Crime/Thriller/Horror

Book Review: Murder Under The Christmas Tree

This is the third and final book I was given for Christmas, another collection of classic crime stories. It’s similar to Murder On Christmas Eve, so I’m not going to write too much in this review. Out of the two, though, this is my favourite collection.

The stories in this collection are, for the most part, very good. The last couple weren’t as engaging, but there’s always going to be one or two you don’t like. This collection even includes a tale about Sherlock Holmes (and Watson, of course) bt Arthur Conan Doyle himself. It was actually the first I’ve read of his work, and it was definitely as fantastic as I’d hoped.

Like the other book, the ten stories very from missing jewels hidden inside geese, to missing candle sticks, to death-by-radio. They’re all very interesting mysteries, again seemingly simple on the surface but always a lot more incricate than they seem.

A nice collection of classic “festive” crimes. 3.5 stars.

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Book Review: The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories

It’s getting a bit late to post these festive reviews so I’ll keep it short. It’s only a short book, anyway.

This book contains four short stories, all crime/detective tales, starting with The Mistltoe Murder. My personal favourite was the final story, The Twelve Clues of Christmas. Every story was great, though, and A Very Commonplace Murder was particularly surprising.

James manages to include a fantastic little hint/twist at the end of the stories, changing your whole perception on what you’ve just read. This made the crimes so much more interesting and real. They were relatively simple crimes – stabbings, poisoning – but there’s always a lot more going on under the surface than you’d expect.

A fantastic little collection, with a foreword by Val McDermid too. 4 stars.

Book Review: Murder on Christmas Eve

My dad gave me a few ‘festive’ crime/detective books for Christmas, and this is the first of the three I have read so far. It contains short stories from a selection of well-known authors in the genre, including Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and eight others. All taking place during the holiday season, the tales center around bizarre events that appear to have no rational explanation.
The stories and crimes are all very strange and it’s really interesting to see how the cases were solved. Who knew a cat could solve a murder? And the case of the missing manuscript had a very unexpected conclusion indeed.

I got the sense from these stories that I would have appreciated them more if I had read other works by the authors beforehand. Still, the stories were really interesting and had that classical mystery/detective feel to them. 3/5 stars.

Book Review: Apple Tree Yard

Who doesn’t like a good thriller novel?

The narrative of this book is quite unique, being recalled as an account from the past. Yvonne, the narrator, often refers to “now” and unknown events that have yet to take place in the story. This definitely builds the suspense a lot.

Yvonne takes us through the development of her extramarrital relationship with the unknown “you” (or “X” as she refers to him in her letters). Later, we will learn the identity of Yvonne’s lover, but throughout the book we are given only speculations about his life that Yvonne theorises to be accurate.

This affair is, I suppose, both shocking and familiar at the same time. Yvonne is a successful, loved wife and mother with a safe home and good career. She loves her husband and her children. Her affair is, in this respect, unexpected and outrageous. But at the same time, as Yvonne summarises at the end of the novel, her “one-off” offence falls perfectly into the typical category of people like her. People who do not cheat on their partners because they don’t love them. Unline “you”, who cheats repeatedly for the excitement of it.

Most of the book is dedicated to the devlopment of the relationship, with other details of Yvonne’s life and comments about the present included here and there. Yvonne is eventually sexually assaulted by a coworker/acquaintance. Amazingly, this event leads to Yvonne being on trial for murder.

The court case is described fantastically, with plenty of detail about all the little things that really set the scene. The narrative throughout the book is also fantastic – it really has the ‘feel’ of a middle-aged woman. 3.5 stars.Bookmarked Signature Logo

Graphic Novel/Comic Book Review: Batman: The Killing Joke

Batman: The Killing Joke

Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland – Hardcover, Deluxe Edition, 64 pages – Published March 19th 2008 by DC Comics (first published 1988)

I went to London Super Comic Con on Friday and bought a few image books/graphic novels (I can’t wait to read them!) and decided to start taking advantage of my boyfriend’s extensive comic/graphic novel collection. As I’ve been intending to read The Killing Joke for ages now, I decided to start with that.

The edition I read included an introduction by Tim Sales, an afterword by Brian Bolland, and a final scene written and illustrated by Bolland.

This is one of the most famous and successful novels – and I can see why. The story is just fantastic – the Joker tries to prove that anyone can go insane after just one bad day, using Jim Gordon as his example. The colour palettes are so cleverly thought out, giving an eerie, creepy tone to most scenes, while the Joker’s (possible) origin story is mostly black and white with just small details in red.

Batman is obviously included, but is not a massive character in this story. The focus is on the Gordons and the Joker.

