Holding Smoke – By Elle Cosimano

Holding Smoke Rating:

Note : I received an ARC of this book via Veronica’s blog giveaway. Do check out her lovely blog here.

Synopsis2John “Smoke” Conlan is serving time for two murders but he wasn’t the one who murdered his English teacher, and he never intended to kill the only other witness to the crime. A dangerous juvenile rehabilitation center in Denver, Colorado, known as the Y, is Smoke’s new home and the only one he believes he deserves.

But, unlike his fellow inmates, Smoke is not in constant imprisonment. After a near death experience leaves him with the ability to shed his physical body at will, Smoke is able to travel freely outside the concrete walls of the Y, gathering information for himself and his fellow inmates while they’re asleep in their beds. Convinced his future is only as bright as the fluorescent lights in his cell, Smoke doesn’t care that the “threads” that bind his soul to his body are wearing thin-that one day he may not make it back in time. That is, until he meets Pink, a tough, resourceful girl who is sees him for who he truly is and wants to help him clear his name. 

Now Smoke is on a journey to redemption he never thought possible. With Pink’s help, Smoke may be able to reveal the true killer, but the closer they get to the truth, the more deadly their search becomes. The web of lies, deceit, and corruption that put Smoke behind bars is more tangled than they could have ever imagined. With both of their lives on the line, Smoke will have to decide how much he’s willing to risk, and if he can envision a future worth fighting for.

My review I havent read too many YA books which just have that slight touch of paranormal. The few I have read recently have been disappointing especially a couple of them which are about mind-body-soul because the book somehow ends up reading like religious fiction instead of what was promised in the synopsis. Thankfully, Holding Smoke not just lives up to what is promised in the cover blurb, but also exceeds it by miles.

No aspect of the book threatens to eclipse the other – the murder mystery complements beautifully with the human stories of the inmates. That’s a rarity in mystery books with a sizeable secondary cast – where sub-plots often tend to test your patience and make you question their need. But here, you actually do enjoy and empathize with everyone – with all their background stories that have been added cleverly into the book through Conlan’s paranormal power. I loved all the prison scenes, there was no unnecessary amped up melodrama but yet it is so effective – whether it is the counseling sessions or the power play in the yard. I feel like this is probably one of the biggest strengths of the book – to never lose sight of the fact that this is a juvenile rehab and NOT an adult prison. No matter how “hardened” they might be because of the circumstances, their vulnerabilities as teens are always bubbling beneath the surface.

I loved how we got the background story of how Conlan ended up in the detention center. The author takes her time to build it up gradually – whether it is the details of the fateful day or nuggets from his earlier difficult years with his abusive father. Conlan’s life is a template of childhood degraded, a present devalued and a future lost – A future that had a college degree and a well-paying job.  This is also the story shared by a lot of characters at the center. Of course, if you are lucky you might have an empathetic warden or a counselor taking an interest in you and reinforcing the belief that you can finish your education and making something of your life once you get out. But no inmate seriously believes it.

There is no romance in this book. What Conlan and Pink have between them is more of a strained-friendship-with-romantic potential and that’s a good thing because both have a lot of things going on in their individual lives. Pink is practical and gosh – just so gutsy! Not some wannabe badass. Conlan initially seeks her out because he needs her help but later does start valuing her and respecting the life she leads. He also feels like he is losing out on someone important to him when turns her away at one point in the story. Despite his feelings for her, I liked how Conlan never turns reckless in using his paranormal ability just to meet her.

I really liked the murder mystery though I guessed the “who” halfway through the book. But I think it is more due to the fact that I have gotten pretty good at guesswork than anything else. I couldn’t guess the “why” though. I also liked all the red herrings the author used and explained in the final pages. The only issue I had is probably the presence of another girl – Vivian – in the story. I felt like the book didn’t really need her. I think any other existing character(s) could have contributed whatever she did to the story. But it is a pretty minor gripe and well, I understood why she was there once I read the Author’s Note in the end. (Do read that once you finish the book!!! You will find some great personal insights there.)

There is an epilogue that I felt was not required. I got my closure even without that. Well, with or without the epilogue, it was such a bittersweet conclusion and an immensely satisfying one.

Surviving Valencia – By Holly Tierney-Bedord

Rating:

Buy Links:

Kindle

*Note: I received this book from the author through Aimee’s blogiversary giveaways.*

Synopsis:

A car accident robs the Loden Family of twins Van and Valencia shortly after they start college. Charmed, bright, and beautiful, they held their family together and elevated the Lodens to greatness. In their loss, a shadow is cast upon the family, particularly on the remaining child, who lacks the easy grace and popularity her older siblings took for granted. 

