Black-Eyed Susans

Title: Black-Eyed Susans
Author: Julia Heaberlin
Publisher: Penguin Group
Publication Year: 2015
Genre: Crime | Mystery | Thriller
Rating: 3

That was my grandfather’s one survival tip if I ever found myself trapped in a fairy tale. Keep your promises. Bad things happen if you don’t.

I read the blurb for this on Amazon and I instantly fell in love with the plot. There was just something about Tessa thinking that she was safe, but then the murderer starts leaving her flowers and that really intrigued me. I wanted to see how she reacted and where the murderer was going to attack again. However, when I started reading the book was not what I expected at all. For starters the plot wasn’t about the murderer returning in modern time, as I was expecting, but was more about the trial resolving around the man who was originally convicted as the Black-Eyed Susans’ murderer. At first I was a little disappointed but I quickly became invested in the plot when everything began to unfold.

Another thing that I wasn’t a fan of was the alternating point of views. Heaberlin worked it really well to introduce shocking things in one point of view that quickly produced a parallel in the other. They worked really well and it was a great technique by Heaberlin but personally I still didn’t like it. It was irritating and quickly became annoying as the book developed. Young Tessa’s point of view quickly became uninteresting and her character was too stuck up for my liking. All she seemed to want to do was disrupt the trial and she didn’t seem that impacted by her situation, which seems pretty improbable.

Some of the characters were really interesting. Older Tessa was such a great character for me. It was easy to see how much she worried about her little girl and the lengths she went through to defend her girl were admirable. Effie was such a great character as well, although I felt like she was a bit useless. She didn’t have a huge role in the novel other than as a supporting character. In young Tessie’s life, I was really intrigued by Lydia’s character. She was so dynamic and different and she was so loyal to Tessa! Although the ending ruined that a little.

Speaking of the ending, I don’t know about anyone else but the ending/cliffhangers were really predictable as far as I was concerned. I felt that young Tessa’s twist was much more interesting and definitely the most predictable of the two, however there were a lot of hints dropped throughout the novel.

In my opinion this book is quite good. It’s not as bad as I make out, I assure you of that! I just had quite a few faults with it. I would definitely suggest giving it a read!

A Study in Charlotte

Title: A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes #1)
Author: Brittany Cavallaro
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Year: 2016
Genre: Mystery | YA | Romance
Rating: 3.5

“Like you said, you can take care of yourself,” I told her, finally. “If you murdered hm, I bet there would be twenty witnesses who saw him put the gun to his own head.”

I adore Sherlock Holmes novels. I think I’ve read all of them as well as the many spin offs that have come as a results. As far as I’m considered, nothing can beat the BBC show – I can’t get enough of that awesomeness – but I am constantly searching for something just as good for these long seasons breaks, which brought me to rewrites. Some of them are brilliant and funny while some are like this and sort of a flop. Don’t get me wrong this was a fun read, I just found it a bit lacking at times and it didn’t really cover some serious subjects properly, or at least as far as I’m concerned it didn’t.

So first things first, the use a murder from a book to frame a real life murder is getting a little overused for me. I’ve seen it done quite a few times in literature and while it’s cool it’s getting a little repetitive. Having said that, one of the things I liked about the way Cavallaro has done it here, is reading about James’ reaction to it. James Watson is the voice of A Study in Charlotte and I found it rather humorous reading the scenes shortly following the murder when he commented on the original Watson’s writing of it. It just made me laugh. Especially the one where he talks about how he really doesn’t understand what was going through Watson’s mind when he wrote that scene.

Admittedly James’ narration of the novel is very funny at times. It was well-written and he is really witty and funny, which makes the whole thing very entertaining. However at points I was a little disappointed at the YA route the novel took. I love a bit of Johnlock but in this book it just felt forced to me from the very beginning. He was obsessed with Holmes at first, always talking about her and the way he flew to her defence in the beginning was something straight out of a twilight novel. As the book developed and we got to know more characters, I found his obsession with Moriarty (or Moriarty and Holmes’ relationship) a little annoying. I get that it would be a popular ship, but part of me wanted this just to be a best friend relationship. However they appeared to be destined from the very beginning.

I also want to point out that while this is a retelling (of sorts) the characters don’t have to be identical to their predecessors. I feel like this is always an issue that comes up in adaptions and I definitely felt it here. Just because Charlotte is Sherlock’s great grand-daughter doesn’t mean that she also has to be stellar at deductions, a violin player, an ass, and a hardcore drug addict on top of everything. She just felt too much like carbon copy at times.

Which brings me to the issues that I felt weren’t handled properly. For starters her drug addiction: Charlotte is addicted to oxy but no one seems to do anything about it. She also smokes and again receives no comment or aid with this as far as I can tell. I just feel like this in a teenager would have been reacted on a lot more than in the adult Sherlock. Not to mention the scene with Dobson is completely glossed over and James seem to be the only person angry about this! This would have had a much bigger reaction in modern day but people are more obsessed with the murder and Holmes and Watson rather than that. I just found it a bit unrealistic, especially the way it all happened.

