Tag Archives: crime

NY Bestseller

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First up in the Pop Reading Challenge is a New York Times Bestseller. I’ve seen this book everywhere lately and have been dying to read it. And, according to the cover the book was an instant NY Bestseller. That novel is Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll.

From the description, it’s supposed to be very much like Gone Girl but with it’s own twist. The teasers on the flap definitely drew me in. I can’t wait to find out what’s hidden in Ani’s past and how that past might jeopardize her future. I’ve been trying to avoid reading any reviews online so as to avoid spoilers. This seems like one of those books where the twist ending pulls the whole plot together.

Stay tuned for the full review of Luckiest Girl Alive. Happy reading!

The Moonstone

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moonstone

This is it. The last novel of 2015. In a way I can’t believe it’s over. I have to say that this book challenge was so much fun to do. It got me reading so many novels that I felt were way too far outside my comfort zone to try. This Book Battle has not only made me a more adventurous reader but also a more open minded one. Instead of just turning down a book because I think that I don’t like the genre, I’ll give it a try and see if I actually do or don’t. And thank you all for coming on this journey with me.

Now for the review.

I have to say that I didn’t enjoy The Moonstone nearly as much as I enjoyed The Woman in White. Both novels have very similar set ups. They’re epistolary novels and told in many different perspectives and in many different voices. I did enjoy the butler’s narrative in this novel but there were many that I found rather grating. In The Woman in White, I really enjoyed how many strong female characters Collin’s incorporated into the novel. The Moonstone is almost entirely male dominated and the women are just on the margins or, quite plainly, annoying.

I do love the detective aspect of this novel and seeing detective novels in their infancy and how much they have grown since this time. The detective isn’t in the novel long and isn’t infallible. He doesn’t quite have it right at first. He only solves the case after everyone comes together a second time.

All in all, The Moonstone was an enjoyable novel. However, if you’re looking for a great Wilkie Collins read I’d chose The Woman in White. 

Rating: 3.5/5

 

In a Dark, Dark Wood

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dark dark wood

“In a dark, dark wood there was a dark, dark house. And in the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark room. And in the dark, dark room there was a dark, dark cupboard. And in the dark, dark cupboard there was a dark, dark shelf. And on the dark, dark shelf there was a dark, dark box. And in the dark, dark box there was…”(Alvin Schwartz).

Sometime not completely unexpected but surprising nonetheless.

In a Dark, Dark Wood is Ruth Ware’s first novel. In the beginning, this novel reminded me so much of Agatha Christie’s Endless Night. There’s a house in the middle of the woods cursed by the townspeople for it’s very existence. A young woman about to be married, in this case throwing a hen party, and suffering through a series of “tricks” that will test her psychological stamina.

I loved how Ware created the creepy and suspenseful ambience in the novel. The house was terrifying. Full of windows that give the characters the feeling that they are a spectacle meant to be watched. Actors on the stage of a play they haven’t been given the lines for.

The main character, Nora, is a writer who left her hometown under mysterious circumstances and has yet gotten over it. She’s suddenly invited to her high school best friend’s hen party out of the blue and on a whim decides to go. Once there, she and the rest of the hen party, are in for quite a surprise.

This novel did pack some twists and turns but I have to say that I was a little let down by the big reveal. The foreshadowing in the beginning of the novel was amazing but kind of faltered in the middle and never was quite able to match the suspense of the beginning.

I did like how Ware used her red herring in the novel. It definitely threw me off the scent for a while.

All in all, I really enjoyed this novel. I liked a nod to the Classic Mystery genre, and one of Agatha Chritie’s lesser known novels. I’m excited to see what Ware’s next book will be and whether she will continue in the mystery genre.

Rating: 3.5/5

Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!

 

 

Career of Evil

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Career of Evil is the third installment in the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling. The first, The Cuckoo’s Calling, introduced us to both Strike and Robin and focused much of it’s efforts on how to plot of the novel brought the two characters together. The second Strike novel, The Silkworm, was extraordinarily plot driven. And this newest novel is a mix of the two. Career of Evil lets us get to know more about these characters that we’ve come to love. We learn about both Strike’s and Robin’s past and how their pasts lead them to each other and the life that each has chosen.

Strike and Robin remind me so much of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. They have a similar rapport with each other, outside of crime solving. Out of the three, this novel is by far my favorite. I feel like these two characters have been through so much together but know so very little about each other. And as a consequence, we the reader, don’t know much about either’s past.

This novel shines a light on the past of each and how it drew them to where they are. As we already know, Strike’s mother was a groupie and his father a famous rock star. The crime in this case directly goes back to Strike’s past and is the perpetrator’s way of getting revenge on Strike. The three main suspects represent each phase of Strike’s life and all of them have a good reason to want revenge. Robin’s past, although not directly related to the case, ultimately leads to her involvement in it.

I loved seeing both Robin and Strike evolve in this novel. The characters have so much depth to them. The closer I got to the end the sadder I became. I didn’t want this novel to have an ending. I would happily continue reading about Strike and Robin.

