REVIEW: The Blood of the Rose by Kevin Murray

25 Oct

The Blood of the Rose Book Cover The Blood of the Rose

Mystery/Thriller
320

"It started low and soft, but grew slowly, increasing in pitch and volume into an unceasing scream so loud and so desperate it pierced his primeval soul. The detective was stunned, his mind blank. On the ragged edges of his consciousness a prophecy took hold. He could see, with shattering clarity, that there would never again be a time in his life when that scream did not exist" London, 1986.

A newspaper editor is horrifically murdered, his death quickly followed by a series of more brutal, and often bizarre, slayings. The police are baffled, the only clear link between the murders being a single blood red rose left at the scene of every killing. Why? What does the rose mean? What connects the killer to each bloody corpse? Scotland Yard detective Alan Winters leads a hunt for the elusive prey. As the body count rises, Jennifer Chapman, renowned investigative journalist and daughter of the murdered newspaper editor, sets out on a personal quest for revenge. Drawn together in their pursuit of a deadly quarry, Winters and Jennifer unwittingly face a fatal surprise, for the killer is closer than they think. As they close in on the truth of the blood red rose, their unseen foe plots a shattering end to his reign of terror, and death awaits them all.

I received a copy of The Blood of the Rose by Kevin Murray from AuthorAmp, in exchange for a review and my honest opinion.

No two people ever read the same book; a persons experience informs their interpretation of whatever they are reading. That was definitely the case with The Blood of the Rose; aside from the shadowy assassin, Hugh Chapman is the first character we are introduced to, and I immediately connected with him. An old fashioned, business-minded, powerful man, Chapman loves his family but doesn’t always know how to show it. His strong willed daughter, Jennifer, struggles to connect with him. Their relationship triggered thoughts of my relationship with my own father; like Chapman in many ways, my strong-willed attitude often is at loggerheads with his old-fashioned ways. I understood Jennifer’s desire to be closer to her father. So, when Chapman was brutally slain, I felt her pain in never having that opportunity, and connected with her need to help find his killer.

As the book progressed, I was surprised by the way Murray unravelled the mystery. Unlike many other thrillers, there was no abundance of cleverly hidden clues that the detectives stumbled upon one after another until they discovered the killer. Instead, much of the first half of the story centered around the distinct lack of clues. To me, that made the story feel more realistic; I’m sure that in real life, the clues don’t just fall in the paths of the investigators.

At times, the italicised insights into the killers thoughts and background were a little incongruously inserted. However, the information that they contained was crucial to understanding his motives and his background, so I can understand their purpose.

It was quite a long read, but just as the lack of progress in the investigation starts to get frustrating, it is revealed to the reader that the emotionless killer is indeed much closer than anybody suspects. Suddenly, with half a book to go, I was suddenly revitalised, wondering what twists and turns awaited in the upcoming pages and the inevitable race to catch the killer. I wasn’t disappointed!

Overall, I really enjoyed this read and would definitely pick up another Kevin Murray thriller in future.

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REVIEW: ‘Perfect Girl’ by Michele Gorman

16 Oct

Perfect Gir Book Cover Perfect Gir

Chick Lit

Carol is perfect… at least that’s what everyone thinks. In reality
she’s sinking fast – her family treats her like their personal
assistant and her boyfriend is so busy with work that he’s got her
single-handedly running their relationship. Not that her job is any
easier. As the only woman on the bank’s trading floor she spends
twelve-hour days trying not to get sworn at or felt up by colleagues
who put the "W" in banker.

How long can she go on pleasing everyone else before she snaps and
loses it all?

I received a copy of Perfect Girl by Michele Gorman in exchange for my honest opinion. 

I’ve reviewed several of Michele Gorman’s novels this year (check out my reviews of The Curvy Girls Club and Single Girl in the City), and it definitely seems like she’s hit upon the secrets to successful chick lit. I’ve loved each book – and am pleasantly surprised to realise that the main characters have all been very different, and the story-lines unique. A traveller looking for the perfect career, a woman seeking body love, and a high-powered career woman struggling against perfectionism – each of these ladies is trying to find a path to fulfilment and happiness.

