Posts Categorized: Book Review

Mini-Views of the Detective Helen Grace Series

June 3, 2016 Book Review, reviews 6

m. j. arlidge series

 

Eeny Meeny begins with a most horrifying murder – a young couple is kidnapped, left in an abandoned empty diving pool with no way out and given a gun with a single bullet. The instructions left with the couple state that only one will make it out alive, the choice is theirs – to live, one of them must die.

It is quite possibly the creepiest, most terrifying concept for a thriller I’ve ever read.

Detective Helen Grace is on the case, along with her dedicated team. Helen has a tragic history that has left her with numerous scars, both on the inside and the outside. Her job is her life; no real friends and no family to speak of. Not only does Helen have to deal with a horrifying murder investigation, she’s got one reporter breathing down her neck and causing all kinds of trouble. {reminded me of a few news journalists I’ve seen on tv. . .}

The plot is fast paced, never a dull moment, even when there’s alleged down time. DI Helen Grace’s character is slowly revealed through her actions. The red herrings are spot on and reminiscent of Agatha Christie.

Towards the grand finale a couple of issues arose – all of a sudden Helen has a breakthrough but for the reader, it feels rushed, almost contrived. Don’t get me wrong, the denouement totally works, it just happened without warning. While the revelation of the killer is shocking, the confrontation is rushed. ugh! I want to talk to someone about this book!!! If you’ve read it and want to commiserate, please send me a tweet! Would love to discuss!

As a series beginning, Eeny Meeny introduces a writer of immense potential in the thriller genre.

side questions ~ for those familiar with the police in the UK – do the police typically only carry batons? then check out guns as necessary?

AND, if you’ve read this one – what happened to Louise?!?


[Tweet “Must-read new thriller series from U.K. author!”]

Pop Goes the Weasel is #2 in the DI Helen Grace series. {did I mention I read all 4 U.S. versions over Memorial Day weekend?!?} In this one, married men are turning up dead and with missing body parts. Said body part is then delivered to the home or office of the deceased {lovely, right!}.

Once again, Helen Grace and her team are on the case. It’s been a few months since the fall out from the serial killer in Eeny Meeny, and the team is slowly returning to normal. Helen has a new boss that butts heads with her every chance she gets. The dogged reporter from Eeny Meeny is back to once again wreak havoc on the investigation.

It’s fascinating to read a series back-to-back. The progression of writing skill is apparent. Arlidge continues to develop Helen’s character and that of her team through slow revelations and conflicts. While there has been a rash of books published in recent years that focus on psychological suspense, Arlidge’s Helen Grace series takes us back to the true thriller and police procedural. Pop Goes the Weasel is even better than Eeny Meeny and I wasn’t sure that was possible!

One caveat, it is important to read Eeny Meeny first as there are spoilers from the first book in Pop Goes the Weasel.  Reading this series is not for the faint of heart, but there are also no gratuitous gory violent scenes. The violence included is necessary for the development of the plot. If you enjoy a good who-done-it though, then definitely pick this series up!

Stay tuned for reviews of The Doll’s House and Liar Liar {to be released in the U.S. on June 7th}.

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three-stars

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Thoughts on Flight Patterns

May 24, 2016 Book Review, reviews 4

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Thoughts on Flight PatternsFlight Patterns by Karen White
Published by NAL on May 24th 2016
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, Southern
Pages: 416
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonIndieBound
Goodreads

 

I’ve been a fan of Karen White’s books since Falling Home and After the Rain. She’s one of those authors that it doesn’t matter what the book is about, I’m going to buy it. My absolute favorite book of Karen White’s is On Folly Beach ~ that one was like immersing myself in dream, buying a used bookstore & living at the beach…

So about Flight Patterns. I’m not sure what went wrong with this one, but for me, I simply could not buy into the premise, the characters or even the setting. And setting is typically this author’s strong point!

