Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl: A NovelOn the day of their 5th wedding anniversary Nick's wife Amy disappears. There are signs of a struggle at their home and she appears to have completely disappeared. As we've all been taught by endless TV crime series' the husband is always the main suspect, and Nick has some things he wants to hide. However he maintains his innocence despite a mounting pile of evidence, including Amy's diary which paints a picture of a turbulent marriage. Even his family starts to doubt him but there is more to the story than the police can see.

This book was a story of two parts, with the narrative switching between Nick and Amy throughout. It starts slowly painting the picture of a devoted young couple with a bright future. As their circumstances change so too does their relationship and it soon appears both have things to hide. In the second part of the book the pace really accelerates and the reader has to start questioning everything they believed at the start. There are twists and turns aplenty and I ploughed on through to see whether justice would be served. I found it a page turner and enjoyed the rather warped ride.

The characters are a motley crew, all of them with their own personality flaws. Amy appears to be a complete perfectionist and control freak. Nick, who starts off as a likeable guy, is shown to be a less than perfect husband. Amy's parents have more emotional investment in their successful fictional character Amazing Amy, who netted them a fortune and always trumped their daughter, achieving all the things she didn't. None of them were particularly sympathetic characters but at least Nick and Amy are very self-aware and this made me really wonder about what would happen after the book draws to a close.

Although Gillian Flynn has received much critical acclaim she is new to me, and on the basis of this book I would definitely go away and look for more of her work.

Format: Kindle, Netgalley
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson 
My Rating: 4*

Friday, 25 May 2012

Growing Up Wired by David Wallace Fleming

Growing up WiredFrom Amazon - "Can meaningful relationships survive a world of instant gratification? While on his computer, Victor Hastings admires the provocative pictures of the girl he's dating. Meanwhile, she's posting more and more on Facebook and all the social sites. Now everyone in his cramped college housing is competing for her attention. What kind of love is this? ...the wired kind. Growing up Wired - a coming-of-age, social media "love" story" 

This sounded like a parable for modern times and something that would provide some interesting thought provoking material. I like something a bit challenging so had high hopes for this book.

Victor is an Alpha boy, living in a frat house with other young men most of whom are far more adept with women than him. In the brave new age of the internet he passes his time surfing the web for porn. Soon many of his friends are browsing MySpace to find sexually suggestive pictures of the girls on campus. Victor is blamed for the frat house becoming insular and computer obssessed rather than full of visiting girlfriends. He is guided into a relationship with plenty of help from his more outgoing friends but finds himself questionning why she makes herself so available online yet so distant in person.

This book definitely gave me pause for thought, and made me think particularly about teenage girls I know who post pictures of themselves without apparently thinking about how wide the audience is. The world has changed with the advent of the internet and it's interesting to consdier how it is affecting some people's lives. However I found it took me a while to get into the book and when I did I couldn't really connect with the characters. They were a bit stereotypical and I didn't know enough about their backgrounds to begin to understand the main players. The story centres around the frat house which is something I know very little about as a Brit and perhaps that was part of the reason for the disconnect. While things happen in the book it felt like nothing really happened, and I was pleased when the narrative took the form of instant messages for a while as it picked up the pace a bit.

This book has some great reviews but I'm afraid the above combined with a sprinkling of typos meant it missed the spot for me.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 2*

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Steps to Heaven by Wendy Cartmell

Steps to HeavenThis book is the first in the new Sgt Major Crane series, introducing the reader to the British Army Special Investigation Branch detective based at Aldershot Garrison. Crane is investigating a particularly horrific murder/suicide and discovers the dead soldier has links to an evangelical church. He is convinced there is more to the story than a soldier who returned from Afghanistan tormented by what he saw there. He is forced to drop the case until another one rears it's head with uncanny similarities. Meanwhile at home his relationship with his wife is suffering as he struggles with whether he wants to bring a child into a world like his.

I really liked the slightly different setting for this crime thriller and I find the topic of cults and less than mainstream religions quite intriguing. This set it up to be a book I could really enjoy. The story moved at a reasonable lick and some of the descriptions of the crime scenes were a bit gory if matter of fact, which is no bad thing in my opinion. I think there was room for a little more on the subject of how the dead soldiers became involved with the preacher who becomes of particular interest to Crane but otherwise the balance of providing information and progressing the plot was pretty good.

