Review: RJ Bailey – Safe From Harm

Safe From Harm
RJ Bailey

Sam Wylde is a Protective Officer for the rich and famous. With army combat experience behind her and a few bonus skills, Sam must try to protect those she is working for, while also protecting her own family.

This novel was a disappointment. It could have been written as a psychological thriller and been much more effective while still using the same plot points. As it was, the slow pacing and flashbacks/flashforwards destroyed the novel and any hope of me enjoying it.

Sam strikes me as quite dumb really. She doesn’t question anything she should perhaps should, despite being ‘the best in the business’. Being aware of what could go wrong should be able to save her right? Or maybe the point the author is trying to make is that it is impossible to foresee anything correctly.

I’m giving this two miserable stars. Although I am not a connoisseur of novels that have a self-trained woman as a person protector, I don’t think that this one is a good one. Look elsewhere for someone to ‘keep you safe from harm’.

Simon & Schuster | 1st February 2017 | AU $29.99 | Paperback

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Review: Andrew Mayne – The Name of the Devil (Jessica Blackwood #2)

The Name of the Devil
Andrew Maine

Jessica Blackwood grew up in a house full of magicians – the real-world kind who can hide in plain sight using nothing but mirrors. Turning her back on it after a near death experience, Jessica now uses her talents off the books in her work as an FBI cop. When a Church seems to explore on its own accord, Jessica can find things with her instincts that noone else can.

If you haven’t read Angel Killer you will feel quite confused about what is happening, and what experiences Jessica already has. Go back and read it right now! I’ll be waiting right here for you, or possible be rereading it over your shoulder.

I loved the first novel in this series, and immediately contacted the publisher to see when the next would be out. Sadly, this was one of those novels that was published later in Australia than in the US, so I decided to wait. Instead, my partner bought me a copy for Christmas and I immediately started reading it then and there under the tree!

This novel is nifty because while it uses the ‘traditional’ magicians’ tricks to explain the unexplainable, some science also comes into it. Jessica’s unflinching strength of will could have been annoying, but instead it was consistent with the person I knew she was.

This reminds me of the Kendra novels, where the protagonist is also excellent at working out things from tiny cues that no-one else would ever pick up. As I said there, I like being given enough details that I could conceivably work it out for myself – even if I don’t know anything about crime solving.

5 stars from me. An engaging plot line, conceivable threats and an endearing and realistic main character whose no-nonsense approach to almost everything will excite you.

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Review: Sara Shepard – The Amateurs

The Amateurs
Sara Shepard

Aerin’s sister Helena disappeared 5 years ago, yet she can’t let go that there was something that she missed. When she calls in the help of amateur detectives from Case Not Closed online, they might be able to see the mystery through and solve some of their own issues at the same time.

Seneca! I love you! And best of all, your characterisation is very human and not as if you are a saint. I could have had more of you, and way less of all the other characters who mainly seemed to be concerned with who they were kissing next. That’s not to say that Seneca didn’t also have that problem, but she seemed to have her feet firmly on the ground and some guts to go with it.

I had trouble keeping all the characters apart in my mind. Honestly, the bar hopping and sheer amount of money that these people were throwing around… So Seneca seems to be the only one with real-world problems, and the rest are just crazy spoilt rich kids. Even Maddox, with his rags-to-sexy story.

This is a fantastic beginner psychological crime novel. Ok, so you aren’t going to be able to solve the case by yourself at all, there aren’t nearly enough details. But you will enjoy the suspense and the ending should blindside you. The blurb warns you, and there are some plot holes that might hint you towards it, but in the end it’s not clear what is going on.

I knew nothing of Shepard’s other novels, but they could be worth checking out. The price on this novel is a steal – buy it for a mature teenager or young adult in your life, and I’m pretty sure they will love you for it. I’m giving it 4 stars – that ending was fantastic and I wanted to read more. I’ll be looking for the next novel in the series to read.

Allen & Unwin | 23rd November 2016| AU $6.99 | Paperback

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Review: Janet Evanovich – Turbo Twenty-Three

Turbo Twenty-Three
Janet Evanovich

Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter and flybynight private investigator. After a HR officer turns up frozen solid, coated with chocolate and nuts, Stephanie has her work cut out for her to try and track down some criminals and not eat all the icecream on the way there.

Ok, so Stephanie is pretty dumb. And her friends are even dumber (except that sexy beast of Ranger). They are all caracatures of American cliches with an equally cliched environment. Seriously? Filming naked in the streets is pretty easy to get away with… and so is naked bungie jumping.

