Monday, December 22, 2014

Anne Frasier: Hush

In her debut novel Anne Frasier takes the readers to Chicago, where a serial killer has re-emerged placing all those with new born sons in a state of panic:

Ivy Dunlop has lived through many individuals' greatest fear but it was not without consequences. She now spends her time researching, testing theories trying to understand and unravel the minds of the most dangerous men but it is not these new skills that are going to be the most helpful on her next case. The Madonna Murderer has returned to the Chicago after 16 year absence, no one know why he stopped killing, but he is back fulfilling his own cause. Ivy knows that she has to help catch this murderer who has caused her nightmares, even if lead detective Max Irving does not think she belongs. Together they set out to understand a twisted mind, but they can never work fast enough and body count keeps going higher and higher.

Not going to lie the first thing that drew me to the book was this cover, amazing job and when I read the premise is sounded interesting and maybe had something a little bit different to it. It is not often when you read about a serial killer that murders both women and their new born sons, however, it is quite often where you have a serial killer that has mother issues and this one is no different from those. Frasier does not add anything knew to the serial killer persona or ideas behind why he decided to murder, so she was not too original, but I do think she created a well crafted killer. I did appreciate that Frasier did have chapters from his point of view which gave insight as to why and who he decided to kill and actually how smart he was. I personally prefer books that have the serial killer point of view, I find that it rounds out the story.

I found book fairly predictable, not in the sense of who the killer actually is but in how the plot and subplots were going to unfold. This hindered the overall suspense that was supposed to be throughout this book, but I never felt like I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what was going to happen next and for me this is key in a thriller novel. There was also times where the detective needed a new skill and wow there you go he has it, for example hypnotization.

Ivy was an interesting character but I never felt that Frasier used her abilities and trauma of the past to the fullest extend. Almost seemed like Frasier was timid to do so and I think this also hindered the suspense that should have been in this book. You really feel for Ivy as she is trying to combat the fear that she has pushed away for years, but you can tell that she is just living as a shell of herself until she start helping the investigation. She is fool hardy at times, but her intention are always good, though this does cause more trouble than I think that she expected.

There were almost too many point of views for this story. Don't get me wrong I like multiple points of view as you can see the plot unfolding from so many different angles, I just don't think that this book was best served having them. I think that Frasier could have dropped Ethan's point of view, as it does not add anything to the story other than trying to humanize Det. Irving. I think the plot could have still played out the same and would have given Frasier more time to develop Ivy and Irving as characters.

This book was okay, I liked the overall concept that Frasier was trying to portray and I like Ivy as a character. I just think that the book was a bit too predictable and lacked the suspensefulness that I was hoping it would have. Okay for a debut novel, but I have read better debuts in the thriller genre. I will say that Frasier had some good ideas here and with time she may be able to get it right.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Veronica Roth: Divergent

Veronica Roth's debut novel shows what one girl is willing to go through when she discovers her true self:

In the dystopia world of Chicago the city has been divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). When an individual turns 16 they enter into the tests to determine which faction they will spend the rest of their life in. Today is Beatrice Prior's selection day she has lived in Abnegation her whole life and she is about to do something that no one saw coming, not even herself, she is going to leave her faction, her family to join the dauntless the complete opposite of her faction. Tris is about to test every limit she has but she also never felt more herself or at home. Tris knows that she must keep her Divergence a secret but as unrest grows in the factions, Tris will have to risk her own life to save those she cares about.

This book really surprised me, I thought it would be okay, another author trying to clasp onto the people drawn to books like the Hunger Games series but the book would not quite get there. However, I actually found myself drawn to Tris' personality and I found the story well thought, with an interesting world (nothing ground breaking and similar in ways to the Hunger games but interesting), characters and plot. I'm always happy when a book can surprise me into liking it so I give Roth big props for that. I was also shocked at some of the darker topics that Roth decided to focus on throughout the novel. She was not afraid to touch or have full scenes that dealt some harder subjects like child abuse, bullying, and even torture, that many YA authors shy away from.

