Tag Archive | mystery

Feathertide,  Beth Cartwright

Feathertide,  Beth Cartwright

Feathertide by [Beth Cartwright]

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy

I love quirky, unusual reads and this book promised that.
It is both those things but…somehow I felt the story it told was a little flat.
The writing was beautiful, the world unusual and the characters wonderful but for me it just didn’t add up to a great story.
I wasn’t convinced by the romances, didn’t feel there was any real depth to the plots. It was just things that happened to Marea on the route of her journey to find her father, and to discover herself, a kind of coming of age read. A lot of words, lots of things going on but nothing of any gripping interest to me.
I’m sure others will love it but for me it needed more depth, more emotion, more feeling. I felt the end was kind of ambiguous too, and in general that doesn’t work for me, though it does let me imagine my own HEA ending…

Stars: Three, it had the potential for five stars from the beautiful writing, but the lack of depth let it down for me.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Storm, Amanda Jennings

The Storm, Amanda Jennings

The Storm: The most gripping and chilling psychological suspense novel of 2020, exploring coercive control, lost love, and buried secrets by [Amanda Jennings]

Genre: Mystery & Thrillers, New Adult

I’m not really sure why this is listed as New Adult, everyone in it is well past that except for Hannah’s son 😉 Anyway, I was expecting to love this, it sounded very intriguing.
I liked it, a lot but didn’t love it. Its one of those I’m glad I’ve read but won’t reread.
I didn’t really like any of the characters, except for poor Alex, he was the innocent victim in everything.

Nathan is obsessed with Hannah right from the start and manipulates his way into her life. He’s got money and uses it to carefully lure her in, not in an obvious way, but in more subtle ones once he susses that she’s not impressed by wealth. Her boyfriend Cam though….he’s stiff competition. Cam’s a fisherman, to Nathan its no contest but of course Hannah is in love and for her Nathan is just a good friend. And then something happens that changes everything.

Nathan goes from being a bit of a stalker to a total control freak. As events unfold I can actually see where his issues lie and they stem from way back in his life, to childhood and I did feel even the tiniest bit sorry for him. He knows way more than he admits, and what seems like heavy handed OTT control is his attempt to stop Hannah – his love, his life – from leaving. It made a hard life for her but she puts up with it for reasons of her own.

Then there’s Cam who I hated at first, for leaving when she needed him, but of course as events unfold it wasn’t that simple. I had guessed at some, though not all, some parts came as total surprise. I felt so sad for some of the characters, life in a fishing fleet is tough, harsh and death or life changing injuries never far away.
Its a classic story in a way of Teen ( imagined) Invincibility meets Real Life, and led to sadness all round. Alex was caught in a trap not of his making, Hannah was in a situation she felt she had only herself to blame, Cam did what felt right at the time even though he lost everything, and Nathan, well Nathan thinks he has the girl he loves but its only by controlling every bit of her life that he has her….A really sad group of characters, and even the ending holds a hint of more to come.

Stars: Four. A great read but not a re-reader for me.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Lake of Bad Dreams, (A Winston Radhauser Mystery 8), Susan Clayton-Goldner 


For UK readers this is currently just 81p, 99c in US. A bargain if you like crime novels, and i’m sure it will tempt you to get more from the series 😉 .

Lake of Bad Dreams, (A Winston Radhauser Mystery 8), Susan Clayton-Goldner 
https://amzn.to/308ZBk4

Genre: Mystery and Thrillers

I love this series, and book eight is as fresh and original as book one was. Sometimes this far into a series books start to feel dull, plots repeat and the whole just feels like its time to stop. This though feels like there’s still lots more to come. It reminds me in a way of Patricia Cornwell’s novels. I used to read those avidly some years ago and recently was talking to th friend who introduced me to her books, returning the favour I’ve introduced her to Susan’s stories. Book one is currently free so well worth reading, if you like realistic crime stories you’ll be hooked and want more.

