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Avid Reviewer "Reviewing a book is driven by two motives: one, that you read it, and the other, that you have the power to trash it or applaud it. – Khamneithang Vaiphei"

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The Girl in the Spider's Web  (Millennium Series)
The Girl in the Spider's Web (Millennium Series)
by David Lagercrantz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.00

41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A FITTING TRIBUTE TO STIEG LARSSON!, 27 Aug. 2015
It is difficult to assess a book when there is a lot of expectation. Moreso, when it is a continuation of a series by another author. It is a fact that David Lagercrantz is no Stieg Larsson but as a writer Lagercrantz has also made a name for himself. But all his fame and name would mean nothing if he lost the plot. And in agreeing to continue the Millennium series, Lagercrantz no doubt took the gamble of his life. And what a gamble it was!

The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz, the fourth book in the Millennium series, could have been crafted better. What I immediately noticed was how Lagercrantz followed Larsson’s blueprint and stick closely to the original author’s imagination by keeping Lisbeth Salander’s vengeful and rancorous side intact, which is the result of her horrifying experiences early in life. Any other person with such a spirit may be disgusting but readers of the series do not bear any such attitude towards her. Rather, she is quite adorable, and fans of the series know that she possesses admirable qualities. Mikael Blomkvist is still the same person with new challenges and demons of his own.

David Lagercrantz deserves to be applauded for introducing a new character in the form of Frans Balder, a specialist in artificial intelligence. He is determined to go beyond this to the realm of super-intelligence, and with his eight-year-old autistic son plays a crucial role in the book. Lagercrantz also skillfully handles the reunion between Salander and Blomkvist, keeping one on tenterhooks for quite a dizzying spell. Waiting for the two to come together raises the tension and keeps one guessing. All in all, David Lagercrantz has done a splendid job and readers who have loved the earlier books in the series would have no cause for complain as The Girl in the Spider's Web is a befitting tribute to Stieg Larsson and a superb continuation of his legacy.

X (Kinsey Millhone Alphabet Series)
X (Kinsey Millhone Alphabet Series)
by Sue Grafton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.91

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars X IS FOR EXCELLENT AND ENTERTAINING!, 26 Aug. 2015
X by Sue Grafton comes a long way since the first book in the Private Investigator Kinsey Millhone Alphabet series, A is for Alibi, was released in 1982. Thirty-three years on, author Sue Grafton is as brilliant as ever and our dashing protagonist Kinsey Millhone haven’t lost any of her touch. Twenty-four alphabets gone, with only two more - Y and Z - to be written, we are nearing the end of one of the longest running series book lovers have ever known. Though I look forward to reading Y and Z, I’d most certainly dread the day when I have to turn the last page on Z.

In this latest installment in the series, Kinsey Millhone has her hands full with several cases that required her attention. In the first, she is approached by a wealthy woman named Hallie Battencourt to find her son Christian Satterfield who has just been released from prison. It was supposed to be a pretty darn easy, almost hassle-free job, or so she thought. However, Kinsey discovered that the woman was lying, and got entangled in a severe domestic dispute. Around the same time, Kinsey is also approached by a friend to look through a box of papers that belonged to her deceased husband Pete Wolinsky. Kinsey is quite familiar with Pete. She had worked with him and had a nagging thought that Pete might not be what he seemed to be. And rummaging through the box of papers Kinsey found a mysterious coded paper and an envelope postmarked 1961. It pertains to an unfinished case that Pete had been working on, a case that demands Kinsey to look for answer. As the case moves along Kinsey discovered that she may be wrong about Pete. And the third case involves Kinsey’s landlord Henry Pitts' new neighbors, Joseph and Edna. Something seemed to be amiss. They are retired elderly people yet there is something sinister about them.

There’s a lot to love in this new book for all fans of the series. Sue Grafton has magically planted into the story all the favorite characters in the series. It is an intriguing story, with different loose threads which beautifully merged in the end. I doubt if this is Sue Grafton’s darkest and most chilling novel, but it is most certainly compelling and enjoyable. Once you start reading, you will find it tough to put it down. With its twists and turns, you will be forced to read through to the end. But I’m still perplexed why Sue Grafton abandoned her usual approach and decided to go for a solitary alphabet as the title. I have one simple question: We have “A is for Alibi” but why leave X to stand on its own?

The Nature of the Beast (Chief Inspector Gamache)
The Nature of the Beast (Chief Inspector Gamache)
by Louise Penny
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.59

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
With the retirement of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, I was afraid that the series is drawing to a close. But there is so much life and adventure after retirement. Louise Penny’s The Nature of the Beast is the eleventh book in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache mystery series, and definitely one of the best. Coming just a day short of a year since The Long Way Home was released, The Nature of the Beast is a story that will appeal to long-standing fans of the series and starts with a heart-pounding, pulsating race for life as a frantic nine-year-old Laurent Lepage sprinted through the forest, dodging the tree trunks as he tries to shake off his pursuers.

