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review 2017-07-13 20:34
Bright Smoke, Cold Fire
Bright Smoke, Cold Fire - Rosamund Hodge

[I received a copy of this book through Edelweiss.]

Hmm, not sure about this one. It’s a retelling of ‘Romeo & Juliet’, in a city that is the last one standing while the rest of the world has been invaded by ‘zombies’, where three families share the power, and where the religious order of the Sisters of Thorn has to perform yearly blood sacrifices in order to keep the undead at bay. It has a mysterious plague that makes people rise again after their death if precautions aren’t taken, and in that city, ‘the Juliet’ is actually a warrior bred from birth through magic rituals, with the ability to sense if someone has shed her family’s blood, and the compulsion to avenge said family member in turn (in other words, she still does a few other things than feigning death, thinking Romeo is dead, and promptly killing herself in turn). Also, she’s doomed to turn mad at some point

All in all, why not? This was interesting. The story itself, though, was kind of confusing, and although it did end up making sense, there were quite a few things I would’ve seen developed more in depth. Such as the Night Games, or the Necromancer (who kind of turned up at the awkward moment), or the Romeo/Paris/Vai trio relationship.

I’m not sure about the characters. I sort of liked the Juliet? Because she had that idea that ‘I’m already dead, and Romeo is dead, so I don’t care about dying because it means I can see him again’, yet at the same time she was quite lively and determined and not actively trying to take her own life while moping; her story is also rather sad (stripped of her name/real identity in a family whose beliefs in the afterlife involve having a name in order to be saved... nice). Romeo, though, was kind of stupid, and Paris way too naive; of the power trio there, the one I definitely liked was Vai (with a twist that was a bit predictable, but eh, he was fun to read about, and I totally agreed with the way he envisioned problems and how to tackle them!). As for Runajo... I don’t know. Determined, too, yet there were several moments when I thought her decisions should have her get killed or cast out or something, and she wasn’t because Plot Device.

(And very, very minor thing that probably only peeved me because I’m French, but... ‘Catresou’ sounds just so damn weird. I kept reading and ‘hearing’ that name as a French name, which sounds exactly like ‘quatre sous’—that’s like ‘four pence’—aaaand... Yep, so bizarre.)

Conclusion: 2.5 stars. To be fair, I liked the world depicted here in general, and that this retelling is sufficiently removed from R & J as to stand by itself; however, it was probably too ambitious for one volume, and ended up confusing.

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review 2017-03-14 13:01
The Apothecary's Curse
The Apothecary's Curse - Barbara Barnett

(I got a copy through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.)

The story of "The Apothecary's Curse" intertwines different plots, mostly mid-19th century London, a short early 20th century stint, and 2016 Chicago. All feature Gaelan and Simon, two men who became accidentally immortal through ingesting an alchemical compound, and struggle to lead a life of their own. Condemned for a crime he didn't commit, Gaelan was tortured for years by a mad doctor, before fleeing abroad, while Simon pines for his dead wife, unable to join her in death. As the decades pass, they find themselves remaining that strange brand of friends who can't stand to be in each other's presence for too long, yet always gravitate back towards each other. Until a strange book and a geneticist fall into the mix, and both men realise they may be about to know worse than one single mad doctor in a now closed asylum.

All these plots aren't only concerned with alchemy and immortality, but also with love: love for a woman, love of friendship, love of knowledge (even though gained in twisted ways), love of family, love of life itself... because when all's said and done, Gaelan still doesn't want to die, still finds wonders in the way science has been progressing.

In general, I found the main characters compelling, especially Gaelan, who never really loses hope in humanity in spite what he's been through. I found the contrast fairly interesting: Gaelan, who tried to help and was tortured and killed for it, called a criminal and a madman, forced to flee, but kept enjoying life, becoming a dealer in old books and antiques, nevergiving up in spite of his struggles with PTSD; and Simon, who seems to have everything (respect, fame and money as a doctor, then as a famous author), but cannot find peace, haunted by the memory of his departed wife—his story was tragic, though I admit I tended to side with Gaelan much more because, well, who can fault the guy who tries to live instead of wallowing in despair for a whole century, eh? As for Eleanor and Anne, they had their own struggles to go through, their own decisions to make, trying to fight evil as they could, even if it sometiles meant resorting to another kind of evil.

