All The Books I Can Read

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Review: Steam And Sensibility by Kirsten Weiss

steam-and-sensibilitySteam And Sensibility (Sensibility Grey #1)
Kirsten Weiss
Misterio Press
2017 (originally 2014), 168p
Copy courtesy of Red Coat PR via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Steam rising. California Territory, 1848. Gold has been discovered, emptying the village of San Francisco of its male population. Steam-powered technology is still in its infancy.

At 19, Englishwoman Sensibility Grey has spent her life tinkering in her father’s laboratory and missing the finer points of proper British life. But when her father dies in penury, she’s shipped to San Francisco and to the protection of an uncle she’s never met.

The California Territory may hold more dangers than even the indomitable Miss Grey can manage. Pursued by government agents, a secret society, and the enigmatic Mr. Krieg Night, Sensibility must decipher the clockwork secrets in her father’s final journal, unaware she’ll change the world forever.

Magic, mayhem, and mechanicals. Steam and Sensibility is a pre-Steampunk novel of paranormal suspense set in the wild west of the California gold rush.

I don’t read enough steampunk. I say that about things a lot….I don’t read enough mystery or crime or fantasy…..and now steampunk. But it’s true. I really don’t read enough steampunk. What I read, I always end up really enjoying and it always makes me make a note to find more books like it. But then that somehow gets lost in a pile of other books. I see a lot less steampunk novels, so I need to make more of an effort to seek them out.

Sensibility Grey is 19 and has recently just lost her father. She’s being sent to San Francisco, to her uncle only when she arrives and disembarks from her ship, he isn’t there. Several other people are though – a mysterious woman who claims to be a government agent, a dandy who claims to have her uncle and seems to want something he’s convinced Sensibility has in return, and a mysterious man. Sensibility needs to decide quite quickly what she’s going to do in this strange place where there are hardly any men. The men are all off making their fortune on the goldfields leaving behind a town of mostly women and a state not too far from anarchy.

From the moment Sensibility touches her feet on land, the book is fast-paced with plenty of action as one thing after the other seems to happen. It’s a game of cat and mouse between Sensibility and the government agent against the dandy, who wants the papers Sensibility rescued from her father’s things before the creditors took everything. Her father was a brilliant scientist who seems to have discovered something very important and a secret society will stop at nothing to have the notes on his work. They are heavily encrypted but no one knew her father and his work better than Sensibility herself, who grew up tinkering in his workshops. She’s actually very talented although she doesn’t yet see what she is capable of. Sensibility believes she can decrypt the papers although she’ll need some time, which they might not have as the dandy keeps threatening her uncle’s life.

I really liked Sensibility. She’s very young and she’s also very out of her comfort zone and she’s also grieving the loss of her only parent. I’m not sure what happened to her mother but it’s quite clear that it was the two of them for a very long time and his loss has definitely devastated her but in that sort of English young lady “well we must go on” sort of way. She is also learning that there was a whole side of her father that she never knew, that he was connected to this secret society, who are most decidedly nefarious. Sensibility is never quite sure who she can trust as it seems that there are plenty of games being played and some bluffing back and forth but I think she knows who she wants to trust.

This has an original publication date of 2014 and there are actually two further books in this series already published. I enjoyed this enough to definitely pick those up and see what is next for Sensibility and the friends she made.

7/10

Book #30 of 2017

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Review: My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

my-not-so-perfect-lifeMy Not So Perfect Life
Sophie Kinsella
Bantam Press
2017, 390p
Copy courtesy Penguin Random House AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Katie Brenner has the perfect life: a flat in London, a glamorous job and a super cool instagram feed.

OK so the truth is that she rents a tiny room with no space for a wardrobe, has a hideous commute to a lowly admin job, and the life she shares on Instagram isn’t really hers. But one day her dreams are bound to come true, aren’t they?

Until her not-so-perfect life comes crashing down when her mega-successful boss Demeter gives her the sack. All Katie’s hopes are shattered. She has to move home to Somerset where she helps her dad with his new glamping business.

Then Demeter and her family book in for a holiday, and Katie sees her chance. But should she get revenge on the woman who ruined her dreams – or try to get her job back? Does Demeter – the woman who has everything – actually have such an idyllic life herself? Maybe they have more in common than it seems.

And what’s wrong with not-so-perfect, anyway?

I really enjoy Sophie Kinsella’s books. I’ve read quite a few and most of them are just those perfect sort of books for a fun break, something that makes you laugh and you can zip through it.

I think a lot people will be able to relate to Katie Brenner. She’s a country girl, grew up on a dairy farm but her dream has been to live and work in London for as long as she can remember. And now she’s doing it, but it’s not quite what she expected. She works in “branding” and in a way she’s trying to rebrand herself from Katie into Cat. Except it’s not going quite as smoothly as she would’ve liked…she keeps stumbling over what her name is when asked and sometimes she takes a little too long to respond to being called Cat. Her job involves mostly admin or data entry stuff, not pitching any of her great ideas and her boss even has her do things like dye the roots of her hair. Her commute to work is hideous and she shares a tiny, cramped flat with two other people.

Who hasn’t want to “glamourise” their life a bit? I think that there’s a bit of a trend at times for this on Instagram where it’s really easy to portray only a tiny part of your life….a beautiful brunch in a cafe, a fun night out with friends, a stunning sunset. The life that Katie posts on Instagram is filled with awesome things, but she’s not the one actually doing/experiencing them and no one is any the wiser to the fact that she’s got her budget down to such an art that even one meal out could ruin it for the week. She doesn’t really have any friends and she just doesn’t know how to progress at work.

Things get even worse when she is let go from her job in a very humiliating way. She can’t tell her father that she’s been fired because there has been some strain in their relationship about London and he’s very protective of her. However it does free up some time for her to help her father and stepmother in their new business venture, which is something that plays to her strengths and when her former boss books in with her family for a holiday, Katie sees opportunity….for revenge.