Once again I was surprised that I liked Tris as a character. Normally I find YA characters too teeny for my taste, but Tris was the right mix of strength and naivety. Though she may never have had a real relationship and just looking at Four may make her feel like she had butterflies inside, I found that she actually handled their relationship quite maturely compared to other main female protagonists in this genre. I think I am going to like watching Tris grow as a character and the more that she is able to discover about herself and her abilities as Divergent (though I do question how this designation will help her outside of the test simulations, but I guess that is for the other books to show).

I think that one of my favorite parts within this book is that the characters do not have any actual powers or special abilities, though some people are more prone to be part of different factions than others, this is not seen as a hindrance or ability, just who they are. While Tris is Divergent, this really only means that she has a mind that is more capable of assessing a situation to find the best solution and often thinking outside the box to achieve this solution. I think if you really think about it, Roth has made the greatest ability in her book is a person who can think for themself, adapt to changing situation and be loyal to those they care about. I don't think there is a better suited role model for young adult girls out there.

To sum everything up as an adult reading this book I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the concept and the characters. Were there times when I rolled my eyes about a choice or two that Tris made, sure, she is after all a teenager. However, I was really impressed with choices that Roth made throughout the book not only to the plot, but also the character building of Tris. I know I am going to read the other books in this series, I hope that Roth can keep it up.


On a side note I watched the movie (well most of it) and I personally found it lack luster. It did not capture half of what the book was able to portray. I found there were too many changes, the characters in the movie fell flat and the plot did not flow as well as in the book. I know they are making the other books into movies as well, but compared to the hunger games movies, I think you can pass on the Divergent ones.

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Marcia Clark: Killer Ambition

Normally I would say that you need to read the previous books in this series in order to understand what is occurring in this book but I found that Clark did not relate back to the first two that often. That said, I really enjoyed the first to books, so if you like mysteries with a strong female character and a hint of romance check out Guilt by Association and Guilt by Degree.

Hollywood is a place that when you live in California you cannot really ignore it. It begins with a billionaire Hollywood director's daughter going missing and a ransom note which promises her safe return, but this perpetrator has no intention of returning her alive. There are enemies all over Hollywood as it is a cut throat business and past wrongs are sure to be held against you at some point. It is up to Los Angeles Special Trials prosecutor Rachel Knight and Detective Bailey Keller to weed through all that would mean harm and those who would actually do it. But if it is one thing most of Hollywood would agree on is that Greed is a very powerful entity.

I really really loved the first two novels in this series, and I was excited to see the next adventure that DA Rachel Knight would be on, especially how the second novel ended. However, I was really disappointed in this book, with the way the second book ended with basically a hit-woman getting away and taunting Knight about a personal demon, you think that there would be some relation back to these facts. About half way through the book there was only 1 reference back to it and it was less than a page and it was basically just having Garden help them out with the computer stuff. I was so disappointed that this was not the main focus of the book. This led the book to be tedious to me and took me a lot (and I mean a lot) longer to read that I ever like.

I also felt that there was no character development in this book. It is about the case that Knight and Baily end up working and that is about it. No big stride as a character, very little interaction with Garden, so no strides in their relationship that they are trying to rebuild. This book just fell flat with character development

So those are the things that I did not like in the book and really that is a big chunk of the book, I will however, say this; Once Clark get Rachel to enters into the courtroom world this is where she shines. Clark knows what she is talking about, has had some of her own tough cases to deal with, and all of this comes out in writing these scenes. I am enthralled when Knight enters the courtroom, I cannot get enough, I want to see what the defense is going to throw her way and how she is going to handle this. I think that Clark needs to have the majority of the book in the courtroom and a little less investigation work. It was for the courtroom scenes that I knew were eventually coming that kept m reading this book.

I'm not sure what Clark was thinking when she wrote this novel, it was an okay mystery and I do like following Knight and Baily as they work through a case, but we are three books into this series now and as a reader I want my characters to grow and there is none of this here. I also was very disappointed in the lack of connection to the second novel. I will continue on in this series as I like Rachel and I want the issue with Lilah to play out, but as a fan of the precious two novels, this book really let me down.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Samantha Shannon: The Bone Season

In her debut novel, Samantha Shannon takes her readers to a world where being different doesn't only make you stand out, it is also your death sentence:

In 2059 several major cities in the UK are controlled by a group called Scion whose task is to find, incarcerate and kill the clairvoyant who inhabit the city. Paige is a special kind of clairvoyant she is a dreamwalker and it is this ability that has made her a valuable commodity of the criminal underworld. Paige works within a group of crime syndicate called the Seven Seals, which has the best of the best of clairvoyants. On a random search Paige is taken by Scion and she learns that everything about Scion was a lie. There is a secret prison where all clairvoyants are taken, they have a choice, adapt, perform or die. Paige will stop at nothing to achieve her freedom and warn her friends of Scion and Rephaite that control them. The Rephaite main concern is power and control and Paige is about to disrupt everything that they represent.

