Bites
November 25, 2017

Published: March 30, 2017
Publisher: Urbane Publications (vanity)
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Ceri Edwards and two school friends lift the lid on an ancient book of recipes belonging to Betty Williams, a volunteer at the local hospital in Pontypridd, South Wales. Two Kansas City cops step off a flight at London Heathrow and one of them falls to the ground with a painful conviction that there’s something evil in the air. United in their destinies, Ceri and the police officers are drawn into a world where prophecies are pitted against invisible forces planning to raze London to the ground and bring down the Royal Family. It all rests with Dai Williams, recently knighted MI5 agent and reluctant hero, to bring some order to the improbable events and to ensure that afternoon tea at The Ritz continues for another hundred years. A great cross between Kim Newman and Ben Aaranovitch and a thrill for any fan of contemporary urban horror. (goodreads.com)

This book had no idea what it was and I had no idea what I was reading.

Just to break down the blurb, the teens and the Kansas City police officers are completely unrelated and don’t even meet until the very end of the book. Dai Williams is rather useless and has nothing resting with him. I don’t know who Kim Newman or Ben Aaranovitch are but I can tell you this is not urban horror. I don’t know what this was other than ridiculous.

The only way I can really describe the book is it’s like following a stumbling drunk home. You’ll eventually get to your destination but not before you lurch around, wander down some side streets, go backward, forward, side to side, fall face down into a puddle and get back up again. The author was way more concerned about being quippy and dropping as many “intelligent” references as possible than just telling the story. Development didn’t just happen. It happened with a reference to a show or with a snide comment or a paragraph of meandering thought. It was so all over the place it made keeping the actual story straight exceedingly difficult.

I really shut down when “the knowing” turned into a prophetic nutsack. That’s not a euphemism. A dude’s balls give him “the sight.” I don’t even know what to do with this book. It looks vaguely put-together. Nice cover. Interesting, if a little quirky, story going on. But the actual book is a mess. I’m motion sick at the end of it for all the lurching it does. I know what the author is trying to do but I think it falls flat. The exceedingly heavy-handed “humor” coupled with a lot of English-specific colloquialisms made context nearly impossible and the book feels like it wasn’t plotted. It just zigzags all over the place with very little cohesion.

THE KNOWING just didn’t work in any respect. It’s tonally off from the blurb, it can’t stick to its own story, and the author has shoved himself so deeply into the never-ending quips that it became too difficult to even see the characters anymore. The world is lost too. It doesn’t seem at all developed, but instead seemed like a good concept that just coasted on the surface without any digging. And it provided great support for telepathic testicles. So there’s that.

1

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

September 30, 2017

Pub Date: October 10, 2017
Publisher: Berkley Books
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Framed for a murder she didn’t commit…

As one of HM Prison Holloway’s most high-profile new inmates, Helen Grace has a target on her back and nowhere to hide. She has made a long list of enemies over the course of her career–some are incarcerated within these very walls. When one of Helen’s fellow prisoners is found mutilated and murdered in her own locked cell, it’s clear that the killer is someone on the inside.

But time is running out for Helen as she races to expose the person who framed her, and the body count in the prison starts to climb. Helen will need to draw on all her investigative skills and instincts to catch the serial killer behind these murders and discover the truth–unless the killer finds her first. (goodreads.com)

I’m really rather cranky that I’ve effectively spoiled books five and six for myself by reading HIDE AND SEEK. I didn’t realize I was so far behind in the series until it was basically too late. Not enough time in the day to catch up and I had a time limit on this book so I did what I could and hoped for the best.

HIDE AND SEEK is the first book in the Helen Grace series where I questioned a plot device as being a little hinky. It involved suspects in the prison murders and once the guards started getting tagged they started getting all up in armsr about it. The thing is, the way this one prisoner died, common sense, especially for those investigating, would be first to the guards. So a tiny little element that seemed a bit too convenient for the sake of some added drama, but by no means was it detracting. And since it was the only element I took even close to an issue with it obviously wasn’t that big of a problem for me.

Again, pissed that I spoiled two books worth of plot reading this. No one’s fault by my own and it certainly doesn’t mean I’m not going to go back and read them. I want to know details! But I know what’s coming and it does take some of the fun out of it.

With this being the fourth book in the series I’m reviewing I’m running out of things to say about it. Arlidge is holding strong in his writing, drawing the reader in immediately and holding them by the collar until the book ends. Even at book six I haven’t seen any deviation from quality of writing or plot. It’s not getting outlandish or anything. Arlidge is holding strong, delivering a gripping story and likable yet incredibly flawed character for whom you can’t help but root (well, maybe not all of them, some are just outright unlikable and that’s okay, they’re still fun). I can’t get enough of this series and I haven’t tired of it yet. Now just to fill in the gaps.

5

I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher through First to Read in exchange for an honest review.

Published: February 2, 2016
Publisher: NAL
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Ruby wakes up in a strange room. Her captor calmly explains that no one is looking for her. No one wants her. Except him.

When the body of a woman is found buried on a secluded beach, Detective Helen Grace is called to the scene. She knows right away that the killer is no amateur. The woman has been dead for years, and no one has even reported her missing. But why would they? She’s still sending text messages to her family.

Helen is convinced that a criminal mastermind is at work: someone very smart, very careful, and worst of all, very patient. But as she struggles to piece together the killer’s motive, time is running out for a victim who is still alive… (goodreads.com)

Good lord. These books are like crack. I can’t get enough of them and when I start it’s practically impossible to stop. With the super short chapters and tight, succinct language I just rocket from one cover to another and don’t even realize it.

