Thursday, January 28, 2016

Angela Marsons: Lost Girls

You need to read the first two books in this series, Silent Scream and Evil Games, in order to really appreciate the main character DI Kim Stone. Additionally the books are amazing reads, some of my favourites from last year, and I highly recommend them:

Angela Marsons is back with her next DI Kim Stone novel, where two girls are missing and only one will come back alive:

This kidnapper has a to play, two girls will go missing and only one will return alive. Family versus Family will ensue and close friends will no longer be able to trust each other as only the family that can come up with the most money will see their daughter again. As Kim and her team dig into the families' past to try and find the perpetrator hidden secrets will come out. The kidnapper is playing a deadly game where not only the girls are in danger of not coming back alive.

There are many thriller/mystery authors out there that follow a formula book after book where you can basically predict what is going to happen after you have read a few of their novels. I can say that this is NOT the case with Marsons' DI Kim Stone series. Each book (this is the third one so far) has had different cases, focus and dynamics applied to each novel. This allows us, as readers, to not know what is going to happen next and with Kim's unpredictable personality things occur that no one expects. I personally love that Marsons has had three different cases across her three books, and that she always has a secondary case that also needs to be followed up and in this book it is the murder of a gang member who was trying to get out.

Marsons has a great imagination from book to book, and I like that Marsons did not a have a typical kidnapping with a ransom or else. I liked the almost "game" aspect that Marsons had the kidnapper have with the parents of the children. I think this added to the overall suspense of the book as you start to think what would you do in this situation if it was your child that went missing (I say this as a new mom) and that you would do anything to get them back. I think the reactions that the parents had and couples had internally were spot on.  I did not want to put this book down, there never seemed to be a "good" place to stop reading, I kept wanting to know what was going to happen next.

When you compare this novel to the previous two you will notice that there is less character development in regards to Kim. I think that Marsons did this on purpose as in Evil Games Kim is really rocked to the core by a sociopath. Kim is still anti-social (really has no social skills at all), is really far from a perfect and has such a dark past that has shaped her that she almost feels too much in this book because it involves children. I think that is the one thing that we really get a glimpse of in this book it Kim's weakness for children victims that she cannot see straight, and even does things that hinders her standing with her team. We do get a bit of insight into Kim actually through one of the parents of the missing girl who grew up in one of the foster homes that Kim attended but I do not think there was anything new learned about Kim through this interaction.

I liked that Marsons decided to focus more on the secondary character Darwin in this book. The team is a very important aspect in this book and each team member does have their own strength and weaknesses so I appreciate that Marsons is also starting to develop them into more prominent and well defined characters. It was also interesting to add new members to Kim's team with the inclusion of a profiler (which Kim lets know she does not believe in that "science"), a negotiator (who has a similar personality to Kim) and a family service worker (who Kim feels obligated to have but learns to appreciate her, as I said above Kim does not have the greatest people skills). This expanded team adds some additional dynamics that not only define the case and how it is handled but also test Kim as well.

I love that there have been three books in this series so far and none of them have been the same. This to me is the key to having a great series. Keep these books coming Marsons and I will be reading your books for life :) I cannot wait for the third book in this series to see what Marsons comes up with next.

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Suzanne Collins: Mockingjay

I figured I needed to read this book before the second part of the movie came out and I'm sure everyone knows by now that there are two book before this one, The Hunger Games and Catching Fire that you do need to read in order to understand this book, world and series.

In the conclusion in Suzanne Collins' Hunger Game series, Collins shows what someone will go through in order to protect those they love:

Katniss has survived the Hunger Games (Quarter Quell) for a second time, but she lost someone very close to her in the exchange, Peeta was left behind and by all accounts he is the hands of the Capital. Katniss was rescued by the "rebels" from District 13 and she has been told that she is the key to the revolution. Katniss does not want to be the key, all she wants is to get Peeta back and attempt to forget the Hunger Games and the pain that it has brought her. Katniss soon realizes that to save Peeta she must become the Mocking Jay for real, to be the face of the revolution and to start the fire burning, no matter how many lives it costs, there is only one way to save the people in the districts...War.

I was surprised at how dark Collins decided to make this book in the end. She really puts Katniss through some very tough situations and events. Collins puts a lot on Katniss' shoulders and expects her to perform through them all, and there are times when she succeeds and times she did not. I was also surprised at some deaths within this book (yes that is plural deaths) of individuals who you think would be off limits to many authors where put to an end here and I appreciated that Collins made it feel as though no one was safe and this added to who will be gone next feel.

However, overall I felt that there were times that Katniss was not really part of the story even though it is told from her point of view; and by this I mean the premise is all about the revolution and her role in it, but there was so much time spent in Katniss' head that the revolution aspect of the story took a back seat. While I really really I appreciated that Collins showed PTSD in this book (as it is very fitting with everything that Katniss went through) I think there was a little bit too much time spent in the hospital wing when the fight was going on around her and we as readers only get a glimpse of it till that latter part of the book when Katniss chooses to be more involved. Therefore, I think that it is safe to say that this book was a lot slower than I expected it to be.

Katniss as a character in this book does at times pale in comparison to who she was in The Hunger Games, but I think that this is to be expected for everything that she has gone through and the people she has had to kill. I think people forget this when talking about/reviewing this book. There was no way that Katniss could stay the same from the first to the third book and for character to have a real feel about her.

