The Last by Hanna Jameson #BookReview

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BREAKING: Nuclear weapon detonates over Washington
BREAKING: London hit, thousands feared dead.
BREAKING: Munich and Scotland hit. World leaders call for calm.

Jon Keller was on a trip to Switzerland when the world ended. More than anything he wishes he hadn’t ignored his wife Nadia’s last message.

Twenty people remain in Jon’s hotel. Far from the nearest city, they wait, they survive.

Then one day, the body of a girl is found. It’s clear she has been murdered. Which means that someone in the hotel is a killer…

As paranoia descends, Jon decides to investigate. But how far is he willing to go in pursuit of justice? And what happens if the killer doesn’t want to be found?

amazon uk amazon com

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This is definitely a case of it’s not you, it’s me. Honestly, I’m probably not the best reader for this type of novel.. I didn’t even see any episode of The Walking Dead so safe to say that my interest in learning how to survive after a world apocalypse was rather small to start with. I really thought I was getting a locked-in murder mystery which was the reason I was excited to read The Last but that isn’t really what this book is about. The so-called investigation is actually near to non-existent and between all the other stuff that’s happening it’s only mentioned now and again until an amazing new revelation at the very end of the novel shines a light on who it might be.

What it actually is about is the survival of 20 individuals after they become isolated from the rest of the world. They’re a diverse bunch of people, coming from different countries, with different ages, families and single people too, everyone is pretty much represented. Existential questions like death, God etc were examined which was interesting and I thought it would be fascinating to see how people would react to the news they were probably the last people on earth. Sadly though, that extra fresh touch that I thought I would find here wasn’t really there, it all felt kind of predictable… some people are cowards and most of them are selfish, threatening and turning on each other, what else is new?

It wasn’t all that imaginative for me but I can’t really tell you what would be satisfying. I think I would have preferred it more if the novel had more of a The Last Man on Earth feel to it. Every society, and definitely a new one like this is of course prone to conflict and a difference of opinion. But even then and with the remote setting as an extra incentive I didn’t feel as much intensity as I wanted to.

I just want to finish by saying that I sincerely hope the world doesn’t come to an end because it doesn’t look good if you survive ;-). If you don’t believe me, you should read the novel :-).

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Turtles All The Way Down by John Green #BookReview

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‘It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.’

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred thousand dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

amazon uk amazon com

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I was very excited to read my first John Green novel and I thought I was going to love it since I really like YA mystery and the mental health issue also sounded quite interesting but I’m afraid I didn’t fall in love with the plot nor the characters.

A lot of it is probably due to never having felt a real connection with Aza, the person this whole novel is actually about. She’s not a very remarkable character except for what makes her different: she suffers from obsessive thinking. I think it’s great that this condition is brought under our attention but it was quite hard to understand and often sympathise with Aza. I did make some progress towards the end of the novel in regards to knowing how she is as a person and what the consequences are for her but it still wasn’t easy to grasp. I know novels are sometimes too rosy-colored and they often make problems go away or mental illnesses resolve themselves and I don’t like that but I would have preferred to see some progression, something to be really happy about for Aza. The only people evolving are her friends and the reader and she seemed to remain at a standstill. Maybe that’s the whole point of the novel too but even so, she could have showed perhaps a bit more how to deal with it properly and how to live her life happily instead of only highlighting the problems. This way it was definitely not a good news show.

Unfortunately the mystery part of the missing billionnaire was also only a small section of the novel. It really wasn’t what the novel was about and wasn’t followed through. I believe it was just a way to get in touch with Davis as there wasn’t happening much with the plotline. As for Davis himself, I quite often felt sorry for him and his little brother. The spiralling thoughts Aza is having also impact her personal life and relationships and the poor guy is of course caught in the middle when he tries to connect with her.

Turtles All The Way Down was sometimes a YA story and sometimes almost lyrically philosophical. There are plenty of wonderful one-liners that really spoke to me and make you want to get into a highlighting mode. Green uses metaphores aplently and one of Davis’ qualities is quoting poets and using their quotes to refer to his own life. I liked it but it was all a bit much sometimes.

It was disturbing to hear Aza’s spiralling thoughts and seeing that she can’t break those thoughts, telling her what to do if she doesn’t want to be killed by bacteria. C. diff. is her her greatest torment and she goes very far in her thought process.

I wouldn’t read this novel again but in the end it created more awareness for me and I’m sure everyone who reads it and I’m grateful for that.

I won a paperback copy of this novel in a blogger’s giveaway. This is my honest opinion.

The Map of Us by Jules Preston #BookReview

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One of the most original and charming books you will ever read, this is a must read for all those who love Eleanor Oliphant and The Keeper of Lost Things

A story of love, line graphs and lost directions

Violet North is wonderfully inconvenient. Abandoned by her family and lost in an imagined world of moors and adventure, her life changes in the space of just 37 words exchanged with a stranger at her front door.

