Review: Craven by Melanie Casey

 

Title: Craven {Cass Lehman and Detective Ed Dyson #2}

Author: Melanie Casey

Published: Pantera Press May 2014

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Status: Read from August 29 to 31, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Craven, by Melanie Casey, is the sequel to Hindsight, featuring Cass Lehman, a woman with the psychic gift of retrocognition, and South Australian police detective, Ed Dyson.

As the book opens we learn that Cass has taken the leap and left home, securing a teacher’s position at a college in Adelaide. Cass is hoping for a fresh start but during her very first lesson she is recognised by her students and almost immediately becomes a target of gossip and derision.
Ed is conspicuously absent, it seems their romance stalled in the intervening months, though we soon learn that Ed is also in Adelaide, working with a local command on a year long secondment, and when Cass’s car is painted in blood with ‘Freak’ scrawled across the windshield he is the first person she calls. Thrown together as Cass’s stalker grows more violent, Cass is inevitably drawn into Ed’s latest case – a search for a serial killer.

Though I still really like concept of this series I was disappointed by the execution of this novel. I had issues with the uneven pacing and with what I felt were several underdeveloped elements in the plot. There was too much focus on the mundane details of Ed’s often circular investigation, and the obnoxiousness of his new partner. The identification of the stalker taunting Cass seemed come from nowhere since he barely rated a mention in the story.

The killer did have an interesting story and his motivations were suitably dark and twisted. There were moments of high tension, though much of the real action is crammed into the last few chapters when Cass is once again at the mercy of an insane murderer.

Despite the flaws in Craven I am still intrigued by the potential of this series and I hope Casey regains her footing in the third installment.

 

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Review: Murder 101 by Faye Kellerman

 

Title: Murder 101 {Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus #22}

Author: Faye Kellerman

Published: William Morrow: HarperCollins September 2014

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Status: Read from August 28 to 29, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Edelweiss}

My Thoughts:

I have missed the last two books in the Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus series, largely because they have been released since I started blogging and my reading time has rarely since been my own, so I jumped at the chance to rejoin the series with Murder 101.

It’s been six months since Peter retired from the LAPD and he and Rina are now living in upstate New York, closer to their adult children. Peter is working for the local police force which is rarely troubled by anything more than drunken college students, while Rina has made herself at home within the community. When the body of a young coed is discovered brutally stabbed to death, Decker is the only member of the Greenbury Police with the experience to investigate. He quickly connects the dead woman to a recent theft from a crypt and, teamed with an obnoxious rookie, Tyler McAdams, Decker suddenly finds himself in the midst of a case involving stolen art, Russian assassins and international politics.

I so enjoyed reconnecting with the characters of this series, I love that Kellerman has aged them in ‘real time’…it has been 27 years since The Ritual Bath was first published. The children Decker and Rina share, including foster son Gabe, are now grown up and on their own, Decker’s old partner Marg has left the LAPD for quieter pastures and Decker and Rina are adjusting to the changes their move has wrought.

In this book Decker is partnered with Tyler McAdams, a Harvard graduate with a silver spoon in his mouth and a chip on his shoulder, who initially drives Peter crazy but eventually, with Decker’s gruff guidance, proves useful.

I wouldn’t expect anything less from Kellerman than a well crafted mystery which requires shoe leather, rather than luck, to solve. Decker’s investigation is all about following leads, face to face interviews and a bit of hard earned cop instinct. The murdered girl is the first homicide to occur in Greenbury in twenty years so it makes sense that Decker is placed in charge, and in his usual bulldog manner, Decker is determined to solve the case even when his life, and Rina’s and Tyler’s, are threatened.

Murder 101 is another well paced, solid installment in the Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus series, which is likely nearing its conclusion, but proves that Decker isn’t quite ready to give up his badge just yet.

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Review: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

 

Title:  Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Author: Haruki Murakami

Published: Harvill Secker: Random House August 2014

Status: Read from August 21 to 22, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Haruki Murakami in a Japanese author best known in western culture for the 2011 success of his epic dystopian novel,1Q84. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is his highly anticipated newest title.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is the story of a man who has never really recovered from being inexplicably exiled by a group of close friends he met in high school. Drifting through his life, engineer Tsukuru is now in his mid thirties, single and largely friendless, until he meets a woman who encourages him to confront his painful past.

Throughout Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, Murukami explores the themes of identity, friendship, alienation and mental health. Tsukuru views himself as having; “…no personality, no defined color. [With] nothing to offer to others…like an empty vessel”, and as such feels disconnected from other people and destined to be alone. This feeling can be traced back to the brutal abandonment of his friends and to redefine himself Tsukuru must resolve the lingering hurts and resentments.