For being the ‘Newest Stephanie Plum’ novel, in a series of 23!! … Oh. I was saying that I had no idea what the significance of this title is. Now I do. Do I care? Hmm, not sure I do. The vibrant green and purple of the cover and the peppy blurb got me excited for the novel and didn’t give too much away.

I’m not sure I could read the whole series of these. It’s filled with lighthearted humour and unbelievable escapades and was indeed difficult to put down. But there wasn’t any substance that made me reach for more, and there was no need to read any of the others to enjoy it.

I’m going to be generous and give it 4 stars. It’s not a reread, but it was so funny and irreverant that I couldn’t help laughing out loud in places. I’d lend it to a friend who needed a pick-me-up.

Hachette | 15th November 2016 | AU $29.99 | Paperback

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Review: Lisa Unger – Ink and Bone

Ink and Bone
Lisa Unger

Finley Montgomery hears things that noone else can, and they block out her perception of reality. A squeak-clink is the newest sound to interfer with her studies – could it have something to do with the abduction of Abbey?

30073778This didn’t quite have me on the edge of my seat, but close enough! I felt like all the girls were already dead, and that Finley might bring the perpetrator of crime to justice, but it was too late for the children. Finley didn’t seem to catch on that she usually sees dead people… So the ones she is seeing and hearing can’t possibly be alive!

Ok, so I admit I was a bit slow to get the title of this novel. Having read another novel titled Ink and Bone, I kept being a bit confused when I saw the title on my shelf. I’m not sure about the ‘bone’ in the title of Unger’s novel, but the ink certainly makes sense.

To me, this felt complete, but incomplete at the same time. I barely got attached to Finley’s grandmother and the blurb suggests that this is the beginning of Finley’s training – yet she seems to have been there a while. A quick google tells me that this novel is a stand-alone but there are other novels set in The Hollows. I don’t know whether those novels also have something to do with Finley’s grandmother, but I’d perhaps suggest to the reader to try reading those first, even if this is a standalone novel.

A psychological thriller, but not too thrilling that I felt haunted afterwards (or tried to avoid picking it up!). I’ll give it 4 stars.

4star

Simon & Schuster | July 2016 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

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Review: Iris Johansen & Roy Johansen – The Naked Eye

The Naked Eye
Iris Johansen & Roy Johansen

Colby should be safely dead, but Kendra can’t shake the conviction that the guesome serial killer is just biding his time hidden somewhere. Drawn to murder scene after murder scene, it seems like Kendra might be too close this time to avoid being pulled into the scandal surrounding her work. How can she protect everyone?

23014581Kendra! I love you! I love you every time I read you. You’re plucky, irritating, and yet becoming more human all the time. I do wish you weren’t so stubborn, you should know that your friends will go first, but ah well. Everyone has their blind spots right? [How punny!]

The novel is going to catch you, pull you in, and keep you reading all night long. Or all work day long if you are guilty old me. The plot introduces a couple more characters of direct interest to the reader  so you don’t get too bored with her rather uptight point of view.

Ooh, that ending! I can’t even begin to imagine what the next and final novel is going to be like. The first three have been linked (Close Your Eyes, Sight Unseen) but the next one has got to have something new in it…

Even just in returning to the first page to check the publication date lead me to want to reread the first chapter. Guilty confession here, I did reread that little bit. Just so I could love her again. So this will be 5 stars, and maybe I should go back and re-star the others…

5star

Macmillan Australia | September 2016 | $9.99 AU | ebook

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Review: Peter James – Love You Dead

Love You Dead
Peter James

There is a Black Widow on the loose – having first turned to plastic surgery to make her beautiful, all that remains for Jodie Danforth to make herself rich by marrying a rich man. She isn’t all that excited about remaining married though – and she kills them off almost as fast as she gets married.

27993438There is no need to have read the 11 books in the Roy Grace series before this. Other reviewers have complained that it took ages for the Detective to enter the story – I didn’t miss this because I didn’t know what to expect of him. I actually loved being in the mind of the ‘Black Widow’ and the other criminals.

I liked the criminals. I perhaps liked them more than the Detective himself! I was excited to get inside their thoughts and experience things. I actually sympathised with the petty house thief the most and wished he could have gotten straight before, well, dying.

If you have a thing for reptiles and interesting poisons, the thing you’re going to love about this novel is the reptile room. I would have loved to learn more about the poisons, but there are still limits on facts you can include in a novel, even one this large.

I really enjoyed reading this novel, and would have given it 5 stars, had it not been that I was reading a Iris & Roy Johansen crime novel with my favourite heroine Kendra at the same time. All in all, this was ‘just’ another crime novel, albeit a very well written and researched one. I’m certainly not going to turn down other novels by Peter James!

