Friday, January 24, 2014

Cold As Ice by Lee Weeks


On a freezing cold winter's day, the body of a young woman is pulled from an icy canal in London. To D.I. Dan Carter it looks like a tragic accident rather than the work of a murderer. But D.C. Ebony Willis is not so sure. Why has the woman's face been painted with garish make-up and wrapped in a plastic bag?

Meanwhile, cosmetics saleswoman Tracy Collins receives a phonecall. It's been twenty years since she gave up her daughter for adoption, so when Danielle gets in touch, she hesitantly begins to kindle a relationship with her and her grandson Jackson. But when Danielle suddenly disappears, Tracy is plunged into the middle of a living nightmare. 

Star Rating

I received this copy from the publishers for an open and honest review. 

Having recently completed a long run of Young Adult novels I was looking forward to reading another crime thriller, one of my favourite genres thanks to the likes of Linwood Barclay and Sophie Hannah. 
This was my first taste of Lee Weeks' writing and I was certainly not let down. 'Cold As Ice' is a page turning thriller that had me gripped from start to finish.

Cold As Ice starts with a bang with the discovery of a young woman's body. As her remains are pulled from the icy canal it becomes clear that this was not an ordinary murder. Wrapped in a plastic bag, the woman's face had been meticulously painted with garish make-up. "Her face looked like something from a waxworks horror museum; bloated and blackened by the water." Lee Weeks includes quite a gruesome postmortem scene which in hindsight was probably not best for me to read on a packed London Tube train (with an unsuspecting member of the public reading over my shoulder.) However, this scene served it's purpose -  to make the reader empathise emphatically with the murderer's victims. 

Running alongside this, the reader is introduced to Tracy Collins who gave up her daughter Danielle for adoption twenty years ago. As they try to rekindle their relationship, Danielle mysteriously disappears leaving behind Jackson her young, disabled son. Again, Lee Weeks succeeds in making the reader empathise with the victims, this time through a heart wrenching moment with young Jackson. As Jeanie, a police office working on the case, questions Jackson on what happened the night his mummy disappeared information is slowly drip fed to the reader and suspects begin to form. We are introduced to a mysterious, psychotic character who fantasies about killing, torturing and killing young women. It becomes clear that this is the guy - but who he is? 

"That's the sound of your daughter trying to get out of her coffin. 
It's my game and my rules and I will prepare for the arrival of another player." 

Lee Weeks provides ample red herrings throughout making this a highly successful crime novel. I was suitably shocked when I discovered the identity of the killer and the ending was in a word horrifying!
With it's thrilling, pacy ending that left me on the edge of my seat this is a crime triumph not to be missed! 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Pinocchio by Michael Morpurgo

"My name is Pinocchio.
I reckon I must be just about the most famous puppet the world has ever known.

But I'm more than just bits of wood and string.

I'm me. So it's about time that I, Pinocchio, told you my story...

I received this copy from the publishers for an honest and open review. 

I would be seriously concerned if there was anyone on this earth who hadn't heard of Pinocchio and thanks to the Disney franchise it has become one of the best known children's stories across the globe. Here, Michael Morpurgo has teamed up with the talent illustrator Emma Chichester Clark to retell this children's classic through the eyes of Pinocchio himself. 

Written in the first person, Pinocchio takes us with him on a journey to lands afar where we meet a whole host of strange and mysterious creatures. My Year two class were particularly amused by the evil Blind Cat who, humorously, repeats everything his Lame Fox sidekick says. The chapter names add humour and interest to the story and my class were eager to discover each new title and what adventures that chapter would entail. 

Chapter Five
At the Inn of the Red Lobster, and that Talking Cricket again (yes, I know you thought he was dead, and so did I!) 

The story contains lots of shocks and surprises and the children in my class gasped their way through each delightful chapter. Every so often Pinocchio speaks directly to his audience, drawing the reader in and creating a sense of involvement in the story. This is always a recipe for success in a children's book as the protagonist appears to jump out of the pages and join the children in the room.  

"And I know what you must be thinking. How could you be that gullible, that stupid, Pinocchio? I've been asking myself that question on and off ever since."

Pinocchio will remain an all time classic and this unique interpretation certainly deserves a place on children's bookshelves everywhere.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Panic by Lauren Oliver

Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn't know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