For about three quarters of the book I was really enjoying the read, and didn't want to put it down but Crane isn't always likeable and one particular revelation towards the end really affected the empathy I had with the character. It seemed either at odds with what had happened earlier or suggested he was a much darker character than I had thought. Whichever it was I felt it tainted the ending and I put the book down and started the review with a much lower rating in mind than I had expected from the bulk of the book.

I mostly liked this book but couldn't help feel such a level of distaste for Crane that it affected my overall enjoyment. Other people might have a completely different view on it and if you like a good crime thriller it's worth a look.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 3*

Friday, 18 May 2012


I missed out last week, being away visiting the in-laws but it's back to normal this week! I've had quite a busy couple of weeks on the book front, since last time I read and reviewed...

Beta by Stephen Brayton which introduces a new female PI
Matter of Faith by Brent Craig, a legal thriller
Powder Dreams by David Ward-Nanney, contemporary fiction
Hostile Witness by Rebecca Forster, another crime tale
What Smiled at Him by Colin Dodd, about two friends questionning their lives
When the River has Run by Lars Harssan, fantasy and
Infinite Sacrifice by L E Waters, historical fiction with an unusual twist

I also completed a book yesterday which I will try and post a review on tonight.

Over at GReads the TGIF question is:

A Book Blogger is Born: What made you decide to start your very own book blog?

I'd written the odd review before getting my Kindle, but once I got that and started getting active on Amazon's Kindle forum I realised how important reviews can be to new authors. An author who was active on the forums suggested it was a good way to support an author if you enjoyed their books, and that the natural progression from writing reviews on there was to start a blog. I'd never blogged before so started looking at some for inspiration and figured it was something I could do and would enjoy. I'm definitely the sort of person who likes to share their opinions and most of my friends and family have no interest in hearing about what I've been reading. The blog has definitely progressed in an organic kind of way as I've made tweaks and I've no doubt it'll keep changing.

Time to run, off to the library soon with the monkey so I best look lively! Have a great weekend everyone. 

TC xx

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Infinite Sacrifice by L E Waters

Infinite Sacrifice (Infinite Series, #1)When Maya dies she finds herself in somewhere akin to heaven. She is keen to be reunited with others she has lost but instead finds herself at the start of a journey, lead by her spirit guide Zachariah. Before she is able to move on she has to review her past lives and show she understands the lessons each incarnation should have taught her.

This is the start of a series and in this book Maya relives pasts as a High Priest in ancient Egypt, a Spartan mother hiding a secret, a young Irish boy captured by Vikings and a Doctor's wife in plague-ridden London. She must prove she has learnt one of the important lessons before experiencing more of her past lives. In each story there are other characters who re-appear, recognisable by minor physical characteristics. 

I have to admit I was both impressed and slightly concerned by the foreword. The author has a website which includes more detailed research about the facts behind the work, which I thought was a real positive, but it also mentioned that to prevent confusion from the intricate character histories there was a chart at the end of each life to help identify the characters. This sounded a bit disconcerting, being told up front I might struggle to keep up! As it happens I found that I was able to identify the main characters with no real problems and didn't need to keep trying to refer to the charts at all.

I really enjoyed this book. I'm a fan of historical fiction anyway and the idea of reincarnation is of interest, so I found this an interesting meld of the two. By the time I got to the end I was so engrossed with the progress through history that I'd almost forgotten about the context holding the stories together. Each life was full of interesting little details and mostly I was able to identify approximately where and when the life was unfolding without too much prompting from the author. Some of Maya's incarnations are more likeable than others but each has a good story to tell.

This was a very good read that made me think, and I thought the magical realism surrounding Maya's arrival in "heaven" and how the process she finds herself going through works was well handled where it could have been fudged. I would definitely read the next in the series, Infinite Devotion.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 4*

When the River has Run by Lars Harssan

When The River Has RunFrom Amazon.com "When the River has Run" is a fantasy tale without noble causes, kings and quests, and the fate of this fantasy world does not hinge on anyone's heroics. No prophesies foretell their fates, they are not secret heirs to powerful thrones, and they are not guaranteed a glorious victory, against all odds, in the finale. Hadralla is one such hapless character. He tends rabbits on the safe and sheltered islands. Until his mother tires of him, and ships him off to the mainland, to find real work. His uncle lives there, and together they scour the countryside for scrap metal. Their travels bring Hadralla riches, but also notoriety, and the Magistrates seek him out. They need a new breed of soldier for the coming war. Disease and roving bands of lepers have overrun the outer lands, and a great plague sweeps closer to the capital. After being recruited into an elite unit, Hadralla joins a bloody and misguided campaign to halt the spread of leprosy." 