I have to admit, I did find a lot of what Katie did amusing. It was also quite childish in a way, to seek revenge like that on someone that wronged her, make a fool of Demeter. But I think that’s also something people can understand. When people humiliate you, you sometimes want them to experience what you did at their hands. From the outside Demeter’s life seems so perfect to Katie. But when she actually begins talking to Demeter, she finds out that no matter what your position, be it lowly admin staff or boss, things might not always be as they seem. Demeter had her own problems and Katie realised that a higher salary and rank at a company didn’t suddenly mean that Demeter had a magic life. Everyone has problems.

I really liked Katie and found that she was very relatable. She was a country girl who had tried to stamp that out of herself for a more polished London look but mostly she was trying to be something she wasn’t for other people as if to justify her even being in the city in the first place. The Katie at the farm was much different…..because she was back in her comfort zone. But she had to go back I think, to realise that part of her was never going to go away and that she could make it a part of her London life.

This book is classic Sophie Kinsella – plenty of laughs with a down to earth main character and just a little bit of romance as well. It’s very feel good and I also really loved the way that Katie reworked her Instagram at the end of the book. Now that is a life.

8/10

Book #28 of 2017

 

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Review: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

pachinkoPachinko
Min Jin Lee
Apollo
2017, 485p
Copy courtesy of Harper Collins AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Yeongdo, Korea 1911.

In a small fishing village on the banks of the East Sea, a club-footed, cleft-lipped man marries a fifteen-year-old girl. The couple have one child, their beloved daughter Sunja. When Sunja falls pregnant by a married yakuza, the family face ruin. But then Isak, a Christian minister, offers her a chance of salvation: a new life in Japan as his wife.

Following a man she barely knows to a hostile country in which she has no friends, no home, and whose language she cannot speak, Sunja’s salvation is just the beginning of her story.

Through eight decades and four generations, Pachinko is an epic tale of family, identity, love, death and survival.

Every now and then you read a book which serves to remind you how little you truly know about something and for me, Pachinko was one of those books. I know next to nothing about Korean history and little about their culture as well. I haven’t read many books set in Korea or by Korean authors. This was a chance to learn a little about both in a multi-generational story that takes in Korea’s annexation by Japan, the devastating Second World War and the split of Korea thereafter into North and South Korea.

Sunja is just a teenager when she falls pregnant to a married man almost twice her age. Although he offers to house her and provide for her as his “Korean” wife, Sunja had no idea that he was already married and is insulted and offended, refusing his offer. Fearing ruin, she is surprised when one of the lodgers at her mother’s boardinghouse, a young Christian missionary named Baek Isak offers to marry her. He believes that things happen for a reason and it is Gods will that he show Sunja kindness, offer her a good life and save her from ruin. A sickly child, Baek Isak unexpectedly made it to adulthood and didn’t expect he would ever marry. He still feels that he will leave Sunja a young widow but this would be preferable to ostracism. The young couple move to Japan where Isak’s brother works in a factory.

What follows is a life of struggle in many ways. Money is always scarce and Sunja soon learns that Koreans are horribly looked down upon in Japan. All the bosses are Japanese, all the landlords are Japanese. If Isak’s brother and his wife hadn’t been able to purchase a tiny property, they would never have been able to find somewhere to rent as no one will rent to Koreans. Where they live is almost like a slum area, people crammed in together in high numbers but in small spaces. As things worse, Sunja and her sister-in-law are offered a surprising lifeline. This means defying Isak’s brother and going out to work but he is forced to swallow his pride and allow it in order for the family to live.

Sunja’s two children are very different, with her eldest being very bright and studious and her younger shunning learning and finding himself headed down a path for trouble in his teens before he is rescued and put to work for a man who owns numerous pachinko parlours (from what I could gather pachinko is kind of like a cross between an arcade game and a poker/slot machine). During their teens it seems as though the two boys could not be more different. The eldest is set for a prestigious college although securing the funding for the tuition might lead to selling his soul. The youngest who leaves school early, surprises by rising up the ranks rapidly and showing a real aptitude for the business. As the years roll by, the lives of the brothers diverge and then come back together in the most surprising of ways.

I had very little idea of the racism that existed in Japan towards the thousands of Koreans who ended up there either just before the war, searching for opportunities denied to them in an impoverished homeland, or because of the war. Sunja’s children are faced with mockery and bullying, the only way to survive is to be as Japanese as possible. Even faking it, changing their names to ones that sound Japanese and not Korean, speaking faultless Japanese, etc. There are jobs that Koreans would never be hired for simply for being Korean-born. Or even just having Korean parents.

This is quite a long book, almost 500p and covers 4 generations. It was the sort of book that for me, required slow and thoughtful reading so that I could take in as much as possible about the life and habits of the characters and not miss anything. Sunja is a tireless workhorse, as is her sister-in-law. Despite not meeting until when she and Isak arrive in Japan the two women forge a relationship that is perhaps closer than that of sisters. They are working constantly and when they are not working they are tending those that need it – injured husbands, dying relatives, etc. Because this is also a book that is underscored in tragedy. No matter the generation. I don’t think there is anyone in here who doesn’t experience terrible loss and cripplingly difficult times. There is poverty, war, disease, imprisonment, depression and fear but underneath all that is a determination to keep on going. To stoically accept these things and just…..keep going.

I found this book so interesting, it was the sort of book that it was so easy to become fully immersed in the lives of these people, their ups and downs, the dark tragedies and horrible sacrifices. But along with all of that, there was a lot of love and devotion, although perhaps not expressed demonstrably, as seemed to be the way. There are numerous mentions of not “spoiling” children with praise and affection (several characters break this rule but even when they do, their displays are very low key). It is a quiet sort of love, hidden inside but nurtured fully.

