Random Acts: Prequel to the Lightkeepers Series by Erica Spindler

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Synopsis: One dead queen.
Three bizarre acts of violence.
No visible connection between the crimes.

Michaela Dee Dare, newly minted detective for the New Orleans PD, is called to a Garden District mansion–someone’s decided to bludgeon a former Queen of Carnival to death with her own sceptre.
Even as the investigative pieces begin to fall into place and they close in on a perpetrator, something’s not adding up for Micki. It’s too easy, the crime too random. But what’s a rookie detective to do when her seasoned partner doesn’t agree with her?
Betting on her instinct and gambling with her future in the NOPD, Micki strikes out on her own, pulling at strings that reveal an evil that chills her to her core–and may cost her everything she holds dear

My review: One of the issues with reviewing books is you often find a really interesting title only to find when you start it that it’s in the middle of a series or worse the last in a set. Sometimes you then struggle with knowing who’s who and where you are within their life story arc.

So this little novella then is fab. I have yet to read any of the Lightkeeper series but now that I’ve read this and got  a feel for Micki Dare, the lead character I’m more than happy to add the books to my every growing TBR pile.

It’s very short, I read it in a couple of hours and because of that there’s probably a lot of extra plot that could be added to pad to a full book but I don’t think it distracted really. Even as a short introduction I was given good insight into her character and her mentor and how his death affected her with enough teasers about her troubled background to hope I can find that story out through the main series.

Really good little read. Thumbs up

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Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

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Synopsis: You can’t stop the future.
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.  Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever

My review: The last time someone insisted I must read a book that everyone was talking about it turned out to be 50 Shades and nearly put me off other people’s recommendations for life! Thankfully this redeems my friends tastes in novels.

I read this in one London to Leeds train journey on my way home from work (approx. 2.5 hours including a tree on the line). It’s mesmerising and very difficult to stop reading. Some of that is the format. As with a diary style book you think ‘ooh just one more entry/cassette side’ before I do anything. Next thing the books over and you’re home.

I’ve been in Hannah’s shoes back in the distant days when I was 21 when comments by people that they may have felt were innocent enough or nothing to get upset about snowball into something huge where you’re left feeling like there’s nowhere to turn and no other options. I found a way out but it took 15 years of yo-yo depression before someone had the knowledge to show me how to get better. For Hannah that isn’t here.

She also feels guilty for her own actions where she feels that had she done Y instead of X certain incidents wouldn’t have happened. Oh the power of hindsight and foresight. So there’s a message there for thinking about our actions before we do and speak as we never know just how it will affect others.

BUT it’s not a book about blaming everyone but herself. It highlights people’s lack of knowledge in mental health and how we need to talk more and bring it out in the one. It shouldn’t be the last taboo. The 13th person on the tapes is the school guidance counsellor, a man completely out of his depth when faced with depression. He asks the one question you never should ask – a version of what’s the problem/why are you sad. We don’t know – that’s why we break. When I had my 2nd breakdown and the one where I finally got the correct support I was asked this by so many people. It’s so difficult to articulate and I probably still struggle. The other one is ‘oh but you seemed ok’. Did I?

Just a query – what training do Guidance Counsellors have in mental health issues and so on? As an English woman who’s only real experience with theis is watching Buffy blunder her way through I wonder what training they have compared to a therapist/counsellor. Genuine question there

There’s a small section where the teenagers are given a list of ways to potentially spot someone struggling with mental health issues. I would have liked to have seen the full list put in the book plus some links to websites (maybe further editions do this?) Such a difficult subject should follow with signposting I think.

But that’s my small quibble. This book and the TV show (which I will watch) is getting people talking and that can only be a good thing.

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From Higher Places by Roger Curtis

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Synopsis: A young woman is facially disfigured in an apparently motiveless attack. As her relationships with those around her change, she is forced to confront her own shortcomings.
Gradually it becomes apparent that she has been a pawn in the machinations of an exclusive and secretive club for the seriously rich that, unknown to her, has been a malign influence on her life and family since childhood.
When her face is restored by a skilled surgeon the motive behind the apparently senseless attack is revealed. But does she stand a chance of bringing those responsible to justice, or will she only succeed in creating some very powerful and dangerous enemies?