As an adult, her life begins to turn from mediocre to amazing when she is saved by cool, artistic Adrian. The kind of happiness once reserved only for others is finally hers, until pieces of the past begin ruining what seems to be a perfect life.

My Review:

I don’t remember ever learning the narrator’s name. I realized it while I was typing this out and trying to recollect her name. So I am just going to call her HER or SHE.

With so many books using the past/present – in –alternate chapters narrative these days, it suddenly started getting boring and like some new fad just to be all different and edgy, regardless of whether it is actually needed or not. This is one of the books where it works, and works really well.

This is the second book in a row (the first being Speak)  I have read dealing with pressures faced by high school girls, such as being bullied, or worse, ignored . Here, it is further compounded by the fact that SHE is the youngest of the three siblings, with the older two, Van and Valencia being twins and well-liked among their peers.  What’s worse, is HER parents ignore her (unintentionally or not), don’t celebrate her achievements or special occasions with the same gusto as the twins’.  Gosh, it was all-round terrible to read how she was, well.. pretty much emotionally abandoned by her parents, especially her mom. What was heartbreaking to see is that SHE never really stops trying – After her mom gives up on trying to mould her like Valencia – by putting her into dance classes and goading her to show “feminine grace”, she takes it upon herself to “change” and start afresh every time a new school year starts. But she never catches a break. Her siblings’ death makes everything worse, as unlike before, she cannot even be an outside spectator to the “Happy Loden gang”. Valencia’s death hits her especially hard, as she was someone who SHE always aspired to be, something which felt as unattainable as reaching out to the stars.

So, yes, it always felt like she was stuck in a hopeless situation. When they were alive, she was torn between trying to shrug them off or enjoy the reflected glory. When they are dead, she is even worse off as she is seen as some specimen of curiosity, to be pitied or seen as a psych guinea pig by the school counselors and teachers from afar, but never befriended or shown consideration.

I don’t know what more to say without giving anything away further, but I am so glad I discovered this book. On the surface it is about HER moving on. Dig deeper and it is about HER trying to shake off the disappointments of her childhood, and trying to make herself happy by living (or rather play-acting) the ‘IT’ life as seen in glossy magazines and TV shows. One of my favorite moments, was Adrian gifting her gold necklace and helping her putting it on, while both of them coyly speak to each through their reflections as they stand in front of the mirror.  The entire scene was a caustic nod to every happy-couple-in-TV-commercials ever. But as we find out in the end, she wasn’t the only one living vicariously.

If there is one criticism, it is probably that some of the additions to the mystery arc, such as the soothsayer and detective didn’t end being spoken about or explained again and some things felt more like loose ends than red herrings.  Some of final passages were slightly ambiguous too. I read them twice and there are still a couple of things that I am still not too sure about.

The ending was bittersweet and I liked how SHE followed up on her conviction that sometimes you just instinctively know when something is broken and can’t be mended. I was also left wondering whether SHE loved Valencia for what she effortlessly projected to the outside world, and would SHE have loved her just the same if she didn’t meet those lofty standards.

Silent Sentry – By Theresa Rizzo

Rating:

*Note : I received a digital copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

Buy Links:

Paperback                Kindle

Synopsis:

Someone wants Gianna Donnatelli.  Preferably alive.  Alive and compliant.  He’s willing to kill to get to her.  But she’s got family. 
The Scarfilis and Donnatellis love deeply and protect fiercely. “Family takes care of family” is the code they live by.
When a hacker threatens Gianna Donnatelli’s life, Dr. Joe Scarfili is determined to keep her safe, only he has no police or tech experience, and Gianna’s penchant for aiding Detroit’s underprivileged is the same kind of altruism that got his wife killed. Gianna protects Joe with the same unyielding resolve.

Gianna pushes all his insecurity buttons. Joe tries her patience like no other. But together they’ll fight to save each other and their love… Or die trying.

Award-winning author Theresa Rizzo delivers a thrilling crime novel packed with suspense, romance, and redemption.

My Review:

At over 400 hundred pages, this is a pretty balanced and wholesome romantic-suspense; with the pace of this book best described as probably being on cruise control! And by that I mean, while it isn’t the kind of book which drops a bombshell every other page or is action-packed, it doesn’t slack much either. This did make for a leisurely read with ample time spent on both the romantic and mystery aspect.