What I did not love

  • Maisy. She was angry at the world, spiteful and simply not a nice person. It seemed like the author was trying to make a point with Maisy’s character and how our parents can affect us even into adulthood. I did not see any real growth in her character throughout the book. Even in the end she felt flat and one-dimensional to me – an angry, bitter person.
  • The progression of the book seemed stilted. It’s like the author threw every contrived scenario at the characters in order to create emotional drama and impact but instead, it didn’t flow with White’s typical immersive storytelling skill.
  • The novel felt too long and drawn out. We were told many, many times how Birdie was mentally unstable and Maisie was ‘justifiably’ angry and Georgia was responsible for everything.

[Tweet “The good and the bad with #flightpatterns”]

What I did enjoy

  • Becky, Maisy’s daughter. Such a sweetly drawn character who stole the show for me.
  • Many of the bee facts – fascinating!

When a hive is invaded by a wasp, the bees cluster around the intruder and fan their wings to make it 117 degrees, knowing that wasps cannot survive temperatures above 116. This is the ultimate act of survival, as the bees will die if the temperature reaches 118 degrees.

  • Nuggets of life truths sprinkled throughout the book:

When you let your hurt from the past control you, you are tied to it forever. You will never change your life until you learn to let go the things that once hurt you.

Because no one can hurt us as much as those we love the most.

Sometimes all we need to do to forgive our parents is to understand their own childhoods.

I”d honestly recommend one of Karen White’s earlier books over this one, especially On Folly Beach…have I mentioned how much I love that book?!?

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Book Review: The Versions of Us

May 20, 2016 Book Review, reviews 7

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Book Review: The Versions of UsThe Versions of Us by Laura Barnett
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on May 3rd 2016
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 416
Amazon
Goodreads
three-stars

 

Eva and Jim meet at Cambridge in 1958.  Eva is a writer while Jim is either pursuing art or law in the different versions. What begins as a beautiful love story from a chance meeting turns into version 2 and version 3. Each one slightly different, yet enough to change the trajectory of their story. It’s the equivalent of three different ‘what if’s?’ Which is a brilliant idea for a story as most of us play the what if game in our minds and in our journals.

The writing is lovely and immersive. The subtle nuances of each storyline is fleshed out.

Perhaps that’s how love always arrives in this imperceptible slippage from acquaintance to intimacy. Eva pg 12

But.

I had difficulty following the different storylines as each chapter changes. I felt disjointed in reading The Versions of Us. It was almost hard work keeping up with which version was which. I wanted to love the book. I truly did. It was a smart story, incredible idea and beautiful writing. I just had a hard time keeping up.

[Tweet “A novel of ‘what-if’s’ spanning 60 years and 3 ‘versions of us'”]

Side note ~ there are wonderful references to books and publishing houses throughout the book:

Pale brown hair, in need of a cut; a Penguin paperback in his free hand. Eva can just make out the title on the spine, Brave New World . . .

He shifts the paperback he is carrying–Mrs. Dalloway; he’d found it on his mother’s bedside table as he was packing. . .

It was fun finding the references to literature and pop culture throughout the book – everything from Shakespeare to People magazine. Even David Bowie has a mention.

Have you read this one? Am I right that we all tend to play the ‘what-if’ game in our heads or am I the only one 😉 ?

 

*With tremendous thanks I received The Versions of Us from the publisher for the purpose of an honest unbiased review.*

 

three-stars

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On a Journey with The Passage

April 21, 2016 Book Review, reviews 5

On a Journey with The PassageThe Passage (The Passage, #1) by Justin Cronin
Published by Ballantine Books on June 8th 2010
Genres: Dystopian, Fiction, Thriller
Pages: 766
Source: purchased
Amazon
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

I was not going to read The Passage. I absolutely positively wasn’t going to read it.

It was too hyped up plus I read a review that said it was about vampires, and y’all know I don’t do vampires. And I read it was going to be a trilogy and I hate waiting for sequels.

But then I read that the third and final book is coming out in May.

And I read this review and this one and this one. I decided I would pick up the book, read the first page, and if it didn’t grab me in that first paragraph, then sayonara The Passage.