My review: This is a really well written book but maybe a few hundred pages too long. For something that works out around 500 pages not a lot happens. Yes ok, Sarah has her face slashed which leads to a change in the way she views life and behaves yet it still feels like not a lot happens.

The synopsis is misleading as the revelations that her ruined face is part of a game played by rich, bored men takes place in the last 20% of the book. There are indications throughout that something sinister happened in Sarah’s childhood but these seem more clues for the reader than for the character. She mostly goes about being promiscuous, spending time with odious doctors until the attack on her.  That’s a big chunk of the book. I appreciate the scene setting to lead up to the idea that there is more to life than being rich and beautiful but when we get to the life changing charity work and finding herself again as a doctor in a war torn country there’s not enough time to really enjoy those moments due to the extra long lead in. I would have liked less pampered lifestyle and more self discovery.

Then we’re back in England for the conclusion and the revelations of childhood traumas and just who set out to ruin her life and murdered her husband and best friend (again stuck at the end and rushed).

It’s big and sweeping, it’s lavish, it would probably make a very good TV series but for me I would have liked to have read something purely about the second half of the story.

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Elizabeth, The Witch’s Daughter by Lynda M. Andrews

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Synopsis: As a little girl, Elizabeth Tudor knows she is a princess but one day is suddenly told she is now ‘the Lady Elizabeth’. She witnesses from the sidelines the glittering splendour of her father’s court, and the terrifying consequences of his wrath.
With few she can trust, Elizabeth comes to womanhood during the reigns of her brother and sister, shrouded by a web of deceit. She lives in constant danger, yet rises above her detractors to defy her mother’s legacy, and go down in history as one of England’s most ruthless and powerful monarchs.
Her life became a testament to the ambitions demonstrated of her parents. Just how much of an influence did Henry VIII’s most notorious wife have on her child? And was Elizabeth’s accession Anne Boleyn’s final triumph over death?

My review: There are many, many books on Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I and I’ve read many of them so the question for me going into this was would it offer me anything different? And the answer is not really.

The title is a bit misleading as there’s no real mention of the accusations of witchery beyond a few throwaway lines. Indeed apart from the odd potential ghostly sighting where Elizabeth feels her mothers presence she’s not really a big aprt of this book at all. Not enough to warrant the title.

What you do get is the beginnings of an interesting story of  the relationship between Elizabeth and her lady in waiting Kat which with a bit more to it would have been more original than a story that has been repeated many times. But at only 250 pages there’s not enough space to cover any part of the life of a woman that played such  huge part in our history.

As an overview of the first 2 decades of this woman’s life it’s not a bad little book and would probably make a good beach read as it doesn’t tax the brain and is small enough for the suitcase but it doesn’t offer anything new or delve deep enough to warrant more than that

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Burned and Broken by Mark Hardie

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Synopsis: An enigmatic policeman – currently the subject of an internal investigation – is found burned to death in his car on the Southend sea front.A vulnerable young woman, fresh out of the care system, is trying to discover the truth behind the sudden death of her best friend.
As DS Frank Pearson and DC Catherine Russell from the Essex Police Major Investigation Team are brought in to solve the mystery that surrounds their colleague’s death, they’re under intense pressure to crack the case without damaging the force’s reputation.
When a dramatic turn of events casts a whole new light on both cases, the way forward is far from clear. Were the victims connected in some way? And just how much should Pearson and Russell reveal to their bosses as they begin to unearth some dark secrets that the force would rather keep buried?


 My review: This was a weird one. It’s multiple point of view by two police involved that includes a lot of stuff about several other police as well as chapters voiced by a young, obviously troubled girl. It all gets a bit messy

The female policewoman is easy to see as is the young girl but there’s nothing to distinguish all the men so it wasn’t until about 60% into the book when 4 of them were in a room together I could work out who was who. And that makes it hard to care for them. The victim is a fellow police officer described as a potential villain with seemingly no redeeming qualities, on the take and potentially violent. So why should I care someone had enough and offed him?

