Review: Cold Blood by Robert Bryndza

Cold Blood (Detective Erika Foster, #5)Cold Blood by Robert Bryndza

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another great book from Mr Bryndza.

This is the fifth book in the Detective Erika Foster series but could probably be read as a standalone (although why would you when there are four other great books in the series). The story picks up not long after the events of the previous book and follows a fairly similar format, beginning with the discovery of a body. Bryndza does seem to be upping the ick factor however as this time the body is found dismembered in a suitcase. When it’s linked to another body Erika is positive a serial killer is at large once again (I’m so glad I don’t live anywhere near or know Erika) and fights to get a team to investigate.

The story is told from the pov of both Erika and someone who may have been involved in the murders or who may know who did it. As result this isn’t really a who dunnit but more of a police procedural mixed up with the psychology of a killer. For me it was probably the Erika chapters that worked best. There was something a little unconvincing about the killer(s) story. I didn’t 100% buy into it for some reason.

As far as Erika goes there are bits of her I love and bits that really bug me which I suppose is the sign of a well rounded character. Sometimes I’m cheering her on (mostly when she’s fighting her corner against the big bad bosses) and at others I want to shake her (stop pushing everyone away) but I’m always on her side and want the best for her.

She doesn’t get the easiest ride in this book, it just seems to be bad on top of bad (please give her a break soon) but I do get the feeling that she is starting to change and we can expect better things for her in the future.

There are quite a few secondary characters (her team seems to be ever expanding) and while we don’t get as much of certain ones as I would have liked (McGorry, Isaac) I was very happy that Moss was present throughout and that Marsh made a return. I find the relationship between Marsh and Erika fascinating so it’s always good to have them interacting. They have a long and complicated history and things get even more complicated in this book when he becomes part of the case.

It is a pretty fast paced read and was definitely one I found difficult to put down. The author knows just how to hook you and keep you reading late into the night. I do feel though that I need to highlight a couple of issues with it. I hate doing this because I do love the author and his books but the little mistakes and inconsistencies scattered throughout drove me nuts (for example, “nice weather for ducks” is not an unheard of expression in the UK, the description of the bones in the arm isn’t right, and the twins who can’t be told apart on one page are referred to by the correct names on the next). I’m afraid I’m one of those people who once they spot a couple start spotting everything and I had to drop the rating a little for it.

I also felt like it could have done with a bit more depth and detail. The story would possibly have lost a bit of pace but I do think it would have added to the tension and made me a little more invested in the story and characters. There’s just something a little bit jarring about it at times. It’s so frustrating because it’s so close to being absolutely brilliant but just slightly misses the mark because of small silly things that probably only bug me.

Overall however it is an enjoyable read that I flew through and will continue to recommend to everyone I know. Personally, I can’t wait for book 6.

Thanks to Netgalley and Bookouture for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.


The Blurb

She fell in love with a killer, now she’s one too.

The suitcase was badly rusted, and took Erika several attempts, but it yielded and sagged open as she unzipped it. Nothing could prepare her for what she would find inside…

When a battered suitcase containing the dismembered body of a young man washes up on the shore of the river Thames, Detective Erika Foster is shocked. She’s worked on some terrifying cases but never seen anything like this before.

As Erika and her team set to work, she makes the link with another victim – the body of a young woman dumped in an identical suitcase two weeks ago.

Erika quickly realises she’s on the trail of a serial killer who’s already made their next move. Yet just as Erika starts to make headway with the investigation, she is the victim of a brutal attack.

But nothing will stop Erika. As the body count rises, the twin daughters of her colleague Commander Marsh are abducted, and the stakes are higher than ever before. Can Erika save the lives of two innocent children before it’s too late? She’s running out of time and about to make a disturbing discovery…there’s more than one killer.

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Review: Bloody Scotland

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Title: Bloody Scotland

By: Lin Anderson,  Christopher BrookmyreGordon BrownAnn CleevesDoug JohnstoneStuart MacBrideVal McDermidDenise Mina , Craig RobertsonSara SheridanE S Thomson and Louise Welsh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fantastic collection of short stories from twelve of Scotland’s best crime writers. Set in twelve iconic buildings there’s a really great mix of stories. From tales of revenge, murder, kidnapping and terrorism to Vikings and a bit of cannibalism I’d say there’s probably something for everyone.