Decades later, Daniel Bearing has inherited his father’s multi-million pound business, and is utterly lost. He has no idea who he is or where his life is headed.

When Violet’s granddaughter’s marriage falls apart, Tilly, always adept with numbers, compiles a detailed statistical report to pinpoint why. But the Compatibility Index Tilly creates has unforeseen consequences for everyone in her world.

Tilly and Daniel share a secret too. 10.37am, April 22nd.
Soon, a complex web of secrets and lies is exposed and an adventure begins with a blue typewriter…

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I wish I could have liked The Map Of Us more but I’m afraid we weren’t the best match. There was perhaps 76% probability that we would hit it off but that means there was a 34% chance of the opposite. It’s something Tilly would say; she must have rubbed off on me after all :-).

I have to admit I was excited to read this novel mostly because of the reference to that other novel, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, but I couldn’t find the same connection or recognition in Matilda – or Tilly as she’s called by 3 people – that I found in Eleanor.

The novel was told in alternating voices in short snappy chapters of only a few pages, or even just half a page at times, so it was easy enough to digest, but on the the other hand the big cast of quirky characters that changed so quickly made it difficult to get invested in them and remember them sometimes as well.

The author also introduced also a few different literary styles that some will undoubtedly find original but I found it halted the flow of the story somewhat. Some of them worked really well like hearing her mother’s voice through letters addressed to Tilly, and others – like the almost poetic entries of her father’s thoughts in almost three word sentences – not so much.

The thread that followed Violet North, the grandmother who starts writing stories on her blue typewriter, was the one I looked forward to returning to most of all and I really hoped she would find happiness in the end. She lives in a world of her own and created a fictuous character who roams the Great Moors and lets her have adventures when she can not. Like Violet, most of the other characters in this novel live in a world of their own: Tilly’s father’s passion is building sand sculptures (no dolphins though!), Tilly’s world seems to be built by numbers, her sister Katherine’s world is filled with the haunt for the perfect handbag (she’s got 342! bags) and her brother Matt is the world authority on the color blue. Can they break out of their limited worlds and make a connection with someone outside of their world? It’ll be quite a journey.

This novel was a bit out of my ‘rational’ comfort zone and a bit too wordery for me, making it difficult to understand why some of it was relevant to the story so I guess that’s why it didn’t really work out for me. It reminds me a little of We Were Liars by E. Lockheart, where the prose also rubbed me the wrong way. If you like originality and you’re looking for a quirky read though this might be exactly your cup of tea.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

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What’s it about?

In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.

As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling.

You can buy a copy of this novel on Amazon UK | Amazon US.

Review

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I didn’t know anything about the Lizzie Borden case before I started this book. Well I’ve heard reference made to the case in the past of course but didn’t know the full details (I had a movie with Christina Ricci waiting for me to watch which they gave on tv recently but I deliberately didn’t watch until after finishing this novel and it bore many similarities, even in details, apart from the stranger) so this was all new to me at the time and I can’t compare to the real details of the case or other stories, because appearantly there have been a few already.

I’ve seen this novel getting some mixed reviews and I did finish it so it was perfectly readable but I admit I struggled a bit as well to get to the end. The lyrical prose in this novel wasn’t really a style I’m used to and I never found myself enjoying it quite as much as I wanted.

The opening of this novel was great though, I was revved up from the very first pages because that’s where Lizzie Borden finds her dead father. She kind of gave me the creeps from the moment I met her because she finds her father dead and mutilated and her reactions were strange and yes, even disturbing. Her observations all through the story are an attack on all your senses. She’s very descriptive and direct in what she sees all through the story, even smells are described vividly, but there is not an emotional side to her so it was not possible for me to really connect with her. She should be a grown woman of 32 at the time of the murders but comes accross as a petulant child, not all the time but definitely more than once. Who in the world wants their sister if they’ve had a nightmare at that age?

We are told the story from four interesting points of view: Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the maid Bridget and an acquaintance to their Uncle John, Benjamin. The storyline however is never delivered in a straightforward way, there are snippets here and there and scenes and events are revisited many times, leaving me none the wiser about what really happened on that fateful day. What is evident though is the fact that the little family was far from being perfect and everyone wanted to escape their suffocating bonds in some way. The relationship between the sisters is peculiar and toxic. They dislike each other but love each other just as much. Everyone could have done it in theory but this novel is not set out to be a real hunt for the killer. The reason for the killing is never spoken of in words or explained but all that was going on in that house gives an idea what was playing and the reason why it could have happened.