The plot itself isn’t too bad. I liked how it actually took until about half way through for things to start making sense. It’s a little old fashioned really as there’s very little forensic work. It’s all about talking to people and worming out nuggets of information until the lightbulb moment. In fact there isn’t a lightbulb as the murderer (sort of) is caught by doing something stupid in a public place. Something foreshadowed a but early on in the story.

It’s a decent read, doesn’t tax the brain too much, I would just have liked a reason to care about the characters just that little bit more.

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One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

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Synopsis: Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

My review: I’d given myself a target to read 50% of this one day and the rest the next. However I ended up staying well after midnight on a work night to make sure I’d finished it all in one day. It was that compelling

I actually picked this book to read as the synopsis reminded me of the film The Breakfast Club and indeed the author has stated in interview the film was her original inspiration but wanted to take it further.

The style really worked well for me. All the characters are given equal voice telling the story as it unfolds and the murder mystery from the differing viewpoints. But also how they live their lives under the microscopic media and police scrutiny as they work to clear their names of murder. Not to mention the fact of whether they can trust each other. After all there’s a good chance one of them is a murderer.

The diary style chapters make the pace rattle along; you have to keep turning the pages to see if the next voice agrees with the bit you’ve just read of someone else while you try and second guess the minutiae to figure out who is the liar. I’ll not spoil it but it wasn’t who I  didn’t think it was! Yup I typed that right but to explain would spoil the fun.

There are lots of twists and turns, one or two surprises and some bits you could see coming a mile off. Secretly gay sports star? The romance angle? I’ve read too many books for those things to be exciting but it has no negative impact on the book. The story telling is superb.

I absolutely enjoyed it. A fantastic read

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Secrets of the Dead by Carol Wyer

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Synopsis: Three murders. Three innocent victims. What secrets did they share with their killer?

When a young mother is found drowned in the bath, clutching a receipt saying ‘all debts paid’, Detective Robyn Carter knows it’s just the beginning of a harrowing case. She recognises the signs of a serial killer, and when a second victim with a receipt is found, her worst fears are confirmed.

With the local press whipping the public into a frenzy, Robyn is under pressure to solve the crime yesterday. But her team can’t find a link between the two bodies, and the cracks are starting to show.

Just when her leads have dried up, Robyn discovers an unsettling clue she thinks could unlock the case. But as she chases across the plush carpets and manicured lawns of the wealthy elite, honing in on the killer’s shocking motive, one of her own is put in terrible danger.

The press call him The Leopard for his stealth, speed and brutality. Can Robyn stop the most twisted killer of her career before it’s too late?

 

My review: Another day, another fast paced thriller. One of the things I liked about this one is how fallible DI Carter is. She makes mistakes; she gets it wrong chasing a potential suspect right from the start which sets up a narrative of whether she’s the right woman for the job searching for a serial killer. You have to admire her dedication to the job; I’m not sure she gets any sleep for the whole of the book! Which is often pointed out.

There are so many twists and turns in the hunt for this killer. The why-do-it remains a mystery throughout most of it. As it becomes clear the pattern is linked to an accidental death in a health spa several years previously we are given insights into the killers mind but the full links come at the end. Which I liked.

I liked the characters; there’s not too much detail on many of them but they seem to gel well on the pages and hopefully with further books we may get a little bit more. I liked the dynamic with fellow DI Shearer who she believes is out to get her (there was a teeny tiny bit of him being the boy who picks on the girl he fancies at school between them. She’s widowed; he’s divorced so who knows how that one will play out)

This book had me gripped from the start, it was impossible to put down and I can’t wait for the next one

Release date 30th may 2017

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One Fete in the Grave (A Liv And Di In Dixie Mystery #3) by Vickie Fee

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Synopsis: Party planner Liv McKay has outdone herself this time. She s put together an unforgettable Fourth of July celebration for the town of Dixie, Tennessee including breath-taking fireworks and an exciting Miss Dixie Beauty Pageant. Maybe a little too exciting.
As the party is winding down, Liv s sense of triumph fizzles when the body of town councilman Bubba Rowland is discovered on the festival grounds. And now the prime suspect in his murder is Liv s mother s fiancé, Earl, who had a flare-up recently with Bubba. To clear Earl s name, Liv and her best friend Di burst into action to smoke out the real killer before another life is extinguished . . .

