Review: The Chestnut Man – Søren Sveistrup

1

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: If you find one, he’s already found you.

A psychopath is terrorizing Copenhagen.

His calling card is a “chestnut man”—a handmade doll made of matchsticks and two chestnuts—which he leaves at each bloody crime scene.

Examining the dolls, forensics makes a shocking discovery—a fingerprint belonging to a young girl, a government minister’s daughter who had been kidnapped and murdered a year ago.

A tragic coincidence—or something more twisted?

To save innocent lives, a pair of detectives must put aside their differences to piece together the Chestnut Man’s gruesome clues.

Because it’s clear that the madman is on a mission that is far from over. – via Goodreads

I got access to a copy of this awhile ago. The write up looked like my cup of tea, and a Scandinavian thriller/mystery is totally something I am on board for. As Jade said the other week, this is typically that story of a cop who neglects their home life in favour of saving other people and their loved ones. No different, box standard formula. Which would have been okay, except that it wasn’t.

I thought the story was going to be… more. So much more. But it was seriously bogged down by the writing, or (and I will freely admit this) the translation. There were plenty times while reading where I was like “oh dear, that could have been edited better, or translated more smoothly”, and it kept jarring me out of the story. I also feel that there is a ton of filler stuff, and that the book is filled with flat, bland characters. They are really by the numbers, nothing special… okay, except maybe for the fact that they were really daft. Almost wilfully stupid. I mean really. I know I am just the reader, but they were clunky and blind and, honestly, came across as incompetent more often than not. And I don’t mean the higher ups – I mean Thulin and Hess, our main pair.

Not only that, the author Søren Sveistrup weaves in a totally unnecessary and bland romance. It just came across as forced. I didn’t like that at all, and it pops up out of nowhere, and nothing comes of it. I mean they are trundling along, and all of a sudden they just want each other, then they don’t? What? Just, no. No.

So I am in the minority apparently about how I felt about this book – it seems other readers loved it. It just didn’t work for me. I didn’t like the characters or care about them, the book was very predictable in places, there was too much filler stuff between happenings, the logic is a little questionable, and the experience overall was not that great. The book felt like a super long read, so I didn’t love that, either. I just didn’t love The Chestnut Man, overall.

Review: Where The Missing Go – Emma Rowley

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I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: My name is Kate.

I volunteer at a local charity – young people who have run away from home call me and I pass on messages to their loved ones, no questions asked.

I don’t get many phone calls, and those I do are usually short and vague, or pranks.

But this morning a girl named Sophie called.

I’m supposed to contact her parents to let them know their child is safe.

The problem is, Sophie isn’t safe.

And Sophie is my daughter. – via Goodreads

Alrighty, so the synopsis for this totally looked like my cup of tea, and I was pleased when I was granted access to it from Netgalley. When I started this book, I was quickly and easily drawn in, and that is good. The premise is interesting, and I think everyone’s nightmare – for their child to go missing. That being said, you quickly realise you don’t really know what’s cracking, and the book slowly gives up its secrets.

I didn’t love all the characters, and that is okay. I liked the story, even though I feel that sometimes the writing style and the pacing let the story down a bit. There were sections that were a little unbelievable and then there were moments where something happens that is so stupid you are just stumped. But the story still keeps you engaged, even when the story goes from “missing” to “runaway”, and you start wondering how Rowley is going to keep you going.

The book is a simple, fast read, and very engaging, as I said. It probably could have been slightly shorter, but it is not so long that you lose interest, or wonder why you have spent so much time. There are some lulls, but for the most part, the story moves along. It is hectic to think about parents that have gone through/are going through something like this, it is horrible. I don’t have too much to say, just that the book was well worth a read, and I enjoyed it. It was twisty at times, and while predictable in some places, it wasn’t like that when it counted. Definitely worth a look see.

Review: The Rosary Girls – Richard Montanari

4

Byrne & Balzano #1

SYNOPSIS: Sprawling beneath the statue of William Penn, Philadelphia is a city of downtrodden crack houses and upscale brownstones. Somewhere in this concrete crazy quilt, one teenage Catholic girl is writing in her diary, another is pouring her heart out to a friend, and yet another is praying. And somewhere in this city is a man who wants these young women to make his macabre fantasy become reality. In a passion play of his own, he will take the girls–and a whole city–over the edge.

