The Woman in Cabin 10 ~ Ruth Ware

woman-in-cabin-10ISBN ~ 9781501132933
Publisher ~ Gallery/Scout Press
No. Of Pages ~ 352 pages
Links ~ Barnes & Noble, Simon & Schuster, Target

In this tightly wound story, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

With surprising twists and a setting that proves as uncomfortably claustrophobic as it is eerily beautiful, Ruth Ware offers up another intense read.

2 Thumbs-UpThis is the first book I have read written by this Author.

I have to start out by saying that I found the main protagonist the least likeable character I’ve read in a very long time, and despite the traumatic events she experiences at the beginning of this book does not improve as the storyline progresses.  I have no insight into why an Author would write a character in this manner; she is blatantly rude to everyone she comes across, including the man she is supposed to love, and then shocked and surprised when they refuse to give credence to her claims.  The supporting characters are dealt with less harshly, and some of them are far more likeable than the main, who seems to find a reason not to like or trust anyone.  I can only assume that the Author including a drink and mental health problem to the main character is their way of trying to explain away the bad behaviour.  She is not a strong woman in any sense of the word, and rather than showing an empowered woman who is holding her own in her chosen profession, the reader is subject to a woman who falls apart at the slightest noise, and sees dangers lurking in every shadow and corner.

The book itself is nothing new plot wise, in fact it read pretty much as a modern-day rehash of the old Agatha Christie ‘locked room’ cosy mystery; just not as well penned or suspenseful.  It is also full of implausible moments and bad dialogue to boot; after all how many times does the reader need reminding that the main character did not read the press package?  This book could have been so much more given the setting and its starting out well-paced and somewhat suspenseful, it is a shame that the Author could not have kept this tone throughout the novel.

If you enjoyed this Author’s debut novel, you may well enjoy this offering; as for myself I can’t, in all conscience recommend this book and will not be reading anything else by this Author.

divider

Louise’s War ~Sarah R. Shaber

Louises WarISBN ~ 9780727880406
Publisher ~ Severn House Publishers
No. Of Pages ~208 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Books

The first in a new series from the author of the ‘Simon Shaw’ books – 1942. Louise Pearlie, a young widow, has come to Washington DC to work as a clerk for the legendary OSS, the precursor to the CIA. When, while filing, she discovers a document concerning the husband of a college friend, Rachel Bloch, – a young French Jewish woman she is desperately worried about – Louise realizes she may be able to help get Rachel out of Vichy France. But then a colleague whose help Louise has enlisted is murdered, and she realizes she is on her own, unable to trust anyone . . .

4 Thumbs-UpThis is the first time I have read a book by this Author, and I was pulled to it by the subject matter; I have read many books about the SOE and their operatives, I was interested to read about the American equivalent, OSS.

I was initially disappointed by the fact that this was not an OSS book, but rather a novel that revolved around the life and experiences of the title character who worked for the OSS.  Very much like the real women in the book The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II, the main protagonist was firm in her belief that any little she could do would help win the war.  Despite not being a war widow, she has taken full advantage of the war to expand her horizons and make a new life for herself.  The whole story is told from her point of view and, despite living in a boarding house full of other war workers in DC, it also manages to highlight the mistrust that so easily arose from the slightest thing, and how everyone had secrets.  Apart from the main character, those others mentioned in the book were not given as in-depth a back-story, and even in this I felt there was something in Louise’s story that the Author was holding back, or has not quite decided on making a part of her character yet.

I particularly liked the descriptions of live in the capitol during the war years, and had a wry smile at the mention of rationing in a country that was capable of producing food for themselves.  It is apparent that the Author has meticulously researched this book as it covers things from victory gardening to the insufferable heat that was documented for 1942, and how the inhabitants of Washington DC coped with it.  This book actually became quite sluggish in part (maybe a reflection of the hot summer), but it left me feeling that the pace of the action could have been picked up to add to the flow and tension of the book.

I would recommend this book to any reader looking for a quick but enjoyable read on a rainy day; I read it in one sitting.  I will be reading others in this series as the fate of Louise and the OSS has me curious.

divider

Review: Jackaby ~ William Ritter

JackabyISBN ~ 978-1616203535
Publisher ~ Algonquin Young Readers
No. Of Pages ~ 299 pages
Links ~ Algonquin Young Readers, Barnes & Noble,

“Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion–and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.

