Category Archives: Mystery

Book Review: Watching from the Dark by Gytha Lodge

Random House
TBP Feb 25th, 2020
352 Pages

Aidan Poole logs on to his laptop late at night to Skype his girlfriend, Zoe. To his horror, he realizes that there is someone else in her flat. Aidan can only listen to the sounds of a violent struggle taking place in the bathroom—and then the sound of silence. He is desperate to find out if Zoe is okay. But then why is he so hesitant to call the police?

When Aidan’s cryptic messages finally reach them, Detective Chief Inspector Jonah Sheens and his team take the case—and discover the body. They soon find that no one has a bad word to say about Zoe, a big hearted young artist at the center of a curious web of waifs and strays, each relying on her for support, each hiding dark secrets and buried resentments. Has one of her so-called “friends” been driven to murder? Or does Aidan have the biggest secret of them all?- Goodreads

Creepy. . . is probably the best word I can describe this book after I was finished, which was late in the evening.

It was a good read despite the creepy vibe I got from reading it. I think what made it creepy for me is the fact that it is told from alternate viewpoints including Zoe. Reading the last days of a woman you just saw murdered and reading it from her pov, was tough to read.

The pace of the novel was great. It is a classic who done it novel and there are so many options of who can do it. But here was my issue with this book, every single person (minus the detectives) were problematic, selfish and down right horrible to Zoe and she became who she was at the end by not only the killer’s action but those she held dear to her as well.

The author left a lot of openings for who could have done it and there were twists throughout the book. However, it was very clear that the author just didn’t know what to do with those characters and their development. After everything was said and done no one (but the killer) was held accountable for their any of their actions and it was disappointing to see.

This is what caused the book to go from a 5 to a 3.

Something I would like to note is that I did not read the first book and at no point did I feel I needed to. Detective Chief Inspector Jonah Sheens and his team were fantastic detectives and it would have been nice to see the author add more development on them. Their own personal lives were mentioned but nothing too deep, which is fine as the focus was the case. I feel that if you are going to talk about it make sure you back up what you say so there could be a reason why it was mentioned.

Would I say this book is predictable? Some. The author, as I mentioned, adds a lot of different paths where the ending can go but you aren’t exactly surprised at the end but what does surprises you is the how. Seriously, there are a few wow moments and all I could think about is “its not the destination, its the journey.”

Overall, very good read.

3 Pickles

Book Review: Tokyo Firewall by Elizabeth Wilkerson

Contrafish Media, LLC
Published Nov. 13, 2018
343 Pages

Tokyo, the ‘90s. When Alison Crane quit her environmental law practice and followed her hotshot investment banker boyfriend to Japan, she thought they’d only grow closer. But jobless and broke, Alison sits home alone all day-—and most nights—isolated by culture shock, wobbly language skills, and her boyfriend’s ambitions. Desperate for company, she ventures onto the only avenue she has left—the brand-new digital frontier.

Inside the confusing web of cyber chat rooms, Alison is approached by a charming Japanese man, and the two regularly meet online. However, her digital safe haven soon becomes a virtual nightmare when a troll who despises foreigners taunts her with escalating threats of violence. As her predator’s attacks intensify, Alison must parlay her legal smarts and budding computer skills to stand her ground, or she’ll lose her only source of freedom. And maybe her life...- Goodreads

This book was okay. There was and still is a lot of potential for this to be great but overall it was okay.

What made the book okay was Alison really. I understand that this is the ’90s but how this girl was able to do anything on her own as an adult blew my mind. She was extremely naive, no real common sense and didn’t have any ambition to learn the culture or do her own thing. Yeah, she got a computer and joining a chat opened her world, HOWEVER, she had no back bone and it was a bit tough to read.

What I did like about this book was a deep dive into Japan’s dislike for foreign people as well as the racism Black people can’t seem to escape. It was a huge focal point in the novel and Wilkerson did a great job of using it to push the novel. Another thing I liked was the romance and the twist that I have no idea how I missed. Wilkerson sets you up for the obvious and then is like “YOU WOULD HAVE THOUGHT” It was actually done really well and I was surprised.