8/10

Book #27 of 2017

 

 

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Some Of My Favourite Romances

So it’s Valentine’s Day! To be honest, I’m not a huge celebrator of the day. We don’t really do anything for it. Today is also my stepdaughter’s birthday so it’s more about that. But I do love a good romance novel….of all types. Contemporary, historical, YA, fantasy…. So I thought that given today is the day of love, why not do a post celebrating some of my favourite books featuring romance? Not all of these books are strictly romances but they all contain romantic elements.

Contemporary

attachmentslickher-best-worst-mistakehating-gamein-at-the-deep-end

 

 

 

 

 

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (my review) I read this book just over five years ago and it remains one of my favourites of all time. There’s so much humour and sweetness in this and it’s just one of those books that makes you feel happy about life.
Lick by Kylie Scott (my review) This book had angst and chemistry in spades. My favourite things! It was a great start to a series – the story wasn’t perfect but the interactions were amazing.
Her Best Worst Mistake by Sarah Mayberry (my review) This has one of my most-loved pairings…confident, sassy woman and uptight, slightly repressed (but perhaps dying not to be) male. I re-read this sooo many times. Violet and Martin are so wrong for each other that they’re perfect. Even writing this now has made me want to go and read this all over again.
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne (my review) My favourite book of 2016. Love love love.
In At The Deep End by Penelope Janu (my review) My most recent obsession. Like the two above, there’s a little of the uptight, controlled male here as well. It is my thing.

Rural 

promisesgirl-in-steel-capped-bootsoutback-blazevineyard-in-the-hillsred-sand-sunrise

 

 

 

 

 

Promises by Cathryn Hein (my review) Lots of lovely angst here. A modern-day Romeo and Juliet set in a horseracing world. Sophie and Aaron are from warring families and this is a slow burn romance peppered with lots of secrets and guilt. But also lovely, lovely things. And I also want to read this again.
The Girl In Steel Capped Boots by Loretta Hill (my review) Oh wow, it’s been five years since I read this! This for me was a ground-breaking rural. Who thought the Pilbarra could be so sexy? There was so much to love about city girl Lena negotiating her way as one of 4 women in a camp of 400 men, including one very demanding client. Ah, Lena and Dan.
Outback Blaze by Rachael Johns (my review) It was hard to pick which Bunyip Bay book to choose because I like them all for different reasons but I think Drew and Ruby are my favourites. I do like a man in a uniform 😉
The Vineyard In The Hills by Lily Malone (my review {note I read this when it was named So Far Into You}) Really enjoyed this one, set in the wine-making region of South Australia. Remy was an awesome character and I appreciated the way that Seth listened to her and the conflict wasn’t drawn out unnecessarily.
Red Sand Sunrise by Fiona McArthur (my review) Midwives, very rural Queensland and a “stern faced giant”. Obviously I was going to like this!

Romantic Suspense 

in-safe-handsburning-lieslegacy-of-hunters-ridgehalf-moon-baydead-heat

 

 

 

 

 

In Safe Hands by Lee Christine (my review) Awesomely paced thriller about a Sydney lawyer who posed for photographs over ten years ago, which are now coming back to haunt her. She has to engage a former SAS man to keep her safe and the chemistry is smoking. There are also other books that follow on from this, each probably as good as this one.
Burning Lies by Helene Young (my review) An undercover cop investigating a suspected arsonist and a damaged Border Watch worker who helps track things from the air. Gotta love a good undercover guy, especially one who needs reminding on just who he is and what his life could be.
Legacy Of Hunter’s Ridge by Sarah Barrie (my review) A heroine suffering from PTSD has to confront her fears. This was so well written. The cranky neighbour who comes to tell her off is a bit of a jerk at first but when he sees just how much she is struggling, it’s the beginning of something new. There are also more books that follow on from this.
Half Moon Bay by Helene Young (my review) It was impossible not to include two books by Helene Young here. I really could’ve included more but restricted myself to my two favourites. This competes with Burning Lies and I often can’t decide which one I like the most. This one felt like home to me….it’s set in an area very similar and quite close to the one I grew up in.
Dead Heat by Bronwyn Parry (my review) A former undercover cop now detective in a quiet (ha) rural posting and a National Parks Ranger. Lots of crime and mystery but just enough romance as well.

Historical 

firebirdwild-girlEleven Scandals To Startsilent-on-the-moorseduction-of-the-crimson-rose

 

 

 

 

 

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley (my review) I could’ve included this either here or in contemporary as it’s a blend and to be honest, it’s the contemporary romance that interests me the most. But the historical portions of Susanna Kearsley’s books are so incredible. This one is intricate and fascinating. But I just love Nicola and Rob.
The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth (my review) Kate Forsyth just writes amazing, beautiful books. Every single time I get lost in these stories.
Eleven Scandals To Start To Win A Duke’s Heart by Sarah MacLean (my review) Sassy impetuous heroine. Stuffy, repressed Duke. Enough said.
Silent On The Moor by Deanna Raybourn (my review) The third in the Lady Julia Grey series, aka the one where things happen. The chemistry is angsty and electric and there are huge amounts of will they or won’t they etc. It’s my favourite in the series.
The Seduction Of The Crimson Rose (my review) I liked this one a lot because it was interesting to see two fundamentally selfish and basically unlikable people become better for knowing each other. Both Lord Vaughn and Mary are haughty and sarcastic but they’re also very fun together. Loved their banter and what each was willing to sacrifice.

