Into the Water – By Paula Hawkins

Into the WaterRating:

Synopsis2 A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.

With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.

Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.

My reviewPaula Hawkins’ second book, relies a lot on the history of the small town forming the story’s setting for the haunting feeling that permeates throughout the book. This, along with almost a dozen narrators, is what provides the book with much of the smokescreen for what ultimately is a fairly simplistic resolution to the murder mystery.

Getting into the story does take some time, especially with so many narrators. It did throw me off a bit because I am not used to reading multi-PoVs that are more than 3 or 4. But with each narrator came a small but significant chunk of jigsaw pieces to the main puzzle at the heart of the plot and I am just glad that I actually caught onto and remembered all the minute details. Into the Water had what, in my opinion, makes the best kind of whodunits – where you guess the answers to some of the “smaller” questions based on what the author feeds you but are still stumped by the final revelation.

I loved the The Girl on the Train and I guess it is natural to have high expectations from the authors’ second books after their fab debuts. Into the Water is no TGotT – I felt the latter was definitely more character-driven with an alcoholic as the primary unreliable narrator. However, with Into the Water, I just felt that the large number of narrators somehow ended up inhibiting the author from actually devoting time to SHOWING how the people in the community felt about or got along with each other before and after the two successive deaths in their town. One of the main characters, Jules, who is actually the first narrator and who being one of the dead women’s sister, is at the heart of plot, didn’t make any impression on me at all. This was despite all the flashbacks we get about Jules and her sister in their teens. I actually found the backstory through the flashbacks more powerful and somehow connected with the younger Jules more than the present-day one – despite her transformation from someone who was ambivalent about her sister’s story or her niece’s emotional well-being to someone who finally starts making an effort. I connected more with her niece Lena’s frustration at her aunt and everyone around her who were trying to “meddle” into her mom’s and best friend’s deaths instead of believing her convictions that they were suicides.

The book has a dark, unhappy cloud shrouding it the whole time, but you don’t have any time to dwell on any particular mood because of all the frequent narrator changes. Though that is a good thing in terms of keeping the pace of the novel from dropping, the flipside of it was that some of the emotional moments didn’t make much of an impact on me. There were deaths, families grieving, a funeral, estranged families and a doomed love story but none of them moved me all that much. However, if you loved Hawkins’ writing in her first book, and if you are up for a good murder mystery; I wouldn’t hesitate recommending this. If I have to compare between the two, this one was definitely cleverer.

 

Advertisements

Book Spotlight/Guest Post by Lauren Carr – I’m Sorry If I Offended You … Now Grow Up

I am pleased to feature a guest post by the author of Lauren Carr as part of a blog tour for her latest book. It is written from an author’s perspective, but anyone who wants to hold an opinion – and voice it – will be able to relate to this post!

I’m Sorry If I Offended You … Now Grow Up

The year: 1508

Setting: Sistine Chapel

Michelangelo enters the Sistine Chapel with his paints and scaffolding. He has a great image in his mind. This will be his piece of art that will define him as an artist. The creation that he puts on this ceiling is going to put his name in the history books to immortalize him as a great master painter.

As Michelangelo is setting up, someone comes in. Spying one of the cans of paint, he asks, “Is that red paint you have there?”

Michelangelo says it is. The red will be needed for much of the paintings: for example, in the creation of Man.

“Can’t you use another color?”

“No,” Michelangelo says. “Red is one of the primary colors.”

“But it is so offensive.”

“How?”

“Red is the color of evil,” the visitor says. “Evil is offensive. Therefore, red is offensive.”

“It is the color of blood which gives us life,” Michelangelo says.

“Maybe according to you, but a lot of people don’t like the color red and if you use it you will offend them, which will make you and us look bad. People will think we’re endorsing evil.”

With a shrug of his shoulders, Michelangelo relents and takes the bucket of red paint out of the chapel. He is thinking about how he is going to adjust his painting when he comes in and sees someone else standing over the bucket of yellow paint.

“Is this yellow paint?” the new visitor asks with a glare in his eyes.

“Yes,” Michelangelo manages to say before the gentleman launches into his offense.

“Are you saying that we’re cowards? Yellow is the color of cowards used in terms like yellow-belly and—”

“No!” Michelangelo throws up his hands. “I just need to use yellow because it’s the base color in brown—”

But before Michelangelo can finish the second visitor hurries from the chapel while muttering about bigots and stereotyping of some social group which Michelangelo doesn’t have time to discern before a third person comes in to spy yet another bucket of paint.

