Saturday, August 29, 2015

Review: The Wrong Man by Kate White

4 stars for The Wrong Man by Kate White.

Be it cover or title, there is nothing particularly eye-catching about this book. Nor does name of the author rings a bell. Come to think about it, I almost put this book away for good and miss out on a whole lot of exciting story. Ironically, what pulls me back from doing so is the author; my interest is greatly piqued when I realise that the writer is the former editor in chief of Cosmopolitan magazine - the international fashion magazine for women - and that, is a whole new ball game for me.

The story goes like this...

Kit Finn, an interior designer, has an impulsive urge to try something risky in her life. This leads to an acceptance of dinner invitation with a total stranger staying in the same boutique hotel - in Islamorada, Florida - as her. Never in the life of this 35-year old protagonist will she have imagined that such a simple gesture can lead to inconceivable consequences which turn into one of her worst nightmares ever.

The story has an excellent start. Before long - by the end of third chapter - I am swept off the ground by the constant bombardment of fresh developments to the story. The more I read, the more intrigued and captivated I am by the unforeseen changes in the turn of events. In fact, I am so pleased with the writing and storyline that I feel blinded by the brightness of 5 dazzling stars. That is until I hit the halfway mark; suddenly I find myself torn between giving a rating of 3.5 or 4 stars. Yes, the story flows and there is still a certain amount of suspense and guess-work. But as exciting as it gets, the truth is, the initial high thrill of excitement has tapered off in line with the conjectures that go round and round in circles. In other words, it gets stale.

Also I cannot help but keep thinking that should this novel of suspense be written in first person narrative instead of third person, it may have worked even better in leaving a deeper imprint and greater impact on the reader. After all, this story is written with Kit Finn in mind and all events are viewed through her eyes. But of course, this is just my two pennies' worth of thoughts as each and every author has his/her own style of writing.

Upon finishing the book, I conclude that it warrants a rating higher than 3.5 stars - thanks to the final unexpected twist - but not more than 4. So, 4 shining stars it is.

Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; First Edition edition
Publication date: 16 Jun 2015


Bold and adventurous in her work as owner of one of Manhattan’s boutique interior design firms, Kit Finn couldn’t be tamer in her personal life. While on vacation in the Florida Keys, Kit resolves to do something risky for once. When she literally bumps into a charming stranger at her hotel, she decides to make good on her promise and act on her attraction.

But back in New York, when Kit arrives at his luxury apartment ready to pick up where they left off in the Keys, she doesn’t recognize the man standing on the other side of the door. Was this a cruel joke or part of something truly sinister?

Kit soon realizes that she’s been thrown into a treacherous plot, which is both deeper and deadlier than she could have ever imagined. Now the only way to protect herself, her business, and the people she loves is to find out the true identity of the man who has turned her life upside down.

*Blurb from author's website*

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Review: Buried Deep (Retrieval Artist #4) by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

5 stars for Buried Deep (Retrieval Artist book 4) by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

Ever since the Disty first make their appearance in book 1 of the Retrieval Artist series, we learn that it is best to steer clear of this particular species of aliens due to their belief in vengeance killing. However, due to interstellar commerce, it is almost impossible to have zero contact with these extra-terrestrials. Hence, to avoid being prosecuted for crimes – which so often, in the eyes of human laws are regarded as insignificant, harmless or not even considered offenses at all - against the Disty, the humans can only aim to minimise communication and hence mitigate the risk of incurring the wrath of the Disty.

In this book 4, the Disty are once again thrust into the limelight but by one not of their choice. As the humans learn more about the Disty, their culture and rituals, it seems that the less is understood about them for the Disty are extremely secretive, especially about personal matters – even to the extent of revealing their names – and it makes dealing with them more of a nasty chore than welcomed challenge. As a result, no one in the Earth Alliance can comprehend completely the Disty and their traditional rituals of dealing with the dead. This lack of in-depth knowledge in turn leads to devastating consequences in the crisis that follows.

Something has been unearthed on the Disty dominated Mars; something so terrifying to the Disty that they are fleeing Saraha Dome where it is found; something so petrifying that the Disty have turned irrational to get out of said Dome by any means - trampling one another, taking trains, stealing aircars and jamming exits in the port - even if it means dying in the process. To survive the catastrophe, these panicky Disty may travel to any available port in the solar system and Armstrong Dome being one of the largest and closest to Mars stands out as an ultra-bright beacon to attract these soon-to-be refugees.

Buried Deep is a story competently written and a title cleverly chosen. The mystery is so well buried decades ago deeply into the grounds in Sahara Dome on Mars that it requires a professional - Retrieval Artist – to uncover the truth hidden within layers of the past upon the past.