This sounded like an unconventional fantasy tale and it certainly delivered on that promise. The element of adventure and battle is as large a part as the fantasy side of things. In fact it could almost verge into sci-fi territory being based on the idea of a group of soldiers capable of tackling an enemy because of their immunity to a fatal disease. I was struck in particular by the ending which had a completely different feel to it than I was expecting.

Hadralla starts off as a naive Islander who is initially enthralled by his new life. He may seem like a simple rabbit herder but shows his capabilities as he embraces his new role as a soldier. For me though this was a very plot driven tale and I didn't connect strongly with any of the characters.

This was a bit of a break from other books in the genre for me, and was definitely more gory than many, what with it's army of disintegrating lepers. An interesting and different read.

Format: E-book, review copy
My Rating: 3*

What Smiled at Him by Colin Dodd

Plenty of people in their twenties find themselves looking critically at their lives as they approach the milestone that is 30, and old school friends Lynn and Marv are no different. Lynn is still trying to make a career in the music industry but is finding tours of small venues less and less appealing. Marv is the sensible one, with a corporate career beckoning but he feels something is missing and relying on his company credit card on his travels is beginning to wear thin. 

What Smiled at HimCoincidence finds them both staying in the same place on the same night. In a drunken haze Lynn calls up Caroline, who previously dated both and lives nearby. After a night of drink and drugs Caroline and Marv start an affair. Marv is exhilarated at first but then she is arrested for the murder of her wealthy husband and young son. They find themselves doing a little investigating, and surreptitiously trying to help her while avoiding becoming too involved. This entanglement ultimately has a major impact on both men.

From the blurb I had been expecting something akin to a crime novel, but that part of the plot really takes a back seat to the relationships the men have, with each other and with the women in their lives. This threw me a little and the disconnect probably affected my appreciation of the book a bit. There are moments of drama and plenty of intrigue and I found the end kept me wondering. I found it hard to connect with either of the men or Caroline, maybe because of their slightly hedonistic approach to life.

This was a good read, and I found it interesting to see how the friends made some good and some terrible choices.

Format: Kindle , review copy
My Rating: 3*

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Hostile Witness by Rebecca Forster

Hostile Witness (Witness Series, #1)Josie Baylor-Bates has retreated from high profile criminal cases after successfully defending a woman who went on to kill her children after her acquittal. When an old college friend arrives at her door begging her to defend her daughter Josie intends to pass the case on to someone else but finds herself intrigued by her beautiful but delicate client. 16 year old Hannah is accused of killing her step-grandfather, a supreme court chief justice. Her mother and step-father seem to accept her guilt and are pushing to have her committed to a psychiatric facility. Josie though is determined to dig deeper and uncovers family, political and business tensions that all seem to have a bearing on the case.
This book is a real whodunnit and there are plenty of candidates for the role of the guilty party. There were enough twists and turns to keep me guessing and to keep me absorbed in the book. However some threads of the plot seemed to just fizzle out and I thought the author could have made more of the research Josie does into the victim's past conduct and Hannah's OCD and how it affects her behaviour. Josie begins to research the possibility that her OCD means she could not have started the lethal fire and destroyed the environment she was most comfortable in. However this line of enquiry becomes superseded by events and any in depth consideration of the subject is avoided. I also noticed a sprinkling of daft typos that need cleaning up.
I warmed to Josie who was a well defined lead protagonist. As well as her chequered legal career the reader finds out about her own troubled family past and her successes as a sportswoman. Josie finds herself questioning her own judgement to the point of almost alienating partner Archer which made her very human. Hannah is a vulnerable child but her outbursts made me unsure right up to the end about whether she was in fact guilty. It also made me think about how appropriate it is to treat a person of her age as an adult, but again this is a theme that could have been developed further.
Overall I really enjoyed this book which made for an easy crime read, and I would happily read further books in this series. At the moment this book is available for free on Amazon so if this is your genre pick it up!
Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 4*

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Powder Dreams by David Ward-Nanney

Powder Dreams: a NovelBo Grayson has spent eight years travelling around living the life of a ski bum. His prep school shrink refers to his lifestyle as "fantasyland" and warns against dedicating his life to finding fresh powder. Gradually, spurred on by new relationships and the success of old friends, Bo decides to become a serious grown up and becomes a Chicago trader in search of the really big money. However he has always been interested in psychology and eventually turns to a Jungian analyst to try and make sense of his life. 

