils of the Night at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death

Little Boy Blue by M.J. Arlidge

Well, well, well DI Helen Grace certainly has some dark secrets, doesn't she? Talk about living out your hidden demons. The whole 'I want to whipped and punished because I was abused as a child' is pretty messed up.

This is the fifth book in the series, but it can be read as a stand-alone novel.

Arlidge has included enough information about the previous books to make sense of the characters and the story without reading the other books.

Unfortunately her penchant for being dominated in the BDSM scene doesn't really gel with her job or the position she has in the police force.

After building the plot, the murders and the unknown murderer up, Arlidge whips a convenient perpetrator out of the bag. Too little, too late, and a wee bit disappointing. Not the who, but the how.

Overall the police procedures are a little unbelievable.

Arlidge ends the book on a huge cliffhanger. There is no sweet solution that falls into place to bring the story to a neatly packaged end.

For me it missed the mark. It was a solid set-up for the crime, but it became a little me, myself and I where Helen was concerned. I think pulling the cat out of the bag near the finish line was a bit lazy and could have been done better.

Buy Little Boy Blue at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for nay other retailer.

Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama

This is Hideo Yokoyama's first novel to be translated into English. He is an immensely popular crime writer in Japan.

It is a long read and a slow burner. It certainly isn't an atypical crime thriller, in fact it appears to be more of a political game of chess with the odd crime thrown in.

Bear with it though, because eventually all roads lead to a riveting conclusion.

Mikami struggles with his position and loyalties at work. Once on the straight track to highest ranking in the Criminal Division. Mikami has been side-tracked to the Media Relations department. He spends his days fending off the press and is known, much to his dismay, as the 'guard dog for Administrative Affairs.'

The bulk of the book is spent analysing the political quagmire of the Criminal Division, Admin Affairs, Media Relations, the press, the Prefectural HQ and the bigwigs in Tokyo. Whilst this is going on Mikami is looking into a cold case, a kidnapping from fourteen years ago. Simultaneously Mikami is also waiting for some sign of life from his daughter Ayumi. She is suffering from mental health issues, which have culminated in a growing hatred towards her parents.

Ayumi's body dysmorphia is quite fascinating. She hates her own face, despises her mother's beauty and the fact she has inherited her father's looks. It isn't until she leaves that Mikami actually starts feeling self-conscious about his own facial features and becomes insecure about being able to snag such a beautiful wife.

While the majority of the book is a perpetual cat and mouse game of internal politics, the cold case remains an integral part of the story. The errors made by individuals are still causing a wave of backlash even years after the kidnapping.

Amamiya has lost his young daughter, and his wife. It seems almost like an insult to ask him to allow a high ranking police official to use his daughter's murder as a political platform. It's up to Mikami to convince Amamiya. Little does Mikami know that the grieving father and widower isn't quite as docile as he seems.

Yokoyama does a really good job of a literary sleight of hand. The reader is so busy looking in one direction they don't see what is going on in the background. Interesting read, definitely an author I will revisit.

Buy Six Four at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Violent Ends

Violent Ends is an anthology written by over fifteen authors (see below for names and links to their Goodreads profiles).

Now they do say that too many cooks spoil the broth, but not in this case, In Violent Ends all those authors make the broth a thing of beauty, in a literary sense of course.

It's been a while since I have been so impressed by a collaboration of this kind. Usually they tend to be disconnected because of the variety voices and writing styles.

Violent Ends is completely seamless and if I hadn't known any better I would have assumed it had been written by just a few or even one author. It is a spectacular way to approach the topic of a mass shooting, especially one committed by a teenager.

Each author gives a voice to a victim, a friend, an acquaintance, the killer, the sister, a neighbour, heck even the gun has its own voice. They tell their own story from their subjective point of view,  be it their experience with Kirby before, during or after the tragic event.

I liked the way none of them focused on the actual event or the gory details. There was no need to do so, because the emotions and descriptions leading up to it sufficed to create the imagery. Each person knows a different facet of Kirby's personality, which is an important aspect, because the perpetrator of a mass shooting isn't just a killer.

Even Kirby has his moments of friendship, the times when he became the saviour for certain individuals. The writers clearly show how he saved people from bullies, had intimate relationships, was the reason some people in his vicinity decided not to give up. Kirby the friend, Kirby the boyfriend and even Kirby the confidante.

They also haven't taken the obvious stereotypical route and described him as an outsider, a moody teenager clad head to toe in black attire with a gun obsession. Instead Kirby is just a normal young man with a happy family. He plays an instrument and marches in the school marching band. There is no apparent reason for his actions.