Pretty early on we are given the hint that both Gianna and Joe are from families of considerable clout, more specifically – well-connected to or regularly dealing with old-world Italian mafia families. Neither of them has ever shown any interest in going into the family businesses though. Joe got married, became a successful surgeon, and well, got widowed when his wife was killed in a drive-by shooting. Gianna initially trained as a nurse, with her desire to “care for” stemming from watching her mom succumb to MS. She soon realizes her real passion is in software development though, so she quits nursing and gets into coding. Her altruistic side never leaves her as she decides to live among the poor and dangerous, dinghy Detroit areas to try and lead by example, and also coaxes her dad to help her with the finances to open a clinic nearby.  However, one day her house is broken into and she is attacked, and she ends up in the same hospital where Joe works in. Old, unrequited feelings for him resurface; but reciprocation is the last thing on her mind at the moment, as she tries to work out just what was the attacker after. She keeps her fingers crossed that it has nothing to do with Prometheus , her baby-  an invention that can revolutionize the healthcare industry.

One of the things I liked in the book is the world building. By that, I don’t mean just the descriptions and history of the place this is set in, but also all the characters and occupations and relationships that were mentioned. We are introduced to Joe’s and Gianna’s families and the author does dwell on their histories and the bond their families have shared. We also meet Gianna’s partners at work and Joe’s best friend.  There are times I feel that storytelling in some genres gets so .. insular when it comes to showing us about the protagonists’ lives, with pretty much no details given on anything else about them,  as long as it is playing up to the theme of the book. So it was nice to really know where everyone comes from. But on the flip side, I felt there were quite a few open sub-plots which were hinted to, but we never got any further answers or explanations. One that I can think of which really stuck out was this entire undercurrent of Joe not being on good terms with his extended family, specifically his uncle and cousin, due to some old incident. This was never really addressed. Similarly there were a couple of other things, like Joe having some secret in his past that he didn’t want anyone to know.

Coming to the romance, well most of it was unhurried and I liked that the author addressed how two people with fundamental ideological differences do have their work cut out for them if they have to proceed with a relationship. Having said that, I honestly found Gianna pretty irritating with her sanctimonious manner. And if I may add, self-absorbed, judgmental and insensitive whenever Joe tried to present his perspective. I thought, “C’mon girl, his wife died in a drive-by shooting in Detroit. Is it so hard to piece together why he feels that way about what you do?!”.  Thank heavens she got more bearable as the book proceeded!

The suspense part was not exactly an amazingly constructed whodunit and I honestly felt the entire book could have been much better with sharper editing. But, but, but, I love it when books that lure you into a false sense of closure finally throws up a couple of shocks in the final few pages.  And this is one of those books. I never saw them coming, so I was pretty spooked; and also glad that the book did end in a bit of a flourish!

[Blog Tour: Review+Giveaway]Uneven Exchange – By S.K. Derban

Rating:

Buy Links:

Kindle                    Amazon – Paperback                 Barnes & Noble

*Note: I received a print copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review for iRead book tour*

Synopsis:

Like fire and ice, Alexandra Callet’s life runs hot and cold. At the age of thirty-three, Alexandra owns a stunning home and a successful interior design company. But she is in love with her business partner, Jake Taylor, and he doesn’t even seem to realize she’s a woman. She should be on top of the world, but instead she feels dragged down by the void in her heart. Hoping for answers, she decides a trip to Mexico might soothe her soul.

Jake Taylor only pretends to be a confirmed bachelor. Jake has been entranced by Alexandra’s determination and exotic beauty since the moment they met, but she has no idea how he feels. He considers confessing his love, but fears jeopardizing their friendship and business. He’s caught in a web of pretending he doesn’t care, and doesn’t see a way out of it. Alexandra is recruited for a dangerous mission. Following her trip to Mexico, her resemblance to a member of an assassin’s family leads Alexandra to be recruited by the DEA. Her training leaves her distracted, and her business begins to suffer. Jake notices her sudden change, and feels her slipping both personally and professionally beyond his reach.

Should he finally take the chance…before it’s too late? After all, he has nothing to lose. However, when Alexandra returns to Mexico for her mission, things go terribly wrong. Will she be able find the strength to fight and escape the peaceful haven that has now become her prison?

Or will Jake lose Alexandra forever…

My Review:

Kevin O’Neill is the agent in charge of the operation which is about trying to capture and smuggle Miguel Santiago aka “The Magician” out of Mexico. The Mexican government is uncooperative, so it is a covert operation. It doesn’t help that Miguel is well-protected at all times and his residence is an imposing fortress. When two of Kevin’s field agents spot Alexandra on her vacation in Mexico, the DEA finally feel the wheels of fortune turning in their favor. Because, if anyone can lure Miguel out of his safe haven, it is his sister Daniela. And by some twist of fate, Alexandra bears a striking resemblance to Daniela.