Young Adult 

forget-youevery-breathsaving-francescaraw-blueanna-and-the-french-kisswhere-she-went

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forget You by Jennifer Echols (my review) Zoey you are so wonderfully clueless…and Doug is basically just wonderful. A bit of an ass at times but god what he put up with haha. I love these two. I imagine them as mid-20 somethings now, teaching swim teams or something.
Every Breath (the whole series really) by Ellie Marney (my review) Rachel and Mycroft are basically everything. Ellie Marney might write the best sexual tension I’ve ever read in my life. I love this whole series.
Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta (my review) Two words: Will Trombal
Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar (my review) Carly and Ryan oh my gosh. I love this book so much. It’s that little bit something different, my first foray into stuff that was a bit edgier. Neither Carly nor Ryan were the type of YA characters I was used to. This pulled me so far outside the box and it was amazing.
Anna & the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (my review) You know I was fully prepared not to like this one because of the circumstances with St Clair and also because the title (and original cover) were hella lame. But I was wrong. So very, very wrong.
Where She Went by Gayle Forman (my review) The guitar moment. I will never forget that! This gave me everything I needed after If I Stay 

Fantasy/Sci-fi/Paranormal etc

captive-princeshadowfeverworking-stiffcrosstalk

 

 

 

 

 

Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat (my review) I like books that surprise me and this book (this series actually) really surprised me. So much chemistry and intrigue. It has all of the feels!
Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning (my review) I love this whole series (ok, books 1-5, the more recent ones are a total hot mess) but I picked the final one because it’s my favourite. After the shocking end of 4, I needed 5 to be everything and I feel like it pretty much was.
Working Stiff by Rachel Caine (my review) and the other 2 books in the Revivalist series. To be honest, sometimes there are books that you just like. They just somehow have something that appeals and for me this series was one of those. I found the whole serum thing really interesting and poor Bryn and Patrick went through sooo much.
Crosstalk by Connie Willis (my review) Telepathy books…..there’s just something about them that works for me. I loved this….actually I still re-read bits of it occasionally when I’m in between books.

And there we go. To be honest it was pretty hard to keep each little category capped at a handful of titles because I quite easily could’ve included many more. For me, nearly all of these books could be termed as comfort reads, ones I can go to and pick up any time, open to any random page and just start reading. They’re all stories that have stayed with me and made me want to revisit them over and over again. Sometimes I do just that…..and writing this post has made me want to do it with so many more! I have at least 10 books that I want to re-read desperately from this post now!

If you have a favourite romance (or book with romantic elements) let me know in the comments! Especially if it’s one I haven’t read, because I’m always in need of more recommendations.

Happy Valentine’s Day, lovers!

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Review: The Ninth Grave by Stefan Ahnhem

ninth-graveThe Ninth Grave (Fabian Risk #2)
Stefan Ahnhem
Head Of Zeus
2017, 551p
Copy courtesy of Harper Collins AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Two countries in the grip of winter…

On the coldest day of the year, Sweden’s Minister for Justice steps out of Parliament House and into a blizzard – and disappears. That same night, across the Baltic Sea, a Danish celebrity finds a stranger lurking in her snow-bound home.

Two killers stalk the streets…

One is a srugeon who carefully dissects his victims. The other is a brutal predator who targets women. Police in Stockholm and Copenhagen are closing in on their suspects. But as winter darkens and more people die, their investigations begin to unravel.

Sometimes murder is just the beginning…

I was super keen for this next installment in the Fabian Risk series. The first book, Victim Without A Face ended at a pretty interesting place and I was really excited to see what happened next. So I was a bit confused when this began and Fabian was somewhere else. It took me a little while to realise that although this is book 2, it’s set before book 1. The events in this novel are how Fabian came to be back in his hometown at the beginning of the previous book, it explains more of the situation between Fabian and his wife….and also gives a better idea about the ‘other woman’ situation.

Fabian is called in to discreetly investigate the disappearance of the Swedish Minister for Justice, who stepped outside in a blizzard. There was a car waiting for him but the Minister disappeared and hasn’t been seen since. Meanwhile in Denmark, young female detective Dunja has been given the lead on an investigation into the brutal murder of the wife of a Danish television star. Much to her colleagues chagrin, Dunja has been placed in charge by her sleazy boss, whom she suspects might have ulterior motives.

It doesn’t seem possible that the disappearance of a Swedish politician and the savage murder of a woman in Denmark could be linked. But as the bodies keep piling up, soon both Fabian and Dunja, working different cases, discover that the victims are each missing something. In this case, it’s what is missing that helps complete the full picture.

It’s so nice to get a lot of the backstory that set up Victim Without A Face. You can tell that Fabian is under a huge amount of pressure, both at home and at work. His wife Sonja is an artist who is working day and night to finish her latest pieces in time, leaving Fabian to do the bulk of the parenting at home. Given that Fabian is out at all hours doing his job, this doesn’t generally work too well. The oldest child Theodor is about 13 in this novel and there are clearly some inklings that things are amiss with him. Their daughter Matilda is younger and her creatively artistic drawings for school depict the cracks that are running through the marriage of Fabian and Sonja. Most of the time Matilda is left in the care of a negligent babysitter or her distant older brother as Fabian searches for evidence, follows up hunches and takes women out to dinner. Fabian is the sort of person that is always going to get results in the cases he investigates but probably not without large amounts of collateral damage, some of that being the emotional development of his own family.

The plot is intricate….very intricate but it’s woven together incredibly well. As well as Fabian and Dunja, the reader is also treated to the thought processes of some of the victims as they struggle to piece together what is going on or in some cases, accepting their fate as perhaps a debt owed. Something that has finally caught up with them. That was really interesting and as the story unfolded and the pieces came together, it suddenly took on a whole new meaning. I don’t mind a non-linear timeline and I really liked the extra points of view. There are even some chapters that take place from the perspective of the killer(s) although it’s up to the reader to interpret who in particular is responsible for what.