One of the most intriguing stories is that of Nate. The question of guilt arises, however it isn't necessarily that of Kirby. Was there a reason Kirby became an outsider and filled with enough anger to kill? Could a singular incident have determined his path at a very young age? Nate sees evidence of Kirby's later behaviour, as opposed to viewing the incident as a catalyst to said future behaviour. In fact it places the question of the why, and whether it all could have been avoided, firmly on the shoulders of society.

I really enjoyed this book, it's a great read and one I highly recommend. It gives the reader a different perspective on such an inexplicable tragedy.

This anthology is by the following authors Shaun David Hutchinson (Editor), Kendare Blake, Steve Brezenoff, Delilah S. Dawson, Trish Doller, Margie Gelbwasser, E.M. Kokie, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Tom Leveen, Hannah Moskowitz, Elisa Nader, Beth Revis, Mindi Scott, Neal Shusterman, Brandon Shusterman, Courtney Summers, Blythe Woolston, Christine Johnson.

Buy Violent Ends at AmazonUK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

It might just have been me, but there were so many identities that at one point I lost the plot and couldn't figure out who was who any more.

Let's not even talk about who the heck Jo is or was, because I wasn't sure whether she was Blue or Amelia at first.

Not sure if the initial confusion was intentional or not, all I know is the story became clearer after the first 25%.

After that, despite not being able to see the forest for all the trees, it became much clearer and was quite a good read.

So much so that Blue and Jo have the potential to be a series or have a sequel. I can totally see the two of them taking out bad guys as a kind of Thelma and Louise couple.

Jo turns out be a woman running from one identity and life to another, and another and another one. Keeping track of how many and how many things she is running away from becomes a wee bit of a task for the reader and for Jo for that matter.

She meets Blue, who is in a similar position, and that's when things turn from difficult to 'there is no turning back.' Jo doesn't question the motives of the blue-eyed beauty, but perhaps she should have.

Blue seems to recognise something in Jo that she sees within herself. She is willing to cross boundaries when necessary, even those of a murderous variety.

Lutz knows how to spin a tale, but this could have done with a little more clarity.

Buy The Passenger at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

The Painted Ocean by Gabriel Packard

I can't decide whether the writing style was intentional or not. It wouldn't be the first time a author has chosen to write as if the child or teen is writing to make the story seem more authentic and in tune with the character.

In this case it doesn't gel with the overall description of the main character, and neither do her actions.

Shruti is supposedly so intelligent and academically gifted that she could pick an Ivy League college or university of her choice. Bearing that in mind she is as thick as two planks of wood nailed together when it comes to her life choices.

Before I go into the story let me go back to the style of writing, language, grammar and speech in general. Even for a supposed child's writing it was annoying. It should have evolved into something more structured, as she grew older, but it remained at the same level throughout the book. I don't think I have ever seen so many chapters, paragraphs and sentences all on the same page, start with And.

I focused on the plot itself, which started off really well and if Packard had stayed with Shruti and her need for family vs the betrayal by her mother, this could have been a lot better.

The first half deals with racism, bullying, neglect and the cultural relevance of girl's in the Indian society. The rejection of Shruti by her own family leads to the change in her behaviour, lifestyle and personality. She goes from being a loved child to a number in the system. Nobody wants her, nobody cares and no person will look for her if she disappears.

All of that leaves her wide open for the manipulation by so-called friends. It's also how she ends up in a no hope situation with her 'friend' and a complete nutcase. I'm not sure why Packard felt as if the plot needed such an extreme change in direction, it felt like two plots in one book.

It had some very good ideas and was full of potential, but was let down by the writing style and the frankly bizarre end scenario on the island.

Buy The Painted Ocean at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Sleepless in Manhattan by Sarah Morgan

This is the first part of Sarah Morgan's new trilogy From Manhattan with Love featuring the friends Paige, Skylar and Frankie. If you have read the Puffin Island books you may recognise some of the characters or places mentioned in Sleepless in Manhattan.

This story is about Jake and Paige, and their love-hate-squabble relationship. Jake has been trying to avoid his attraction to Paige for years. Her brother is his best friend, so technically she is off-limits. The fact that Jake is a known lothario doesn't help matters much. He is a different woman every type of guy, so not exactly someone you would want as a son-law or boyfriend.

At first Paige sees Jake as more of an annoyance, a friend with good intentions, but with a terrible way of delivering advice. It isn't until they are unintentionally thrown together in an awkward situation that Paige understands just how much she is attracted to him.