Kevin Byrne is a veteran cop who already knows that edge: He’s been living on it far too long. His marriage failing, his former partner wasting away in a hospital, and his heart lost to mad fury, Byrne loves to take risks and is breaking every rule in the book. And now he has been given a rookie partner. Jessica Balzano, the daughter of a famous Philly cop, doesn’t want Byrne’s help. But they will need each other desperately, since they’ve just caught the case of a lifetime: Someone is killing devout young women, bolting their hands together in prayer, and committing an abomination upon their otherwise perfect bodies.

Byrne and Balzano spearhead the hunt for the serial killer, who leads them on a methodically planned journey. Suspects appear before them like bad dreams–and vanish just as quickly. And while Byrne’s sins begin to catch up with him, and Balzano tries to solve the blood-splattered puzzle, the body count rises. Meanwhile, the calendar is approaching Easter and the day of the resurrection. When the last rosary is counted, a madman’s methods will be revealed, and the final crime will be the one that hurts the most. – via Goodreads

So I randomly stumbled across this on Amazon one day and bought it and then (imagine) me forgetting all about it. I was searching for something to read the other day and saw this in my library and figured why not? Couldn’t remotely recall what it was about or why I bought it, and I headed in blind and man, let me say I was impressed. This book has everything in it that I usually want from a book, and has it in spades.

This is a really satisfying read in the sense that it flows well, introduces you to a lot of characters, but never gets too much. It isn’t excessively complicated, and a solid introductory book to a fresh series (something I have been hankering for). I liked Jessica, though the book really seems to gloss over how she has become a homicide detective and is never around for her daughter anymore and her babysitting neighbour seems totally fine with constantly having a kid dumped on her by a neighbour.

There were a lot of characters introduced and written off with no fanfare whatsoever, so you never really get attached to anybody, and constantly have it in the back of your mind that any/all character are disposable. I quite enjoyed Montanari’s writing style. It is descriptive, immersive, and it flows well, which is something that doesn’t always happen. Maybe because I am so used to the brutality in Karin Slaughter’s books, I thought that Montanari might be a bit more… vicious like that, but I found it not to be the case. The ick was there, but hurried over in a sense, which might make this book appeal more to people who usually enjoy a thrill but not the gore.

The case for this novel is interesting and barrels along. I liked our main peanut characters, and have already purchased the next five books in this series and a standalone. I am hoping there will be more growth for the characters now that we have been introduced to them all, so we will see how it goes. Well worth the read, especially if you are into something a little more dark.

Review: Come Sundown – Nora Roberts

4

SYNOPSIS: Bodine Longbow loves to rise with the dawn. As the manager of her family’s resort in Western Montana, there just aren’t enough hours in the day – for life, for work, for loved ones. She certainly doesn’t have time for love, not even in the gorgeous shape of her childhood crush Callen Skinner, all grown up and returned to the ranch. Then again, maybe Callen can change her mind, given time…

But when a young woman’s body is discovered on resort land, everything changes. Callen falls under the suspicion of a deputy sheriff with a grudge. And for Bodine’s family, the murder is a shocking reminder of an old loss. Twenty-five years ago, Bodine’s Aunt Alice vanished, never to be heard of again. Could this new tragedy be connected to Alice’s mysterious disappearance?

As events take a dramatic and deadly turn, Bodine and Callen must race to uncover the truth – before the sun sets on their future together. – via Goodreads

Ah yes, another Roberts for me. This one was one of her better ones, as I really liked this one. It had an incredibly dark side to it that, for once, Roberts didn’t really shy away from, which worked for me. Maybe because I like dark and gritty, and her novels usually provide easy reading and very little investment.

Come Sundown is like a big family saga. Yes, sure, we know that Roberts really nails that down, and I have found that all her books that feature that more prominently are the ones I like more than average. This one worked really well. I liked the characters, I liked the family, I was interested in the resort and business they had set up and how it came together. I feel that the triple romances were bland, but no shocker there, and that some of the characters were more hollow than others. Okay, most, but yeah. Then, of course, there is the Alice aspect to it, and that is intense.

Granted, not as intense as reading, say, Karin Slaughter, but by Roberts standards it was intense and rather graphic. To read about Alice’s disappearance and the animal that had kidnapped her and broken her was rough. Just thinking about it and all that she suffered through it heartbreaking. I think that Roberts tied story in quite solidly with the story of the ranch and all really well. There wasn’t really a hitch in the story and it worked.

Okay, so then there is the romance. It is nothing special, nothing new, and Roberts, of course, played out her recipe as always. Man falls is love with strong woman, bends her to his will, decides they will be in love and get married, the woman will come around eventually. After all, strong as she is, she is still a damsel that needs saving. Yep. That’s it. Luckily this book brings more to the table than just a predictable romance. Also, my eyes were rolling at the whole bar fight and all that. I, personally, do not think it is sexy when a man wants to mission out and give another man a beatdown, and makes it this big affair. Not manly, just so stupid. Once you’ve exceeded your teens, get over that crap. So stupid.