The overall novel is slow. Not a whole lot goes on and Alison does a whole lot of whining. However, I like where the author was going with this. The ’90s for Black people was something and I sure it was something more being in a different country.

The ending wasn’t the best. It could have been way stronger but I don’t regret taking the time to read this book. As mentioned earlier, its okay. It could have been better.

2 Pickles

Book Review: Under Dark Waters by Bernadette Calonego

AmazonCrossing
Published April 14, 2015
394 Pages

Driven by lingering pain and grief, historian Sonya Werner leaves her home in Switzerland to travel across the world. Officially, she’s tracking down the German author Else Seel, who had left Berlin in the 1920s to marry a Canadian trapper and homestead in the wild woods of British Columbia.

But the real reason for her trip is much more difficult to face: three years before, her husband took off to this part of the world on one of his usual mountain-climbing adventures, and never returned.

Only after the police brought her word of his death—and the mysterious circumstances in which they found him—did Sonya discover the simultaneous disappearance of her beautiful best friend, Odette, and the possibility that her husband had been lying to her all along.

Now, haunted by sorrow and jealousy, Sonya sets out on a dangerous mission to discover the truth, and to try to put back together the pieces of her broken heart.- Goodreads

This read started off really well and for about half way through the book, I was into it. But the focus seem to be more about making this a long read as opposed to making it a great read. What I mean by this is the author kept the book going by not really answering a question and being completely vague. I have no issue with this but at a certain point in the book, you get tired of questions piling up with no answers.

You also get tired of Sonya. She keeps referring to the past too often and it is lazy. For instance, she could be drinking tea and then think to herself, so and so use to drink tea with me blah blah blah. This may be a slight exaggeration but not by much. Sonya was one of those people that you love but that love is mixed with pity. The author doesn’t go too much into who Sonya was before meeting her Husband but who she is now isn’t necessarily someone that you would be excited to constantly be around.

I love the mix of a woman finding the truth about her deceased husband and also tacking historical information for a museum. The blend of then and now, history and present is perfect. But this book didn’t execute it that well. What I also loved about this book was imagery the author was able to pull in this book. I felt I was in those towns, I felt that I was one that plane, on that boat. I was impressed with this.

Beyond the fact that the book felt dragged and Sonya really couldn’t keep anything together, what bothered me was how everyone, literally everyone knew what was going on and Sonya knew that they knew but was too weak to push it. The author made her extremely fragile and in situations where she could have done more, she would always back down. I know about not wanting to deal with confrontation but not when the whole purpose is to find out the truth.

Overall, I was disappointed in this book not because it started off good but then started to drop but because it couldn’t get back up to the good it was at. I love complex reads, I love really about shady small towns, I love reading about finding the truth but this book wasn’t presented in a way for me to appreciate it.

2 Pickles

 

Book Review: #Prettyboy Must Die by Kimberly Reid

Tor Teen
TBP: Feb. 13, 2018
228 Pages

When Peter Smith’s classmate snaps a picture of him during a late night run at the track, Peter thinks he might be in trouble. When she posts that photo–along with the caption, “See the Pretty Boy Run,”–Peter knows he’s in trouble. But when hostiles drop through the ceiling of his 6th period Chem Class, Peter’s pretty sure his trouble just became a national emergency.

Because he’s not really Peter Smith. He’s Jake Morrow, former foster-kid turned CIA operative. After a massive screw-up on his first mission, he’s on a pity assignment, a dozen hit lists and now, social media, apparently. As #Prettboy, of all freaking things.

His cover’s blown, his school’s under siege, and if he screws up now, #Prettyboy will become #Deadboy faster than you can say, ‘fifteen minutes of fame.’ Trapped in a high school with rabid killers and rabid fans, he’ll need all his training and then some to save his job, his school and, oh yeah, his life. -Goodreads

Before anything, I would like say that this book was inspired by #alexfromtarget If you do not know anything about that story, you can take a look here to see whats its about.

