Tag Archives: murder

Book Review: Rise of Chaos by Griffin Smith

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More 3.5 stars, this season starts out in what appears to be a typical story line for a zombie novel but quickly turns into a unique story of survival.

If I could sum this season up in one word it would be “exciting”. It’s action packed from beginning to end and has all the elements that make a zombie story so much fun. The protagonists are going from one disaster to the next with barely any down time which made this book a breeze to get through.

The unique storyline, pitting world powers against each other, made for an entertaining and well thought out novel. The introduction of “super” zombies was a great addition.

What would have made this story even better for me would have been more character development. I didn’t have any feelings one way or the other for any of the group characters. Their interactions seemed forced and they often said things that seemed off base, especially the main female character. She wasn’t relatable at all. However, the military interaction and dialog was dead on. I actually liked those parts a lot more than I thought I would.

If you’re a zombie fan, this is one worth adding to your TBR list.

I want to thank Griffin Smith for providing me a copy of this book for review – I’m looking forward to what you have in store next!

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Book Review: The Specimen by Martha Lea

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From Goodreads:
The year is 1866. Edward Scales is a businessman, a butterfly collector, a respectable man. He is the man Gwen Carrick fell in love with seven years before. Now he is dead and Gwen is on trial for his murder.

From country house drawing rooms to the rainforests of Brazil, The Specimen explores the price one independent young woman might pay for wanting an unorthodox life.

Set in a Victorian world battling between the forces of spiritualism and Darwinism, polite society and the call of clandestine love, Gwen and Edward’s tale is a gripping melodrama, a romance and a murder mystery that will compel readers to its final thrilling page.

A sweeping drama with a Victorian backdrop, The Specimen is a book worth examining.

The Specimen has so many interesting characters. Gwen and Effie, two sister who are the complete opposite of one another become the bane of each others existence. Mr. Scales, the womanizing doctor, betrays his wife with various affairs that help to weave a web of deceit. All three are tangled together into a drama that ultimately leads to murder.

The chapters alternate between the present year, 1866, which finds Gwen on trial for the murder of Mr. Scales, and the past, the years leading up to the murder itself.

Gwen and Effie have inherited their father’s estate in Cornwall. Being polar opposites, their relationship is anything but smooth. Gwen seizes the opportunity for escape when she falls in love with Edward Scales and is invited along to Brazil as an assistant helping Edward collect and catalog specimens.

Gwen soon finds that the man she fell in love with during those fleeting moments of lust repulses her in the light of day. She endures the journey, through all sorts of conditions, only to find that she has been betrayed beyond anything she could ever have imagined.

There are many twists and turns in this murder mystery. The author allows the reader to come to some their own conclusions and doesn’t feel the need to bog us down with details but allows our imagination to fill in some of the plot. I really liked this style of writing. Some pieces of the puzzle were given out of order, which at first made me feel like I must have missed something. But, smartly, the answer becomes known later in the story.

Martha Lea has created such a wonderful Victorian setting for this book, making a unique reading experience. The changes in locale made the story interesting and reflected what was transpiring among the characters. I was surprised to find a little humor and had to laugh at some of the quips made by some of the minor characters.

If you enjoy unconventional murder mystery that makes you think outside the box like The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax or Mistress of the Art of Death, you’ll enjoy this book.

This book was provided for review by Netgally.

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Book Review: Gone Missing by Linda Castillo

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From Goodreads:
Rumspringa is the time when Amish teens are allowed to experience life without the rules. It’s an exciting time of personal discovery and growth before committing to the church. But when a young teen disappears without a trace, the carefree fun comes to an abrupt and sinister end, and fear spreads through the community like a contagion.

A missing child is a nightmare to all parents, and never more so than in the Amish community, where family ties run deep. When the search for the presumed runaway turns up a dead body, the case quickly becomes a murder investigation. And chief of Police Kate Burkholder knows that in order to solve this case she will have to call upon everything she has to give not only as a cop, but as a woman whose own Amish roots run deep.

Kate and state agent, John Tomasetti, delve into the lives of the missing teen and discover links to cold cases that may go back years. But will Kate piece together all the parts of this sinister puzzle in time to save the missing teen and the Amish community from a devastating fate? Or will she find herself locked in a fight to the death with a merciless killer?

This is another great installment to Linda Castillo’s Kate Burkholder series. As with the other books in the series, this was really hard to put down.

Kate is an ex-amish Ohio police chief who’s had to solve quite a few Amish related murder mysteries since taking her post in the small community of Painter’s Mill. Make no mistake, these aren’t the sentimental Amish books reserved for the Christian lit genre. The murder’s are brutal, the mysteries and character’s more complex and the action doesn’t stop.

