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Review – The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith

the cuckoo's callingThe Cuckoo’s Calling
Author: Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling)
Series: #1 in the Cormoran Strike series

Description:
After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

You may think you know detectives, but you’ve never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you’ve never seen them under an investigation like this.

Review:
I’ll be the first to admit, I probably never would have picked up this book if it hadn’t been revealed that the author was J.K. Rowling. I’ll also admit that while I loved the Harry Potter books, her other book (A Casual Vacancy) got put aside before I hit 100 pages, because it wasn’t working for me. But after seeing several good reviews from people I trust on Goodreads, I decided to give it a go and I wasn’t disappointed. That being said, if you are looking for a very fast paced mystery, you aren’t going to get one. It would much better be described (and i’m stealing words from a friend here) as a character study wrapped up in a mystery.

The mystery itself was really straight forward – who killed Lula Landrey – an up and coming star, who was believed to have committed suicide. But that honestly wasn’t the most interesting part of the book, in fact, I actually figured out the who-done-it about half-way through (don’t actually ask me how, because I don’t think there was anything that actually pointed to the answer, it was just a feeling), but rather the development of the characters and how they all interacted with each other. In fact, I think one of the most impressive parts of the story was how there were characters who we never actually met (Charlotte, Michael and Cormoran’s father) but who all played significant roles and had profound influences on the intricancies in the storyline. They were often used to highlight weaknesses in characters, or internal conflicts that might not otherwise have been revealed.

While I didn’t enjoy The Casual Vacancy because it was heavy on characterization without much moving the plot forward, I liked The Cuckoo’s Calling because there was a story being told, as the characters were being developed. Overall, I gave Cuckoo’s Calling 4 stars, but like stated above, if you want a fast paced mystery, this isn’t the book for you.

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – Exposed – Laura Griffin

exposedExposed
Author: Laura Griffin
Series: #7 in the Tracers series

Review Copy Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss

Description:
With the click of her camera, Maddie Callahan inadvertently added herself to the hit list of a criminal mastermind the FBI’s been investigating for months. Agent Brian Beckmann is determined to protect the sexy photographer, but she may be his only lead.

As a forensic photographer, Maddie is used to seeing violence up close, but she’s never before been a target. When a freelance photo shoot goes awry, she realizes she may have seen, and perhaps photographed, the kidnapping of a key witness in a federal probe. And although her camera was stolen, Maddie has something that could be even more valuable to investigators. With the help of her colleagues at the Tracers crime lab, Maddie uncovers DNA evidence that provides a desperately needed break in the case.

Although Brian is reluctant to involve Maddie, she’s determined to help with the investigation and the two set out to track a vicious criminal known as The Doctor, whose far-reaching violence has led to multiple deaths. But as the task force gets closer to catching the deadly Doctor, Maddie is in more danger than ever…

Review:
Going into this, I wasn’t so sure what I was going to think because unlike the previous books in the series, I didn’t really know these characters, they hadn’t really been mentioned before. Or rather, I think Brian had a cameo in a previous book, but he wasn’t that well characterized and I had never met Maddie. Thankfully, I ended up enjoying the book and finishing the series up to date. In fact, I read not only the complete Tracer series, but the 2 kinda linked series books that came first in the space of about a month and a half (but its not like I have any obsessive traits, right?) – lol.

I liked the idea of having a non hard science (for lack of a better word) main character. Since the vast majority of the other main characters have been someway involved in a science like DNA analysis, or forensic anthropology (which apparently I have issues spelling…). Plus the whole crime scene photography thing has always been of interest to me – I love seeing that part of crime dramas on TV – how various angles and shots can help with solving the crime. (yes, I’m a geek, what more can I say).

I think my main gripe was that I was more interested in the crime than the romance between Maddie and Brian. It wasn’t that their relationship wasn’t good, it just wasn’t as interesting…lol. But it wasn’t like it was bad (yes, I know I’m wavering…). I think if I knew more about both of them, that connection might have been there a bit more and made it more enjoyable. But I’ll be interested to see where the series goes in the future and if they make another appearance. Overall, I gave Exposed, 3.5 stars, but rounded up to 4 stars.