I’ve said before, if I was in the situation so many of Susan’s people find themselves I’d want a detective like Radhauser. He doesn’t just look at the obvious, doesn’t go for the easy solution but investigates all angles. He’s supported where its possible by Heron, the medical examiner for the police, but clashes frequently with his boss Murphy, who’s always wanting to wrap cases quickly, under pressure from the Mayor. I guess that’s where US and UK differ. Our policing is different, and Mayors have no say in police cases. I wonder if something will come of these clashes, Murphy seems to be more and more for the quick wrap up and praise for the force for doing so, rather than taking the time to find the real killer.

Its every parent and policeman’s nightmare, a school shooting, and as usual it looks clean cut. Radhauser isn’t so sure, and the more he investigates the less certain he is that Kristina Sterling was the shooter. Its a tough one because we just don’t know what is in another persons mind, what makes them do something like this. I’m so glad that are UK gun laws are so much more strict, we have occasions when knives are an issue, more than I’d like but the difference in killing numbers between a knife and gun is vast.
There are a number of possible suspects, and I was as usual trying to work out who dunnit. As usual I was wrong 😉 though I wasn’t really fixed on one person, I had no notion of the eventual person.

I love the contrasts between the horrific killings and the day to day minutiae, the way the police works, the stories each of the kids tell, Radhauser’s wife Gracie and their kids. The way he goes in to say goodnight to the horses each time he comes home for the night. I can smell the barn, that fragrance of horse, hay, shavings and feed that’s typical in a well run stable. The family and home provide that balance he needs to stay grounded, and Gracie really is a wife and mum in a million. Radhauser’s job, when he’s on a case like this, is long hours, days filled with sad stories, tragic families, and he needs Gracie and the family to keep him sane.

I was so sad at parts, and when Clive stand up to speak at Kristina’s funeral it had me in tears. A very emotional moment. Her parents were wonderful, and until now been a part of the town, valued and with so many friends. Now though, with the rumours seeping out, the bitterness and hatred directed at them is awful. Its very easy to believe though, as in real life folk want someone to blame and they were just There, a target for the anger that lurks beneath the sadness.
They forgot that Kristina’s parents were grieving too. They couldn’t go out, couldn’t get shopping, bombarded with hate mail and calls, and suffered from vandalism of their property. The crosses at school, how awful that must have been for them. Likewise organising her funeral, visiting her grave. No parent expects their child to die before them, and dealing with that is tough enough without having all this blame and hatred cast on them.
They really were in an awful place, grieving, wondering why this happened, convinced Kristina couldn’t have done this, but of course almost any parent would feel that way. The town has the girl judged, and her parents along with her though. How quick folk are to pass judgment, to blame the people they were friends with, who they respected, just days before. It made me think how tough it must be in real life for parents caught up in this scene.

Its another fantastic real life read, full of clues, motives and hints to keep the reader guessing at the culprit. There’s a twist at the end I really didn’t anticipate, that came as a shock, I’m still not sure how I feel about that. There’s good and bad possibilities I guess, caught up in this snippet. There’s one final, not twist, hmmmn, event I guess? I really liked that bit.

Stars: Five, once more Susan delivers a book to keep the reader hooked to the very end. A realistic story that at times was incredibly emotional.

Arc via author

Side Trip, Kerry Lonsdale

Side Trip, Kerry Lonsdale

Side Trip by [Kerry Lonsdale]

Genre: General Fiction (adult), Women’s Fiction.

* sign * Women’s fiction again, oh how I hate that outdated category. Its 2020, an outdated category.