Kate is one of my all time favorite book characters. She’s strong, smart and doesn’t try to be something she’s not. Once she’s on the case, there’s no stopping her (sleeping, eating, living be damned) until she solved the mystery and the killer has been found. Her relationship with John Tomasetti is a big draw to this series as well. Both flawed with wounds from the past still fresh, they find solace in each other to get though past and present situations.

In this book, Amish teens are going missing creating a widespread puzzle to solve. As always, Kate has to face her own fears to save others and it makes for a nonstop action packed story. There’s no lull, no rest for Kate and John and no rest for the reader because you won’t be able to put it down. This one offer’s a surprise ending too! Icing on the cake!

You don’t have to read these in order either. Each makes a great stand alone story. I actually read #2 first than #1 before returning to #3.

If you’re a murder mystery and suspense fan and like authors such as Tami Hoag, I urge you to give this one a try. You won’t regret it!

On a side note, I tried to watch the made for TV movie modeled after book 1, but quickly lost interest. It just didn’t do the book justice.

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Short Stories/Short Reviews:The 7th Month by Lisa Gardner and The B-Team by John Scalzi

Both of these short titles were offered free for members by Audible.com. I love when they offer these freebies. It’s a great way to try a new author or a genre you don’t normally read without having to commit $$ or a large chunk of time.

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The 7th Month by Lisa Gardner

From Goodreads:
In her seventh month of pregnancy, D.D. should be taking it easy. Instead, she accepts a small consulting role on the set of a serial killer film shooting in Boston. D.D. figures she’ll be useful to someone for at least one night, serving as a police expert and making a little extra money in the bargain.

It seems like a simple task—until the previous film consultant, a former Boston cop, is found beaten to death. Suddenly D.D.’s date with Hollywood gets serious. Extremely pregnant, on the trail of a killer, and surrounded by a hundred and four murder suspects in the middle of a graveyard, D.D. must quickly unravel a tangled web of lies. As another cast member is attacked, D.D. realizes that like it or not, her priorities have changed—and her last desperate hope is that she can catch a killer before she and her unborn baby face mortal danger.

This was my first Lisa Gardner story and I really loved D.D. She’s funny, independent and says what she thinks. This is number 5.5 in this series but I had no problem keeping up with this mini murder mystery. I love that the author could get enough of D.D.’s past across to make the story make sense without having to go into elaborate details that would have dragged the story down. It did what it was supposed to do; get you to read the series. It’s inspired me to add this series to my TBR list.

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The B-Team by John Scalzi

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From Goodreads:
The opening episode of The Human Division, John Scalzi’s new thirteen-episode novel in the world of his bestselling Old Man’s War. Beginning on January 15, 2013, a new episode of The Human Division will appear in e-book form every Tuesday. Colonial Union Ambassador Ode Abumwe and her team are used to life on the lower end of the diplomatic ladder. But when a high-profile diplomat goes missing, Abumwe and her team are last minute replacements on a mission critical to the Colonial Unions future. As the team works to pull off their task, CDF Lieutenant Harry Wilson discovers theres more to the story of the missing diplomats than anyone expected…a secret that could spell war for humanity.

I was a little apprehensive about this title since it’s outside my normal reading comfort zone. It’s sci-fi in its truest sense. There are lots of characters to keep up with and lots of action going on. It was very well written and the attention to detail that went into creating this outer space mission is amazing. Highly entertaining with a mix of Star Wars like characters, Space Odyssey like missions and unique and exciting story line.

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Coming to a TV Near You: Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo

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Sworn to Silence, the starter for a great book series written by Linda Castillo, has been adapted as a Lifetime movie, An Amish Murder, and airs this Sunday, January 6, 2013 at 9 pm.

Neve Campbell plays the strong shunned Amish woman turned cop, Kate Burkholder.

This is a very well written murder mystery series. Living near an Amish community, books relating to the Amish have always interested me. However, most are so syrupy, if that’s the right word, and many are geared more toward Christian fiction. What I like about this series is that it shows the other side. The grittier side, the murdering side. Without holding back things like language, sex and the content of the murder scenes, this series tells a much more interesting story for fiction lovers.

I’m not usually a made-for-tv movie girl, but I may give this one a try just because I love the series so much.

You can visit Lifetime’s site for more info, to read the first chapter of the book for free and to enter a contest to win a copy of the book.

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A Year of Reading Recap – 2012

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What would the New Year be without a look back at the old one? Here’s a recap of my year of reading 2012.

