Review: Mercury Striking by Rebecca Zanetti

 

Title: Mercury Striking {The Scorpius Syndrome #1}

Author: Rebecca Zanetti

Published: Zebra: Kensington Jan 2016

Status: Read from January 28 to 29, 2016 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

A fast paced, action packed dystopian romance, Mercury Striking is the first in a series from Rebecca Zanetti.

After the world is devastated by a mutated alien virus that usually either kills it’s victims or turns them into psychotic killers, Lynn Harmony, a former director at the CDC, is probably the only person left alive who can find a cure. She desperately needs information from a lab in Los Angeles but to get there she has to safely traverse the dangers of the lawless country while eluding the President’s men and then beg favour from Jax Mercury – nicknamed the King of L.A.

Zanetti has created a rich and intriguing world, the population of America all but decimated by the Scorpius Syndrome. Of the few that survive the virus most become ‘Rippers’, uncontrollable serial killers, but a handful recover most of whom develop varying degrees of sociopathic behaviour.

Small enclaves of survivors fight to endure the destruction of society and its infrastructure across the US including the stronghold ‘Vanguard’ in L.A. led by ex special ops soldier and former gang member, Jax Mercury who protects a group of around 500 men, women and children.

Jax is the only one placed to help Lynn find ‘Myriad’ and complete an important task but with the stain of her glowing blue heart and a presidential bounty on her head she is taking a huge risk when she seeks his help. Jax grants her request for asylum under strict conditions as eager as she to find a cure, but neither is prepared for the relationship that develops between them or the consequences of their relationship.

This is story with plenty of grit, involving plenty of action including deadly firefights and chases, and with some brutal scenes of violence and death, but at its heart Mercury Striking is a romance. . It’s all very ‘alpha male’ meets ‘feisty damsel in distress’ but I enjoyed the development of their relationship and the physical intimacy between Lynn and Jax sizzles (though I really could have done without the spanking scene).

The secondary characters, both allies and enemies, add interest and breadth to the story. I’m guessing that Raze and Vivienne will be the couple to feature in the next book to continue the series.

A quick, exciting, escapist read with an interesting premise and appealing characters, I enjoyed Mercury Striking and I’ll be looking for the next in The Scorpius Syndrome series.

 

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Review: Numbered by Amy Andrews & Ros Baxter

 

Title: Numbered

Author: Amy Andrews & Ros Baxter

Published: Harlequin MIRA AU Jan 2016

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Status: Read from January 26 to 29, 2016 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

‘Where are the damn tissues?’ is what I wrote when I finished Numbered by authors Ros Baxter and Amy Andrews.

When twenty nine year old Poppy Devine finds a lump in her breast she decides to get a jump on her bucket list, and surprises herself by crossing off three items in one day – Number one: Jump out of a plane, Number ten: Have sex with a stranger, Number twelve: Eat a Mexican meal.

Numbered is an emotive story, the tragedy of Poppy’s terminal diagnosis can’t fail to tug at the heart strings, but it is ultimately a celebration of life as Poppy with the support of her best friend Julia and no-longer-a-stranger ‘Ten’ (aka Quentin Carmody) endeavour to fulfil her bucket list before her time runs out.

Most of the story is told from the alternating perspectives of Julia and Quentin. Julia is both furious and devastated when her best friend is diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer and is determined that Poppy will beat it. In the meantime she will do everything she can to ensure Poppy has whatever she wants, she just doesn’t think that Poppy is making a wise choice in keeping Mr-Rock-God-Surfer-Boy-Football-Legend around. Twenty two year old musician/short order cook Quentin Carmody has never had a relationship that has lasted longer than a few weeks but he’s found something special with Poppy, both in and out of bed, and he’s determined not to let her go.

Numbered is as much a story about they way in which Julia and Quentin cope with Poppy’s inevitable death, more perhaps, than it is about Poppy’s courageous last days. I loved Julia’s feisty spirit and take no prisoners attitude, and the way in which Quentin sees past Poppy’s illness. Both strong personalities, Julia and Quentin want what is best for Poppy but they don’t always agree on what that is or how to make it happen. The bickering between them is often hilarious, providing much needed light relief, but is clearly edged with the pain and grief they feel.

Beautifully written with heart and humour, Numbered is a poignant yet life affirming novel about friendship, love, hope, grief and redemption, a wonderful read that will likely leave you smiling through your tears.

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Also by Amy Andrews & Ros Baxter

Review: Night Study by Maria V Snyder

 

Title: Night Study {Soulfinders #2; Study#5; The Chronicles of Ixia #9}

Author: Maria V Snyder

Published: Harlequin MIRA Jan 2016

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Status: Read from January 25 to 26, 2016 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

Shadow Study ended on a cliffhanger so I’ve been looking forward to Night Study, the second installment in the Soulfinders trilogy, the fifth book in the ‘Study’ series, and the eighth installment in ‘The Chronicles of Ixia’ series.