Anyway, I love Kerry’s stories, and was keen to see where this would take me. It was incredibly emotional, heartbreaking for both the young Joy and the person she is now. She’s doing her dead sister’s bucket list, mirroring what she thinks her sister wanted in life. Joy has her life planned to Judy’s lists for her future, and they are pretty fixed but Joy feels she needs to follow them. I felt she was so entrenched in Judy’s would-be life she has repressed her own wants and needs, its clear that she isn’t enjoying things in the way she expected. There’s no room for spontaneity in her life, its only whats on one of Judy’s lists that’s allowed. So what on earth happened to let Dylan on the trip with her? Well, blame Judy’s list for that :-), fortunately it has things that push Joy out of her familiar zone and having Dylan along helps her cross things off the list.
Dylan is totally opposite to joy, on his own private trip, he’s all for free spirit, no plans, spontaneity, his views are so opposite to Joys, and yet the two get on so well. I loved Dylan, was intrigued by his reasons for making the journey when it was so clear he hated what he was doing.

Both Joy and Dylan are in a way escaping from their pasts, affected by what happened then, even to the current day. The novel breaks into time periods, the past, the present and the future ( which is of course also the present). I don’t usually like stories set out like this. I find it frustrating, as just as I’m desperate to know more then time zones jump, but here Kerry keeps it short so it works – and works well. I was in tears more than once, and towards the end I was devastated. Gutted. Ugly crying. I really didn’t think that was coming, I almost stopped reading. I’m so glad I continued to the epilogue though – it was perfect. Wonderful. Satisfying. And cleverly done.

Its something I again don’t usually like, have only seen it done as a kind of escape effect when writer seemed desperate to get the H out of a situation that seemed to have no answer. Here though, I should have kept in mind the plots premise of fate v the what if’s.
“ What if Joy and Dylan had exchanged last names? What if he’d told her she made him believe love was worth the risk? And what if they hadn’t made that second deal when they couldn’t say goodbye?”
Its so important to bear that in mind and keep reading. I didn’t and it wasn’t until I re-read the description just before writing my review that I realised how intentional it was, and it made sense. Its a plot device I’m still not a fan of, but it works here. For me though it did mean I dropped half a star, as even though it works I just don’t like that kind of mechanism for a story. Maybe if I’d realised at the time I was reading, rather than next day just prior to review. If I’d not been reviewing I wouldn’t have read the description and realised that it was intentional, part of the “what if” premise that’s integral to the story. That’s my personal issues though, and of course others will feel very differently. A really emotional read.

Stars: four and a half. I’m being picky but I can’t get past how easily I could have missed that a huge part of the story was intentional, and not just the plot device I’ve seen before and disliked.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Widow’s Secret, Katharine Swartz

The Widow’s Secret, Katharine Swartz

The Widow's Secret by [Katharine Swartz]

Genre: General Fiction (adult), Historical fiction

A dual POV novel, in the present Rachel is researching the history of a wreck, a ship she believes to be a slave ship, and then we see the past, where Abigail Fenton is the wife of the ship’s owner.

Its an interesting story, Rachel isn’t just learning about the ship’s history but examining her own. She loves her husband, he loves her, but its a tense relationship, with Rachel not understanding her actions so how on earth can her husband?
I got the feeling this was a tipping point in their marriage, that Rachel had always been a prickly, closed off person, and we see from her relationship with her mother that she doesn’t exactly have a loving role model there. It seems to stem from when her adored father died when she was young, but its spilled over and now her marriage is in danger. She doesn’t want that but doesn’t know how to be the person she wants, open, friendly, loving.
Then back in the past we’ve Abigail, lovely young lady, adores her husband and he loves her. Typical of the time though they are restricted by society and what’s deemed correct. Abigail is unsure of the belief commonly held that slaves are more like animals, her own experiences make her doubt that, putting her in a hard position with her husband and contemporaries. Can she speak out? What about the effect on her family? If she doesn’t though what does that make her?

Its a good story, and Rachel is escaping to the past rather than face up to the issues in her present life. It hits back though, events make it so that she needs to take action or lose everything. In a strange parallel Abigail too has to pick a side, contemporaries, friendship, marriage and the accepted view of slaves, or can she voice her opinions, and maybe hope to bring about change in a small way, but risking her marriage and her position in society?