I thought the symbolism in the novel was fairly heavy handed and the dream slips didn’t always make sense to me. I didn’t find the writing particularly special though I found it more accessible and grounded than I was expecting.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect from Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, not having read Murakami previously though I have read plenty of opinions about several of his earlier works, but I’m pretty sure this wasn’t quite it. Essentially this seems to me to be lad lit (think Nick Hornby), perhaps given gravitas primarily because the protagonist, and the author, is Japanese. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the story of Tsukuru’s journey to make peace with his past and redefine his sense of self, but I was largely underwhelmed by the whole thing.

 

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***

 

 

Review: I Work at a Public Library by Gina Sheridan

 

Title: I Work at a Public Library: a collection of crazy stories from the stacks

Author: Gina Sheridan

Published: Adams Media July 2014

Status: Read on August 17, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Edelweiss}

My Thoughts:

I Work at a Public Library is, as subtitled, a collection of crazy stories from the stacks, written and curated by librarian Gina Sheridan, based on her blog http://iworkatapubliclibrary.com/.

With chapters organised using the Dewey Decimal system, Gina Sheridan shares the amusing, touching and just plain weird experiences she, and others, have encountered in their work as a librarian.

The anecdotes are gleaned from overheard conversations, patron questions, observations and encounters with the people of all ages who visit the library for all sorts of reasons, sometimes not meaning to be there at all.

This short book is sure to raise a smile and a little consternation, from any one who has spent anytime in a library.

“Adult patron to librarian: “I was told to read three books. I think one is small and blue. Can you tell me which ones they are?”

I Work at a Public Library is available to purchase from

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Review: New Orleans Requiem by Don J. Donaldson

 

Title: New Orleans Requiem {Andy Broussard/Kit Franklyn #4}

Author: Don J. Donaldson

Published: Astor+Blue February 2013

Status: Read from August 15 to 16, 2014 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

New Orleans Requiem is the fourth book in Don J. Donaldon’s mystery series featuring chief medical examiner Andy Broussard and Kit Franklyn, a consultant psychologist for both the ME’s office and the NOPD.

The story opens with Andy and Kit being called to a crime scene in the New Orleans French Quarter. The body of a man has been discovered in a locker in Jackson Square, stabbed through the heart, with an eyelid removed and a newspaper propped on his chest with four scrabble letters taped to it. When a second body is found two days later with identical wounds, a newspaper and three scrabble letters, Andy and Kit fear a serial killer is stalking the town. Broussard and Kit are taken aback when what little evidence they have points to the killer being a colleague with a grudge, but with hundreds of forensic specialists in town attending the Annual American Academy of Forensic Science conference, narrowing the field of suspects isn’t going to be easy.

An interesting blend of police procedural and medical thriller, New Orleans Requiem is an enjoyable novel. The case at the heart of this mystery is well plotted and believable and the identity of the murderer came as a surprise. The pacing is good, with the duration of the conference providing a natural time frame in which to solve the mystery.

Broussard and Franklyn are well developed characters. An affable man with a large appetite, Broussard is an experienced and well regarded ME. Kit considers Andy both a colleague and a mentor. She has good instincts and is both resourceful and intelligent. Their professional skills complement each other and they make a good team.

First published in the early 1990’s the absence of ‘Google’ and cell phones are evident in some aspects of the novel but the story doesn’t feel dated. I’d recommend New Orleans Requiem to readers who enjoy procedural mysteries, especially those with a forensic focus (think Quincy, ME or CSI).

New Orleans Requiem  is available to purchase from

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Learn more about Don J. Donaldson and the Andy Broussard/Kit Franklyn series in a  Q&A with the author posted on Book’d Out earlier today

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Review: Nest by Inga Simpson

 

Title: Nest

Author: Inga Simpson

Published: Hachette July 2014

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Status: Read from July 26 to 27, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

After a relationship breakdown and the death of her mother, artist Jen Vogel has taken refuge in her childhood hometown. Here she is content to sketch and paint the birds that visit her garden, care for the land that embraces her property and tutor a talented local teen to supplement her income, but unpleasant memories are revived when a young girl goes missing on her way home from school. Nearly four decades earlier, Jen’s best friend Michael, and then her father, disappeared without a trace within days of each other and still there are no answers to what became of them.