Alexandra runs a successful interior designing & architectural firm with her partner Jake. She has always nursed feelings of something more than just platonic towards him. Fed up with being just Jake’s friend and  professional partner, she welcomes the distraction DEA has to offer and agrees help them out. After a rigorous training where she perfects her voice pitch and body language similar to Daniela, she sets out to Mexico once again.

I loved the premise of the book – it had this whole larger-than-life and an almost cinematic vibe that was fun to imagine. There is a sizeable cast of characters, a lot of them being DEA field agents and undercover spies. So all the initial juggling where we are taken back and forth from Alexandra’s quiet life to the hectic DEA operation made for an engrossing read.  The pace was pretty good too. I couldn’t connect with some things though. Some of the dialogues, especially all the conversational humor felt a bit contrived. Then, there was this whole Jake and Alexandra’s unrequited love story. I am not exactly a huge fan of romance taking centre stage if the book’s genre is something else, but considering this book is pitched more on the lines of thriller/suspense-romance, I felt that the romantic part in this book ended up being sort of half-baked.  Jake doesn’t get much of page-time and I honestly thought it didn’t complement well with the rest of the story.  Then there were some other ideas which weren’t explored fully but just made as random observations. I mean, there is a moment in the book where Alex’s trainer comments that her transformation as Daniella is so convincing that she worries that Alex might find it difficult to shrug off Daniella after the case. At that point, I thought it was interesting and that something on that line of thought will be incorporated into the rest of the book, but nothing else happens. Another thing I couldn’t connect with is Alex’s faith.  I think it is nice to have a protagonist who is devout, but I just thought it was a bit out of place and over-emphasized, especially all the Biblical references and metaphors.

Overall, the book was quite engaging and easy to read. A good one to pick up if you would like to read something involving undercover ops, sprinkled with a bit of romance and lots of Mexican flavor!

About the Author:

745037Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, S.K. Derban moved to London within the first three months, and remained in England until the age of five. Her father, an American citizen, was a decorated veteran of the second world war. Derban’s mother, born and raised in the United Kingdom, was involved with the London Royal Ballet Company, and a great fan of the arts. Even after returning to the United States, Derban’s life was filled with a love of the theatre and a passion for British murder mysteries. S.K. Derban has always remained passionate about writing, and is thrilled to finally share her work with others.

Her personal travel and missionary adventures also help to transport readers virtually across the globe. When writing, S.K. Derban relies on all aspects of her life, from her faith in the Lord, to her love and knowledge of the arts.

Connect with the author:  

 Website   Twitter   Facebook

Giveaway:

Win 1 of 2 print or 2 ebooks of Uneven Exchange (USA only) + a $25 Amazon gift card (International) . Click the link below:

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Check out all the tour stops! :

TOUR SCHEDULE:

April 4 –   Library of Clean Reads – review / giveaway
April 4 –   A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog – review / giveaway
April 4 –   FLY HIGH! – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
April 5 –   Katie’s Clean Book Collection  – review / giveaway
April 5 –   Jaquo Lifestyle Magazine – review
April 6 –   Books Reviews, Nature Photos, and Everything in Between – review
April 6 –   Heidi’s Wanderings – review / giveaway
April 7 –   Writing Pearls – review
April 7 –   Working Mommy Journal – review / giveaway
April 8 –   Seasons of Opportunity – review / giveaway
April 8 –   Book and Ink – review / giveaway
April 11 – Corinne Rodrigues – review
April 11 – Mystery Suspense Reviews – book spotlight / guest post
April 12 – Jorie Loves a Story – review / guest post
April 12 – Olio By Marilyn – review / author interview / giveaway
April 13 – For Life After – review
April 13 – Cassidy Salem Reads & Writes – review / giveaway
April 14 – The Travelogue of a Book Addict – The Book Drealms – review
April 15 – Reading Is My SuperPower – review / giveaway
April 15 – Puddletown Reviews – review / giveaway
April 15 – misty103 @ HubPages – review / author interview
April 18 – StoreyBook Reviews – review
April 18 – A Blue Million Books – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
April 19 – The Reading Diaries – review
April 20 – Pause for Tales – review / guest post
April 21 – bookmyopia – review / giveaway
April 22 – booklovercircumspect4 – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
April 22 – Jessica Cassidy – review / author interview / giveaway

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[Book Spotlight+Excerpt+Giveaway] Silent Sentry – By Theresa Rizzo

Family drama was probably one of the earliest genres that I took a liking to, and if you combine that with crime/mysteries – I am hooked! So I am pretty excited to feature this book on my blog today..

Silent Sentry

Author: Theresa Rizzo
Genre: Crime/Mystery/Romance
Publisher: Rizzo Publishing
Release Date: September, 2015

Synopsis:

An entrepreneur must team up with the man she’s secretly loved to outwit a psychotic hacker before she destroys all she holds dear.