There’s a thread of Christianity running through the past, but not in an overbearing way – its something I avoid, but here it fits the story and isn’t dominating it. Its was interesting reading about the past, the slaves ( awful trade. One wonders how many really felt as Rachel did inside) and wondering what the future held for the characters involved.
I really felt for James, a good man, but carried along with accepted beliefs until confronted with the harsh truth. For anyone with a conscience that makes things tough, and I felt his struggle. Its easier to think everyone involved in that trade was awful, bigoted, a bully, but James was a gentle man, adored Abigail but initially really didn’t see wrong in what he did. Then as facts began to solidify in his mind he was struggling, what to do? Risk everything he had earned? Leave things as they were and live with his conscience? What about Abigail, he can see her actions in a different light now.
Its very complex, being horrified at his actions and then seeing them for his POV.

I loved Antony, Rachel’s husband, such an incredibly patient and understanding man and yet eventually he feels he’s tried and tried, and needs Rachel to make an effort too. I did feel that for such huge issues as they have, the ending was a little slick, very quickly all those issues were put behind them, when really I felt they would need a huge amount of work. Of course this is bookland, where problems can have quick situations leading to a HEA, but I would have liked a bit more time for them, a little more delving into the issues, and how they were going to get past them. Its simply not possible to have a blinding revelation and say all will be well……

Stars: Four, an interesting read, the abhorrent slave trade looked at through eyes of the time, and of course through Rachel’s current day view. I enjoyed the story, just felt the ending was a little too easily fixed and settled.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

The Night Girl by James Bow

The Night Girl by James Bow

The Night Girl by [James Bow]

Genre: New Adult, Sci Fi & Fantasy

I love quirky, unusual reads and this book promised that. I’m not the target demographic, but I often enjoy YA reads, good ones appeal to all ages. While I enjoyed this I found it wasn’t one of those IMA, its one that’s a great read for YA/NA I think, but for we folk past that age its a little too simplistic.
Its got some fun characters, a bit of mystery, a lot of whimsy, and a kind of moral theme about acceptance and rights of minority groups. That’s particularly interesting given I’m writing this while the world is seeing the impact of BLM. Being in a minority group myself I understood some of the fears the supernatural folk had, and of course the frustration. I found the Amnesia Reset particularly sad, to have life wiped away like that, all knowledge of your past gone.
Its a quirky read, some fun moments and subtle humour, and though I don’t know Toronto it was easy to visualise from the descriptions given. Overall I felt it was a great reader for the target age group, but just a little too YA simplistic for me to really enjoy.

Stars: Three, its a strange read at times, some quirky events and good but weird characters, and a theme of acceptance that’s particularly poignant right now.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Harpy, Megan Hunter

The Harpy, Megan Hunter

The Harpy by [Julie Hutchings]

Genre: General Fiction, Literary Fiction.

Edit: its out now in US but not in UK til 3rd September 2020

I love quirky, unusual reads and this book promised that.
The writing was mostly beautiful, but at times I felt it was a bit overdone, almost took away from the intent by the wordy descriptions. Even of simple things like the pasta sauce….and that for me took away the richness and importance of other parts.
I didn’t like Jake, not that we really got to know him. Right from the fist I felt he had more remorse about being caught out than for the actual affair. He was concerned too about the effects of an action on Vanessa, the lady he cheated with, when I felt it should be Lucy he worried about.
Lucy is strange, I feel her childhood wasn’t happy, with a father that beat her mother and she seemed to accept it, leading Lucy to feel that it was usual in a marriage. Then there’s her childbirth problems, that left her with some deep issues. I felt that maybe she still had an underlying Post Natal depression that wasn’t recognised.
Of course The Harpy – she was fascinated by them as a child, ( I too adored Greek and Roman mythology) and that’s persisted as an adult. Now though it feels a bit as if she identifies herself as one, doing the punishment to a man who has done wrong. Her mother described them that way, and Lucy’s depression/grief over the affair has turned inward and it feels as if she things The Harpy – her alter ego perhaps – has the answers and can make everything right.
We can see that though she appears confident and happy, she’s very much not so. Her inner thoughts are rambling much of the time, making excuses and wondering why she isn’t reacting as others do, as TV shows have taught her. She’s almost playing a role, trying to fit who she thinks she should be rather than just Being. I really felt sad for her.
That ending….perfect.
Its a story that had me wondering why, how, who, what would happen if, and of course what really happened at the end. Its very disquieting in parts, but it gave me lots to think about. Its a shortish read but even so parts felt unnecessary, the minutiae of food, chores, day to day stuff that seemed superfluous. I began to skip over sections, to get to what was actually happening. Quite a discomforting read, no particularly nice characters.