I don’t want to spoil the many surprises Night Study has in store for fans with a lot of personal upheaval for Yelena and Valek against the background of escalating tension between Sitia and Ixia.

Perhaps it’s enough to say there is plenty of excitement and action – a terrible conspiracy is discovered, and there are some game changing moments for several of the characters. I raced through the book caught up in the adventure and mystery, entertained by the humour and made breathless by the emotion.

A great read for fans like myself, I’m looking forward to (and slightly dreading) the epic conclusion in Dawn Study.

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Review: Summer Harvest by Georgina Penney

 

Title: Summer Harvest

Author: Georgina Penney

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin Jan 2016

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Status: Read from January 24 to 25, 2016 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

“‘A ticket to Australia,’ she said faintly.’Wonderful Gran, Louis, thank you so much.’ She forced her mouth to curve upwards into something resembling a smile.’This is great. Just great.'”

When Beth Poole’s grandmother gifts her an airline ticket from Yorkshire to Western Australia for her birthday she’s reluctant to vacation in a country in which every living thing seems to be lethal. Nevertheless, Beth books a months stay in a holiday cottage in George Creek looking forward to a few weeks of peace and quiet.

Loosely linked to Georgina Penney’s previous novels, Irrepressible You and Fly In Fly Out, Summer Harvest is a lovely contemporary romance novel set in the the south west winery region of Australia.

The focus of the story is on the relationship that develops between Beth and Clayton Hardy, whose family owns the winery next door to where Beth is staying. They enjoy an intimate holiday fling which becomes complicated when Beth reveals a secret she has been keeping. An additional subplot involves a fractious relationship between Clayton’s father, Rob Hardy and new winery hire, Gwen Stone, who have a history neither are willing to disclose. Both plotlines also explore the themes of loss, grief and moving on.

The characters are well drawn. Beth is a strong character, having survived the loss of her family and the desertion of her husband, as well as breast cancer, and Clayton is an appealing lead. I enjoyed the supporting characters including Beth’s outspoken grandmother Violet and Angie, the matriarch of the Evangaline Rest Winery, chatty Laura and her cheeky brother Jeff. Fred, the perpetually stoned farm hand, is good for a laugh too.

Penney’s writing style is warm, I enjoyed the very Aussie humour and the witty dialogue. The emotions are believable, the intimate scenes between Beth and Clay are well written and the story is well paced.

Summer Harvest is an engaging read and the ending satisfied the romantic in me.

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Review: Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty

 

Title: Rain Dogs {Sean Duffy #5}

Author: Adrian McKinty

Published: Allen & Unwin Jan 2016

Status: Read from January 14 to 17, 2016 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Adrian McKinty gives DI Sean Duffy another ‘locked room’ mystery to solve in his fifth Irish police procedural novel, Rain Dogs.

“No note, a missing notebook, a shoe on the wrong foot.”

When the shattered body of an English journalist is found in the locked grounds of Carrickfergus Castle, it is assumed the young woman committed suicide but something is not quite right and Duffy can’t leave it alone.

With the patient assistance of Lawson and McCrabban the Irish detective unravels a shocking conspiracy with roots in the highest echelons of power spanning three countries. It’s an interesting puzzle solved by Duffy’s intuition, dogged investigative skills, and disregard for authority, which I enjoyed trying to figure out. Lily Bigelowe’s death also pits Duffy against an old friend leading to a life and death confrontation.

Set against the Belfast’s “Troubles’ and referencing real events, this story, as are McKinty’s others, is well grounded in time and place. Riot police are a necessity at every public event and as a matter of course Duffy checks under his car every day for a bomb. The wintry weather underscores the bleak social and political atmosphere, and Duffy’s dismal personal life.

Madness, rain, Ireland, it all fits.”

I’m enjoying this gritty series, entertained by Duffy’s dark wit and the strong, interesting plots. I’m looking forward to the next.

 

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Review: Confucius Jane by Katie Lynch

 

Title: Confucius Jane

Author: Katie Lynch

Published: Forge Books Jan 2016

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Status: Read from January 22 to 22, 2016 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Confucius Jane is an engaging contemporary romance novel from debut author Katie Lynch.

It’s from the office window of her uncle’s fortune cookie factory that aspiring poet Jane first spies the blonde haired woman who regularly lunches at the noodle shop across the street but it’s only at the repeated urging of her 11 year old cousin Minette she finally introduces herself. Sutton St James is just weeks away from finishing her medical studies and is anxious about taking the next step in her career, she doesn’t have time for a new relationship, but is disarmed by Jane’s friendly approach.

The physical attraction between the couple is strong, illustrated by several steamy intimate scenes later on. And though they have very different backgrounds and ambitions, it is obvious as they get to know one another that Jane is the ying to Sutton’s yang.

