Thursday, 28 July 2016

It is all about

Naomi Carson is a survivor.  As a child, her family was torn apart by a shocking crime.  It could have destroyed her, but Naomi has grown up strong, with a passion for photography that has taken her all around the world.

Now, at last, she has decided to put down roots.  The beautiful old house on Point Bluff needs work, but Naomi had new friends in town who are willing to help, including Xander Keaton - gorgeous, infuriating and determined to win her heart. 

But as Naomi plans for the future, her past is catching up with her.  Someone in town knows her terrifying secret - and won't let her forget it.  As her new home is rocked by violence, Naomi must discover her persecutor's identity, before it's too late.

Book Club Review:
Reading a Nora Roberts novel is like speaking to a friend you have not seen for years and it being like you saw them yesterday.  Such is with this novel.  I went through a spate of reading Nora Roberts books and then took a break.  I picked this one up as it my book club’s choice for the month and it was just like that; meeting an old friend or snuggling up with a cup of tea in front of a fire on a winter’s day.

As one would expect from one of Nora’s books the plot was engaging, well-paced and beautifully executed.  The characters were well-rounded, beautifully written, and complex with their lives entwined as is the case for those who grew up and live in a small town.  Nora pays as much attention to her secondary characters as she does to her primary characters making her readers all in love with everyone; and the town within which they reside.

This book was listed as romance/suspense, yet the first few chapters are hard hitting and unsettling to say the least.  The tone is hopeful although the happenings are scary and sinister.  The novel does not concentrate on the doer but rather the aftermath and how it affects the family.  And instantly one wants the best for Naomi and her brother, Mason.

The book then jumps forward to a teenager Naomi and then again to an adult Naomi.  Which suits the story really well and through it all you get to know these complex intriguing characters at different points in their life (some more so than others – I personally would have loved to have more of Mason (perhaps he will get his own book?)).

The romance part is well done and features reader’s eye candy.  Someone figures out Naomi’s past but waits until she is ready to reveal it to him.  He (the eye candy) even gets her to adopt a dog!  How great is he?!  All in all the romance and the thriller parts were well balanced.

I did figure out who the antagonist was but this was towards the end of the book as her brother was tracing Naomi’s moments.  And as it turned out I was correct.  I don’t usually guess ‘Who did it’, but the excellent writing and clues did help this time.

Sometimes authors who have written as many books as Nora Roberts get to write to a formula and their books start to feel the same.  This is not the case with Nora.  She usually writes trilogies but this is a one off – well I do hope Mason gets his own book (but that is my psychological mystery bent coming out!).

My only complaint was that the book finished too quickly.  I would have loved to have seen more interaction with Mason and the killer and (as I have said before) it is my fervent hope that a further book (or two) will be written about Mason.

If you love Nora Roberts and some suspense with your romance you will love this book.

We read this for my Book club and I rate it 4 stars.

Not all is well in the garden, even

Near an isolated mansion lies a beautiful garden.

In this garden grow luscious flowers, shady trees ... and a collection of precious 'butterflies' - young women who have been kidnapped and intricately tattooed to resemble their namesakes.  Overseeing it all is the Gardener, a brutal, twisted man obsessed with capturing and preserving his lovely specimens.

When the garden is discovered, a survivor is brought in for questioning.  FBI agents Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison are tasked with piecing together one of the most stomach-churning cases of their careers.  But the girl, known only as Maya, proves to be a puzzle herself.

As her story twits and turns, slowly shedding light on life in the Butterfly Garden, Maya reveals old grudges, new saviors, and horrific tales of a man who'd go to any length to hold beauty captive.  But the more she shares, the more the agents have to wonder what she's still hiding ...

Having read this novel a while ago I am still not sure whether what it said on the cover was what I actually read.

The main story is told in flash-back – interview style, as the FBI are interviewing Maya, an escapee, after the fact.  However, when you are in the story Maya is telling it is as if you are actually there shadowing her.  

The sadistic nature of the book is revealed slowly and with some forethought so as not to trouble the reader too much but leaving enough to the reader’s imagination to fill in the terrible gaps in the narrative.  The pace is relentless and totally fascinating (especially if you love psychological thrillers).  What could be a totally macabre situation is handled exceptionally well such that is seems that such a novel has never been written before; and although the reader may loath the gardener they are equally rooting for the release of the flowers or rather butterflies.