As well as getting a lot more insight into Fabian and his family dynamic here, likewise we are treated to equally the same amount of Dunja’s backstory. She was one of my favourite characters in the first book and I really saw here how much she has put up with in order to have and hold her job. Her boss is an odious creature, her two colleagues resentful when she is put in charge, one so much so that his attitude towards her nearly results in her death when he ignores her call for help. There’s no doubt that Dunja is actually incredibly capable of running the investigation, despite the hindrances from her boss and her colleagues. However they assume she’s been put in charge because her boss either is sleeping with her, or intends to use his decision as leverage to be sleeping with her. They ignore her when she suggests that a closed case doesn’t feel ‘right’ and that there’s more to it. She has good instincts and after book 1 I’d hoped she’d be working with Fabian. Now I’m even more sure that it needs to happen.

The first two books in this series have both been winners for me. It’s been a while since I’ve started a new Nordic crime series but this reminds me why I’m such a fan of them. I know there’s a third book but I’m guessing it’s going to be a year or so before we see it released in English…..which isn’t fair because I’d really like it now, please.

8/10

Book #26 of 2017

Antique Maps of the WorldMap of EuropeNicolas Visscherc 1658

Antique Maps of the WorldMap of EuropeNicolas Visscherc 1658

This is the first book I’m counting for my European Reading Challenge 2017! It is mostly set in Sweden but also includes Denmark.

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Review: Victim Without A Face by Stefan Ahnhem

victim-without-a-faceVictim Without A Face (Fabian Risk #1)
Stefan Ahnhem (Translated from Swedish by Rachel Wilson-Broyles)
Head of Zeus
2016 (originally 2014), 550p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Detective Fabian Risk returns to his hometown to resolve a string of hideously inventive murders. The sensational debut from the new star in Nordic Crime Fiction.

A KILLER WITH A MESSAGE
The first victim was a bully who liked using his fists. The second was a thug who favoured steel-capped boots. Their bodies bore the marks of a killer who knew their sins. A single clue was left at the scene: a class photo from 1982, with two faces neatly crossed out.

A DETECTIVE WHO CAN’T LET GO
There are eighteen men and women in the photo who are still alive – and one of them is the lead detective on the case. Fabian Risk thought he’d left his schooldays behind. Now his classmates are dying for the sins of their childhood… Who is the faceless killer who’s come back to haunt them?

CAN YOU EVER HIDE FROM JUSTICE?

I received the second in this series for review and was originally going to see if I could borrow this one from my local library but then I happened across it randomly in a bookshop so I bought it. I’m pretty glad I did because even if this particular story isn’t referenced in the second book, it certainly gives quite a lot of background on Fabian Risk and his family and I believe all of that will be pretty useful when reading the second book.

Detective Fabian Risk, his wife Sonja and their two children are moving back to Fabian’s hometown. Previously they’d been living in Stockholm and the circumstances surrounding Fabian’s decision to move home and take a job in the local police are a bit murky. There’s the suggestion that Fabian is a bit of a rogue cop, the lone wolf type who although they’re good at their job, the result comes by way of hunches, individual investigation and probably a few legally grey areas. Although he’s supposed to take a couple of weeks vacation before starting in his new position, the gruesome murder of a former classmate of Fabian’s has him pulled in right away first as a way to get some information and then to officially be part of the investigation. It seems as though this classmate may be just the first victim and that others in the class are potential targets.

Fabian is one of those enigmatic, slightly douchey characters that knows something is wrong at home but pretends that it isn’t. There’s clearly some discord between him and his wife and this move back to his hometown is something of a fresh start. And there’s clearly a woman involved, back in Stockholm but to what extent isn’t made clear. Although Fabian seems to love his wife and absently love his children, he is also a workaholic who seems barely present in their lives. It’s always about the job, which is incredibly demanding and takes him away from his family for most hours of the day. Even when he’s supposed to be on vacation. Even when he’s been “excused” from the case. Fabian’s dedication and his brain work in interesting ways. He doesn’t always get it right….in fact there are a couple of mistakes and missed opportunities here where the end result is pretty catastrophic. But he keeps thinking, keeps digging until eventually he gets it.

I don’t particularly judge him for not knowing what was going on with his son. Theodor is a teenager who has pretty much removed himself from the family, spending time in his room thumping loud angry metal (Theodor it seems, is a refugee from the late 90s with Marilyn Manson, Metallica and Slipknot his angry bands of choice) playing CoD. He grunts at his parents when spoken to and considers most family outings “lame”. However, Sonja seems like a bit of a hovering parent, the one who is always all over it and a bit reluctant to cut the apron strings so I was pretty surprised when she took off with Matilda late in the book and left Theodor at home with a father who is out until all hours. Fabian also relies on texts to communicate with Theodor – it takes him god knows how many days to actually push open the door to his son’s room and attempt to lay eyes on him. Although he’s a teen, he’s only 14 so at the younger end of the scale. I know for sure I would not have been afforded such a freedom at that age….and perhaps if Fabian had been a little more vigilant, things would not have happened.

I don’t know much about Scandinavian relations but quite a lot of the book is structured around a reluctance to co-operate between Danes and Swedes when the suspect crosses borders. There’s a general disdain it seems from the Danish and there are police officers that delight in making it as difficult as they can for the Swedish team, heading up most of the investigation. This is something that appears to continue into the next book, given the blurb I’ve read. One of the most interesting characters is a Danish policewoman who kind of “breaks rank” and I hope that she’s going to be in the next book. I’d really like it if she were working with Fabian in his colleagues because she has all the makings of a great partner for him. She’s as reckless and rogue as he is in a lot of ways and I really enjoyed the parts of the book where she featured.

The story is delightfully twisty – some are quite predictable but then it takes a bit of an unexpected turn which was good. And the crimes are very gruesome and meticulously planned but I have to admit, I kind of queried the motivation. It just didn’t seem to be enough – the first suspect, that motivation made a lot of sense. A huge amount of sense actually. But the first suspect is rarely ever the culprit and when they find another suspect, it just seems too bland, a bit unbelievable as the reason for wanting to murder 20+ people.

