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review 2017-03-29 21:30
"Summit Lake" by Charlie Donlea - gnarly plot and clever structure kept me turning the pages.
Summit Lake - Charlie Donlea

I read "Summit Lake" in two days. It's a page-turner book with a plot that starts off as clever and ends up as deeply cunning.  I didn't see the ending coming and I enjoyed being constantly offered the chance to guess who the bad guy was and never quite finding out.

 

"Summit Lake" is two stories intertwined: the story of Becca Eckersley, a student in her first year at Law School, comes to be raped and murdered in her parents' vacation home on the shores of the picturesque Summit Lake and the story of Kelsey Castle, a crime reporter recovering from her own trauma, who is sent to investigate Becca's death.

 

The novel is cleverly structured. It starts with the hook of Becca's brutally violent death and then alternates between following Becca's path to her death and following Kelsey's attempts to uncover that path despite an attempted cover up. Charlie Donlea uses the intertwining of the two tales skillfully, sharing and withholding  information to maximise the tension in both time lines.

 

The strength of the novel lies in the puzzle it sets and the skill with which the layers of the puzzle are unwound. This kept me turning the pages and wanting to know what happened next.

 

The dialogue in the book works well but the prose plods and occasionally falls over itself. If the plot had been even slightly less interesting, this would have put me off enough not to have read to the end. 

 

The worst of the distractions could have been fixed by a diligent editor, which somehow made them more annoying. 

 

At the least irritating end of the distractions was the habit of regularising irregular verbs: shone becomes shined, knelt becomes knealed and so on. At the most irritating end the distractions came from the misuse of language:

 

"All of this transcended on her in the seconds it took to fight the door open"

 

"She was tapping the MacBook with efficiency"

 

"She never heard the front door as the knob was tried from outside. The deadbolt held and after three attempts, the door went quiet."

If things like this flow over you unnoticed, you're in for a great read.

 

If not, enjoy the plot and read faster.

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review 2017-03-29 15:46
Little Dead Red by Mercedes Yardley (audio)
Little Dead Red - Mercedes M. Yardley
This is a not happy tale. Terrible things happen to innocent people.

Little Red Dead is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood which was never a sweet tale anyway, but author Mercedes Yardley takes the bones of that fable and gives it a very gritty, very modern treatment and turns it into a horrifying read.

Some women have all the luck. Marie is not one of them. I don’t want to spoil too much of the story and am honestly unsure how to even tackle this review. I’ll just say that Marie suffers from two huge losses that leave her devastated, emotionally drained and at her wits end. After a kind man and his wife intervene, instead of succumbing to depression she decides to plot revenge.

This is a well plotted, well executed, bleak and painfully emotional short story – all the things I look for in a story such as this but it is not an feel good read. You have been warned.

Narration Notes: As this story is told from Marie’s POV, I’m not going to lie, I do wish it had been narrated by a woman but that’s my own personal preference. That said, narrator Joe Hempel does a fine job with the darkness of the story and doesn’t ruin the female voices with painful falsetto. I cannot tell you how many times a guy has ruined a female character for me with a cringy performance and vice-versa. I found it hard to tear myself away from the audio and do things like go to work and listen to people who needed to ask me oh so important questions that could not wait (yeah, that’s sarcasm you hear there) because the storytelling was so involving.

I received a copy of this audiobook courtesy of Audiobook Boom.
 
 

 

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review 2017-03-21 09:36
“Breeds” by Keith C Blackmore
Breeds - Keith C. Blackmore

The main thing I enjoyed about “Breeds” is Keith Blackmore’s muscular writing style. He gets you up close and personal to the action. You feel fully present even when things get bloody, which they often do. Yet there’s nothing gratuitous or exploitative here. There’s just a situation that has consequences and things that have to get done.

 

The situation is set up to be tense and tightly focused. An old, disillusioned werewolf, living on a remote Newfoundland island, goes rogue and starts to draw attention to himself. He knows this will bring the wrath of the werewolf Wardens on him and prepares a surprise for them that threatens everyone on the island.

 

The story is told from multiple points of view: the rogue werewolf, one of the wardens sent to put him down, an islander caught up in the action and even the unwilling participants in the rogue’s surprise.

 

The story takes place mostly within a single day and night in the midst of fierce snowstorm. Blackmore summons up the sense of isolation and vulnerability of the inhabitants of the Newfoundland island and uses it to raise tension without making the islanders seem weak or stupid.

