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 NetGalley.com

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.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

TIME TO DIE: Frighteningly Devilish

Time To Die by Caroline Mitchell is a chilling read with an interesting cast of characters whose lives intersect; but not always in the best of situations.

I personally like my crime/mystery thriller to be as close to reality as possible. Injecting a paranormal and supernatural twist makes it a little tricky because it could blur the line between what is plausible and what is not. And it’s a question of whether you’re willing to go on board or not.

Well, I’m on board and completely gripped!

DC Jennifer Knight and a team of specialists with extraordinary skills set out to catch a killer who may or may not have supernatural abilities. Given how elusive he is, he could very well be a mystical creature who commits the most unthinkable crimes.

I am impressed at the character dynamics and interaction of the Moonlight Operation squad and fascinated at how they handled the investigation.

This is a brilliantly executed crime thriller with a remarkable main character and an unforgettable villain. ★★★ 5/5

Review copy provided by Bookouture through NetGalley.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

FOLLOW ME: When Twitter Kills


How can you resist such a killer tagline?

There’s a disturbance in Twitterverse and the person goes by the name @Apollyon. A faceless and seemingly harmless entity has gained notoriety when the “Following” count becomes a tally of victims. The elusive suspect becomes a viral twitter sensation  the police scramble to identify, but fail miserably.

Enter Freddie Venton, the spunky but down on her luck wannabe journalist who’s been waiting for the right break to come. The opportunity presents itself when she reconnects (fortuitously) with an old friend Nasreen Cudmore, now a police officer.

Using an underhanded tactic, Freddie gets to her first crime scene and becomes involved in it when the police hires her as a consultant because of her social media “expertise”.

While this is an entertaining read for its unique plot, it’s hard to ignore how ridiculously inept the police are. And this hurts the story quite a bit.

But there’s still a lot of things to like in this story that it still stands out. The Freddie and Naseer side story gives the right amount of drama, while the main story progresses at a thrilling pace.

Follow Me will appeal to thriller junkies who crave for a clever and inventive murder mystery. ★★★ 4/5

*Review copy provided by NetGalley

Friday, 4 March 2016

Two Reviewers, One Book: The Winged Turban


Once in a while, I invite a reviewer, a blogger, an author, or a random character to sit with me in this very comfortable couch and share our views (opposing or otherwise) on a chosen book that caught our fancy.

My review partner for today is Leisl KaberryShe’s the author of the Titanian Chronicles Series.

The book that intrigued us is 'The Winged Turbanby Joshua Grasso.

Beatrice is the victim of an arranged match to the Duke of Saffredento, who hastily abandons her to an estate full of forgotten traditions and curses. When the portrait of a strange woman begins turning up in the house, she summons the great sorcerer, Hildigrim Blackbeard, to investigate. The portrait, it seems, has traveled through time to find her—and bring her back by any means necessary. For she can no longer be Beatrice of Saffredento, but a young woman who died two-hundred years ago and must be reborn through the magic of an Enchanted Circle. But no one in recorded history has ever conjured such a Circle, though quite a few have gone mad in the attempt...

Hi Leisl! I’m honored to be reviewing this book with you. Thank you for agreeing to do this.  I’d offer you cookies but this show has no budget :p

What? No cookies??  And I was looking forward to chomping chewy biscuits while discussing this book. 

Next time there'll be food! I promise! Such a trip, this book is, isn’t it? You know, across dimensions in true high fantasy fashion… 

Oh yes, for sure… I’ll admit the whole portrait story line brought back images from the previous book ‘The Astrologer's Portrait’ but it went in a completely different direction… and yes across dimensions… who would have thought? Grasso could almost make a series out of it… The Portrait Series… I wonder where the next portrait will take us.

The Astrologer's Portrait

Makes you think Joshua has some kind of portrait fetish going on. Oh sorry was I thinking out loud? The story starts with a paranormal phenomenon of some sort. A portrait of a woman with a winged turban haunts Beatrice. It was a perfect start and from then on, it was hard to disengage. I was completely drawn to it. Was it just me?