As expected I absolutely loved the stories from my two favourite Scottish crime authors Chris Brookmyre and Stuart MacBride. Brookmyre’s story is set in Bothwell Castle (about a 5 min drive from my house) and reminded me of some of his older books. It’s really funny and had me giggling away on the train to work. MacBride true to form is having another dig at the weather in the Aberdeen area (rain features heavily in all of his books) with a story set in a lighthouse during a hurricane. It’s a very atmospheric story with some brilliant characterisation as always.

Some of the other stories were also brilliant and many from authors I’m less familiar with. I won’t go through them all but definite highlights were Denise Mina’s Edinburgh Castle story which is seriously disturbing, Gordon Brown’s story about a man discovering the truth about his father when he returns for his funeral and E.S. Thomson’s story set in Stanley Mills which creates a brilliant portrait of a not very nice man who gets his comeuppance.

I’m often not too keen on short stories (they’re too bloomin short) but in this I have to say each and every author has created something memorable, with great characters and a real sense of place.

Definitely a book I’d recommend for all crime readers.

I received a copy of this book free from the publishers as part of the blog tour. This has not influenced my review.


The Blurb

In Bloody Scotland a selection of Scotland’s best crime writers use the sinister side of the country’s built heritage in stories that are by turns gripping, chilling and redemptive.

Stellar contributors Val McDermid, Chris Brookmyre, Denise Mina, Ann Cleeves, Louise Welsh, Lin Anderson, Doug Johnstone, Gordon Brown, Craig Robertson, E S Thomson, Sara Sheridan and Stuart MacBride explore the thrilling potential of Scotland’s iconic sites and structures. From murder in an Iron Age broch and a macabre tale of revenge among the furious clamour of an eighteenth century mill, to a dark psychological thriller set within the tourist throng of Edinburgh Castle and a rivalry turning fatal in the concrete galleries of an abandoned modernist ruin, this collection uncovers the intimate – and deadly – connections between people and places.

Prepare for a dangerous journey into the dark shadows of our nation’s buildings – where passion, fury, desire and death collide.

ARC Review: There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

There's Someone Inside Your HouseThere’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This isn’t quite the scary horror story I was hoping for but it’s definitely an enjoyable read.

There’s lots of diversity, a very sweet romance and just enough action and mystery to keep you reading till the very end. It may not wholly work as a horror story but there are plenty of other things that make it a worthwhile read.


The Blurb

Scream meets YA in this hotly-anticipated new novel from the bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss.

One-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted.

International bestselling author Stephanie Perkins returns with a fresh take on the classic teen slasher story that’s fun, quick-witted, and completely impossible to put down.


Review

I have to confess I had my doubts when Perkins announced that she was writing a horror story. She’s my go to author for light and fluffy contemporary romance, so how could she possibly switch over to dark and scary horror. It was going to be either brilliant or terrible.

Having now devoured it in more or less one sitting, I would say it probably falls somewhere in between. There are more than a few problems with the horror side of the story (so it’s not brilliant) but there is a lot to love about it which goes some way to make up for any shortcomings. There is plenty of diversity, our main character is a POC with a friend who is trans, there are wonderfully real family relationships and none of the characters are perfect.

Main character Makani possibly wasn’t the most likeable character in the beginning but she did grow on me through the story. The romantic interest is probably not making my book boyfriend list but there is something kinda sweet (and also mysterious) about him, and the other characters, while not being particularly well fleshed out, are very believable and after only a few pages you get a real sense of them.

The story itself is very Scream-esque, beginning with the brutal murder of a girl from their school, followed by more sudden and seemingly unconnected slayings of their fellow students. Speculation over who the killer could be is rife and with no pattern in the victims anyone could be next. It’s classic horror and is absolutely packed full of all of the horror tropes and themes, something I absolutely loved.

Unfortunately however it lacks the tension and sense of danger to make it a really scary read. The characters who are bumped off are for the most part pretty minor so it’s difficult to care about them, Makani spends most of her time obsessing over a boy (there’s a LOT of kissing) and worrying the dark secret from her past is going to come out and the killings are a little ridiculous at times. I also think too much is revealed too soon and some of the characters motivations and secrets just don’t make sense or aren’t properly fleshed out. 

