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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 – The Inquisitor’s Key – Jefferson Bass

the inquisitor's keyThe Inquisitor’s Key
Author: Jefferson Bass
Series: #7 in the Body Farm series

Review Copy Provided by Authors via Sisterhood of the Traveling Book on Goodreads

Description:
Miranda Lovelady, Dr. Bill Brockton’s protégée, is spending the summer helping excavate a newly-discovered chamber beneath the spectacular Palace of the Popes in Avignon, France. There she discovers a stone chest inscribed with a stunning claim: inside lie the bones of none other than Jesus of Nazareth.

Faced with a case of unimaginable proportions, Miranda summons Brockton for help proving or refuting the claim. Both scientists are skeptical–after all, fake relics abounded during the Middle Ages–but evidence for authenticity looks strong initially, and soon grows stronger.

Brockton and Miranda link the bones to the haunting image on the Shroud of Turin, revered by millions as the burial cloth of Christ, and then a laboratory test finds the bones to be two thousand years old. The finding triggers a deadly tug-of-war between the anthropologists, the Vatican, and a deadly zealot who hopes to use the bones to bring about the Second Coming–and trigger the end of time.

Review:
I’ve been making my way through this series during the course of the year, mostly because I saw that book 7 was going to be one of the traveling books in Sisterhood. And I really enjoyed the vast majority of the previous ones, but I don’t know if it was the religious mystery in this one or what seemed to be the changing relationship between Bill and his mentee, Miranda, but I just wasn’t excited to finish reading this one. In fact, at one stage, I actually put it aside for a few days because I couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm to read it.

I’m not saying the writing style was bad, it just wasn’t working for me at the time. But I’m still interested in seeing where the series goes in the future. In fact, I’m reading the newest release by the writing duo right now, although its a prequel to the rest of the series. The Inquisitor’s Key (or The Bones of Avignon as it was released in the US) had the typically Bass writing style – its actually really hard to tell (unless you know prior to) that it is actually a writing duo. There is something that just flows smoothly – I honestly have no idea where one starts and the other ends. I also liked how while there is a significant amount of science-y type stuff in the storyline, it never really seems to get too deep/confusing or too geeky.

Overall, I gave The Inquisitor’s Key, 3.5 stars but I know I will be continuing the series in the future.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Audiobook Review – October Mourning – Lesléa Newman

the audies

october mourningOctober Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard
Author: Lesléa Newman

Narrated By: Emily Beresford, Luke Daniels, Tom Parks, Nick Podehl, Kate Rudd, Christina Traister
Run Time: 1 hr and 19 minutes
Produced by: Candlewick on Brilliance Audio

Description:
On the night of October 6, 1998, a gay twenty-one-year-old college student named Matthew Shepard was lured from a Wyoming bar by two young men, savagely beaten, tied to a remote fence, and left to die. Gay Awareness Week was beginning at the University of Wyoming, and the keynote speaker was Lesléa Newman, discussing her book Heather Has Two Mommies. Shaken, the author addressed the large audience that gathered, but she remained haunted by Matthew’s murder. October Mourning, a novel in verse, is her deeply felt response to the events of that tragic day. Using her poetic imagination, the author creates fictitious monologues from various points of view, including the fence Matthew was tied to, the stars that watched over him, the deer that kept him company, and Matthew himself. More than a decade later, this stunning cycle of sixty-eight poems serves as an illumination for readers too young to remember, and as a powerful, enduring tribute to Matthew Shepard’s life.

Review:
I remember being in high school when Matthew Shepard was attacked and died and 1998. It made shock-waves around the world – even my small town in Australia heard about it. Until then I had never really considered hate crimes and the pain they cause. Yes, I had heard of Rodney King and the attack on him – but in my homogenous community, it wasn’t really anything I had experienced or paid attention to. October Mourning was written in response to the attack on Matthew Shepard, and in part, can be used to educate the younger generation on what happened – since for many of them, they likely would not of/never will hear of it – except through something like this book of poetry.