It is always fascinating to see how my favourite character, Flint combines his past police training with his data-recovery skills - acquired from his time as a computer specialist - to aid in his research by taking up significantly lesser amount of time than the average Retrieval Artist. Another equally captivating character is Noelle DeRicci. The respect she has earned from the marathon attack since book 2 Extremes and the bombing incident in book 3 Consequences is forcing her into places she does not want to go and positions she does not want to hold. Yet, DeRicci bravely takes up the reins of leading as Chief of Moon Security and asserts her belief to protect by taking matters into her hands.

I truly enjoy reading the Retrieval Artist series ingeniously fabricated by this author. In Buried Deep, she continues to astound me in how she builds a case story with the subplots and then proceeds to link them up beautifully to form the big picture. Just when I am almost convinced that the issue at hand has spiralled out of control with no possible solution in sight and has reached a hopeless point of no return, the author surprises me by revealing the light at the end of the tunnel. Suddenly all’s well that ends well.

Publisher: WMG Publishing
Publication date: 7 Jun 2011


A cold case starts it all—human bones discovered beneath the Martian soil in the alien Disty’s main city. The Disty evacuate, believing the area contaminated. Forensic anthropologist Aisha Costard investigates and discovers that the bones belong to a woman last seen thirty years before.

But the woman didn’t vanish, nor did anyone believe her dead. She Disappeared, along with her children, after being charged with crimes against an alien civilization. Costard believes the children hold the key to this mystery, but she can’t find them on her own. So she returns to the Moon to hire Miles Flint.

As Flint investigates, events move swiftly around him, and suddenly what began as a simple murder case turns into an incident that might destroy the entire solar system….

*Blurb from author's website*

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Review: The Mistletoe Bride & other Haunting Tales by Kate Mosse

3 stars for The Mistletoe Bride & other Haunting Tales by Kate Mosse.

The Mistletoe Bride & other Haunting Tales is the first time the author is writing short stories – 14 tales and a play - as a collection and according to her, are works of fiction inspired by either a particular time and place or the English and French folklore.

This anthology has a good mix of traditional ghost accounts written in first person narratives as well as those told in the third person. Though it is centered on the supernatural theme - the haunting of a house by the dead that has not been laid to rest; the seeking of revenge by the spirits that have returned from the dead - the stories are not in the least bit terrifying, at least, I am relieved to say that I have neither been spooked nor scared out of my wits reading them. Instead, I am mostly overcome with sadness and a sense of loss or guilt for the fictional characters. Coincidentally, my favourite story is the one gracing the book cover; The Mistletoe Bride is beautifully written with a melancholy tone of love lost that echoes over time and space.

Interestingly, I am charmed by the Author’s Note - a narrative of the narrative - that follows after each story, explaining the context and original inspiration of how the story comes about from beginning to end. It certainly provides an insight into the making of each tale and presents the author as a very real person, not just a printed name on the book cover.

While I appreciate the efforts the author puts in on coming out with this many creative short stories all by herself of which I enjoy reading most, I cannot help but feel dissatisfied upon flipping to the last page of each. Unfortunately, this is but an effect due to the nature of short stories itself where there is just that much depth a writer can cram into each story.

Publisher: Orion (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd); First Edition edition
Publication date: 24 Oct 2013


A wonderfully atmospheric collection of stories from one of our most captivating writers, inspired by ghost stories, traditional folk tales and country legends from England and France. These tales are richly populated by spirits and ghosts seeking revenge; by grief-stricken women and haunted men coming to terms with their destiny – all rooted deep in the elemental landscapes of Sussex, Brittany and the Languedoc.

The collection includes The Mistletoe Bride, La Fille de Melisande, Red Letter Day, The Lending Library, and The House on the Hill.

*Blurb from author's website*

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Review: Welcome to the Dark House (Dark House #1) by Laurie Faria Stolarz

4.5 stars for Welcome to the Dark House (Dark House book 1) by Laurie Faria Stolarz.

If you ask me: physical book or digital book? I will tell you, for the sake of ease and convenience, I take the e-book version - blame it on techology - anytime over the dead tree version. But deep down inside, I am still a great lover of books, physical that is, be it paperback, hardback, large print books or even timeworn books. I love the smell of books in libraries and old book stores; it not only relaxes me but fills me with warmth, happiness and a strange sense of peace.

Unfortunately, no matter how handy it is to read by the use of an e-reader, there are some things about the reading experience which simply cannot be replicated from holding, flipping and perusing a tangible book. Sometimes, due to the way a story is written and presented, it remains best to read the novel the old-fashioned way. Welcome to the Dark House is one such book that makes me grateful to have laid my hands on the paperback. Though I do not possess the digital version, I dare say with certainty that should I have read it on my e-book device, the pleasure I gain will surely be different and likely one of considerably diminished enjoyment.