No certainly not just you. In fine Grasso form, he had me hooked from the get-go. The Winged Turban portrait was creepy and fascinating and kept me guessing as to what was going on. I was on Beatrice’s side (it seemed none of the household were). I was sure she wasn’t crazy… so I was pleased she called in Hildigrim and I wanted to fire the Majordomo, he was a major dodo… sorry bad pun! But seriously, didn’t you just wanna slap him?

Haha! I’d ninja roundhouse kick him out of this dimension! There are memorable characters in this book. Hildigrim Blackbeard is a favorite. But I have to say that Sergei the stone reader has the right amount of “crazy” in him. But every character is compelling. There’s something driving him or her. So, despite being a fantasy, there’s something “real” in the story. The mix of fantasy and human drama just works seamlessly. And I appreciate this because sometimes in fantasy or sci-fi, the human elements are just forced into the story, consequently taking a backseat in favour of flashy setups and epic battles.

True, true *nods with contemplative fingers on chin*. I like how Grasso develops his characters, they are three-dimensional. They have their flaws and their sensitivities as well as their strengths and passions and even idiosyncrasies.
Just when you think you know a character, they surprise you with something new. I think Hildigrim was a fave for me too but I also liked Lady Dorothea, she was a strong, determined woman… real determined.
Grasso has a great talent for telling a story, sure its fantasy and this is a wonderful element but its far more than that, it’s a tale built around life and people and the world in which they live, influenced by the times they live in. I found that I rarely had any idea where it was going… how did you find it? Unpredictable or unsurprising?

I seriously had no clue how the story would unravel. The secrecy and the unpredictability added to the reading enjoyment. But I have to admit that I had high expectations because of that incredible build up. I kept saying “You better not mess this one up, Dr. Grasso!”  So, what elements did you think work? 

Well, I’ll say it… I don’t read romance novels, it’s just too much of the mush and stuff for me but what I do enjoy is a bit of romance within a story. Grasso has the right amount, there are a few budding romances throughout the story which is refreshing. I also liked that it was not only Hildigrim (the sorcerer) who had mystical abilities and talents. There was a fair bit of magic and paranormal activity going on throughout the story that crossed dimensions. Magic, mystery and a dash of romance… makes for an enticing recipe.  What did you think?

I agree with you. I like that he didn’t go overboard with the romance and he did have enough control not to go too crazy on the fantasy and mystical elements. Because, obviously, we can only suspend our disbelief so much. And I have to mention the funny bits. They are hilarious in a deadpan kind of way.

You know I’ll ask this… what elements you think didn’t quite work?

Uh, that’s a toughy. I’ll be honest… the notion of reincarnation threw me at first, I didn’t like it and I can’t explain why, maybe because the world feels like it is our own but in a different time. And then I got over it… reminded myself the first rule of fantasy – Anything is possible. (disclaimer: I don’t really know if that is the first rule of fantasy or whether it is in fact a rule… but it sounded good) So with the anything is possible mentality I began to enjoy the concept and possibilities. Where you thrown too or were you completely on board?

I didn’t think of it from a philosophical or religious standpoint because he approached it on a fantasy level and did not present it in a controversial way. Though to me, I thought he somehow explored the concept of being in the wrong world (or time) and if it could be rectified, which is fascinating to me.
Did you expect anything less from Joshua Grasso?

Okay, speaking as a big fan of Joshua Grasso…no, absolutely not… I expected a compelling story that would lure me in with writing that feels natural and every word that flows. Every time I picked up the book (ipad) I was very quickly lulled back into the world and I didn’t want to leave. My one disappointment? I’d love to have a paperback version but it’s only available on Kindle. Of course you probably wouldn’t find fault in this KN after all, you are the ‘Kindle’ Ninja. 

Haha! No issue at all. I do prefer ebooks for practical reasons. So, the big question is: How would you rate “The Winged Turban”?

It's a big 5 stars from me!

I give it 5 big fat ninja stars for the incredible and fantastic reading experience.

Check out books by Joshua Grasso

Check out books by Leisl Kaberry