I was pretty hooked though and the way the story built was amazing. By the end of it I was turning pages so fast, I was desperate to know how it was going to end. The suspense was really very good and some of the big reveals were very well orchestrated. I am definitely looking forward to the next book. I was going to read something else before I picked it up but I really want to find out how Fabian’s mental state is so I think it’s going to be my next read.

8/10

Book #25 of 2017

 

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Review: Close To Home by Lily Everett

close-to-homeClose To Home (Sanctuary Island #5)
Lily Everett
St Martin’s Paperbacks
2017, 304p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

The best journeys take us home….

When Tessa Alexander came to Sanctuary Island, she left behind a marriage to a man who didn’t love her the way she loved him. When she finally found the strength to set them both free, she discovered friendship and self-acceptance in her adopted hometown. Now she’s settled into a quiet life on her own—never expecting to see her husband again.

Johnny spent almost two years deep undercover, unable to let his wife into his cold, dangerous world. He’s shaken to the core when he comes home to find her gone. It’s painfully clear that Tessa is no longer the timid young woman he married—she’s become a force of nature, a brave and determined beauty. Johnny can’t let her go without a fight so he sets out to seduce his own wife. But will passion alone be enough to convince Tessa that her new life should include a second chance at happiness with a man who must learn to believe in love?

Whoops, I did it again – picked a book that I didn’t know was part of a series. However this one stands up perfectly well on its own and I don’t feel that I lost anything for not having read the previous books in this series.

Johnny works for the ATF and has just returned from two years deep undercover to find out that his wife of eight years has left him a “Dear Johnny” letter. Despite the fact that their marriage was unconventional, Johnny isn’t willing to let it go like that so he tracks her down. He finds that Terri, his shy and timid wife has morphed into Tessa, a woman with a different haircut, a big laugh and a confidence that was missing before. She seems determined that although she’s grateful to Johnny for helping her years ago when she desperately needed it, she’s okay now. And that they should go their separate ways. But Johnny asks for a month while he attends a therapy program designed to help him transition from undercover back into reality.

Johnny had one of those massive hero/saviour complexes. He rescued Tessa, then known as Terri as a terrified teen and even married her to help her before shipping out with the army. After several deployments he joined the ATF, working undercover operations and pretty much everything he does revolves around helping and protecting people. I know he’s just come back from a very long and dangerous mission but Johnny sees danger everywhere even in the tiniest town in the world. He meets a new person in town (Johnny himself is new in town) and immediately assumes the guy is some kind of criminal because he has watchful body language and a military demeanour. Instead of assuming that maybe he’s burned out or has retired, he wonders if he’s used his military skills to segue into crime but he bases this on nothing just his instinct. If this is Johnny’s instinct at work, it makes me worry for the skills of the ATF division, frankly.

Despite the fact that Johnny and Tessa were married for eight years, he spent most of those away either on deployment or undercover so their marriage, which began as one of convenience and help for Tessa, wasn’t even a real marriage, something that I found a little hard to believe. I couldn’t really see the point of having it unconsummated for so long other than to exacerbate Johnny’s hero complex. He has this view of Terri (as she was back then) of being this precious, fragile flower and perhaps she might’ve been when they first met. But she began to put herself back together but his view of her really didn’t change until after she left him and he was confronted with the new Tessa who wasn’t afraid to state her opinions and was willing to go out there and find happiness. I think Tessa felt that Johnny would stay with her forever in the platonic marriage they had for all time out of loyalty, obligation and a need to protect her, so she chose to leave him so that they both might find something truly deeper than that. Whilst Johnny might’ve wanted Tessa (even when he didn’t touch her) he had said he wasn’t open to the whole love thing and Tessa wanted that. Johnny had to learn the hard way that his feelings for Tessa ran deeper than what he was willing to acknowledge.

I think this story was okay – I would’ve liked more background to their marriage and I’m glad Tessa took it upon herself to carve out a life without relying on Johnny. But I think that ultimately Johnny’s obsessive need to protect and save really got on my nerves. There was an attempt to give it a good background but it came too late in the story and was brushed over too quickly, as was how he was going to move on from it. I think I was more interested in the secondary story which sets up the couple in the sixth book, I kept waiting for them to reappear.

6/10

Book #24 of 2017

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The Big Three Five

It’s been a pretty big week here. Last Thursday, this happened: img_4594My littlest fella started school. I’d posted here before about some of the concerns I had about it. He’s shy and lacks self confidence and he’s going to an extremely large school. There are fifteen classes of kids his page, that’s about 250 kids in his year alone and the school goes to year 9. So it’s super big. The first morning he was excited but when we got to school he was very nervous and unsure. Unfortunately for us, the first morning was a bit of a disaster. When we had to leave, he was sobbing  – basically our worst nightmare. We felt that everything that could go wrong for him in the first few minutes did and sometimes he can be hard to bring back once he’s lost his confidence in what he’s doing. They had someone with him (an aid or helper teacher maybe) when we left and we thought he was going to have the worst day. But when we picked him up he was beaming and full of excitement, babbling about all the things they did. Thankfully once he calmed down he obviously had a fantastic day. The second day routine was much better for him and now he’s had four awesome days. He seems to really enjoy the learning aspect of school, which we expected. He’s genuinely excited to go and he loves his teacher.

He looks so grown up in his school uniform. I could just about cry every time I see him to be honest.

img_4647

But it’s not all bad. Yesterday I turned 35 and had the first “child free” birthday with my husband since 2008! We decided – well to be honest decided – to go out for a “grown up” sort of lunch! A nice bar/restaurant place opened a couple weeks ago nearby, I’d been hearing a few things about it, seeing a few pics on social media so I thought we might go and check it out. I’m not much of a drinker – never have been. But I’d seen pics of the martinis they do. There’s a huge range, from espresso to nutella to white chocolate to apple to lychee and probably a bunch more. Originally I’d really wanted to try an espresso one but when we got there I changed my mind and went for the apple martini. I wanted something fresh and this was a perfect choice. This is literally the first martini I’ve ever had in my entire life and I thought it was delicious. I can’t wait to go back and try more! Although can I just say how unsteady those glasses are? Every time I picked it up I had to be incredibly careful or I’d have worn that drink. Maybe it’s a ploy because there’s no way that drunk people don’t spill half of every drink they buy in a glass like that!

img_4636Food was amazing….I had a club sandwich with beer battered fries. My husband had a Moroccan lamb burger with onion rings. He doesn’t even like onion so I thought he might give me the onion rings and I’d hand over my fries. But no. He ate them! That’s how good they were.

img_4635And another pic of my drink, because why the heck not?