Perfect Girl‘s protagonist, Carol, is a people pleaser, problem solver, perfectionist. Immediately, this struck a chord in me – I am a perfectionist too. At first, Carol bends over backwards to help her friends and family without a second thought. But, as the commitments pile on, something has to give. When suddenly she starts saying ‘No!’, people don’t quite know what to do! Suddenly, the very thing that defined her – her perfect girl reputation – is the very thing she wants to rid herself of. So, if not perfect, then who is she?

I have personally faced this very dilemma. When I stopped bending over backwards to please everyone, because I quite simply didn’t have the energy to do more than get through the day, people literally decided that I was no longer worth hanging out with. It was a shocking way to discover who my ‘real friends’ were, and almost hurt me enough to send me scurrying back to my people-pleasing ways. I’m still a perfectionist, but I am better about saying ‘No’ to people (most of the time!).

I think that relating to what Carol was feeling made me like this book on a whole different level. However, I think any chick lit lover, regardless of a perfectionist streak, would be hooked on this book from the get go. Gorman crafted a cast of characters that very much enhanced the story. Carol’s family, though at times frustrating, is loveable and endearing. Her best friend, Harriet, had me giggling at her ability to attract the most bizarre men. And her male-dominated workplace left me seething in disgust at the sexist behaviour she was forced to endure.

I also liked that the book didn’t only centre around Carol’s love life. Her innovation in the workplace was also a big theme; how she dealt with being a woman in a male-dominated workplace, and how she had the skills to hold her own (even when things didn’t go to plan). I won’t give anymore away though!

I’m definitely a Michele Gorman fan, and would recommend her books to any chick lit lover. She seems to have a way of adding a spark to her stories that can sometimes be missing in other books in the same genre. Excitingly, I’m interviewing Gorman soon, so keep an eye out for that in mid-November. Also, her christmas book will be a part of my Christmas Round-Up, so if you’re hankering for another fix, you won’t have long to wait!

Overall: Perfect Girl was only released this week, so grab a copy, read it, love it – ad be the awesome person that gets to recommend a great book to your #readerfriends!

Amazon

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REVIEW: ‘The Imaginary Life’ by Mara Torres

15 Sep

The Imaginary Life Book Cover The Imaginary Life

Fiction
179

What goes through your head when the person you love leaves you? What do you do with your life when you have to start it all over again? Do you make it up? Nata’s world fills with unanswered questions when Beto leaves her. But time doesn’t stop, and the stories that Nata begins to tell herself about her own life lead her to a place where everything becomes possible again. 

I received a copy of The Imaginary Life by Mara Torres in exchange for a review and my honest opinion. 

It took about three pages to fall into the world of this book. For a moment, I was confused – who was talking to who, where were we, what was going on? But then everything clicked into place, and my heart broke for Nata.

When her boyfriend decides that they need to go ‘on a break’ after drifting apart, Nata’s friends consider her single – after all, she hasn’t heard from her Alberto in months, and they’re pretty sure ‘on a break’ has become ‘broken up’. So, having exhausted her shoulders to cry on and people to vent to, Nata retreats to her journal and her imagination. Imagining what Alberto might be doing, writing him letters, trying to fall for another man, trying to rejoin the single social life…

Written in a deliciously quirky way, The Imaginary Life felt like an indie movie in words. Nothing is lost in translation for Spanish author Torres – in fact, I think a hint of Spanish flair added to the overall zest of the novel. Perhaps one reason I liked this book so much is because I could so easily put myself in Nata’s shoes… I, too, struggle to let things go, and can hold on to people too long. I know all too well what it’s like to exhaust your list of people that you can talk to about someone, and be left inside your head, imagining what could have been if only this or that had been different.

This book is definitely all about Nata, so if first person, introspective, somewhat self-obsessed books aren’t your thing, then give this one a miss – but for lovers of quirky romance stories, this is definitely worth a read!

Amazon

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REVIEW: ‘Life is Swede’ by Claire Duffy

14 Sep

Life is Swede Book Cover Life is Swede

Travel Fiction / Thriller
234

Regan moves halfway across the world to start a new life with holiday fling Anders, and blogs daily about her ups and downs settling into Stockholm and struggles to connect with Anders' tight knit group of friends. 

