Tuesday intro: The Dinosaur Feather by Sissel-Jo Gazan

Once again I’m linking up again with Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea who hosts a post every Tuesday for people to share the first chapter / paragraph of the book they are reading, or thinking of reading soon. In really enjoy these tasters when I read them on other blogs so wanted to join in.

This week, I’m reading the oldest book on my Kindle (part of a personal challenge I wrote about here). I’m a little way in and not sure how I feel. I normally love Nordic Noir, which this is, but it’s also very long and very wordy…we’ll see I guess. Here’s what it’s about…

10240235

How could one man inspire such hatred?

Professor Lars Helland is found at his desk with his tongue lying in his lap. A violent fit has caused him to bite through it in his death throes. A sad but simple end. Until the autopsy results come through.

The true cause of his death – the slow, systematic and terrible destruction of a man – leaves the police at a loss. And when a second member of Helland’s department disappears, their attention turns to a postgraduate student named Anna. She’s a single mother, angry with the world, desperate to finish her degree. Would she really jeopardise everything by killing her supervisor?

As the police investigate the most brutal and calculated case they’ve ever known, Anna must fight her own demons, prove her innocence and avoid becoming the killer’s next victim.

And here’s how it starts…

Solnhofen, Southern Germany, 5 April 1877

Anna Bella Nor was dreaming she had unearthed Archaeopteryx, the earliest and most primitive bird known. The excavation was in its sixth week, a fine layer of soil had long since embedded itself into everyone’s faces and the mood had hit rock bottom. Friedemann von Molsen, the leader of the excavation, was the only one still in high spirits. Every morning when Anna staggered out of her tent, sleepy and shivering in the cold, von Molsen would be sitting by the fire, drinking coffee; the congealed porridge in the pot proving he had cooked and eaten his breakfast long ago. Anna was fed up with porridge, fed up with dirt, fed up with kneeling on the ground that only revealed bones that were, of course, interesting in their own right, but were too young to be the reason she studied biology, and most definitely not the reason she was spending six weeks of her precious summer holiday living in such miserable conditions. The year was 1877 and, at this point in her dream, Anna got the distinct feeling that something didn’t add up. She was wearing her quilted army jacket and thick furry boots with rubber soles, but Friedemann von Molsen didn’t seem the least surprised, even though he was wearing a three-piece corduroy suit with a pocket watch, a woolly cap, which rested on his ears, and had a pipe in his mouth.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Emma

 

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Last Breath by Robert Bryndza 

34368544He’s your perfect date. You’re his next victim.

When the tortured body of a young woman is found in a dumpster, her eyes swollen shut and her clothes soaked with blood, Detective Erika Foster is one of the first at the crime scene. The trouble is, this time, it’s not her case.

While she fights to secure her place on the investigation team, Erika can’t help but get involved and quickly finds a link to the unsolved murder of a woman four months earlier. Dumped in a similar location, both women have identical wounds – a fatal incision to their femoral artery.

Stalking his victims online, the killer is preying on young pretty women using a fake identity. How will Erika catch a murderer who doesn’t seem to exist?

Then another girl is abducted while waiting for a date. Erika and her team must get to her before she becomes another dead victim, and, come face to face with a terrifyingly sadistic individual.

I think it’s fair to say that Robert Bryndza has done it again with this, the latest, in the Erika Foster series. Still stuck behind a desk in Bromley, Erika is missing her former role in the murder investigation team. Her application to go back, though, has been turned down – and she’s angry about it, no more so than when she’s summarily dismissed from a crime scene.

The scene – the body of a young woman has been found in a dumpster, badly beaten and tortured.  She has been missing for only a few days and Erika’s gut is telling her that the killer is likely to strike again.  The problem is no one wants to hear, not least the head of the murder investigation team (and her former adversary), even when she gets as close to begging as she can get and uncovers evidence his team haven’t.

Then, in twist I won’t share for spoilers, she gets given the opportunity to become senior investigating officer and the chase is on for a killer who is becoming more prolific and more violent.  As a reader, you know who he is, what he plans to do next and you see him spiralling.  It all adds to the tension as you also watch Erika and her team struggle to follow the clues, hoping for a lucky break and praying that they get to the latest missing girl in time.

