Review: Andrew Mayne – Black Fall (Jessica Blackwood #3)

Black Fall
Andrew Mayne

Jessica is an FBI agent with a difference – her training as a Magician and her knowledge of tricks is the reason for her placement at Quantico with three other technonerds. When a long dead scientist starts predicting natural disasters, it’s up to Jessica to debunk the predictions.

I was pretty excited about the missing town! How was this one going to be explained? And of course there was a fantastic explanation! The other parts about the set up of the underground rooms seemed predictable and boring in comparison. Because I knew Jessica could solve any problem, it wasn’t exciting anymore.

There was very little Jessica-development and a lot of racing around with nothing to show for it. A couple of potential dinner dates and a couple of potential friendships. Oh and a couple of close calls on death, but nothing that her oldest brilliant buddy can’t fix.

I’m not sure this novel had the same pizzazz as the first two novels (Angel Killer and Name of the Devil). It all happened too quickly and I found it difficult to trace the clues for myself. I’ll still give it 5 stars, but it’s heading down towards 4 stars. I’m going to keep reading the series in the hope that it will return to its awesomeness.

Review: Lisa Jackson – After She’s Gone

After She’s Gone
Lisa Jackson

Cassie’s sister Allie has gone missing so Cassie checks herself out of the psychiatry ward to find her. Cassie is still suffering from nightmares and flashbacks, and doesn’t even know how to look after herself. If there was ever a girl in need of a Hero, it’s Cassie, Allie and their famous mother. Can they find Allie in time? Does Allie even want to be found?

Oh dear. This novel sat on my shelf for about 2 years before I picked it up. I just wasn’t feeling another strange disappearance or mystery after try not to breathe and Painkiller. That’s the problem with copy-cat authors that produce all the novels that are compared to Girl on the Train or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I get that they must sell well, and thus it’s not really the authors’ faults they have to write that stuff as no doubt publishers pushing for it.

Um Hollywood glamour (or rather just hints at it being important but it’s really not) does not make a novel! Especially for someone who doesn’t really follow or understand Hollywood the way a homegrown North American might. I found myself completely and utterly confused most of the time (ringing any bells like Ankaran Immersion?). The protagonist was an unreliable narrator, which would have been fine if everything else in the plot hadn’t been jumbled up. And then the other characters were also confusing as hell with a healthy does of insanity themselves. There was no redemption for anyone. Anyone heard of counselling?

I ended up reading about 1/6 of the novel before I started skipping forwards to try to get to a meaty good bit! But alas, I found myself just skipping all the way to the end where, because I hadn’t actually connected properly to any of the characters, I was utterly indifferent to who the baddie was and was kind of hoping that they all died!

1 star from me. Don’t bother attempting it.

Hachette Australia | 1st February 2016 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Chris Carter – Gallery of the Dead

Gallery of the Dead
Chris Carter

Hunter is known to be brilliant at psychological evaluations and getting inside the Killer’s mind. With a new killer on the loose that seems to be creating fantastically horrible art with his victims, will Hunter be able to stop them before he creates a whole series?

Keep in mind that I have not read any of the first 8 books in this series. Thus I think I was missing some background information that could have been useful in helping me interpret Hunter’s particular personality traits. This was less about his ability to read criminal minds, and more about his ability to interpret weird clues. In the end though, the solution was pretty simple, and didn’t really need that much fancy interpretation. Try any of the Kendra novels or Sanderson’s Legion instead for that.

Again, my problem with this ‘Thriller’ / Detective novel was that I wasn’t given enough information to work things out for myself. I’m all for an insight into the perp’s brain (think The Admirer), but I need it with some suspense and fear for the main character as well. I had this problem with Corpselight and The Fix as well, and would make the suggestion of Name of the Devil or babydoll instead. There are so many other better options out there that I have read!

I finished reading this novel, but I think I wouldn’t have necessarily started (and finished) it on the same day it arrived had I known the ending. It was in the end a lot of flopping around during the text with no suspense. Also, a couple more victims would have been interesting. Morbid as that sounds, it IS just a novel. I wanted to know what other things The Artist might have done, given time. Did he want to collect a whole series of focal pieces?

I’m giving it 3 stars because of that relatively simple ending and lack of suspense. Also, all I seem to have done in this review is compare it to other novels, and that’s never a good sign for the uniqueness of the plot.

Simon and Schuster | February 2018 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Jake Halpern & Peter Kujawinski – Edgeland

Edgeland
Jake Halpern & Peter Kujawinski

The Drain is designed to take the rich dead through to the afterlife. No-one knows what is actually beyond the drop, but when a death boat accidentally takes a funeral payment with it, Alec and Wren fall in. If they are ever to get out of the Drain they will have to understand its problems and its secrets,

Wren is a plucky heroine that seems to be afraid of nothing except perhaps another betrayal. Alec on the other hand seems a bit wussy to me (which is perfectly ok), but he toughens up and becomes a character you can empathise with. They don’t really know what to expect next, and so neither does the reader.

This reminded me of Nightfall, honestly, which shouldn’t be surprising, as it’s by the same authors. Another novel by them is Dormia, which is also a decent read. But why aren’t they working on the inevitable sequel to Nightfall? There was certainly more there to be explored as well.