Star Rating

I received this copy from the publishers via NetGalley for an honest and open review.
I know there are thousands of fans chomping at the bit to get their hands on this new offering from Lauren Oliver after her hugely successful 'Delerium' series. Personally, I have yet to read this famous series which has been waiting patiently in my iBooks library for months. After reading Panic (out March 2014) I will definitely be adding it to my January TRL. This new book by Lauren Oliver was superbly written, original and grabbed my attention from start to finish. 
Panic tells the story of Heather, a high school graduate from the dead-beat town of Carp, who living with a promiscuous, alcoholic mother, does not have much to be happy about. Heather never thought she would compete in Panic but, in an attempt to change her life for the better, signs up on a whim and is thrown into the chaos of the deadly games. 
'The rules of Panic are simple. The day after graduation is Opening Jump, and the game goes all through the summer. After the final challenge, the winner takes the pot. Everyone at Carp High pays into the pot, no exceptions. Anyone who wants to play has a chance to win. Sometimes as many as forty kids enter. There is only ever one winner."
Heather's friends Nat and Dodge also decide to enter Panic with everyone having something to play for. In seven years of playing there have been three deaths and it is with this knowledge that the group of friends set off on a dangerous path to win the games. As Lauren Oliver explains, "humans can be stupid and sometimes vicious, blinded by need." For people reading the blurb of this upcoming title by Lauren Oliver, you may be mislead into thinking it is similar to novels such as 'The Hunger Games.' However, this story is not dystopic in nature but a terrifying insight into something that could well occur in our society today.  
Although the challenges were exciting and original, I would have liked them to be even more shocking to earn that extra last star. Lauren Oliver's talent lies in her descriptions of the characters and their relationships with each other. I found myself really caring about what happened to Heather and I seemed to feel every emotion that she felt throughout the story. As Heather "felt her stomach pooling and opening with fear" so did I and I was genuinely rooting for her to get through each challenge safe and unharmed. 
 "If you didn't want the risk, if you couldn't handle it, why did you play?"
As with most other YA fiction, the story did contain moments of romance between some of the characters however this was not overdone and did not take away from the danger and panic of the  games. This story of challenge, friendship, love and betrayal will have you hooked from beginning to end. I read it in a day as I couldn't put it down and was desperate to know who the winner of Panic was going to be, if there would be one at all? The ending was exactly what I was hoping it to be. A brilliant read!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

White Horizon by Jan Ruth

A dramatic story of forgiveness, family and friendship set in the Welsh Mountains of Snowdonia. Three couples in crisis. Multiple friendships under pressure.

On-off-on lovers Daniel and Tina return to their childhood town near Snowdonia. After twenty five years together, they marry in typically chaotic fashion, witnessed by old friends Victoria and Linda who become entangled in the drama, their own lives changing beyond recognition.
But as all their marriages begin to splinter, and damaged Victoria begins an affair with Daniel, the secret illness that Tina has been hiding emerges. Victoria’s crazed and violent ex-husband attempts to kill Daniel and nearly succeeds, in a fire that devastates the community. On the eve of their first wedding anniversary, Tina returns to face her husband- but is it to say goodbye forever, or to stay?

Star Rating

I received this book from the author for an open and honest review.

This was the second of Jan Ruth's novels I have read, and having thoroughly enjoyed the first (Wild Water), I was looking forward to reading another of her publications. Although I would describe Jan Ruth's novels as 'women's fiction' it is certainly not 'chick-lit' and she deals with some quite gritty and serious issues within her writing. 

White Horizon focuses on the relationships of three couples - Dan and Tina, Linda and Mike and Victoria and Max. The story begins at the wedding of Dan and Tina although it quickly  becomes clear that things aren't quite as rosy as they seem. With the other couples being guests at the wedding, the old school friends catch up having not really kept in touch since high-school. Early on in the story it becomes apparent that these relationships will break down, mix and change with some quite tragic consequences.

Jan Ruth is a very skilled writer and was able to interwine the three relationships with great ease and fluidity. However, with so many characters involved from the start I did find myself having to write down who everyone was and how they were linked. The characters are very real and develop in personality as the story progresses. At times, I felt the detailed characterisation took away from the fullness of the plot. However, ultimately this is a novel based on the lives of characters and for the fans of 'soap-opera style character drama' this is a must read!

Butterfly Grave by Anne Cassidy

It's almost Christmas time when Joshua's uncle, Stu, has a near fatal accident, leaving him in hospital with head injuries. Determined to help, Rose and Joshua head to Newcastle to visit. 
But even Joshua's uncle has a dark past touched by murder and it looks as though his injuries are anything but accidental. As Rose becomes increasingly preoccupied with the deaths she has witnessed, and Joshua more and more paranoid about who might be watching them, a brutal killing occurs. Somebody really does not want Rose and Joshua to find their parents.
But who? And why?

I received this book from Bloomsbury for an open and honest review. 

Star Rating


I didn't realise until after reading this book that it is actually a novel in a series by Anne Cassidy called 'The Murder Notebooks'. Having missed out on her other installments, I was able to follow the story easily and therefore would not say it's necessary to read them as a set. However, upon finishing 'Butterfly Grave' I am now desperate to know what has become of Rose and Joshua's parents and will definitely be reading the next in the series. 

This book tells the story of Joshua and Rose, a step brother and sister whose parents mysteriously vanished five years ago.  The relationship between the pair is strong and, as they set out to discover what happened to their parents all those years ago, unfortunate happenings bring them even closer together.

At the beginning of the story, Joshua's uncle has a serious accident and is taken to hospital in Newcastle. Traveling up to take care of Stu, Joshua and Rose embark on a new discovery as they find a stack of evidence relating to an old murder case in the uncle's flat. Enlisting the help of their friend Skeggsie, the teens start to conduct their own investigation, with surprising results. 

As the teens delve further into their investigation more and more secrets are uncovered leading to a tragic incident that provided another twist to the story. In order to gain more stars from me the book needed a few more shocking twists and turns with a few red herrings thrown in for good measure. However, Butterfly Grave is a quick, easy read and would be great for teen readers with an interest in crime fiction.