And it is tense, from page one, and not letting up right until the very end.  The killer is suitably evil and just to say smart enough to keep ahead of the police (for a while at least), making my skin crawl more than a little.  And Erika is her usual brilliant self, trying hard not to be self-destructive for once but not doing too well at it.

The mix of tough and vulnerable in her is something I like in my characters.  She isn’t a complete hard-ass, is liked and admired by her team, but her past has left her damaged and with a hard outer shell.  She wants to break out but it’s hard.  Still, we get to see a little of that in this story, making her and her team more real than ever.

As for the story itself, you couldn’t ask for more really.  It’s a cracking read from start to finish.  These are all things I’ve said about other books in the series but here it is again – it was well written, had great pace (I read it in a day which is rare for me), great characters – event the bad guy was well rounded (see creepy killer above), and kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.  Can I say any more? I don’t think so – I loved this and really recommend it.

Enjoy!

Emma

loved-it

Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: 12th April, 2017 (yes today! cutting this review fine)
Pages: 281
Format: ebooks
Genre: crime, mystery
Buy now: Amazon UK / Amazon US

Note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.

Tuesday intro: The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

Once again I’m linking up again with Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea who hosts a post every Tuesday for people to share the first chapter / paragraph of the book they are reading, or thinking of reading soon. In really enjoy these tasters when I read them on other blogs so wanted to join in.

This week I’m reading non-fiction, which I never read enough of, in the form of The Radium Girls by Kate Moore.  This is what it’s about…

31409135The incredible true story of the young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium and their brave struggle for justice…

As World War I raged across the globe, hundreds of young women toiled away at the radium-dial factories, where they painted clock faces with a mysterious new substance called radium. Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was safe, the women themselves shone brightly in the dark, covered from head to toe with the glowing dust. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” were considered the luckiest alive—until they began to fall mysteriously ill. As the fatal poison of the radium took hold, they found themselves embroiled in one of America’s biggest scandals and a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights.

And here’s how it starts…

Prologue

Paris, France
1901

The scientist had forgotten all about the radium.  It was tucked discreetly within the folds of his waistcoat pocket, enclosed in a slim glass tube in such a small quantity that he could not feel its weight.  He had a lecture to deliver in London, England, and the vial of radium stayed within that shadowy pocket for the entirety of his journey across the sea.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Emma

Driven by James Sallis

14623750Seven years have passed since Driver ended his campaign against those who double-crossed him. He has left the old life, become Paul West and founded a successful business back in Phoenix. But walking down the street one day, he and his fiancee are attacked by two men and, while Driver dispatches both, his fiancee is killed. Sinking back into anonymity, aided by his friend Felix, an ex-gangbanger and Desert Storm vet, Driver realises that his past stalks him – and will not stop. He has to turn and face it

One of the many things I love about James Sallis is that he writes his characters as he finds them.  They are dysfunctional, not always likeable, definitely broken but also incredibly compelling.  So it is with Driver, who you meet as he watches his fiancé get gunned down in the street, seemingly for no reason.

In Driver’s world though, there is always a reason, and so there is here if he can just figure it out in between fighting for his life and constantly trying to stay one step ahead of a seemingly endless supply of hired guns determined to earn their money.   It involves talking to shady people, hitting shadier people and never giving up.  I like that about Driver – he doesn’t stop.

Like him, this book is relentless, never letting up for a second.  It’s dialogue heavy with not much in the way of descriptive scenes bar the odd flashback to his childhood or earlier life, before he tried to start again.  And it’s short (only 155 pages), meaning there isn’t much time to breath.

The language seems simple on first reading but then you realise that a picture is being painted, of men (mainly) who believe in action versus trying to talk things out.  It’s not a world I understand but it’s lived by a code and it’s best not to break it.  It’s a world where you don’t go to the police, you sort out your own problems. And it’s a world where people live with the idea of an eye for an eye.

It’s a world I was drawn into quickly and was quite sad to see the end of, especially as it was left open so you don’t know what is going to happen to Driver next and whether it will be good or bad.  Perhaps it’s good for me as I will get to meet him again…I just hope it’s not another seven years before I get the chance.  Loved this one and a recommended read!

Enjoy!