I really loved this. The origin story for the Joker that’s included can be taken as true or false – the Joker makes a comment about not actually remembering his past, and liking it to be “multiple choice”. This gives the reader the choice of believing it or not. And the Joker’s ways of putting Jim Gordon through hell are definitely in line with his character.

The Joker always fascinates me, and I would love to read all his stories. But whether you’re a “fan” of his or not, this book is definitely worth the read. 5 stars; an fantastic novel.

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Book Review: Evil Rises

Evil Rises

Evil Rises (Noah Reid #0.5) by Wesley Robert Lowe – eBook, 42 pages – First published June 10th 2014

This is just a short prequel to Lowe’s Noah Reid series, with a little extract from the first book included at the end. The story itself is only about 35 pages long.

There’s a little intro to the culture and the origin of Shaolin Martial Arts, which is an important theme in this story. It helped to understand the story, so I appreciated that detail.

The beginning of this story is almost a prequel to the prequel; the childhood experience of Wudan, who would later become Master Wu. Why he chose to take up Shaolin training, and then why he decided to leave “Heaven” to teach the art to others.

The protagonist of the series, Noah, is introduced in this story. He’s not a big character here, though – we’re simply given a taste of what he’ll be like and what purpose he will serve. Instead, this story focuses on some of Master Wu’s students: Tommy, Garret, and (presumably) the antagonist of the series, Chin. We see how Chin went from a young student to a criminal businessman, and are even given some of his motives. And then, after a tragic “accident”, we see his former friends and colleagues planning to defeat him when the time comes.

I like the idea of this, and having all this backstory is really interesting. But this was one of those books that just didn’t stand put to me. The writing seemed mediocre, the characters average at best. I didn’t dislike it, exactly, but it didn’t really excite or interest me. 2.5 stars, as it wasn’t awful but it just wasn’t my kind of thing.

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Graphic Novel Review: American Vampire Volume #1

American Vampire Volume #1

American Vampire Volume #1 by Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque and Stephen King – Paperback, 192 pages – Published November 1st 2011 by Titan Publishing Company (first published October 5th 2010)

I’ve decided to check out more graphic novels at the local library, and have started going through alphabetically. Which is how I found this series, by Stephen King, Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque.

It’s an adult graphic novel, complete with tons of action and obscenities. It’s set back in the 19th and 20th Centuries, in – you guessed it – America. It’s about a new breed of vampires; the American Vampire, stronger and less vulnerable than the original European vampire.

Of course, the two groups are rivals. Best friends fight each other, and one person welcomes death instead of becoming a monster. It’s all very interesting and exciting. The art is great, too – it really portrays the action and danger and monstrosity of the vampires.

But I, personally, got a bit lost and confused with the timeline – there are dates and everything, but I often forget them. And all the different characters got a bit confusing for me, too, but that might be because I didn’t have the time to sit down and really focus on the novel.

I’m still planning on reading the next few volumes of this series. It’s really interesting, and I like this new breed of vampires. As for the young girl born at the end….. I wonder where that will go! 3 stars.

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Book Review: Frankenstein

Frankenstein

Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley – eBook, 126 pages – Published May 17th 2012 (first published March 11th 1818)

This book has been reviewed and studied so many times over the years, so I’ll keep this simple.

It is a classic novel, originally published back in 1818. This does mean that the language is harder to read and understand for some people, and the general culture and ideas are all rather different to what you may be used to. That’s always the biggest problem with reading and appreciating older novels – sometimes we just can’t enjoy the fantastic writing or the unique characters like people would’ve back when it was released.

We are first introduced to Robert Walton on an expedition to the North Pole, writing letters back home. The whole story is, in fact, him recounting what he is told by the man he picks up in his boat – Frankenstein. Frankenstein’s story is a familiar one; he created a monster, who subsequently felt lonely amongst this world of humans. This creature wanted a partner, a mate, but Frankenstein was unwilling to create yet another daemon of this kind. So he took revenge, slowly removing all of the Frankenstein’s loved ones until he no longer held the will to live himself.

It is actually a lot sadder than I ever knew. I didn’t know much, just the generic “Frankenstein’s monster” creation story. But this novel is full of heartache and loss, regret and terror. It’s about a scientist crossing the line of creation, only to suffer drastically for his ambitions.

Yet we are also given the “monster’s” account – his terrifying, lonely entry to the world, his plea for company, even his regret for the lives he took. I never really thought much about the creation himself, didn’t consider his side all that much. But this novel makes you think about him, and even causes you to sympathise with him.

I liked this book, but I feel like it’s one of those books you’re supposed to like. I’m not a huge fan of classic novels, but I can see past the difference in language and lifestyle. I just really appreciated the amount of emotion in this, and also it’s not-so-perfect ending. It isn’t a favourite, and it wasn’t a casual, easy read, but I will give it 3.5 stars.