Issues common to any relationship are explored such as trust, independence and commitment, and as expected in a romance novel, Lynch puts several obstacles in the couples path, the most challenging when Sutton is faced with a devastating family crisis. Lynch also touches on some more serious issues including medical ethics, Multiple Sclerosis and media exploitation. There is also a hint of Chinese mysticism related to the fortunes Jane writes.

Set in New York’s Chinatown, Lynch’s vivid portrayal of its community, from the people to its crowded streets and stores, are charming. Foodies will enjoy the delicious descriptions of fragrant noodles and hot Chinese dumplings, and may even be tempted to try fried chicken feet.

In general the writing is of a good standard, and I enjoyed Jane and Sutton’s flirty banter, though some of the dialogue doesn’t ring quite true, veering into cliched sentimentalism on occasion. The pacing is appropriate and the story concludes with a satisfying HEA.

Confucius Jane is the first commercial romance novel I have read featuring a lesbian relationship, and I found it to be an enjoyable read.

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Review: Hold On To Me by Victoria Purman

 

Title: Hold On to Me {Boys of Summer #4}

Author: Victoria Purman

Published: Harlequin MIRA Jan 2016

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Status: Read from January 20 to 22, 2016 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Hold On To Me is another sweet and sexy contemporary romance in Victoria Purman’s ‘Boys of Summer’ series.

Set on the Fleurieu Peninsula of South Australia, this novel features Luca Morelli, the younger brother of Anna from Our Kind of Love, and local boutique owner Stella Ryan. The pair meet when ‘Style by Stella’ is destroyed by fire and Anna insists her brother, a contractor, helps her rebuild.

The chemistry between the characters is obvious from their first meeting, despite the age difference (Luca is 6 years younger than her). At 29 and still establishing his new business, Luca hasn’t given much thought to settling down but he is intrigued by the feisty, if prickly, Stella. While he is one of the least complicated heroes of this series, Stella is perhaps the most complex heroine. Fiercely independent, a tumultuous childhood and a devastating betrayal has ensured she trusts no one. She is certain she isn’t interested in any type of relationship, but Luca slowly wears down her defenses, and Stella is eventually forced to confront her demons.

I love that Julia and Ry (Nobody But Him), Lizzie and Dan (Someone Like You) and Anna and Joe (Our Kind of Love) play a part in this story and I was glad for the opportunity to revisit the beautiful coast of Adelaide.

I enjoyed losing myself in the romance, drama, humor and heat of Hold On To Me and am happy to recommend it.

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Also by Victoria Purman on Book’d Out

 

 

Review: Try Not To Breathe by Holly Seddon

 

Title: Try Not To Breathe

Author: Holly Seddon

Published: Corvus Jan 2016

Status:  Read from January 19 to 20, 2016 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Try Not to Breathe is Holly Seddon’s debut novel, an interesting story of psychological suspense which has been picked up by publishers worldwide.

The story unfolds through the perspectives of three main characters; Alex Dale -a barely functioning alcoholic working as a freelance journalist, Amy -who has lain comatose for fifteen years after a brutal attack by an unidentified assailant, and Jacob -Amy’s teenage sweetheart who has never quite been able to let her go. Their lives become entwined when Alex, writing a story about a medical breakthrough in communicating with patients in a persistent vegetative state, recognises Amy from the reports of the crime at the time, and becomes obsessed with her story.

Slowly Seddon allows Alex to unravel the mystery by digging through media and crime reports and speaking with Amy’s family and friends. Despite his misgivings, Jacob, Amy’s boyfriend at the time of the attack, agrees to cooperate with Alex. He has secretly been visiting Amy regularly for the last decade and now with his wife about to give birth to their first child is desperate for closure.

There are a number of red herrings in the plot though honestly it’s not difficult to guess the identity of Amy’s attacker fairly early on. Still the author maintains the general tension well as Alex pieces the circumstances together.

Seddon’s characterisation of Alex is the star of this novel. Deeply flawed, Alex is an alcoholic whose drinking has destroyed her marriage, career and friendships. She devotes a few hours every morning to her freelance work and then begins drinking at noon til she passes out, waking up with soiled sheets and little memory of her nights, to repeat the cycle again. As Alex delves into Amy’s life she is forced to exert more control over her drinking if she has any hope of seeing justice done.

Amy’s dreamy, confused narrative meanwhile lends a real sense of poignancy to the story and ensures the reader doesn’t forget the reality of the tragedy. And though Amy’s possible level of awareness is in reality unknowable, her plight is heart wrenching.

Try Not to Breathe (though I’m at loss to explain the relevance of the title) is an impressive debut novel with an intriguing premise and well drawn characters. I’m looking forward to seeing how this author develops.