Emma

loved-it

Source: Library
Publisher: No Exit
Publication Date: 1st January, 2012
Pages: 155
Format: ebook
Genre: crime, mystery
Buy now: Amazon UK / Amazon US

Weekly update: 9th April, 2017

Weekly updateMorning all and welcome to another Sunday and another weekly update.  I hope you’ve had a good week and a good weekend.  For those in the UK, I hope you are also enjoying this amazing weather.  Hard to believe it’s only April and yet last night we were sat out in the garden until past 9 without the need for thermals…heaven!  Long may it continue.  It meant the weekend was (and will continue to be) spent outside, pottering in the garden yesterday and going to see my husband’s baseball game today.  In between I might do a bit of reading 🙂

Here’s how my blogging week went…

On Monday I posted my review of Fell by Jenn Ashworth, a book that I was in two minds about because it was so beautifully written but the story was confused.  I still can’t decide just how much I liked it.

On Tuesday I introduced my latest read, Driven by James Sallis, the follow up to one of my favourite books (Drive) by one of my favourite authors.  It was a quick, fast-paced and powerful read that I will be reviewing tomorrow hopefully.

On Wednesday I reviewed The Lauras by Sara Taylor which didn’t really do it for me if I’m honest.  Like Fell, it was confusing to read but, unlike Fell, it didn’t have the language to life it up for me.

On Thursday I reviewed What Goes Around by Julie Corbin and finally got to say I really enjoyed a book.  This was a thrilling read about two women who love (or loved) the same man and one’s plan for revenge.  Definitely recommended!

Friday I posted nothing as I was travelling for work and I hadn’t been organised enough to plan ahead.  Still, three reviews is a bit of a record for me so I’m still pleased with how the week went.  How was your week, reading and otherwise?  What books should I be adding to my TBR?

Emma x

 

 

This week, I’m linking in with Kimba at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer and her Sunday Post and with (a little early) Katherine at Book Date for It’s Monday, What Are you Reading? Head over by clicking on their badges below to see what other bloggers have read, written about or just added to their shelves.

The Sunday Post

What Goes Around by Julie Corbin

29286951What Goes Around is the story of two women – Ellen and Leila. Ellen is the ex-wife and Leila is the new woman, living in Ellen’s house, sleeping with Ellen’s husband. Each woman has her own secrets to keep. Leila’s brother is back in her life and is determined to rake up their past while Ellen is out for revenge. She wants her home back and she wants Leila to pay for breaking up her marriage. Her plan will make her do things she never thought herself capable of – but it will also put her in danger. Because Ellen has no idea what sort of a woman Leila is and when she finally finds out, it could already be too late…

One of the women will end up dead. But which one?

I have never read any Julie Corbin before but have heard great things about her books and I have to say they were no exaggeration.  She is a great writer, creating in What Goes Around a tense story with interesting characters and plenty of twists and turns.

It starts pretty simply.  Ellen’s husband has left her and, as a result, she is a mess.  Living in rented accommodation and suffering from OCD, she spends most of her time afraid.  The rest she seems to spend thinking about the b***h Leila, the woman who stole her husband.  And the woman who is living in the house she pretty much built from the ground up and raised her wo children in.  The woman who is destroying that house, making changes and making it her own.

Then when Ellen is looking for a therapist to help her with her anxiety, Leila is recommended to her and she can’t resist.  She wants revenge and figures getting her foot in the door is the first step. The rest she’ll play by ear…but, bottom line, she wants Leila to pay.

Leila, meanwhile has problems of her own.  She has a dark past, a son who is addicted to drugs and, if she’s completely honest, life with Tom (the husband/lover) isn’t quite what she thought.  In theory, it should be.  After fighting for everything in her life, she finally has everything she wants – a nice house, a rich, handsome husband, and a chance to work for herself.  But being with Tom means being someone she isn’t.  And this is harder to do when her estranged brother reappears demanding she revisits their childhood traumas.

For the reader, who slowly gets to know both characters and see just what is going through their minds in alternating chapters, it’s fascinating (or at least I thought so).  Both women are so much more complex than they first appear, especially Leila, and I found my sympathies shifing back and forth as the book progressed.  In the end, I’m not sure there is a “bad guy” (or woman) here.  It’s just two women who don’t understand each other and are too wrapped up in their own lives to maybe care that much anyway about what the other is feeling.

