Wildfire by Ilona Andrews

wildfire12The Hidden Legacy series is young fresh and quite steamy. It has the complexity of a more seasoned urban fantasy and the lightness that will attract younger readers.

The whole marry and procreate to create the perfect magical being for your magical house has a eugenics feel to it. Perhaps not so distanced from real life and the quest to create the perfect human.

In a world where we can already manipulate the choice of gender, hereditary diseases and general appearance, the need for magical or indeed perfection is actually quite a popular topic.

Nevada has done some growing up and is stepping up to protect her family by making the correct political moves and planning strategically instead of with her heart. To beat the the rules of the houses you have to be able to think and act like them.

One of the highlights of the story is of course the romance between Nevada and Rogan. The two of them are like a well-tuned machine in both a professional and personal sense. The chemistry is explosive, which of course is one of Andrews specialities. Being able to create tension, longing and pure animal attraction between the main characters.

It is what readers have come to expect from Andrews, a solid urban fantasy with memorable characters and plenty of potential for further development.

Buy Wildfire at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

invisbleThis is the kind of job I would like. Surrounded by books, searching for books and being able to read books from all over the world and alternate universes connected via portals and inter-dimensional libraries. Is there any downside to that at all?

The Invisible Library is an interesting mixture of Urban Fantasy and Steampunk with a splodge of Sci-fi.

Irene is given a new task and a sidekick aka trainee, however the book she is supposed to retrieve this time appears to be something quite extraordinary. They also aren’t the only ones looking for it.

Kai and Irene finds  themselves smack bang in the middle of political intrigue and a multi-species tug-of-war. On top of that the most infamous traitor the Library has ever known is also after the same book.

Kai has his own secrets to keep hidden, although certain emergency situations put him in the awkward position of having to reveal the truth.

There is this one paragraph, which reminded me of a conversation I had with a bookworm friend. People who really love books tend to keep them to themselves. They tend to collect and hoard them. My friend and a character in the book point out how selfish this is. Books and their content are meant to be shared with others. The Library seems to be slightly guilty of this behaviour.

The revelations in the Grimm book certainly set the stage for the sequel, The Masked City. There seems to be a possibility that one of the characters may be part of a bigger picture or rather a secret that may have all sorts of consequences.

Buy The Invisible Library at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Die of Shame by Mark Billingham

die of shameThis is a stand-alone novel by Billingham. It has Billingham’s usual deep knowledge of the mind-frame of a killer. So much so that his books can often be so realistic they are disturbing.

A Monday night therapy group is down one member. In the beginning it isn’t entirely clear which one, as the reader gets to know all the individuals first.

Each one of them has a different or variety of addictions. Gambling, drugs, alcohol, food and so on. Even the therapist has overcome his addictions to help others in his situation.

Saying that, Tony isn’t exactly kosher, despite all his attempts at appearing above reproach and taking the moral high ground. Is he as squeaky clean as he makes out to be? Is his wife paranoid or is it gut instinct?

Which one of the group members could have been driven to desperate measures? Who is playing a deadly game with the lives of vulnerable people?

Billingham mixes a tense atmosphere with the emotional and sometimes chaotic nature of a therapy group. Souls are bared and trust is betrayed, which means the whole purpose of the therapy group is null and void.

The ending is unexpected. Of course it is, it’s Billingham.  The insidious nature of the killer has seeped into the fabric of the group and certainly left its mark. I wonder what the repercussions will be in the long run? Why? Well the story is left open-ended with an option for a sequel.

Buy Die of Shame at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Vagrant by Peter Newman

The-Vagrant-Peter-Newman.jpg.size-230An enthralling fantasy with a main character who doesn’t speak and only communicates through physical interactions and body language.

Interestingly enough the author has chosen not to compensate for the lack of verbal interaction by having the character talk to the reader via his thoughts.

Instead his communication takes place through the actions, words and interactions with others. In particular Vesper, Harm and the goat. Yes, you read that right, a goat. A very stubborn goat with a keen sense of survival and more attitude than a teenager in the middle of a hormone rush.

I just want to slip a murmur of dissatisfaction in about the Hammer. Plot-wise what happens to her was a mistake. The four of them, sorry five plus the grumpy goat, not only make for great reading, but her development was a treasure trove of potential.

It’s a sign of a good story and a great storyteller when a reader connects to the characters in a way that makes them believe they know better.