5 Thumbs-UpThis is the first one in a series and, when I realised it was aimed at the young reader market it made me come to the conclusion that all hope of ever finding a good read in this genre is not dead.

The Author certainly has a way with words, and a wonderful way of using them.  This becomes apparent from the first character introduction he writes.  Not only does he make his characters three-dimensional and interesting from the very first meeting, but he manages to keep this standard up and apply it to all subsequent characters that appear throughout the book.  It may be wrong of me but, as the title of the book suggests, Jackaby is not the only front and centre main protagonist in this novel; his assistant takes equal footing as the story progresses and, in some places outshines Jackaby.  When this happens it doesn’t read as if the Author ran out of steam as far as Jackaby was concerned, but rather embraced the ebb and flow of real life into the plot that makes it inevitable that lead roles will change.  The description of our title character, and his actions, had me swinging between wondering if he was truly the genius he purported to be and also trying to figure out how he had evaded being consigned to the nearest asylum long before the story takes place.  His assistant on the other hand shows all the traits and stubbornness that many young women were feeling in this time period, and went to extraordinary lengths to stretch those newly discovered wings.  I particularly liked with her character the way in which the Author had her determined in her path but at times interspersed this with a glimpse at the closeted lifestyle she had left behind.  In the supporting cast of characters, some of whom I do hope will appear in future instalments, they too were treated with as much care and consideration as the main characters.  Do I have a favourite in all those presented to me within this novel’s pages?  I certainly do, and I would have to say there wasn’t one that I didn’t like.

With as much care as he put into his characters, this Author sets the locations and events within the book.  He pulls on the weather and lifestyles of the period to create atmosphere and suspense in a way that I can honestly say I haven’t seen in a YA book before.  The Author manages to blend the thought processes of Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and Harry Dresden together in a seamless manner; the end result being something that really shouldn’t work producing a whole new way to look at the world of detection.  There is no wasted area in the book, as scenes visited early on come back at some point to play an integral part of the plot; the result of this is an engrossing read that will pull you into the mystery from the very first chapters.

I would highly recommend this book to readers of all ages, not just those in the aimed demographic, and also anyone who enjoys any of the characters mentioned in the previous paragraph.  Will I read anymore by this Author?  Definitely, I am already halfway through book two in the series.

divider

Review: Relic (Pendergast #1) ~ Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

RelicISBN ~ 978-0312856304
Publisher ~ Forge
No. Of Pages ~382 pages
Links ~ prestonchild.com, Barnes & Noble, Amazon

When a team of archaeologists is savagely massacred in the Amazon Basin, all that survives are several boxes of relics and plant specimens. From boat to boat, from port to port, the battered crates drift. They finally reach New York City – only to be locked away in the basement of a museum, lost and forgotten.

But the black heart of the Amazon never forgets. Just days before the Museum’s massive new exhibition opens someone or something other than tourists and school children is roaming the echoing halls and dusty galleries. And people are turning up savagely murdered.

Forensic evidence points to a killer of terrifying strength and ferocity. Rumors of a “Museum Beast,” never far from the surface, rise again among the Museum staff. But then Margo Green, a graduate student working in the Museum, uncovers a link between the killings, the failed Amazonian expedition, and an odd figurine that will be displayed for the first time. Will she be able to put the pieces together and stop the deadly menace before terror strikes again?

4 Thumbs-UpI have to put this up front, if you are not a fan of gory murders full of graphic detail in your book, or get bored with scientific theories in your fiction this may not be the book for you.

This book is the first collaborative work of Preston and Child, and also the first in the Pendergast series.  Unlike most of the books in this series it cannot be read as a standalone and is followed on by Reliquary; the other two books that must be read in order in the series are Dance of Death/Book of the Dead.  But I digress, I’m reviewing Relic not the entire, to date, 14 book series. I picked this up on the recommendation of a friend and, not knowing what to expect, was taken by surprise; it is the first book written by these two Authors I have read.