Then you throw the brother in the mix and things really heat up.  The tension rises when it becomes clear that he is dangerous.  What isn’t clear is just how much so and what he will do to get his way and reconnect with Leila.  Hints are dropped and as I reader I had to pick them up and put htem together.  I managed to (yay me!) but it wasn’t easy.  It was, though, a lot of fun.

My only niggle with this book is the epilogue.  I have said it before I know but I am just not sure they are needed nine times out of ten.  That was definitely the case here.  I was completely satisfied with the ending and left with a few “what ifs” I could mull over in my own time.  Then these were answered and I felt, if anything, a bit cheated and – because of that – it moved this book from a loved to a liked a lot, though still a recommended read.

Enjoy!

Emma

liked-it-a-lot

Source: Publisher
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date: 6th April, 2017 (paperback)
Pages: 323
Format: paperback
Genre: crime, mystery
Buy now: Amazon UK / Amazon US

Note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lauras by Sara Taylor

32969152I didn’t realise my mother was a person until I was thirteen years old and she pulled me out of bed, put me in the back of her car, and we left home and my dad with no explanations. I thought that Ma was all that she was and all that she had ever wanted to be. I was wrong. As we made our way from Virginia to California, returning to the places where she’d lived as a child in foster care and as a teenager on the run, repaying debts and keeping promises, I learned who she was in her life-before-me and the secrets she had kept even from herself. But when life on the road began to feel normal I couldn’t forget the home we’d left behind, couldn’t deny that, just like my mother, I too had unfinished business.

When Alex is bundled into the car in the middle of the night, it’s without warning – or so she feels.  Maybe, though, it had been coming a while.  Her parent argued – loud and often – and her mother had a tendency to disappear for days on end, only to the return without explanation.  So, when they set off together this time, Alex is confused but also a little excited, figuring out that – at last – she will get to understand where her mother goes and what she does when she’s gone.

I’m not sure I ever go the answer to that but, if what the two did over the course of two-ish years on the road, hiding from their father, it was basically live out of a car or cheap motels and look up people they once new.  If I sound a bit dismissive, I’m sorry but – after 300 or so pages it is how I felt.

I know in between there were some pretty interesting episodes (bit of a spoiler here but helping a young girl escape her religious family, staring an abusive ex-boyfriend down in the street and fulfilling long-ago made promises to now dead friends).  I really enjoyed these, found the people I met here interesting and different and myself fully involved.  But in between there was a lot of time on the road, a lot of eating gas station snacks and a lot of Ma smoking and not telling Alex much.

Somewhere in here was a story about Alex’s sexuality – or lack of it – and they didn’t want to be known by a gender and I wish this has been more front and centre and really explored.  This book is about journey’s – Ma’s journey to fulfil promises and Alex’s to understand Ma but it’s also his/her journey to understand themselves…I just didn’t think this was done as well as it could have been.  At the risk of sounding cynical it felt like a plotting device rather than a real part of the character and ths story.

All put together, for me, it felt messy.  I wanted so much more and I feel like Sara Taylor can write well enough to deliver that, she was maybe just trying to cover too much ground and say too many things.

It wasn’t all bad (though I realise reading back that my frustration is coming through) – like I said the things that happened when they arrived at each destination were absorbing and Taylor’s writing and characterisation at these points drew me in.  And the idea was one I loved, one I wanted to like more than I eventually did.  It’s a shame as I started with such high hopes but in the end, this was a book I liked a little not a lot.

Sorry!

Emma

liked-it-a-little

Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication Date: 6th April, 2017 (paperback)
Pages: 292
Format: ebook
Genre: contemporary fictionAmazon US
Buy now: Amazon UK / Amazon US

Note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday intro: Driven by James Sallis

Once again I’m linking up again with Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea who hosts a post every Tuesday for people to share the first chapter / paragraph of the book they are reading, or thinking of reading soon. In really enjoy these tasters when I read them on other blogs so wanted to join in.

