Monday, 20 November 2017

The Girl Who Had No Fear: Narco-Flavored Reading

The Girl Who Had No Fear is the fourth book in the series and arguably the most complex. It takes you from one point to the next not only in a geographical sense but also in emotional terms. There is a clear character progression for George McKenzie as she attempts to infiltrate a drug cartel in Mexico while she struggles to deal with the unprocessed emotions leftover from the previous three books.

And let’s talk about the new locations, the new seedy characters, and the seemingly outrageous situations introduced in the book. Of course, I’m not going to go to spoiler territory, but let me just say that there are moments in the book that could have very well been lifted from science fiction or steampunk trope. But as they say, truth is stranger than fiction.
Friend: That’s outrageous! That’s not believable at all, ninja. That could not happen in real life.
Me: Two words: Mauner Mahecha.
Friend: Say what?
Me: Go on, Google it!
Me: Told ya. 
So, yes, many of the scenes described in the book are probably inspired by real-life events, only better. It’s like finding some Easter eggs hidden in plain sight. I’m not sure if I’m making sense here, but if you have even the slightest interest about the South American drug trade and how tons of cocaine are smuggled into the US (or anywhere else in the world), you’d appreciate this book a little bit more.

I also think that putting the spotlight on a supporting character named Elvis is a stroke of genius. It should win an award for best use of a minor character in a book (Dead Good, are you reading this?).

My favorite in the series is still The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows, but this one is bursting with energy and excitement. It’s like reading under the influence... ★★★ 5/5

*Review copy provided by publisher Avon through NetGalley.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Deep Down Dead: You may never breathe again

When you find yourself as tense and as fearful for your life as the characters in the book, then you know the author succeeded in bringing you into her world.

Welcome to Deep Down Dead, where you chase after the bad guys who are also chasing after you. Well, of course, when I say “you” I mean Lori Anderson, the headstrong bounty hunter who has one seemingly simple job of finding a fugitive for a massive payday. Nothing to it, yeah? After all, that’s her job. 

But nothing is simple when it’s your bounty hunting mentor’s ass you’re hauling back to court. With a sick daughter in tow, the risk multiplies faster than you can flip the pages.

When you get to the last 30% of the book, it gets harder and harder to breath. Add child exploitation ring and the Miami mob into the mix and you may never breathe again.

There’s a bit of an issue with the believability of a couple of scenes, but nothing so big that it diminishes the overall impact of the story.   

This action-packed debut moves at break-neck speed that turns you upside down and jolts you back and forth. Thank you, author Steph Broadbribb for giving me a whiplash. ★★★ 5/5

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Closed Off To You: Sexy. Naughty. Dirty.

After binge-reading on crime fiction for the past several weeks, I needed a change because I’m starting to look at my work mates as serial killers plotting their next kill.

So, this particular book is free on Amazon. It’s written by the same author whose YA books I have read in the past. Only this time, she uses a pen name.

Closed Off To You by Rachel S. Rose is categorised as Women’s Fiction and Inspirational. So, yeah, I could use some inspirational reading to take my mind off the blood and gore of crime fiction. So I dive in.

The first chapter has a Chick Lit vibe to it and it’s hilarious! It had me in stitches the entire chapter. Melissa is such an endearing character from the get go. She’s funny, self-deprecating, and exciting in a blundering kind of way.


Then the story takes a sexy turn.

The funny bits turn to naughty to very naughty to full on dirty.

Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

My jaw dropped to the filthy floor.

I’m not complaining (ha!). I just didn’t plan on reading an erotic story while on board the commuter train early in the morning.

Took my mind off crime fiction all right.

But if you take away those steamy scenes, you’ll find a legitimate storyline with funny characters and snappy dialogues. And singing. And dancing. And more sex.  3.5/5

*Folks, this is the danger of not reading the blurb in its entirety. You could miss some important advisory about the nature of the content. 

Saturday, 22 October 2016

The Night Stalker: A Wicked Page-Turner

The second book in the series usually re-introduces characters only briefly so there’s always a chance of not understanding certain aspects of the character dynamics. With that said, The Night Stalker by Robert Bryndza brilliantly presented the characters in such a way that I didn’t feel like I’ve missed out on important background details.

On to the review…
A serial killer is on the loose and it’s up to DCI Erika Foster to find the violent, heartless, totally deranged person who’s killing male victims. The killer operates by stalking the victims first with ninja-like precision then killing them mercilessly.

The weapon of choice: Suicide bag.

The victims never see the killer coming.

I like that the killer is revealed a bit earlier than usual. Some would say it’s easy to guess who the killer is. But one has to realize that it’s the thrill of the chase that makes this book a wicked page-turner.

Erika and her team have to outsmart the seemingly untraceable serial killer. The difficulty is palpable and it resonates to the reader, hence, there’s a sense of involvement in the case.