I liked and disliked this book at the same time. I love when an author is able to create an idea, creature or world that is different or unique and Shannon succeeded on many of these aspects within this book. She created a new world, creature/beings in the Rephaite and I especially liked the different forms and hierarchy of the voyants was really interesting (and it further plays into the Seven Seals). We don't get to learn too much about each clairvoyant's type of power and there are some mysteries about Paige's power but hers really grows within the book. 

The beginning of the book started off really strong. I felt drawn into Paige's world, her abilities and her need to impress her syndicate boss but still hold a connection to her Dad who has no idea she is clairvoyant. Shannon used a tried and true concept of persecuting those who are different from you, even more powerful to the point where they should be feared and persecuted, even killed out right. This is a strong plot line that has occurred many times throughout history and is also the basis of many novels and TV show, but I found that Shannon was also able to put a twist on it with the Bone Harvest aspect.

Shannon put way too much information into this book and there where way too many different types of clairvoyant people to keep it straight all the time and while do praise creativity there needs to be a limit sometimes so the aspect still feels special. There are parts of the book that felt really really slow and other than the beginning of the book things just seemed to trudge on, with nothing really interesting happening. The fight Paige shows she has in order to survive, while present throughout the book, seems to feel more flat the farther into the book that the reader gets. Time also seemed to be an interesting factor in the book, I'm still not sure how much time passed in the book as it was never really defined, just seemed toflow from event to event.

I liked Paige as a character and loved her never swaying sense of loyalty that she has for the people she cares about. She puts them before herself and I cannot find fault with that. I'm unsure how I feel about Paige and Warden's relationship. I know I wished that Shannon had taken the approach of a trainer and trainee or teacher and student instead of adding the romance possibility to their relationship. I found it entirely unnecessary and lets face it felt forced and it seemed like maybe Shannon felt she HAD to have some romance in the book which is fine, but at least make it believable. The reason why i'm unsure about it is that I personal like Warden as a character. His mysteriousness and wanting to do the right thing even if it mean forfeiting his own life.

It not often that I like and dislike a book at the same time. I think that Shannon had some interesting ideas and great characters, but I think Shannon was over ambitious with this novel. She tired to put too much information in this book (outside of world building) and expected the reader to still be intrigued with the story, which to be frank, suffered because of this. I would read the next book in the series just to see where Shannon takes this story and world and I how the over use of ground work she set in this first novel goes to great use in the second.

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Andrew Gross: No Way Back

Andrew Gross takes the readers into a world where one decision not only alters a woman's life forever but puts everyone around her in danger:

Wendy meets a stranger at a bar and normally she would not even entertain talking to him, but she feels like her husband and her are drawing apart and her friend is not showing up so she can vent has placed her in a new situation. The conversation eventually lead to her going up to his hotel room but things don't go quite as planned, Wendy ends up witnessing a murder and now is on the run for her life. Those hunting her are not your typical bad guys, actually they are on the completely other side of the law. She is on the run from Homeland security agent who is looking to shut Wendy up permanently and frame her for murder while he is at it. Wendy has not only put herself in danger but everyone she turns to as well. The only way to get out of this is to figure out why they wanted the man from the bar dead, but time is ticking and there is more than one player who wants to see Wendy disappear permanently.

Okay, this book was never able to completely draw me in. I know that this book was supposed to be suspenseful and the beginning of the book certainly would fit this description. Gross does a great job of pulling the reader in the first few chapters of Wendy being on the run but then it slows down quite a bit. It is almost like Gross put all the action and suspense in the first part of the book and then did not have enough for the second half of it. I found myself waning in reading this book and it personal felt like it took forever for Wendy to put the pieces in place that we as the reader are aware of from the two side by side stories that Gross has for part of the novel. 