I’ll be keeping this novel on my shelf as a 4-star winner. I know some other readers who might enjoy it, and I’d love to get the opportunity to lend it out to them! For a ‘Hot Key’ book, it was very good. I’ve had bad experiences with them before, such as fly on the wall, but these authors kept me much better entertained.

Allen & Unwin | 1st August 2017 | AU $16.99 | paperback

Review: Angela Slatter – Corpselight

Corpselight
Angela Slatter

Verity has unexpected drownings in daylight and her not-dead mother to contend with, oh, and she’s just had a baby. But never mind, she’s just got to keep pressing forwards. With family coming out of the woodwork faster than she can keep track, can Verity protect her immediate family and keep her Normal partner happy?

I’d like to know, even with Wanda’s magic, why Verity is up and about after such a traumatic birth pretty much 2 days later. Any baby that comes out in the space of an hour is going to rip some serious damage. Or maybe the time passed faster than I thought, which it might have because I had no sense of timing throughout the whole novel.

I don’t really understand Verity’s role. Why does she feel this compulsion to help out the Weyrd? Maybe that is something that is covered in the first novel, but she continually keeps ‘fixing things’ for them, despite them abandoning her, which is a major theme of this novel. Also, does she get paid for this role? I have trouble understanding how she normally functions. I resisted reading this novel because I knew it was a sequel, but I honestly think that that is the least of its problems.

It’s a struggle to finish this novel, and I’m still not sure I will. The pacing is incredibly slow, and the storyline very predictable. Everything always overlaps in these novels, and so once one ‘puzzle’ is solved, the rest fall in line for the reader, if not Verity. I have other attractive things to read instead, and it’s a serious backlog because I just discovered a stash of novels I had wondered where they got to, but couldn’t find them.

Honestly, all the f-words? They don’t do anything for me. Verity uses them so often that their potential impact is negligible. Using more sparingly, they might actually convey a sense of urgency. There’s some nice lines that could have been worth laughing about, such as Verity’s daughter not liking decanted breast milk! Yet they are delivered so flatly that my reaction was more meh, nice try.

I’m giving this 2 stars. Surely it appeals to some audiences, but it just doesn’t appeal to me. Summing up: it was too slow, too laced with pointless cuss-words (and I’m not a puritan!) and too predictable. I’d recommend as a light read, although not fantasy based, Turbo Twenty-Three.

Hachette Australia | 11th July 2017 | AU $32.99 | paperback

Review: Karen Dionne – The Marsh King’s Daughter

The March King’s Daughter
Karen Dionne

Helena was born 2 years into her mother’s captivity, but she doesn’t know anything else. She adores her father, and it is not until he kills a visitor that she realises she needs to escape. Many years later, it is her father’s turn to escape – and he will stop at nothing to get at Helena and her daughters.

At the age of 12, Helena meets the outside world for the first time but finds herself in a place that seems to have aged over 50 years over night. She doesn’t know what to do with any of the rules, and struggles to fit into anything, not helped by her grandparents spending all the money left over from her ‘telling her story’ to magazines. When she finds a man who appreciates her, she is too afraid to tell her past.

This thoroughly reminded me of Baby doll, which is another abduction novel. But in that case, it is the mother who escapes in order to save her daughters. And The Marsh King’s Daughter is far more gritty and painful. It feels much more real, less like fantasy and more like painful reality.

This is a thriller? Well, I’m not so sure. I thought that the outcome was basically foretold for me. Things got a little tense towards the end, but it was ok. It would have been cool to have more from the kids and husband.

I’m giving this 4 stars. I really enjoyed it and snaffled it up. I think the only thing that kept me from giving it 5 stars was that there wasn’t as much suspense as I was lead to expect. But go into it expecting some interesting facts about living from the land and hunting as well as a well told abduction tale.

Hachette Australia | 1st June 2017 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: JP Delaney – The Girl Before

The Girl Before
JP Delaney

First there was Emma, who died a lonely death at the bottom of the stairs. Then there is Jane, trying to recover from the death of her baby and the loss of her high paying job in a house that seems too good to be true. Is it the house that killed Emma? Or is it Edward? Jane needs to find out, but the truth might kill her.

The parallels between the women that Edward can see to exploit are really nicely pulled out by the author so that they are on the edge of the reader’s consciousness as well. And then as the two storylines collide, it’s that not even those things are as they seem.

This novel warns you that Jane will be the next one to die, but it lets itself gradually unfold who the killer might be. Mid-way through the book when I sat down to write myself some notes about it, I couldn’t decide if I wanted her to die or not. I could see how the perfection would work either way!

Now that, that was a killer ending. Perfect. It wasn’t what I expected, but I was satisfied nevertheless. You think you know the characters, and then BAM they turn on you, and themselves. In hindsight, Jane and I both should have noticed these things.

On a more personal note, I think I’d actually love living in a house like that one. So long as I can have books somewhere (ok, so they’d need to be hidden away neatly), I’d like it. The neatness would appeal to me. Someone who saw my house right now wouldn’t agree with me, but truely, I do like things to be neat.

I couldn’t put the novel down, and devoured it in just under 3 hours. The set up as perfect, and the last third of the book even more riveting than the rest. It’s creepy and scary, but I think you’d still be ok to sleep after reading it after dark.

Hachette Australia | 1st February 2017| AU $32.99 | Paperback

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.

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

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