I'm really satisfied about how Collins decided to end this series, and once again I was shocked at how dark that Collins decided to take this book. Collins also not leave anything unanswered to leave the door open for more novels (which I'm sure some people are not happy about based upon the following these books have). I'm not sure what Collins has done since writing this trilogy but after reading this one (such an improvement over the second book) that I want to find out :)

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Friday, January 15, 2016

Lawrence Block:The Sins of the Father

In the first book in a series, Lawrence Block introduces readers to Matthew Shrudder, who does favours for his "friends" that no one else will:

A brutal murder of a woman by her roommate, who is found raving covered in blood the middle of the street. This is an open and shut case as the roommate confesses and then kills himself while in police custody. But the woman's father cannot let it go, he was estranged from his daughter and wants to know who she was before she was murdered. Enter Matthew Shrudder, a former police officer who has become an unlicensed PI, who has a talent for uncovering information and in the seedy underground of New York, Shrudder's skill set is one that you want working for you.

I became aware of Block as an author because of the move Walk among the Tombstones, which was a darker detective movie with Liam Neeson as a the main character Shrudder. I was intrigued about the book that it was based upon but I am never one to start i the middle of the series so back the beginning I went with this book. I will say after reading this book Neeson was the perfect casting to play Scudder. This book is a mystery one as Scudder attempts to find out who Wendy was before her murder as a "favour" to her father. He father wants to know if he had any responsibility towards her death as they had fallen lost touch with each other and he did nothing to get back in contact with her. 

It is hard to describe who Shrudder is as I think you really just scratch the surface of his character in this book. I promise he is one of the good guys (just very rough around the edges), despite the techniques he may use to get the job done. He is an alcoholic, divorced (who rarely sees his kid), it's above using a bribe or intimidation to get his way and well really bend the law in general to find what he is looking for. So basically Shrudder is a very interesting character that I cannot wait to see developed further.

This is an old school modern detective book, well private eye book as Shrudder is a former cop, and by old school modern i mean it takes place in the 80s. This book shows the corruption that used to be every day occurrences in the police forces back in the 80s which is when this book took place. Shrudder knows how this system works and he uses it to his advantage (and does even state he wasn't beyond taking a bribe when he was on the force as well). It was also interesting to see how mindsets have changed even in the past 30 years, as homosexuality plays a prominent role in this book and back to the corruption part, there are talks about police raids on gay bars.

I actually appreciated the placement in time for this book as there are no computers, or cell phone or internet for that manner (or one that is used by the every day person) that Shrudder is forced to look for answers the old fashioned way. It was a nice change of pace from all the technology that is in newer books and how easy information is accessed. Shrudder really has to hit the streets and talk to people in order to get the information that he seeks, plus have a keen mind to put it all together as he is not working as part of a team.

This was a good start to a series, and I liked the mystery aspect of it. I thought, based upon the premise there might be more of a thriller aspect, however, there is not, but I still enjoyed the book as it is well written and does not muddy the waters with side stories. I'm looking forward to continuing on in the series.

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Amy Miles: Wither

In the start of a new series, Amy Miles takes the reader to America two weeks after the world has gone to hell:

Avery has been sitting by her mother's hospital bed knowing that she is not going to wake up but she has no where else to go. The streets are crawling with the Withered ones and though they do not seem to be the brain eating zombies of the TV shows and books Avery still does not trust them and their eerie shuffling around. Avery has learned that right now the Withered are not to be feared but the gangs who now own the streets and she knows that it is only a matter or time before the hospital is taken as well. She has heard some stranger rumours about what the humans left alive are looking for, blood. Blood of those who are still alive they believe that blood will save them, and Avery is about to see first hand the lengths they will go to get it. Don't fear the Withered, Fear the Humans.

I was first attracted to this book due to the cover as it portrayed this book as a darker read and while that may be true on some instances I never really felt the suspense or thrills that I think this book should have contained. Yes there are some action scenes but they were not overly descriptive and due to the fact that Avery is a calm and collective character (most of the time) we never get a sense of urgency from her. I found the world building really lacking in this book. I'm not really sure how the Withered ones came about, i think it was first a disease and then people tried to fix it but that mutated people into zombies, but not zombies. I'm really not sure how far the mutation went or if that is just rumour, like the humans need to find fresh blood. So i guess you could say I was a bit confused.

I think my favourite part of the book is that Miles decided to focus more on the degradation of humans and what we would do to each other in this situation other than the withered ones aka zombies. I think Humans as a whole can be way more scarier than any zombie can be. I mean a zombie people feel they can just kill, they are already, technically dead, but a human can be more cold calculated and we see glimpse of this cold calculation throughout the book. Personally I wish there was more.

Avery at times is a hard character to like but yet you like her all the same. She is mistrustful of everyone even people who have proved themselves to her time and time again. She just has learned to question everything and everyone around her but I think that this stems from before the world went to hell and not after. Avery's past is still a bit of a mystery as you only get bits and pieces of it throughout the book but it is enough to know she was not happy then. On the flip side of this is that Avery is not whiny character and is able to take care of herself. She may not make the best choices at times but she makes her own based upon the information she has and she is smart as she seems to take everything into perspective that is happening around her.

I really have to applaud Miles for not taking the easy way out and having a happy ending, which lets be honest really shouldn't occur in this type of novel. Miles really does show some major aspects of how we change when faced with survival and some people are just better at it than others when being civilized is really no longer an option.

Even though this was a short read, I still think that Miles could have done a better job with the world building. There is a bit of a lull in the middle of the book, which I don't think was needed as we didn't really receive an additional information about the characters or the world that Miles has built. There is no question that Miles was able to entertain me and keep it that way to the end with her characters and her desire to keep the book  real as to what happens to us as humans when the world goes to shit. I look forward to see where Miles decides to take this series (at least I hope there are more books in the works).

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