Given the nature of the books one would think that the characters in the story are somewhat 2 dimension yet these women are fearless and strong.  There are so many characters yet each one is unique and they do not get lost in the collective.  Each character has clarity and leaves a distinct impression on the reader.

Yet there is just something that does not ring true with Maya, which is revealed at the end of the book.  And to be honest when the big reveal was made (and oh my goodness it is a whopper) would any sane person have put themselves in that situation?  Thus an incredibly detailed plot was left to fizzle out like a wet firework.

Thank you etgalley for allowing me to provide an honest review of this book, which in this case is 4 stars.

All that we see is not all that is there

Brighton, 1938:  Grace Kemp is pushed away by the family she has shamed.  Rejected and afraid, she begins a new life as a nurse.  But danger stalks the hospital too, and she'll need to be on her guard to avoid falling into familiar traps.  And then there aer the things she sees ... Strange portents that have a way of becoming real.

Eighty years later, Mina Morgan is brought to the same hospital after a near-fatal car crash.  She is in terrible pain but recalls nothing,  She's not even sure whom to trust.  Mina too sees things that others cannot, but now, in hospital her visions are clearer than ever...

Two women, separated by decades, are drawn together by a shared space and a common need to salvage their lives.

Having recently finished this book I really don’t know what I feel or even how these two stories were related to each other.  I thought the end was rather rushed and did not tie the two stories together as far as I was concerned.  This is really a book of two halves; one a psychological thriller and the other a historical novel (to a point).  The element that ties the two stories together is the supernatural element that is spooky and certainly well done being an integral part of the story as it is shared by both the women in the book.

That said I will deal with each part separately.  In the psychological part the tension was built gradually.  As the reader is aware of the larger picture we see the larger picture and often want to yell at the Mina just to warn her of the impending danger. 

The historical part of the novel could be said to be a friendship saga.  We are also told about the daily grind of a student nurse (Grace), the lowest rung on the medical hierarchy.

Mina is a surprisingly strong character but still vulnerable and from part of her back story she is not the most likeable person, yet after the accident see sees people, things and herself in a different light.  In contrast, Grace is naïve and also vulnerable but she grows the most throughout the book and gains both strength and determination.

But detailed characterisation is not just reserved for the main character but is also given to the supporting cast such as Grace's best friend and roomie Evie and to Mina's Aunt Pat thereby enriching the main characters and giving the story more depth.

The one element that joins these two women together is they are able to see things that others cannot – a sort of second sight.  This is also where the two stories sort of come together.  Mina is hospitalised and starts to see Grace.  It just so happens that the hospital that Mina is in was where Grace worked many years ago.  Never once did Mina cross into Grace’s timeline.

As far as this reader was concerned there were quite a few unresolved issues.  Why did Grace go into nursing? Why did Grace reach out to Mina? Why was there no other obvious connection between the two women?

Perhaps the two stories should have been dealt with as two separate novels and thereby each story could have received better treatment, the back story (of which I am sure there is a great deal in each case) could have been told, and some of the unresolved issues could have been cleared up.

Take all this together and add an element of romance and you have a novel that is difficult to pigeon-hole with is clearly written, well plotted yet entertaining and annoying in equal measure.  But the ending did leave this reader rather flat but that is just my opinion.  Form you own by reading this strangely haunting book.

Thank you Netgalley for allowing me to provide an honest review in exchange for receiving this book which I rated as 'It was OK' on Goodreads and Amazon.

A great new British author to keep an eye on

Introducing DCI Sophie Allen in an exciting new detective series that will have you gripped from start to heart-stopping finish.

A young woman's body is discovered on a seserted footpath in a Dorset seaside town late on a cold November night.  She has been stabbed through the heart.

It seems like a simple crime for DCI Sophie Allen and her team to solve.  But not when the victim's mother is found strangled the next morning.  The case grows more complex as DCI Sophie Allen discovers that the victims had secret histories, involving violence and intimidation.  There's an obvious suspect but Detective Allen isn't convinced.  Could someone else be lurking in the shadows. someone savagely violent, looking for a warped revenge?