If anything, I was a little disappointed in the 2016 part. The 1842 and early 1900s one felt more vivid, better developed, whereas the modern era plotline, while interesting, was also a bit lackluster. Perhaps because I kept thinking there wasn't enough danger in it, considering what was at stake and the 'evil genetics/pharmacy company' that sooner or later would be after Gaelan. I guess I expected more development here, more of a feeling of urgency, especially towards the end.

Conclusion: Still a solid 3.5 stars. I enjoyed this novel.

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review 2017-01-04 18:53
The Girl Before
The Girl Before: A Novel - JP Delaney

[I received a copy of this book through Edelweiss.]

When Jane applies to live at One Folgate Street, a minimalist house designed b y famous architect Edward Monkford, after recently suffering bereavment, she doesn't know yet that another woman, Emma, lived there before her, and that events surrounding her were not of the good kind. What matters is that even though the house comes with two hundred rules designed to make it the perfectly ordered and uncluttered, the rent is cheap, and it's an opportunity at starting a new life and letting go of a painful past. But Emma's shadow is everywhere: in the place she inhabited, in how the landlord used to perceive her, in how the house started to shape her... and the same thing may happen to Jane.

Well, this novel was quite readable, and I took pleasure (and was thrilled) at discovering gradually, through a double narrative, what happened to Emma and what is now happening to Jane: their reasons for moving into the house, their personal lives, what tragedies befell them and how those kept affecting them, as well as the parallels slowly drawn between them. There's a constant game of similarities intertwining here, only to better highlight the differences and subsequent reveals, for neither Emma nor Jane are exactly who we think they are at first.

Granted, some of these revelations are a little convoluted. In hindsight, there's also nothing invalidating them, and provided one's willing to take a "what if?" approach, rather than expecting answers and explanations set in stone, well, it can work. They are problematic in some ways, though, for reasons I won't explain here as not to spoil, but let's just say that these are unreliable narrators we're speaking of here, and lies or at least things unsaid are a big part of this story. Including infuriating lies.

I wasn't satisfied with the ending—to be honest, I much preferred the beginning and the gradual increase in tension, when I was still wondering if there had been a murder or if it was suicide, and if the culprit was who I thought it was, or not. The ending... well, let's say it was a bit of a letdown, with a last, questionable twist related to 'perfection vs. imperfection' that I found callous and uncalled for. Again, no spoilers, but frankly, it was unnecessary (and I don't think it plays very well either into the theme of 'sterile perfection and narcissism' in Edward's little world).

Conclusion: Enjoyable throughout, only it didn't reach its full potential in the end.

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review 2016-11-10 22:44
Dark Matter
Dark Matter: A Novel - Blake Crouch

[I received a copy of this novel through Edelweiss.]


Reviewing this book without spoilers is hard, especially since some of those spoilers would illustrate my “buts…”. I’ll try.


In general, I did enjoy this story. It plays on the endless possibilities offered by other universes, and on the conundrums they entail—i.e. that our lives rest on the many choices we make, and that one tiny choice can be the trigger to a huge event. Jason’s trials in that regard constantly force him to consider this aspect, this grand scheme of things, because in that, too, the tiniest mistake can have terrible consequences.


Jason as a character had his highs and lows. There were moments when he made some pretty bad/dangerous choices, making me wonder if he had turned too-stupid-to-live (I’ll just mention the red and black squares here—emotional and very humane moment, but I seriously expected Jason and his companion to drag that baggage further into the story, and they were just uber lucky, I guess?). At other moments, he proved himself to be a kind and decent person, who made choices not based on what he would like, but on what the people he loved would prefer. And yet nothing is all black and white here, because the way the last quarter of the story turns out, it makes you wonder: could he have changed, become different, if life had treated him differently?


A lot of emotions in there, for sure. Some very poignant scenes. Others that were both frightening and somewhat funny at the same time, towards the end, considering the people Jason has to face. The explanation as to what triggered what was behind the “doors”, well, that was interesting, and in fact logical, considering the explanation given about those.


I liked Amanda as well, and to be honest, I would’ve loved to see more of her. (I kept wondering if something would happen; part of me is glad of how it turned out, and another part keeps wondering “what if”. What’s her story exactly? What will it be? In a world with endless possibilities, not knowing at least one is… troubling.