The focal point is the friendships between the girls and their love lives or lack of. You can already see where the next potential book in the trilogy will be headed. The story is also about Paige and the way she and her family deal with her past medical issues. They are reluctant to let her out of the cocoon they have built around her, which makes it difficult for Paige to live her life as an adult.

Sarah Morgan knows how to create the perfect trifecta of love, sexual tension and desire. The combination readers look for in a romantic read. Her characters are always well developed and make the reader want to return to them to find out how they are doing. Her name is always on the tip of my tongue when I am asked for recommendations in this particular genre.

Buy Sleepless in Manhattan (From Manhattan with Love #1) 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: Moonlight over Manhattan (From Manhattan with Love #6)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)Christmas Ever AfterFirst Time in ForeverMaybe This ChristmasSuddenly Last Summer or The Notting Hill Diaries, all by Sarah Morgan.

Follow @SarahMorgan_@HQStories and @HarperCollinsUK

Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs

Briggs is on top form again with Fire Touched, the 9th book in the Mercy Thompson series. If you are a newbie to the series then this story can be read as a stand-alone, but I would suggest reading the rest of the series, because it really is excellent.

Briggs must have a Phd in Fae politics by now. Talk about making the grey cells buzz with the sheer magnitude of it all.

The pack rules are already quite complex, especially now they have added non-wolf members with whom half the pack has issues.

Mercy and Adam offer protection to someone, who at first sight doesn't really seem like an important person or the catalyst for a potential fae vs human war. Then again some of the baddies still make the mistake of underestimating Mercy too.

Everyone wants a piece of Aiden, and they are willing to take out everyone and anything to get to him. Fortunately for him he has the pack on his side.

Fire Touched is a fast-paced urban fantasy that packs a wicked punch and keeps the reader on their toes. Briggs has infused the action with her very own brand of Fantasy, which often makes it appear as if she really does negotiate with the supernatural in her spare time.

The only thing I think could have been done a tad better was Underhill. I'm all for mysticism and secrecy, but trying to decipher the who and what of Underhill was a bit confusing. Sometimes it was a she, then an it and often a thing. Is it a place, more than one place or just a fae unto itself. I believe the latter was the actual answer, however I do think a better explanation would have simplified the matter.

Saying that I always enjoy the extra supernatural mile Briggs is willing to go for her stories. She has managed to keep the Mercy Thompson series fresh and intriguing, despite this being the ninth book in the series.

As always this was a great read and a highly recommended one.

Buy Fire Touched at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

The title couldn't be more apt, the story certainly unravels like a spool of thread. Isn't that the way life is and why it often appears as if just a moment has passed when in reality is actually days, months and years.

For me this story was about the inevitability of old age. Almost a rite of passage.

The reader meets Abby and Red in the here and now and also gets to follow their story from the past to the present. The story of how they met and built their life, home and family together. Central to the story is the house they live in and their children.

Abby and Red have gotten to an age where they need some assistance and care. Their children wander between falling over themselves to help and trying to avoid the obvious issues.

This causes a lot of friction between certain members of the family. Old jealousy and rivalry surfaces and creates even bigger cracks within the family.

Isn't there a Denny in nearly every family? The sibling who lives disconnected from everyone else by choice, and yet still manages to blame the entire family for his lack of connection. I found his character quite intriguing, especially when he started to try and call out the cuckoo in the nest. His jealousy and sudden interest in asserting his authority and place in the family causes a lot of turmoil in the family.

Reading this is like standing outside, peering in through the kitchen window and watching a family from the outside. It isn't written with any dramatic soap opera like surprises or deep dark secrets. It's just like any old family with petty arguments, responsibilities and complicated relationships.

Buy A Spool of Blue Thread at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Tough Justice Exposed (part 1 of 8) by Carla Cassidy

A serial split between four authors starting with Carla Cassidy and Tough Justice: Exposed part 1.

One book written by multiple authors can be an eye-opener in more ways than one. It will either work or fail abysmally. What it can do, if it's done well, is introduce readers to the writing styles and individual creativity of each author.

What is absolutely imperative is that the first part of a serial draws the reader in, in a way that compels them to go looking for the next part. Does Carla Cassidy succeed at that? Well I believe she has.

Lara finds herself and her identity exposed to the world when she talks an apparent suicide down off a ledge. Little does she now that her instinct to help actually plays right into the hands of the people she wants to steer clear of. Almost as if the entire scenario was a set-up and not just another day at the office.

Exposed is an interesting start to this eight part serial.