I will say upfront, that poetry, normally isn’t my thing – I read it on rare occasions, but I don’t particularly enjoy it (maybe because I was forced to read it in high school so much). But since the audiobook was short (barely over an hour) – it was a quick/easy listen while I was out running errands one morning. I liked how the author wrote poems not only from the perspective of people involved (the guys who attacked Matthew, the bartending who was the last person to see him; friends and family) – but also animals (like Matthews cat) and inanimate objects (like the fence stake). It was an intriguing approach. The poems were also not poetry, in the normal/expected sense of the word, but rather free verse – some short, some long, lots of emphasis on different words and stylistic choices.

All of the narrators in the audiobook were new to me, with the exception of Kate Rudd. The narrators took turns for the most part with the narration – but there were a few poems where multiple voices were used. There was one (and now, I’m blanking on the title) – that started out with one voice, and one by one the voices joined in until they were narrating in unison, and then slowly died away until only the one voice remained. That poem in particular, gave me goosebumps as I heard it. I enjoyed the diversity of the voices and felt that the director did a good job of matching narration skills with the different perspectives being shown.

This is an audiobook that really made me think and remember, but I have a hard time rating it because of the topic/and the themes. So I am going to leave it unrated. I will say that people may need some tissues handy if you listen to it though. I can see why it was a Stonewall Honor book.

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2013 in Audiobook Review

 

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Review – Lost and Found – Amy Shojai

???????????????????????????????????????Lost and Found
Author: Amy Shojai

Review Copy Provided by Author

Description:
AN AUNT searches for her lost nephew—and dooms her sister.
A MOM gambles a miracle will cure—and not kill—her child.
A DOG finds his true purpose—when he disobeys.

Animal behaviorist September Day has lost everything—husband murdered, career in ruins, confidence shot—and flees to Texas to recover. She’s forced out of hibernation when her nephew Steven and his autism service dog Shadow disappear in a freak blizzard. When her sister trusts a maverick researcher’s promise to help Steven, September has 24 hours to rescue them from a devastating medical experiment impacting millions of children, a deadly secret others will kill to protect. As September races the clock, the body count swells. Shadow does his good-dog duty but can’t protect his boy. Finally September and Shadow forge a stormy partnership to rescue the missing and stop the nightmare cure. But can they also find the lost parts of themselves?

Review:
I have to admit that at first I was skeptical about how much I was going to enjoy the book – because I felt upon reading the jacket copy that too much of the plot had been disclosed (don’t worry, I was partially wrong). And the first few chapters were a bit rough, for lack of a better word – it took me a little while to get into the feel of her writing which is very stark (for lack of a better word) as well as the one POV being from Shadow, the German Shepherd puppy (who I loved as a character BTW – reminds me very much of my big goofy baby). To say that the plot resembled a roller-coaster would be correct – it was a continual up and down through the entire thing – the last author I read who did such an on the go type plot was James Rollins (although Matt Reilly is a close second). The medical mystery plot was intriguing, but it wasn’t like it was new to me – maybe because I read a book not long ago that had a similar theme, but I guess it is hard at times to come up with something truly unique.

I think the one thing that I didn’t like was that throughout the entire book, the author alluded to something that had happened with the main characters husband/dog, but never really came out and said specifically what it is. That drove me nuts – I wanted to know – maybe we’ll find out in another book who knows. Also, the names of the main character and her sister just seemed a bit cheesy to me – named after the month they were born in and then their last name just happens to be Day…lol! There was also a bit of a twist at the end that I didn’t see coming that I felt just overdid the whole thing – it wasn’t needed (at least in my honest opinion) – it almost ruined the tension that was in the book for me…

Either way, I enjoyed the read, I would probably give it 3.5 stars overall, but would recommend it for people who like mysterys/suspense/thrillers, especially with a medical twist, and those who like books with animals).

 
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Posted by on March 30, 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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