“Is that green?”

“‘I need it for the Garden of Eden,” Michelangelo says in a firm tone.

“Why green? Aren’t you discriminating against the color blue? Blue has just as much right to be used for the Garden of Eden as green. Besides, were you there? How do you know the Garden of Eden wasn’t blue instead of green?”

A month later, Michelangelo finishes the Sistine Chapel. When the great ceiling is revealed to the public, they stare up in awe at the great white ceiling high above. After all, after Michelangelo had eliminated all of the colors that offended anyone, all he had left was white—to which, one member of the audience commented:

“Did you have to choose white? White gives me a migraine.”

* * * * *

In January, my ninth Mac Faraday Mystery, Three Days to Forever was released to rave reviews from both readers and reviewers. This time, I took readers on a thrill-ride. Three days before his and Archie Monday’s lavish wedding, Mac Faraday, Joshua Thornton (of Lovers in Crime), and Archie’s mother are running for their lives after a professional hit team attack Spencer Manor.

Many reviewers and readers have declared this suspense-filled mystery the “best of her best!”

Not surprisingly, a small number of readers have expressed disappointment and even dismay because they were offended by a storyline which involved home-grown terrorists. Current political issues were raised and discussed by the characters involved. It would have been unrealistic for them to investigate a case involving terrorism without these discussions. Because some of the views expressed by some of the characters differed from their views, a few readers were offended by the whole storyline.

Based on one of the twists in my suspenseful mystery, a couple readers even took a leap-frog jump to proclaim Three Days to Forever was my political message accusing our current President and his administration of corruption and cover-up.

This response was in spite of an author note on the book page on Amazon and in the front pages of the book reminding readers that:

Three Days to Forever is fiction. It is not the author’s commentary on politics, the media, the military, or Islam. While actual current events have inspired this adventure in mystery and suspense, this fictional work is not meant to point an accusatory finger at anyone in our nation’s government.”

This is not the first time that I have unintentionally offended readers in my quest to write a challenging and fun-filled mystery.

A couple of years ago, I received a review for Blast from the Past, a Mac Faraday Mystery, in which the reader opened with “Thankfully, this book in the series contained no insulting-to-fat-people characters.”

I did a lot of head scratching trying to figure out what she could possibly have been talking about. When did I insult fat people? Apparently, one of my fans had the same question because she went onto the site to ask the reader, who claimed that in one of my previous books I had presented a fat character in a derogatory manner. The fan came back to say that if it was the book she was thinking of, it was the character, not fat people who were presented in a derogatory manner.

The fact remains, this reader was so offended by my use of an obese character in It’s Murder, My Son that she felt compelled to carry out her grudge by posting a negative review four books later.

In It’s Murder, My Son, the character of Betsy is a victim. She is sloppy and, yes, obese. Her low self-esteem puts her into the perfect situation to be manipulated and used by the killer—who is slender and attractive, by the way.

Rightfully, it should be the skinny people posting negative reviews about me making them out to be manipulative and homicidal. In It’s Murder, My Son, I killed five skinny people to the one fat one. I mean, if I’m prejudice against fat people because I killed one—I must really have it out for skinny people!

How can a mystery author write books that are entertaining without offending anyone? Well, obviously, I can’t have fat characters be victims because they will offend readers like the one I mentioned above. I also can’t use them as killers because I will be saying that fat people are homicidal maniacs—unless they are driven to it by skinny people.

I guess I should stop using women as murder victims. People may start to think I’m sexist. For that matter, I should no longer have the killer be a woman. Then people will think that I’m saying that women are bad people. Heaven forbid I kill a blonde woman—then they’ll think I’m prejudice against blondes, even though I am one!

Furthermore, I really should avoid using short people—because I will offend those readers who suffer from dwarfism.

In recent history, the world has become a great melting pot. Along with the melding of cultures and people becoming more aware of each other’s differences, sections of our society have felt justified in demanding that everyone else—including artists—walk on eggshells in order to not offend them or anyone. Children can’t even pray in school because they may offend the one atheist child in the room of thirty students.

This post is not directed toward those sensitive readers who throw hissy fits in the form of negative reviews because their feelings were unintentionally hurt in the name of art. Nothing I, or any author writes, can change their perception. Rather, this is directed to writers who may fear being on the receiving end of such a tantrum when they have, without intention, offended someone somehow someway.