I was excited for this read. Black teenager, who works for the CIA undercover. Sounds fantastic. However, I was disappointed in this book not initially but as the story progressed.

  • It took place in a day.

I really enjoyed the fact that the story was not drawn out and the author was able to build a world and story that last literally less than 24 hours. For me, it showed skill and creativity. And overall, it added some intensity and that help drive the story. But the downside to this was I felt some things were missing.

  • The story was far from narrow.

The author complicated the story as much as she can without it being distasteful. I liked that about this book. What you think you do or what you can guess isn’t exactly how it is going. There are some instances where what you see is what you get but not for everything.

  • #prettyboy didn’t cut it for me

Not only was there not enough description of Peter, the book pretty much only mentions the hashtag twice. Considering that it throws the anti-social Peter in the spotlight, I wanted there to be more about it. His class for the most part do not really react to his new found fame. They really don’t care and his fan base is only on twitter and not even close to real life. Yes, I understand why the author did this because it really does tie the story together but considering it is part of the title and it changes Peter’s day, I wanted more attention on it.

#prettyboy Peter was a unlike-able character

Didn’t like him. He had no real personality. He doesn’t know anything about fitting in, which is where considering that he is in the CIA and this isn’t his first run. He is more bite than bark. He needs way more training.

Although the short time frame of the story provided intensity, it didn’t last and at a certain point, I was just ready for the bad guy to be caught. However, the author was able to suck me in at the end and want a book two.

Overall,

2 Pickles

Book Review: The Elizas by Sara Shepard

Atria Books
TBP April 17 2018
352

When debut novelist Eliza Fontaine is found at the bottom of a hotel pool, her family at first assumes that it’s just another failed suicide attempt. But Eliza swears she was pushed, and her rescuer is the only witness.

Desperate to find out who attacked her, Eliza takes it upon herself to investigate. But as the publication date for her novel draws closer, Eliza finds more questions than answers. Like why are her editor, agent, and family mixing up events from her novel with events from her life? Her novel is completely fictional, isn’t it?

The deeper Eliza goes into her investigation while struggling with memory loss, the closer her life starts to resemble her novel until the line between reality and fiction starts to blur and she can no longer tell where her protagonist’s life ends and hers begins.- Goodreads

This is the first book I’ve read by Sara Shepard. The Pretty Little Liars series at the time didn’t peak my interest. However, after reading this I may give it a shot. The Elizas is Shepard’s first adult book and you can really tell that while reading this.

I had a hard time reading this because Eliza was uninteresting and a brat. What I was more interested in was the story Eliza had written even though it tied in really well with the main story, I was captivated by Dots (what it is called). However, it was real obvious what the author was doing with that story and that was extremely unfortunate. The thing that made the Dots story more interesting than the main story was because Dot was a more like-able character. Eliza has some issues, not only trust issues but issues with herself that she works out throughout the book. But she is missing the base in her voice, for a lack of better term. Every time she spoke, it came off like ‘wow I have to do this on my own because no one believes me…well that’s great.’

I wanted more personality from Eliza. Something else other than her illness and what happened to her. Some form of connection was missing and when I finished the book, I wanted that.

The overall plot was slower than I expected but I do give Shepard credit for creativity. Despite the predictability earlier in the book, how she ties everything together makes a lot of sense and it shows that Shepard can pull some twists and turns. I was impressed and that is why I want to read Pretty Little Liars now.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad read. But isn’t something that I would read again but I do know a few people that would enjoy this book that is why I would recommend it.

2 Pickles

Book Review: Friend Request by Laura Marshall

Grand Central Publishing
Published Sept 5th, 2017
384 Pages

Maria Weston wants to be friends. But Maria Weston is dead. Isn’t she?