The last thing that bugged me was the ending. For the entire novel we were fed little bits of information and then right at the end the murderer was revealed and suddenly we get all of the information, at once. It was wildly confusing, only made more so by James’ writing. I just think that this could have been handled a lot better, especially when the facts about the first murder came out. I feel like Holmes’ would have had more of a reaction to that, but she didn’t.

Altogether I did like this book, don’t get me wrong it was funny at times and had a decent plot. But I just felt like it was trying to hard to be the original duo in modern times, with a twist. And it also badly advertises drugs and smoking. As well as uses an incredibly traumatic experience as a minor plot point. 

I See You

Title: I See You
Author: Clare Mackintosh
Publisher: Sphere
Publication Year: 2016
Genre: Thriller | Mystery | Crime
Rating: 5

It doesn’t matter how fast. Because there’s always someone who can run faster.

I just had to pre-order this one when I heard that Mackintosh was releasing her second book and I am so so glad that I did. I admit that I was on the I Let You Go train and I can understand why it was the crime novel of the year last year but, personally, I think that I See You was even better. I admit that when I first heard about it I was a tad worried that the second book wouldn’t live up to the first but I actually found this book really good. If you were thinking the same thing, then you have nothing to worry about! Panic over!

It’s probably a good idea to start by saying that I’m not a commuter. However this did nothing to impact my reaction to the novel. In fact I ended up putting it down one night in fear of triggering bad dreams. I See You was definitely creepy and at 1am I didn’t think it was a good idea to keep going. Having said that I devoured the rest of it the next morning and the only reason it’s taken me this long to write the review is because I don’t know just how to sing the praises for this one without giving away too much of the plot! 

Although it mainly focuses on commuters I can promise you that even if you’re not a commuter you will still get a chill from this. I See You is also about daily routine. It’s about that trip to the shop you take every morning to get the paper or the route where you walk the dog, you know the one – along the river and through the park. It’s about the times where you’re alone. When you’re oblivious. That’s when they’ll come for you. It doesn’t matter to them who you are, what your ethnicity is or even your age. All that matter is your routine. And that you’re alone.

This book was brilliant, perhaps my favourite crime novel of all time. Zoe is such an ordinary character, making her story that more relatable. She’s no one special; she could be anyone that you pass on the street or sit next to on the sub. She could be anyone. She could be you. Then there’s Kelly, who is a bit too independent and brash but can also hold her own when it comes to it. With a hard past that leaves her dragged down by an invisible weight, she’s yet another great character and really adds a little extra to the story.

Altogether I really enjoyed this one. I would recommend it to anyone who loves a good crime novel and I know that Paige is going to delve into it soon. Seriously Mackintosh’s writing performs at a high-standard yet again, and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

The Lost Swimmer

Title: The Lost Swimmer
Author: Ann Turner
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Publication Year: 2016
Genre: Mystery | Thriller
Rating: 1

But careful was the last thing I intended. I would do whatever it took to find Stephen.

I don’t see what the craze is about?

This was supposed to be a good book. I mean, if you go off how much people are raving about it then this should have been a brilliant book. But for me it wasn’t? I don’t know what I missed but clearly I missed an entire book or something because this was not 5 star material as far as  I was concerned.

This book promised thrills. I was reassured it would be filled with mystery (and a murder mystery to boot!), except that it took over 200 pages to get to the murder. And the murder is in the blurb! It’s a key part of the plot and it’s in the final third of the novel. Doesn’t that sound strange to you? Not to mention the majority of the first part of the novel is school problems and the most random scenes with kangaroos, which do absolutely nothing to influence the story line.

So no, I wasn’t sold on the novel at first but I hoped it would get better. I like to hope.

But the book was slow, until we hit the disappearance and then it seemed to crash into a break-neck pace for the final 100 pages. We got to watch as Rebecca races across Europe searching for her husband and then it’s over. Full stop. I just wasn’t engaged. The characters were flat and didn’t really have much of a backstory. I didn’t feel a connection between Rebecca and her husband and outside of one small gesture I couldn’t see the claims of a mistress either. Her first person point of view was irksome and I couldn’t understand why she was so obsessed with this perfect (read: not so perfect) husband. Not to mention the fact that she was so naive when it came to certain points and I was left to wonder how someone like that could be a Head?

There were too many large chunks of unnecessary description to keep me hooked to this one and it definitely could have done with a lot more thrill. Although Turner did a few things right, there was a heck of a lot of wrong in this one and to by the end I just wanted to find out what happened and start on my next book.

Altogether this book was unbelievable and long and winding with no great plot twists like I was expecting. I really wasn’t a fan. But the cover was pretty.