Michael Hambling is a new author to me as this is a new series.  A UK author, a likeable detective, and a South West Coast of England setting.  There is just something about UK authors that strikes a chord with me and it is so good that they are coming more to the fore.  My only question is ‘Why has it taken so long for these UK authors to make a dent in a previously US dominated field?

The beginning of this novel is rather brutal (which I love) and does not let-up until the last page.

The plot is well written – and although the reader does not know who did what until the end, seemingly unlinked murders have a sole protagonist.

It is lovely to see a strong driven lady lead, who is not too damaged and un-intimidating – unless the occasions required it.  She stands up for her team who she can manage with an iron hand should the occasion arise.  Yet her main mission is seeking the truth and blast the politics.  The secondary members of the team all have their own foibles and enhance the main character adding contrast not just to her but also to the story as a whole; making rounded secondary characters. In sort all the characters are believable with their own traits that that make them personable and relateable. 

The police procedures seem to be well researched and there is painstaking detail so much so that although there is some repetition it all seems natural in the grand scheme of things.  No matter what the story shows the links seem to be tentative at best yet the detective shows her worth, and indeed why she is a DCI.

The storyline is well paced and well plotted and quite complex with many a twist and turn to keep the reader guessing until the end.

One pet peeve of mine is that UK authors have to revert to Americanisms to sell their books.  Be strong and stick to what you know.

So if you love a complex, character driven police procedural novel you can’t go far wrong with this one.  I will definitely be on the look-out for more books by this author. 

Thank you Netgalley for allowing me to provide an honest review of this novel which in this case is 4 stars.

Little fun projects which are just right for ...

If you want to learn to knit, you only need a ball of yarn, knitting needles, some patience - and this book!  It's the ideal introduction to knitting, with easy-to-follow, full-color instructions for more than fifteen projects.  Clear, step-by-step explanations of basic techniques make this guide great for beginners of all ages, especially those wishing to create handmade gifts.  An introduction explains the how-to of knitting, from holding the needles ad yarn to casting on, basic stitches, and finishing touches.  Patterns start out a simple as can be and gradually become more challenging, although by no means difficult.  Readers can advance from bracelets, hair ornaments and pocketbooks to scarves and hats, in addition to a charming variety of household decorations.

This was a well informed and written, in simple, age appropriate language.  The stitches are on the simple, well explained, and accompanied with clear diagrams and pictures.  As an experienced knitter there are a few patterns that I want to try especially the Owls.

Although there are the traditional egg cosies they are given a twist and everything is done in bright modern colours.  I particularly love the idea of cup wraps and knitted coasters.

I though the hearts project was more complex however this allows the beginner to stretch their wings and try more advanced techniques. 

There are also some scarves to make and the one I like, the purple, one is not just a plain stocking stitch pattern but has a bit of design flair too to make it attractive to the more discerning youthful knitter.

There is even a section on how to deal with dropped stitches which is great and saves the knitter from unravelling their work and getting disappointed.

However, there are two errors in my copy.  For example on the ‘Mixing Stitches’ page there I a chard under Number 4 that related to Number 4 (for which there is already a chart).

The second error is for the Egg Cozies project.  I says for the carves “Size B (2.25 mm crochet hook) But the pattern states “Cast on 5 sts.” Then “work in garter stitch”!

In short would I give this, a ball of wall and pair of knitting needles to an absolute beginner; I don’t think I would.  But I would use is as an aide memoir and a project book to accompany classes.

Thank you Netgalley for allowing me to review this book, which I give 4 stars.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Surely the US title 'The Chosen' is a far better title for this novel as she was not ...

He watches.  He waits. He kills ...

When Jessie Conway survives an horrific mass high school shooting, in the aftermath she finds herself trust into the media spotlight, drawing all kinds of attention.  But some of it is the wrong kind.

A sadistic serial killer, had been watching her every move.  A skilled hunter, he likes his victims to be a challenge.  Jessie is strong, fearless, a survivor, and now ... she is his ultimate prey.