Award-winning author Theresa Rizzo delivers a thrilling crime novel packed with suspense, romance, and redemption.

The Scarfilis and Donnatellis love deeply and protect fiercely. “Family takes care of family” is the code they live by.

So when a hacker threatens Gianna Donnatelli’s life, Dr. Joe Scarfili is determined to keep her safe, only he has no police or tech experience, and Gianna’s penchant for aiding Detroit’s underprivileged is the same kind of altruism that got his wife killed. Gianna protects Joe with the same unyielding resolve. 

Gianna pushes all his insecurity buttons. Joe tries her patience like no other. But together they’ll fight to save each other and their love… Or die trying.

Excerpt:

The cool air-conditioning refreshed Gianna as she entered the house. She watched Paul steadily make his way across the crowded living room. How had he managed to get away from Aunt Rosalie so quickly? Must be his suave European manners. Gianna used to tease Paul about his charming demeanor, but apparently it had some advantages she’d overlooked. He shook hands and chatted with those waylaying him before smoothly excusing himself and moving on. With each delay Paul’s smile seemed a little less warm and his conversations more abrupt.

Excusing herself, Gianna followed her brother as he broke away from one final group of mourners and slipped into the study. Gianna hesitated at the closed paneled door before approaching footsteps propelled her into the room. Quietly she shut the door behind her. Although it’d not been quite two months since her attack in this very room, it seemed a lifetime ago. She frowned to keep the tears at bay.

“Don’t look that way,” Paul ordered gruffly. “There’s nothing you could have done.”

Gianna blinked to disperse determined tears. She cleared her throat, swallowing hard. “It’s my fault.”

Shaking his head, her brother made a dismissive noise. “It’s not.” Pacing from one window to the next, he searched the yard, watching people come and go from the house.

“I left Pa waiting on the front porch like a sitting duck.” Gianna took a shuddering breath. “I had the locks changed and forgot to send him a new key. He rang the doorbell a couple of times before I reached it.”

Paul unbuttoned his double-breasted navy suit coat and brushed it aside. Ramming one hand into his pants pocket, he crossed to the wet bar and poured himself two fingers of scotch. After taking a generous sip, he stared at the family portrait above the fireplace.

“Pa’s death had nothing to do with you,” he said in a deep, quiet voice.

Gianna peered at her brother, as surprised by his seeking alcoholic courage as by his confident tone. Paul sounded so sure, yet there was something else.

“How do you know?”

Paul took his monogrammed white handkerchief from his pocket and blotted the sweat from his forehead. Crossing to the window, he again watched the people. “I just know.”

Know what? What was he hiding? Why was he so nervous? Slowly Gianna approached. She tugged on his arm. “What do you know, Paulie?”

He looked down at her upturned face and then pulled away, turning his back on her. “Come on, Gianna, you can’t be that naive,” he snapped, taking another sip.

Her grief turned to impatient suspicion at her brother’s short temper and strange behavior. “Let’s pretend I am. Spell it out for me.”

He wheeled around. “It’s obvious.”

Coldness settled over Gianna, chilling her to the bone. She stared at her brother hard. “Enough innuendos, Paul. Who killed Pa? And why?”

Buy links

Kindle 

Paperback – Amazon US

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1Q9pmSx

Amazon CA: http://amzn.to/20XywJQ

Amazon AU: http://bit.ly/1XljNGo

 Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1WgbFWN

B&N UK: http://bit.ly/1O4KE2A

iBookstore: http://apple.co/1QtREHZ

Kobo: http://bit.ly/1TakdPm

About the Author:

Theresa Rizzo is an award-winning author who writes romantic crime fiction and emotional stories that explore the complexity of relationships and families through real-life trials. 
Born and raised in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, she currently lives outside of Boulder, Colorado with her husband of thirty-three years. After attaining a BS in Nursing, Theresa retired to raise four wonderful children and write.

Connect with the Author:

 Facebook Twitter  Goodreads

Website:

 www.theresarizzo.com

GIVEAWAY!!

The author is giving an e-book copy of The Silent Sentry (Thank you Theresa!!) Click the link below to enter the giveaway

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Summit Lake – By Charlie Donlea

9781942111061Rating:

Buy links:
Hardcover
Kindle
MP3 CD

Becca Eckersley is young, beautiful twenty-something law student. With good grades in school and a father who is an accomplished attorney with glitzy social connections, she looked all set for a great life and career ahead. Until she is found murdered in her family vacation home at Summit Lake. Who killed her? What was the motive to kill someone who seemed to have a regular, mundane college life? Kelsey, an investigative crime reporter is sent to find out. As she digs deeper, the search for truth turns out to be more than just another job assignment..