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – Merciless – Lori Armstrong

mercilessMerciless
Author: Lori Armstrong
Series: #3 in the Mercy Gunderson series

Review Copy Provided by the Publisher via Edelweiss

Description:

Torn between her duties to the FBI and her need to keep her loved ones safe, former black-ops army sniper Mercy Gunderson must unleash the cold, dark, merciless killer inside her and become the predator . . . rather than the prey.

Newly minted agent Mercy Gunderson is back and ready for action— unfortunately, she’s stuck doing paperwork in an overheated government office building. But she gets more than she bargained for when she’s thrown into her first FBI murder case, working with the tribal police on the Eagle River Reservation, where the victim is the teenage niece of the recently elected tribal president. When another gruesome killing occurs during the early stages of the investigation, Mercy and fellow FBI agent Shay Turnbull are at odds about whether the crimes are connected.

Due to job confidentiality, Mercy can’t discuss her misgivings about the baffling cases with her boyfriend, Eagle River County sheriff Mason Dawson, and the couple’s home on the ranch descends into chaos when Dawson’s eleven-year-old son Lex is sent to live with them. While Mercy struggles to find a balance, hidden political agendas and old family vendettas turn ugly, masking motives and causing a rift among the tribal police, the tribal council, and the FBI. Soon, however, Mercy realizes that the deranged killer is still at large—and is playing a dangerous game with his sights set on Mercy as his next victim.

Review:
Its been nearly two years since there was an installment in Armstrong’s Mercy Gunderson series. I have been stalking her website since finishing up the previous book, hoping for some word – and it finally materialized. Although, I’ll have to admit, I wish that I had time to go back and read the previous book in the series, because I don’t remember anything about Mercy becoming an FBI agent, and yet, that is where the story opens upon her return to South Dakota following her training…but I digress

Merciless has the suspense that I have come to expect in Armstrong’s books, and was balanced just right with the romance. It was fun seeing Mercy and Dawson (because typing Mason just seems weird, since even she calls him Dawson) trying to figure out their lives and merge them together. It seemed real – it wasn’t perfect like stuff so often is portrayed – I felt like I was getting to know them on a higher level. The mystery was intriguing – I will have to admit that the who done it didn’t reveal itself to me until right before everything went down and looking back, I think that Armstrong did a good job of integrating clues without it being completely obvious. There was also a certain amount of angst, which I am personally, not a fan of and which is why ultimately, I ended up giving it 3.5 stars, but rounding up to 4.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Audiobook Review – The Witness – Nora Roberts

Audies2013_Banner
the witness
The Witness
Author: Nora Roberts

Narrator: Julia Whelan
Run Time: 16 hours and 18 minutes
Producer: Brilliance Audio

Description:
Daughter of a cold, controlling mother and an anonymous donor, studious, obedient Elizabeth Fitch finally let loose one night, drinking too much at a nightclub and allowing a strange man’s seductive Russian accent to lure her to a house on Lake Shore Drive.

Twelve years later, the woman now known as Abigail Lowery lives alone on the outskirts of a small town in the Ozarks. A freelance security systems programmer, her own protection is supplemented by a fierce dog and an assortment of firearms. She keeps to herself, saying little, revealing nothing. Unfortunately, that seems to be the quickest way to get attention in a tiny southern town.

The mystery of Abigail Lowery and her sharp mind, secretive nature, and unromantic viewpoints intrigues local police chief Brooks Gleason, on both a personal and professional level. And while he suspects that Abigail needs protection from something, Gleason is accustomed to two-bit troublemakers, not the powerful and dangerous men who are about to have him in their sights.

And Abigail Lowery, who has built a life based on security and self-control, is at risk of losing both.

Review:
From the first paragraph in the audiobook which started with the line:
Elizabeth Fitch’s short-lived teenaged rebellion began with L’Oreal Pure Black, a pair of scissors and a fake ID. It ended in blood – I was intrigued – it was probably one of the more intriguing opening sentences in a book that I have read/listened to in a while. That being said, the book jacket copy (taken from the audiobook) pretty much dispels any mystery behind what was going to happen – which was kind of disappointing. I liked the story and all, don’t get me wrong, it is probably one of the better Nora Roberts books that I have read in the last few years – but there were no surprises…even the ending was kind of ehhh…I wanted more bang and all I got was fizzle – while this was marketed as a romantic suspense, the suspense angle was kind of lacking – I found myself listening as it got closer and closer to the end and wondering if there was going to be any kind of confrontation and how it was all going to play out (but don’t worry, I won’t tell…). That being said, it was still better than a good majority of romance books that have been released recently (or maybe that is because it has been a while since I have read any of her stuff – who knows…).

