Review: Lost Souls by Kelley Armstrong

330243983 stars

Synopsis:

The disappearing hitchhiker is one of the hoariest urban legends, and no one knows that better than Gabriel Walsh, a lawyer who grew up on folklore and myth. When author of books on the supernatural Patrick brings Gabriel a case of a hitchhiking woman in white who vanished on a country road after accepting a ride from a businessman, Gabriel knows the Cainsville elder is just trying to wheedle into his good graces. But Gabriel is a man in need of a mystery, one that will get him back into someone else’s good graces. His investigator, Olivia Taylor-Jones, has blown town supposedly on a simple vacation. But when she left there was a rift between them and…he misses her.

Gabriel is well aware the only thing Olivia loves more than a good mystery is a weird one, and this hitchhiker case more than fits the bill. As Gabriel digs into the story, he’s forced to face ghosts of his own and admit that the woman in white isn’t the only one who has lost her way.

With Lost Souls, New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong weaves an unmissable novella-length tale connected to her fan-favorite Cainsville series.


Oops… I didn’t realise that this book was part of a series! This novella ties in to the Cainsville series, and to be honest… as I’ve noticed with Armstrong’s other work, you need to be familiar with the main series to get the full benefit. Thankfully, her storytelling is so easy to read, I don’t see this being a hardship.

I’ve given this book 3 stars because even though I enjoyed it, I don’t see it sticking with me – the writing is really enjoyable and it automatically appealed to me because it features the old hitchhiker urban legend, this would probably have nailed a full 5 stars if it wasn’t part of a series. The characters have already been established in the main series (I assume) so there were constant references to their past which distracted me from the narrative, I could have enjoyed the story as it was.

Gabriel is an unsympathetic main character, you would have to have affection for him from the earlier books to really connect with him in this. He lacks empathy for regular humans and he’s immature, whiny and self sabotaging in his personal relationships… without the context to work with, he’s just a pain in the ass and a bit cringeworthy to read.

Gabriel takes on a case of the mysterious hitchhiker, thinking that having an intriguing case on board will help him win back the affections of Olivia, his legal firm’s investigator. Of course, things are never as simple as they seem and the ‘fun’ case turns out to be more than he bargained for.

All in all, it’s the writing that makes this story worth a read – unless you’re a follower of the Cainsville series though, I would probably recommend picking up another book by the author to get you started.

 

Review: Bleed Through by Adriana Arrington

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Published by Curiosity Quills Press

5 stars

Synopsis:

With his schizophrenia under control, life is looking up for twenty-five-year-old Liam Murphy. Independence looms on his horizon, and he’s under the care of a psychologist who understands him. Then he witnesses a murder at the yacht club. He worries it’s a hallucination and sign of regression, but soon becomes convinced that his meds have given him the paranormal ability to see past events and that the murder actually happened.

Attempting to make sense of his new talent, Liam finds an unlikely confidant in Mai Nguyen, a fellow college student and eternal optimist. Though she helps him navigate the unsettling memories threatening to engulf him, the emotional toll of learning terrible secrets he can’t prove pushes Liam to the brink of lucidity.

Desperate to wrest back control of his life, Liam tosses his pills. He spirals into a relapse and captures the killer’s attention as he bumbles through investigating the crime. Hunted by a possibly imaginary murderer, and haunted by self-doubt, Liam must distinguish between hallucinations and reality. If he doesn’t, he risks losing either his hard-won sanity or his life.


I reached the halfway point of this book and almost couldn’t finish it, and not for the reason you’d expect.

 

This book is excellently written, almost too well. Liam, the main character, suffers from schizophrenia in a way that few literary characters do: realistically.
When on medication, he can mostly differentiate between reality and hallucinations even though he knows that some of the delusions will be with him the rest of his life – like his belief that the neighbour has been replaced by a replicant who is watching his every move.

