Review: Strange Things Done by Elle Wild


As winter closes in and the roads snow over in Dawson City, Yukon, newly arrived journalist Jo Silver investigates the dubious suicide of a local politician and quickly discovers that not everything in the sleepy tourist town is what it seems. Before long, law enforcement begins treating the death as a possible murder and Jo is the prime suspect.

Review

Strange Things Done is Elle Wild’s debut album and what a great debut! The story starts in the in the small town of Dawson City, Yukon, Canada. I love the dark and tense atmosphere that builds up in her narrative. I liked the way Elle Wild developed her characters, but I have to admit that I never quite warmed up to Jo. The chilling small tall narrative reminded me a bit of some of Stephen King’s great classics such as Salem’s lot. For that same reason, at times the story was a little slow for my taste. Overall, I highly recommend this dark and chilly novel.

I would like to thank Dundurn and NetGalley for allowing me to read an early copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


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Review: The Bones Will Speak by Carrie Stuart Parks

Forensic artist Gwen Marcey has become the target of a serial killer who believes he’s been appointed God’s executioner. In Copper Creek, Montana, Gwen Marcey is struggling to put together her life after cancer and divorce. When her dog retrieves a skull of a murder victim and leads her to the victim’s grave, Gwen uses her forensic art ability to identify a serial killer. She is horrified to discover all the victims look like her fourteen-year-old daughter. The murderer is a “lone wolf,” a member of the terrorist group Phineas Priesthood-and he has a score to settle with Gwen. Unraveling the tangled Christian Identity movement, where race-not grace-provides salvation, Gwen is in a frantic rush against time. She must use all her skills to uncover the killer before he can carry out his threat to destroy her and everyone she loves.

Review

This is book number two of the Gwen Marcey’s series. Gwen is a forensic artist who’s recovering from a divorce and from cancer. When Gwen’s dog finds a skull of a murder victim, Gwen uses her forensic knowledge and sets out to solve the crime. I really enjoyed this story. The Bones Will Speak is an exciting, fast-paced thriller full of twists and surprises. I didn’t read book one in the series, but I thought this book stood on its own. The parts I really liked about this book was the emphasis on forensic science and the job of forensic artists. At times Gwen came across as a know-it-all sort of person who is part forensic artist part detective. Overall, I enjoyed Parks’ writing style and I think this book will really appeal to fans of CSI and other forensic shows. I recommend it.

I’d like to thank BookLook Bloggers for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 


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Review: First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

Growing up, Josie and Meredith Garland shared a loving, if sometimes contentious relationship. Josie was impulsive, spirited, and outgoing; Meredith hardworking, thoughtful, and reserved. When tragedy strikes their family, their different responses to the event splinter their delicate bond. Fifteen years later, Josie and Meredith are in their late thirties, following very different paths. Josie, a first grade teacher, is single—and this close to swearing off dating for good. What she wants more than the right guy, however, is to become a mother—a feeling that is heightened when her ex-boyfriend’s daughter ends up in her class. Determined to have the future she’s always wanted, Josie decides to take matters into her own hands. On the outside, Meredith is the model daughter with the perfect life. A successful attorney, she’s married to a wonderful man, and together they’re raising a beautiful four-year-old daughter. Yet lately, Meredith feels dissatisfied and restless, secretly wondering if she chose the life that was expected of her rather than the one she truly desired. As the anniversary of their tragedy looms and painful secrets from the past begin to surface, Josie and Meredith must not only confront the issues that divide them, but also come to terms with their own choices.

Review

I feel the need to start this review by explaining how I managed to give this novel 4-stars when I completely disliked every character in this book. I am usually drawn to a good family drama, especially stories about siblings. So, the premise of this book was a huge selling point. Another reason that brought me to this novel was the author. I really enjoyed Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed and Something Blue, and I was already familiar with her style of writing. Indeed, I think Giffin really shines in family drama and the description of everyday life in a way that’s interesting and smart.

This book surrounds the story of this family, the Garlands, who after losing their oldest son in a car accident become extremely dysfunctional. There is something to be said about grief and tragedy. It either brings out the best out of people, or it brings the absolute worst out of them. In the case of the Garlands, it certainly brought out the worst.