Nest is a gentle book, sharing the quiet rhythms of Jen’s days and the turbulent memories of her past. It explores the themes of loss, grief, healing and growth, a cycle echoed in the environment in which Jen lives.

The mystery of the missing children, and Jen’s father’s whereabouts, adds interest and a frisson of tension to what is otherwise a fairly introspective narrative.

The language is evocative, with vivid observations of the flora and fauna that surrounds Jen’s bush haven. Jen has a particular fascination with birds, with robins being her favourite.

“The robins arrived last, splashing and fluffing, sending the other birds off. Their golden yellow was luminous at dusk, as if carrying the last gleams of the sun. Only now did they sing, with their sweet, piping whistle, and first thing in the morning. Their song was best suited to dusk and dawn – the in-between.”

Nest is a self possessed, thoughtful novel from Inga Simpson, author of Mr Wigg.

 

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Review: Deadly Obsession by Karen M Davis

 

Title: Deadly Obsession {Detective Lexi Rogers #2}

Author: Karen M Davis

Published: Simon & Schuster August 2014

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Status: Read from August 05 to 07, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Deadly Obsession is the second crime novel from Karen M Davis to feature Detective Lexie Rogers.

In the early hours of the morning a woman’s body, clutching a long stemmed red rose, is discovered on Clovelly Beach. The empty packet of OxyContine in her pocket suggests a drug overdose as the cause of death but Lexie is sure the scene is staged. When the initial stages of the investigation implicates her ex-husband in the woman’s murder, Lexie is shocked, but as she and her partner, Brad Sommers, continue to dig they unearth a worrying chain of connections that for Lexie are too close to home.

Deadly Obsession is, in part, a police procedural, exposing Lexie and Brad’s investigation as they chase leads and search for evidence to identify the elusive killer, but also includes elements of psychological suspense, action and a touch of romance. The story is tightly plotted, though I thought the links between Lexie and the key characters were just a little too neat and convenient. My early suspicions regarding the murderer were proved right but I was swayed by the red herrings laid down by Davis at times and surprised by some of the connections that were eventually revealed.

sinister-intent-davisI am glad that Lexie seems less anxious in Deadly Obsession. Though still at risk from panic attacks related to previous events, and distressed by her recent break up with Josh (Detective Josh Harrison) who fled to Bali to bury himself in the bottle after the death of his sister, Jenna, Lexie is stronger and more focused. She works the case with attention to detail and stands up for herself against Brad’s doubts. I didn’t agree with all of her decisions though, some of which, like not reporting the threats made against her, seemed a bit disingenuous for a police officer.

While it isn’t strictly necessary to have read Sinister Intent before embarking on this sequel, I think it would be worth your time. A solid example of Australian crime fiction, Deadly Obsession is an enjoyable and engaging read and I look forward to seeing how Davis continues to develop the series.

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Review: The Girl in 6E by A.R. Torre

 

 

Title: The Girl in 6E

Author: A.R. Torre

Published: Orion: Hachette July 2014

Status: Read on July 28, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

The Girl in 6E by A.R. Torre caught my attention with its provocative premise. As ‘Jessica Reilly’, a 19 year old college coed, 21 year old Deanna Madden earns $6.99 a minute meeting the virtual sexual fantasies of the men and women willing to pay for her time. This allows her to support herself, utilising online shopping to organise regular deliveries of supplies ensuring Deanna never has to leave her apartment. For to do so could be dangerous… not for Deanna, but for anyone who might cross her path.

Torre’s unusual protagonist, Deanna, has an obsessive desire to commit murder (Torre uses the term ‘cruorimania’), and believes she is a threat to anyone whom she might come into contact with. She has already killed once, the details of which remain concealed for much of the novel, and fantasises about doing so again. This explains her self imposed imprisonment and her shunning of human interaction.

Deanna is content with the arrangements she has made to isolate herself but her carefully constructed haven begins to destabilise firstly when her regular delivery guy, Jeremy, becomes too curious about the girl in 6E, and then when the sexual obsessions of a client she knows as Ralph begins to concern her. Ralph seems fixated on a single fantasy featuring a young girl called Annie, and when Deanna learns a 7 year old girl of the same name has been abducted, she is convinced Ralph is responsible and comes up with a plan to allow her to rescue the child and slake her blood lust at the same time.

It really isn’t until almost half way through that either of the main plot line’s, Jeremy’s intrusion and Annie’s abduction, gain momentum. Much of the first half of the book involves Deanna introducing us, in the first person, to her narrow world, and providing an explicit glimpse into the professional world of ‘camming’.