4star

Pan Macmillan | 26 July 2016 | AU $29.99 | Paperback

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Review: Sarah Armstrong – Promise

Promise
Sarah Armstrong

Anna hears screaming coming from her new next door neighbours, and recognises the sound as a child in danger. Calling protective services seems to do nothing, and when it seems as if the child is likely to be murdered, Anna takes matters into her own hands.

9781743535844How accurate are the court scenes in this? I think that this author will have done due diligence in her research. But please! Don’t take the law into your own hands! I know that child protective services will often err on the side of caution to not take a child away. As I learnt in How (not) to Start an Orphanage, the best place for children to grow up is in a caring (usually biological) family environment. This book takes that to extremes.

There are a number of interesting interlocking situations that have led Anna to feel this way about a child. I sometimes felt that these overshadowed the main point of Charlie’s welfare, but I also understood that the author included them in order to add depth to her character. It’s interesting to see how the past influences the future.

My goodness gracious me. It took a lot for me to pick up this novel. Then I happily read until I was about a third of the way through. Then the pace stopped. I kept reading until halfway, and then stopped reading for a bit. It was just so slow from there on! By the time I got to the end of the novel, I was barely invested in the outcome.

For this reason, I’ll only be giving it 3 stars. If it had been able to maintain the momentum from the first third of the novel (including perhaps a more exciting ‘chase scene’), that would have pushed it over the line to 4 stars just for the concept. If you enjoy Jodi Picoult’s thought provoking works (I’ve read and reviewed four of them, as linked), this is going to be for you.

3star

Pan Macmillan | 28th July 2016 | AU $32.99 | Paperback

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Review: Valerie Davisson – Forest Park

Forest Park
Valerie Davisson

Logan loves her new job, and can’t wait to learn more from pioneers in the area. Little does she know that a Vietnamese family will take her heart, and that she will be lost in a mystery while losing her faith in men once again.

28230074What sold the first novel to me was missing in this novel. While there were interlocking storylines, it didn’t ‘have the mystery of the first novel. It also lapsed back into too descriptive prose – the one line that has stuck with me is that Logan wears Burt’s Bees Cranberry flavour.

It had potential with everything, yet failed to deliver. Logan, where is your head? Why can’t you just talk to people? The passive-aggressive ignoring is not doing you any favours. What kind of woman are you anyway? And honestly, you didn’t do any mystery solving this time.

As for the last novel (sorry to keep comparing them), the title of this novel means very little. Much of the action appears to take place in Logan’s head and bedroom, rather than in the park the novel is named for. In fact, the park doesn’t seem to play a big role until somewhere near the end, and it seems like an afterthought.

I was really excited for this novel, and then turned out very disappointed. I’m tempted to give only 2 stars, but it wasn’t that badly written compared to some stuff I have read recently. Perhaps if you REALLY think you might like it, or have already been invested in Logan by Shattered, give it a read.

3star
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Review: Iris Johansen & Roy Johansen – Sight Unseen

Sight Unseen
Iris Johansen & Roy Johansen

Kendra is a successful FBI crime solver, despite her best efforts to stay out of it and focus on her music therapy students. When old crimes she has solved begin to be bloodily reenacted, she has to return to dealing with murder that is too close for comfort.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 1.40.49 PMKendra deals with crimes that would make  a squeamish person nervous in a way that makes you think she has no feelings. In this novel though, you start to see her coming apart at the seams, and what her family and friends need to do to let her recover. I want Kendra to be happy, but I also want her to do more awesome things!

This is a thriller that you will feel comfortable reading by yourself. There aren’t too many cases where Kendra is on her own and the reader would be scared to read it at night! That’s not to say there is an tension or drama – there’s lots of it.

I feel certain that most crimes aren’t dealt with in this way, and that serial killers don’t go in for a particular detective quite so badly, but I loved reading about it anyway. We don’t have the death sentence in Australia – and it seems like it isn’t that effective anyway! There are always people who think that they won’t be caught (and some never are).

Oh Kendra. You can’t protect everyone, no matter how hard you try. You seriously should check to make sure your students are ok though – this is the second time they have come into danger because of you. I don’t know how to feel about that. Maybe you should work anonymously? You know enough about disguises to make it work.

This was an ebook I accepted because I had loved the first in the series so much (Close Your Eyes). There’s going to be two more books with Kendra in them, and I’m hoping that I will see copies of those too. It is a real shame that these are only ebooks, but they are worth picking up anyway.

 

4star

Macmillan Australia | August 2016 | $9.99 AU | ebook

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