When one of them is found dead during a weekend away in a remote cabin, the police quickly zero in on Anders as the killer. Regan sets out to clear his name, and details her investigation for her fascinated readers - unaware that the killer is reading her blog, and watching her every move. 

I received a copy of Life is Swede by Claire Duffy in exchange for a review, and my honest opinion.

If readers picked this book up without reading the blurb, they could be forgiven for thinking that Life is Swede was expat-fiction. In fact, it isn’t until halfway through the novel that the psychological thriller aspect came into play. However, weirdly, it worked!

Written in blog post form, and in part (the non-murder part!) derived from Duffy’s own experiences as an American expat living in Sweden, the reader gets an immediate insight into Regan’s thoughts. Her blog also evolves with her as the story progresses; gradually the anonymity she initially tried for falls away and nicknames give way to real ones. I found Regan’s introspection very interesting; she often looks back over what she has blogged, and considers how her view of a situation at the time influenced her perceptions of people she met.

Having experienced Sweden myself, I found myself smiling as I recognised the thought that the Swedish people are insanely beautiful – there really are a huge number of tall, blue-eyed, blonde people.

Just as Regan begins to settle into Swedish life, people start dying, and her boyfriend is arrested. Suddenly everyone is under suspicion.

Duffy kept me guessing until the very end; I wasn’t sure who the bad guy was (although I had my suspicions), and I definitely didn’t expect the twist that she threw in at the very end – Duffy kept it fresh!

This was a great first novel. I’m excited to see what Duffy comes up with next (she’s currently releasing another psychological thriller in parts, called Identity). In the meantime, she can be found blogging over at The Grass is Dancing!

Amazon

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Weekly Wishes

1 Sep

Weekly Wishes

Weekly Wishes is a link-up run by Melyssa from the Nectar Collective (one of my blogging idols, FYI). We bloggers have lots of ideas and usually about a dozen balls in the air at any one time. Sometimes, we need to set out our goals in writing – and it never hurts to have some fellow bloggers to watch your back and keep you motivated! That’s what the Weekly Wishes link-up is all about!

August was a pretty hectic month for me, and the blog had to go on the back burner – but hopefully September is a fresh start!

I’m all moved in to my new house, and I’ve more or less unpacked. Tomorrow I’ve got my first day as assistant manager at the cafe I work at (a reluctant promotion, as the manager has gone away for a few months), which means 5am starts and grumpy help, as we’ll be a man down in an already busy cafe! Plus, I’ve got a few million jobs to do around the new place, like fixing the hot water so that I can actually wash my hair before it runs out!

That said, after a month of balancing work, bills, tradies, and a pinched nerve in my neck that means I can’t turn my head to the left (incredibly painful, but somewhat hilarious, as I have to turn in a full circle to the right to see things behind me on the left…), I’m slowly getting a handle on things, and can hopefully return to more regularly scheduled programming – or blogging, as the case may be.

My goals for September aren’t too lofty;

1. Set up my September editorial calendar and STICK to it!

That’s it.

While working out my new finances, working long hours at work, keeping on top of my book reviews and trying to see my partner at least occasionally… well, sticking to an editorial calendar is going to be challenge enough!

I hope you’re all enjoying the first day of spring! I’m off to go to bed, before my 5am wake up!

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REVIEW: When Girlfriends Let Go by Savannah Page

21 Aug

When Girlfriends Let Go Book Cover When Girlfriends Let Go

Chick Lit
537

A novel about love, self-discovery, and realizing sometimes you have to let go. 

Jackie Kittredge is the consummate drama queen living the charmed life. She’s enthusiastic, outspoken, and is always looking for a good time. At twenty-seven she’s got a swanky Seattle townhouse, a wealthy husband, a designer wardrobe, the best of girlfriends, and a calendar filled not with meetings and deadlines, but spa appointments and happy hour reminders. On the outside, she’s got it all. 