Stars: Three, its a strange read at times, not really my usual genre but I like to dip out sometimes into something different. Its not a story I’d reread, though I’m glad I read it.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Dark Horizon, (Linford 1), Liz Harris

The Dark Horizon, (Linford 1), Liz Harris

Genre: Historical romance

I like to dip back in time every now and then in my reading, and this proved to be an easy, fun read.
I loved Lily right from the start, she’d had a tough beginning but every opportunity she has she works hard and turns it to her advantage. I did feel she could have tried a little harder with Roberts family, the MIL and SILs could have been won over. Possibly 😉

So Robert and Lily fall in love, and ever the optimist 18 yr old Robert is convinced his family will like her. TBH even today wealthy families still have that air that some folk just aren’t good enough, and back in the 1920s he was hoping for a miracle really. His father is the most die-hard snob, and wants spouses who not only have the right background but also have money to bring to the family business. And Lily doesn’t. Never the less, once she’s pregnant and Joseph knows Robert will marry her anyway when he’s 21 he gives in.
I so felt for poor Lily, she adores Robert, but she’s on her own in a family who see her as a gold digger, taking advantage of Robert. I did think Robert could have been a little more sympathetic, but these are different times and I guess his expectations were those of the day. You married into a family and made the best of it. Sucked up the nasty and moved forward anyway, hoping things would get better.

Joseph, is irredeemably awful, once of those patriarchs who are convinced they know best for everyone, he’s determined that Robert won’t ruin his life, and he does something irredeemably awful. I don’t want to spoil it but lets just say I was gutted, totally gutted, and though that action would be harder now with IDs, CCTV, phones etc back then its plausible things could happen that way.
I loved the American part, felt very true to time, and I enjoyed reading about everyday life there, and the people we met.

Where the book falls down for me is the end. I loved the drama of what happened, how it worked out, and was looking forward to the time when Joseph and the others were discovered. I enjoyed that the drama section lasted a good chunk of the book, that I could really feel for Lily, admire her determination. I liked that once back she wanted her just desserts, so to speak, in denouncing, those responsible but then tries to soften things because of Robert and James.
What I didn’t like was everything worked out a little too slickly, too easily, I wanted Joseph et al to suffer, but everyone seemed t take the view he meat well so that’s all that mattered. To me it wasn’t. His actions mattered, not just his intention.
I did feel too that Marian, who was innocent of everything, was the one who really paid the price. I hope somehow a future book has a happy ending for her.

Stars: Four, a great read, very real but the ending was that little bit too neat for me.

Arc via author

The Chalice and the Crown, Kassandra Flamouri

The Chalice and the Crown, Kassandra Flamouri

The Chalice and the Crown by [Kassandra Flamouri]

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy, Teens and YA

I’m way past the target age range, but reviews suggested that this book would still appeal and I’ve loved other fantasy reads aimed at this age group. Sadly I’m on the fence about this one.

