Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games

Sixteen year old Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12, an area of the country that was previously North America but is now known as Panem. Every year the Capitol run the Hunger Games. A brutal reality TV show where the participants aged between 12 and 18 are picked by lottery from the surrounding districts to compete to the death. The last person alive is declared the winner. When Katniss’ sister is picked to take part Katniss volunteers to take her place and begins the battle for her life in the arena.

I had heard a lot about The Hunger Games so when I saw the books on special offer I bought them and jumped them to the top of my to read list. I read a little bit of YA but not a huge amount. Most of the time when reading YA I personally feel it suffers for it and would be better had it been written as an adult book. With The Hunger Games I would say the opposite is true, it works perfectly as it is and it would have suffered had it been written for adults.

Katniss is an interesting character, flawed but likeable, tough but not without weakness. The other supporting characters are also good, I did find Peeta a little annoying though! The story is fast paced, I pretty much sat and read it in one sitting. I liked the imagery of the future world and the difference in living conditions between the Capitol and the districts.

It's straight on to book two for me, looking forward to finding out what happens!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Niki Valentine – The Haunted

Sue and Martin visit Scotland for a holiday for a holiday ten years after visiting the same area on their honeymoon. They decide to trek to a remote boothy to spend a night in the wilderness but get cut off and stranded there by bad weather. There seems to be some kind of presence at the boothy and the couple soon start bickering. The disagreements become more nasty as time wears on and they couple start to think that they may not make it out alive.

I was drawn into this book quite quickly, however, I did find it a little slow and repetitive at times. Martin and Sue would probably have been better off getting a divorce rather than a second honeymoon as their relationship seems a little rocky before they even set off into the wilderness. Neither character is particularly likeable but they were still readable despite that fact that I wasn’t too bothered if they made it out alive or not.

I did enjoy the story and read it quickly but ultimately it was pretty forgettable. There was nothing particularly scary or memorable about it. I may read some more Niki Valentine in future but she is not an author I will actively make an effort to read, although if I see a book by her and like the sound of it I will most likely give it a go.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Adam Nevill – The Ritual

Four old friends decide to go on a reunion holiday walking in the Swedish wilderness but they realise that they have little left in common and two of them are not as fit as they should be for a trip like this. They decide to take a shortcut through some woods but find a gutted animal hanging from a tree then they end up lost, wet and scared in a strange old building which has ancient religious artefacts in it.

Having read Adam Nevill’s short story “On All London Underground Lines” in the collection The End of the Line I was keen to read a full length novel and The Ritual sounded interesting so I picked myself up a copy.

We are plunged straight into the story and the pacing remains pretty quick throughout. The characters were interesting with Hutch and Luke being the most likeable. My favourite characters were Loki and Fenris though and I had to keep googleing the bands mentioned as I like metal (although mostly they were too shouty / screamy for my taste, I prefer the more melodic, softer stuff).

I really enjoyed the story and found Nevill to be good at building tension and creating atmosphere. I will definitely be reading more of his books in the future and will be getting a copy of Apartment 16 to add to my to read pile!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Will Carver – Girl 4

Detective January David is hunting for a killer who has so far murdered three girls in London. When he is called to a fourth crime scene he is shocked to find that he knows the victim. She is still alive but in a critical condition. He has to find the killer before he strikes again.

I choose this book as part of the Criminal Plots Reading Challenge. This one is for the category “2011 Debut author”. I found it quite difficult to get a book that fitted the requirements for this category as I kept finding authors that I hadn’t heard of before and then discovering they had written several books already, then when I did find a new author I’d realise that their book was actually published in 2010 so I was really pleased when I discovered Will Carver and Girl 4.

This is an interesting take on a crime story. The narration of the book switches between the viewpoints of the detective January David, the killer and all of the victims which gives a really good mix of perspectives. It does mean that we don’t get any major character development though as we do not get as much time with each character as we would do if the whole book was from one perspective or less perspectives. I didn’t feel that was a major issue though as we still get a good feel for the characters involved.

I really enjoyed the story and quite liked the outcome. It seems that it is going to continue a little bit in a future book so that could be interesting. I liked Carver’s writing style so I am looking forward to reading more of his work in the future.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Tom Fletcher – The Leaping

Jack is fed up of his job in a Manchester call centre so when he meets Jennifer and has the opportunity to move away with her to Fell House in a remote part of the Lake District he jumps at the chance. He misses his friend though and feels that perhaps there is something not quite right about the house. When his friends arrange a huge birthday / housewarming party it seems like a great idea. However, as the night progresses and some uninvited guests turn up it seems that there may be something lurking in the fells that Jack and his friends really don’t want to meet.

After reading The Thing on the Shore earlier in the year I was keen to read Tom Fletcher’s first novel, The Leaping. The two books are apparently supposed to be a series but there are only minor links between the two so reading out of sequence didn’t matter.

Tom Fletcher has a very unique and distinctive writing style that I personally really like. I liked the characters and felt that the characterisation was one of the strongest elements of the book. I love the fact that they are just normal people like you or I that are put into a scary situation.

The story itself was good, slowly building throughout. The narration switches between Jack and Frances and it’s interesting to get the two different viewpoints. I should have read this book when I was on holiday in the Lake District in November, that would have been quite creepy.

I’m very much looking forward to the next book Ravenglass Eye. I’m not sure when it’s released but when it it it will be jumping up my to read pile!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Stephen King – 11.22.63

Jake Epping is a normal thirty-five year old teacher going about his business until the day a dying friend lets him into a secret and asks him a huge favour. Al discovered a time portal back to 1958 in the store room of his diner and had been using it to buy cheap meat for the diner and to try and change history by stopping the assignation of JFK. However, Al develops cancer and is not fit enough to continue with the task so he passes the information on to Jake and asks him to carry out his final wish. Jake is not entirely convinced but decides to take up the challenge and begins a journey to change the course of history.

I’ll be completely honest here, when I heard that Stephen King’s new book was about someone going back in time to stop the JFK assassination I was disappointed. Being English I have little knowledge or interest in American history (we studied the Native Americans / the gold rush in history at school, which was actually quite interesting, but that’s about it) and I have no interest or knowledge whatsoever about American politics (I have very little interest in UK politics so anywhere outside the UK stands no chance!) But it’s Stephen King, he’s my favourite author and he knows how to tell a good story so I was still keen to get my hands on a copy. The second problem I had with the book is the title. It has taken me AGES to actually remember it. At first I was referring to it as “umm, it’s the date that JFK was shot.” Eventually I did actually manage to remember the date but in the UK format so I am still having to make a conscious effort not to call it 22.11.63 and to be honest, in a year’s time I’ll probably have forgotten the date again and reverted back to “umm, it’s the date that JFK was shot.”

But anyway, despite all of that I bought my copy and jumped it straight to the top of my (huge) to read pile. I was immediately drawn into the story and the characters (characterisation being one of King’s strongest talents). Most of the story is not about the assassination at all but about Jake’s journey through the past, the problems he encounters and the people he meets along the way.

One of the things I loved about this book was the references to King’s other works. He often does include little references but there seemed to be a lot this time. As part of the story takes place in Derry I suppose that helps as there is a big IT reference which is great. There are also several smaller references to other works dotted throughout the book.

I really enjoyed the book for the most part. There was a section towards the middle that I was less keen on as it was mostly Jake carrying out surveillance of Lee Harvey Oswald which was not very interesting and could probably have done with being a little shorter. Apart from that the book was brilliant with lots of things going on.

I’m now considering doing some King re-reads again (although I always feel guilty re-reading books when I have at least 150 books that I haven’t read yet sitting on my shelf awaiting my attention).

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Alex Scarrow – Last Light

Oil engineer Andy Sutherland has bored his family for years with scare stories about how one day the oil supply could get cut off and disaster would follow. Following some unrest in the Middle East his predictions start to become true. Andy is stranded in Iraq at the time while his wife Jenny is in Manchester desperately trying to get home to their children who are in London surrounded by looters and lawlessness.

I love post-apocalyptic fiction and this book had been on my wish list for a while. It’s actually more apocalyptic than post-apocalyptic but that doesn’t matter, in fact I think it’s probably the better for it.

The narrative follows the Sutherland family who are all in different locations. Andy is working in Iraq, Jenny is in Manchester for a job interview Leona is at university and has to go and collect her brother Jake from boarding school and return to the family home in London, the chapters switch between the different family members. Leona and Jake’s chapters were my favourite although I did enjoy the whole book.

The book is quite disturbing as it is a potentially realistic situation that could occur. Having witnessed the riots across the country this summer it shows how fragile our society really is, so if there was some kind of major disaster that cut off the oil supply things could potentially break down pretty quickly if handled the wrong way by those in charge.