As with the other two novels, this one has all of the danger and perhaps a bit more romance. I loved the focus on each character as they get to know each other better, faults and all. This novel has a lot of miscommunication, especially between Robin and Strike. They see and hear what they want, and that may not be at all what the other person means. It leads to many tense moments in the novel and to the novel’s conclusion, which isn’t so much about the plot but more about resolving the conflict between characters.

Rating: 5/5 Can’t wait to see what’s next for this crime solving duo.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!

 

The Mistress of the Salmon Salt

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Next up in Book Battle 2015 is a book my mom loves. Like myself, my mom loves a good mystery. She’s been reading the Cormoran Strike novels and recommended them to me for this challenge. I read the first two and liked them immensely. Cormoran Strike is a brilliant character. He’s an English Philip Marlowe if you will. He’s got all of the demons chasing him from his past that he continually tries to outrun.

In this novel, his assistant Robin gets sent a human leg in the mail which leads them down a dark trail to find a killer who has a vendetta against Strike. Once again, Strike and Robin take matters into their own hands and doggedly try to solve the case against the wishes of the police department.

I can’t wait to read what’s in store for Strike and Robin and perhaps find out more about both of their pasts.

Stay tuned for the full review of Career of Evil. Happy reading!

It’s All in the Initials

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Midnight-Riot

Next up in Book Battle 2015 is a book where there author has my same initials. This was by far the most difficult book for me to find. In the end, I could only find two authors who shared by exact initials, B.A. I found so many who were A.B. I considered it for awhile but decided that I wanted to continue with the challenge. While browsing a bookstore I found Ben Aaronovitch and his novel Rivers of London, also known as Midnight Riot. 

From the back, this novel is about Peter Grant, a young police detective who finds himself as the apprentice to a wizard working for the London police. While learning magic, Peter becomes entangled in a strange series of crimes somehow based on the Punch and Judy puppets .

I must say that I’m extremely intrigued as to how all of these elements are going to fit together. I can’t wait to meet this Peter Grant and see how he solves this series of bizarre crimes.

Stay tuned for the full review of Rivers of London. Happy reading!

Before I Go To Sleep

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before i go to sleep

From the first this novel is jarring. The first person point of view really rattled my brain for a bit. It was a bit like jumping into a lake in the middle of winter. I wasn’t a huge fan. But soon the first person narrative begins to evolve as you get to know the character. It’s a pretty ingenious move by Watson to jar the reader right into the story. Sets the stage for whats to come. And places you a bit in the character’s own mind.

The basics of the story are a woman has a rare and severe form of amnesia that causes her to lose her memory every time she goes to sleep. She can wake up one morning as a child and the next as an adult. Each morning she has to be reminded of who she is and who her husband is. There are photographs on the mirror and other various signs to keep reminding her throughout the day who and where she is. She soon finds out that she’s been seeing a therapist in secret and has been writing copiously in a journal all of the things she remembers. She finds out that she’s been remembering much more than what people have been telling her. And her memories don’t quite line up with those closest to her, namely her husband.

This book was a roller coaster ride. I loved the thriller aspect of it. The novel kept me up late into the night so I could finish it and find out how the story ended. Some parts are a bit unbelievable but I can forgive those because the basis of the story is so frightening and complex. It’s one of the scariest ideas imaginable, to lose yourself and not be able to find it again. To not be able to trust your own mind. Is what you’re seeing real or have you made it all up? Is a bit like the movie Gaslight with Ingrid Bergman where her husband and his mistress are trying to slowly drive her insane. We instantly believe the things the people closest to us tell us about who we are and what has happened to us but this novel asks the question, should we? Should we believe what are loved ones are telling us or listen to our unreliable selves?

Rating: 4/5 If you like psychological thrillers this is the book for you!

Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!

The Little Sister

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The Little Sister

“The play was over. I was sitting in an empty theater. The curtain was down and projected on it dimly I could see the action. But already some of the actors were getting vague and unreal.”

Chandler writes about the detective and his city as opposed to detection as many classic mystery novelists. Marlowe’s city is Los Angeles, a place where dreams are made and broken. This quote really hit me from The Little Sister. To me it sums of the ambivalence of Los Angeles, especially in comparison to other cities. Everything has a tinge of the unreal. Everyone is an actor and everywhere is a stage. It’s hard to tell where reality and fiction cross and intertwine. Life is a movie set with a script that is rarely deviated from. This theme resonates throughout the novel. Many characters comment on casting of characters in the novel and lines they feel they must say. For example, when Mavis Weld, one of the main female characters in the novel and an actress, is talking to Marlowe she says: “I can’t think of any lines tonight.” And Marlowe replies, “It’s the technicolor dialogue.” Meaning this is real life, not a movie set. The line has been blurred and crossed and Mavis Weld wasn’t even aware of it. She can’t rely on a script to keep her steady.

This novel doesn’t have as much plot as some of the other Marlowe mysteries, instead focusing more on Marlowe himself, his relationships, and his relationship to the city he loves and hates. Marlowe is particularly down in this novel looking for connection in all the wrong places. One thing I’ve always loved about this detective is he doesn’t solve mysteries because of his superior intellect. He manages to solve cases through dogged determination.