As the killer picks off his current victims one by one, chasing, killing and butchering them with his crossbow, he's closing in in Jessie ... But will Jessie defy the odds and escape with her life?  Or will she be the killer's final sacrifice ...

A clever, dangerously twisted thriller that will have fans of Tess Gerritsen and Karin Slaughter gripped until the very last page.

Self-proclaimed as 'A gripping psychological thriller' but as far as this reader was concerned there was next to nothing psychological about it (not like Jonathan Kellerman or Jeffrey Deaver) nor was it all that thrilling.  But I only discovered this after the fact!

The first few chapters were gripping and held a lot of promise for the book as a whole but continuing reading that potential was not exploited.

The last section of this book was fairly gripping but there was so much backstory and scene setting that nothing really started happening until chapter 38.

One thing that did annoy me was that the author could not decide the name of one of her characters. In a few pages at the beginning of the novel there was a particular person who was referred to as Adam Edwards.  However after these few references the name was changed and thenceforth he was referred to as Alan Edwards, a little thing I know but if the author  cannot decide his name why should we be invested in their characters?

This story is told from multiple Points of View ('POV') which also meant that there was a certain amount of overlap in the stories.  Also this constant change interrupted the story so that the new character spent quite a while talking about their feelings and there was extraneous dialogue.  The killer was neither compelling nor scary ... all the killings were intimated at but never once was one described in detail.

The female lead was neither completely likeable nor completely hateful as were the remaining characters.  As with such books of this ilk they all do things that are rather silly but for the female lead when she was in peril she did use her head more than most and happened upon an unlikely weapon.  For this reader the chase was the bet part of this novel.

Unfortunately there were not many twists ad turns or red herrings in this novel apart from its title (perhaps the more appropriate American title of  'The Chosen' should have been used in the UK).

For this reader this particular novel was really disappointing.  It seemed that there too much story overlap, too many unnecessary details, and too many typos.  All things that lead to a rather disappointing read.

Thank you Netgalley for a chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

The novel was rated 2 stars overall.

I think I should have started this series from the beginning ...

Criminal defence lawyer Helena Flemming has fallen out of love with John Eisenmenger.

Devastated, Eisemenger finds solace and distraction by reluctantly return to his life a a forensic pathologist.

His first case reunited him with DI Beverley Wharton; a woman who is notoriously cunning and who refuses to take no for an answer.  Beverly is jealous of Helena and has history with Eisenmenger, but when she receives some devastating personal news she delves deeper into her cases and realises she needs help ...

A young petty criminal is found stabbed leaving an elderly mother devastated, and the obvious suspect is a man who had threatened to kill him just hours before.

There is pressure on Beverley to close the case, but she is not so keen to follow orders, especially when Eisenmenger discovers that the weapon is a surgical scalpel.

For once she decides to follow her instincts rather than politics at the station.

There is enough circumstantial evidence to charge a local thug with murder but something does't add up and Beverly risks everything to find the truth.

With all this going on, the accidental death of a motorcyclist seems trivial, except that the body seems to have too many organs ...

Eisenmenger is immediately consumed by this disturbing discovery and when he realises Helena is missing, he and Beverly stumble upon an evil enterprise that puts both their lives in grave danger ...

I do hate it when Netgalley ‘blurbs’ do not indicate that the book is a number in a series, in this case number 7.  So the main characters have a load of history and are well defined.

I must admit that I was rather confused by the number of characters initially introduced in this novel who appeared to fall by the way side and yet they reappeared in the latter stage of the book.  I was also slightly confused by the use of Christian and surnames and who was siding with whom.

There is obviously a great backstory to these characters which has been dealt with in previous novels yet it is quite easy to join the party in book 7 and not really feel as though one is missing anything.

The plot in intriguing but the better informed reader (and I would not class myself as one of those readers) could work out the plot twist way before the DI.

I personally loved the English setting but disliked the use of some American prose which, for me, did not sit right with the characters and the book as a whole.

I did not like the dynamic between the two main characters or the pull of the higher ups on DI Wharton.

This is the seventh book in the series (and the first one I have read).  It does nothing to entice the reader to go back to the beginning or even to read further into the series; and this reader does love murder/mystery/thriller novels.

Thank you Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. Which, in this case, was just 2 stars.