I liked the writing style and that fast pace of the book. I also liked that it was set (mainly) in the UK. The characters were interesting and the story engrossing. I’ll definitely be adding the sequel, Afterlight to my to read pile.

Right I’m off to stock up on tinned food …

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Simon Morden – Equations of Life

It’s twenty years after Armageddon. Samuil Petrovitch is a Russian immigrant living in the London Metrozone and researching at the university. He tries to keep to himself to avoid any unwanted attention but when he intervenes to prevent a kidnapping he puts himself onto the radar of the police and two separate gangs which causes big problems.

I’ve had this book in my to read pile for a little while. My Dad lent it to me as he said it was really good but the cover blurb wasn’t really grabbing my attention. My Dad started to badger me for it back so I bumped it up the to read pile and I’m really glad I did.

One of the big things that I loved about this book was the imagery of a post Armageddon London. Clapham Common and Regents park piled high with shipping containers acting as housing for the millions of people crammed into the metrozone, the area within the boundary of the M25 and the only habitable city in the country.

The story itself was interesting and engaging and I was hooked almost immediately. The pacing is fast throughout and the characters are varied and well written. Samuil is a flawed but likeable protagonist with an interesting back story that is lightly touched upon. Sister Madeline is a rebellious nun. In the post-armageddon world the job of a nun is to protect her priest so Madeline is good with guns. The other supporting characters are also interesting.

I’m really pleased I read this book and am very much looking forward to reading the following two books in the trilogy (they are currently in my to read pile awaiting my attention).

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Christopher Ransom – The People Next Door

When the seemingly perfect Render family move in next door to the Nash family strange things start to happen. Mick Nash quickly realises that all is not as it appears to be and starts to take steps to protect his family. But what is the Render’s secret?

I enjoyed Christopher Ransom’s previous two novels so I was looking forward to this one and it jumped up my reading pile. The premise was interesting and the story was fairly creepy. I liked the different viewpoints from the various characters. The pacing was good most of the time although there were a couple of places where it did feel a little slow.

Whilst the characterisation was pretty good I didn’t particularly like any of the characters which was a shame as it meant that I didn’t care too much what happened to them. This is probably what let the book down for me. I like to have some kind of emotional investment in the characters that I am reading about.

The cover and the book blurb mention a big twist to the book. I actually liked the twist and didn’t manage to guess it. My favourite part of the book was the ending, I thought it was well done and interesting and could make for a good sequel.

If you’re new to Christopher Ransom then I would advise against starting with this one (start with The Birthing House) as it is definitely not his best. I did enjoy it, just not as much as I enjoyed his previous work.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Russell Brand – Booky Wook 2: This Time It’s Personal

The second instalment of Russell Brand’s autobiography. Booky Wook 2 follows his rise to full on fame. From Big Brother’s Little Brother to the infamous Andrew Sachs incident to meeting Katy Perry.

I had been looking forward to reading the second instalment of Russell Brand’s autobiography as I very much enjoyed the first one and I enjoy his television, film and stand up a lot (Ponderland Crime is possibly one of the funniest things I have ever seen).

The book contains lots of little anecdotes about Russell’s life many of which are amusing and some are insightful. However, I feel that the book was only scratching the surface. Booky Wook 1 felt a lot more personal. Most of the tings contained in Booky Wook 2 were things that were already in the public domain. Now I’m not suggesting that an autobiography should bare the soul of the person writing it but I do feel that it should give a little more than this book did.

That said, I did enjoy the book. It made me laugh out loud in places and it was an interesting read, it just didn’t quite live up to Booky Wook 1.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Rachel Caine – Fade Out

There are no spoilers for the book being reviewed but there may be spoilers for previous books in the series.

Book seven of the Morganville Vampires series. Things seem to have settled down a bit in Morganville and the inhabitants are returning to something resembling normal life. Eve is excited as she is cast in one of the leading roles in the town’s annual play but when one of her co-stars goes missing Claire and her friends need to find her fast. This is not helped by Ada, the vampire computer who has taken a strong disliking to Claire.

This book had a slightly slower pace than the other books in the series so far and it’s a bit more stand alone than many of the other books since the Bishop storyline ended in book six. That’s not a bad thing though it feels like to characters have a chance to get their breath back a bit (but not much, this is Morganville after all!) after the relentless action of the previous three books.

This book sees the introduction of new character Kim, another goth who immediately gets on Claire’s bad side by becoming super pally with Eve and having some kind of history with Shane. It’s interesting to see how Claire reacts.

The storyline was interesting and quite different to the previous books. It’s actually quite nice to be away from the Bishop storyline (even though I did enjoy it). There are some very interesting developments towards the end of the book so I’m looking forward to seeing where they go over the next few books.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Andrea-Maria Schenkel – Bunker

When Monika is abducted from work she is kept locked up in a bunker. Her kidnapper looks a little familiar, reminding her of a past she has tried to forget. As her time in captivity continues she tries to work out the motivation behind her kidnapping.

This was actually more of a novella than a full novel, coming in at well under 200 pages. The narrative is (purposefully) quite disjointed and is split between the viewpoints of Monika who has been abducted and her captor along with a some smaller sections from the viewpoint of the emergency services. I quite liked this style, it was always clear whose perspective we were in and it was interesting to get both sides of the story.

The story was a bit confusing at times as there were so many questions such as who is the kidnapper? Is he who Monika thinks he is? Why has he kidnapped her? What is the significance of the bunker, What is the significance of their pasts? I could go on but you get the idea. Most of the answers do become clear as the story progresses although there were still a few things left vague.

I thought the translation was well done, I didn’t notice any mistakes (the book was originally written in German). The pacing was good and the story an interesting twist on a kidnap tale.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Rachel Caine - Carpe Corpus

There are no spoilers for the book being reviewed but there may be spoilers for previous books in the series.

Book six of the Morganville Vampires series. Carpe Corpus picks up a few months after the events of Lord of Misrule. Bishop has taken control of Morganville and life is pretty miserable for Claire and her friends. A small uprising is forming against Bishop but will they be able to defeat him?

This book has been my favourite of the series so far. As normal it’s fast paced and full of action. The battle with Bishop is finally coming to a head and the characters have to go through a lot.

This book sees the death of one of the characters which I really liked as I felt it added to the book. Up until now everyone had been coming out of really dangerous situations pretty much unscathed which was a bit annoying, so I felt this added something to the story and brought back a real sense of danger to the characters because they can die and the author is willing to kill them off.

No Cliff hanger ending this time. I believe this book was originally planned as the last in the series so everything is tied up pretty nicely.

My edition of the book included the short story Murdered Out at the end. The story focuses mainly on Shane and was enjoyable. It’s nice to get a little more insight into Shane without the usual fast pace and huge amount of danger!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Rachel Caine – Lord of Misrule

There are no spoilers for the book being reviewed but there may be spoilers for previous books in the series.

Book five of the Morganville Vampires series. This picks up pretty much where Feast of Fools ended. After the disastrous ball Morganville is in chaos. Bishop in tightening his grip on the town and as if that wasn’t bad enough a lot of the vampires seem to be vanishing.

This is a series that you really have to read chronologically from the beginning. You probably would be able to work out what was going on if you did jump straight in to the middle but it wouldn’t be as good.

There’s quite a lot going on in this book and everyone is split up into different groups with different tasks to do so it’s interesting to see how the characters react to that. Myrnin is still my favourite character and he does some interesting things in this book. I also like Hannah who has a fairly big part in this book. Another cliff hanger ending on this one so it will be interesting to see where book six takes us.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Rachel Caine – Feast of Fools

There are no spoilers for the book being reviewed but there may be spoilers for previous books in the series.

Book four of the Morganville Vampires series. This one picks up right where Midnight Alley ended. Evil Vampire Bishop has come to town and he seems intent on making life difficult for human and vampire residents alike. When a formal ball is held the extent of his evil plans become clear.

There’s a lot going on in this book. That’s a good thing. The pace is fast and there are developments to many of the ongoing plot strands. I’m really enjoying the Myrnin storyline, he is a great character easily my favourite. It’s interesting to see how Michael being a vampire is continuing to affect the dynamic of the group

This book ends on a HUGE cliff hanger so it’s pretty much impossible not to dive straight in to the next book.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Various (short story collection) – The End of the Line

The End of the Line is a collection of horror short stories edited by Jonathan Oliver. The stories are all previously unpublished and are all linked to an underground railway system of some sort. Most are set in and around the London underground but there are several with different settings as well.

As I love horror and have a long running interest / fascination with the London underground this collection was perfect for me and I couldn’t wait to get stuck into it. Overall the standard of stories in the collection was very good, there was just one that I didn’t really like and several that I really loved.