If writers bend to such criticism, they might as well throw away their laptops.  All murder victims in mysteries will need to be white men (because they deserve it); and the killer is always going to be the white man (because they’re always the bad guy).

Mind you, these white men have to be of average height and weight.

I guess they can’t be bald either because you may offend those readers who are bald.

Also, they need to be heterosexual otherwise you’ll be called homophobic. (Been there! Done that! More than one reader accused me of being homophobic when a homosexual couple died in A Wedding and a Killing.)

They can’t be Muslim because the terrorists will be justified in coming after you.

I guess you need to make them American because we are the great bad guys …

The end result would be authors shaking in their boots afraid to write, “It was a dark and stormy night,…” for fear of messing with Mother Nature.

The pathway to political correctness is a very narrow strip in the middle of the road. Realistically, no one can travel it.

So writers: Be bold. Be brave.

As Jerry Senfield told David Letterman, “We offend everyone. If we haven’t gotten to your group yet, just wait. We’ll get to you.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Thanks Lauren and good luck with Candidate for Murder!!

About the book:

It’s election time in SpCandidate for Murderencer, Maryland, and the race for mayor is not a pretty one. In recent years, the small resort town has become divided between the local year-round residents who have enjoyed their rural way of life and the city dwellers moving into their mansions, taking over the town council, and proceeding to turn Deep Creek Lake into a closed gate community—complete with a host of regulations for everything from speed limits
to clothes lines.

When the political parties force-feed two unsavory mayoral nominees on the town residents, Police Chief David O’Callaghan decides to make a statement—by nominating Gnarly, Mac Faraday’s German shepherd, to run as mayor of Spencer!

What starts out as a joke turns into a disaster when overnight Gnarly becomes the front runner—at which point his political enemies take a page straight out of Politics 101. What do you do when you’re behind in a race? Dig up dirt on the front runner, of course.

Seemingly, someone is not content to rest with simply embarrassing the front runner by publicizing his dishonorable discharge from the United States Army, but to throw in a murder for good measure. With murder on the ballot, Mac Faraday and the gang—including old friends from past cases—dive in to clear Gnarly’s name, catch a killer, and save Spencer!

About the Author:

Lauren Carr is the interLauren Carr 2national best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries. The twelfth installment in the Mac Faraday Mystery series,
Candidate for Murder will be released June 2016.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, son, and four dogs (including the real Gnarly) on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with Lauren: Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook

To follow rest of the tour, click here.

Check out the book trailer :

 

iRead Book Tour Logo Medium

[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:

Rafflecopter Giveaway!

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

iRead Book Tour Logo Medium

Teaser Tuesday #3

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm.

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teasers:

Uneven Exchange

“We are keeping her alive, that’s what we are doing. It won’t be enough to play the part, she has to live it.”  – Pg. 86 , Uneven Exchange – By S.K. Derban

 

[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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

[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 :

Website Twitter Facebook

Giveaway : 

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

To follow rest of the tour, click here.

iRead Book Tour Logo Medium

A Fatal Family Secret (The Morphosis.me Files, #1)

Rating:

Author : Samantha Marks
Publication date : May 26th 2015
Genres : Fantasy, Young Adult

Note : I received an e-copy of this book from xpressobooktours in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
If you could change anything about yourself, what would it be?

On the first day of high school, Kayleigh wishes she could be taller, curvier, and cooler. But when she discovers she’s a shape-shifter, she bites off more than she can chew. Overnight, she becomes a target, and surviving the school-year means defending herself against cyber-bullies, learning to control her new-found powers, and hiding from the ancient secret society that kidnapped her mother. Morphing has consequences, and Kayleigh begins to realize that being able to change into anything can mean losing herself in the process.

My Review:

I am not sure how to start my review, because this book is like a really cool goodie bag with a lot of cute stuff. Aaaahhh…. Well, I guess I can begin by mentioning what drew me to pick this book – It’s super adorable book cover. And the cute factor doesn’t stop there.. There is something so cute (Yes, yes, I know I have overused the word) and quaint about the entire story; the world, people and setup. Irish folklore, characters with diverse backgrounds, fairy tales, mysterious antique jewellery, secret notes and lot more. There is such a picturesque, and an almost Disney-like magical feel to the entire narration. I think part of it is because of the main “superpower capabilities” featuring in this book: morphing. It looks like it is unrestrained with near-limitless possibilities – people can change into pretty much anything (and anyone) tangible. So it is a lot of fun reading about ..say.. someone changing from an old man, into a crane and then a panda all in the span of a few minutes.