I’ve had the opportunity to read so many wonderful books this year. I surpassed my reading goal of 75 and reached an all time high of 117. 1Q84 was the longest book I read, 945 pages. I think that made the all-time high also. I gave mostly 3 and 4 stars with only 14 making the 5 star distinction, which makes me think I’m a bit too picky and hard to please. I had two books that were so terrible I couldn’t finish them and I’m still cursing about wasting my time on them.

I read more memoirs this year than ever. People are truly interesting and in some cases their stories are stranger than fiction. I cried more this year than ever too. Some of the stories were just so heartbreaking. I’m pretty sure I blubbered through more of The Art of Racing in the Rain than I’m willing to fess up to. Dogs dying in books seemed to be a common theme this year. I seriously cannot take anymore of that!

I had a zombie run and it was a great one. Zombies are the new vampires. Super cool! If I were giving an award for best cover it would go to My Life as a White Trash Zombie. As Steven Martin said in Father of the Bride, “Bitchin!” That cover earns the Bitchin award. (if there were such a thing) Patrick Ness is my favorite author of 2012. Reading his book has inspired both my children and me.

Historical fiction is still my favorite genre. Mixing fiction in with a history lesson makes learning fun even at my age.

Out of the 117 books I’ve read this year, here’s my top 10 favorites:

1. Wilderness: A Novel by Lance Weller
2. Chaos Walking: A Trilogy by Patrick Ness
3. The Wild Girl by Jim Fergus
4. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
5. Zombie Fallout by Mark Tufo
6. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
7. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
8. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
9. The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon’s Court by by Michelle Moran
10. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

My goals for 2013 are much the same. I’m upping my reading goal to 100. I think I can manage it without feeling too pressured. I’m going to do my best not to purchase books this year. I have probably 75 on my bookshelf waiting to be read and they deserve my love and attention. “Try” is the main word here.

I’m going to give a State Challenge a go and will be book blogging my way through the US. I hope you’ll join me along the way! Every book is an adventure and it’s so much more fun when you’re along!

I wish each of you a New Year filled with joy, happiness and many, many great books!

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!


Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

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Rip-roaring 20’s style is what stands out in this lengthy novel by Libba Bray.

From Goodreads:

Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City–and she is pos-i-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult–also known as “The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies.”

When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer–if he doesn’t catch her first.

Not having much luck with my first Libba Bray book, Beauty Queens, I decided to give this popular author another try with her newest novel. Set in the 20’s, Bray has obviously done her homework. She succeeds in creating a world that feels like it’s surrounding you as you read. The visual descriptions and catchy slang make the 20’s come to life.

Her main characters are strong and likable. Evie is so much fun and her youthful exuberance is infectious. All the introduced characters are truly mesmerizing.

Having said that, there are a few things that kept me from loving this book. My main gripe is that the book is too long and too slow. Many things seem to be repeated. A little editing could have gone a long way to making this book something special. To much time is spent on introduction and characters rehashing their inner feelings over and over. It’s just too much. I actually stopped reading it for a while and read a few other books before starting it up again. It felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere which leads to boredom. Cut this down 100-200 pages and it would have been much more enjoyable.

There are too many loose ends making some of the introduced characters seem out-of-place and had me wondering what their purpose is. I know this is a series but I need something to tie these characters to the story in a meaningful way. Hopefully the next installment will shed some light and fit these puzzle piece characters together.

Overall, if you have the time to devote and can overlook repetition, this book is sure to charm you with nostalgia alone.

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Book Review: Counting on You by Lisa Bork

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Equal parts family drama and murder mystery, Counting on You is a light read with a few twists.

From Goodreads:
Truth is stranger than fiction. No one knows that more than storyteller Julia Locke, who travels to the Marshall Islands in order to attend her birthfather’s memorial service and watch his cremains be launched into space. Julia’s real mission is to meet her half-brother and ask him to be tested as a potential donor before kidney disease claims her life. But she stumbles on a dead body the morning of the launch, makes the wrong choice, and ends up discredited when she later tries to alibi her half-brother, who’s under arrest for murder. Now, with her health declining and her mission in jeopardy, Julia must sort through the Islands’ bad blood with the U.S. military, unravel the tall tales everyone else is telling, find the missing ashes of her birthfather and a famous starlet, and identify the real killer before her time runs out.

Review:
I can sum up this novel in one word: “nice”. The writing is meticulous, clean, crisp and well thought out.