When medicated, Liam’s situation is more palatable but when he stops taking his medication around halfway through the book… it starts getting hard to read. This is as it should be though, schizophrenia isn’t palatable, it’s hell for sufferers and the people who love them.
As the reader, you have to try to work out for yourself what’s real and what’s a hallucination – Liam is the most unreliable of narrators, which the author masterfully uses in this book.

This is something that’s got under my skin with books before, because it’s something very close to my heart: people not being believed because they suffer from mental illness. Suffering from paranoia and hallucinations doesn’t negate someone’s intelligence or opinions, their completely unique view of the world can sometime hold insights that mentally healthy people don’t have. By the midpoint of this book, I was feeling stomach churningly anxious for the main character and really thought about putting the book down for a little while and trying something else. For me, that demonstrated exactly how well this book was written.

This story will stick with me for a long time, I think – Liam was a lovable character, despite his best efforts. He’s understandably self-centred, having  to spend every ounce of energy analysing his own thoughts to make sure they’re not trying to trick him, but he loves his family and wants them to be happy.
On the path to recovery, now his therapist has found a good combination of medication for him – he starts to want things for himself, such as a friendship with Mai, his open minded fellow student.

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All these things at risk when he starts to see things, despite his encouraging progress with his mental health. His battle against his own mind to figure out what’s real and how to keep the people he loves safe from himself and his visions is the true making of this story.

Another interesting element of this book that I felt added an extra something to proceedings is that it’s set on a military base where Liam is now living with his mother, sister and stepfather – Isaac, the stepfather, is a brilliant character for reasons I won’t divulge and works for the military. This isn’t essential to the story but it just adds something to the story beyond Liam’s health.

I don’t think this book is for everyone, it’s heavy as hell and at times, pretty confusing. But if you’re up to the challenge, you won’t regret it. This is the portrayal of a mentally ill character who doesn’t have their struggle belittled by being magically healed by the end of the book, or by finding out that they’re actually a supernatural creature or some other cliché – this is suspenseful, heart wrenching and very respectful.

Review: Sins of the Flesh by Eve Silver (Sins series book 3)

343945295 stars

Synopsis:

The blood of the Underworld lord of evil runs through soul reaper Malthus Krayl’s veins. Raised to fight for survival and to kill for victory, he can destroy anyone who poses a threat. As he searches for the one responsible for his brother’s murder, he refuses to succumb to any distraction…until his sworn enemy crosses his path and tempts him beyond all reason.

Calliope Kane, a Daughter of Aset, has a personal hatred for soul reapers. Their savage attack against her family still haunts her. But only Malthus can help her find the traitors of her kind, and only she can help him hunt the source of betrayal amongst the reapers. As they unite, the danger grows closer…and the passion between them ignites.


This series is just getting better and better with each installment. Anything that Eve Silver writes from this point on, I’ll read. If she writes ingredient lists for the back of a new breakfast cereal, I will read it. If she writes a full blow-by-blow account of paint drying: I. Will. Read. It.

This time it’s Mal, son of Sutekh that’s finding himself a strong woman to call his very own. Sure, it’s getting a little formulaic that one brooding supernatural male is finding himself a badass woman to give his heart too and that may at some point become boring, but not yet!

The badass woman in this instance is Calliope Kane, mentioned in Sins of the Heart as Roxy Tam’s mentor. I hadn’t considered her as a likely love interest for this series given her hatred for soul reapers, but that’s something that’s actually dealt with in this story. Calliope isn’t my favourite heroine in this series (3rd of 3 as it happens) but Mal may be my favourite of the brothers, he doesn’t have the same anger issues or possessiveness as his brothers but seems to be more practical and reserved when it comes to forming new relationships.

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This book was considerably more plot centric than the last, which not only drew me back into the main conspiracy but also raised the ante for sexual tension. I’m firmly in the camp for delayed gratification when it comes to literary sexy times, it gives the reader more time to get to know the characters and their motivations so that by the time they finally get down to it, it’s just that little bit more satisfying.