I especially got a good feel for the atmosphere surrounding the events in this novel, which was this books greatest strength and I think the ending of the novel was not too surprising but rather a logical conclusion and confirmation of my thoughts, one I can can certainly live with.

Nice to know: The paperback edition of this novel has an interactive cover that you can activate by using an app called blippar. You can see the pear being eaten by insects. You can see it here : pic.twitter.com/stV3xqJ3kq

I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Hitman’s Baby (Mob City book 2)

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What’s it about?

I didn’t tell Roman we had a son. I didn’t know.

Roman

This town was going to sh*t long before I got here. Alexandria’s the kind of place that attracts the scum of the earth – people like me. It’s a real mob city. The only person doing a damn thing to turn it round was Ellie. But I barely met her before her abusive ex stole her away – and left her in a coma.

I’ll remember the night we shared until my dying day. Fate snatched her away from me once, but this time I’m not giving him a say. Ellie’s been hurt more in her life than anyone I’ve ever met. So when Victor Antonov put a hit out on her, I knew I had to stop it. I had to save her. Victor’s about to find out what happens when you threaten the woman I love.

I’m going to make him pay.

Ellie

I don’t remember what happiness feels like.

Four years with Rick saw to that. When the police locked him away, Roman showed me how to feel again, how to hope – and how a man should treat his lady. And then Rick broke out of jail. Seeing him in that dark alleyway was the last thing I remember. And I forgot. I forgot everything: love, and hope – and even Roman himself.

Now my life’s in the balance, and every gangster in Alexandria is hunting for me. There’s only one man on my side, a killer called Roman. He stirs something inside me, and every time I see him, my body aches. It’s trying to tell me something, trying to reveal a secret…

I just don’t know what.

Please note, this book contains scenes of violence (not between the hero/heroine!) A proportion of profits will be split between two national domestic violence charities.

You can buy a copy of this book on Amazon UK / Amazon US.

Review

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This is the second book in the Mob City series but can be read as a standalone.

This is the first novel I read by Holly Hart and I’m going to come out with it straight away, it wasn’t really my thing. It happens. The biggest deal breaker for me was that I missed some reality and believability. Let me start with this: if you were chased by some killers, wouldn’t your first thought be why? When finally an explanation is provided, all Ellie can say is oh well, this explains why. For being such a great investigative reporter (which she actually remembers being), she really doesn’t feel the impulse for a little digging into the matter and just lets it come over her.

There were a couple of other things that I had a strife with. One of them is Ellie’s character in fact. I felt it a bridge too far that she goes from being a punching bag for Rick to being a true heroine, not afraid to go pick a fight with the bad guys (although she should know by now that she can’t win these fights). Moreover, if there are two people in the world who would have trust issues, it should be Ellie and Roman, yet they put their blind faith into the good intentions of a stranger like it’s nothing.

Then there were some things that didn’t correlate: if someone was kidnapped in the hospital, wouldn’t the police be involved and investigate this? Why did the bad guys do a kidnapping at all if she wasn’t meant to wake up? And why does it say in the blurb that her body is trying to tell a secret and does it say first that she had a son? I felt that should have been a surprise.

Anyway, it did have some great qualities too, my favorite part of the book was definitely the beginning where I could read about Ellie’s struggle with Rick, and what I liked very much too was the fact that the cover of this book suggested maybe otherwise but I was happy there was just a smut scene or 2 which didn’t take pages on end like in some other books. Maybe I’m just used to books with a huge amount of accuracy and detail. If that’s the thing, you should hold out on this one. If you like just the whole bad boy and mobster scene setting, you might find this to your liking.

I received a free copy of this novel from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

Rum & Coke

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What’s it about?

Imagine being kidnapped in a forbidden country whose language you don’t speak – and there’s no way home.

When a strait-laced American TV reporter is sent on assignment to Cuba, he is determined to keep out of trouble. But everything changes when he crosses paths with a beautiful and dangerous Cuban chica who calls herself Calypso.

Ulysses wakes up in handcuffs. His head pounding and his mouth gagged with his own tie, he desperately tries to recall what happened. Now, without his wallet or even his passport, Ulysses is at the mercy of his kidnapper.

Insisting that she is in the power of a Santeria love-goddess, Calypso forces Ulysses into the trunk of a 1958 Cadillac convertible at gunpoint. Then she drives him away from Havana, deeper into the heart of her forbidden island.

Uncertain if Calypso is a violent political activist, a common criminal, or simply insane, Ulysses knows he must find a way to escape – and soon. But he finds himself falling for his kidnapper…

Rum & Coke is a crazily off-kilter love story, and a modern odyssey of revenge, devotion and desire; but most of all it is simply the tale of a gringo, a chica, a Caddy, and a love-goddess…

You can buy a copy of this book on AmazonUS / AmazonUK.