The collection opens with Bullroarer by Paul Meloy. It’s not what I would have picked as the opener as I thought it was one of the weaker stories in the collection. I just found it a bit odd but it was alright. We move on to The Girl in the Glass by John Llewellyn Probert. This is a fairly traditional ghost story with a twist. Creepy, atmospheric and very enjoyable.

The next story, The Lure by Nicholas Royle was the one I didn’t really like! I found that there was far too much detail about journey routes and too much French which I just didn’t understand as I don’t speak French! It was also a little predictable, I knew exactly what was going to be on the other side of the door.

My three favourite stories in the collection were Fallen Boys by Mark Morris. A traditional ghost story set in an old Cornish tin mine. In The Colosseum by Stephen Volk, a voyeuristic story of sex, drugs, murder and CCTV and probably may favourite of them all Crazy Train by Natasha Rhodes about a musician who shoots himself and ends up taking a very interesting train journey.

Whilst it wasn’t among my favourite stories in the collection On All London Underground Lines by Adam L.G. Nevill has now made me tempted to pick up Apartment 16 as that has been on my radar for a while and I liked his writing style.

Overall a great collection that I really enjoyed. I hope there will be a volume two at some point!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Rachel Caine – Midnight Alley

There are no spoilers for the book being reviewed but there may be spoilers for previous books in the series.

Book three of the Morganville Vampires series. This picks up shortly after the events of The Dead Girls’ Dance. Claire is now pledged to Amelie, the top vampire in town. Whilst this gives Claire some protection it doesn’t come free and Claire is recruited by Amelie to take extra lessons with a particularly old and unstable vampire. On top of this there has been a spate of girls turning up dead in the town.

I didn’t enjoy this book quite as much as the previous two but it was still pretty good. It was interesting to see how the characters relate to each other now that Michael is a vampire so it’s going to be interesting to see how that effects the dynamic of the group in future. We learn a little more about Eve and her past although I would still like a bit more depth here. Hopefully it will come later in the series.

The best thing about this book is Myrnin, the old vampire that Amelie sends Claire to for extra lessons. He is a great character which we are just starting to get to know. I’m looking forward to finding out more about him and his work.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Rachel Caine – The Dead Girls' Dance

There are no spoilers for the book being reviewed but there may be spoilers for previous books in the series.

Book two of the Morganville Vampires series. This book picks up immediately after the events of the first book Glass Houses. Shane’s Dad and his vampire hunting gang have arrived in town. They are determined to kill as many vampires as possible which causes a great deal of trouble for Claire and her friends.

I enjoyed this book as much as the first one and am looking forward to seeing where the series is going to go. This book had a bit more action than the first one as we know the characters now and are just thrown straight into the story without the need for introductions. The book remained fast paced throughout.

I found it interesting to find out more about Shane and his past. His relationship with Claire really starts to take shape in this book so it’s nice to know a bit more about him. We also have the introduction of Eve’s unstable brother Jason. I’m hoping this is something that will be expanded on in future books as we are given bits and pieces about Eve’s history and it would be nice to learn more.

Not such a cliff-hanger ending on this one but still plenty of questions and suspense to carry over to book three! Looking forward to reading it.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Rachel Caine – Glass Houses

Book one of the Morganville Vampires series. Claire Danvers is a sixteen year old girl genius on and early intake into college having aces all of her high school exams. She was hoping to go to one of the big well known colleges but her parents decided that it would be best if she started off at TPU, a smaller more local college in Morganville, Texas before transferring to a better college further from home when she turns eighteen. What Claire and her parents didn’t know was that Morganville is not like other towns, it is run by vampires and can be a very dangerous place. Bullied by a girl in the dorm Claire moves out of the campus accommodation and into a house with Eve, Michael and Shane, three friends who grew up in the town. Claire soon begins to learn Morganville’s secrets and finds out that it can be a very dangerous place.

I wasn’t sure about this book to begin with. It’s clearly aimed at people half my age which was a little off putting. However, I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt and I’m glad I did. If you’re looking for something deep and meaningful or literary genius you won’t find it in Glass Houses, but I read for entertainment and that is exactly what I got.

The characters are interesting. Claire is a small, quiet girl of high intelligence and slightly geeky who seems to have lead a fairly sheltered life. She also seems fairly mature for her age in many respects. Eve is an outspoken goth girl who works in the local coffee shop. Michael is a slightly mysterious musician who only seems to come out at night despite not being a vampire and Shane is a bit of a tough guy who is unemployed. There is also a fairly large cast of supporting characters, many of whom as interesting and I hope we’ll find out more about them throughout the series.

There’s not a huge amount of action in this book, a lot of it is getting to know the characters and the town but it still feels fairly fast paced throughout a lot of the book and that picks up more and more as the book goes on. I was quickly drawn into the story and when it ended I was keen to start on book two.

This was a quick read for me. It’s around 350 pages of fairly large text and I read it in a day. Looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Monday, 5 September 2011

John Rector - Cold Kiss

Nate and Sara are moving away, their few belongings packed into their beat up old car. When a hitchhiker offers them money for a ride they feel unable to turn it down but they soon start to regret the decision, especially when a heavy snowstorm forces them to make a stop at an isolated motel.

This story gets going quickly and remains at a pretty fast pace throughout. There were several twists and turns to the plot which kept in fresh and interesting. I did work out who the baddie was (it’s really obvious once you are given a few small details) but that didn’t have any detrimental effect for me.

It was a quick read with large text and under 300 pages so I finished it in a day. The characters were all pretty interesting, I’d have liked to have found out a bit more about some of them. I liked the setting in the snowed in motel, it added atmosphere and helped the creepiness of the story.

I enjoyed the book and will read more by John Rector in the future.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Neil Cross – Burial

Can your guiltiest secret ever be buried? Nathan has never been able to forget the worst night of his life: the party that led to the sudden, shocking death of a young woman. Only he and Bob, an untrustworthy old acquaintance, know what really happened and they have resolved to keep it that way. But one rainy night, years later, Bob appears at Nathan's door with terrifying news, and old wounds are suddenly reopened, threatening to tear Nathan's whole world apart. Because Nathan has his own secrets now. Secrets that could destroy everything he has fought to build. And maybe Bob doesn't realise just how far Nathan will go to protect them... (synopsis from amazon.co.uk).

Burial is the first Neil Cross book that I have read but it won’t be the last. The premise is nothing new: Old secret rears its head, threatens to destroy current life, something must be done to keep the secret buried. I liked the way that it was done though. There were some interesting plot twists throughout which helped to keep the story fresh and interesting and the pacing was just right. I liked the writing style and found the characters interesting. I even found myself feeling sorry for Nathan at times although never for long as any trouble that comes his way is pretty much down to his own actions / inactions and he did seem to have a habit of being rather stupid sometimes!

The book was quite short coming in at around 300 pages of fairly big text so I read it in under a day.

When I bought Burial I also liked the sound of several other Neil Cross books but only bought this one in case I didn’t like it. As I enjoyed it I will definitely be picking up some more of his books in the near future to add to my (ever increasing) to read pile.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Harlan Coben – Tell No One

Eight years ago David Beck’s wife Elizabeth was kidnapped and murdered and he has been grieving for her ever since. The he receives a strange email with a link that appears to show Elizabeth alive. As he tries to unravel the mystery he finds that he is now in danger and that there is a lot more behind Elizabeth’s murder then he had previously believed.

Tell No One is the second book by Harlan Coben that I have read. I had previously read Darkest Fear and whilst I had enjoyed the story I really didn’t like the main character, Myron Bolitar so this time I made sure I picked a book that wasn’t from the Myron Bolitar series. To begin with I was worried that the same thing was going to happen again as I took a dislike to David Beck to begin with although luckily he did grow on me and by the end of the book I decided that he was alright. The other characters in the book were pretty good although they were often a little too perfect at times and somewhat stereotypical as well.

The story itself was good, it was well paced and kept me interested throughout. The ending was a little unbelievable but I didn’t feel that it spoilt the book at all. There were two other things that annoyed me but I can’t say what they were without spoilers!

Overall I’m still not entirely convinced by Harlan Coben. I like his writing style and I like his storylines. However, I am still not all that keen on his characters although I can’t quite figure out why. I will read another of his books as the plot summaries on the back always interest me but he’s still not an author that I will be rushing out to buy as soon as the book is released.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Dean Koontz – What the Night Knows (with bonus story Darkness Under the Sun)

Detective John Calvino’s family were brutally murdered by a serial killer when he was a teenager. John survived and managed to kill the killer. Now, twenty years on he has a family of his own and is leading a very happy life. Then a family is murdered in circumstances very similar to those of the killer twenty years ago. John is convinced that his family are in danger but how can he explain it to people when the killer is long dead.

To me this book seemed a little more like classic Koontz compared to his other recent work. I think this is a good thing. I read this book quite slowly but that was more to do with life getting in the way of reading than any fault of the book.