All of Chandler’s characters have this kind of determination in one way or another. They live hard and die hard. They live wildly and eventually must pay the price. There isn’t much sunshine in Marlowe’s world. The Little Sister plays up the trope of the femme fatale more than any other Chandler novel I’ve read thus far. The women in this novel as in charge. They are the puppeteers pulling the strings. They hold the power and remain in the background to play their scenes.

I’m not going to give away the reveal, it’s pretty darn awesome, but will say you won’t be disappointed. The Little Sister is a novel about the underbelly of society and the blurring of lines. There are gangsters, Hollywood screen sirens, and down on their luck cops. Marlowe doesn’t set the world to rights and find the sun, but he does wait around for the finale.

Rating: 5/5

Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!

Paint it Noir

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Paint it Noir

For this installment of the Book Battle, I’ve decided to choose a book by an author I love but one that I haven’t read yet. I chose Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister. Ever since I read The Big Sleep in a detective fiction literature class in college I’ve been in love with this man’s writing style. Chandler and Hammett changed the way people viewed detective fiction. No longer was it the Golden Age mysteries of Agatha Christie with their definite solutions and easy situational comedy, the mysteries of Hammett and Chandler dealt with the seedier side of life. The side where not everything is easily solved and put back into it’s own little box. Chandler and Hammet invented noir. They changed the way people talked and changed the perception of the detective into a hard boiled man also somewhat down on his luck.

Raymond Chandler has such a unique writing style that makes it instantly recognizable, much like Hemingway. His style is minimal but still able to produce such a clear image in your mind as you read. As Ross McDonald said, he writes like a slumming angel. He’s not afraid to get into the gritty underbelly of what makes society tick.

This novel in particular focuses on Hollywood and movie magic. What fame can transform a person into.

Stay tuned for the full review of what I’m sure will be another fantastic Marlowe mystery!

Ghost Story

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Ghost Story

“What was the worst thing you’ve ever done? I won’t tell you that, but I’ll tell you the worst thing that ever happened to me…the most dreadful thing…”

Perhaps the best first line I’ve ever read from any book. I was immediately entranced by this novel and wanted to find out what this horrible, dreadful thing was. The prologue of the novel thrusts you right into the thick of things and definitely keeps you, as the reader, on your toes. You’re kind of getting the end in the beginning and then need to work backwards from there to figure out how this character got into the desperate situation he currently finds himself in. And that journey is one wild ride.

To break it down, since I don’t want to give anything away, the novel is about a group of older gentlemen who are exceptionally close friends. These gentlemen have a sort of club called The Chowder Society where they get together and tell each other ghost stories from their past, conveniently circumventing the story they are all involved in. When their dreams begin to become unbearable they decide to invite the nephew of a deceased member of the group to help them figure out what is going on. Each man, Sears, Ricky, John, and Lewis, have the same dream where they enter a house and watch the others die. Since the deceased member’s nephew, Don Wanderley, has written a book about paranormal events they think that he is the best person to help them figure out the strange events surrounding their small New York town and explain what is happening in their dreams.

Enter Don, who is currently living and teaching in Berkeley, and has met a mysterious and beautiful girl he immediately falls in love with. Things between the two escalate quickly and just as quickly fall apart. She’s a strange character and Don begins to suspect horrible things about her. Then as suddenly as she blew into his life, this girl, Alma Mobley, disappears without a trace. To only be found engaged to his own brother in New York. Don tries to warn his brother about the girl but his warning isn’t enough. Disaster strikes and his brother David commits suicide. His life in shambles, he decides to go and meet The Chowder Society.

The plot takes on a frenetic pace when Don arrives in Milburn. Whatever supernatural plans that started with The Chowder Society are fully actualized once Don enters the scene. Everything hits the fan and the town turns upside down. The worst possible things that can happen do, and it’s up to Don and The Chowder Society to find a way to repair the damage and save the town from it’s ghostly presence.

I know this all sounds a bit vague but I don’t want to give even a hint away. This is a novel that must be savored, and I don’t want to take that away from anyone who wants to read it.

I will tell you, this novel scared the pants off me. It took a while to build up but once it got there it was worth the wait. I spent many a night looking down the hallway making sure nothing was lurking there. I even thought about plugging in a nightlight. To me, this novel was the ultimate kind of scare. Like the Nightmare on Elm Street series, this novel dealt with entities invading your mind and taking control over your thoughts to show you things that aren’t real. They use your own thoughts, emotions, desires, and regrets to take control over you and make you do what they want of you. These entities muddy up the waters of perception and memory until you’re so confused you don’t know what’s up or down. You lose control of your faculties and are plunged into a facade of your desires before you realize that what you’ve entered is really a nightmare.

Even Stephen King has said that Ghost Story is one of the finest horror novels of the late 20th century. For anyone that loves a good psychological scare, I would highly recommend this book. This novel, however, is a lot more than a horror novel. It’s a psychological look at the human condition and how the mind can be such a powerful force for good and for evil. It shows that perhaps the worst nightmare can be one of our own invention.

Rating: 5/5 Go out and get a copy immediately.

And please stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!