Although this story does not really have a plot, Giffin still manages to make the narrative engaging and the dialogues dynamic. The format of the novel is set up with alternating chapters between Josie’s accounts and Meredith’s accounts of their life. Josie is reaching her late 30s. She is an elementary school teacher, self-absorbed, and selfish. Meredith’s not much better either.  She is an OCD type lawyer who, although she doesn’t see it, is also extremely selfish. Both sisters, together with the father and the mother have never truly processed the death of Daniel fifteen years earlier and somehow those scars have dictated their lives, their choices, and the relationship (or the lack of) they have with each other.

I really tried to sympathize with these sisters, but I just couldn’t. I believe Meredith’s complete ungratefulness and inability to see anything beyond her belly button had me brace myself not to slap her in the face a couple of times. And that is one of the reasons this novel deserves 4-stars. Although parts of the story are predictable and even impossible, Giffin’s character development was so good that I had a very clear idea of the voice and mannerisms of these characters by the time I was done with the book. This is an emotional and well-written novel with themes of grievance, forgiveness, friendship, and love.

I received an early copy of this book for free from Penguin Random House First To Read in exchange for my honest review.


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Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

“Are you happy with your life?” Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious. Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.” In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable–something impossible. Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

Review

Ok, so Dark Matter is one of those novels where the least you know about it the better. I would even say be careful with reading too many reviews because it is really easy to spoil the plot. The first chapters of this book are extremely captivating. This is a fast-paced thriller that will truly surprise you and you won’t see it coming. Suffice to say that this book was absolutely nothing like what I expected it to be. As for the genre of this book, there is a little bit of everything in this story. It’s part sci-fi, part romance, and part thriller. I thought it was a very innovative concept by Blake Crouch. Although this book didn’t get a 5-stars in my opinion, partly because by the time I really understood what was going on in the story the book lost part of its interest, I still highly recommend this book.

I’d like to thank First To Read for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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Review: Wolf Lake by John Verdon


Could a nightmare be used as a murder weapon? That’s the provocative question confronting Gurney in the thrilling new installment in this series of international bestsellers. The former NYPD star homicide detective is called upon to solve a baffling puzzle: Four people who live in different parts of the country and who seem to have little in common, report having had the same dream—a terrifying nightmare involving a bloody dagger with a carved wolf’s head on the handle. All four are subsequently found with their wrists cut — apparent suicides — and the weapon used in each case was a wolf’s head dagger. Police zero in quickly on Richard Hammond, a controversial psychologist who conducts hypnotherapy sessions at a spooky old Adirondack inn called Wolf Lake Lodge. It seems that each of the victims had gone there to meet with Hammond shortly before turning up dead. Troubled by odd holes in the official approach to the case, Gurney begins his own investigation — an action that puts him in the crosshairs of not only an icy murderer and the local police but the darkest corner of the federal government. As ruthless as the blizzard trapping him in the sinister eeriness of Wolf Lake, Gurney’s enemies set out to keep him from the truth at any cost — including an all-out assault on the sanity of his beloved wife Madeleine. With his emotional resources strained to the breaking point, Gurney must throw himself into a deadly battle of wits with the most frightening opponent he has ever faced.

Review

Wolf Lake is the latest installment in the Dave Gurney series. This is a novel with a great hook.  Imagine four strangers living in four different parts of the country who all apparently committed suicide after having the same nightmare. The one thing these four strangers share in common is that each of the victims prior to their death met with a controversial psychologist, Richard Hammond, at a thousand-dollar-a-night resort. Verdon really weaves a fantastic story even if at times it mixes elements of supernatural, paranoia and even terrorism. The plot has several twists and the ending did not disappoint. I wished I had read the previous books in the series in order to get better acquainted with Gurney and more familiar with his turbulent relationship with his wife. Overall, kudos to the mind of John Verdon for coming up with this intense and exciting psychological thriller.