The story switches from past to present, as we slowly learn more about the silent wanderer and how he and Vesper ended up together. Simultaneously we are introduced to that evil that won the war and the aftermath of its influence. I didn’t find those parts of the story as compelling as the ones with the merry band of misfits. Perhaps because Harm, Vesper, the Vagrant, the Hammer and the goat are such strong characters, as opposed to the enigma and essence of the enemies.

I look forward to reading more about this particular group of characters, especially when it comes to keeping an eye on Vesper as she grows.

Buy The Vagrant at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

And After Many Days by Jowhor Ile

and afterAt first I didn’t think twice about the cover. It’s a little indistinct, and seems to be a bit of an understatement.

The blurred and featureless face represents all the unnamed victims of Nigeria’s war torn and politically corrupt landscape.

The more emotional personal story gets a wee bit buried by all the politics, but then that is and was the reality of Nigeria. The corruption of government and the way they walk hand in hand with the oil companies, and now with terrorists, with no regard for people or landscape.

At the time of Paul’s disappearance the country is in a state of unrest. People disappear into thin air without any trace.

In the end the solution and reason for his disappearance has become irrelevant. The family just need and want to know whether or not he is dead or alive. All the assumptions and theories they have tossed around over the years. The guilt, the despair and all the unanswered questions. The truth comes as a relief.

There seems to be a disconnect between the emotional side of the story and the bulk of factual information. It interferes with the flow of the story. I think if the author irons out this articular wrinkle he could produce a poignant and memorable piece of work.

Buy And After Many Days at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Predator by Wilbur Smith with Tom Cain

predatorI have been reading Wilbur Smith since I was a very young girl. The Hector Cross series isn’t one of my favourites. I am at heart a Courtney and Ballantyne gal, when it comes to the Wilbur Smith novels.

The Cross series is more of a modern action adventure thriller, as opposed to the beautiful landscapes and family drama laced with history and politics of some of his other books.

This certainly isn’t the best example of Smith’s work. I put that down to this particular series and not the collaboration with Cain. It is definitely worth reading some of his other work to get a better overall view of Wilbur Smith’s writing style.

Predator is fast-paced, graphic and brutal. Personally I think Cross should have just fed Congo to the crocodiles to save himself and everyone else a lot of trouble.

In the end there isn’t much difference between Cross and Congo. Both are willing to kill, torture and inflict great pain to achieve their end goal. The only apparent difference is one is a bad guy and the other a so-called good guy.

If you’re looking for action packed scenes with a stereotypical hero and villain then this will be right up your alley.

Buy Predator at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Brooklyn on Fire by Lawrence H. Levy

BrooklynI haven’t read the first in the series, but this can definitely be read as a stand-alone novel.

It doesn’t seem as if Mary does any real detecting at all. Solutions appear to her suddenly or fall at her feet.

I think it could have done with a little more direction and more detecting for that matter. Everything revolved around the who’s who of society and Mary rubbing shoulders with them. Even the potential love interest was shallow and flighty.

A nobody, as per society rules, with a Vanderbilt? Was it ever really going to happen? As soon as you take away the money things change. Love doesn’t seem quite so important when your lap of luxury is being threatened.

Of course without Vanderbilt Mary wouldn’t have had a direct route to the upper echelon, which is probably why her love interest isn’t just someone from her own walk of life.

Overall it was disjointed and suffered a bit from threads going off in different directions and not coming together very well.

This could be stronger with a little more focus on crime, perhaps a little less fancy-footing and social waffling.

Buy Brooklyn on Fire at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf

missing piecesThis didn’t really do it for me.

I think the real culprit was obvious pretty much from the get go. A wee bit of a psycho vibe going on there. A tiny niggle here and there was later confirmed.

Jack makes it hard for for Sarah to trust him. She has no idea about his past, the murder in his family or his past liaison with his brother’s wife.

Sarah feels boxed into a tiny corner by the events in her husband’s home-town. Who can be trusted? Is there anyone on her side? Is Jack just playing some kind of sick game with her life and that of her children.

Suddenly the man she has loved for many years is not only a stranger, but also a potential multiple killer. On top of that Jack seems to be really cosy with his ex. Talk about making someone look like a complete fool. I think I would be slightly angry and overly cautious too under those circumstances.