I was pretty excited to win this book in the giveaway. Both the cover and the synopsis caught my attention. It has all the basic elements which I have almost come to regard as my comfort food in murder mysteries (especially in the past couple of years) : Narrative – alternating between past (Becca) and present (Kelsey) timelines. A murder of a young woman in a quaint picturesque small town being investigated by an out-of-towner young woman who is a crime reporter with her own past demons to deal with. So when I said “more than just another job assignment”, I meant, it ends up being an almost cathartic experience for her. Kelsey is sent by her boss to Summit Lake so that she can get away for a while and stop reliving a traumatic experience that occurs a few weeks ago. Initially, she thinks the assignment is just a “fluff piece” meant to provide distraction for a few days, but she is soon invested in the case, both emotionally and out of curiosity.

I felt the whole investigative proceedings were too simplistic and easy. I mean, Kelsey hardly broke into a sweat. Everyone was eager to go out of their way to provide her information and risk getting into trouble. She easily befriends a coffeehouse owner and a doctor who always seemed to know someone who knew something which could help her. I wondered why couldn’t the police solve and close the entire case earlier because it seemed that easy. I also didn’t connect much to the characters and their interactions. Usually, the past narrative featuring the victims helps us understand them better, but I didn’t feel that I knew or understood Becca any better. We are told she has a tendency to unknowingly send guys the wrong signals about her feelings but that’s the problem. We are told everything instead of .. well..just dwelling on or getting a chance to delve more into the person’s mind. More pages on Becca, her thoughts, either in the form of monologues or “diary entries” (or any other narrative device) would have helped. The book works fine as a murder mystery but lacks heft as a psychological thriller. So moving to the stronger aspects, the story moves at a brisk pace and never meanders into unnecessary subplots.  I finished it within three days and was quite taken aback by the big revelation (never saw it coming!). I wonder whether my familiarity with this kind of setting and genre was the reason I had some other expectations, and maybe that’s why I was a bit underwhelmed with some parts of the book. But overall, it is a pretty good whodunit, and I would definitely recommend it if you haven’t read many in this genre. I think you will enjoy it a lot more than I did!

*Note: I received this book from the publisher via the Goodreads giveaway programme. Thank you Kensington Publishing!*

 

 

[Book Spotlight & Giveaway] Voice of the Spirit

28487538

Author: Charlotte Raines
Genre: Adult Fiction / Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Arrabella Publishing
Release Date: January 30, 2016

Synopsis :

Tobias and Lauren have been together for four months since the end of Do You Want to Play. They’ve found rhythm in their relationship, but that rhythm comes to an abrupt stop when a body is found nailed to a cross inside Pious Church.

As they dig through possible suspects—from religious fanatics to resentful Satanists—they also find themselves reexamining their relationship, trying to figure out if two people with opposite beliefs can stay together. As time begins to run out for their kidnapped singer and the murders begin to pile up, they will have to find a way to resurrect what they had doubted and sacrifice what they had believed.

About the Author :

charlotte raine

Charlotte Raine is a best selling suspense author. Charlotte gets inspiration for her writing from the scenic mountains around her home near Vail, Colorado.

When she is not writing you will find her after a long day of skiing at one of the many lodges in Vail. She will most likely be next to a warm fire, drinking a glass of wine and telling stories.

Buy links (Amazon) :

Kindle

Connect with the author :

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Giveaway : 

Win 1 of 3 signed copies of Teacher Beware by Charlotte Raine (USA) . Enter by clicking the link below:

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To follow rest of the tour, click here.

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The Silkworm – By Robert Galbraith

Rating:

When Leonara Quine approaches private detective Cormoran Strike to find her husband, he is quite glad to take it up. He is fed up with running surveillance operations involving wealthy embezzlers and cheating couples. And Owen Quine’s disappearance doesn’t seem too complex to solve. After all, Mrs. Quine is sure he is sulking in some writer’s retreat and just needs Strike to get him back home. But as Strike digs further, it becomes apparent that there is something murky about this disappearance. None of his colleagues or friends seem to know where he is. And no one is particularly fond of him either. And everyone is worried about whether he will go ahead with his threat of releasing his next book, with or without a publisher. Because that book is vile, libellous and macabre work of erotic fiction with thinly veiled references to real people – authors, publishers and editors. When Quine is finally found – badly mutilated, disemboweled and very much dead, Strike has to find out which one of them took the phrase “Life imitating art” to a whole new level.