Turning 35 felt kind of weird. Normally I don’t really care a whole lot about my birthdays. Some people find turning 30 hard but I didn’t think anything of it at all. In fact I can’t even remember my 30th birthday. Don’t even think I did anything in particular for it. I had a 4 month old at the time, so maybe that’s why! But for some reason, turning 35 felt like one of those ‘milestone’ birthdays. Perhaps it was triggered by a message from my younger brother who advised me that I was now on the path to 40. Technically it’s true although I do have a few years to go before I get there! It’s funny, there’s 3 years and 7 months between us and when we were kids, I adored the time of the year I was 4 years older than him. I would have a birthday in Feb and then until September I would be 4 years older. Then he’d have a birthday and I’d only be 3 years above him in age. Now it’s kind of the opposite! He always hated being the younger one, now he loves reminding me how much older than him I am!

It made me think about things….like what do I have to show for 35 years of existence? I don’t feel 35. Recently a friend of mine tagged me on facebook in an old school picture she found. It was year 7 and we are both 12. The thing that struck me about it was my oldest kid is only four years younger than I was in that picture. It didn’t seem possible that it’s been 23 years since that picture. The fact that I have an 8yo is what cemented how long ago it truly was. I can remember the days when 40 felt positively ancient and now it’s my next “milestone”. I understand the whole 40 is the new 30 thing, because when I was younger 40 felt so positively grown up, like you were almost retired or something. Now I suspect 40 is going to feel very much like ‘now’ does. And half the time I still live like I’m 21 and at university, eating inappropriate food for breakfast.

What does this have to do with books? Well, there’s a connection. What do you get a book blogger for her birthday? Books or money to buy books! The Friday before my birthday I went shopping with a few things in mind that I would’ve liked. Mostly it was a fail but I did find this:

victim-without-a-face

Victim Without A Face by Stefan Anheim. This is the first in the Fabian Risk series. I received the second one for review but I’m a bit precious about reading series books out of order or with no background when they contain the same characters. I’m okay with it in romance series connected by a town or something where the ‘couple’ changes each book. But with crime series’ quite often there’s continuity and background. This was a bit of a random find, I wasn’t really looking for it but when I spotted it I decided to grab it. I’ve already started reading it….I’m about 100p or so in and it’s gruesome and quite intriguing. Scandinavian crime is decent.

I was intending to hunt down Traitor To The Throne by Alwyn Hamilton but I couldn’t find it anywhere. Nor did I have much luck in finding the types of clothes I wanted to buy (shorts that didn’t have half my ass hanging out, maxi skirts) so I think I’ll plan a trip into the city at some stage soon to buy lots of books and things to wear. Well that’s the plan anyway. How come when you have money to spend you can never find anything to buy but when you don’t there are so many things you wish you could?

 

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Review: The Immortal Bind by Traci Harding

immortal-bindThe Immortal Bind
Traci Harding
Harper Voyager
2017, 368p
Copy courtesy Harper Collins AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

The adventure of a lifetime… or two, or three

When Sara is gifted a beautiful antique chair as a wedding present, she is completely unaware that it is one of a unique pair. On the other side of the world, the chair’s twin is presented to a reclusive artist, Jon, as a birthday gift.

The two new owners are thrust into a mind-expanding adventure through the ages – medieval East Anglia, Scotland, France and India. In each instance they experience significant junctions in their lives past, to remember and redress ripples of karma they set in motion, and thwart an evil entity that still threatens their present day lives.

Their journey exposes a cursed love affair spanning one hundred thousand years and ten thousand miles. Only the full realisation of their own short comings will prevent the tragic reoccurring outcome of their immortal bind.

They say you should never judge a book by its cover. But I think most, if not all readers are guilty of it in some way. I know I certainly am and I as soon as I pulled this book out of the packaging, I wanted to read it. Before I’d even glanced at the blurb. The colours are ‘my thing’ – those beautiful greens and blues. It looked mysterious.

In the present day, clothing designer Sara and artist Jon are both gifted antique chairs by the people closest to them. Sara lives in Australia, Jon in England. Both love their new gifts….but are stunned to see that the chairs appear to possess magical powers, causing each to sleep and dream vividly when both are sitting in them. The dreams take place in very different time periods and places but the general story is always the same – star crossed lovers kept apart by an evil character who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. In each dream, Sara and Jon play the roles of the young lovers and they are surprised to recognise people they know playing various bit parts.

Both Sara and Jon soon realise that these are no dreams…..and that they are the current manifestations of an ancient curse. The only way to escape the vicious cycle that repeats every few hundred years is to end the curse. First they will have to discover how to do that…..when they haven’t even met in this life and are separated by thousands of kilometers and pursued by a creature who is determined to finally possess what has eluded him for over thousands of years.

This book definitely lived up to my expectations from its pretty cover! I was hooked from the first page and I found every single part of the story so well constructed and they were all expertly woven together. I know very little about a lot of the background of some of the timeframes but it really didn’t matter. I found that each time Jon and Sara experienced another “dream” I kind of cared little about where and when it was taking place and more about the people within it. Each one is really heartbreaking and frustrating as well. After the first one or two you know that any more ‘dreams’ they experience can really only end one way and that unless they figure out the messages in the dreams and discover a way to break an ancient curse, then their current incarnation will end the same way as all of the previous ones.