1989. When Louise first notices the new girl who has mysteriously transferred late into their senior year, Maria seems to be everything the girls Louise hangs out with aren’t. Authentic. Funny. Brash. Within just a few days, Maria and Louise are on their way to becoming fast friends.

2016. Louise receives a heart-stopping email: Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook. Long-buried memories quickly rise to the surface: those first days of their budding friendship; cruel decisions made and dark secrets kept; the night that would change all their lives forever.

Louise has always known that if the truth ever came out, she could stand to lose everything. Her job. Her son. Her freedom. Maria’s sudden reappearance threatens it all, and forces Louise to reconnect with everyone she’d severed ties with to escape the past. But as she tries to piece together exactly what happened that night, Louise discovers there’s more to the story than she ever knew. To keep her secret, Louise must first uncover the whole truth, before what’s known to Maria–or whoever’s pretending to be her–is known to all.- Goodreads

It didn’t take long for me to be sucked into this book. I stayed up late to finish this book and was disappointed in the ending but the overall book left an impression. Louise was a follower as a teen and still is in a way as an adult. What she did and didn’t do as a teen is coming back to haunt her in the forum of a Facebook request, guilt and some stalking.

I really enjoyed the vagueness and suspense the author was able to create in a everyday environment. There isn’t a lot that actually happens. A lot of the tension and the what will happen next is because Louise is freaking out. Which is completely understandable if the person you thought was dead is physically haunting you. There is no paranormal activity going on in this book, so that may be a hint to where things are going but it is also important to note that because things move slower then what you would think if this was a paranormal book. But there is a constant need to find out what happens next. There is a desire to get to 1: find out about the secret 2: find the truth about Maria 3: find out what is actually happening.

Here are my issues with the book:

1: There are some parts of the book that are very misleading. The author leads you down a specific road but the at the end you’re like what?

2: The ending was weak. All that building, waiting for the truth, excitement for the truth just lead to the most lack luster ending I could possibility think of. Think of staying up until 1 a.m. to get to that. -_-

Those were my two biggest issues in this book. I felt that there should have been more going on other then Louise freaking out and feeling guilty and still wanting the approval of others. There should have been some growth in Louise and personality. There wasn’t much to her other than what happened when she was a teen and her relationship with past friends and her ex-husband.

Overall, I enjoyed the book but I know it could have been 5 Pickles as opposed to

3 Pickles

Book Review: House of Ash by Hope Cook

Amulet Books
TBP Sept. 26th 2017
320

After hearing voices among an eerie copse of trees in the woods, seventeen-year-old Curtis must confront his worst fear: that he has inherited his father’s mental illness. A desperate search for answers leads him to discover Gravenhearst, a labyrinth mansion that burned down in 1894. When he locks eyes with a steely Victorian girl in a forgotten mirror, he’s sure she’s one of the fire’s victims. If he can unravel the mystery, he can save his sanity . . . and possibly the girl who haunts his dreams.

But more than 100 years in the past, the girl in the mirror is fighting her own battles. When her mother disappears and her sinister stepfather reveals his true intentions, Mila and her sister fight to escape Gravenhearst and unravel the house’s secrets—before it devours them both.- Goodreads

If you ever read Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake then that is what you mind is going to gravitate to. The story is similar to the whole boy falls in love with a person from the past who is dead. That is where the similarities end between the two books because for the most part this was a very straight forward story. This is not to say it wasn’t a good read, it was just very linear.

Curtis is going through a really hard time taking care of his father, who has a mental health illness and his younger sister, who is a bit of a brat. I appreciate the author speaking bringing attention to mental health illness in the book but there was a bunch of things lacking with it.

It isn’t really discussed as into what he is actually dealing with. All that is known is that hospitals are no, his father needs to be a schedule and he can become violent. Yes, you find out what happened for this illness to occur but I guess wanted it to tie into what Curtis discovers about himself and his bloodline. I liked the fact that it was in the story and it showed how teenagers deal with a sick family member and the responsibility of it. It made Curtis complex that is for sure.