I guess this is one of what I’d call weak points here, in that the narrative being Jason’s, we only get to see a very subjective view of it all, and characters who deserved to be fleshed out more, whom I sensed could be and do more, were thus sidelined because those other aspects of their personalities and lives weren’t what Jason considered. (Also, the use of a couple of tropes in order to get rid of some characters; it’s like they weren’t so important in the end to the author, but to me, they were, and would’ve deserved more screen time, even though I totally get why these tropes were used, and to what effect.)


The narrative style as well felt problematic—as usual with first person present tense, as far as I’m concerned. While it does lend a sense of immediacy and urgency to the novel (especially with the short sentences or even one-worders interspersed throughout), it also felt too abrupt, and conflicting with the more introspective pages. But then, as I mentioned in other reviews, this specific tense choice is a pet peeve of mine.


Finally, I’m not too sure about the scientific theories underlining the story. I’m not too knowledgeable about that, so I can’t really tell if they were definitely interesting and believable in terms of quantum mechanics, or if they’re just grazing the surface. I suspect the latter (I did have that feeling I wanted to know more, see those theories described in more details), yet in terms of plot device, well, it worked well enough for me to go along with the ride and enjoy it.


Conclusion: 3.5/4 stars.

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review 2016-10-01 06:29
The Heavens May Fall
The Heavens May Fall - Allen Eskens
ISBN: 1633882055
Publisher: Seventh Street Books
Publication Date: 10/4/2016 
Format: Other
My Rating:  5 Stars 

A special thank you to Edelweiss and Seventh Street Books for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Allen Eskens, a superb talent at building suspense— returns following The Guise of Another (2015) and The Life We Bury(2014) with his third strong novel, THE HEAVENS MAY FALL, (2016) featuring three characters from his previous bestselling books with a gripping murder case told from two perspectives.

The nice blend of legal drama, crime, mystery, and suspense with the twisty plot, will keep readers turning the pages! I love how he keeps his characters alive (they are not done 'not by a long shot').

Interview with the author

Summary of Characters
The Heavens May Fall, features co-protagonists, who were secondary characters in The Life We Bury. Max Rupert, the homicide detective from The Life We Bury, is investigating the death of Jennavieve Pruitt and is convinced that her husband, Ben, committed the murder. Ben is a friend and former protégé of Boady Sanden, the law professor from The Life We Bury. Boady comes out of retirement to defend Ben and is convinced that his friend is innocent.

If you will recall from the previous books, Boady and Max are friends in The Life We Bury and this case test that friendship to the limits. Also, each man has a personal demon to confront as the case builds. Ben is in the middle of these two former friends. With the case leading to trial, we hear from Max's POV- convincing us Ben is 'guilty'. Boady's POV, Ben is 'innocent." You have to read to find out which one is correct.

Minneapolis homicide Detective Max Rupert and his defense attorney, Boady Sanden are no longer friends. Max wanted Boady to know that lines had been crossed and it would forever sever the connection they once shared.

He didn’t need notes to take him back to that morning. He remembered it all too well. It was a broken morning, torn apart by the memories that visited him every year on the anniversary of his wife’s death. He had promised he would protect her and never let anything happen to her. They were going to grow old together.

It has been four years to the day since he broke that promise. As the months turned to years, he found a way to live with the sadness and grief, but he never learned to live with the guilt. Her death had gone unsolved. Not his case. He was the husband and the husband can’t be involved in the investigation. He was locked out and the hit-and-run-driver got away.

Presently Max has a new case on the anniversary of his wife’s death. A woman, an alley. He was quickly reminded of his Jenni. The woman wore a pair of earrings with diamonds. After tracking down the buyer of the earrings, it pointed to criminal defense attorney, Benjamin Lee Pruitt. She was found naked and dead in a bookstore parking lot. A socialite. Philanthropist. Daughter of Emerson Adler. She runs a number of foundations, but her main focus was a wetlands preservation group. Ben’s wife.

Max Rupert is convinced that Jennavieve Pruitt was murdered by her husband Ben. They also have a daughter Emma, ten years old. Whoever killed Mrs. Puritt had used Emma’s bedspread to haul her out of the house. Is he on the run with his daughter? Was she surprised or did she know her attacker?

“He may never be able to bring his own wife’s killer to justice, but this man squandered a gift. He killed his wife, a woman who loved and trusted him. Pruitt threw away that which Max would kill to have back.“

If he could bring Jennavieve Pruitt the justice denied to his own wife, she might help him find some small measure of peace. He knew this bordered on fantasy, maybe even crazy,but deep inside he hoped it to be true.