The story is paced pretty well, covering an entire term at high school, and I never felt lost with respect to where we are in terms of the passing of time from the first page, because we are taken through the descriptions of seasons changing from winter to spring and the festivities of Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s day. This school year is particularly tumultuous for Kayleigh – it has been two years since her mom went missing, and she feels like she needs her now more than ever, what with her facing bullying at school, going through puberty, and suffering from a really low self-esteem because of which she is not able to stand up for herself or be confident around the guy she has a crush on. To be honest, I wasn’t totally convinced about the whole bullying theme in the book, maybe because I couldn’t really understand why she got cowed down so quickly. Because from what I saw, it was Kayleigh who had a larger circle of friends than the “mean girl” who just had two girls tagging along with her. As I read along, I think I slowly got where Kayleigh’s anxieties and fragility stemmed from. There was a point in the book where she breaks down because all the events of the past couple of years – beginning with her mom’s disappearance, to recent strange discoveries about her mom’s past, cyber bullying, the typical high school stress related to grades, friends and dating, physical changes to her body due to puberty and morphing – take a toll on her.

My favorite moment in the book is a conversation between Kayleigh and her friend. I can’t discuss it much because it is a major spoiler, but I will say that it was a mix of sad, profound and ironical. I just found it so fitting and “right” that the “limitations” of morphing was addressed so succinctly. You need to identify and get comfortable with your core self before trying to perfect morphing. And sometimes the cards life deals you feels so unfair, and no amount of morphing can completely heal or change that.

The book is strewn with some red herrings, so I had fun guessing. I got a few right, and was totally off the mark with some others. I thought this was a really good start to the series with so many things left to discover in the next book. The only thing I am a bit sceptical about is how the whole “international secret evil organization” is going to play out. There are times I feel the whole scope and premise of that track is so… vast, that I wonder whether the rest of the story will be able to gracefully handle the weight of it. So I am curious to see how that turns out.

The book is now available to download for free from kindle store, and I would definitely recommend that you check this one out!

(Amazon) Links:

Kindle
Paperback

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 Girl on the Train – By Paula Hawkins

  Rating:

When Rachel isn’t drunk, she thinks about getting drunk. She is fired from her job. She lies, whines, and pines for her ex-husband. Envies his current wife. So yeah, her life is a train-wreck. Her only daily cheer is a catching a train to and fro every day; from Euston to Ashbury. As the train passes by the town she used to live in, it stops at a signal and across the same house every time. She likes looking at the young couple living in the house, she can see them in their terrace every morning. They remind her of the happier times she had with her husband. But the perfect image she had of them in her mind is shaken, when she sees something appalling. When a police case involving that couple ensues, she approaches the detectives with the information. But are they going to believe her?

The book has been compared to Gone Girl and Hawkins’ writing to Flynn’s. And I can see why. The story is told in past and present timelines, till the past ends and merges into the current day. Though Rachel is the narrator for the most part, there are couple of other women too. And none of them are too likeable. None are happy in their own lives and keep craving for validation from men. Rachel’s one-step forward and two-steps backward routine is frustrating to witness and her alcoholism makes her look pitiable. I felt sorry for her and felt like whacking her into her senses. I just wished, someone; be it her roommate or mom, is more forceful about helping her into rehab or AA meetings. But if she did sort herself out, the book wouldn’t have been half as seductive as it turned out to be. That’s the beauty of what Hawkins has done with this story, entrench the negative effects of alcoholism into the heart of the mystery. Rachel’s memory and version of events is so unreliable that she is barely able to recall anything or convince herself, let alone convince us readers. She trips up, makes a fool of herself in front of detectives, her words have no credibility, and yet she doggedly keeps at it. And I loved her for that. Because it felt good picking up a book with a narrator like that, especially after couple of recent reading experiences with either passive or ridiculously naïve protagonists.  Hawkins does an excellent job of juggling all the principal characters and keeping everyone relevant in moving the story forward.

The story is told in the “morning” and “evening” of each day, that took some getting used to. Because sometimes the previous night’s events are narrated during “morning”, the entire day’s events are narrated during “evening” and at other times it is just the present. I thought it was quite interesting and a different way to present the story. The book has some pretty insightful quotes too; this was my favourite:

For more quotes, check my Tumblr page here.