The Girl on the Train

Title: The Girl on the Train
Author: Paula Hawkins
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Year: 2015
Genre: Mystery | Thriller
Rating: 2

Now look. Now look what you made me do.

What I was expecting going into this novel was a fast-paced psychological thriller but what I actually got were the jealous ramblings of a drunk woman and the obsession with being someone deemed worthy, but they can only be defined by their relationship. Paige also read The Girl on the Train and while she devoured and loved this novel (review here), I didn’t find it half as spectacular as it promised to be.

The opening pages were incredible. I was hooked on page one and two and then the plot (and the drinking) started and my motivation slowly started to dwindle. There were good points to this book, such as her black spots. The idea of her blacking out and forgetting things were reminiscent of Before I Go to Sleep – a book that I adored – and it really created a sense of mystery that I couldn’t get enough of. But that was the only good thing about her drinking problem. For the rest of her time her constant consumption of alcohol was repetitive and frustrating.

Except for when it proved functional! Like showing the differences between the characters. I’ve mentioned in previous reviews that I’m not a fan in changing POV’s but in situations like this it was seriously damaging for my opinion on the book. There were chapters where I couldn’t differentiate between chapters until Rachel started drinking. Not to mention the fact that there were time-skips between chapters that made the entire seriously more confusing!

I guess this entire novel would have been better if I hadn’t guessed the murderer halfway through the novel, as well. When it came to the big reveal towards the end, some people may have found it thrilling but I just couldn’t wait for it to move on to them getting taken away because I’d already figured it out so many chapters earlier! Maybe I read too many books, but this was so predictable.

This should have been a good book. The characters were dark with so many mysteries intertwined in their past and were perfect for any thriller with their psychological problems. But it was ruined for me by the things I listed above. But please be aware that this was my personal opinion. Many of you could love this like Paige did.

You should definitely let us know which one of us  you agree with~

Everyone Pays

Title: Everyone Pays
Author: Seth Harwood
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Publication Year: 2016
Genre: Mystery | Crime
Rating: 3.5

These men needed to be brought to Him. To judgement.

It was hard to decide what to rate this book as – I eventually went with a 3.5 but even now I’m not sure. The book wasn’t bad but I was raving about it either. Would I recommend it? Maybe, but it wouldn’t be at the top of the list.

As far as crime novels go, it held it’s own. There was at least one point in the book where I didn’t want to put it down, though that didn’t last all the way through the book. However, to have a reader feeling like that at some point during the novel is an accomplishment in any book (no pun intended).

Regarding the characters I don’t think I connected with any of them at all! I felt like some of them were a little too one dimensional. Perhaps if there were a little bit more backstory for some of the characters, then I might have been able to connect with them more. I think there was potential to turn the book into a series and then that way there would be more of a chance to get to know the main characters. I did find the killer very intriguing as there was a small twist when it came to finding out who he was. Because the killer was different to most killers I found that the section of the book written in their point of view was really interesting.

The story/motive behind the murders was interesting in itself, let alone the actual murders and solving the murders. The book was quite graphic when it came to describing the murders, I personally didn’t mind it but if you don’t like blood and gore I’d definitely recommend you skim that part!

Overall there were bits of the book I did enjoy, so I’m glad I read it. There’s potential there to be a great book but I do think there were things about the book that did drag it down (if that makes sense).

I’d like to thank Thomas & Mercer and Netgalley for providing me with an ARC of this book to review. This has not affected my review in any way.

Cappuccinos, Cupcakes, and a Corpse

Title: Cappuccinos, Cupcakes, and a Corpse (Cape Bay Cafe Mystery #1)
Author: Harper Lin
Publisher: Harper Lin Books
Publication Year: 2015
Genre: Mystery | Romance
Rating: 3.5

It reminded me that no matter how bad any given day was, there was always another day coming, and life went on.

Cozy mysteries are the perfect thing for hot summer days (because it’s officially summer in the UK! Yes!) when all you want to do is laze around in the garden and read a good book. They are fun and filled with fluff but also offer a bit of excitement as well to spice things up! The perfect mix, if you ask me and this one didn’t disappoint.

Cappuccinos, Cupcakes, and a Corpse provided a pretty good kick-start to the Cape Bay Cafe Mystery series with a fine introduction to Francesca, our protagonist and the quaint little town that she calls home. I liked how Lin started slow to build up a bit of an introduction to the town before she jumped into the actual plot and the mystery was very interesting for a first story! It did a good job of connecting the main characters to one and another, rather than forcing them into an awkward meeting as is usually the case.

I also loved found it so amusing to see  Francesca attempt to be a detective, attempt being the detective. Attempt is, of course, the key word because her skills weren’t as up to scratch as those of the police force actually investigating the case! However I did like the motive given to our killer and I certainly hadn’t guessed it by the end of the novel!

Personally I adored the recipes that were given at the end of the novel. Those were a nice touch and definitely made it stand out to me! I can’t wait to try and whip some of those up in the kitchen!