 

Although there is action on almost every page and a blockbuster/video game scale body-count, Blackmore manages to generate some empathy for everybody involved from rogue, through warden, through predators and prey. I found myself being swept along by the powerful narrative thrust of the tale and enjoying myself much more than I thought I would.

 

This is great entertainment for blowing cobwebs away. I’ve already ordered the next book in the series, even though it’s called “Breeds 2” – I wonder how long it took to arrive at that title?

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review 2017-03-19 16:18
The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin by Stephanie Knipper
The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin - Stephanie Knipper,Andi Arndt,Cassandra Campbell

This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

This was really a great story. I wasn't sure what to expect when I started listening to this audiobook but I soon found myself hooked. The story touched on so many difficult topics and everything worked together in a way that I wouldn't have expected. I really liked that the story was told from multiple points of view and I thought that each perspective really added an important piece to the overall puzzle. I really ended up enjoying this book.

This is a book that is really about a lot of things. It is a book that tells the story of two sisters, Lily and Rose, mending their relationship. Lily and Rose have seen very little of each other in the years leading up to the start of the book but when Rose needs Lily, she comes to help. That is just one part of the story. This book also focuses on a little girl with disabilities who has a special gift.

Antoinette was a great character. She is nonverbal but she still says so much. She is her mother's world and the feeling is mutual. She is a caring child that doesn't want to see anyone or anything ill or in pain. She is willing to do anything she can to help take care of those that she loves. Unfortunately, Antoinette's gift comes with a price that those who love her work to protect her from.

I loved how so many different elements came together to tell this story. I loved the parts from Rose's point of view that really demonstrated her love for Antoinette. Lily's struggle to fit in and the things she struggles with in her life every day was very well told. Seth and Will both added to the story with their actions in the present and they both had really interesting pasts. I enjoyed the magical realism elements that helped to tell this story.

I loved the narration. I have listened to Andi Arndt several times in the past and have always enjoyed her work. This was the first time that I have listened to Cassandra Campbell and I thoroughly enjoyed the parts of the book that she narrated. I think that using two narrators really added to the impact of the story. Andi Arndt did narrate the bulk of the story but they both did an equally wonderful job. This was an emotional story and both narrators really did a great job expressing a lot of strong feelings.

I would recommend this book to others. This is the first book by Stephanie Knipper that I have read and I am really impressed by her ability to write wonderful characters dealing with a lot of difficult issues. I would definitely like to read from this author in the future.

I received a review copy of this book from HighBridge Audio via LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

Initial Thoughts
I enjoyed this story. The narration was great. I really liked the little bit of magic that made its way into the story.  

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review 2017-03-19 10:40
"The House At Sea's End - Ruth Galloway #3" by Elly Griffiths
The House at Sea's End - Elly Griffiths

"The House At Sea's End" is the third mystery involving Ruth Galloway, a forensic archaeologist, living on the salt marsh coast of Norfolk.  It carries on with the same ensemble cast of characters that we met in "The Crossing Places" and "The Janus Stone".

 

This time, Ruth, now a single mother courtesy of a threat-induced one night stand with the (married with two daughters) Detective Inspector Nelson, is called in to assess multiple bodies discovered after part of the coastline crumbles.

 

The plot unfolds around a World War II mystery and modern murders that appear to be linked. The action is spiced up by the visit of an old friend of Ruth's from when she was working on mass graves in Bosnia, thus triggering a series of flashbacks that draw us away from the rather static Norfolk setting and the slow moving plot.

 

Ruth, of course, finds herself at considerable personal risk before the denouement is reached and Nelson feels a strong need to come her rescue and to protect his unacknowledged third daughter, the baby Kate.

 

It seems to me that, in this book, the series tipped over from crime mysteries into an ongoing story of the lives of the main characters, with the mysteries being used to provide a frame to continue ot bring them together.

 

I felt much greater tension and suspense about what would happen with Ruth and Nelson than I did around who had killed whom in this latest series of murders.

I know that the series has already reached nine books and remains very popular but this will be my last one in the series. How many deaths requiring the skills of a forensic archaeologist can there be in a small coastal town in Norfolk? I'm not sufficiently interested in the fate of the characters to continue to read books that must become increasingly implausible.

 

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