Wouldn’t you know, it grabbed me and sucked me in with the very. first. sentence!

I’ve always been a huge fan of Indiana Jones, Clive Cussler’s, Dirk Pitt, James Rollins, Sigma Force and Michael Crichton’s every book ~ these adventure novels are perfect escapism reading.

The Passage is filled with flawed human characters, deftly created by a master storyteller.

Epic in scale. Plays on our every mortal fear and conspiracy theories. A scientist stumbles upon a deadly virus that makes terminally ill patients ‘cured’ of their cancers. These patients also appear to have an age reversal ~ becoming younger and more virile {yes, bad pun I know!}. Then a month later all of those patients are dead? Can you not just see all kinds of entities all over this? A virus that cures ailments and makes you younger – yes, please.

So what does this secret government agency do? Collect 12 human test subjects to experiment creating the ultimate ‘cure’ for disease, aging and death.

Somehow the experiment goes horribly wrong. But you knew that was coming, right? Because the book is 776 pages. And everything I just told you is in the first chapter!

[Tweet “Epic tale questions humanity & asks ‘what would you do’ #thepassage”]

The Passage is disturbing, makes you think and wonder what you would do.

3 Reasons I love The Passage

  1. it’s a hero’s journey, but the hero turns out to be a girl.  {no spoiler here – it’s on the book flap and Goodreads description}
  2. it’s along the same lines of a true epic like The Lord of the Rings 
  3. it makes you think. oh does this book make you think ~ and ask everyone around you “what would you do?”

2 Reasons The Passage is intimidating

  1. I love big books and I cannot lie. But with The Passage and the alternating time frames and the ‘have to read it at break-neck speed’ because I have to find out who lives made me feel like after I was finished that I need to go back and start from the beginning. a. because it was so good, and b. because I probably missed clues along the way.
  2. The whole thing seems so plausible. Terrifying.

Recommended for anyone who enjoys epic adventure novels, Michael Crichton-esque conspiracies and The Walking Dead.

Ok, I’ve got to know ~ have you read it? What did you think? Or were you like me and avoided it like the plague for the longest time?

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four-half-stars

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Book Review: Pretty Baby

March 25, 2016 Book Review, reviews 6

Book Review: Pretty BabyPretty Baby by Mary Kubica
Published by Mira on July 28th 2015
Genres: Fiction, Thriller
Pages: 380
Source: purchased
Goodreads
four-stars

 

Truly psychological in the thriller category, Pretty Baby takes us on a slow burn to a crashing climax. Also, probably more true-to-life as well, truth be known. Everyone has hidden motivations that dictates their every move.

Heidi is a bleeding heart devoted to her work with literacy. Her husband, Chris, is an investment banker focused on money, money, money. While Willow is the homeless, disturbed teenage mother that Heidi takes in, much to her husband and daughter’s chagrin.

Told in alternating chapters, Chris, Willow and Heidi slowly peel away the layers of crazy. Heidi can be a bit annoying and obnoxious to those who do not share her same concerns for society’s underprivileged and/or abused. Willow is the tragic image of all that can, and does, go wrong in an abused child’s life. Chris gradually becomes the mirror to Heidi and Willow, giving us an up close glimpse.

Pretty Baby was, overall, sad for me. Having worked with abused children and families for so long I know how heart-breaking it is to see a child you just can’t reach. . .to want to take a child under your wing and give her safety, shelter and love. What many don’t realize (or want to accept) is that there’s a lifetime of hurt, pain and trauma to overcome. Children are not automatically grateful for the love and care – many resist, push boundaries, test you to see what it will take to make you give up on them.

Pretty Baby clearly depicts what happens when what motivates us gets skewed; when perceptions are completely wrong; and how the best of intentions can all go horribly wrong.

Recommended for those who enjoy Tess Gerritson, Lisa Unger and Heather Gudenkauf.

What psychological thriller have you read recently? I need some recommendations to get me through til Kubica’s latest comes out in May! 😉

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four-stars

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