I really liked the sound of this, a very different fantasy read and was excited to start. I found Sasha hard to like though, she’s really not a particularly nice girl to those around her. I know she’s worried about becoming ill like her mother, but that’s more recent and her behaviour seems to have always been like this.
I was puzzled at how things changed, how she actually got pulled in to the other world, it seemed one page she was in this world, worrying about illness, feeling strange and then she was in the next, though her body remained here. I didn’t see the transition, needed a bit more detail there.
Then she’s in a horrible situation, has become a thrall, among thousands more. For a time she simply doesn’t realise who or what she is but slowly that changes. Even then she’s still a hard to understand person, there are flashes of when she knows there’s something wrong, but mostly she carries on. As with the best war/slave/fantasy reads there’s an underground movement though and they see Sasha as someone they can help…..

I found the writing absorbing but the actual story very difficult to follow. I didn’t wholly see how things worked, how they found potential thralls, how they pulled them in. Sasha still remained someone I found difficult to understand.
I felt this book had a lot going on, but jumped too quickly from one situation to the next without fully explaining how things happened or worked. As a reader I had to follow the text and guess. There were explanations for parts, but other things just had to be accepted and the reader just go with. Its hard to explain, the apostate for instance, this person/name just popped up without explanation of who or what he was, ( other than he lived on an island) and yet he was a fairly important part of the story.
Overall for me it was an ok read, not one I’d re-read, and one that left me with questions as I was reading that largely seemed to be unanswered. If things like that don’t bother you, then like others you may love this unique fantasy read.

Stars: Three, an on the fence read for me. I loved parts but there were too many unanswered puzzles for me.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Just My Luck, Adele Parks

Just My Luck, Adele Parks

Just My Luck: From the author of Sunday Times bestsellers, including the Number One bestseller Lies Lies Lies, comes the most gripping domestic thriller of 2020! by [Adele Parks]

Genre: Mystery and thrillers, women’s fiction.

Sigh…women’s fiction. C’mon, its 2020 not 1920.

Anyway, what a read this was, full of the very worst in people. Until the win the six have been friends for 15 years, though there are cracks at times, and Lexi has discovered something about one of them that she finds difficult to deal with. I would too. The characters are very real, warts and all, but TBH I only liked Lexi and Toma, the rest were selfish, vain, money obsessed. Toma had gone from being a hardworking family man to the depths of depression after his loss, and Lexi helps him crawl out, start living again. I rally liked him.
Jake her husband was not the man she saw, not the guy she fell in love with. I guess we all change along the way but while Lexi is all about helping others – hence her work in citizens advice – Jake is just money and self orientated.
The friends have fallen out, and then soon after their long held winning numbers come up. Jake and Lexi insist they’d dropped out, they insist it was just a tiff and they were still in. Who’s right? Who knows.
Complicating matters are their kids. Jake and Lexis daughter Emily is best friends with the Heathcote’s daughter, Megan, and the Pearson’s son Ridley is her boyfriend. We see much of the events after the win through Emily’s eyes, and she is a typical teen, spend, spend on big brands. Their son Logan is a bit younger, happy that he can have some new games.
Jake also can’t wait to get his hands on the cash and start spending. His greed shows right from the start when they ring in and one of his first questions is how soon can they get the cash. He seems to mostly want others to see how rich he is, to show off his new Lamborghini, throw a huge party, buy expensive new clothes, he’s all about flashing the cash.
We see quickly how the money brings problems, not just with their friends but themselves, it affects Lexi’s job as the CA office is inundated with people wanting help – or help in the form of money. Emily gets problems at school as Logan and Megan turn against her. The trio have been friends since childhood, don’t have other friends and it hits her hard.

Things get worse, trust is shattered and events quickly go downhill, showing how different Lexi and Jake have become. For me Jake was an awful man, I guess he must have been different when they met, Lexi is such a lovely person its hard to see what they have in common. Then the action ramps up, and the twist at the end has me rethinking things once more. I guess no-one is quite who we think they are.

Stars: Four, a gripping story, a bit predictable at times but then throwing in some curve-balls that had me rethinking.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

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