Ben turns to Boady to represent him even though he is no longer an acting attorney, but has kept his license. Ben thinks Max is coming after him and he knows no one is better than his friend to have on his side; Digging the truth out of a mess of lies. Ben knows if Rupert doesn’t find the real killer, he will come after him.

Boady is not sure his wife, will approve of his involvement. He was his former law partner and he was Emma’s godfather. She will be worried due to the Quinto case, that nearly killed her husband.

Professor Boady Sanden thinks that Ben, now his client, is innocent. Ben was in Chicago at an NACDL convention (National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers), on white collar crime, and was unaware of the whereabouts of his wife and daughter. Boady did not believe Ben would ever hurt his wife.

Max as the lead investigator, combined with the anniversary of Jenni Rupert’s death- things start unfolding and become intense quickly. Max and Boady are on opposite sides. Add Jennavieve’s sister, Anna Adler-King in the mix, who has her own motive for murder and for getting Ben, her brother-in-law charged with the crime.

A prenuptial agreement. Death over divorce? The family business. What else? Motive? Hang on . . . there is much more. (A good book does not give up all its secrets at once).

Boady is caught in the middle between his friendship with both Ben and Max. Boady had taught Ben about the game of chess. Boady had been one of the best at playing that game as relates to moves by the prosecution and tuning out distractions.

We also catch up with Lila Nash we met in the first book—Boady had been working with Lila’s boyfriend, Joe Talbert,when trying to exonerate a man who they believed had been wrongfully convicted on one of Lockwood’s murders. If it had not been for Max Rupert, both Lila and Joe would have been killed that night.

Lila went back to school and Boady returned to his world of academia. That was three years ago and she chose a law career. She is astounded the connection of Ben to both Boady and Max. Lila, of course, owes Max a great debt, but she agrees to help Boady.

For the second half of the book, we turn to Max, when he receives a mystery letter about his wife’s death. She was murdered and someone has proof. Can the case be reopened? Could it be a prank? The other investigator was retired and the file was closed as a hit-and-run. He was not allowed to touch the file and Parnell’s replacement didn’t have Jenni’s case on his list. He is on high alert, thinking of discovering the identity of the killer.

Emma’s dad is on trial for murder. A note. Max’s wife was murdered. The motive involved Max and his job as a cop? Max is distracted with the new happenings in his wife’s case; however, now he has to pull double time—Did Pruitt have time to drive back from Chicago the night his wife was murdered? Rupert’s brother Alexander was gone as well as his wife.

The action and drama heat up in Part 3 as we head to trial and get to catch up with Boady, Lila, and Max,as the suspense continues with Anna and Ben. Who stands to gain more with Jennavieve out of the way? Is Boady blinded by his past with Ben? Is he really a monster, murderer, a sociopath?

A plan B. Will these two old friends, join forces by the end of the book?

Esken fans will devour the legal drama, and the complex multi-layered mystery suspense; Combined with the cold case of Max’s wife adds intensity as the events unfold racing to the explosive ending. With numerous twists and turns, Eskens knows his way around the courtroom (criminal defense attorney for twenty years), a pro at keeping readers guessing.

Character-driven, with a twisty plot - strong dynamics between Max and Boady, both struggling with demons from their past, and trickling over to the present. A test of loyalties and friendships. An ideal choice for book clubs and further discussions.

The last 25% percent of the novel, will keep you turning into the wee hours of the morning, for a satisfying conclusion with the crafty reveal. Fans of the author and readers of the previous two books will enjoy revisiting the characters, combined with the author's legal expertise, making his third installment another bestseller hit!

I enjoyed reading all three books, each unique and impressive. Recommend reading them all. Looking forward to seeing what’s coming next! (yeah, a revenge story, Max, and more . . .)

Quote from the Author: " Next, I am writing a revenge story that is all about Max Rupert. I’m having a lot of fun with that idea right now. After that, I want to write the sequel toThe Life We Bury and then, hopefully, a novel that will be the backstory of Boady Sanden. As you can see, I have a very over-active imagination—now if I could just learn to type faster. " Read More

The Guise of Another (2015)
The Life We Bury (2014)






Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/07/06/The-Heavens-May-Fall
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