Check out this edition here.

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Book Review: The Outs

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Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

Well, this was… an interesting read…

Just gonna quickly put a little trigger warning in here, as there are graphic and emotional descriptions of depression and suicide. But the story isn’t about these things, and they aren’t properly talked about until far later in the novel.

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The Outs by E.S. Wesley – eBook, 365 pages – Published January 24th 2017 by Curiosity Quills Press

You’re thrown right into the deep end from page one, having to put the pieces together as the plot progresses. We meet one of our protagonists, Caleb, in an unfamiliar room with mysterious men and a random little girl. He ends up taking her with him as he runs, trying to figure out what he did during the Outs.

The Outs are kinda confusing. They’re moments in time where electrical appliances all fail, and anything that happens is forgotten as soon as the Outs end. Oh, and anyone killed during the Outs is resurrected from the dead.

I’m really not sure how to describe this book. The plot is super confusing – Caleb and his aphasic friend, Kitzi, take this weird little girl (Amanda) who somehow has powers over everyone and everything, in an attempt to stop Deeds and his army of Deadheaders. Caleb has a psychopathic voice in his head called Crimes, Amanda’s dreams come true, Kitzi’s suicide happens to have taken place at the same time the Outs started, she can smell the truth – and somehow they’re all connected to the Outs? These three individuals – and many others along the way – each have a big part in what is happening. But how?

Honestly, I cannot explain it. There are so many little ties and strings throughout this book that all add up, and I couldn’t possibly include them all.

It definitely is a unique book. The idea is pretty good, too – the whole “nightmares becoming real” and all. But I just didn’t connect; I don’t know if it was the pacing or what, but I just didn’t feel involved in it.

I feel like I should’ve been able to sympathise with the characters more – they had good backstories, emotional and family issues that different people should be able to relate to. And the narration following Kitzi often makes references to comic books which I personally really appreciated. But I just didn’t quite feel them. Maybe it’s just me – there’s nothing wrong with the writing in particular, so maybe it’s just personal preference. I don’t know.

I had a few typos in my copy but I received an ARC, not a final copy, so that shouldn’t affect anyone buying the book. I loved the cover, and the art at each chapter start was great. Also, the inclusion of “Notes From Last Night” (a site where people recorded notes during the outs for after they forget) was awesome, too. It added a whole other dimension to the world, an extra little bit of interest.

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I wanted to like this, I really did. And I didn’t dislike it – but it didn’t feel like anything special to me. 3 stars for The Outs.

If you’re interested, you can check it out on Amazon.

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Book Review: Lost Girls

pro_readerThis was my first experience of Marsons’ D.I. Kim Stone series, even though it is the third instalment. I love thrillers and crime/detective novels, so I’m incredibly grateful to the author/publishers for allowing me a copy of this book via NetGalley.

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Lost Girls (D.I. Kim Stone #3) by Angela Marsons – eBook, 442 pages – Published November 6th 2015 by Bookouture

A year ago, two young girls were kidnapped. Only one came home.

Two more girls have gone.
There are several obstacles for the team to overcome: Is it the same persecutor as last time? Will they be using the same location? What do they want? Are the girls even alive still?
Stone knows one of the mothers from her younger years spent in care. They never got on, yet she still requests Kim to lead the investigation.
Marsons gives an in-depth insight to the workings of the case, including the emotional effect on the workers. The use of a “profiler” was a nice touch, even if she was constantly hated and insulted at the start. (I’m looking into some kind of psychological side of crime for a uni course, so it was interesting to see what role she played. My psychology course at A Level also means I understand some of the references mentioned, which made me rather happy.)
With the help of a negotiator, a crazy psychic and the survivor of the last case, Kim manages to narrow down the search location. But the clock is ticking.
Throughout the course of this investigation, Kim is hung up on a previous failure. She’d always blamed a reporter for the death of a young man, but what if it wasn’t her fault? What if someone else was really to blame?
We also see into Kim’s past through small instalments of memories. Bit by bit, we conjure an image of her character, her experiences and feelings. She comes across as bit of a bitch, but shows her tenderness when trying to save the girls. Her relationships with different characters in the novel also reveal different strengths and weaknesses.
While the investigation is going on, the couples go through several different domestic issues. Leads are being found and extinguished all around, and the previous case notes provide little help. The tension builds as they struggle to keep hope alive.
The end includes a few somewhat predictable twists, but isn’t bad. Some non-crime-related developments are quite unexpected, though, proving that this is more than a simple detective novel.
An interesting read, but not particularly outstanding. 3.5 stars out of 5.

Buy it now!

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