Despite these problems however, I did find it quite an addictive and enjoyable read, although I have to confess that was probably more for the romance than anything else.

It is a book that seems to be getting some very mixed reviews at the moment but I would recommend you give it a go, and if horror is not your thing I promise, it’s not that scary.

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Is this a face that would lie?

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.

ARC Review: Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

Nyxia (The Nyxia Triad, #1)Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

An enjoyable and read with a brilliantly diverse and complex cast of characters. I found it quite an addictive read and incredibly difficult to put down.

It’s let down a little by having too many similarities to other books and not moving the story on quickly enough but it’s definitely worth reading.


Synopsis (GoodReads)

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.

Forever.

Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden–a planet that Babel has kept hidden–where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.


My Review

This book seems to get a lot of rave reviews but I have to confess I’m not sure it lives up to the hype.

It’s kind of like a mash up of Enders Game and Divergent with a little bit of Ready Player One thrown into the mix. As a result there isn’t much that’s really original about it. There is a diverse cast of characters and it is an enjoyable read but I doubt I’ll remember it in a month or two and I just don’t have that pressing need to get my hands on the next book in the series.

The author has created a brilliant main character in Emmett. He’s not the type of hero you usually find in these kinds of stories. He’s a POC for a start. He’s not the smartest, the strongest, the fastest or even the one with the most troubled upbringing. He’s actually pretty average and I’m sure relateable to a lot of people.

He’s agreed to compete because his mom’s ill and they have no money for treatment. Similar to most of the others, he’s desperate and this makes for fascinating reading as he tries to decide how far he’s willing to go to win.

The other characters are similarly diverse and complex and many are not what they initially appear to be. What’s especially great is the way that they develop and change over the course of the story. This is a group of teens in exceptional situations and the author does a fantastic job of making their actions seem very real and completely believable.

The story itself is pretty familiar. Bunch of teens have to compete against each other in a series of individual and team challenges. There’s a leader board to track their progress (although I couldn’t follow the scoring) and if by the end you’re below a certain point on the board you get cut. The contest is however run by a massive corporation with highly dubious motives who keep changing the rules.

From the very beginning the whole contest thing and the reasons for it seemed very unconvincing. They’ve discovered another earth like planet that they want to go strip mine but the native aliens aren’t happy about it unless it’s children as they like children and will let them do whatever they want….hmmm. Unfortunately that is not the only unconvincing thing in the story.  There were a few things that just didn’t make sense to me (what the heck is Nyxia?) and I think there could have been a bit more explanation of elements but I suppose you’re supposed to feel as clueless as the competitors.

I did really enjoy the whole competition aspect. I loved the changing dynamics of the group as they form and break alliances and friendships, stab each other in the back and hold grudges. There’s even some romance between competitors. I do think however it was dragged on a little too long (it’s literally all that happens in the story). I wanted some answers and it looks like the only way I’m going to get them is to read the next book in the series. Unfortunately I’m not sure I care enough.

Overall an enjoyable and quite a quick read but just too many similarities to other stories to be a stand out.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC.

Review: Charlotte Says by Alex Bell

Charlotte Says (Red Eye)Charlotte Says by Alex Bell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Those creepy little dolls are back and they’ve got some new games they want to play.

This, the prequel to the wonderfully chilling Frozen Charlotte, is just as good if not better. The Edwardian setting really brings something to the story and it’s packed with all of the best horror tropes to keep you reading late into the night (with all of the lights on of course).

(Note: While this is the second book in a series there’s very little overlap so no spoilers in the review or syposis)


Synopsis

Following the death of her mother in a terrible fire, Jemima flees to the remote Isle of Skye, to take up a job at a school for girls. There she finds herself tormented by the mystery of what really happened that night.

Then Jemima receives a box of Frozen Charlotte dolls from a mystery sender and she begins to remember – a séance with the dolls, a violent argument with her step-father and the inferno that destroyed their home. And when it seems that the dolls are triggering a series of accidents at the school, Jemima realizes she must stop the demonic spirits possessing the dolls – whatever it takes.


My Review

I’m always on the lookout for a creepy horror story but despite someone recommending Frozen Charlotte to me ages ago it was only after I was approved for an ARC of Charlotte Says that I finally got around to reading it and I’m so sorry I didn’t pick it up sooner. That book is seriously creepy and I literally couldn’t put it down.