This week I am reading Driven by one of my favourite authors, James Sallis.  It’s a follow up to Drive, which I loved so I have high hopes for this.  Here’s what it’s about…

14623750Seven years have passed since Driver ended his campaign against those who double-crossed him. He has left the old life, become Paul West and founded a successful business back in Phoenix. But walking down the street one day, he and his fiancee are attacked by two men and, while Driver dispatches both, his fiancee is killed. Sinking back into anonymity, aided by his friend Felix, an ex-gangbanger and Desert Storm vet, Driver realises that his past stalks him – and will not stop. He has to turn and face it

And here’s how it starts

Chapter 1

They came for him just after 11: 00 on a Saturday morning, two of them. It was hot going hotter; sunlight caught in the fine sheen of sweat on Elsa’s forehead. A hint of movement in the side of his eye as they passed a short side street—and the first one was there. He spun, slamming his foot and the whole of his body weight against the outside of the man’s right knee, and heard it give. By the time the man was down, that same foot hit his throat. He shuddered twice, trying to pull in air through the shattered windpipe, and was still. The second had come up behind by then, but Driver was down, rolling, and behind him, left arm clamped around his neck, right elbow locked over the wrist.

It was all over in minutes. He understood then what had delayed the second man’s attack. Elsa lay against the wall of an abandoned café, blood pumping from the wound beneath her breast.

She had been trying to smile up at him as the light went out of her eyes.

And that’s the whole chapter – he is not a man of many words.  What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Regards

Emma

Buy now: Amazon UK / Amazon US

 

 

 

 

Fell by Jenn Ashworth

imageWhen Annette Clifford returns to her childhood home on the edge of Morecambe Bay, she despairs: the long empty house is crumbling, undermined by two voracious sycamores. What she doesn’t realise is that she’s not alone: her arrival has woken the spirits of her parents, who anxiously watch over her, longing to make amends. Because as the past comes back to Jack and Netty, they begin to see the summer of 1963 clearly, when Netty was desperately ill and a stranger moved in. Charismatic, mercurial Timothy Richardson, with his seemingly miraculous powers of healing, who drew all their attention away from Annette… Now, they must try to draw another stranger towards her, one who can rescue her.

I think the first thing I want to say about Fell is that it is beautifully written.  A week after finishing the book, I am still haunted by some of the language and the images it created.  It is an otherworldly book and the words perfectly match the subject matter.  I felt carried along by them from the first page through to the last.

The story was a bit harder for me to fall into if I’m honest, though by a third of the way through I was there and living it along with the characters.  The beginning, though, just jumped too much for me.  The past, the present, and the who was telling the story.  This was Jack and Netty, or the spirits of Jack and Netty and they spoke as a we.  Sometimes the time would change mid-chapter and it took me a while to get used to this and understand what was happening.

I have to say too that, by the end, I’m still not quite sure what had happened.  I don’t want to give anything away because of spoilers but , whilst I got where everyone ended up, I still don’t quite know how they got there and how much Jack and Netty had to do with it and how much their telling the story was just a good way to, well, tell the story.

I feel like there are things I should have picked up on, especially around the lodger Tim, that I just didn’t – which was a bit frustrating – and I am not quite sure why Annette was where she was in her life.  Yes, her mother had been ill when she was a child but were the repercussions such that she was so lost?

I think in part, this is down to the fact it’s Jack and Netty telling the story.  You get to know them, really well, with all there good and bad points.  You see all their mistakes and shake your head as they continue to make more.  But Netty is ill.  I get it.  But because of that you only really see Tim and Annette on the surface.

Jenn Ashworth tries to resolve this by having Jack and Netty able to see Tim and Annette’s thoughts but I never felt like I really got to know them.  And I wanted to because I cared about what was happening.  The fact that I didn’t has left me in two minds about the book.

I loved the writing, as I said, and the concept.  I loved Netty and Jack.  But Tim and Annette didn’t work for me as characters because I couldn’t get to know them and so, as a result, I feel like I’ve missed out on something in the story.  So, where does this leave me? Liking, but not loving the book I think.  If I still did star ratings I’d go for 3.75, almost but not quite a 4.

Have you read this? What did you think – or am I alone in being conflicted?

Emma

Source: Publisher
Publisher: Sceptre
Publication Date: 6th April, 2017 (paperback)
Pages: 292
Format: paperback
Genre: fiction, mystery
Buy now: Amazon UK / Amazon US

Note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.