Two-thirds into the book, things start getting clearer (or maybe even earlier if you can take a good guess..) and maybe Hawkins could have held back the cards a bit longer. But it didn’t really take the fun out of reading the rest of the book. I was still eager to get the full picture; the when, why and how. It was such a smoothly written psychological thriller, and though it might not have had a final-pages flourish like Gone Girl, it didn’t have a hurried final-pages reveal like Sharp Objects either.

And now I come to the part where I have to find something strong and dramatic to end the review with a flourish, but I am not able to.. soooo … will just move on to the Amazon buy links:

Hardcover:  The Girl on the Train – Hardcover

Paperback: The Girl on the Train – Paperback

Kindle:  The Girl on the Train: Kindle

Cell – By Robin Cook

  Rating:

Today, we have mobile apps and software functioning in ways that might have seemed inconceivable a decade ago. There are apps to display real time weather predictions, recognize voice commands, and devices like pedometers which can be synced to your smartphones to check the calories spent and some other stats. (I am sure if I search online I can find more examples which are probably used in advanced research and scientific circles but here I just named some popular and mainstream ones..) So when Robin Cook shows us a possibility of a mobile app acting as your round-the-clock primary care physician, it doesn’t sound crazy at all.

Meet iDoc, an app that can do everything to make your smartphone look medicky-geeky-cool: Want to pull up your medical history? Check blood samples? DNA? No problem : Just place your saliva or blood sample on your phone’s touch screen, and voila: it provides treatment options. Similarly you can also get an ultrasound done, get an eye checkup with help of your smartphone in conjunction with another device such as retina scanner glasses and wireless transducer. And if you are a diabetic, you can administer and monitor insulin levels in your body with help of an implanted reservoir the size of a microchip in your body. If iDoc was a person, he or she would have been a pretty cool protagonist to tell this story. But as it happens with medical thrillers, we readers are taken through the story by doctors or medical interns, in this case George Wilson, a final year radiologist resident. Reeling with the grief of losing his fiancée a few weeks ago, George immerses himself into the daily grind of work.. MRIs and supervising junior residents. When he is invited by his ex-girlfriend to a conference by Amalgamated Healthcare, a medical insurance company, he is taken aback by the high profile gathering of company executives for the unveiling of IDoc. Further realization hits him when he recognizes the app as the same icon from his fiancée’s phone: his fiancée was a part of the iDoc beta testers group. When more deaths of people from the beta test occur at the hospital, George digs further to find the truth. Were the deaths just an unfortunate statistic or is the iDoc being hacked to undermine Amalgamated healthcare?

What works for this book is the author’s imagination to come up with iDoc. Because this is something quite relatable and should I say, a lot of fun to imagine the possibilities that can be explored if we had such an app installed in our phones. But with a software so .. well.. too good to be true and with affordable medicare plans to make it so accessible to everyone, can trouble be far behind? Cook throws in a lot of references to the United States healthcare and difficulties in pooling in so much money into that sector. I am not that aware of the policies and politics in this field, so I don’t know how “intelligent” the points raised are, but it was quite interesting to read. What didn’t work for me was George being so incredibly naïve and played for a fool the entire book. And it was even harder to take the whole “evil government agency framing/killing off citizens” plot seriously. Not because I am naïve to believe it doesn’t happen, but it is just that I felt the writing there lacked the sort of depth or conviction required to sell it. And there is this entire hacking and counter hacking business. George happens to have a neighbour who is laid off from work, plays poker for money and happens to be a decent enough techie and hacker to fix gadgets. And comes to George’s help in hacking into what is also a medical cum electrical device.. not your standard hacking assignment. But hey, guess he is just that good.

Something else that was a bit jarring is Cook bringing in character references that don’t really have any relevance to the story. Just did a bit of googling and turns out Cell is not the first Robin Cook book where George makes an appearance.  Sigh, no wonder I felt I was missing something when George occasionally brought up “Pia Grazdani” .. Apparently she was the protagonist in a couple of earlier Cook’s books with George playing her spurned love interest.

I didn’t find the ending satisfying, and you can see all the big revelations much before George puts two and two together … but it is quite a pacey book. Makes for a good airplane read.

You can buy the paperback at: Cell – Paperback

Buy the kindle edition at:  Cell – Kindle