I found the characters both intriguing and infuriating at the same time, and was pleasantly surprised to see that the aforementioned Pendergast was not actually the main protagonist in this book, rather took a secondary place to another.  I thought this was a great way of introducing a character that would eventually become the focus of a lengthy series, rather than having him leap out of the pages at the reader full-bore and in your face.  It actually is one of the reasons I will probably continue to read more in this series, he intrigued me and made me want to find out more about him.  In creating the characters in this book, the Authors supplied enough details about them to allow the reader’s imagination to fill in the blanks or speculate as to what might follow.  It is not only Pendergast that the Authors decided to just give ‘tasters’ to the character personality, they applied this to all the characters in the book and, while I found it an interesting way to lead into a series, I would have preferred to have more background on some of those characters who were probably not going to make it out of the end jacket alive, and this is the reasoning behind my 4 thumbs review.

It is a fast paced book, full of twists and turns that I really didn’t see coming.  This edge of the seat action kept me turning the pages until to my surprise I had finished the book in a day.  The idea of the entirety of the story line taking place in a Museum, and the suspense this brings with it makes this a book a would recommend to anyone who enjoys a book full of twists, turns and a little humour in places.

divider

Review: The Witch’s Ladder (Tony Marcella Mystery #1) ~ Dana E. Donovan

witch's ladderISBN ~ 978-1492139720
Publisher ~ CreateSpace
No. Of Pages ~ 292 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes and Noble

A group of individuals proficient in the psychic academia of clairvoyance, mental telepathy and bilocation, working to understand life’s most unusual secrets soon realize that even their abilities of mind over matter can’t save them from the blade of the surgeon stalker.

4 Thumbs-UpI didn’t realise when I read this book, and found out only when I started writing my review that this is the first of, what is currently a series of eleven books.  However, don’t let that put you off from reading it, even if you’re not looking for another long series to take up your time, this book works very well as a standalone.

Not the usual run of the mill paranormal murder mystery, this one reads more like a novel from an earlier time, with character back story being kept to a minimum and the main focus concentrating on the murder mystery at hand.  This really doesn’t spoil the book in any way though and, in my opinion added to making it a fast paced summer read, just right for these hot July days.  The Author manages to tease the reader with just enough information about the main protagonist, Tony Marcella as mentioned in the title, to make the reader perhaps want to read more the books to discover what makes this man tick.  Far from being the jaded, coming up to retirement detective readers so often come across in this type of book, I felt that there was an underlying mystery to the man himself and this in itself has made me want to read more in this series to see if my suspicions may be right.

The book is very descriptive when it comes to the actual murders themselves, so if you have a squeamish disposition or don’t like overly graphic murders in your reading material, this may not be the book for you.  In regards to the plot line though, it is full of twists and turns and definitely keeps the reader guessing.  There were several points where I thought I had it all figured out, only for the Author to take my deductions and dash them to pieces with the turn of a page.

My reasoning for this book only getting a 4 thumb review; there were several typos and grammatical errors that I felt should have been corrected by a good proof-reader and, if missed by them any editor worth their salt should have picked them up they were so obvious.  This spoilt the book in some parts for me, as I found myself having to re-read a paragraph to really understand what the Author was trying to get across.

Despite the errors it was a good read, not my usual genre as I tend to find paranormal books a bit sparkly for me, and I would recommend this book to anyone, even those like myself who are not into this genre.

divider

Review: Skull Session ~ Daniel Hecht

skullISBN ~ 978-1582344966
Publisher ~ Bloomsbury USA
No. Of Pages ~ 496 pages
Links ~ iTunes, Amazon, Daniel Hecht

Despite his brilliance, Paul Skoglund hasn’t held a steady job for years, partly because of his Tourette’s syndrome. When his eccentric, wealthy aunt asks him to take on the repairs of her magnificent hunting lodge, he is in no position to refuse. But then he finds that the rambling old house has been savagely vandalized: he discovers a scene of almost superhuman destruction, a violence mirrored by a series of disappearances and grisly deaths haunting the region. Paul delves into the wreckage, wondering what dark passion—and what strength—could cause such chaos. As state police investigator Mo Ford pursues the mystery through official channels, escalating events force Paul deeper into his family’s past and into the darker aspects of his own nature.