In this installment of the Sins series, Eve Silver reminds me how good she is at creating suspense and intrigue. This time round we learn more about the hierarchy of the Sisters of Aset, before all the characters we’ve met thus far are thrown together. I can’t say that the final reveal was completely unexpected, but it was so satisfying that I don’t care.

Again, the most wonderful things about the relationships between the Krayl brothers and their mates is that all the relationships are built on respect, even if they are a little feral when it comes to protecting them from the dangers that come with being connected to Underworld royalty.

I can’t freaking wait to read the next book in the series, which is going to be an unknown quantity now that one side of the conspiracy has been resolved! I’m hoping that the romance side is going to be different this time for the sake of variety, but I know that the action side of things is going to be fantastic.

Review: The Hematophages by Stephen Kozeniewski

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Published by Sinister Grin Press

5 stars

Synopsis:

Doctoral student Paige Ambroziak is a “station bunny” – she’s never set foot off the deep space outpost where she grew up. But when she’s offered a small fortune to join a clandestine salvage mission, she jumps at the chance to leave the cutthroat world of academia behind.

Paige is convinced she’s been enlisted to find the legendary Manifest Destiny, a long-lost colonization vessel from an era before the corporations ruled Earth and its colonies. Whatever she’s looking for, though, rests in the blood-like seas of a planet-sized organism called a fleshworld.

Dangers abound for Paige and her shipmates. Flying outside charted space means competing corporations can shoot them on sight rather than respect their salvage rights. The area is also crawling with pirates like the ghoulish skin-wrappers, known for murdering anyone they can’t extort.

But the greatest threat to Paige’s mission is the nauseating alien parasites which infest the fleshworld. These lamprey-like monstrosities are used to swimming freely in an ocean of blood, and will happily spill a new one from the veins of the outsiders who have tainted their home. In just a few short, bone-chilling hours Paige learns that there are no limits to the depravity and violence of the grotesque nightmares known as…THE HEMATOPHAGES.


Stephen Kozeniewski gives another big ‘fuck you’ to anyone demanding him to settle down and pick a genre, and I couldn’t be happier!

So far, his books have ranged between zombies, vampires, a clone society and dystopian civil war – this one is about evil space leeches.

Kozeniewski adds his usual light touch in the social commentary in his world building – humanity has screwed its way across the cosmos, now populating several planets and space stations. Instead of nations, humanity is now divided by the companies that they work for and everything is done with the bottom-line in mind.

What I love most about this kind of world building is that it sets the scene for the story, but they’re not central to the story they just are. There’s no ranting and raving by the author to make you listen to his world view, he just throws in a few tidbits and then gets on with telling another amazing story. This book manages to be stomach churningly gory, but by stimulating the imagination rather than through graphic description.

Ambroziak is a brutally ambitious scientist who has been offered the opportunity of a lifetime to set the trajectory of her career. She joins a mission to recover the Manifest Destiny,  a vanished ship with all the celebrity of the Titanic , but a couple of things stand in her way. Namely, space pirates and evil leeches.

Space pirates, captained by the best literary character of all time: Nia.
That’s right! There’s finally a ‘Nia’ in an English language book!!
There pirates aren’t your usual swashbucklers, they’re like a combination between Firefly’s Reavers and something even worse. For me, the horror started when the pirates arrived, their physical appearance was nasty enough but their back story is even worse.

Once our intrepid explorers have landed on the blood planet, the story shifts tone and becomes more claustrophobic and genuinely terrifying. I’m a sucker (pun intended) for alien parasites and horror mixed with sci-fi, Kozeniewski managed to gather all of my favourite things, wrap them up in a writing style I adore and advertise it on Facebook at a moment I was looking for a new horror read. I tend not to re-read titles (there are too many books out there in the world) but if this one should be turned into an audiobook, I see that being something I could listen to over and over again.