I’d like to thank Edelweiss for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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Review: Black Widow by Chris Brookmyre

Diana Jager is clever, strong and successful, a skilled surgeon and fierce campaigner via her blog about sexism. Yet it takes only hours for her life to crumble when her personal details are released on the internet as revenge for her writing.Then she meets Peter. He’s kind, generous, and knows nothing about her past: the second chance she’s been waiting for. Within six months, they are married. Within six more, Peter is dead in a road accident, a nightmare end to their fairytale romance. But Peter’s sister Lucy doesn’t believe in fairytales, and tasks maverick reporter Jack Parlabane with discovering the dark truth behind the woman the media is calling Black Widow…

Review

One of the things that caught my attention about this book was its cover. And after reading the synopsis I was really interested in reading this book. I started reading this book unaware that this was a book in a series, but luckily for me, this small detail did not prevent me from fully enjoying and understanding the plot.

The story starts with Dr. Diana Jagger a surgeon on trial for the murder of her husband Peter.  Only months after their marriage, Peter is killed in a suspicious car crash. Although Peter’s body is never found, Dr. Jagger becomes the first suspect and Jack Parlabane is hired to investigate the case.

Black Widow was one of those books with a slow start that all of the sudden had an unexpected twist that completely set things back in motion. This book really blew me away and kept me awake until late hours of the night in expectation for what was coming next. Don’t be discouraged by the fact that this is book seven of the Jack Parlabane series. This story certainly stands alone and will certainly keep you guessing until the surprising finale. Great read!

I’d like to thank NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This book is scheduled to be published November 1, 2016.


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Review: A Scone To Die For by H.Y. Hanna

When an American tourist is murdered with a scone in Gemma Rose’s quaint Oxfordshire tearoom, she suddenly finds herself apron-deep in a mystery involving long-buried secrets from Oxford’s past. Armed with her insider knowledge of the University and with the help of four nosy old ladies from the village (not to mention a cheeky little tabby cat named Muesli), Gemma sets out to solve the mystery—all while dealing with her matchmaking mother and the return of her old college love, Devlin O’Connor, now a dashing CID detective. But with the body count rising and her business going bust, can Gemma find the killer before things turn to custard?

Review

A Scone to Die For is the first book in the Oxford Tearoom Mystery by H.Y. Hanna. I thought this book was a cute and light cozy mystery. Jane Austen’s fans are certainly going to recognize a little influence of her novel Persuasion. I liked the plot, and I was surprised with the twist in the end. Gemma’s character is likable and down-to-earth. I really liked the interaction between Gemma and Devlin and hoped for more in this book, but I’m certain that the relationship will be better explored in the next books in the series. Another thing that I liked about this book was all the descriptions of food and the English life. The English scone recipe at the end of the book is certainly a plus. This book is an easy-read, cozy mystery that I recommend to the fans of the genre.


About The Author

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H.Y. Hanna is an award-winning mystery and suspense writer and the author of the bestselling Oxford Tearoom Mysteries. She has also written romantic suspense and sweet romance, as well as a children’s middle-grade mystery series. After graduating from Oxford University with a BA in Biological Sciences and a MSt in Social Anthropology, Hsin-Yi tried her hand at a variety of jobs, before returning to her first love: writing. She worked as a freelance journalist for several years, with articles and short stories published in the UK, Australia and NZ, and has won awards for her novels, poetry, short stories and journalism. A globe-trotter all her life, Hsin-Yi has lived in a variety of cultures, from Dubai to Auckland, London to New Jersey, but is now happily settled in Perth, Western Australia, with her husband and a rescue kitty named Muesli. You can learn more about her (and the real-life Honey and Muesli who inspired the characters in the stories).


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Review: The Silence of The Sea by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

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In The Silence of the Sea, the sixth installment in the ThĂłra GudmundsdĂłttir series, a luxury yacht arrives in Reykjavik harbor with nobody on board. What has happened to the crew, and to the family who were on board when the yacht left Lisbon? What should Thora make of the rumors saying that the vessel was cursed, especially given that when she boards the yacht she thinks she sees one of the missing children? Where is Karitas, the glamorous young wife of the yacht’s former owner? And whose is the body that has washed up further along the shore? The most chilling novel yet from Yrsa Sigurdardottir, an international bestselling author at the height of her powers.