My review: Normally I love quirky crime books with amateur detectives ala Miss Marple and Agatha Raisin. I also have a love of these books set in various parts of America I’ve never visited that always have recipes or scrapbooking techniques at the back after the story has ended. This one however didn’t grab me like they usually do.

I think mostly because of the set up. This is the 3rd in the series and it feels like the author didn’t feel a need to introduce any characters. But for me as a new reader I found myself unable to attach or care about anyone because of it.

Shady stereotypical counsellor is murdered. No set up so couldn’t care less. Main sleuth Liv McKay is described as the one who always trips over the bodies. Does she? How would I know as she’s not been introduced either as the murder happens in the first chapter. I would have liked a bit more build up and introduction. Not everyone is lucky enough to catch an author as they release their first books in a series.

It does improve as it goes along. Liv has a good job and a sweet husband but what does he do in that bathroom all the time?? Some men have sheds, it seems like Larry Joe likes to plumb away the hours. They appear to have a good stable relationship where he puts up with the sleuthing which I liked. In fact I enjoyed most of the characters once we got going. I probably will add the first two books to my ever growing TBR pile.

It’s not a bad book, and beginnings aside it’s a quick read, a beach read for those like me that don’t read many pure romance books. It made for a nice interlude in-between a couple of darker books I have to read

Release date 30th May 2017

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Dark Harvest (A Holt Foundation Story Book 2) by Chris Patchell

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Synopsis: Becky Kincaid ventures out in the middle of a snowstorm to buy a car seat for her unborn baby and never makes it home. When a second pregnant woman disappears, Marissa Rooney and the team at the Holt Foundation fear a sinister motive lurks behind the crimes. Lead investigator, Seth Crawford, desperately searches for the thread that binds the two cases together, knowing that if he fails, another woman will soon be gone. While Seth searches for clues, a madman has Marissa in his sights and she carries a secret that could tear her whole world apart.

Can Seth stop the killer before he reaps his…..Dark Harvest

My review: Teenage pregnancies, missing women, illegal adoptions and theft of stem cells for unregulated medical procedures. This book has it all!

This book had me hooked from the beginning and I couldn’t stop turning the pages to see what happened next. I never read the first in this series but will definitely be going to check it out. The characters have been well established through the first one but there’s enough new backstory that I didn’t feel like I’d missed out anything except possibly a really good story.

There’s really good pacing as ex-detective Seth Crawford tried to find two missing teenage girls before anything happens to them and their babies. It raises questions and thinking points on pregnancies wanted and unwanted without getting political. The same with stem cell research…lots of things to think about without taking sides…well apart from harvesting it from kidnapped girls is probably a bit wrong! 

I really enjoyed this book. Big thumbs up.

Release date: 30th May 2017

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The One by John Marrs

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Synopsis: How far would you go to find THE ONE?
One simple mouth swab is all it takes. A quick DNA test to find your perfect partner – the one you’re genetically made for.
A decade after scientists discover everyone has a gene they share with just one other person, millions have taken the test, desperate to find true love. Now, five more people meet their Match. But even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking – and deadlier – than others…

My review: I absolutely loved this book. The story of 5 individuals who have all taken the DNA love match test and been paired with the scientific love of their lives. Five very different characters embarking on new perfect relationships. Or are they? Well if they were it would be a very short, very dull book. Instead we gets twists and turns galore as each of them discover that their matches (or someone related to their matches) are not all quite what they seem.

One of the great things about a good read and some annual leave of work – you can read it in a day. It turns that fast. You have to keep going to see what happens in the lives of these people. It really does grip you from the outset and doesn’t let go.

In the world of online dating, dating apps like Tinder etc it does raise some interesting questions about what’s next. I can seriously see something like DNA matching happen. And then what if your ideal partner is a criminal, a serial killer as is one of the characters, what if they died before you got to meet them as in the book, or lived at the other end of the world? It’s a fascinating concept.

A gripping, thought provoking read, highly recommended

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