In regards to his sister, she is un-loyal, she expects her brother to understand and try to get to know her but she does not do the same at all. She doesn’t give as much as Curtis does and she depends on him to fix things and then gets mad. I didn’t like her at all and she should have been a stronger character and way more supportive of her brother.

Beyond the characters the overall story was alright. As I previously mentioned it is really straight-forward and not a whole lot happens in both the present and the past. When things pick up, you get pulled into the story but it didn’t deliver like felt it could of.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad read and I do recommend it because it has some good writing and it makes me want to read more of this author.

3 Pickles. 

Graphic Novel Review: Wolf, Vol. 1: Blood and Magic (Wolf #1) by Ales Kot, Lee Loughridge (Colourist), Matt Taylor (Illustrator)

Image Comics
Published Nov. 11, 2015
144 Pages

Los Angeles, California: Antoine Wolfe, a hard-boiled paranormal detective with a death wish, has to cope with sudden responsibility for an orphaned teenage girl who might be the key to the impending apocalypse. The road to hell & back begins.

Enter the World where myths & reality meet. . .- Goodreads

Lately I have been coming across and issue with graphic novels written by white writers that have African American leads. I love the diversity but the issue is the first comic books lack a decent story. It is as if the author doesn’t know how to tell the story and therefore write a weak one, either testing to see if the public will like it or just not exactly sure how to tell the story.

Wolf is an interesting story; where myth meets reality. I love the concept and for the most part this particular volume isn’t a bad start to what can be an amazing story.

Wolf, himself, is a bit dull. There really isn’t much to him but at the same time, I am curious to know him because you know nothing about him other than his “ability.” There isn’t enough information or personality for me to like him but there is enough to make me curious and because of that I will read the second volume.

The story, overall, feels incomplete. Yes, I am aware that this is a series but even in the first volume you should feel some kind of satisfaction, something that makes you feel this isn’t a story that is being made up as you go along (no offense). It didn’t feel like a complete thought and the author was trying too hard to make it relevant, “hip” for teens or whoever.

Artwork was good; exactly what should be expected in a graphic novel. Overall, I do plan on reading volume two but hopefully it is better than volume 1.

 

2 Pickles

Book Review: Artie Conan Doyle and the Gravediggers’ Club by Robert J. Harris

Kelpies TBP: June 15, 2017
Kelpies
TBP: June 15, 2017

Artie Conan Doyle is 12 years old and while in the future he will write the great Sherlock Holmes for now he has to deal with the mystery before him. When sneaking out with his best friend, Ham, to explore Greyfriars Kirkyard, the two spot a woman in grey walking through a cemetery and footprints of enormous hound.

Not one to look past questions, Artie, with the reluctance of Ham, follow clues to discover a series robberies that will lead to a villain that Artie may not be able to defeat.

Jumping right in, I would recommend this read to children who have not been introduced to Sherlock Holmes. It is a really creative spin to focus on the author as a child. Yes, it has been done with Lewis Carroll (author of Alice in Wonderland) but only to a certain extent.

What I liked about this book is how the author was able to show the reader glimpse of Sherlock, without actually mentioning it. I enjoyed the personal struggle Artie goes through, although it is not the full focus it is a starting point in the book and a good one I might add. It shows, for a lack of better term, a human emotion/reaction other than curiosity and the need to solve something. I appreciated that.  I also loved how the story was told through Artie and not by his friend Ham or some random voice. It was a better read because of that.

The pace of the novel was acceptable. At one point, it did feel like the book was going nowhere but with the turning point(s) it added more depth to the novel. Character development was non-existing but I didn’t have an issue with this. The way the author wrote this book, there wasn’t any real need for it. Did some things change? Yes. Did any characters change? Kind of. One character, side character, a fairly key character experienced a significant change but it didn’t really apply to the mystery.

Overall, I would recommend this to my nieces and any child that wants a good mystery. As an adult I am glad I found this series.

4 Pickles