Although The Silence of The Sea is the 6th book in the ThĂłra GudmundsdĂłttir series, it is definitely a book that stands alone. I can’t remember how I heard about this book, but I can tell you that I searched a few libraries for it and had to wait a few days for my inter-library loan to arrive. I’m glad I requested this book. This is my first novel from Icelandic author Yrsa (pronounced UR-suh) Sigurdardorttir (pronounced SIG-ur-dar-daughter). Wow! That’s a mouth full, so when you get passed all the different spellings and difficult sounding names in the novel what you get is a book with a great start and a great hook. Sigurdardortti’s narrative starts out slow and creepy. She sets a great vibe and atmosphere with her chilling descriptions of Iceland in the winter and an abandoned yacht. This book has a feel that is partially ghostly/paranormal and partially thriller/crime.

The book’s narrative alternates between Thora’s accounts of the events and how she gets involved in the investigation and the description of the events that are happening in the Yacht, told by one of the passengers named AEgir. I really liked this novel. It reminded me a bit of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, and towards the end when the mystery is about to be solved, I felt an element of Scooby-Doo with “and I would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for….”

I’m definitely recommending this chilling, suspenseful novel. I was very impressed with Sigurdardortti’s writing and I’m looking forward to reading her other novels.

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Review: The Night Bell by Inger Ash Wolfe

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The new novel in this acclaimed series is brilliantly paced, addictively suspenseful—the author’s best yet. Hazel Micallef (played by Susan Sarandon in the recent film of the series’ debut, The Calling) has become one of crime writing’s most memorable detectives. The Night Bell moves between the past and the present in Port Dundas, Ontario, as two mysteries converge. A discovery of the bones of murdered children is made on land that was once a county foster home. Now it’s being developed as a brand new subdivision whose first residents are already railing against broken promises and corruption. But when three of these residents are murdered after the discovery of the children’s bones, frustration turns to terror.While trying to stem the panic and solve two crimes at once, Hazel Micallef finds her memory stirred back to the fall of 1959, when the disappearance of a girl from town was blamed on her adopted brother. Although he is long dead, she begins to see the present case as a chance to clear her brother’s name, something that drives Hazel beyond her own considerable limits and right into the sights of an angry killer.

It seems that lately I have been giving books in a series a try. I used to only read books in a series if they were the first book in the series or if I had read the previous books. Well, The Night Bell doesn’t fall in either one of my categories as it is book number four of the Hazel Micallef series, but I still gave it a try. This novel employs the narrative technique of past and present times. The book starts in 1957 when Hazel was a young girl and introduces the story of the unsolved crime of child, which Hazel’s brother may or not have been a part of. Wolfe does a good job at telling these two parts of the story, the past 50 years ago, and the present times in 2007 and skillfully merges these two parts of the story for the great finale. Overall, this is a great mystery book with wonderful twists and an intricate plot. Does it do a good job as a stand alone novel? I didn’t think so. By book 4 of a series, there were a lot of characters that jumped in the story and that I had no clue who they were. It would’ve worked better if the author had re-introduced some of the characters for the people (like me) unfamiliar with the previous books. My bet is if you read the other books in the series you are going to love this new installment.

I’d like to thank NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

3 star

Review: The White Cottage Mystery by Margery Allingham

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Seven people might have murdered Eric Crowther, the mysterious recluse who lived in the gaunt house whose shadow fell across the White Cottage. Seven people had good cause. It was not lack of evidence that sent Detective Chief Inspector Challenor and his son Jerry half across Europe to unravel a chaos of clues. The White Cottage Mystery was Margery Allingham’s first detective story, published initially as a newspaper serial.

I love mystery novels and I absolutely adore Agatha Christie, so I couldn’t help but give Margery Allingham’s most acclaimed work The White Cottage Mystery a try. This book is a very fast, easy, and cozy mystery to read. I really enjoyed the plot and the twists. I have to admit that parts of this book reminded me of Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and considering that The White Cottage Mystery was published in 1928 a couple of years after Agatha Christie’s novel, Allingham was probably influenced a bit by Christie’s work. In that respect, I can’t say that this book was very original.

Overall, there were some elements of nostalgia in regard to the language and manners that are outdated in this day and age. I liked it, though. I was really happy with the surprising twist at the end.  Great and quick summer read.

I’d like to thank NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

3 star