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Review: Desert Flame by Janine Grey

 

Title: Desert Flame

Author: Janine Grey

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin Jan 2016

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read on January 19, 2016 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Desert Flame is a contemporary novel of romantic suspense set in rural Australia from author Janine Grey.

Eliza Mayberry is stunned when she learns her late father’s company is near bankrupt. With little left of her former life of privilege except the company name, ‘KinSearchers’ Eliza agrees to assist the firms single remaining client who wants Eliza to meet his long lost great nephew. Eliza’s search leads her to an opal claim near Lightning Ridge in outback New South Wales where she meets the disturbingly attractive Fingal McLeod, who couldn’t be less interested in reuniting with the family who abandoned he and his mother.

Fin’s focus is on his search for the rare Dark Flame opal to provide security for his ailing mother but Eliza proves to be a distraction he can’t ignore. The relationship between Eliza and Fin is initially based on mutual attraction and lust, which soon develops into admiration and respect as they get to know one another. The development is perhaps a little rushed but I did enjoy the romance. There are several intimate encounters in the novel and I thought they were well written, offering something more interesting (especially that outdoor shower spectacle) than the standard soft focus bedroom scenes.

Several threads of mild suspense run through Desert Flame. The first involves the suspicious behaviour of Fin’s mother’s long term companion, the second a series of mishaps at the mine, and the third involves the fate of Logan McLeod, Fin’s deadbeat dad. Grey balances the multiple story arcs well with the burgeoning relationship, creating a novel with an engaging mix of drama, tension and romance.

Humour springs from the quirky townspeople of Helton, such as cheeky Mick and the brassy barmaid. I thought Grey’s vivid descriptions of the mine and its surrounds evoked the heat, dust and isolation of the region. The only real flaw perhaps was the pacing which I felt was a little slow at times.

A quick and pleasant read, I enjoyed Desert Flame and I’d recommend it to fans of the genre.

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Review: Splinter the Silence by Val McDermid

 

Title: Splinter the Silence {Tony Hill & Carol Jordan #9}

Author: Val McDermid

Published: Atlantic Press December 2015

Status: Read from January 13 to 14, 2016 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

“Men like him, they loved women. They understood the kid of life that suited women best. They knew what women really wanted. Proper women didn’t want to be out there in the world, having to shout the odds all the time. They wanted to build homes, take care of families, make their mark and exercise their power inside the home. Being women, not fake men.”

Val McDermid’s ninth novel, Splinter the Silence, reunites the formidable team of Carol Jordan and Tony Hill in the hunt for a stalker determined to teach feminists a lesson.

In the aftermath of the tumultuous events in The Retribution and Cross and Burn Carol Jordan has buried herself in rural Bradfield, spending her retirement renovating her late brother’s property and drinking far too much. When she finds herself arrested for DUI there is only one person she can ask for help, Tony Hill, who is determined to dry her out. In order to distract Carol from her demons, Tony raises his concerns about the recent suicides of two women who had been the victims of a barrage of online vitriolic and threats. What begins as an abstract exercise quickly develops into a legitimate case and when Jordan is offered the opportunity to come out of retirement to set up a ‘flying’ major case unit, she can’t resist. Calling on former colleagues including DS Paula McIntyre, computer whiz Stacey Chen and of course, profiler Tony Hill to join ReMIT, Carol and her new team dig deeper, identifying a cunning serial killer.

Splinter the Silence is evenly split between developing character and the investigative plot.

It’s been a tough year or so for Carol in particular, who has faced several professional and personal challenges. Despite choosing to retire, it’s obvious that left to her own devices she is spiralling downward, and she needs help to get it together.

Commonwealth Cover

Also very much in focus is the complicated relationship between Carol and Tony,

“She didn’t think there actually was a word for the complicated matrix of feelings that bound her to Tony and him to her. With anyone else, so much intimacy would inevitably have led them to bed. But in spite of the chemistry between them, in spite of the sparks and the intensity, it was as if there was an electrical fence between them. And that was on the good days.”

Readers familiar with the series will also appreciate catching up with Paula, Stacey, Ambrose and the introduction of new team members.

The investigation highlights a topical subject – that of the extreme cyber-harassment too often visited on women via social media. The ReMIT team tracks down some of the worst offenders who have hurled vile abuse and threats of violence at the victims in an effort to identify in what manner they may have contributed to their deaths as they try to formulate a case.

As their inquiry coalesces, McDermid gives the killer his own narrative to illuminate his motives and methods. While I think this reduces the tension somewhat, it does lend the mystery an interesting cat-and-mouse quality as the police team closes in.

Splinter in Silence is a well crafted tale from award winning McDermid. A strong addition to a popular series that fans should enjoy as I did, it’s not one for a new reader to start with though. I’m looking forward to further developments in the series.

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Also by Val McDermid


 

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