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review 2019-05-01 14:07
Star Crossed - Minnie Darke

When Justine Carmichael runs into old friend Nick Jordan, she is reminded of her feelings for him from many years ago. When she realises that Nick relies on the astrology column from the magazine she work’s for, Justine thinks that slightly altering Nick’s star sign could be the way to make him realise she’s the one for him. It seemed like a fool-proof plan. Nothing could go wrong, could it?


I’ll start by saying I’m not that au fait with astrology. I’m a Capricorn. I know this is symbolised by a goat. The only thing I know is that goats like to climb things and eat a lot. I like climbing into bed and eating my own body weight in chocolate so I guess there are similarities. As for any supposed traits of Capricorn I wouldn’t have a clue where to start. And rising signs are a mystery to me.


So why did I read a book that has star signs dotted throughout it? Because it sounded fun. And it was. The book is filled with a variety of characters, from curmudgeonly Len to the charming, and slightly egotistical Daniel. Then there’s Brown Houdini-Malarkey who reminded me of Slinky Malinky, every time I read about him. Nick is a quiet character, keen to pursue his acting career but torn between his dreams and his girlfriend Laura, who is keen for Nick to give up on the flight of fancy that is acting. His reliance on the horoscopes is perhaps incongruous with his somewhat pragmatic and laid back character.


There are lots of references to astrology, star signs and rising signs. If I’m honest I didn’t really get all the references. I’ve no idea if  Leo with Gemini rising is supposed to be scruffy, or impulsive or have any particular traits. I just let those parts of the story wash over me. It did strike me as slightly unlikely that every character apart from Justine was so into their star signs and knew all about them.


Justine has a penchant for vintage clothing and an obsession with correcting grammatical errors. Even if that means stealthy spelling corrections and writing on shop windows correcting errant commas. That part of her I can relate to, though I’ve not gone as far as scrawling editorial notes on menus. Her actions are impulsive, and what starts as one slightly altered horoscope soon becomes almost a habit. There were aspects of this that were slightly unsavoury, her actions could have been considered selfish. Especially when she discovers Nick has a girlfriend. Things never go to plan and she digs herself a little deeper into the hole she made for herself when she changed the first reading for Aquarius.


I really enjoyed the cusp stories. Little vignettes that ran throughout the tale, we saw how Justine’s meddling had an effect on more than just Nick. There were romances, affairs, broken hearts and escapes, the actions of one person having a domino effect on many more.

Ultimately, the story shows that even if things are written in the stars, instinct, luck and happenstance, as well as intention and drive, all have an effect on our lives.

A fun, enjoyable read.

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review 2019-04-06 20:52
It's Written in the Stars
Star Crossed - Minnie Darke

Please note that I received this book via NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review.


Younger me would have been all over this book. A book about how your astrology sign rules you life? I loved reading all of that stuff and figuring out what aspects of being an Aquarius I had. My friends and I all loved tarot cards and fortune tellers. Heck, I had a best friend who would go on about how her boyfriend was such a Gemini which meant full of contradictions and selfishness at times. 


"Star-Crossed" has a lot of heart. We don't just follow the two main characters of Justine (Sagittarius) and Nick (Aquarius) we follow a bunch of other secondary characters who are affected along the way too. Not everyone gets a happy ending, but I found myself smiling and even tearing up a bit here and there. I also loved that the setting is Australia. I am all for romance books not always taking place in London and New York. The ending was definitely a great HEA.


"Star-Crossed" follows Nick and Justine from the day they were born and allows how the date of their birth is nudging them along. Nick and Justine's mothers are very good friends so these two do grow up together. But after one of the family's move, the two don't see each other again until they are 15 years old. And after that, almost another 10 years goes by. And when Justine runs into Nick again, she finds herself thinking about him and how maybe now they could have a relationship with each other. Nick has a girlfriend though. However, when Justine realizes that Nick's favorite astrologer writes for the magazine that she is employed at, she starts to wonder if maybe fate needs a helping hand. 


I honestly took a little warming up to Justine after a bit though. I wasn't down for what she was attempting to do and I honestly didn't get why she couldn't just talk to Nick. That said, she leans a lot more Aquarius at times I thought with her sense of romance and how fate keeps throwing Nick in her path. Justine is sarcastic and obsessed with grammatical errors to the point I kept cracking up about it. She dreams of being a reporter and is worried that she's not going to get a real life while she watches her friends and family couple up and move on. 

Nick was a dreamer, but I thought at times quite pragmatic. He's trying to make a living as an actor and finding it hard going. His model girlfriend is quite tired of him being poor and wants him to give up acting for more steady work. And though he is thinking about it, he keeps getting pushed by Justine to stay with acting.


The two together have a wonderful shared history and I loved their backstory. 


Darke also follows a ton of other characters influenced by their horoscopes and this is where sometimes you will end up laughing or be sad. I thought it was great to follow them all from the beginning of the book to the end. Heck, we even get a dog as a character in this one and I won't get into his side-plot, but I was worried for the dog for a good portion of the book. 


The writing takes a bit to get going along with the flow. However, once it does, the book really snaps along. I had a hard time putting this one down while I was on the road. I know a lot of people will probably roll their eyes about astrology, but honestly I think Darke does a good job of showing both sides of things. Those who rely too heavily on their astrological signs and those who focus too much on things being black or white. 