I liked the characters, they were all a little too perfect but I can live with that. The story was entertaining and well paced although it did require a little suspension of disbelief at times (which is not a problem for me, it is fiction after all).

I remain convinced that I would easily be able to detect Dean Koontz’s writing in a “blind” reading, he has a very distinctive style of writing and often incorporates regular themes into his books many of which were present in this book.

The bonus story, Darkness Under the Sun is a prequel to the events of What the Night Knows. I really enjoyed the story and thought it added a lot to the book. If you are going to buy this book then I would strongly recommend finding one of the editions with the story included.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Stacia Kane – Unholy Magic

Unholy Magic is book two in the Downside Ghosts series. It picks up shortly after the events of Unholy Ghosts. Chess is assigned a new task from the church looking into a reported haunting in a celebrity’s house. At the same time local drug dealer and pimp Bump wants her to investigate the deaths of several prostitutes from the area who seem to have been killed by a ghost.

I think I enjoyed this book more than the first one. In this book we get to know a little more about the characters which I found interesting. Chess is managing to mess her life up even more than she was before and her drug dependence seems to be worsening. I did have one small issue and that is if her drug addiction is as bad as it’s supposed to be then I’m sure someone from the church would have noticed by now.

The storyline in this book was a good mix of the ghosts / murdering plot and the personal lives of the main characters. I thought it was well paced and it kept me thoroughly entertained throughout. It has left me really looking forward to reading the third book.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Martina Cole – The Family

The Murphy family are the most successful and feared gangsters in Southend. Lead by Philip Murphy they run many successful businesses and criminal activities. Philip takes care of his family and expects complete loyalty from all of them. He is devoted to his wife Christine but she has started to see a side of him that scares her and she feels powerless to do anything about it.

This was the first Martina Cole book I have read. I liked the sound of it as it seemed a little different for your normal crime books. The book opens with a present day scene which is a bit of a cliff-hanger so throughout the whole book you are aware that something is going to happen which is being built up to but don’t know what. After the opening section we then jump back in time to when Christine and Philip met and the book then continues chronologically to get back to the scene at the start of the book and its outcome.

I enjoyed the story and thought it was well paced in the most part. The characters were well formed and I feel we got to know them sufficiently although none of them were likeable and I struggled to have any sympathy for Chrristine. The book kept me interested throughout though and I was eager to find out what happened.

One thing I will note is that anyone who is adverse to swearing would perhaps want to stay clear of this book as there was a lot of it. I don’t have a problem with it personally and I think it was justified as those types of criminals would use that type of language but I know that if my mother in law picked up this book she would hate it because of the language used!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Joe Hill – Horns

Ig Perrish had a good life, son of famous parents, privileged life and a girlfriend, Merrin that he loved. But one night Merrin was raped and murdered, Ig was the only suspect but never went to trial but the town still decided that he was guilty. One morning Ig wakes up with horns growing from his head, they seem to give him special powers so he decides to use them to find out who was responsible for the death of Merrin.

I loved Joe Hill’s first novel Heart Shaped Box and really enjoyed his short story collection, 21st Century Ghosts, so I was really looking forward to reading Horns. I have a signed hardback copy but like to keep my signed books in nice condition so waited for the paperback version and when it arrived it jumped to the top of my to read pile.

I was not too sure about the story at first but I was quickly drawn into it and was soon completely hooked. The plot was interesting and well paced. I liked the way that the book was split into different sections, the first dealing with the present, section two dealing with the past including how Ig and Merrin met and then sections three onwards back to the present but using flashbacks / visions to look at the past.

The greatest strength of the book for me was the characters, they were well written and felt real and they brought out a wide range of emotions. I wanted to know what was going to happen to them and had genuine concern for Ig, hoping that he would be able to sort out his troubled life and reading Merrin’s letter to him brought tears to my eyes.

I’m eagerly awaiting Joe Hill’s next novel. So much so that I may even give Locke & Key a try although graphic novels have never really appealed to me (I don’t think I really “get” them) but I guess it may be worth giving it a go.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Nicci French - Killing Me Softly

Alice has a nice life, a good circle of friends and a happy long term relationship until one day she meets a stranger in the street and starts a passionate affair with him. Alice quickly cuts off from her old life and becomes obsessed with Adam but their relationship starts to take a sinister turn as Alice delves into his past.

I choose this book for two reasons. Firstly as I have never read any Nicci French before but often see “For fans of Nicci French” on some of the other books that I have read and enjoyed and secondly as part of the Criminal Plots Reading Challenge. This one is for the category “Book made into a movie” as this book has been made into a film starring Heather Graham and Joseph Fiennes. I have never seen the film and looking at some of the reviews for it won’t be in any particular hurry to watch it!

This book was a quick and easy read. You do need to suspend your disbelief to read it as many of Alice’s actions seem completely bizarre and unlikely but as long as you can put that aside then the book is easy to get into.

I liked the pacing and the writing style and the story was entertaining. The characters were interesting but generally not at all likeable. Most of the time I thought Alice needed a bit of a slap to knock some sense into her and Adam was a suspicious weirdo that everyone seemed to worship and pander too because he had saved some people on a mountain once.

So whilst the book was not without its faults it was still an entertaining and enjoyable read. I will probably read more Nicci French in future.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Craig Robertson – Random

A serial killer known as The Cutter has Glasgow living in fear with his brutal and random murders. The police can’t work out who is committing the murders or why as there seems to be little evidence left behind and no links between the victims.

This book is written in the first person from the perspective of the killer which is what drew me to the book as crime novels tend to be from the perspective of the police, a victim or other onlooker so it was really interesting and unusual to see a book written in this way.

As the story progresses we move gain more insight into the mind of the killer, his reasons for the murders and his life. At first he comes across as cold blooded and heartless but as we learn more about his circumstances and discover his reasons it becomes almost possible to sympathise with him.

I liked the newspaper reports that were dotted throughout the text. The author is a journalist for a Scottish newspaper so that must be his nod to his journalism roots and I think it works nicely to pull together information and give a different perspective.

So overall the good pacing, nice writing style and interesting story made for an enjoyable read.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Justin Cronin – The Passage

The army was conducting experiments in trying to lengthen life span and improve the healing capabilities of the human body. Instead what they created turned the test people into ferocious vampire type creatures who managed to escape and kill or infect people with the virus. The survivors end up living in a walled encampment surrounded by bright lights to keep the creatures away. A girl called Amy holds the key to survival.

I had been looking forward to reading The Passage as I love post-apocalyptic fiction and the comparisons to Stephen King’s The Stand along with praise from Stephen King himself all added to the appeal so when it arrived it jumped straight to the top of my to read pile.

Personally I didn’t think that the book was very much like The Stand (the cause of the apocalypse is a man made virus, the book is quite long, there’s an old woman in it and a band of survivors travelling together for a common purpose are pretty much the main similarities although most of these could be said about a lot of post-apocalyptic books). If I was going to compare it to anything I’d suggest Swan Song by Robert R McCammon but I think comparisons are generally pretty pointless, I’d rather look at books in their own right.

The Passage has two distinct sections. The first covering the cause of the virus and it’s leak into society which tales up about a third of the book and the second section which covered the aftermath and follows the survivors almost one hundred years afterwards which takes up the rest of the book. I have seen several reviews saying that they loved the first part but not the second so much but personally I really liked it all. It was really interesting to read about how the virus came about and it was equally interesting to read about the survivors and how their lives are almost one hundred years on and their quest to save themselves.

I liked the story and the style in which it was written which included a variety of different types of writing including first person, third person, diary entries and emails which I think all worked well together and added to the reading experience.

There is quite a large cast of characters most of whom were memorable and easy to distinguish between (I did have to remind myself who a couple of the scientist / government characters were in the first part of the book but apart from that I found them easy to keep track of). The band of survivors in particular are very interesting and likeable and I very much enjoyed reading about them. There are s few characters who I think are pretty much safe but at the same time Justin Cronin is not afraid to kill off other important characters which I like, it keeps the reader on their toes knowing that one of their favourite characters could die at any given moment.

The Passage is apparently the first in a trilogy. I’m not sure what to make of that really. I think the book works perfectly in it’s own right, it doesn’t need anything more. At the end the situation is not all tied up nice and neatly but that doesn’t matter, most of the human race has been wiped out that does not make for a nice neat ending. There are unanswered questions but I am not a person who needs all the answers, sometimes it’s nice just to have something to think about and wonder and to be honest I’m not sure how another two books could be filled (especially if they are anywhere near as long as The Passage is) but then perhaps that’s why I’m a reader and not a writer! I will of course read the next book and I’ll probably really enjoy it (I liked the sample chapter that was included in the back of this book) but I don’t think that a sequel is in any way needed.