Arlidge doesn’t disappoint in book three of the Helen Grace series, putting the foremost serial killer stopper against another sicko hellbent on imposing his sick fantasies on women. I love how Arlidge weaves Grace’s personal life into her work life so seamlessly. It doesn’t detract from the story at all and he masterfully handles three plots (minimum) like an expert juggler, never dropping any of the balls as the story carries on.

Despite the way her life is carrying on, Grace is appearing less like a train wreck to me. Doesn’t mean she doesn’t make some eyebrow-raising decisions but I’m finding myself in her corner more and more as she tries to sort out her world. I also like how Arlidge gives us a character that the world has gotten forever with men as the lead. It’s always men living reckless, damaged lives who makes poor decisions and yet still seem sympathetic. Grace is that threefold and I love her all the more for it.

I really don’t have much else to say about THE DOLL’S HOUSE. It’s fantastic. An excellent, gripping, face-paced thriller that sinks its claws in and doesn’t let you go. Just shows how out of it I am, though. I received an advanced copy of HIDE AND SEEK from Penguin and I’m all here like okay. I need to read THE DOLL’S HOUSE because I don’t want to read book 4 without reading book 3 . . . Yeah . . . HIDE AND SEEK is book 6. I got some catching up to do. Oh dear me. Whatever will I do . . .?

5

September 5, 2017

Published: August 1, 2017
Publisher: Traversing Z Press (self)
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Caroline Daniels must marry, and marry well. But in her remote corner of England eligible suitors are few and far between, and none hold a candle to her closest friend, Diana Fitzroy.

When Sir Edward Masterson arrives, he seems the answer to Caroline’s financial worries, though she instinctively dislikes the reticent, older merchant. Soon Sir Edward has set his sights on acquiring both Caroline and the decaying Harkworth Hall.

Caroline’s future seems secure, save that his enigmatic secretary hints at a dark secret, and Sir Edward shows an unusual interest in tales of monsters … and the blood in Caroline’s veins. (goodreads.com)

What a delightfully creepy book! I was a little nonplussed about the voice at the beginning, kind of a “oh not another one of these” moments, but the plot unfolded nicely and I got sucked right into it to the point where I didn’t even notice the voice. In fact the voice ended up adding to everything that was going on so it all worked out in the end.

Caroline is a character that’s been shoved into a particular role that she doesn’t really want to be in but society tells her it’s a must so she does it despite her heart screaming otherwise. But soon circumstances change and even though Caroline is desperate for a change, what society wants is so ingrained in her that it’s hard for her to do what’s right by her and by her family. It creates excellent tension among her, Mr Chase and Edward Masterson.

On top of that there’s this sinister, underlying scheme going on and you’re not sure whether there’s a supernatural element to it or if the men involved are just all sorts of shady and Johnson does an excellent job of toeing that line without dragging out the story in any unnecessary way.

And it’s a shorter story, my digital copy coming in as just over 100 pages. Johnson doesn’t waste words and she doesn’t waste time getting to the point but she doesn’t sacrifice setting or character development to get there. Another excellent balance.

I really hope there’s more to this story, at least one more book, because after what happens at the end it can’t just end there!

4.5

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

August 22, 2017

Published: July 25, 2017
Publisher: Dutton
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

A wild heart beats within New York City. Amid concrete and skyscrapers, the Wildlife Conservation Society works to preserve and protect the animal kingdom both within and beyond the borders of the five boroughs. But dangerous creatures don’t always have claws and fangs, as Assistant DA Alexandra Cooper and NYPD detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace know all too well. Predators lurk close to home, and in the aftermath of the shocking drive-by murder of an important city employee someone Alex has worked with for years the trio must discover who the bigger snake is: the killer or the victim.

Investigations into the death provide more questions than answers, as a tangled mess of secrets slowly comes to light. From bribes to secret societies, from big-game hunting to the illegal animal trade, from New York City zoos to behind closed doors in government buildings, Alex will have her work cut out for her if she wants to uncover the truth and uphold the integrity of the office she has so proudly served. (goodreads.com)

Like my review for DEVIL’S BRIDGE I had the same issues with name usage in DEADFALL. It must just be a writing quirk of Fairstein’s but holy crap, is it annoying. People literally do not use each others’ names that much when they talk to each other. Ever. Emphasis or not, can the editor get in on that and start striking some of them? Sheesh. Luckily I didn’t get yanked out as much by it in this book. I just reduced myself to rolling my eyes every times it happened. And it happened a lot.

Almost totally in Alex’s head in DEADFALL so the issues I had with Mike in the last book I read weren’t even an issue here. He’s present quite a bit but as the reader I’m never in his head. Just Alex’s. Luckily it’s not a bad place to be. Not the greatest, but not bad. I actually don’t really feel all that much for her. Reading back over my review for DEVIL’S BRIDGE I commented that it would probably behoove me to go back to the beginning so I can get some substance on these characters. I’d say that’s still true for book 19 as it was for book 17. It’s not that I wasn’t engaged with the story. I just didn’t care all that much about the characters. I wasn’t invested. And at least for Alex it didn’t have a whole lot to do with her as a character. Just more about the writing. It didn’t do a whole lot to endear me to her. I just felt like I was following her around as she traipsed through the pages.

The story itself was interesting. Not a whole lot by way of action until closer to the end and by the time the story starts the DA is already dead so as the reader you miss that too. So it’s a lot of cops trying to find out what’s going on and people talking, going behind each others’ backs, that kind of thing. It was different, what with the animal trafficking angle they went. That helped to make it interesting. But overall I was rather meh about it all.

Again, not a bad book but I’m not going to run out and buy more, certainly. At this point I’m not even sure I’ll accept more for review until I can go back and read from the beginning to see if I have the same feelings about the first books as I do this far into the series. Because now it’s two books that I don’t care all that much about and it doesn’t make me inclined to read more.

3

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.