Needless to say as soon as I finished it I couldn’t resist getting stuck in to prequel Charlotte Says and do you know what, I think it might be even better. I don’t know whether it was just that by reading them back to back I was more into the author’s writing style or if it was the change in time period that worked better but, while this had possibly fewer chills (I knew what to expect so was prepared), the writing just seemed so much better. There was less bluntness to it and consequently it seemed less forced and more natural, drawing me into the story completely.

It’s predominantly set in a girl’s boarding school in 1910, so we have a much wider cast of characters but there is still this very real sense of isolation and remoteness which brings a chilling atmosphere to the story.

The story is told from the point of view of Jemima Black, a wonderfully complex character who makes for some fascinating reading. She comes across as weak and subservient a lot of the time but there’s a real strength, determination and slight deviousness within her which, combined with the mystery of her past, make her very unpredictable. From the very beginning when she wakes from a nightmare of fire and blood to arrive alone at the boarding school to take up her post you know there is something dark in her past.

Some of the other characters do feel a little bit stereotyped, there’s the tyrannical head teacher, the pretty but mean maid, a pupil who sees things no one else does (and no one believes) and the love interest who’s too good to be true but these are part of what makes it such an enjoyable (and creepy) read.

For those who have read Frozen Charlotte you will know pretty much what to expect when the dolls arrive at the school, strange noises in the middle of the night, odd behavior, violence and death and some of the events of this story are uncovered in the previous book but there are still some surprises and twists in store.

I do feel like I should add a little warning here that as you would expect from a horror there are some violent scenes and abuse. Some of the descriptions are pretty graphic, particularly around violence towards animals (I don’t consider myself to be squeamish and I found a couple of scenes difficult). It might be better avoided if this is likely to be a trigger (or go read Frozen Charlotte which isn’t quite as bad)

You can get away with reading this if you haven’t read Frozen Charlotte as while there is some overlap between the two stories they are set in completely different time periods with minimal crossover. I would still recommend Frozen Charlotte first though as Charlotte Says explains away a lot of the mystery (and it’s a great read too).

Overall a wonderfully creepy read and definitely one I’d recommend if you’re a fan of the genre and not too squeamish.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all thoughts are my own.

Review: Alex & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz

Alex and ElizaAlex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The story of the relationship between Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler is not one I know a lot about but I very much enjoyed this fictional account of their romance. It does seem to borrow quite a bit from Pride and Prejudice but, while it’s not the most original or most exciting read, it’s a very sweet period romance.


Synopsis

Their romance shaped a nation. The rest was history.

1777. Albany, New York.

As battle cries of the American Revolution echo in the distance, servants flutter about preparing for one of New York society’s biggest events: the Schuylers’ grand ball. Descended from two of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines in New York, the Schuylers are proud to be one of their fledgling country’s founding families, and even prouder still of their three daughters—Angelica, with her razor-sharp wit; Peggy, with her dazzling looks; and Eliza, whose beauty and charm rival that of both her sisters, though she’d rather be aiding the colonists’ cause than dressing up for some silly ball.

Still, she can barely contain her excitement when she hears of the arrival of one Alexander Hamilton, a mysterious, rakish young colonel and General George Washington’s right-hand man. Though Alex has arrived as the bearer of bad news for the Schuylers, he can’t believe his luck—as an orphan, and a bastard one at that—to be in such esteemed company. And when Alex and Eliza meet that fateful night, so begins an epic love story that would forever change the course of American history.


My Review

OK, before I start this review I feel like I should really admit that I know next to nothing about American (or British or now I think about it pretty much any) history so I have pretty much no knowledge of Alexander Hamilton. I know there’s a musical which I’m assuming is about him and that loads of people seem to be raving about but I haven’t seen it. What I’m basically saying (in a pretty long winded way) is that I went into this book pretty much blind, with very little knowledge and next to no expectations. I’d seen quite a bit of buzz around it, recognized the author’s name and was just kinda tempted by a historical romance.

I suspect these facts were all to my favor however as a kinda sweet romance set in the eighteenth century is pretty much what I got. If you’re looking for a ground breaking and historically accurate story (or even just a version of the musical) I suspect you will be disappointed (although I’m basing this pretty much on other reviews).