Anyway, Come Sundown is a good read. It flows well, features a fun family and great interactions between the characters, and is interesting. It also has a dark side to it that weaves itself into the story quite well. Granted, the more modern dark side in this is a bit messy, and not unpredictable at all, but the original starting point? Really good.

Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin – Sarah J. Maas

7

A Court of Thorns and Roses #3

SYNOPSIS: Looming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit – and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords – and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.  – via Goodreads

Okay. Alright. Here we are. So I read the first and it wasn’t awful, and then I read the second and I outright hated that (I am so sorry bestie, I tried so hard to like these, but that last one was just… rough), and dreaded the concept of moving on to the third, but decided I best give it a shot. So. Here we go.

I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it, but it didn’t cause me as much upset as the last one, though it is still not great. I think the biggest issue with this series is that the books are excessively long for what they deal with. Like, I think the story would be tighter if we just had less pages to deal with. So in this one we get more of all the couples (cause Maas seems to buy into the concept of nobody being capable of being alone). We get more of Nesta and Cassian, some answers about Mor, Azriel, and Cassian, and Lucien is holding out for Elain and all that, and she is stumbling around like a mute. Rhys and Feyre don’t spend much time together in this, and when they do it is not nearly as bad as before.

Tamlin remains uber-dweeb of the century, and it really annoys me that Maas wrote one whole set of characters and introduces them to us, and in the second book changed everyone. Annoying but alright. I am still a fan of Lucien. He was the one of the things I liked the most about book one, and probably the only semi-redeeming thing in the second book, and he gets some time here, and I like that. A Court of Wings and Ruin also decides to deliver us some battle, some war, and I liked that. It might not be a ton of it, but it was enough to keep me breathing a bit more, not dealing with all sorts of wonky sex and reading about “my mate, my life, my love” the whole time.

I did enjoy reading about Amren, especially what with her covert little thing she has going on with Varian. Rhys is also a character I feel that Maas wants to make too perfect. I know, unpopular opinion, but it is just how I feel about it.

Anyway, I won’t be rushing to read the little filler books between this and (much to my horror to learn) the upcoming book. Natasha said I could skip it and be fine, anyway. There is also the question of whether or not I will return to the next one. A Court of Wings and Ruin is not nearly as offensive as A Court of Mist and Fury, but it is still far longer than strictly necessary.

Review: Odd Thomas – Dean Koontz

2

Odd Thomas #1

SYNOPSIS: “The dead don’t talk. I don’t know why.” But they do try to communicate, with a short-order cook in a small desert town serving as their reluctant confidant. Odd Thomas thinks of himself as an ordinary guy, if possessed of a certain measure of talent at the Pico Mundo Grill and rapturously in love with the most beautiful girl in the world, Stormy Llewellyn.

Maybe he has a gift, maybe it’s a curse, Odd has never been sure, but he tries to do his best by the silent souls who seek him out. Sometimes they want justice, and Odd’s otherworldly tips to Pico Mundo’s sympathetic police chief, Wyatt Porter, can solve a crime. Occasionally they can prevent one. But this time it’s different.

A mysterious man comes to town with a voracious appetite, a filing cabinet stuffed with information on the world’s worst killers, and a pack of hyena-like shades following him wherever he goes. Who the man is and what he wants, not even Odd’s deceased informants can tell him. His most ominous clue is a page ripped from a day-by-day calendar for August 15.

Today is August 14.

In less than twenty-four hours, Pico Mundo will awaken to a day of catastrophe. As evil coils under the searing desert sun, Odd travels through the shifting prisms of his world, struggling to avert a looming cataclysm with the aid of his soul mate and an unlikely community of allies that includes the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. His account of two shattering days when past and present, fate and destiny converge is the stuff of our worst nightmares, and a testament by which to live: sanely if not safely, with courage, humor, and a full heart that even in the darkness must persevere. – via Goodreads

So for years I have been meaning to get to these books after I watched Odd Thomas and learned that the movie was based on book. I, contrary to what most people felt, really enjoyed the movie. I thought it was fun. I didn’t see the twist coming. I adore Yelchin, so it all worked. So then I finally got myself together and actually got to reading this the other day and, well… yeah. I liked it. I just didn’t love it. I wanted more from it.