Julia, who comes to the island to meet her half-brother, Matt, and his mother Lynn, needs a kidney and her health is quickly diminishing. When another guest at her hotel is murdered, she makes a choice that causes her to weave lies but she soon finds she’s not the only one withholding the truth. To cover up for themselves and each other, these three characters tell some tall tales. I sometimes felt a distance between reader and characters. There wasn’t enough background information to form any opinion on who they really were. On the island, the choices they make are made under duress which made it hard to feel any real emotion one way or the other.

There’s no action or thrill ride. The story is more drama then anything. The plot is a tad predictable but there are enough twists to keep it interesting. Some secondary characters were a little “off” and a few of the side stories were a bit far-fetched but those are really irrelevant to the main story. The author did a nice job of putting in some history of the Islands’.

A nice light mystery that would make a great beach read.

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Book Review: My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland

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With a fresh take on zombies, My Life as a White Trash Zombie is proof that vampires aren’t the only ones who can go mainstream.

From Goodreads:
Angel Crawford is a loser.

Living with her alcoholic deadbeat dad in the swamps of southern Louisiana, she’s a high school dropout with a pill habit and a criminal record who’s been fired from more crap jobs than she can count. Now on probation for a felony, it seems that Angel will never pull herself out of the downward spiral her life has taken.

That is, until the day she wakes up in the ER after overdosing on painkillers. Angel remembers being in an horrible car crash, but she doesn’t have a mark on her. To add to the weirdness, she receives an anonymous letter telling her there’s a job waiting for her at the parish morgue—and that it’s an offer she doesn’t dare refuse.

Before she knows it she’s dealing with a huge crush on a certain hunky deputy and a brand new addiction: an overpowering craving for brains. Plus, her morgue is filling up with the victims of a serial killer who decapitates his prey—just when she’s hungriest!

Angel’s going to have to grow up fast if she wants to keep this job and stay in one piece. Because if she doesn’t, she’s dead meat.

Literally.

This was a really fun read! What an awesome cover! A new spin on zombies – mainstreaming. Angel is so likable. Her southern voice and the fact that she is so flawed make her hopelessly endearing. She has some hilarious moments and some rough one’s too. Life as a new zombie can be pretty intense! But Angel can handle it.

Unbeknownst to her, Angel has traded in her drug addiction for a brain addiction. She wakes up in the ER unable to remember the previous nights events. She soon learns that if she doesn’t give in to her new cravings, death will become a reality.

She’s lucky. She has some friends, known and not known, who help her along the way. She’s set up with a job at a morgue which gains her access to brains. But all is not well and she has to turn zombie sleuth to solve the mystery of who’s decapitating locals.

This isn’t a slice and dice zombie story. In this one, they walk among us. We do get a little gore with the decapitations, death scenes and autopsies. Angel’s personality is what shines in this book. The murder mystery is the outlet in which the author reveals who changed Angel into a zombie.

All in all a fresh take with a great main character. It’s a fun, light whodunit and would be a great starter if you want to try a fresh zombie story and skip the usual.

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Book Review: The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsch

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A murder, a witch hunt and a wonderful set of olde world characters makes The Hangman’s Daughter a superb read for historical fiction lovers.

From Goodreads:
A historical thriller set in Germany, 1660: When a dying boy is pulled from the river with a mark crudely tattooed on his shoulder, hangman Jakob Kuisl is called upon to investigate whether witchcraft is at play in his small Bavarian town. Whispers and dark memories of witch trials and the women burned at the stake just seventy years earlier still haunt the streets of Schongau. When more children disappear and an orphan boy is found dead—marked by the same tattoo—the mounting hysteria threatens to erupt into chaos.

Before the unrest forces him to torture and execute the very woman who aided in the birth of his children, Jakob must unravel the truth. With the help of his clever daughter, Magdelena, and Simon, the university-educated son of the town’s physician, Jakob discovers that a devil is indeed loose in Schongau. But it may be too late to prevent bloodshed.

I flew through this book! I just couldn’t put it down. It has such a great set of characters. The Hangman, smart and magnanimous, is a respected but separated killer of necessity. He’s bound by family to do the towns dirty work of torture and death but we get to see the softer side of this hulking man. His kindness does not go unnoticed as he turns detective to protect a women he believes is innocent and a daughter he would die for.

The setting of the book is just as important as the characters and the author does a wonderful job mixing modern words with olde world surroundings. The backdrop is a town in Germany which has seen war and witch hunts. It’s run by first families and a last name can mean the difference between poverty and privilege.

There’s lots of suspense which made this story a real page turner. There’s a bit of humor too. It is a bit predictable, but the greatness of this book doesn’t lie in the destination but in the ride along the way.

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If you liked this book, give Mistress of the Art of Death series by Ariana Franklin a try. It’s a great historical, smart murder mystery set in medieval England.

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