When I first start reading, I know this is a first person narrative - narrator being Ivy, a 18-year old girl – but what I am not aware of is that it covers first person point of view from six totally different characters. As I read on, I feel a kind of respect towards the author whom I think is gutsy enough to have attempted this adventurous feat which is by no means easy. But boy, do I get blown away! The author does it so astonishingly well with no unnecessary overlap that I do not feel in the least mind trapped in any one of the six characters while seeing events unfold through the eyes of each and sweeping me off to the next level of heightened episode.

Regardless of the above merits, I do have two small objections. (1) As fast-paced as the plot goes, there is a small portion which I find is a touch too slow-going and a tad too draggy. (2) I have to constantly flip back – lucky me reading an actual book and not e-book which wastes precious seconds while refreshing - to the start of each chapter, where name of the narrating character is imprinted, to remind myself of who the speaker is. Nevertheless, these two grievances of mine do not impede on the overall reading experience and I am still able to enjoy the mind-boggling story tremendously.

For the past 6 years, Ivy Jensen has been living in the shadow of the nightmare that has seen the tragic demise of both her parents. More than anything, she wants to shake off the horrors of that fateful night and her terrors of the bogeyman coming back for her. While she understands that it is unlikely she can live life with no fears, it is possible to choose living with fear rather than in fear. With this determination in mind to conquer her fear, she takes part in the 'Nightmares Be Gone Contest' and becomes one of the seven participants hand-picked to enter the Dark House.

As the story develops and progresses, the motive that drives each of the seven characters - other than Ivy - to take part in the contest is slowly revealed.

Seven participants.
Seven different reasons.
One common goal.
Welcome to the Dark House.

The story, ominous and creepy, flows fluidly from beginning to end in such a remarkable way that I feel as If I am watching a 3-D motion picture – from the moment of entry into the Dark House and later on into the heart of the horror-themed amusement park - instead of reading 2-D pages out of a book. I am so looking forward to getting my hands on the sequel to Welcome to the Dark House - Return to the Dark House.

Credit Roll
Ivy Jensen
Natalie Sorrento
Shayla Belmont
Garth Vader
Parker Bradley
Frankie Rice
Taylor Monroe

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion; Reprint edition
Publication date: 23 Jun 2015


What's your worst nightmare?

For Ivy Jensen, it's the eyes of a killer that haunt her nights. For Parker Bradley, it's bloodthirsty sea serpents that slither in his dreams.

And for seven essay contestants, it's their worst nightmares that win them an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at director Justin Blake's latest, confidential project. Ivy doesn't even like scary movies, but she's ready to face her real-world fears. Parker's sympathetic words and perfect smile help keep her spirits up. . . at least for now.

Not everyone is so charming, though. Horror-film fanatic Garth Vader wants to stir up trouble. It's bad enough he has to stay in the middle of nowhere with this group-the girl who locks herself in her room; the know-it-all roommate; "Mister Sensitive"; and the one who's too cheery for her own good. Someone has to make things interesting.

Except, things are already a little weird. The hostess is a serial-killer look-alike, the dream-stealing Nightmare Elf is lurking about, and the seventh member of the group is missing.

*Blurb from author's website*

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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Review: The Girl in the Photograph (aka Fiercombe Manor) by Kate Riordan

4 stars for The Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan.

Have you ever chose to read a book because the title intrigues you so? Yes, I do and a resounding one at that; more often than not, I fall victim to the allure of aptly named storybooks. The Girl in the Photograph - the title alone - fascinates me so that the moment I set my eyes on the paperback, I feel compelled to read the book.

As much as I am attracted to the book title, I am awed by the author who writes with the florish and fluency of a polished writer albeit this is only her second novel. Even as I read the opening chapter, I am impressed by the way the author picks her choice of words and arranges them in sentences or in lines of dialogue to express her ideas and ultimately theme of the story. The use of simple yet mesmerising descriptions of the Fiercombe Manor - a lonely house tucked into the countryside where many have lived out their lives - lulls me into its enchanting yet deeply disturbing past.

At halfway mark, I find myself so curious about the history of this old Fiercombe Estate and the spectres lurking in the dark hallways that I steal a peek into the last two chapters, something which I shun but practice once in a blue moon. Surprisingly, what takes me aback is not the ending itself which is actually rather predictable but the fact that even with knowing how the story pans out, I am still keen to go back to where I leave off and continue reading the story of a house caught in a time warp and alive with the past. I may have known the story ending - the what and the where - but I still want to read and find out for myself the why.

As I persist in my reading, the many question marks branching out from the tree of why are slowly answered by Alice Eveleigh - a young lady 26 years of age - who takes my hand and walks me through her part of the story and the girl in the photograph who provides the all-encompassing eyes into the events long past.

All in all, The Girl in the Photograph is a skilfully written story. There is no clear-cut black and white to the characters who are often victims of their own circumstances. Though the ending may be easily predictable, the reason that leads to the finale is unexpectedly disconcerting and pretty sad. It is now a story that takes up residence in my mind.

Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Publication date: 15 Jan 2015

*** Favourite quote 1 ***

Fragments of memory were flitting through her mind. They came so fast, bats across a darkening sky, that she hadn't yet been able to grasp one and examine it.

*** Favourite quote 2 ***

The real ghosts are the ones that take up residence in your mind...

~ The Girl in the Photograph
Kate Riordan


The Girl in the Photograph/Fiercombe Manor
(published in the US and Canada as Fiercombe Manor)

When Alice Eveleigh arrives at Fiercombe Manor during the long, languid summer of 1933, she finds a house steeped in mystery and brimming with secrets. Sadness permeates its empty rooms and the isolated valley seems crowded with ghosts, none more alluring than Elizabeth Stanton whose only traces remain in a few tantalisingly blurred photographs. Why will no one speak of her? What happened a generation ago to make her vanish?

As the sun beats down relentlessly, Alice becomes ever more determined to unearth the truth about the girl in the photograph - and stop her own life from becoming an eerie echo of Elizabeth's . . .

‘Fiercombe is a place of secrets. They fret among the uppermost branches of the beech trees and brood at the cold bottom of the stream that cleaves the valley in two. The past has seeped into the soil here like spilt blood. If you listen closely enough you can almost hear what has gone before, particularly on the stillest days. Sometimes the very air seems to hum with anticipation. At other times it’s as though a collective breath has been drawn in and held. It waits, or so it seems to me.’

Publisher: Thorndike Press; Lrg edition
Publication date: 3 Jun 2015

*Blurb and except from author's website*

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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Review: Consequences (Retrieval Artist #3) by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

5 stars for Consequences (Retrieval Artist book 3) by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

In reading Consequences - a third party narration - it is amazing what gaining the insights into each of the characters means as my own perception of each scenario and response to each situation change continually. For instance in one scene, I full-heartedly agree with the actions of a certain character as I deem the rationale behind it as one of prudence, foresight and wisdom. However in the subsequent chapters, after reading the viewpoint of another character, my stand takes on a 180-degree turn. Then even later on, I find myself no longer able to decide who to root for. Yes, I am this fickle-minded but that just goes to show how powerful the author is in manoeuvring her writing to place the pawns in their rightful position on the chessboard.

Fast forward 2 years and that is the time Flint has been a Retrieval Artist since leaving his post as a detective in the Armstrong police force on the Moon.

In this instalment, two of Armstrong's most respectable citizens approach Miles Flint to retrieve a Disappeared who according to the couple, is an Armstrong native who has fought in the Etaen war - a human conflict that has nothing to do with the Moon or the Earth Alliance - and now has been pardoned by the Etae government for the war crimes.

Unfortunately things are not always as straightforward as they appear especially with the acceptance of aliens in the human world. It is believed that there are aliens who are of the opinion that vengeance is the highest form of justice; they will disregard the pardons and take matters into their own hands even if these pardons are issued by a Multicultural Tribunal and their government recognises them.

To some extent, it is never easy for Flint to justify taking on the aforementioned case - any case in fact - because the moment he accepts the job, his research will immediately expose the Disappeared to danger which is the reason that person is a Disappeared in the very first place.

By revealing the Flint's inner voice as he assesses each case before deciding to accept or reject, the author reinforces the up-and-up personality of this already likeable character. Much as he is professionally upright and ethical, I am relieved that the author adds a subtle dash of ruthlessness into Flint's character. After all, he is now in a trade whereby working alone and trusting no one is not enough, he needs a certain amount of ruthlessness to survive. On the other hand, I am saddened by this said ruthlessness as it places Flint in the exact opposite camp - now and forever - from Noelle DeRicci.

Besides Flint, DeRicci and the mysterious cases they are thrown into, there are also other forces at work, much of which involves the Earth Alliance and their agenda to welcome the Etae government to join in the Alliance. Step by step, one by one, the author works brilliantly to place the missing pieces of puzzles together and culminates in an exceptional ending, one in which there is closure for all the various characters brought up in the story.

Publisher: WMG Publishing
Publication date: 30 Apr 2011


A woman dies in the domed city of Armstrong on the Moon. Detective Noelle DeRicci discovers that the victim is a Disappeared—an outlaw in hiding wanted for crimes against an alien civilization. Only DeRicci’s old partner, Retrieval Artist Miles Flint brought the Disappeared home, something he would have only done if he believed the alien government would exonerate her for her crimes.

But Flint and DeRicci are no longer partners; in fact, they’re on opposite sides of the law. Flint can’t tell DeRicci about his client’s role in a war between humans and a mysterious alien race. The Disappeared’s death is only the first volley in an escalation of that war, a war that threatens to engulf the entire solar system.

*Blurb from author's website*

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