There’s something so incredibly romantic about the idea of having a soul mate that you are destined to come across in reincarnation. I am not sure if it doesn’t happen in every lifetime or if there is a gap between everything aligning for the recincarnations…..there are remarks made that there’s a wait of another couple hundred years before it will happen again and in the current life, Jon and Sara couldn’t be more far apart. They aren’t in a relationship, they haven’t even crossed paths. Everything seems stacked against them in this time period, even more so than in all the rest. Of course less romantic is the part of the story that sees someone who will stop at nothing in order to prevent you from being with your soul mate but that adds the suspense element.

With each story showcasing a previous life, I found that I became more and more invested in Jon and Sara finally getting to live a life together, even though these two people hadn’t actually met yet! Both of them had already suffered so much in other lives and when they dream about them whilst sleeping in the chairs, they experience it as if living it all over again. I also really enjoyed the role that their best friends played – both in this life and in the previous manifestations. In each, the role was a little different and it seemed to grow and evolve as well. I appreciated the trust and belief that the friends had in Jon and Sara too, some without even seeing proof of the “weirdness” of the chairs!

This is the first book by Traci Harding that I’ve read and I loved it! It has such atmosphere and so many elements….romance, history, mystery, fantasy, friendship, a bit of suspense. I’m definitely going to have to look for more of her books – she has quite an extensive backlist, some 20 or so books! It’s always good to find an author that you’ve enjoyed and discover that they have so many more books! There are a few series’ too and I love a series so I’m pretty excited. As a reader it’s good to step out of your comfort zone every now and then, try things that you might not normally gravitate towards.

8/10

Book #23 of 2017

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The Immortal Bind is the 9th book for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

 

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Review: Fearless by Fiona Higgins

fearlessFearless
Fiona Higgins
Allen & Unwin
2016, 392p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Six strangers from across the world converge on the tropical island of Bali to attend a course designed to help them face their fears. Their backgrounds are as diverse as their fears – which range from flying, public speaking and heights, through to intimacy, failure and death…

Friendships and even romance blossoms as the participants are put through a series of challenges which are unusual, confronting and sometimes hilarious. A week of fun in the sun suddenly tranforms into something far more serious, however, when the unthinkable happens – a tragic disaster that puts the group in deadly danger that will test the individual courage of every member…

Shocking, powerful and utterly gripping, Fearless takes you to the edge and makes you look down.

I loved The Mother’s Group by Fiona Higgins and quite enjoyed Wife On The Run so I asked my husband if he might purchase this book for me as my Christmas present from “Santa”. I included it in my February TBR pile and it was the first book I ended up choosing to read.

Mixed circumstances bring 6 strangers to the same group in Bali. Known as ‘Fearless’, it’s a workshop designed to help people confront their worst fears so that they can then move past them. The fears are mixed….fear of flying, fear of public speaking, fear of heights, fear of intimacy, fear of snakes, fear of failure…..maybe even fear of death. Each of the six participants share a little about themselves as they attempt to overcome the fears that they believe are holding them back in various aspects of their lives.

I’ve never been to Bali and to be honest, I don’t really see the allure. It’s not somewhere I’d ever choose to go and I probably have to revoke my Australian citizenship right now for such an admission. For many Aussies, it’s an ideal holiday destination. It’s close and it’s cheap…..and few things are when you live all the way down here. Each of them are in Bali for different reasons and for some, Bali is a long way from home in terms of living conditions. There’s definitely a bit of culture shock. Fiona Higgins has spent some years living in Indonesia and that definitely showed as there was a lot of information about Bali and the Javanese that come and work there, things that I didn’t really know about before reading this.

As the blurb mentions, there’s a rather shocking incident/disaster that puts the lives of everyone in the group in danger and I have to admit, I’d been reading so long that by the time it occurred I’d kind of forgotten that there was going to be something that happened. It seemed to come up out of no where but also be very late in the story. To be honest, I wasn’t a big fan of that particular part of the story line…..it just felt like an attempt to be current but without even putting a deeper meaning into it, just picking the easiest most cliche option and going with it. Despite the tragedy there are a large number of things that are incredibly convenient. One of the members of the Fearless group speaks quite fluent Indonesian which ends up being incredibly helpful and there are some other things as well that came across as all being quite a bit too easy despite the seriousness of the situation.

For anyone who has read The Mother’s Group and is curious about what happened to Cara, then Fearless should help in some ways with that. Cara is one of the participants of the ‘Fearless’ group and we do learn quite a bit about how she’s coped (or not) in the years since the incident. And although I admit that I was really excited to discover that one of those participants was Cara, I do have to admit that I found the rest of them kind of lacklustre and a little, well, obvious. The Italian fashion photographer, the dweeby English birdwatcher. There wasn’t a lot of subtlety in the portrayals and in the beginning, they all seemed to fit rather neatly into the stereotypical boxes of their nationality.

The idea of the workshop overcoming the individual fears was interesting and the activities they had to undertake ranged from amusing to truly frightening! I also did really like the look at the leader of the Fearless program and how his attitudes changed after the incident towards the end of the book. That showed a bit more depth to that character. So while I liked the idea of the fear exploring (not sure I’d have the courage to confront my greatest fears!) there were other aspects that I just felt threw the book out. It was almost like reading two separate books: the book about the people exploring their fears and then a book about people who get caught up in a horrible act. I didn’t love this as much as I thought I was going to although I did like it. There were some interesting secondary characters that really helped flesh it out a bit but ultimately I wanted more from the six characters confronting their fears. I wanted them to show something that surprised me instead of doing, saying and feeling things that seemed quite predictable. And to be honest, I don’t even know what to say about Lorenzo.

6/10

Book #22 of 2017

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Fearless is book #8 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

 

 

 

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