I liked reading the afterward of the book about how Justin Cronin wrote The Passage. I also like the inclusion of the recommended reading list as well, I have read quite a few of the books on that list already but will look into some more of them at some point.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Tom Fletcher – The Thing on the Shore

When Arthur was twelve his Mum died in slightly strange circumstances. Now, fourteen years later, Arthur and his Dad Harry are still in the same house living a somewhat miserable life. Harry seems to be losing his grip on reality and sinking into alcoholism and Arthur is working a job he hates in a call centre wondering if there is more to life. There are changes afoot though. Arthur and his friends have noticed some strange things happening recently. Arthur has the feeling that something is going to happen but he has no idea what it could be.

The strongest element of this book, for me, was the characters. They felt very realistic and we got to know them well. They had their quirks and their problems and in many ways I felt I could relate to them. There were several times throughout the book that I wanted to give Arthur a big hug and tell him that everything would be alright. Even if nothing much had actually happened in this book I would still have enjoyed it because of the characters.

The plot was a bit of a slow burner. We know that something is going to happen but are not sure what. The story builds slowly but steadily towards the big finish. To be honest I’m not sure what to make of the thing that happens. It’s very odd but interesting (and it did leave me thinking about it afterwards) but as I said before it was the characters that made this book for me.

The Thing on the Shore was the first Tom Fletcher book I have read but it certainly won’t be the last. I really liked his style of writing and will look forward to reading more of his work in future.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Claire Seeber – Fragile Minds

Claudie’s young son died several years ago and she is still struggling to cope having suffered a breakdown and splitting with her husband. When a bomb blast near her work at the Royal Ballet Academy kills her friend Tessa Claudie’s world is once again turned upside down. Claudie realises that she has lost periods of time and after sereral strange occurrences she begins to feel that she may have had something to do with the blast. DCI Joe Silver is on the case but he has problems of his own and is distracted.

This book has an interesting plot with lots of twists and turns including clues and red herrings. I had suspicions about several of the characters but didn’t quite manage to work out who did it.

I quite liked the way the book was written, jumping between the perspectives of several of the characters. Claudie’s chapters were written in first person and the other character’s chapters were in third person which sounds a little odd but seemed to work.

On the whole the characters aren’t particularly likeable but they are quite interesting. We slowly learn the stories behind Claudie and Silvers problems and get to know quite a bit about some of the other more minor characters as well.

There was one thing that annoyed me in the book. One of the main supporting characters, a detective called Kenton, is a lesbian. Fine. What was annoying was that the author saw fit to go on and on and on about it. Pretty much every time Kenton was mentioned there was a reference to her sexuality. It was like the author was saying “Look! Look! I’ve put a lesbian in my book! Look!” It had no bearing on the plot whatsoever and became distracting. It started off being mildly irritating and by the end I wanted to grab the author and scream at her “I know she’s a lesbian, you have mentioned it eight thousand times already, I don’t care, tell us something else about her”! I think what made it more annoying was that Kenton seemed like an interesting and likeable character and it would have been nice to have seen a bit more character development and find out more about her.

Having said that I did still enjoy the book. The story was gripping and the pacing was just right. I do have another Claire Seeber book in my to read pile so I will be giving that one a go at some point.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Alden Bell – The Reapers are the Angels

Temple is fifteen years old, born into a dangerous post-apocalyptic America where zombies roam. She travels alone, but when she stumbles across helpless Maury she decided to try and help him find his family. The trip in itself is dangerous and it is not helped by the fact that Temple is being pursued by a man that wants to kill her.

Temple is a complex character. She is only fifteen but seems older then that as she has had to grow up fast in order to survive. She has done things that she is not proud of and is haunted by that, believing herself to be a bad person. She thinks that if she can help Maury get to his family then that may in some way make up for some of the bad things she has done.

The book is set about twenty-five years after the zombie outbreak. This is the only world Temple knows but we meet several characters who remember the world before. The zombies seem to be growing slower and weaker but they still pose a big threat, all it takes is one bite and you will become one of them. The zombies are an important part of the story but in a way they are more of a background feature, this book is not full of blood and gore like many zombie books it is more about Temple’s journey, both physically across America and mentally, coming to terms with her past and thinking about the future.

One thing that I didn’t like about the book was the lack of speech marks. None of the dialogue has them, which I found very noticeable and odd. There was probably a reason for not having them but I don’t know what it was and I did find it quite distracting.

Overall though I really enjoyed this book. I liked the imagery of it, it was easy to picture the scenes and to immerse myself in Temple’s world. I love post-apocalypse and this is a great example of it.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Charlaine Harris - Dead Reckoning

There's a reckoning on the way . . . . . . and Sookie has a knack for being in trouble's way; not least when she witnesses the firebombing of Merlotte's, the bar where she works. Since Sam Merlotte is known to be two-natured, suspicion immediately falls on the anti-shifters in the area. Sookie suspects otherwise, but before she can investigate something else - something even more dangerous - comes up. Sookie's lover Eric Northman and his 'child' Pam are plotting something in secret. Whatever it is, they seem determined to keep Sookie out of it; almost as determined as Sookie is to find out what's going on. She can't sit on the sidelines when both her work and her love life under threat - but as she's gradually drawn into their plans Sookie finds the situation is deadlier than she could ever have imagined.
Synopsis taken from Amazon.co.uk.

This is book eleven in the Sookie Stackhouse series. I first discovered the series early last year when I got a box set of books one to eight and read them all in two weeks. Since then I have quickly devoured the rest of the books as soon as they were released and they are one of the few books I will read in hardback (I don't like reading hardbacks, I find them bulky and awkward and would much rather read paperbacks).

Book Ten, Dead in the Family, left me a little disappointed so I was both excited and a little nervous about reading Dead Reckoning but I'm pleased to say that this one felt a lot more on form. There was plenty of action and a good storyline and the ending has left me hungry for the next book.

It felt like there was plenty of character development in this book as there were lots of things going on for most of the main characters. It was interesting to find out more about the Fae and there were some interesting developments with Sookie and Eric’s relationship (I’ve always been an Eric fan so need the next book to see what will happen there!).

I heard that Charlaine Harris is only planning 2 or 3 more books in the series and whilst I will be sad to see the series end I think it is good to end it as I would much rather see the series end on a high rather than have it dragged out just for the sake of it.

Friday, 20 May 2011

David Wellington – Cursed

Chey is trekking alone in the Arctic woods when she is attacked by a strange looking wolf. She manages to escape but not before being bitten by the creature which she discovers is a werewolf which has passed the curse on to her. Chey must now come to terms with being a werewolf whilst avoiding being killed.

This is an interesting take on the Werewolf story. Wellington’s werewolves are ferocious creatures, hungry for blood, who turn whenever the moon is up, regardless of whether or not it’s full.

Chey is a mysterious character. We have no idea to begin with why she is trekking alone in the Arctic but her back story is gradually revealed. Powell and Dzo are also mysterious, we do learn some more details about them (more so Powell) but I would have liked more. There is a follow up book though so perhaps that will provide more.

I enjoyed the flow of the story, I thought the pacing was good and the author created suspense and atmosphere well.

I will be looking out for more David Wellington, in particular the follow up book, Ravaged.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

S. J. Bolton - Blood Harvest

Ten year old Tom Fletcher doesn’t seem to be settling into the new family home very well, he complains about being watched and followed by a mysterious, creepy girl. Harry is the new vicar in the village, he is opening up the church which has been closed for ten years. He has noticed some strange occurrences but is assured by the locals that these are normal village traditions. Evi is a psychiatrist with a patient in the village who lost her daughter in a fire three years ago but is unable to come to terms with the death and still wanders the moors looking for her daughter.

The narrative follows the three main characters, Tom, Harry and Evi and switches between their viewpoints and individual stories (which have interlinking threads). They are all interesting and likeable characters, especially Tom and Harry. There are quite a few supporting characters as well and you are able to really get a feel for life in the strange, remote little village.

The story is quite spooky in places, the author creates atmosphere well. The story really drew me in and kept me interested throughout.

I will definitely be looking out for more S. J. Bolton in the future.

Monday, 9 May 2011

P.C. and Kristin Cast – Marked

Zoey Redbird is a sixteen year old girl who thinks she is just like any other teenager until one day a tracker comes to her school and marks her. This means that Zoey is going to go through the change and hopefully become a vampire (not everyone that starts to change is able to make it and they die) and she has to go and join the vampire school “House of Night” to learn the ways of the vampire.

To be honest I’m not entirely sure what to make of this book. It was quite compulsive reading, I read it in less than a day, but I’m not really sure why as not a great deal actually happened. I think this book is the equivalent of eating golden syrup straight out of the tin - it tastes nice but it has no nutritional value and too much can leave you feeling a bit sick.