Overall I enjoyed the mystery aspect in the book and the connection that Gross was able to create to the first scene in the book where 5 Americans are gunned down by a strong Cartel in Mexico and how everything stems from that. As I said before I felt like it took Wendy too long to make the connection. If we did not have Lauritzia's point of view the was Wendy acted would have been okay, but since we do it seems to take forever to bring the two women together, which you know is what Gross is going to do.

I'm not sure how to describe Wendy as a character. Gross basically describes her as an urban mom, who used to be an ex-cop but has had some marriage problems which basically lead her into the mess she finds herself in. I think my main problem with the description is the ex-cop part. Other than identifying herself as one in the beginning of the book, there is no other reference to her being an ex-cop (other than her retelling the story over and over again) and her actions are really basic that I think really anyone would think of. I think that an ex-cop would have better ideas, and more experience of where they would look for information and how to go to ground and what to expect in an investigation of this type. Wendy uses her cell phone, relies on friends which puts them in danger and went to places where I thought the Homeland guys would be for sure.

This is the first book that I have read by Gross, and I did like the story overall and the interconnection of the two stories. I have read some other reviews about this book from readers who have read other Gross novels and many of them stated this was one of his weaker books. That has me impressed and makes me want to find some other titles by this author.

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Amber Lynn Natusch: Unborn

In the start of a new series Amber Lynn Natusch takes the reader from the Underworld to the surface and back again, as one woman searches to discover who she is and discovering her place in both:

Khara has spent most of her life, centuries in fact discovering everything about the Underworld and while that place may hold nothing but death, despair and torture to some, Khara sees it as home. It is where she has felt love, has felt safe and has a father there. However, there were dark moments as well, of loneliness, torture, pain but still it is her home. When Khara is ripped unexpectedly from the Underworld and taken to the above ground town of Detroit, Khara does not know what to expect. She has never spent time above ground in a city with other people, so she is unsure how to behave or act. Everything is different here and as much Khara tries to stay out of the way and not attract any attention the opposite is true. When she discovers she has a large family of half-brothers above ground she is over joyed, but she is leery as it was a dark force that brought her to the surface and she does not want to put her new found family in danger. But if it is one thing that Khara learned growing up in the underworld there is danger around every corner, you can trust no one and you really just have to rely on yourself to survive.

I think that Natusch came up with a really interesting concept for not only her world building but the overall premise of the story is was unique. However, I wish that the premise in general was executed better. I wish there were more books that featured the underground, as I enjoyed when Khara was talking about her time in the underground and how she was happy there and how her brothers could not understand how it could be her home. The book just mainly seemed to flow badly. It felt like it was all over the place at times and that nothing seemed to happen. This is basically how the book played out: They try to figure out what Khara's is/what her ability will be, they go to club, maybe go hunting for some soul suckers maybe not, one of the brothers or Oz hooks up with a girl, Oz is a douche to everyone and repeat. This seemed to be the main aspects that continued over and over again throughout the book.

I did like Khara as a character, she had some redeem qualities, but for all her fighting that she claimed to have to put into to survive and live in the underworld, we never actually get to see those skills in the real world. She is unable to fight, with her fists or with weapons, she claims her skill is the ability to be invisible but she is the most visible person in the group. I appreciate that Khara does not back down from danger or a challenge but for the most part she was a hindrance to her brother in more way than one.

I really really disliked the relationship between Khara and Oz. Oz is more than your typical bad boy and you know from when you first meet that Natusch is going to attempt to bring them together. Oz is too full of himself, too unwilling to let people in, too much of an ass really, I mean Natusch attempts to give him some good guy moments, but never succeeds at getting there he always just seems to turn into an ass part of the way through. The thing I don't get about Oz is that all of them hate him but yet they let him live with them, hang out with them, he gets way too many chances and most of the brothers just seem to think that eventually he will change.

The ending was interesting and really not what I expected so Natusch get extra points from me for that, but I just wish overall that the premise had been executed better. Due to the fact the ending was really well done, I would seriously consider reading the next book in this series to see if Natusch is able to achieve something more, but I honestly can’t recommend this book for someone to read as I just found too many flaws within it.

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