Odd Thomas breezes by. Seriously, it is an easy book to read, and the characters are fun, albeit a little thin. There is the Elvis angle, and then there is Odd himself, who is truly just a sweetheart, simple and pure. There is the whole backstory with his mother that could legitimately be way more messed up than was delivered here (who knows, it might be different in later books), but I just felt it was a little flat, like just glossed over? Plus two, what a hideous woman. His dad, too, was no real great shakes.

I enjoyed the story well enough, and as I said, it breezes by. It was an easy read, nothing too hectic to commit to, nothing too major to sink your teeth into, so that means you feel that you have missed a little by the end of it. It leaves you feeling a little wanting. That being said, I had a good time reading Odd Thomas and will read more of the books at some point, though I won’t be rushing for the next in the series anytime soon if I’m being honest. I suppose Odd Thomas prescribed to the typical Dean Koontz recipe of being entertaining and fun and all that, but not really staying long after as it doesn’t pack a major punch.

Review: Daughters of the Lake – Wendy Webb

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SYNOPSIS: After the end of her marriage, Kate Granger has retreated to her parents’ home on Lake Superior to pull herself together—only to discover the body of a murdered woman washed into the shallows. Tucked in the folds of the woman’s curiously vintage gown is an infant, as cold and at peace as its mother. No one can identify the woman. Except for Kate. She’s seen her before. In her dreams…

One hundred years ago, a love story ended in tragedy, its mysteries left unsolved. It’s time for the lake to give up its secrets. As each mystery unravels, it pulls Kate deeper into the eddy of a haunting folktale that has been handed down in whispers over generations. Now, it’s Kate’s turn to listen.

As the drowned woman reaches out from the grave, Kate reaches back. They must come together, if only in dreams, to right the sinister wrongs of the past. – via Goodreads

I think I got this as a Prime first reads option, and then I never got to it, though it looked interesting. I recently had LASIK done and decided to get this on Audible, too, for the few days where I could not read or watch too much TV. While my eyes were healing, basically. So that was my first audiobook experience in years, too, and it was quite good. The narrator, Xe Sands, was fantastic, and it was nice to listen to her. But anyway, let’s get to the book itself.

I quite enjoyed Daughters of the Lake. It was certainly not unpredictable, and the characters were not super deep or anything, but I thoroughly enjoyed the story flicking into the past and into the present, and seeing the connections come together, as well as how the story joined up. I feel that logic goes out the window a little bit, but that is to be expected in a supernatural story like this.

Anyway, overall I thought that Daughters of the Lake was a decent book and it’s a pretty quick one to go through, too. I thought it was a pretty good listen, too, as Xe Sands did a great job and was easy to listen to. Worth it.

Review: The Chalk Man – C.J. Tudor

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SYNOPSIS: None of us ever agreed on the exact beginning.

Was it when we started drawing the chalk figures, or when they started to appear on their own?

Was it the terrible accident?

Or when they found the first body? – via Goodreads

So my extreme book hangover following The Infernal Device trilogy left me confused and lost. I was floundering when Luke recommended I check out The Chalk Man. As I am one who takes suggestion seriously, I rooted around my Kindle until I found it again and set out to see what it was all about, as I remember rave reviews for it and a lot of advertising for it when it was originally released.

The Chalk Man reads very easily. It is slow paced and uses this to set up a pretty damn creepy vibe; it’s hopeless and damning and draws you in. It is not necessarily a scary book, and not the most fascinating, yet it keeps you going the whole way through. The story juggles two timelines, and this is one of those times were both timelines were handled well. There was not too much of the one or too little of the other. They trundled along neatly and it all worked out.

I don’t feel that the book featured an awful lot of likeable characters though. Okay, so maybe none. They all sucked, and reading about the constant alcoholism was also a little much at times. The story gives its secrets up bit by bit, and it works. The book was insanely bigged up here from the marketing and all, so I was a little wary that it might fall flat, but this was not the case. Okay, so maybe not the most amazing book ever as it was proclaimed to be or anything, but I had no regrets checking it out. I had a good time reading it. I liked how easy it was to read and how engaging the story was, even though at times it was a little predictable.

I think that The Chalk Man is also really well written, especially when you find out after the fact that this is a debut novel. I will certainly be keeping my eyes peeled for more of Tudor’s work, and I can recommend this for a read. While I might not be as hyped for this as some were, it is definitely worth a read. Thanks for the recommendation Luke!

Review: Pieces of Her – Karin Slaughter

4

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: What if the person you thought you knew best turns out to be someone you never knew at all . . . ?

Andrea knows everything about her mother, Laura. She knows she’s spent her whole life in the small beachside town of Belle Isle; she knows she’s never wanted anything more than to live a quiet life as a pillar of the community; she knows she’s never kept a secret in her life. Because we all know our mothers, don’t we?