I quite liked Zoey although she was a bit irritating at times with her holier than thou attitude. Some of the other characters may prove to be quite interesting but it’s hard to tell at this stage as there wasn’t much character development beyond Zoey. This is just the first in the series though so I would hope that in future books we find out a bit more about the other characters.

The story is an interesting and different take on vampires. They are rather too light and fluffy here for my liking though. I don’t mind a bit of romanticising vampires (I love the Sookie Stackhouse books) but I do like them to still have that element of danger. The vampires in this book were not at all scary or threatening and I felt a bit disappointed by that.

I will probably read the next book but it’s not one that I am going to rush out to buy immediately.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Mark Billingham – From the Dead

Donna Langford hired a hit man to kill her husband Alan and served ten years in prison for the crime. Shortly before her release she receives a photo of her husband alive and well in the sunshine. DI Tom Thorne takes on the case to try and find out where Alan Langford is and who was actually murdered ten years ago.

Once again I have gone charging straight into a series without reading any of the previous books! In this case From The Dead is the ninth book about DI Tom Thorne. This time I felt that it didn’t matter at all, the book worked well as a standalone novel, at no point did I feel that I was missing anything as I have done with other books where I have charged straight into the middle of a series.

Tom Thorne is pretty much your usual flawed but likeable detective and there is a good cast of supporting characters. I liked the writing style and the pacing was just right. The plot was quite intriguing. I didn’t manage to work out any of the answers!

I will definitely be reading more Mark Billingham and more of the Tom Thorne series. A quick look through my to read pile has revealed that I have one of the earlier Tom Thorne books so I’ll look forward to reading that one.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Jeffery Deaver – The Burning Wire

Lincoln Rhyme is brought in to help investigate a killer who is using electricity to kill his victims. At the same time Rhyme is also involved in helping Kathryn Dance and the Mexican authorities close in on The Watchmaker.

It was nice to be back in the world of Lincoln Rhyme. This is one series that I have read in its entirety in the correct order and I always look forward to the next book. I liked that the weapon used by the killer in this book was electricity, it’s something that is all around us and so deadly yet we all take it for granted and don’t give it a second thought most of the time. I’m often wary about touching metal things because I am always getting static shocks off of things and reading this book didn’t really help!

There was some interesting character development in this book, of both a main and a supporting character which I liked. The story was good and had several twists and turns as is normal with Jeffery Deaver although I’d say there were slightly less plot twists this time.

I’m guessing there may be a bit of a wait for the next Lincoln Rhyme instalment as Jeffery Deaver currently has his Bond Novel, Carte Blanche and a stand alone thriller, Edge out (which sounds good, it’s in hardback at the moment so I’ll get the paperback release as I’m not keen on reading hardbacks) and then I expect his next book will probably be Katherine Dance (looking forward to that though as I enjoyed the last Katherine Dance book).

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Mo Hayder – Skin

DI Jack Caffery is assigned to a missing persons case but his heart is not really in it. He has concerns over a recent death that looks like suicide but could have been murder disguised. Police diver Flea Marley is helping on the case but she has big problems of her own that are starting to interfere with her work.

I hadn’t realised before I started this book that it is set in and around Bristol which is where I live so many of the places mentioned in the book were familiar to me. I really liked that.

I hadn’t read any of Mo Hayder’s books before and as I seem to be doing quite a lot lately I have entered a series that has already begun without having read the preceding novels. Luckily that didn’t really matter though, whilst I think it would have added to my enjoyment of Skin to have read the previous book, Ritual, it was by no means essential. The book is set shortly after the occurrences in Ritual and does refer back to them several times but it was explained sufficiently to allow anyone that hadn’t read it to catch up.

Skin follows Jack Caffery and Flea Marley in two separate but interlined storylines. Caffery is still shaken from his previous case (the events of Ritual) and is investigating a missing person case and a suicide that he suspects was really murder. Flea Marley and her dive team are helping by searching locations for bodies but the main part of her storyline follows her personal issues.

I liked the story and the characters, I am especially interested to find out what happens to Flea in the next book as there are still things that could happen with that storyline. I’ll have to keep a look out for new releases from Ho Hayder as she might do some local book signings with any luck!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Robert R. McCammon – They Thirst

Vampires have come to Los Angeles. Each night they walk the streets drinking the blood of the unsuspecting people that they find, increasing their numbers in a bid to take over the city. How can the people fight against an enemy that they don’t believe exists?

I like a good vampire novel and this is a very good vampire novel. It took me quite a long time to read it – 16 days – I normally read an average of a book a week. This book is longer than it first appears. It has 531 pages but it is printed in a quite small typeface and new chapters start on the same page rather than starting from a new page as they do in most books. I think if it was to be reprinted now the page count would probably increase fairly considerably. It is currently out of print but I was lucky enough to pick up a second hand copy at the Book Barn a while back. The only other Robert R. McCammon book that I have read is Swan Song and that is my second favourite book ever (after The Stand by Stephen King) so I thought it was about time that I read another of his books.

The book has a large cast of characters which I liked about it. The characters were all memorable and well written so it was easy to keep track of who was who. The vampires were old school evil vampires, only interested in feeding and increasing their numbers. They were quite creepy, which is good.

I enjoyed the story. I did feel that parts of it were a little farfetched but that didn’t really matter and it all served the overall plot. A couple of times I found myself wondering why the characters didn’t have mobile phones and I had to remind myself that the book was written in the 1980’s and people didn’t have mobiles back then! I think this shows that the book had a modern feel to it as it didn’t feel dated at all in any other way.

I think it’s a shame that this book is out of print. I have tried to find out why but the only information I could find was that the author deliberately keeps it out of print. I can’t find any reasons why (If anyone knows I would be interested to hear). I’m hoping that it will be put back into print at some point in the future as it’s a book that deserves to be read and enjoyed. (As an aside, when I first got Swan Song about 12 or more years ago it was out of print in the UK and I had to do a special order and pay quite a lot of money to get it. It wasn’t as simple to just get things over the internet like it is now. But Swan Song is now back in publication here so maybe there is hope that They Thirst will be re-published one day).

Friday, 15 April 2011

James Thompson - Snow Angels

It's Kaamos in Finland, meaning its dark all day and night for weeks. During this time an immigrant film star is brutally murdered and mutilated. Detective Kari Vaara must investigate and bring the killer to justice but as he works deeper into the case he finds that things are getting a little too close to home.

I choose this book as part of the Criminal Plots Reading Challenge. This one is for the category “New-to-you Series” as this is the first in a series of books following Detective Kari Vaara.

The setting in Finland adds an interesting side to this story, with the freezing weather and the constant darkness making things more difficult than they would be elsewhere. It does paint a picture of lots of Fin’s being alcoholics though!

The plot was interesting with quite a few twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. I didn’t manage to work out who the killer was. I liked Detective Vaara. I thought he was an interesting and likeable character. The same cannot be said of his wife, Kate though! She was just constantly moaning and irritating!

This is a series that I will probably read more of but not one that I will be rushing to buy on release day.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Wayne Simmons - Flu

An outbreak of deadly flu kills of most of the population. Those that die soon rise as zombies, hungry for the flesh of the living. The few remaining survivors face a terrifying struggle to stay alive.

Flu drew me straight in from the start, it's fast paced and full of action. There is a good range of characters who Wayne Simmons has no problem killing off! I like that in a book, it keeps you on your toes, not knowing if your favourite character is going to make it or not.

I also enjoyed the Northern Ireland setting. I don't think I've read a book set there before. I believe there is a sequel coming out at some point so I will look forward to reading that and I'll also pick up some more Wayne Simmons at some point as well.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Carol Smith – Without Warning

When a woman falls in front of a London Underground train the police assume it was an accident or suicide until they find the knife sticking out of her back. When a similar murder happens a few days later Brewster takes on the case knowing that the killer could strike again at any time.

I have a fascination with the London Underground so any book set there immediately draws my attention. This book follows a selection of characters who are mostly interlinked in some way. It's fairly obvious almost from the outset who the killer is but I think this is intentional. The killer is properly revealed somewhere between half and two thirds of the way through the book although there are still plenty of mysteries to try and work out.

I liked the story and it's London Underground setting. It also tied the July 7th 2005 bombings into he storyline as well which was interesting. I get the feeling that the bombings happened as the author was writing the book and she decided to include it as opposed to it originally being part of the plot though.

The characters were for the most part likeable, however, a lot of them were very stereotypical and clich├ęd and didn't seem to have much depth to them. This was only a minor annoyance though and didn't stop me from enjoying the story.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Gregg Hurwitz – You’re Next

Mike Wingate was abandoned at the age of four and grew up in foster care knowing nothing about his parents. He has since managed to build a nice life for himself with his own business, a wife and a daughter. However, when he meets a mysterious man at a party who seems to be threatening him his world is turned upside down. Mike must work out what it is from his past that is causing these men to come after him and his family before it’s too late.