I couldn’t put the book down a and felt a little nauseous at times, Kozeniewski is getting more twisted as time goes by and I’m both eager and terrified to read whatever he releases next.

Review: Evening’s Land by Pauline West

338311724 stars

Synopsis:

The dark elegance of Anne Rice’s THE WITCHING HOUR meets the lush parallel worlds of Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN series.

Reeling after her best friend’s suicide, Ada Walker falls under the spell of the collective subconscious, the EVENING’S LAND, searching for Faye’s soul with a rakishly hypnotic ghost named Christopher.

Richly preternatural and spine-tinglingly erotic, EVENING’S LAND is an exploration of love, loss and loyalty that will haunt you long after the last page is turned.


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I instantly fell in love with the cover of this book, as you undoubtedly have too.

I personally don’t think the synopsis for this book gives you an accurate idea of what to expect, above all else: this book is weird.

It explores themes like death, friendship, lovers and parental relationships but also… ghosts.

The author masterfully tells this story from the perspectives of several different characters, across different timelines, and still manages to pull it all together that it makes sense and enhances the story rather than over complicating things.

That said, the style of writing in this book is a lot more poetic and surreal than I’d usually read – by which I mean that I normally can’t finish a book that doesn’t get to the point pretty quickly, but this book was an exception! This book is all about the writing for me, it just swept me up from the start.

I’ll admit it now, a lot of the point of this book went right over my head – I can attribute at least part of this to the raging fever I had last weekend while I was reading in bed (this book is so trippy, I can’t think of a better time to have read it).

Ada, the main character, is trying to get her life back together following some pretty traumatic events (all of the trigger warnings). It’s not really going so well as her parents edge closer to divorce and she finds out that her neighbours have connections to a Satanist cult.
She’s not the perfect protagonist by any means, with plenty of her own weaknesses, but she has a unique view of the world that was wonderful to read.
My favourite character was Mary, Ada’s mother – she’s a woman who knows her own power and wants to be happy, but she also understands the meaning of honouring her marriage vows. Obviously, she’s in a far-fetched situation but her predicament is a very human one and I found that her chapters grounded the story a lot when Ada was dealing with more otherworldly matters.

I don’t really want to give much away, given how mysterious the synopsis is and how enjoyable the ride was, so I’ll just tell you to keep an open mind when reading this book and roll with it- you’ll be glad you did!

Cover Reveal! Watching You by J.A. Schneider

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A serial killer texts his victims first. A detective vows revenge. He comes after her.

 

This beauty is now available for Pre-Order, ready for its release date on the 25th of April.

I’ll be hosting a book tour post on the 26th of April, where the wonderful J.A. Schneider (seriously, she really is a lovely lady. I have no idea why she keeps brutally murdering women in her books) will be sharing a post entitled “A writer is always terrified” I haven’t read it yet either so I’m as intrigued as you are.

J.A. (Joyce Anne) Schneider is a former staffer at Newsweek Magazine, a wife, mom, and reading addict. She loves thrillers…which may seem odd, since she was once a major in French Literature – wonderful but sometimes heavy stuff. Now, for years, she has become increasingly fascinated with medicine, forensic science, and police procedure. She lives with her family in Connecticut, USA.

 

I’ve reviewed her two previous books on the Whispering Stories blog, which is a book reviewing website that offers all of the professional mod cons that I’m too lazy to learn and too cheap to pay for. I can’t recommend the site enough, not just because I contribute to it of course, but because there’s so much varied content to enjoy and more author interviews and guests posts than I could ever hope to wrangle. Incidentally, if you’d like to contribute to the Whispering Stories website, feel free to join the fun! (Stacey is also a lovely lady, and I have no knowledge of her brutally murdering women in books!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What stands out the most for me about this series of book is the intelligence of the writing and the fact that the main character, Kerri Blasco, is a female detective who uses her professional training and natural intuition to solve cases, while still being very much a woman. She doesn’t become genderless in her role as a detective and, in fact, her intuitive nature is an asset to her work.