Halfway through the book, I realised that I have to not just pay attention to the book but also the book within the book authored by Owen Quine: Bombyx Mori (aka the silkworm’s scientific name) so that I don’t feel lost when the mystery starts unravelling. Not to mention all the timelines and what happened on which day (which is important to keep track of in any well-plotted murder mystery). I spoke about paying close attention to Bombyx Mori because that holds the key to the entire plot – its characters and how Quine chose to reference and depict all the real people through them.

And damnnnn , the plotting.. Rowling is soo good at his. (Okay, so before I proceed further, I will call the author by Rowling in the review, and not Galbraith, because that just feels weird. I will index this review under Galbraith though) I don’t remember the finer details of Cuckoo’s Calling, but I do remember feeling underwhelmed by the book overall, and found it difficult to erm…. adjust to the idea that JKR has proceeded to writing something non-HP .. (haven’t read Casual Vacancy) .. But this time around, I am more .. uh.. prepared. And Silkworm is definitely a lot more cleverer, intricate and rounded. Almost every character introduced is somehow used to make the mystery knottier, and this makes it so much fun to take guesses!! There are some comments and observations made on publishing, indie works, e-books and the less than flattering opinions female authors have to face about their writing skills and commitment. Considering the well-known story behind why “J.K Rowling” is the name which finally appeared on the book covers, it does seem like something she quipped based on personal experiences. And the reference to struggling writers self-publishing semi-pornographic and fantasy-erotica fiction did make me chuckle a bit.

The running arc about Strike’s famous father, the reflected fame, his narcissistic ex-flame and his army background continued in this book. But what took more space were his secretary and unofficial partner in surveillance Robin and her fiancée Matthew’s tiffs regarding her work with Strike.  A considerable amount of pages were about Robin trying to change Matthew’s opinion about her boss and her future career plans. If you aren’t really interested in what happens with Robin and Matthew, it is a bit distracting from the main plot. However, I guess Rowling is setting this up as a long term background arc, and it will be interesting to see where this goes from here. I hope it doesn’t take the clichéd route of Strike and Robin getting together romantically… but it does seem to be on the anvil sometime in the later books. And may I add that I have warmed up to Strike in this book. Well, okay, a li’l bit more than from Cuckoo’s Calling. I have found him a bit impersonal and inaccessible otherwise. But I guess it is a “thing” about detective fiction in general. You can’t spend too many pages fleshing out and spotlighting people’s feelings and background stories. If I do think about it, Rowling has done a good job balancing things out by giving Strike opportunity to muse and vent about things in his past, even if privately.

As I have said earlier in my blog, I do love reading good old-fashioned and no-frills PI mysteries. So I would definitely recommend Silkworm!!

Buy links:

The Silkworm – Kindle
The Silkworm – Paperback
The Silkworm – Hardcover

So with this review, I end my first year in blogging.. (technically less than six months though J ) .. I have had a wonderful time reading and writing about books, and discovered a whole new world of online world of book blogging and learnt quite a few “blogging lessons” along the way..

Looking forward to more reading and blogging next year. Wish you all an amazing 2016!!

The Rising Sun – By Michael Crichton

 Rating:

Peter Smith, a Special Services officer and Connor, a senior semi-retired officer are called in to assist the murder investigation of a young woman. With a high profile grand opening celebration party of the Nakamoto Industries offices in its 45th floor, the Japanese would like the matter of a dead body found one floor below handled as discreetly as possible. As the political pressure mounts on them, so does the realization that nothing about this case is routine…

Sigh, I seem to end up picking books that either suffer from the “curse of the second half” or start off promisingly but just don’t hold my interest at the same level for the rest of the book.

I started this book just before a week-long vacation. Even after coming back home, I took too many breaks instead of reading it at a stretch. I wonder whether that might be a reason for me to get so disinterested after some time.  Maybe… but what I am sure of is that, the investigative process in this book is something I didn’t enjoy reading. Anyone who is into crime procedural shows would be familiar with the term “profiling”. Connor solves the case by profiling, not “people” but the “Japanese ways”. By their silences, body language, corporate politics et al. Now I don’t know much about the country, nor do I know anyone from Japan, but I just didn’t buy it completely. I mean, I just couldn’t figure out where the accuracies end, stereotypes begin and where they blur together.

Oh no, that’s not even my main problem with the book. Fiction sometimes does require willing suspension of disbelief and to just go with the flow, which I did. And it was actually interesting to read about it for a while. What I found really tiresome to read and re-read was one major aspect in this book crucial to solving the case (oh don’t worry, It isn’t a spoiler as such.. as it is something made clear pretty early on in the book..) : video recording tapes from the CCTV cameras in the hotel during the party. There was a lot of technical information on imaging, pixilation, lighting, time lapses, shadows etc. to determine the authenticity and clarity of the tapes. Now, it isn’t something new to encounter detailed explanations about certain technology in Crichton’s novels. But here, it is much harder to understand and visualize what is happening when a lab tech talks about color shifts and transparent edges in a video frame because unlike Connor and Peter, we don’t have the benefit of seeing on the video monitor. So yea, that’s what I meant when I said I didn’t enjoy the investigative process much. Because some major breakthroughs in the case involved these tapes and whenever the characters had their “Eureka!” moments, I always felt like I was two steps behind rather than being with them.