But all that changes when a trip to the mall explodes into violence and Andrea suddenly sees a completely different side to Laura. Because it turns out that before Laura was Laura, she was someone completely different. For nearly thirty years she’s been hiding from her previous identity, lying low in the hope that no one would ever find her. But now she’s been exposed, and nothing will ever be the same again.

The police want answers and Laura’s innocence is on the line, but she won’t speak to anyone, including her own daughter. Andrea is on a desperate journey following the breadcrumb trail of her mother’s past. And if she can’t uncover the secrets hidden there, there may be no future for either one of them. . . . – via Goodreads

You know, I was beyond stoked when I got my hands on this book. You all know how deep a love I have for Karin Slaughter’s work, and there are few authors I get as excited about when they have a new book coming, so I was over the moon when I got my paws on this. My joy, however, was short lived.

It is not that I hated Pieces of Her, not at all, but I did not find it nearly as thrilling or as well crafted as Slaughter’s other work. I didn’t like any of the characters, which in and of itself is not something that would ruin a book for me, it’s just that I wasn’t keen on the story. Usually I am fascinated with cults, I really am, and I was interested to see where this would go, and in parts it is really good, and others it is just… bland.

I was so interested to read about the relationship between Andy and Laura, but it never really felt real for me. I did like Gordon. I seriously thought we had some espionage thriller on our hands, and then it went another way. I am seriously struggling to write a review for this. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it. I just found it to be a bit of a chore to read in the sense that it did not hook me and take me captive, where I just had to know what was going on every second of the way. It is, without a doubt, the most disappointing Slaughter read I have ever read. That is all I can really say on it.

Review: A Court of Mist and Fury – Sarah J. Maas

7

A Court of Thorns and Roses #2

SYNOPSIS: Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two. – via Goodreads

Ugh. This book. I know my bestie Natasha is a ridiculously big fan of these books, and I really wanted to love them like her, and I thought A Court of Thorn and Roses wasn’t too bad, but then this hunk of junk rolled around. It grated on my last nerve from page one essentially. Remember all that sexy time Natasha said might put me off and I didn’t get what she was talking about in the last book? Well. It is ALLLLLLLLLLL here. Let me get into this stupid book already, and keep myself reigned in as much as possible.

THE FUCKING WHINING. Dear God, will it ever end?! Not once did Feyre stop moaning and whining and feeling sorry for herself in this, which chapped my ass. Almost as much as her constant vomiting. I am not kidding. All this character does it whinge and bitch and puke and have sex dreams/fantasies. Goodness gracious me. I had some hope for Feyre from the last book. Maybe not the greatest character of all time, but certainly not the worst. But here? Save mine eyes!

The book was also excessively long. Seriously. Maas could have lopped off two hundred pages easily and still told the same wheedling, stupid story. So much of this book is wasted on erotica. And not the good kind, either. The lame, silly kind, with some exceptionally questionable sex scenes/practices going on. Forest Fuck Fest, Tom! I know how you love that phrase! This is it! I don’t like to read erotica or a ton of sex scenes, I want a story more than I want to know about… okay, let me stop there. This conversation might become too graphic for words, and is so not the way I converse. Just know I was extremely unimpressed with the offering.

Aside from Feyre working on my last nerve, the characters are again shallow and flat in this book, and Tamlin turned into a real asshat in this one. Controlling and manipulative and abusive. That bastard did nothing in the freaking uprising of Amarantha, and he is treated like the conquering hero that gets Feyre as a prize? What? CONFUSED. But yeah. Also, it irritated me that he was essentially an entirely different character than in the first. The first he had flaws, but who the fuck is this guy?! Then there is the completely NOT SHOCKING development of the relationship between Feyre and Rhys.

Maas is also a crappy writer. Well, in this series, at any rate. Repetitive language, more ellipses than should be legal and more em dashes than you can shake a stick at. Seriously. And she constantly repeats certain phrases. I don’t know how many times she used the term “vulgar gesture”, but my eye twitched every time I read it.

Okay, I am actually going to stop venting here before this turns crazy. Needless to say, I hated this book. It took me about a week and a half to read it because every time I looked at my Kindle, a little part of me wilted and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. But I am a completist and masochist and soldiered on. At least it is done now. I won’t lie, I have absolutely no motivation to pick up the next one. We will see if I get to the place where I wish to give Maas her last chance, but I don’t know. It seems my opinion is in the minority on this series, but I just don’t get the hype at all.