Darke follows the secondary characters in the Cusp sections so at first you get introduced to a lot of new people, but she circles back to them again though so you can follow the progression of their stories separately from Nick and Justine (though sometimes they do interact with the cusp characters). 


The ending was pitch perfect and I was sad to put this one down. I will definitely be on the lookout for future Darke books. 

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review 2017-01-30 00:00
A Room Full of Killers (DCI Matilda Darke, Book 3)
A Room Full of Killers (DCI Matilda Darke, Book 3) - Michael Wood I thought before I read this book that I was quite hardened when it came to crime novel that I could deal with quite a lot (except harming of animals and children), but there were really tough parts in this book that was hard for me to get through and that were the chapters that were the POV of the children, the murderers.

A Room Full of Killers is a dark and tragic book that I devoured. It's engrossing, but at the same time is it not an easy book to get through. DCI Matilda Darke has a lot on her plate, with the release of a book concerning a kidnap case that she was in charge of that went wrong. Also, she is still not completely over her husband's death 18 months earlier. And, now this case at the Starling House. A teenager is dead, and who could have done it? The question of why someone murdered him is perhaps not hard to understand since Ryan Asher is a convicted murderer, but someone got him out of a locked room. Matilda then meets one of the inmates, Thomas, and Matilda is convinced that the young boy is innocent of the crime he is said to have done. Now she wants to find Ryan's murdered and at the same time is she trying to get Thomas free.

I found the book thrilling and intense and the last part of the book had some really great twist to the story. I was a bit surprised on how Matilda could believe someone to be innocent by just looking at him. I mean quite literary just instantly believe his innocent without knowing much about the case. I'm not a police, but appearance can be deceiving, but I guess I much more cynical. Still, it added drama to the story. The side story with the kidnap case was also interesting and I'm really curious to see the impact it will have in the next book. If the kidnapping will be solved. I'm also quite eager to get the two previous books to read!

A Room Full of Killers is an excellent thriller. The characters are well-developed and interesting to follow and the case is interesting and I love the ending!

I want to thank the publisher for providing me with a free copy through NetGalley for an honest review!
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review 2015-07-11 16:58
Mr. Nasty review
Mr. Nasty - Leo Darke

Every writer has to start somewhere and Leo Darke starts with something he knows - if the "About the Author" section at the end of Mr. Nasty is to believed. He writes about the tedious lives of film and TV extras, and oddly enough, they don't seem to be as funny as what Ricky Gervais would have us believe.

But they are most certainly more horrifying. At least in Darke's world.

Mr. Nasty scores major points for its concept: Someone is utilising the 39 videos banned in the UK in the early 1980s as inspiration for a set of brutal murders. These murders mostly take place on or around movie sets, which is where major protagonist Tommy Wallace comes into play. He's a struggling extra whose marriage is on the rocks, and it's from his perspective that most of the story is told. Once the murders begin the other major POV character, Detective Sargeant Slade, is introduced and soon Tommy is being looked at as a major suspect.

The first half of Mr. Nasty is largely set-up and character development. And herein are the book's two major problems. Firstly, it simply takes too long to get where it's going - though when the second half does ratchet up the pace, there is guts and gore galore to be found. Secondly, Darke does a less than serviceable job of building sympathetic characters. Slade is an arrogant asshole, while Tommy spends most of his time mooning over every woman to take a second glance at him. The number of times he vacillates between the various women in his life eventually becomes tiresome and then contemptible. Darke also makes the first novel mistake of adopting the omnipotent narrator POV from time to time, hinting at or even openly stating events to come, and thereby destroying any real tension that might have been derived.

Still, the ideas here are quality. Darke plays with whether the killers are everyday murderers or perhaps even magically lifted straight from the Video Nasties themselves. He also throws a bit of a John Carpenter-esque curveball by having the titular character filming the murders so they can be cut together into the ultimate snuff film that may do more than simply shock ...

All in all, Mr. Nasty is a serviceable debut novel that provides a glimpse into a dark and imaginative mind.

3 Poor Decisions Made Under Threat of Imminent Death for Mr. Nasty.


The above review is based on an eARC obtained from Samhain Publishing via Netgalley.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1327155612
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review 2014-01-27 09:46
Septimus Heap series (pt 2): Queste; Syren; Darke; Fyre by Angie Sage
Septimus Heap series: Queste; Syren; Darke; Fyre - Angie Sage

Read by Tiffany: Queste is a slightly darker tale than previous volumes, but still a straightforward adventure with our favourite characters. Syren continues the adventurous tale, full of fun, intrigue, wizards, pirates, ghosts, double-crossing, friendships and a dragon – simple, easy to read fun.

Darke brings to the fore the theme of the world needing balance - Magyk and Alchemy, light and darke - as well as potential for redemption. It begins with picking up previous threads, and takes a little while to get them all woven into shape. Well written, full of action and adventure.

Fyre rounds out the tale very satisfactorily, both story and relationships. Well written, full of action, a great end to this part of the story. (to be continued in the forthcoming Todhunter Moon series …)

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