If you would like to follow the series:
Tough Justice: Watched part 2 by Tyler Anne Snell
Tough Justice: Burned part 3 by Carol Ericson
Tough Justice: Trapped part 4  by Gail Barett
Tough Justice: Twisted part 5 by Gail Barrett
Tough Justice: Ambushed part 6 by Carol Ericson
Tough Justice: Betrayed part 7 by Tyler Anne Snell
Tough Justice: Hunted part 8 by Carla Cassidy

Buy Tough Justice Exposed at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

You Were Here by Cori McCarthy

If you're looking for teenage angst in massive proportions then look no further.

Years after losing her brother Jake to a freak accident, Jaycee spends her time pushing boundaries and limits. She has stepped into his shoes and has become a daredevil, then again perhaps she is just careless.

She spends her time retracing his dares and stunts in an attempt to recreate a feeling or sense of him being there with her.What is it exactly Jaycee is hoping to achieve, an eery ghostly or soul connection with Jake? It almost seems as if she is suffering from a bizarre type of survivors guilt.

Along for the ride is the merry band of odd-ball friends. Each one of them shares a connection to her dead brother in their own way.
The fallout from his accident has had disastrous consequences, especially for Jaycee and her family. Indeed the entire story revolves around the why how and who of it all. The other focal point is on the relationships, heartache and friendships in this close-knit group of young people.

I thought it was far too hysterical, angst-filled and lacking in any real depth. It was a missed opportunity to make it a memorable novel about grief, the aftermath of a senseless death and the repercussions for those left behind. Surprising considering the issues McCarthy manages to throw in there almost as an afterthought. Abuse, sibling rivalry, selective mutism, mental health and grief are just a few.

Will it appeal to younger readers and teens? Probably.Certainly for readers looking for a squee instead of something other than a superficial read. If McCarthy forgoes the necessity of producing a book aimed at ticking all the boxes and takes her themes to a deeper level then she could quite possibly produce a read everyone will remember.

Buy You Were Here at Amazon UK, Amazon com or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Linda, As in the Linda Murder by Leif G. W. Persson

As I mentioned in a previous review, I was initially interested in these books after watching the US TV series Backstrom, which is based on the Bäckström books by Leif G.W. Persson.

In the television series Bäckström is portrayed as socially awkward, rude, impetuous, a rule-breaker, sloppy, lazy and bit of a detective genius. He still has a soft side though, although it doesn't come out very often.

In the books Bäckström is a bigot, a homophobe, a racist, he is rude, thinks rules don't apply to him, is lazy and he often takes the credit when others do his job well. At least in this case he does. There isn't really anything likeable about the guy. Frankly I am surprised he doesn't get his teeth knocked in at least weekly, but then again a lot of his conversations are inner dialogues with himself.

Just to put his ego a little into perspective, he calls his appendage his super salami. He also expects others to be in awe and grateful when his it shows interest in someone.

Persson seems to create a lot of superfluous threads, that appear to have no other purpose but to fill pages. The case and plot also appear to lack any kind of structure, however I wonder if that was the intention.

Persson is a profiler and well-equipped to write from experience and put a realistic spin on everything. Perhaps the needle in the haystack scenario is a much more precise description of a crime like this. No solutions, suspects or perpetrator, despite testing hundreds of DNA profiles. Sometimes you get a lucky break, make a connection or find the needle and other times you don't.

It is Nordic Noir in every sense of the word and is certainly worth the reading experience.

Buy Linda, as in the Linda Murder at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

Ambitious in length, perhaps to the detriment of the story, because at times it felt as if Liu was filling in spaces with superfluous scenes.

For me it lacked a certain je ne sais quoi I expect from high fantasy, and it felt disjointed or disconnected at times.

The characters main purpose seemed to be to propel the story forwards, as opposed to them being so developed that the reader is interested in what happens to them next. A bit like props.

I was also surprised by the lack of female characters and the few that did appear were delegated to the role of concubine, mother, mistress and wife. Then again I suspect this is also the case when retelling old Chinese tales of historical triumphs and defeats. Only the leaders and warriors tend to make a mark and be worthy of mention. A cultural aspect rather than a specific plot deficit.

Kuni and Mata  are really two sides of the same coin. The only difference between them is one is honest about wanting complete power and the other tries to kid himself into thinking he doesn't.

Whilst I can't fault the beautiful descriptions and the complicated layering of social etiquette and standing, there is something missing between those elements other than just lack of character development, and it being a great read.

Buy The Grace of Kings at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.