From the very beginning Jack and Sarah appear to be complete strangers, despite the fact they have been married for a few decades and have two children. Perhaps that is what makes everything seem so disconnected. Baring that the characters might just have lacked depth.

Overall it felt a bit messy, but it was an ok read.

Buy Missing Pieces at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf.

It’s a Wonderful Death by Sarah J. Schmitt

its a wonderfulPoor RJ is in the wrong place at the wrong time and ends up in the middle of a Grim Reaper and gypsy, who isn’t ready to depart from this world. Oops you’re dead.

Instead of being shocked, dismayed or upset RJ is angry and indignant. How dare the Reaper make a mistake and interrupt her busy teenage schedule.

She insists on being sent back pronto.

Essentially this story is about having the chance to rectify mistakes, to take the right path instead of the wrong one and being given a second chance.

Each interaction we have with another human being moves a cog in life. Depending on which direction it moves it sets different things in motion. So it goes without saying that changing one movement or direction in one cog can change a life.

The powers that be, and there are quite a few in the Heaven/Hell/In-between station, finally decide RJ at least deserves a try at being a better person. So she gets placed back into certain situations in the hope that she will make better choices for herself and for her fellow human beings.

Schmitt lays at lot of emphasis on bullying, peer pressure and taking responsibility for your actions. The underlying message being; how each of us and our decisions can impact others.

If our interactions with others are negative then perhaps we are leaving a trail of destruction behind us. Instead of ignoring the bullied kid in the corner maybe you should talk to them. If being with the popular kids means you have to be mean to others then maybe you need to find new friends. Do you ignore it when others are being picked on? Stand up and speak out.

A strong message to young people, but wrapped within a story, which is both witty and serious at the same time.

Thank you to Edelweiss for my copy of It’s a Wonderful Death.
Buy It’s a Wonderful Death at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Rywka’s Diary: The Writings of a Jewish Girl from the Lodz Ghetto by Anita Friedman and Rywka Lipszyc

rywkaPerhaps a better title would have been: Where is Rywka? It is certainly the question I was left with after reading this book.

The diary of Rywka Lipszyc has been verified as one of the many manuscripts hidden or buried by some of the unfortunate individuals on the Sonderkommando in Auschwitz.

Those brave men hid detailed manuscripts, diaries and other written accounts of concentration camp victims in an attempt to retain some kind of evidence.

Evidence of the atrocities committed by the Nazis and their many collaborators. As we now know, they were right to think there would be a highly organised attempt to cover up everything that took place during the Holocaust.

It’s interesting to note that a lot of the pictures of the Lodz Ghetto used in the book are actually propaganda photos (much like the ones taken in the Warsaw Ghetto) taken by the Nazis themselves in an attempt to manipulate what the world thought was going on in the ghettos. Instead of the truth they presented healthy and glorified images of the situations, which is why many of the photos seemingly portray happy workers and healthy people.

The truth was and still is an indicator of the abysmal deeds the human race is capable of.

Holocaust survivors are plagues by survivor guilt, pain, despair, anger and feelings of helplessness. Is it any word the majority of them choose to bury the memories of this period in their lives in a deep dark locked box, hidden away in the back of their minds. Some of them never speak of their experiences at all, others changed their identities and even religion, which means the people around them may never know what their loved ones went through in the Holocaust.

Rywka’s diary is much like that of any other young girl, full of emotional turmoil and personal drama. It often seems as if she chooses not to reveal the entire despair and pain she feels. Keeping an element of denial and in doing so a steady level of normality in her dismal world. She tries not to acknowledge the truth about her baby brother and sister, although her subconscious and the truth slip through now and again in her writing.

Mina had to make a choice between Rywka and Esther. Her decision was the most logical and one all of us would have made. Regardless of that fact I think she still feels a certain amount of guilt because of her choice. She based it on information given to her by the doctor treating Rywka,

Perhaps we will never know what really happened to Rywka. If she is alive then perhaps the trauma has caused some sort of amnesia, maybe she feels resentment towards her cousins or being with them could bring back memories she doesn’t want to relive. The reality and the more probable scenario is that Rywka didn’t survive very long after the cousins were separated, and she is buried somewhere under a wrong name or in a completely different place.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in the Holocaust, history and eyewitness accounts of that particular era.
I received a copy of this book, courtesy of the publisher, via Edelweiss.