I have to admit I’m left feeling a little unsure about The Girl in 6E overall. I found it interesting in many ways, and was never tempted to put it aside, but I can’t say I enjoyed it exactly, and I doubt I will bother with the sequel.

FYI: The Girl in 6 E was originally self published as “On Me, In Me, Dead Beneath Me”, though the story has since been heavily revised for traditional publication.

 

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Review: Better Homes and Hauntings by Molly Harper

 

Title: Better Homes and Hauntings

Author: Molly Harper

Published: Pocket Books July 2014

Read an excerpt

Status: Read from July 21 to 22, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

I’ve enjoyed Molly Harper’s sense of fun and humour in her Jane Jameson series and Naked Werewolf series so I leapt at the opportunity to read this new stand alone novel.

Better Homes and Hauntings is a paranormal romance/mystery that is set in a dilapidated haunted mansion on a private island off the coast of Newport. Crane’s Nest is the ancestral home of young software billionaire Deacon Whitney and despite a history of tragedy and hauntings he decides to renovate the mansion, hiring a team of professionals including his best friend and architect, Jake, Nina, a landscaper, and professional cleaner and organiser, Cindy. The project requires them all to remain on the island during the renovation and ignore the weird vibes and frightening dreams the house seems to provoke but that grows increasingly difficult as a malevolent spirit begins to make its presence known. Deacon’s cousin, Dotty is convinced that solving the mystery surrounding the death of her great-great grandmother, Catherine Whitney, will put the spirit to rest but they need to do so quickly, before history repeats itself.

Harper finds a good balance between creepy ghost story and lighthearted romance in Better Homes and Hauntings. There were moments when my skin prickled with goosebumps and times when I was smiling broadly at the snarky banter between her characters.

The mystery is well thought out, with missing diaries, stolen jewels and a ghostly murderer to find. Harper also integrates a real world element in the form of Nina’s vengeful ex-boyfriend, intent on sabotaging her success.

I though the mix of personalities worked well, the enforced isolation creating a quick and tight bond between the main characters. Two romances develop over the course of the novel, Deacon falls for Nina, while Jake is infatuated with Cindy. Both pairings are well suited and it is sweet to see them work things out.

A quick, light and engaging read, fans of Harper are sure to enjoy Better Homes and Hauntings and as a rare stand alone it’s a great way to test her appeal without committing to a series.

Better Homes and Hauntings is available to purchase from

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Review: The Queen of Tearling by Erika Johansen

 

Title: The Queen of Tearling {The Queen of Tearling #1}

Author: Erika Johansen

Published:  Bantam Press: Random House July 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from July 18 to 20, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Erika Johansen’s debut novel, The Queen of the Tearling, attracted notice months before its publication date. The film rights have already been bought by Warner Bros and Harry Potter actress Emma Watson has signed on as both executive producer, and its star.

The Queen of the Tearling is the first book in a trilogy featuring nineteen year old Kelsea Glynn, the newly revealed heir to the throne of Tearling. After a lifetime in hiding she must claim her birthright and defend her rule against her debauched uncle, corrupt officials and The Red Queen, a depraved sorceress who reigns the neighbouring land of Mortmesme.

In terms of plot there isn’t really much to distinguish this fantasy novel from those with similar tropes, but there is plenty of action with a surprisingly dark and gritty edge. Kelsea’s fight for her throne results in a wealth of political intrigue, involving spies at court, assassination attempts and attempts to circumvent Kelsea’s orders, which leads to multiple sword clashing confrontations. Magic shimmers in the air, but affords only a few its privileges, and there are also seeds of romance for Kelsea with a handsome rogue named Fetch.

Tearling is a realm rife with corruption, heavy with bureaucracy which favours the rich and exploits the poor. Initially I was puzzled by the setting but eventually figured out that despite the medieval detail, it is set not in the past, or an alternate universe, but the distant post-apocalyptic future of our own world. This creates an unusual landscape that blends a feudal society with reminders of modern life, which also embraces magic, but exactly how, and why, it came about is only hinted at.

I liked Kelsea well enough, she is a mixture of teenage insecurity, often naive and headstrong, but also compassionate, determined and well intentioned. She faces a myriad of ethical challenges with both the idealism and pragmatism of youth. I was a little disappointed at the emphasis both the author, and her character, place on appearance though.

The Queen of Tearling is an entertaining read and though it is not without its flaws as a novel, I can see its cinematic potential, and I’ll be interested to read its sequel.

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