On the inside, though, Jackie’s charmed life isn’t as it seems. She’s seeing a therapist, battling the demons of coming from a broken home and a past of promiscuity and heavy drinking. She can be selfish and demanding, sometimes even wearing her best friends thin. And now her marriage—what she thought could be her solid foundation—is on the rocks. Her husband Andrew spends nearly all his time at the office (and possibly with his secretary), and apologizes for his absence with lavish gifts and empty promises. 

Miserable and desperate, Jackie questions if her marriage is worth fighting for. Then a string of events begins to put things into perspective…into a perspective she didn’t quite anticipate. With her best friends by her side and some tough love, Jackie finds herself not only asking if she’s where she belongs, but if she’s who she’s supposed to be. 

This is a passionate story about having to answer some of life’s most important and difficult questions. It’s a story about fear, courage, and personal growth. About what happens when girlfriends let go. 

I received a copy of When Girlfriends Let Go by Savannah Page in exchange for a review and my honest opinion. 

Another instalment in the “When Girlfriends” series, When Girlfriends Let Go follows the first five books that chronicle the lives of six girlfriends in Seattle. All very different, each book focuses on one girl and the dramas she is facing at the time. This book centred around flighty, loyal, self-involved Jackie – and her fear that the only solution to her marriage trouble could be divorce.

Having read and reviewed the fourth book in the series earlier this year, I’m glad that I was already familiar with the characters. Otherwise, the many distinct characters would have been quite confusing. That said, I didn’t really connect with Jackie. Throughout the series, she is described as selfish and spoiled, in part due to her difficult childhood. While I can empathise with her past and how it may affect her personality, I struggled to come to grips with her lack of desire to do anything other than shop and socialise. That frustration overcame my understanding of her desire to fix her marriage. All too often it seemed like she was being childish and creating drama for dramas sake.

My other issue with the book was its length. Page took a long time getting to the crux of the story, and was at times overly descriptive, describing every outfit worn, etc. I think the book could have benefitted from being a little shorter.

On the whole, as a part of a series, this book is a good chick lit read. I’ll be picking up the seventh and final instalment, as I really like some of the other characters and want to find out how the girls are going.  But, as a stand-alone novel, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Amazon

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REVIEW: Worlds Apart by Ber Carroll

15 Aug

Worlds Apart Book Cover Worlds Apart

Fiction
368

Two women worlds apart ... 
one secret that changes everything. 

Erin and Laura are cousins and best friends who share a love of languages and travel. 

Erin, a French teacher in Dublin, reaches crisis point and drops everything to move to Australia. In Sydney, not only does she land the perfect job, but she meets the perfect man. Finally, her life is falling into place. Except Sydney isn't home, and never can be. 

Back in Ireland, Laura is struggling. Her husband appears distant, her work life is spinning out of control and her daughter's strange new nanny is undermining her at every turn. She longs to travel in Erin's footsteps, to drop everything and run far away. But these are dangerous thoughts for a mother and wife. 

As Erin and Laura desperately try to find their place in the world, a shocking family secret comes to light, and nothing will ever be the same again. 

I received a copy of this Worlds Apart by Ber Carroll in exchange for a review and my honest opinion.

Worlds Apart captivated me from the first page. Written from the perspectives of cousins Erin and Laura, the girls are struggling to find their place in life.

When Erin begins to crumble under the pressure of what ‘could have been’. What if her mother and father hadn’t fallen ill, and she hadn’t spent the last decade putting her life on hold? She takes a leap of faith, moving to Australia in the hope of finding where she is supposed to be in life. Laura, who loves her company and her little family, is surprised and ashamed to feel desperate to escape too. Overwhelmed by the hectic demands of busy life, her relationships start to suffer and she struggles to find balance and happiness.

Their stories are told in parallel, Erin in Australia and Laura in Ireland. Both women share a love of languages that influences their actions throughout the book; in many ways, their lives echo that of their mothers, who once escaped Ireland to live in the glamour of Paris, but are now both back in Ireland and have an intense impact on the girls. Herself a transplant from Ireland to Australia, Carroll captures the essence my home perfectly. I love it when Australia makes an appearance in a novel!