It’s not just about chasing a killer. It’s also presenting characters with raw emotions and unprocessed emotional baggage. There’s always a struggle to come to terms with some hard realities.

But it’s not always dark and grim. There are some funny bits that balance things out.

This is an intelligent crime thriller with unforgettable characters. They just get in your head and linger.  ★★★ 5/5

*Review copy provided by publisher Bookouture through NetGalley.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Play Dead: Dangerously Disturbing

Kim Stone. Middle name: Badass.

She’s the fierce detective with a no-nonsense approach to solving crimes. She comes across as cold and calculating and emotionally closed-off, but reveals bits and pieces about herself and her real state of mind. This makes her a fascinating character full of contradiction and ambiguity. 

Then, of course, there’s her team – a cast of characters with quirky personalities but work together with clockwork efficiency. A love interest that may or may not have a future cuts through the grittiness and gruesomeness of the crimes committed by a dangerously unstable serial killer.

Play Dead by Angela Marsons is a tightly written story with impressive forensic details that make you feel you’re really in the middle of a crime scene investigation and actually understand what’s going on. The dialogues and the banters are as natural as they come.  It’s an exciting read that gets the blood pumping.

It’s a shame that it took four books before I was introduced to Inspector Kim Stone and her team. I was late to the party, but I sure am staying up late to binge read the heck out of this series! ★★★ 5/5

*Review copy provided by publisher Bookouture through NetGalley.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

See How They Run: Convincingly Evil

See How They Run by Tom Bale is what happens when regular folks get mixed up with a network of criminals so vicious, they wouldn’t think twice of committing a violent act if it suits their needs (or save their necks).

Who would want to be in this kind of predicament? No one!

But Harry and Alice French find themselves in such a sticky situation and they take the reader along with them. Just imagine the stress and exhaustion of being thrown into a bloody mess.

Oh, by the way, there’s a baby tagging along.

Crazy, huh?

Though Harry and Alice are characters you’d easily empathise with, it’s the wicked bad guys that shine through. They are all convincingly evil! They are the kind of people you pray you don’t cross paths with in your lifetime.

Although this a gripping story with non-stop action (physical and emotional), I feel that the writer held back on the resolution. It went to “safe” territory after treating the reader to one shocking event to another.

Overall, See How They Run is a proper thriller that exhausts you into surrender. Don’t fight it.  ★★★ 4/5  

*Review copy provided by publisher Bookouture through NetGalley.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

The Teacher: Gruesomely Dark

Even before I flipped to the first chapter, I already sensed that the story is going to be very dark, but I wasn’t prepared at how gruesomely dark the story is.

At one point, I actually flinched when the author described the last moments of this one poor, poor character. Was it over the top? Perhaps. Did the character deserve it? Perhaps not. But my theory is that the graphic depiction was used to justify whatever was to come (dun-dun-duuun!). This effectively puts the reader in an ethical and moral quandary (that is if you’re like me who gets too involved in stories like this).

What’s great is that even DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles are in that same predicament. So yeah, we’re all in the same boat.

Although, it’s easy to get hooked, there’s a lot of jumping around between story arcs, timelines, and characters. If you have short-term memory, it can be challenging. (Sorry, Dory, this isn’t for you).

The next hurdle is figuring out who the main characters are. With so many subplots, it’s not unusual to favour one over another and same goes with the characters. So, in my mind, the main characters are those that stand out because their stories are more fleshed out than the others.

Readers might be put off by this but I’m actually on board this “chaotic” non-linear storytelling. What’s important to me is if the author can tie up loose ends and deliver that “payoff”. Done and done.

And when the bad guys are extremely bad, you’d appreciate how things have turned out. ★★★ 4/5  

Here's my attempt at stop motion.

Review copy provided by the publisher via

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Live For This: Unbreaking the Broken

I didn’t plan on reading Live For This by Kathryn Biel because in my mind, it’s one of those stories that will make me feel miserable after reading. Surely, a man with a broken body and woman with a shattered soul is a downright depressing combination, yeah?

Well, guess what? It’s not that at all. I didn’t feel like the world is crashing down on me. There’s no feeling of heaviness or misery or grief. Nothing of that sort.

This is superbly written. It’s hitting the right notes. The jokes are landing. The drama bits are heart-rending and just tug at this ninja’s heartstrings.

Perhaps the only problem here is that it has similarities to Jojo Moyes’ “Me Before You”. Now, I don’t know if this was inspired by the book or the similar events are just mere coincidences. It might bother some readers, but it does not bother me all that much because there is a clear divergence in storyline.

This is not a story that’s just written for the sake of eliciting strong emotions. It not only sends a message of hope, but also the acceptance of hard realities.

Two words: Read this.   ★★★ 5/5

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

The Missing: A Turmoil in the Family

Claire is pushed to the brink when her son Billy went missing. Though there’s hope that Billy is still alive, the fear and the uncertainty are enough to drive Claire into “madness”. She goes through frightening psychological episodes that had physical manifestations. That part of the story is brilliantly depicted with great emotional impact. 