But that being said, the purpose of this review is more on the audiobook side than the book side because it was nominated (and well-deserved) IMHO for an Audie in the Romance category. At first I was skeptical, but when the nominees were announced – I think it will be interesting to ultimately see who comes out on top. I do know, that after listening to Julia Whelan’s narration, that is isn’t going to be the last time that I do. I loved her narration of Amy in Gone Girl (one of my top listens from 2012) and her narration of The Witness was easily on par with Gone Girl, with the added fact, that I could see more of her range of voices and narration, rather than listening from only one character’s perspective. There were so many nuances that she picked up on – the multiple languages that there were phrases in (including, but not limited to, French, Italian, Farsi, Spanish and Russian – although I think there might have been a couple more mentioned as well). The wide range of people, from the 2 main characters of Liz/Abigail and Brooks – through the various parents, townsfolk, Russian mafia etc…And yet each voice sounded unique and unduplicated -which I appreciated.

If the other books that were nominees are such a high standard, I am going to have a hard time picking which one i think should win. Overall, I would give the narration 5 stars, but the story itself only 3 – but I am going to round it up to 4 stars.

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2013 in Audiobook Review

 

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Review – Ghosts in the Wind – Marguerite Labbe

ghosts in the windGhosts in the Wind
Author: Marguerite Labbe

Review Copy Provided by Author

Description:
Andrei Cuza and Dean Marshall celebrated their tenth anniversary only to have their happiness shattered by a random, insane event: On his way home from closing a business deal, Dean stops on the parkway to help a young mother with her flat tire, and her ex arrives, murders them, and takes off with his two kids.

Ghosts have haunted Andrei all his life. He bears the guilt for his sister being stuck in limbo, because ghosts are frozen at the moment they died, unable to adapt to the changes in their living loved ones. When Dean returns to Andrei as a ghost, the double punch of losing him and having to watch him founder if he doesn’t move on is almost more than Andrei can bear.

Despite dangers in limbo—Jackal Wraiths that devour souls are hunting him—Dean isn’t going anywhere until he helps Andrei track down the missing children. Andrei is in danger as well when he pays dearly to feel Dean’s touch one last time. Time is slowly running out as Dean and Andrei try to say good-bye while they track a killer who’s more than happy to kill again.

Review:
I normally steer clear of Dreamspinner Press’ Bittersweet Dreams line because as a romance reader, I love my HEA’s (happily ever afters), and in my experience, which they are complete, they aren’t what I expect in a romance. And they are normally gut-wrenching, tear-jerking kind of books. However, I needed a book for a reading challenge written by a local to me author, and since I know Marguerite (and often run into her at the grocery story) and she offered to send me a copy, I said yes. I was sure that I was going to regret it when I was plowing my way through a box of tissues…

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised however. Yes, Ghosts in the Wind was gut-wrenching and there was the death of a main character – but I liked how it all played out. There is a fine line in writing between being too emotion driven and too plot driven, especially when it comes to the death of a character, but I think that the author managed to tip-toe along that line and balance it just right. I personally wasn’t a fan of the jackle wraiths, to me they just seemed a bit like overkill, but at the same time, I can see how similar creatures show up in other books where death plays a role – so it isn’t like they were completely unique.

The mystery to me was well done – mostly because you knew who it was, and it was just a matter of seeing the Andrei/police solve the crime – so your focus as the reader was singular, rather than split between seeing the police solve the mystery, and trying to figure out who did it yourself (if that makes sense). Anyways, I would give Ghosts in the Wind 4 stars because of its emotional pull and the engaging writing style. But hopefully, a HEA next time – please ;)

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – The Obituarist – Patrick O’Duffy

the obituaristThe Obituarist
Author: Patrick O’Duffy

Book Description:
What happens to your Facebook account when you die?

Kendall Barber calls himself an obituarist – a social media undertaker who settles accounts for the dead. If you need your loved one’s Twitter account closed down or one last blog post to be made, he’ll take care of it, while also making sure that identity thieves can’t access forgotten personal data. It’s his way of making amends for his past, a path that has seen him return to the seedy city of Port Virtue after years in exile.