I was initially attracted to this book as someone who had spent some time working in ski resorts. In fact the first part of the book was so familiar to me. Bo could have been any number of people I worked with in the past, and I remember sharing his musings about whether one should do what is expected; go to university, get a good job, buy a big house and have a family, or whether living on the breadline but having a lot of fun could be equally fulfilling. It was a vivid reminder of a very alluring lifestyle

The second part charts Bo's move into the "real" world and explores his relationships with old school friends. Some have been wildly successful in monetary terms but appear lacking in other ways. He dwells more and more on who he is and how he should be living his life, and in the third part he finally addresses all the internal conflicts causing his ongoing depression. I found the ideas on psychology interesting and presented in a way that was, to me with very limited knowledge on the subject, accessible. The latter parts had a very different feel to the first, probably a reflection on Bo's state of mind but it felt a little disconnected to me. This book was almost the negative image of Adelaide MacKenzie Fuss' The Watermen, which I read and reviewed last year. The themes are certainly similar, although this book tackles them in a more academic way.

I liked Bo and was able to empathise with his somewhat familiar dilemma early on in the book. As he knuckled down to life as a city trader I was interested to see whether he would end up with a seven figure salary and a trophy wife or whether he would choose a different measure of success. The supporting characters made for an interesting cast. I found myself compelled to pick the book up and keep reading to find out what would happen to more than one of them.

I enjoyed this read which provided a bit of snow covered escapism and some interesting psychology. I've struggled to decide what rating to give it, but decided that having to think about it rather than having a really strong positive reaction probably meant I should go with the rating given. A good piece of nicely written contemporary fiction.

Format: Kindle, review copy
Publisher: Mud Season Publishing
My Rating: 3*

Monday, 7 May 2012

Matter of Faith by Brent Craig

Matter of FaithI'm one of those readers who finds it easy to get into a rut, reading the same genre or author over and over. One of the authors I have read to death in the past is John Grisham, but lately I haven't read a lot of legal thrillers. Having had a long break I was instantly interested when I saw this book. The author's bona fides for the genre are enhanced by his years of experience as a prosecutor, defence attorney and latterly as a judge. 
Small town Alabama boy Jay Davis is a rookie lawyer who has returned to practice law in his quiet home town, rather than being lured away by bright lights and large paychecks. His introduction to legal practice seems relatively pedestrian until he is handed a high profile role in a high profile case. When two year old Faith disappears while her mother is working the little girl's new step-father becomes the prime suspect. The evidence begins to mount and with the public outraged it seems inevitable that he will be sentenced to death. Jay struggles with conflicting emotions, but is determined to uncover the truth.

I really liked this book. It is a pacey crime story with a charming main character and lots of Southern feel. Jay is close to his parents and fond of the place he grew up in. He's looking for love but serious about his career. He's almost too good to be true. I found myself feeling so sad for Faith's distraught mother April, and could well picture her grieving family. While the subject matter is gritty there was little in the way of graphic detail which was no bad thing. It wasn't a complicated read, for example the evidence didn't require long scientific explanations, but I didn't see the twist in the tail coming, which is always good. I sped through the book and was looking forward to seeing how the case would end.

Since I read this book the author has re-edited it, so while I would normally talk a bit about typos and formatting I think it's only fair here to say there were no big issues and that if refined further it should be a very polished product.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 4*

Friday, 4 May 2012

Beta by Stephen Brayton

BetaMallory Petersen is a hard hitting Private Investigator, quite literally as she is also a fourth degree black belt with her own Taekwondo school. Most of her cases are mundane and run of the mill; employee checks, suspicious spouses and so on. When a distraught mother appears at her office Mallory is drawn into an investigation that will put her in danger and show her the worst of mankind. 

Eight year old Cindy McGee has been kidnapped from play park. Mallory establishes from her contacts that local police have few leads and the FBI breathing down their necks, as the disappearance is one in a recent series. Her investigation quickly leads her to the dark world of child pornography. When the trail leads from Des Moines, Iowa to the Quad Cities she teams up with a Special Case Squad who have their own share of drudge work and a team leader who appears to appreciate Mallory and her slightly unorthodox methods. This tense thriller has the reader wondering whether she can find Cindy and who is behind the ring peddling young children like merchandise.

This book tackles a dark and emotive subject but does so in a way that provides enough detail to make the level of depravity clear, but without becoming too graphic. What is left unsaid is powerful enough. There are parts where the viewpoint switches from Mallory to Cindy, and through her eyes the horror of the situation becomes even more immediate. I enjoyed the tone Mallory adopts, reminding me slightly of old fashioned PI films. The narrative is fast paced and there is plenty of action as Mallory comes up against those who have secrets they would rather keep hidden. The ending reinforced feelings I was having throughout the book and was unexpected. Fortunately a hint of romance with an Adonis provides a bit of light relief.

I really enjoyed the characters, most of whom had some little quirk that made them endearing. At one point Mallory seemed a little too close to indestructible, even with her training in mind, so it was good to see she had a vulnerable side. I was intrigued by her serene assistant and amused by her snitch Willy and persistent suitor Brougham. As the book is described as "A Mallory Petersen Mystery" I'm very much hoping we will see further instalments which will reveal a bit more about her past and develop some of the characters in this book further.

I raced through this book, which in addition to the positives above was well formatted and virtually typo free. I'd be very happy to read more by this author in future.

Format: Kindle, review copy
Publisher: Echelon Press
My Rating: 4* 

TGIF round up

This week has been crazy so I'm glad it's finally Friday! This week I am joining in on Parajunkee's Social Hop, which connects bloggers on Twitter and Facebook. If you want to find me I am on both, I have a page and tweet.

Captain Corelli's MandolinFriday also means GReads TGIF meme. This week ginger is asking about literary vacations. If you could take a trip this summer to any place within a fictional book where would you go? I'm lucky that I've been able to travel quite a lot over the years. However one place I've never visited but would love to isn't too far away. Kefalonia is featured in Captain Corelli's Mandolin and between the book and the film I would love to visit the Greek islands. These days with a toddler in tow I probably wouldn't quite get my dream holiday lazing on the beach with a book or heading out diving but I'd still love to visit.

Because of continuous problems with my web access over the last couple of weeks (hopefully now resolved) I haven't done a round up for a while, so this is a longer list than usual! Since last time I have read and reviewed

Puzzlebook: 100 Puzzle Quizzes by the Grabarchuk family
The Redemption of Mr Sturlubok by Rudolf Kerkhoven and Daniel Pitts (choose your own ending)
Thief of Hope by Cindy Young-Turner (fantasy)
Wings of Freedom by Ratan Kaul (historical romance)
and welcomed Kristy K James on her blog tour for historical fiction Enza.

Time to go now, off to the library with Monkey in a bit to swap books and attend a story and singing session. Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

TC x

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Enza by Kristy K James

EnzaA big welcome to Kristy K. James who is on a blog tour right now, for her new book Enza! Set in the USA in 1918 a small town is focused on the fate of friends and relatives who are fighting in the trenches in the Great War. A more immediate threat is soon plaguing the town and tearing families apart. The seven strong Owens family is headed by a loving father and devoted mother. Daughter Elizabeth is dedicated to the Suffragette movement, trying her parents' patience almost as much as younger brother Johnathon who is convinced their German neighbour is a spy. Minister Colby Thornton and undertaker Marcus McClelland are both hard-working men who find themselves duty-bound to deal with the impact of the spread of the flu, although for very different reasons. Daniel Pullman has his hopes of joining the army dashed by an accident but finds the love of his life instead. All of them are at risk, and both their health and happiness are under threat.

This is a very touching book that almost had me in tears more than once. While the author focuses on a number of very different characters they are all very human and easy to sympathise with. A good part of the book is spent on setting the scene and developing the characters which is why I found it so sad when the pandemic hit their town. Cheeky lad Johnathon was particularly endearing and I enjoyed seeing the change in undertaker Marcus as events unfolded. I raced through this book in a couple of sittings, to see how the indiviuals would be affected. The writing was fluid and I found myself able to immerse myself in the story.

I suspect like me a lot of people have heard of the Spanish flu pandemic, it's mentioned every time there is a threat of a new global pandemic, but probably don't know a great deal more about it. The author provides some shocking statistics at the end of the book to further illustrate the swathe the illness cut across the globe. I really appreciated how the story of the pandemic was married with the other important news of the time to create a snapshot of the era.

This was a moving piece of historical fiction, that is as driven by the characters as the plot, and one I'd be happy to recommend.

Format: Kindle, Review copy
My Rating: 4*