I choose this book as part of the Criminal Plots Reading Challenge. This one is for the category “opposite gender” as the main protagonist, Mike, is male.

I was drawn straight into this book as it sets off at quite a fast pace and doesn’t slow at all throughout. The book was mostly set in the present but there were a few sections that went back and covered Mikes past, telling the story of how he was abandoned and some of the trouble that he got into during his younger years.

Mike is a likeable character, although at times I found him a little too try hard and overly perfect. I preferred Shep, he has some character flaws and is a more interesting and real character for it whilst still retaining that likeability.

There were parts of the story that were somewhat farfetched. This may bother some people but it didn’t bother me as it is a work of fiction after all. The story worked and was enjoyable to read. I’ll be reading more Gregg Hurwitz books in the future.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Laurell K Hamilton – Guilty Pleasures

The first book in the Anita Blake series. Anita Blake is an animator (raising zombies) and vampire killer known as “The Executioner”. Someone has been killing vampires illegally and the vampires have recruited Anita to find the killer.

I first discovered Anita Blake about 18 months ago when I read the short story “Those Who Seek Forgiveness” and have been meaning to start the series ever since as I really enjoyed the short story. It’s taken a while for me to get around to buying and reading the first book but I’m really glad I did (although mow my to read pile is going to get even bigger!).

I like Anita. She is tough but not overly so. The supporting characters were also interesting and hopefully we will get to learn a bit more about some of them in the following books in the series. I liked the story, it was well paced and kept me wanting to find out what was going to happen. I’d have like to have read a bit more about Anita’s job as an animator but I guess that will probably be covered more in other books.

I haven’t bought the next book “The Laughing Corpse” yet so must buy that one. I do have one of the later books “Flirt” so I was considering reading that but I’m not sure about reading out of order so I will probably wait to read that one.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Stacia Kane - Unholy Ghosts

Ghosts are real and dangerous. The Church of real Truths now runs things and Chess works for them as a debunker, investigating hauntings and dealing with the ghosts. She is also a drug addict and now her dealer wants her to sort out a problem for her but it could get her into trouble with the Church or put her in great danger.

At first I struggled to get into this book. The plot seemed a little slow and the way the characters spoke was annoying at best and confusing at worst. However, I soon managed to get used to that and the plot really picked up the pace and I was soon drwan into the story.

Chess is an interesting character. She is quite intelligent and generally likeable and she seems quite real. She is not fearless and can be vulnerable but she is still strong. I found her drug addiction quite annoying and felt that as she was intelligent she should be doing something about it, especially as it had landed her into a bad situation that was escalating rapidly.

So after a shaky start I ended up really enjoying this book and am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Simone van der Vlugt – The Reunion

Sabine has just started back at work after having been off with depression for a year. A lot has changed during that time and she is having difficulty fitting in. On top of this she is starting to have dreams and flashbacks relating to the disappearance nine years ago of Isabel, a girl that she was at school with. Sabine is convinced that Isabel was murdered and that she was a witness but has since repressed the memory.

Sabine is an interesting character, she is quite likeable although I did find her a bit annoying at times although I could relate to her quite a lot. The other characters are also well written and interesting. I liked the style of the book and the Netherlands setting. I thought the translation was well done.

There are two main storylines that are interlinked, the present day troubles that Sabine is having and the events surrounding the disappearance of Isabel nine years ago when Sabine and Isabel were at school together. The flashbacks and dreams seem to have been triggered by seeing and advert for a school reunion and meeting up with a face from Sabine’s past. I actually slightly preferred the bits about Sabine’s present day life although the disappearance bits were good as well. I did manage to work out who did it but only a little while before the reveal. I think I should have worked it out sooner though!

Friday, 4 March 2011

Steven Dunne - The Disciple

DI Brook thought he could put the reaper murders behind him, knowing that the reaper is dead. However, when a drowning in Brighton turns out to be murder, placing Brook under suspicion, and a family in Derby is murdered with all the hallmarks of the reaper killings, DI Brook is drawn in to find out who is responsible.

When I bought this book I didn’t realise that it was the second in a series, although that soon became obvious when I started to read it. I debated putting it down and getting hold of the first one to read but decided to stick with it as I have read books in series out of sequence before and have found that most of the time it doesn’t really matter. Luckily I found that to be the case here. There was quite a lot of mention of the previous events but they were all well explained so I didn’t feel like I was missing out on any information.

Most of the narrative follows BI Brook and the team working on the present day events in Derby but there is also a strand that follows the 1995 FBI investigation into the Ghost Road killers in California, USA. I really liked the storyline. It was quite complex but easy to follow. It kept me guessing all the way to the end and I didn’t manage to work out who the killer was. The characters were well written and interesting.

I really enjoyed this book and will definitely be keeping an eye out for Steven Dunne in the future. I will probably pick up the first book in the series, The Reaper, at some point as well. I’ll leave it a while though as at the moment I feel that I already know the most important bits from it having read this book.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Thomas Emson – Zombie Britannica

During an unprecedented heat wave a zombie outbreak occurs. With the dead rising the living have to fight to survive. The story follows three main characters – Carrie in London, Vincent in North Wales and Craig in Scotland.

There was a great mix of characters in this book. Some of whom were likeable and others that were horrible. The three main characters each had their own storyline and the narrative switched between them throughout. My favourite of the three storylines was probably that of Vincent, trapped in Beaumaris Castle (I’m planning a trip to North Wales later in the year so I will be able to picture the zombies whilst looking around the castle!). I also really enjoyed Carrie’s storyline and her companion Sawyer was my favourite character in the book. Craig’s storyline was the least interesting to me, I didn’t particularly like him or his companions and therefore wasn’t too bothered about what was happening to them.

The book was fast paced throughout which made me want to keep on reading to find out what happened. There was a lot of violence and gore so not recommended for those who are easily bothered by that kind of thing. I quite liked the style of the book although I think that in places it could have been better written, this did not detract from the story at all for me though.

One thing that I did notice that someone should have picked up before sending the book to print is that Britannica is spelt correctly on the cover but it is spelt incorrectly (Brittanica) on the inside title pages.

I enjoyed reading this book, it was quick ,easy and entertaining. I will probably read some more of Thomas Emson’s work in the future.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Jo Nesbo – The Snowman

Harry Hole is a Detective who is on the case of a woman who has disappeared from her home. When another woman is found murdered Harry believes there may be a link and that he may be facing a serial killer which is an extremely rare occurrence in Norway.

I chose this book as part of the Criminal Plots Reading Challenge. I have decided to review this one in the category “A Different Country” although it is also from a new to me series. The book is set in Olso, Norway and I live in the UK.

I liked Harry Hole as a character, he was interesting and quite likeable despite his flaws. I liked the characterisation throughout the book. Whilst many of the characters were not particularly likeable people I did feel like I got to know them and that they were three dimensional and interesting.

The storyline was good and it kept me interested throughout. I did feel that at 550 pages the book was perhaps a little long and I think it would have been better had it been a little shorter as it did seem to be a little dragged out towards the end.

I liked the Oslo setting although I don’t think it made the book particularly different from one set elsewhere. There was the snow of course but there are plenty of places where it snows quite a lot.

I thought the translation was quite well done. One thing that I found a little odd was that the men were still referred to as herr and the women frau (and they weren’t capitalised which I thought was strange but I suppose that must be the way Norwegians write it). I think it was supposed to add to the Norwegian-ness of the book but I found it a little odd. All the other translated books that I have read have referred to Mr/ Mrs/ Miss etc.

This was the first Jo Nesbo book that I have read. It’s not the first Harry Hole book in the series but that didn’t matter, it worked well as a standalone and I didn’t feel that I was missing anything from not having read the previous novels. I would say that the book was average. I enjoyed it and would be interested to read more Jo Nesbo in future especially as I liked Harry Hole but I won’t be rushing to do so immediately as there are the other authors that I will be more excited about reading.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

John Wyndham - The Day of the Triffids

One night strange lights appear in the sky, everyone that sees them is rendered blind. Bill Masen was in hospital with his eyes bandaged and didn’t see the lights and therefore his eyesight is saved. As well as the problem of most of the population being unable to see there is also the problem of the Triffids. Large carnivorous plants that have been bread for their valuable oils are now able to easily prey on the humans.

I love post-apocalyptic fiction and having never read The Day of the Triffids before I decided it was about time I did. I already had some idea of the plot, as I have watched a couple of T.V. adaptations in the past but I didn’t really remember them very well.