I can’t wait to share with you my thoughts on the latest book in the series but I’m not going to tease you any more – I’ll let you know what it’s like on the release date!


A serial killer texts his victims first. A detective vows revenge. He comes after her.
In the chill of an October night, Detective Kerri Blasco is called to a bizarre murder scene. Leda Winfield, a young volunteer for the homeless, has been shot. Her cell phone displays the frightening text, WATCHING YOU, and into her back, hideously pushed with a hat pin, is a note with the same awful message. Leda’s socialite family and friends insist that no one would have wanted to harm her, but Kerri isn’t convinced.
Until another random young woman is killed in the same way. Kerri and her team profile a monstrous killer who enjoys terrifying his victims before stalking and killing them. But how does he get their phone numbers?
Kerri soon finds that the killer is after her, too, and that the key to finding him may just be in the homeless shelter. When the body count rises, she vows to stop the madman – even if it means battling her own personal trauma, risking her job, her love relationship with her boss Alex Brand, and her life. 

Review: Sins of the Soul by Eve Silver (Sins Series #2)

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Published by Eve Silver

4 stars

Synopsis:

Alastor Krayl’s world shattered when he learned that his father was the Underworld god of chaos and evil. All that saved him from self-destruction were his newfound brothers and the bond they shared as soul reapers. So when one of his brothers is murdered, vengeance becomes Alastor’s obsession. And the enigmatic Naphré Kurata, a witness—or is she the killer?—has the answers he seeks.

A reluctant Underworld enforcer, Naphré trusts no one, especially not a seductive soul reaper who makes her burn with lust. Torn between duty and desire, she fights to keep her secrets safe from Alastor, even as she longs to surrender.

For fans of J R Ward, Kim Harrison and Kelley Armstrong!

The books in the Sins Series are mature, gritty, dark, violent, sexy and straddle the line between Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance.


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Firstly – the 4 stars to this book are entirely subjective. I had to find some way of expressing that I didn’t like it quite as much as Sins of the Heart, but I feel like it doesn’t do justice to quite how much I enjoyed it.

This book follows on from the cliffhanger ending of the first book, we’re hot on the trail of the people responsible for the death of Lokan Krayl. His brothers are devastated by his loss and will do anything to find his soul and body, in the hope to reunite them and bring him back.

Alastor is following up some leads when he meets Naphre Kurata. Given that the formula is similar to the first installment of the series, Krayl brother meets hot warrior woman, I was delighted to see some pretty significant differences in the protagonists this time round.

One difference that I particularly appreciated was that both characters have some neurotic quirks, like germ phobia and control issues, caused by their pretty messed up histories. This contrasts nicely with the ‘we’re badass and can take on anything’ couple of Dae and Roxy. Naphre and Alastor are both scared of what they feel for each other but come together anyway, which is a winning formula for me.

The sexy bits were steamy and exceptionally well written, but the emotional connection between the characters was the best bit. It seems to be a relationship built on respect, which is something you don’t read often enough about – presumably even fiction writers don’t think such a thing is possible!

As Alastor spent the beginning of his life being raised by a noble family in England, his character is British in his mannerisms  – this was great up to a point but I feel that the ‘bloody hells’ and ‘wankers’ was a bit overdone given that we don’t really go around saying those things all that much.

Though the main thread of this story didn’t cover as much ground in the main conspiracy as the first book, there was action aplenty and some bold new characters were introduced. My favourite of which had to be the Japanese death goddess (whose name I have forgotten and I’m too lazy to go back an check.  I’m sat under a blanket right now and my kindle is several feet away), she was the embodiment of all that is creepy but her calm rationality was really interesting to read.

I’m dying to read the next book in this series, presumably the third surviving brother will be finding the woman of his dreams and I am so very, very down for that.