Review

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If it were music, this would be in the alternative genre. It tells the universal story of love too though, even if it’s not in the conventional way. Sometimes you need to step out of your comfort zone and try something else, and that’s what I did. It takes a bit of getting used to but if a) you want a dramatic change of what you’re used to reading and b) you want a book with a lot more substance than your average read and finally c) you have an interest in knowing a lot more about Cuba, than this is the book to read. The picture of Cuba is not a very positive one though and I was quite surprised that the book gave such a raw perspective of the country.

The novel opens with a telling how people came on earth, how the Gods made men and women, how we were cut in 2 and we are always searching for our other half. Beautiful isn’t it?

There is a lot of Cuba’s background in the book, layered with a lot of local words and the belief in The Black Madonna, a representation of a Goddess called Ochún (the Goddess of love and rivers) that runs as a red thread throughout the book. Ochún became the patron saint of Cuba and is known as the Black Madonna. The slaves in the old ages hid their worshipping of the gods pretending to pray to Catholic saints and they dressed their gods in the saint’s robes. This dual religion is called Santeria.

Calypso really believes in Ochún and acts accordingly. This wasn’t entirely my cup of tea as the belief in the Gods was very present and I don’t really care about that so much. Luckily Ulysses is more down to earth and thinks she’s kind of crazy too. It was not easy to feel empathy with Calypso although she had such a hard life and she did come across quite crazy and naive sometimes, but she did have her good moments too.

Calypso: “If I cooked as I looked, you’d scrape my pot”

I felt more of a bond with Ulysses, or Jack, as she calls him (for every American is a John or Jack to her). The story is pretty clear, she kidnaps him for some sort of undisclosed reason that is only revealed at the end of the book and then they have a roadtrip that helps them to find each other and form a bond. Ulysses really evolves throughout the story, going from holding on desperately to his job, his old life and his wife, towards letting go and feeling okay with it.

It has a little bit of an open ending and where I don’t like that in any other book, I was quite happy here that some of the future is undetermined. It didn’t need a fixed closure as the story of Calypso and Ulysses in Cuba was already told and finished.

This sure was a crazy ride, and not only for them. It wasn’t told schoolishly but I did learn quite a few things. Cuba has never felt so close as when I read this story and I have a firm belief that the author must have lived there, has roots there or some other.

I received a free copy of this novel from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

Fatal Choices

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What’s it about?

Fatal Choices is set in the small town of Felton, Georgia. The characters are young, inexperienced and hopelessly addicted to drugs.
Dick Gerber, until now, has lived his life with little thought of consequence, but everything drastically changes when he carelessly decides to rip-off a well-known drug dealer by the name of Kenneth Melvin.
Fully convinced that he’s made a clean get-a-way, Dick continues to live his life without concern for a short moment. It doesn’t take him long to realize what a terrible mistake he’s made, when his fifteen-year-old stepson is involved in a drive-by shooting outside his home. He knows right away who’s responsible; however, he’s scared to turn him over to authorities for fear of his family’s as well as his own safety.
Fear and desperation sets in for Dick as Kenneth Melvin continues to threaten his life, causing him to come forward with the truth about the shooting. The police agree to put Dick and his family in protective custody until Kenneth Melvin can be apprehended, but a breech in security on the police force reveals the whereabouts for Dick and his family to Kenneth Melvin, resulting in horror.
Purchase a copy of this book on AmazonUS / AmazonUK.

Review

Respect is earned when it’s given. Treat others the way you wish to be treated.

Jean is a mother of two girls, Heaven and Ashley, and the materfamilias in this dramatic story about a big dysfunctional family. One side of Jean’s family is confronted with domestic violence; drinking and drugs are an everyday occurrence on the other side of the family. Even though Jean tries to raise her kids with all the right values she can’t stop bad influences on her kids and is faced with painful consequences for her loved ones. The threat of drugs, their devastating effects and where they lead are on the forefront of this novel.

I was very curious for this book and loved the cover when I saw it but I’m sorry to say that it could not really convince me and I was expecting a different kind of read also. I couldn’t really identify with the characters or feel what they were going through, and another reason I felt dejected is also that in the first chapters a whole family tree is lugged at me and I was so afraid to lose the overview that I even made a spreadsheet of all the names and family ties. There are just too many characters and I didn’t know everyone’s importance and on which one of them the story would focus. The fact is that the story focuses on a lot of people and goes a bit all over the place. The person I liked most in this novel was Jean. I liked how she acted as a mother, her thinking and her efforts to do something about certain situations. She’s the kind of mother many people would wish for. With a title called Fatal Choices I had a high expectation of suspense but that did not really come forward enough either, I would categorize it more as drama or contemporary fiction.

* I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review*

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