The writing is somber and the story, while understandably a psychological thriller, is rather short on thrills. But it’s because The Missing by C.L. Taylor is more of a family drama than a straight up crime thriller. Despite this, the author is able to deliver an engaging story of a family crippled by secrets and deception. 

I wouldn’t say the story is predictable, but this is one of the rare times I was able to guess an integral twist of the story before it was revealed.

Despite the lack of thrills, I thought the characters are well developed and readers can easily sympathize with them.  ★★★ 4/5

Monday, 6 June 2016

A Perilous Thirst: Vampirically Good

All right. So, I just had a conversation with a gay vampire, a very intelligent one, I might add. It was an honest conversation, but of course, he was doing all the talking and I was this captive audience. He was so open and candid about his life as a vampire in the time of AIDS epidemic. Even with his charm and confidence, I sensed his fear. It was real. With a vivid recounting of his conquests, he revealed a part of him that’s almost human.

A Perilous Thirst is a vampirically good short story that makes you feel that you’re actually there listening to an intriguing vampire character.

I don’t even know his name.  ★★★ 4/5

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Escape From Zandell: Something Ominous Lurks

In fantasy stories, Book #0 is usually the big set up with an even bigger cliffhanger; the characters are introduced and the fantasy world is established. Escape from Zandell by Dale Furse has managed to do that, but it was a bit of a confusing set up and it’s a challenge to keep up with the characters early on. But once you get to the second act, things start to make sense and you begin to understand the characters and their respective motivations just a little bit (there are still questions though). 

One problem here is that it’s not clear (at least not to me) who the real main character is. It seems to shift depending on the circumstance. But 
I like that there’s always this feeling that something ominous is lurking and any second, some character will die or will be in grave danger. It’s that kind of storytelling that piques my interest. Surely, it’s worth following the series, in the hope that this is just the start of something epic to come.  ★★★ 4/5

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Boston Metaphysical Society PRELUDE: Top-notch Steampunk!

Boston Metaphysical Society: PRELUDE is a collection of short stories that have very important links to the Boston Metaphysical Society web comics. Written by Madeleine Holly-Rosing, Prelude is a cross between an origin story and a supplementary reading that makes the Boston Metaphysical Society universe far more intriguing.

The alternate history of Boston Metaphysical Society is every bit entertaining. Ghosts, demons, supernatural beings and prominent Families that vie for ultimate economic and political control – what’s not to like?

It's a rarity to like every story in a collection, but I love them all - all seven of them. While it’s not really a requirement to read the web comics series, I would have to say that the impact of the short stories would be more pronounced if the reader has read the Boston Metaphysical Society comics. The secrets and revelations in the stories have a greater impact if one is familiar with the alternate world so cleverly created. 

While this is primarily a steampunk collection, it crosses genres that make the whole of Boston Metaphysical Society greater than the sum of its parts.   ★★★ 5/5

Friday, 1 April 2016

10 Reasons Why You Should Read “The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows"

Third book in the series. Tough to review but early reviewers have already raved about it here, here, here, and here

Not that you need more convincing, but instead of a review, I'm giving you my Top 10 reasons why you should read "The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows" by Marnie Riches.

1.   Confident writing. So confident it can be brutal. You know, the in-your-face kind of brutal that leaves a black eye in the morning. Get some ice.

2.   Bursting at the seams with fascinating and flawed characters:  from the morally ambiguous to the sordidly immoral to the sexually fluid to the emotionally crippled. (The author could be talking about my family, but I digress.)

3.  Unrelenting suspense. So tense that you might find your heart fibrillating. Okay, that may be a tad too much, but it can happen, yes?

4.   Reading it is like assembling the most difficult jigsaw puzzle while playing “Where’s Wally”. (And since this is an international crime thriller, that would be “Waldo” in the US, “Charlie” in France, “Walter” in Germany, “Willy” in Norway…)

5.   Icicle of death. A very handy murder weapon during an arctic freeze. Cold, cruel, and best of all, untraceable. Plausible? Well, if Roald Dahl can use a big frozen leg of lamb to bludgeon someone in his short story, why can’t Marnie Riches use deadly sharp icicles in her crime fiction?

6.   Funny bits are really funny. Sure, the book is dark and gritty 90% of the time, but the author delivers funny lines when you need them the most.

7.   Moral and ethical dilemmas. There’s plenty of that in the book. It challenges you. It makes you question your own moral sensibilities.

8.   Extremely cunning criminals. It makes you genuinely worry for George’s safety and everyone else involved with her.

9. The George-Paul Dynamics. One minute tender, the next minute combustible. Problems seem to resolve themselves between the sheets. Not that I’m complaining.

10.       An ending you won’t see coming.  

*Review copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley.