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The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. - Jane Austen

Review: Nick Russell – Big Lake

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Nick Russell - Big LakeThe first few pages of this book did absolutely nothing to entice me into reading it. I like a book to pull me in and have me hooked from the very beginning, but the start of this book just felt boring to me. But I persevered and I’m now very glad that I did.

The book centres around a town called Big Lake in Arizona, and although this is a real town, Nick Russell is very keen to point out that the book is completely fictional. And after reading the book, I would agree that it must be, since it’s completely bonkers!

At the start of the book, two men are driving an armored money deliver vehicle down to Big Lake, when the spot a young woman at the side of the road. It’s against protocol to pull over, but they do anyway. Then one of the men pulls the gun on the other and shoots him dead, in a plot to get away with the money with his lovely lady friend. But after dragging the body of his friend into the back of the van, the woman turns the gun on him and both men are dead, leaving the woman to drive away with the money. But who was this mysterious woman?

Obviously when the police turn up, the woman is long gone and they have no idea she was there, and so starts a long investigation to find out what went wrong. Chief investigator is the town Sheriff, Jim Weber – brother in law to one of the murdered men. An FBI agent is sent to help out, and they soon become good friends. Which is good, because he’s taking the news of his brother in law’s death almost as badly as his sister, the murdered man’s wife. And it turns out that the other murdered man, Johnson, was a well known womanizer with plenty of people who would be more than willing to go after him with a gun.

I won’t go too much more into the plot, but as you can probably tell, there are a lot of twists and turns and dead ends before we find out who the real culprit is. And let me tell you; whoever you thought it was, you will almost definitely be wrong. When it was revealed, I absolutely couldn’t believe it! The book also left itself open nicely for a sequel, which I will definitely be checking out! I loved the main character of Jim Weber, and I’d love to see where the plot develops next!

4/5

Review: Melissa Foster – Traces of Kara

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Melissa Foster - Traces of KaraFor about three quarters of this book, I really wasn’t feeling it at all. I hate giving up on books before the end because even if a book is terrible, I need to know how it all ends. Plus, sometimes a book can start off pretty shaky and turn into something amazing. And whereas I wouldn’t say this turned into something amazing, it did grow on me slightly by the end.

I think the main reason I didn’t like it was because it was creepy. It’s not a reflection on the quality of the book or the author’s ability, it’s just that the subject creeped me about a bit too much to enjoy it. It revolves around a deranged man called Roland, determined to be reunited with the twin sister he was separated from as a child. The twin sister who no longer knows he exists, and who is just trying to save up as much money as she can to move out of her small town away from her overbearing mother. There are no limits to the lengths that Roland will go to in order to be with his sister, and he has decided that the best way to be with her forever is for them to both die together on their birthday.

As more and more people get dragged into the story, Roland starts to become desperate, and you can probably tell what happens then. It was at around this point that I started to enjoy the book a bit more. Partly because we focus less on Roland’s mentally deranged mind and more on the rescue attempts and the other characters, and partly because the pace of the book seemed to pick up a bit too.

So as I said earlier, it’s not a reflection on the book or the author, but I think I can only give this book a 2/5, just because the subject matter wasn’t my cup of tea.

2/5

Review: Michael Wallace – The Devil’s Deep

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Michael Wallace - The Devil's DeepThis was book 3 in my ‘9 killer thrillers’ set from Amazon, and it was just as enjoyable as the rest, although unlike anything I’ve read before.

The plot was very different to the others in the set, not really having anything to do with the police, and having a very strange set of crimes taking place, none of which seem to fit together until very late in the book. It seemed for a long time that there were two different stories running in parallel, but they seamlessly flowed into one towards the end and everything made perfect sense.

So much happened in the book that I don’t really know how to go about even starting to write about the plot, so I’m not going to try. I think if I did, I’d end up revealing more than I intended to and spoiling the book for any of you that decide you want to read it.

My one little niggle with the book was the end. So much had happened that it was obvious that the author needed to tie up all the loose ends. But the epilogue felt a bit too ‘perfect’, like it was necessary for everyone in the book to live happily ever after. And while I can agree that it’s probably what most people wanted from the book, it just felt like everything was wrapped up in a nice bow, when things would most likely not be quite so perfect in reality.

I was very impressed with the author, and when I’ve caught up on some of my to-read list, I’ll probably have a look at his other books.

4/5

Review: Claude Bouchard – Vigilante

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Vigilante - Claude BouchardI really didn’t have high hopes for this book, for two reasons. Firstly, it was a part of the ‘9 books for 74p’ bundle that I bought on my kindle. Secondly, the latest reviews on Goodreads seemed to suggest that I should run for the hills and avoid this book like the plague.

But I have no idea why, because the book was full on suspense and intrigue and kept me guessing right up until the very end, and I thought it was fabulous!

The book centers around a vigilante serial killer who has so far killed more than twenty people, leaving behind no trace of who he could be and leaving the police utterly baffled with no possible leads. The vigilante only kills people who he feels ‘deserve to die’, people who deal drugs, or have committed crimes in the past. The book opens with the vigilante killing two men who have just dragged a woman into an alleyway. Because of this, the local newspaper reporter tends to write articles which praise rather than condemn the killer, and questioning why the police can’t identify him. But then the vigilante gets brave, and sends an email to the police and the newspaper reporter with details of his latest crime.

From then on, the vigilante continues to send messages taunting the police and giving the reporter tips for new articles. But the messages can’t be traced, and the lead detective decides to enlist the help of a local computer security investigations firm to catch this guy before he kills the entire criminal underworld of the city and moves on to more undeserving prey.

Throughout the book, we switch between the cop, the security investigator and then glimpses of the vigilante preparing for his crimes. But when we’re seeing the vigilante, it’s never revealed who it is, and judging on the clues that you get throughout the book, it looks like it’s going to be one of two possible characters. I thought I had a pretty good idea of who it was, but as usual, I was wrong. I need to get better at this I think!

As I said before, I thought the book was fabulous, I don’t know why the other reviewers seem to have a problem with it, I don’t know if they’ve just read more of this type of book than I have and therefore have more experience of what they are like, but any book that can keep me flipping pages in a desperate need to get to the end is alright in my book!

4/5

Review: M. J. Rose – The Halo Effect

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The Halo Effect - M J RoseMorgan Snow is a sex therapist. Cleo is a prostitute, catering for high end clients with a lot of money. Cleo has been seeing Morgan for some time, to try and discuss the problems with the relationship with her fiance, and Morgan has broken the first rule of being a therapist: don’t get personally involved with your clients.

When Cleo gives Morgan a copy of her tell-all book manuscript, but then doesn’t turn up for her appointment, or her next appointment, Morgan can’t help but call the emergency contact number in Cleo’s file to make sure she is alright. But Gil (her business partner and supposed boyfriend) doesn’t know where she is. And when Morgan finds out that Cleo has another boyfriend, Elias, the one that she talks about in therapy, and that he has reported her missing to the police, Elias begs Morgan to help him find Cleo, since the police don’t seem to care, and even seemed to suggest that he may be suspect number one. Elias is distraught, and Morgan agrees to help.

But Morgan also has other things to worry about. A 12 year old daughter determined to go against her mother and pursue a career on Broadway. And Morgan has underlying issues brought about in part by her divorce and in part from all the things she hears in her day job; it has left her unable to switch off at night when she gets home, and unable to move on with another relationship.

And there’s a reason that the police aren’t pulling out all the stops trying to find Cleo. Firstly, she could just as well have decided that she needed a break and taken herself on holiday. But most importantly, the police are tied up trying to find a sadistic serial killer who is killing prostitutes around the city, leaving them in hotels rooms dressed in a nun’s habit with various terrible things happened to them. In fact, that’s how the book opened, with the first victim being discovered by a poor hotel maid.

Morgan desperately needs to find out if Cleo’s disappearance and the brutal murders are connected, before Cleo becomes the next victim. With the police not really investigating the disappearance, Morgan decides to take matters into her own hands and see if she can figure out if one of the men that Cleo talks about in her book could be involved. Which leads her to Gil’s bar, talking to Cleo’s usual clients and trying to get any information that she can.

But is she looking in the right place? Could the answer be right under her nose? Morgan is sure that there’s something that she’s missing, she just needs to fit the pieces together. But can she do it in time?

I had mixed feelings on and off throughout this book. At times, I felt swept away by the intrigue and mystery, and just as desperate as Morgan to find out the truth. But at other times, I thought the graphic descriptions were just too much for me and I couldn’t enjoy what I was reading. But as soon as I got past that part, I was back and sucked in again, turning page after page.

The book was part of a set of 9 thrillers that I bought on Amazon for 74p, so I didn’t expect the world from the book. I didn’t get the world, but I did find the book enjoyable. I just hope that the next in the set of 9 isn’t quite as graphic as this one!

3/5

Review: Celina Grace – Hushabye

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20140130-210420.jpgI’m really getting into the crime genre now. However, unlike my previous two books, this was a straightforward crime book set in the UK, not a chick-lit/crime book set in the southern states of America. This book also had a lead character who was a policewoman, not just some woman who thinks they can investigate a murder on their own!

But I still very much enjoyed it. I like reading a book and trying to work out who the culprit is, even if I’m proven wrong again and again. But that’s part of the fun, it’s like watching NCIS on tv and being utterly convinced that I know who is guilty, only to find out that I couldn’t be more wrong.

There were parts of this book which I liked, but parts which I didn’t. I liked the lead character of Kate Redman, and her new police partner. I think that later on in the series, we’ll see a better relationship develop between them, and hopefully get more of a glimpse into Kate’s past and her dysfunctional family.

The case that Kate is working on, the disappearance of a baby boy and the murder of his nanny, hits quite close to home for Kate, although the details are very vague until we get almost to the end of the book, when all of a sudden Kate’s past helps her to solve the case.