4 Thumbs-UpThis is an interesting book on many levels, and had me hooked from the first page and, as much as it may seem that this would be an automatic 5 thumbs review, there were parts of this novel that pulled it down to a 4 thumbs rating.

The main protagonist suffers from Tourette’s syndrome which in itself is an unusual choice of malady to use in a protagonist.  However, it works well with the subject matter of the book and, through the struggles the main lead has with his condition the reader learns a great deal about this illness; and this is where the book lost its 5 thumbs, at times there is so much neurological information it slows the narrative down, and that really affects the novel overall, but it did make me wonder if the Author had not had personal experience in some way of Tourette’s.  Back to the main character; it is safe to say that this man has his plate full dealing not only with his own problems but those of his son who also has issues, what kind I am not saying as it would spoil the experience of reading the book.  The reader is often taken inside the mind of the main character and is able to experience the world he lives in and the events that happen to him through his eyes.  This serves to make him a very real person with great depth and, at times, it feels as if the reader is right there with him in this world.

When I first started reading this I assumed it was going to be a purely neurological thriller, and was quite happy to accept this; however, as I soon found out, I was totally wrong.  With a skilful hand the Author turns this book into a cross-genre novel covering everything from horror to supernatural urban fantasy with stops at the psychological and medical arenas along the way.  It may sound that this leads to what is a very disjointed read, but each of the genres are woven seamlessly together making this an easy, if not very fast paced, read.  For the die-hard horror fan out there, the ‘scary’ portions of this book may seem a little tame, but with everything that this book has going for it, it really doesn’t matter in my opinion.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a good thriller/mystery, and I will be reading more by this Author.divider

Review: Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson ~ Lyndsay Faye

Dust and ShadowISBN ~ 978-1416583301
Publisher ~Simon & Schuster
No. Of Pages ~325 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Simon & Schuster

From the gritty streets of nineteenth century London, the loyal and courageous Dr. Watson offers a tale unearthed after generations of lore: the harrowing story of Sherlock Holmes’s attempt to hunt down Jack the Ripper.

As England’s greatest specialist in criminal detection, Sherlock Holmes is unwavering in his quest to capture the killer responsible for terrifying London’s East End. He hires an “unfortunate” known as Mary Ann Monk, the friend of a fellow streetwalker who was one of the Ripper’s earliest victims; and he relies heavily on the steadfast and devoted Dr. John H. Watson. When Holmes himself is wounded in Whitechapel during an attempt to catch the savage monster, the popular press launches an investigation of its own, questioning the great detective’s role in the very crimes he is so fervently struggling to prevent. Stripped of his credibility, Holmes is left with no choice but to break every rule in the desperate race to find the madman known as “the Knife” before it is too late.

2 Thumbs-UpFor a debut novel, this book was OK.  Yes, I said OK as I had a love hate relationship with this book from the very first chapter.

For anyone to take on writing about the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson takes guts, but if it is pulled off well as in the case of the House of Silk (reviewed here) it can be a glorious thing, that was not the case here.  Despite a valiant effort, this Author was unable to capture all the character nuances that combine to make the detective readers of other Holmes missives have come to know and expect.  By writing the book from the perspective of Dr. Watson a lot of the internal debates and musings Holmes has with himself are lost along with a lot of his eccentric qualities.  In this book Holmes comes across as an arrogant, pretentious ass that has no lovable qualities to his name at all.  Unfortunately, Dr. Watson does not come out of this novel unscathed; as a character I’ve always seen as being the stable and steadying force behind Holmes, here he is depicted as bumbling fool who would be well pressed to dress himself in the morning.  The portrayal of Jack the Ripper was also flimsy, and would have benefitted greatly with a lot more fleshing out and back story.

The novel is extremely dry, the language at times definitely at odds with the era in which it is set.  The Author does a good job of portraying Whitechapel at the time of the murders but apart from that there was very little to keep me interested, and this was definitely not the page turner that had been promised.  For me there was not enough tension, and the discovery of who the Ripper was became obvious about partway through the book; surely not a mystery worthy of calling in Holmes to solve.

If you like Sherlock Holmes, you may enjoy this book; as for me I don’t think I will be reading anymore by this Author despite their valiant attempts to recreate the works of Arthur Conan Doyle.

divider