Review:
This is definately a book that I normally would not have picked up. However, I found the authors blog while I was looking at trackbacks on another article I was reading and was intrigued. In this day and age of social media, what is going to happen to our accounts when we die. When I write my will, do I need to provide account information for them to have access, or is it given. Even in something as simple as a divorce, and a dual account – who gets to keep the access and the “friends” and who has to start from scratch. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the next few years.

So started reading the Obituarist while I was waiting at the medical facility on Friday, since apparently technology had decided it didn’t want to work and it make the 60 minute wait fly-by (even if I did keep getting distracted with people wanting to chat). It is relatively short (Amazon clocks it in at 91 pages), but enjoyable. There were some plot points that I wish had been move developed, and a few places where I was left scratching my head thinking WTF. But I am intrigued enough to want to check out more by the author in the future. 3 stars overall.

Purchase from Amazon here: The Obituarist

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2012 in Book Review

 

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Review – Cold Comfort – Quentin Bates (@graskeggur)

Cold Comfort
Author: Quentin Bates
Series: #2 in the Gunnhilder Mystery

Narrator: Davina Porter
Run Time: 12 hours, 12 min

Review Copy Provided by AudiobookJukebox Solid Gold Reviewer program

Book Description:
Officer Gunnhildur, recently promoted from her post in rural Iceland to Reykjavík’s Serious Crime Unit, is tasked with hunting down escaped convict Long Ommi, who has embarked on a spree of violent score-settling in and around the city. Meanwhile, she’s also investigating the murder of a fitness guru in her own city-center apartment. As Gunna delves into the cases, she unearths some unwelcome secrets and influential friends shared by both guru and convict. Set in an Iceland plagued by an ongoing financial crisis, Gunna has to take stock of the whirlwind changes that have swept through the country—and the fact that at the highest levels of power, the system’s endemic corruption still leads, inevitably, to murder.

Review:
I have to admit after reading the first book in the series, I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue. The author provided an interesting look into the world of financial crime, but for some reason it just didn’t really work for me. It wasn’t in the writing style, but rather the subject. However, I typically have a rule of trying at least 2 books in any series before deciding one way or another whether I’ll continue or not. So when the second book showed up as a review copy, I jumped on the chance to listen to it, and see if maybe that changed my level of enjoyment of the series (as it has been known to before – either for the good or the bad). And I was pleasantly surprised.

Cold Comfort pick up a few months after the events of Frozen Assets, and for me, it was like seeing into the lives of Gunnhildur and her family and friends. When it came to character development, I found that this installment had much more description and I felt like I got to know them. Having the narration of Davina Porter also helped, because I can only assume that she received training in how to say certain names and words in Icelandic – although since I don’t speak the language, i can’t say so for sure…The mystery is the story kept me guessing until the very end and the person who did it, wasn’t the one that I expected it to be.

I’ll have to admit that i have a certain bias when it comes to Davina Porter’s narration – to me, she is the epitome of an audiobook narrator and I judge many of the other books that I listen to against my experiences listening to her. And her narration of Cold Comfort didn’t disappoint. For a non-Icelandic speaker, the pronunciation of certain names/words sounded authentic (although, I would love to hear the authors take on that) and it helped me be able to visualize in my head how to sound them out in the future. Although Icelandic, Finnish or another Scandinavian language is on my to-learn pile for sometime in the future. Although I have to admit that a few times while I was listening, I thought that I picked up on more of an English accent than what I assume an Icelandic one would be – but it wasn’t enough to distract me from the narration.

I have been impressed with previous audiobooks released by AudioGO in the past and this one was no exception. I’ll definitely continue to look to them for more audiobooks in the future. All in all, I have to say that I was glad I continued with the series and hope to see book 3 in the near future (the author has the title posted to his website, so I can only hope). I would recommend this series to people who like the slower pace of Henning Mankell, vice the faster Steig Larsson, as well as anyone who likes James Thompson, although Bates isn’t quite as dark.

You can purchase the book from Amazon Cold Comfort: An Officer Gunnhildur Mystery (Officer Gunnhildur Mysteries) (Hardcover), Cold Comfort: An Officer Gunnhildur Mystery (Officer Gunnhildur Mysteries) (Kindle) or Cold Comfort: An Officer Gunnhildur Mystery (Audiobook). If can also be purchased from audible.com (account required).

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2012 in Book Review

 

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