I found the actual investigation to be slightly strange. A baby boy has been snatched from his crib overnight, but the police seem to spend more time talking to the family than they do actually looking for the baby. I don’t know if that’s how it happens in real life, and I’ve not read that many crime books, so maybe that’s just how it goes.

I wouldn’t say I found this book as enjoyable as the others I’ve read recently. It was also very short, the last 22% of the book on Kindle actually turned out to be a preview of the next book in the series, which was very annoying! I’m not really sure if I want to read on yet, I think I’ll probably see how much the other books cost and then make my decision!

3/5

Review: Denise Grover Swank – Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes

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Denise Grover Swank - Twenty Eight and a Half WishesAfter the intense focus required by my last book, I needed something a little easier on the mind. Scrolling through my list of kindle books, I saw this, something which looked like a cross between the typical chick-lit and a murder mystery.

Starting the book, we are introduced to Rose, a young woman living a very sheltered life under the thumb of her overbearing and downright mean mother. She’s used to taking orders from her momma, doing what her momma wants, when her momma wants it, right down to the time she gets out of bed in the morning. And let’s not forget that she’s 24!

But Rose is not your ordinary girl, she has visions, and when she has those visions, she can’t help blurting out what she just saw. Usually, the visions are things like someone’s toilet overflowing, or their dog escaping, but one day while at work at the DMV, she has a vision of herself dead on her couch. Not wanting to end life without having experienced anything (like never wearing high heels, never eating chinese food or never being kissed), she makes a list of 28 things she wants to do before she dies. And that signifies a pretty big change for Rose, finally realising that she needs to have control over her own life, rather than letting her momma run it for her.

Little does she know that her momma isn’t going to be running anything; she gets home to find her dead on the couch, head bashed in with a rolling pin. And to make matters worse, Rose is suspect number one, having had a very loud and very emphatic argument with her mother earlier that day.

But being freed from the yoke around her neck brings about some changes in Rose, although not all the changes are helping to prove her innocence, some might say redecorating the living room the day after your mother was murdered might be a bit soon, and as for having a complete hair and clothing makeover before the funeral has even taken place, well some might see that as slightly uncaring and callous.

Helping Rose with the changes in her life is her neighbour Joe. He seems like an angel, helping her to fix the locks on her door, and keeping an eye on her to make sure she is safe, but is he really all he seems? And when a bartender that Rose met also turns up dead, what will happen when the police show up at her house with an anonymous tip-off that she has the murder weapon hidden in her shed?

There really were so many twists and turns to this plot that I really had no idea what was going to happen next, I just couldn’t stop reading to find out what happened to poor lovely Rose. And I loved how we found out more of Rose’s back-story at the same time as Rose, giving us a glimpse into why Rose’s life has been so miserable.

The plot and the style of writing reminded me a lot of Charlaine Harris (one of my favourite authors). I don’t know if it was because Rose was a nice southern girl, or if it was the murder mystery element to it, but it felt very comfortable to read. I also liked that Rose wasn’t a limp-lettuce kind of girl expecting a man to take care of her, she was fully well capable of taking care of herself, and actually pretty kick-ass as it happens!

Finding out that there are three and a half more books in this series makes this girl very happy indeed!

5/5

Review: James M. Cain – Double Indemnity

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double-indemnity-james-m-cain-e1336595513384Well, it turns out that I was a little confused between Double Jeopardy and Double Indemnity, so the slight idea that I had about this book was completely wrong! Whoops!

In any case, the book was very good even if it was pretty short (130 pages). It was written in 1936 and you can tell through the style of the writing. It made a refreshing change though from the books that I usually read, better writing and still just as much plot.

The book is about an insurance salesman called Walter who falls in love with a woman called Phyllis and sparks a plot to murder her husband and take the insurance money. They manage to pull off the murder with a complicated but very well thought out plan and everything seems to be going well until the insurance company decide not to pay out the money on the grounds that it wasn’t an accident, but either suicide or murder.

Walter then strikes up a friendship with Phyllis’ step-daughter Lola (the daughter of the poor murdered man), and finds out that Phyllis has previously murdered other people in order to get their money, including Lola’s mother. He realises that he can’t trust Phyllis to keep quiet about his involvement in the murder, so plots to kill her and make it look like an accident.

It’s another well thought out plan, but the one thing he didn’t consider was that Phyllis might try to kill him too. He ends up in hospital with a bullet in his chest, and it looks like Lola will take the blame for pulling the trigger. He has fallen in love with Lola and can’t stand the thought of her being incarcerated or hurt by the policemen, so tells the full truth about everything that has happened, in fact, it turns out that the entire book has been his confession letter.

His colleagues at the insurance company can’t risk the news getting out that one of their salesman was involved in the murder of a client to fraudulently claim the money, so they arrange for him to get on a ferry and run away. But little did he know that Phyllis would be on the ferry too. The book ends with Phyllis and Walter jumping off the side of the boat to their death to avoid being captured and handed in to the authorities.

A very strange book with an unexpected ending, but one that I enjoyed a lot. It was completely different to what I usually read, but I’ve had a lot of books like that since I started my reading challenge this year, and on the whole it’s been a good experience.

4-5