Beautifully written, Worlds Apart is a captivating novel; the characters are brought to life and immediately the reader feels a connection with them. As their stories unfold, and more of their past is brought to life, we see the girls make decisions that will shape the rest of their lives – I felt a kinship with both of them, myself being unsure of exactly what it is that I should be doing with my life! It was reassuring to read about these two women, after some heartache, working it out.

I would definitely recommend this book to those looking for a more mature version of chick lit; a bit deeper, a little longer, and a tad more thoughtful.

Book Depository | Amazon

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PS. In case anybody was wondering (as I was), Ber is short for Bernadette – but only her mother calls her that.

REVIEW: Deadly Assets by Wendy Tyson

14 Aug

Deadly Assets Book Cover Deadly Assets
An Allison Campbell Mystery

Mystery
306

An eccentric Italian heiress from the Finger Lakes. An eighteen-year-old pop star from Scranton, Pennsylvania. Allison Campbell's latest clients seem worlds apart in every respect, except one: Both women disappear on the same day. And Allison's colleague Vaughn is the last to have seen each.

Allison's search for a connection uncovers an intricate web of family secrets, corporate transgressions and an age-old rivalry that crosses continents. The closer Allison gets to the truth, the deadlier her quest becomes. All paths lead back to a sinister Finger Lakes estate and the suicide of a woman thirty years earlier. Allison soon realizes the lives of her clients and the safety of those closest to her aren't the only things at stake.

I received a copy of Deadly Assets by Wendy Tyson in exchange for a review and my honest opinion. 

From the book summary that I received, I was under the impression that impeccably groomed Allison Campbell was a female detective. In fact, she is an image consultant! I thought that was a pretty interesting job to have, especially when it involves the occasional crime fighting on the side!

I found the mystery that unravelled in Deadly Assets to be fascinating; I was drawn into the complicated webs woven between the characters and didn’t know who the bad guys were and what their motives were until the very end.  I consider that the mark of a successful crime novel!

I’ll admit that I didn’t feel a huge connection to the characters; perhaps it was because this was the second book in the series and Tyson didn’t waste words giving much backstory, which meant I may have missed some of the nuances in a few of the relationships. I felt Allison was a bit stiff (and had lots of unexplained headaches), but that could of been a part of her persona as image consultant. Overall, I appreciated the mystery more than the characters themselves.

Earlier this year, I read and reviewed another mystery by Tyson, called The Seduction of Miriam Cross (A Delilah Powers Mystery). The mystery was equally riveting, if not more so, and I found the characters a little more interesting. I think I preferred that book over this one, but would happily pick up the next book in either series! I’d be quite interested to see how Tyson develops her characters in subsequent books.

Book Depository | Amazon

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GIVEAWAY! Vera Bradley + Chacos

8 Aug

Thank Goodness it’s Friday! I’m sure you’re all equally glad that the weekend is here, and what better way to celebrate than with free things!

Seeing as the beautiful Meg from River and Roads turned 26 yesterday, she rounded up some blogger buddies to celebrate – because free things!!!

GIVEAWAY! Vera Bradley + Chacos

We’re giving away three of Meg’s absolute favourite things to one lucky winner!

1 | A large Vera Bradley duffel bag. Meg was given this bag for a birthday a few years ago and it has been her go-to getaway bag ever since! It is the perfect bag for a long weekend getaway to the mountains, the beach… It is incredibly spacious and the shoulder straps make it easy to carry. I want one Meg!! Colour of your choice.

2 | A pair of Chacos. Meg is obsessed with Chacos. As an Australian, I have no idea what she’s talking about :p But apparently, they’re super comfy, wear-anywhere shoes that last forever. If you win this competition, I want to know more about your Chacos! *Colour of your choice.

3 | And because all bloggers are obsessed with coffee, we’re throwing in a $15 gift card to Starbucks so you get a big caffeine fix! Maybe take a friend for a fun coffee date! Don’t forget to “Cheers” Meg for her birthday!

GIVEAWAY! Vera Bradley + Chacos

HERE’S YOUR CHANCE TO WIN! This giveaway is run via Rafflecopter with several ways to enter! In exactly one week the giveaway will close, one winner will be selected at random and announced! The winner will be contacted by email. All entries will be verified, so please play by the rules!

Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favor!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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REVIEW: The Legacy by Melissa Delport

7 Aug

The Legacy Book Cover The Legacy

Dystopian Fiction
430

One man obsessed with power. One woman prepared to sacrifice everything to stop him. One war that changed the world.

"World War Three lasted twelve days. Twelve days was all it took for mankind to devastate the planet and almost eradicate the human race. No victor emerged from the ashes and billions lost their lives. We survivors lived through the bleakest of winters. A primal existence became the new order, and the little that remained of our humanity hung in the balance. Then one man stood up and changed the world.

I believed, as did everyone else, that he was the hero of our time, the man who had saved us from our own demise. His name is Eric Dane and he is the President of the New United States of America. He is also my husband, and my greatest enemy.

I grew up oblivious to the truth, until my father found me when I was nineteen years old. He told me about the many horrifying facts that our new leader kept hidden from us. And he told me that beyond the borders the Resistance grew and fought for freedom from the oppression that Eric Dane had imposed on us. My name is Rebecca Davis. I am twenty-six years old, and in me the Resistance has found the ultimate weapon.

I received a copy of The Legacy by Melissa Delport in exchange for a review and my honest opinion. 

Although the book world has been flooded with Dystopian books of late, thanks in part to the overwhelming success of the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins (and subsequently, Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy), many book lovers are getting a little sick of the genre. However, from the moment I dove into The Legacy, my faith in the genre was restored.

Delport quickly sets the scene; World War 3 saw the United States decimated by nuclear attack. Cleverly, she writes with enough detail to paint a picture that could be hard to imagine – a world power reduced to helplessness overnight. Once the worst of the fallout has passed, humanity begins to rebuild society. However, one man has a vision and a thirst for control. Eric Dane, soon-to-be President of the New United States of America, fences off several prosperous states, and convinces the inhabitants that only deformity and starvation lie outside of the boundary. Longing for stability, nobody questions him. That is, until Rebecca’s father, believed dead for the last twenty years, arrives to tell her the truth.

The story grabbed my attention immediately. Within the first few chapters (granted, I’m feeling particularly emotional today), I was stressed about the rebels getting the upper hand, Rebecca’s cover being blown, and her relationships panning out. Delport did a great job at walking the fine line between using too much description and boring me, and using enough detail to flesh out the characters and setting.

I whipped through the book (I won’t give away any of the plot twists!), and was stoked to find both The Legacy, and the sequel already available on Amazon. After devouring the first, I’m on tenterhooks to find out what happens in the second – I’m just holding my breath for a happy ending, because I can’t stand a love triangle gone wrong!!

I don’t know about you, but often the music that I listen to while reading a gripping series often becomes its soundtrack, and forever reminds me of the story whenever it comes on the radio. It seems like the lovely Melissa Delport knows what I mean, and has been kind enough to send me her Legacy writing playlist to share with you! Here’s what she had to say about the soundtrack to this book.

I am a big lover of music – I always have been, and remember the very first tapes my mom bought me when I turned 11 – The Best of Dolly Parton & Kenny G! Personally, I think she underestimated my desire to own my own music and thought it was simply a childish whim, so she bought music she could listen to when I moved on to my next obsession. That didn’t happen – in fact, in the absence of anything better, I stretched those tapes from playing them so much that they were no use to anyone within a few short months.

Everybody knows that music inspires emotion, and a movie’s soundtrack is almost as important as its casting. I have my own ideas as to what music would go well with certain scenes in The Legacy, but as I do not want to disclose any “spoilers” I will simply list my Movie Soundtrack, in no particular order. 

See if you can guess what song matches which scene:

Imagine Dragons                  Radioactive

Florence & The Machine      Never Let Me Go

Depeche Mode                       Precious

Madonna:                               Die Another Day

Jason Walker                         Down

Plumb                                     Cut

Taylor Swift                            The Last Time

Linkin Park                            Burn it Down

Damien Rice                          9 Crimes

Creed                                      My Sacrifice

Ben Howard                          Oats in the Water

Sam Smith                            Stay With Me

A few of these songs definitely match up with the scenes that were playing out in my head during the book. Are you a reader (or writer!) that always has a soundtrack?

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