The novel was first published in 1951 and I think it has aged really well, it doesn’t feel dated and there are only a few things that occasionally give away its age. The first is when Bill wakes up in hospital and looks out of the window he is surprised that none of the houses have smoke coming from their chimneys. Secondly when Bill finds a nice apartment in a rich area of London to stay in for the night it is mentioned that the rent would have been expensive at about £2000 a year, whereas nowadays the rent would be more than that for a month! The third thing is that the Second World War is not long passed and there are suspicions implied towards Russia. Aside from those few things there is little to give away that it is 60 years old as it still manages to feel fresh and modern.

I really enjoyed the book, it pulled me in immediately and kept me eager for more throughout. I liked that as well as the difficulties of trying to survive generally there is the added complication of the Triffids making the situation so much more dangerous, even for the people who still have their sight.

I liked the writing style and the characters. I did feel at times that a few things were a little too convenient but that did not spoil my enjoyment of the book at all. It is far better than the adaptations that I have seen (but then the book always is better so no surprise there) so if you like post-apocalyptic fiction then it’s definitely one to add to the reading list, I can’t believe it has taken me this long to get to it!

Friday, 4 February 2011

Stephen King – The Gunslinger (Dark Tower 1)

The first in the Dark Tower series, we meet Roland, the last Gunslinger, as he makes his way across the desert in pursuit of the Man in Black and begin to learn about his quest to reach the Dark Tower.

This is the second time that I have read The Gunslinger. I’ll be honest, the first time I read it I hated it, but that was about 12 years ago. I picked it up again because Amanda over at Floor to Ceiling Books had decided to host a readalong of the series. I love the rest of the books in the series so decided to join in.

This time around I enjoyed the book. It took effort to only read the pages being discussed for the weeks readalong post and not just carry on and finish the whole book. In fact, I’m not even sure why I didn’t like the book before (although I wasn’t alone in not liking it). I found the imagery fantastic. I could really picture the bleak landscapes that Roland and Jake were crossing and Roland’s flashbacks really felt alive.

Perhaps I enjoyed it this time around because I know where the story is going (and how it ends) so I wasn’t constantly waiting for answers that weren’t coming. Perhaps it’s because I have read a lot more King since then (at the time of my first read of The Gunslinger I had read quite a lot of King but now I have read almost everything he has published, with the exception of two full length novels and probably a handful of short stories), or perhaps it’s simply because I’m 12 years older than I was back then. Whatever the reason I’m glad I re-read the book. It was nice to be back In Roland’s world and I shall re-read the rest of the series before too long as well as I now have the taste for it.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Val McDermid - The Distant Echo

December 1978. Four students stumble across the body of murdered Rosie Duff on the way home from a night out. They become the prime suspects but lack of evidence means that the case is not solved. In 2003 the Scottish police start up a cold case review and the Rosie Duff murder is one of the cases being investigated. It seems that the four students are being picked off one by one so they must get together to find out who the killer is.

I choose this book as part of the Criminal Plots Reading Challenge. This is for the category "Author from a Blurb". Val McDermid had been quoted on The Breaker by Minette Walters which was a book that I had enjoyed a while ago, so I decided to give one of her books a try having not read any of her work before.

I liked the writing style. It did take me a while to get my head around the characters as the four students are known by nicknames and by their real names so remembering who was who took me a while. That may say more about my memory than about the book though!

There are really two interconnected plots here. There is the 1978 plot which follows the murder of Rosie Duff and its investigation and then there is the 2003 plot which follows the lives of the four students who discovered the body along with the cold case review team. The 1978 bit takes up just over one third of the book and the remainder takes place in 2003. I enjoyed the whole book but I preferred the 1978 section overall.

By about page 150 I had managed to work out who had murdered Rosie (the book comes to over 550 pages in total). I did have a few minor doubts along the way but overall I was pretty sure and it turned out that I was correct. Now, I'm not sure if it was intentionally supposed to be that easy to work out who the killer was. I read a lot of crime and whilst I do on occasion work out "whodunit" most of the time I don't, and certainly never that quickly! Working out who the killer was did not spoil the book at all as it was still suspenseful and interesting and I still wanted to find out if I was right or not! Working out who the 2003 killer was, was harder and I was never very sure on that one so I didn’t manage to work it all out.

I liked the characters and thought that they were well written. I liked the character development of which there was quite a lot. Both during the original investigation in 1978/79 and then seeing how they had further developed in the intervening years until 2003.

So overall I enjoyed the book and will certainly be picking up some more Val McDermid in the future.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Stephen King – Full Dark, No Stars

I had been looking forward to this as Stephen King is my favourite author. Full Dark, No Stars is a collection of four novellas.

1922
This is the confession of Wilfred James, a farmer who murdered his wife in 1922.

I really liked this insight into the increasingly damaged mind of Wilfred James. Wilfred is not a likeable man, he planned his wife’s murder in a cold and calculating way and corrupted his son in the process. As the story unfolded I had some sympathy with the son but not with Wilfred. The story is dark and engaging and I really liked the ending.

Big Driver
This is the story of Tess, a writer who is brutally raped and left for dead on her way home from a talk and book signing event.

I also really enjoyed this story. Tess is an interesting character. How she deals with the attack and it’s aftermarth is quite intriguing. There is a fair amount of mystery and the story is very chilling in places. It was my second favourite from this collection.

Fair Extension
Streeter is suffering from cancer. He meets a mysterious man at the side of a road who claims that he can prolong his life, but it comes at a price.

This is the shortest story in the collection and in my opinion it is also the weakest. It was still an enjoyable read but it was a lot lighter than the other three stories in many ways.

A Good Marriage
After having been married for 27 years Darcy Anderson thinks she knows her husband well. That is until one evening when she makes a worrying discovery in the garage. She is suddenly faced with the realisation that her husband is not the man she had believed him to be and that he is harbouring a dark secret. She has to work out how to deal with the situation and live with the consequences.

This was my favourite of the four stories. It’s creepy and suspenseful and Darcy is a character that you can easily sympathise with.

I really enjoyed this collection and will get the paperback when it comes out so that I can read it again (I don’t really like reading hardbacks, I find them cumbersome). It’s not my favourite collection of King novellas; Different Seasons still holds that title; but is very good and I like it better than Four Past Midnight.

(I’m not including this as part the Stephen King reading challenge as I actually read it back in November but have been really slow posting the review!)

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Robert Masello - Blood & Ice

Journalist Michael Wilde is sent to a remote research station in Antarctica to write an article for a magazine. Whilst there he discovers two bodies, chained together and frozen in the ice. When the bodies defrost Michael and the scientists begin to realise that this is a discovery like no other and that they could all be in danger.

Parts one and two of this book use an almost alternating chapter system to tell two different stories. One story is that of Michael Wilde in the present day and the other is that of Sinclair Copley and Eleanor Ames in 1854. (There are slightly more present day chapters than historical ones hence the almost alternating chapters). In part three the narration moves to present day but with flashbacks to 1884 and in part four the setting is entirely in the present.

I liked this way of telling the story. Reading parts one and two was almost like reading two different books as the stories were so different. It was interesting to see how they came together.

I enjoyed reading this book a lot. The characters were well written and the imagery was excellent. The descriptions of the barren Antarctic landscapes and of London in the 1850's were equally well written.

The historical aspect of the book had an authentic feel to it, although I have no idea if it is in fact historically accurate, as I know nothing about the Crimean War!

The book was quite creepy in places, especially towards the end of part two when the ice enclosing the bodies is beginning to melt. I particularly liked this quote -
"An ear, put to the ice, would have heard a sound like static, as the ice cracked and crumbled...and a sound, too, of something else. Of scratching. Like nails on glass."

The book was an interesting blend of thriller, science fiction and historical fiction which I think worked really well. I took every possible opportunity to read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Chris Evans - It's Not What You Think

The first part of Chris Evnas' autobiography. From childhood, following his dreams of working in radio, his rise to stardom up to the purchase of Virgin Radio.

This autobiography feels like an honest account from Chris Evans. He is not afraid to admit his mistakes (of which there have been quite a few!) and he tells of how hard work, determination and a bit of luck have all helped him along the way.

The book is well paced and has a good mix of serious and amusing stories. I like the way that the chapters are started of with "Top Tens", the number one then leading onto the main story for that chapter.

I'm looking forward to part two "Memoirs of a Fruitcake" when it's released in paperback.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Chevy Stevens - Still Missing

Annie O'Sullivan is an estate agent who is abducted and held prisoner for a year. This is the story of her abduction, imprisonment and the aftermarth.

The story is told in the first person by Annie as recounted to her therapist. I really liked the style in which the story was told. It was very unusual. I liked that the story was told in a non-linear fashion, Annie recounted what had happened to her, roughly in the order that it happened, but it was broken up with events effecting her life in the present and the impact on her current day to day life.

The story was believable throughout and Annie was a likeable character. The pacing was just right, the story sucking you in right from the very beginning. There was also a twist at the end that I did not see coming at all.

I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more by Chevy Stevens in the future.