For those like me who are completely clueless, the story is a fictional account of the romance between Alexander Hamilton, aide de camp (personal assistant) to General Washington, and Elizabeth Schuyler, daughter of a prominant General. To me it seemed kinda like Pride and Prejudice during the American revolution (stick with me and don’t throw things, I’m not saying it’s as good).

Elizabeth’s mother could certainly give Mrs Bennet a run for her money in the match making department. She’s absolutely determined to marry off her three eldest daughters as they’re a bit short on cash despite having a prominent name. She takes every opportunity to throw them in the path of any eligible man and is not above a bit of marriage arranging. Elizabeth (or Eliza), like her namesake, is the second oldest daughter, the favorite of her father and is determined to marry for love. She’s not as beautiful as her sisters Jane Angelica and Peggy but she’s more determined, practical and has a bit more common sense.

Unfortunately (or as you’re probably thinking, thank goodness) this is where the similarities to Pride and Prejudice end (well more or less). This does have a little of the social commentary, particularly around the role of women (to marry a wealthy man and have lots of babies), but it lacks a lot of the wit and humor (I know no one can compare to Austen but what the heck I’m comparing them).

It is quite a sweet romance but other than a couple of scandalous incidents, some ungentlemanly behavior and the occasional reference to historical events going on round about them that’s pretty much it.

Eliza wasn’t the most likeable of characters to me. Yes, she’s principled, intelligent and practical but she’s just a little too fanatical about the cause for me and I found myself rolling my eyes when she started preaching to those around her.

Hamilton thankfully makes up for things however and is a very swoon worthy hero (can I say that about a historical figure?). He’s a self made man, a charmer and a bit of a flirt so it was wonderful to see him become so flustered and tongue tied around Eliza (I should add that I have since been on Wikipedia and discovered where his flirting led but let’s not go there).

It didn’t feel like there was a huge amount of story (it’s mostly a ball, a few social occasions, riding around the countryside on horses and Eliza’s efforts to aid the war effort) and it’s not exactly an exciting read but I did enjoy it.

I don’t think there was anything particularly stand out about it and I suspect if you’re a big Hamilton fan you’ll be disappointed but if you like a bit of history and a period romance you’ll probably enjoy this.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy. As always all views are my own.

ARC Review: Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

Genuine Fraud

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A brilliant and cleverly plotted story makes this a truly addictive read. It’s packed full of mystery and questions making it frustrating as hell but impossible to put down.

The characters may not be the most likeable but they are definitely some of the most intriguing. You definitely need your wits about you if you want to figure out what’s real and what’s not.


Synopsis

The story of a young woman whose diabolical smarts are her ticket into a charmed life. But how many times can someone reinvent themselves? You be the judge.

Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.


My Review

Hmm how to review a book where you can’t really talk about the story, you can’t really talk about the characters and you definitely can’t talk about the ending, or should that be the beginning? I think this is going to be quite a short review.

This is a story that begins at the end, yep literally. The first chapter is number 18 and from there it goes back in time to chapter 1 the beginning. Our main character Jule is a bit of a mystery. As the story begins (or ends as it were) she seems to be on the run and pretending to be someone else. The big question is why but this is only the first of many questions.

This is a story that’s absolutely packed full of mystery and secrets and it raises far more questions than it ever answers. As you travel back in time the answers are gradually revealed but every discovery seems to raise a hundred more questions so that you have to read that little bit more. Needless to say I read the whole book from cover to cover in an afternoon and immediately wanted to go back to the beginning and read it again to try and figure out what I’d missed.

It’s a a very intricately and cleverly plotted story that’s full of detail and little hints and clues scattered throughout. The back to front format of the story works incredibly well as you’re always trying to guess how they got to a specific place or moment and why they behave or act in a certain way. You really have to pay very close attention or you’re sure to miss something.

Main character Jule is the definitive anti hero and a bit of an enigma. She’s not particularly likeable, how can you like someone who’s always pretending to be someone else, but she’s definitely intriguing. I did on occasion find myself feeling sorry for her but when you never know what’s real and what’s fake, you never really know if you’re just being played.

This is an absolutely brilliant book but it’s frustrating as hell which means I can’t say it was an enjoyable reading experience. It is however one I’d definitely recommend. Just set aside plenty of time because you won’t be able to put it down.

I received an advance copy of this book free from Readers First. This has in no way influenced my review.