Now you must have noticed that I have mentioned Connor more than Peter, though Peter is the narrator and the officer officially assigned to the case. Well, I found him to be inconsequential and clueless, with Connor telling him what to say, where to go, how to react. It is explained away as him being new to the liaison job and Connor as the one with years of experience of dealing with the Japanese. But I wish he had more of a voice in the case. The only thing I remember him doing is carrying the tapes from one agency to another in order to make copies.

The crux of this book revolves around corporate tussles and a strong commentary on American free trade versus closed markets of Japan. How well does Crichton tie that in to the murder mystery is a moot point, but I really liked that he tries to present a balanced view. No policies or practices in any country are perfect and everything has its own pros and cons.  But as the famous goes, “The first step in solving a problem is recognizing there is one” and that is the biggest takeaway from this book.

You can buy the paperback at: Rising Sun – Paperback

Buy the kindle edition at: Rising Sun: Kindle

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Rating:

I loved Gone Girl, and for a long time I was under the impression that it was Gillian Flynn’s debut novel. It was much later that I discovered she had authored two other books prior to that, the first one being Sharp Objects. And you can see her flair for writing psychological thrillers and twisted characters in her first book too.

Sharp Objects starts with Camille Preaker , a small-time crime beat reporter assigned by her boss to dig up the story of what seems to be the beginning of a serial killing spree in Wind Gap, her hometown. Two young girls killed in two years, and both of them are well, toothless when their bodies are discovered. Yup, their teeth are plied out by the murderer, every single one of them.  Sounds like a pretty solid premise to base a decent murder mystery, right?  Well, midway through the book the case just felt like a crutch to explore the three main characters and their dysfunctional relationship – Camille, her mother Adora and half-sister Amma who she has never properly met till date. When Camille gets back to Wind Gap after ages, she is forced to stay with Adora,  Amma and Alan Crellin, her step-dad, so that she can increase her chances of networking and picking up quotes from old neighbours and friends. It ends up proving a bit counter-productive though, as her mom isn’t really pleased or supportive of her daughter’s assignment. The local police, assisted by a Kansas City detective, Richard Willis, aren’t forthcoming either.

As you read about Wind Gap, it’s history and folks; you get the feeling that there is something seriously off about the place. It just feels so suffocating and claustrophobic. And at the very least, quite disturbing. We the readers, of course, view that through the microcosm of Preaker/Crellin household.

Camille is damaged and recovering and loss of her sister and emotional abuse years ago, something she still grapples with and can’t make sense of – Did her mother love her? Did she love her younger sister more than her? Why has she always been so distant with Camille at home, though she is perfectly capable of pampering and nurturing to keep up appearances in the society?

Camille lashed out in her teens, by taking part in debauchery and cutting words into her skin. A decade later, she commits herself into a psych facility to wean away the cutting habit. But her stay in Wind Gap begins to take a serious toll on her as old memories, dormant resentment and hurt resurface. At one point she senses herself being sucked back into her old life with her mother, controlling, dominant and .. forceful mollycoddling. Even more unsettling is the new addition into the family charade, Amma, who at thirteen,  acts younger than her age at home, to get Adora’s attention, but acts out more than her age at school and everywhere else in town. She has a vicious streak and through her, we meet her gang of girls, all unapologetic about bullying, drugs, flaunting sexuality and just general meanness. Amma takes the cake though.

Adora literally treats Amma as a pet doll, and when Camille enters the picture, she isn’t sure how to treat this new development.  Camille can’t figure out Amma either. And to be honest, neither could I. So when, Amma seems to warm up to Camille, and has this candid conversation with her, where she admits she gets a real kick out of hurting people, you realize at that point that, both are, in a weird way, two sides of the same coin. Just that Camille went onto hurting herself.

So how did Camille and Amma end up turning into the people that they are? We also get a whiff of rumour about Adora’s mother being a cold, emotionally distant person. Is it a case of abuse handed down from two different generations and manifested in different ways?

So what about the murder mystery, you ask? Well, Flynn handles that too in parallel, but with lesser finesse than what she exhibited in Gone Girl.  The last few pages were convincing but rushed.  At 250 pages, this book makes for a crisp, sharp read. But if a few more pages would have smoothened those li’l frayed edges….