After more than twenty years as head of homicide for the Surete du Quebec, former Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, with his wife Reine-Marie Gamache, is leading a retired life in the peace and quiet of the fictional village of Three Pines village in Quebec, a small town just north of the Vermont border and south of Montreal. While Three Pines couldn’t hide them from the woes of the world, it was enough to heal the wounds of their past, and they were happy and healthy. But their new found peace and tranquility was to be short-lived.

Trouble started brewing in Three Pines when Laurent Lepage claimed that he found a gun in the woods, just the other side of the bridge. He claimed that it was huge, bigger than a house and there’s a monster on it, with wings. Some thought it was a potent combination of wishful thinking and madness. But for others it was the strong imagination present in every child which they eventually outgrow. But in Laurent’s case, it was almost a daily habit. He was the boy who cried wolf in the tiny village of Three Pines. Laurent may be wild and crazy but he’s a great kid and most adults love him. And things started to fall apart when Laurent Lepage was found dead, and the gun in the woods with monsters on it was not a creation of his fanciful imagination but a monstrosity carefully hidden by men capable of indescribable inhumanity.

Another thread of the story follows a plan by Antoinette Lemaitre, the artistic director of Knowlton Playhouse, and her partner Brian Fitzpatrick, to stage a play entitled She Sat Down and Wept, written by a nondescript playwright John Fleming. When Gamache heard of the playwright he started thinking and came to realize that it was the same John Fleming who was arrested and tried eighteen years ago for crimes so hideous it was not made public. Lodged at the special handling unit, John Fleming is considered to be beyond help. Author Louise Penny weaves a fascinating and wonderfully paced story, beautifully merging the two threads.

The Nature of the Beast brings back the Gamache’s neighbor and friend Clara Morrow, who is still reeling under the pain of losing her husband Peter Morrow in The Long Way Home, Annie and her husband Jean-Guy Beauvoir, Chief Inspector Isabelle Lacoste, Monsier Beliveau, the grocer, Myrna Landers, owner of the bookstore, Ruth Zardo, the old poet with her duck, Rosa, and various others many readers will be familiar with. The Nature of the Beast is a pure delight to read although the discussion about the play and its ramifications was a bit tedious and protracted. But everything falls into place once Project Babylon and the beastly nature of John Fleming were revealed. I leave the book with a lot of sympathy for Evelyn and Al Lepage, but not the Frederick Lawson that Al was before he crossed the border. The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny is a crime mystery thriller that will take you on an incredible journey right into the hearts and pains of its characters. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed with it!

The Drowned Boy (Inspector Sejer 11)
The Drowned Boy (Inspector Sejer 11)
Price: £8.54

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars EXPLORING THE HUMAN PSYCHE!, 24 Aug. 2015
The Drowned Boy by Karin Fossum, the eleventh instalment in the Inspector Konrad Sejer series, is a masterfully crafted crime and psychological mystery thriller guaranteed to delight fans who have been following the series. It will also silent critics who have been rubbishing translated works as Kari Dickson has done a fantastic job rendering it with a flawless prose which makes this work looks truly original.

The Drowned Boy is a fine work, neat and tightly written with a plot created to make a truly compelling read. The story is about a young couple, Carmen, 19, and Nicolai, 20, who have a healthy toddler boy about sixteen months old with Down’s Syndrome who was found drowned in their backyard pond one Wednesday in August. Inspector Konrad Sejer’s assistant Jacob Skarre is suspicious about the nature of the boy’s drowning and asked for Sejer. On reaching the site, Inspector Sejer is perplexed how the infant, Tommy, could reach the pond where the fatal accident took place, and sensing something amiss decided to dig deeper.

In The Drowned Boy, Karin Fossum explored the deepest and darkest corners of the human heart, mentality and character and gave interesting insights which otherwise we wouldn’t normally know. I was also astonished to find the author’s detailed description of the horrors of drowning and what it entails. In my opinion, what plays an important part in Karin’s crime novels is not the horrific details of its perpetration or detection but the “why”of it, and that question rings all over the book. If you are looking for a light-hearted read, this certainly is not for you.

It's In His Heart (A Red River Valley Novel)
It's In His Heart (A Red River Valley Novel)
by Shelly Alexander
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.64

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A STORY OF HEALING AND PASSION!, 1 Aug. 2015
Like a breath of fresh air comes this beautifully packaged romantic comedy which is full of love and laughter. As I started on the first chapter I knew it won’t take me long to reach the last and thirtieth chapter. Sure enough, I raced to finish it within a few hours. Do I like it? Let me put it this way: it is definitely a great start for a new author.

Drawing inspiration from the real people and real town of Red River in New Mexico which is the setting for the story, the first book in the Red River Valley series, It's In His Heart by Shelly Alexander is a moving and beautiful story of healing and forgiveness which is as touching as it is soothing. Though the characters are formed from Shelly’s imagination, she has meticulously captured the magic of Red River in a way only she could do. The two key characters in the story are finely etched, with secrets of their own. After the death of her husband, Ella Dennings wants a fresh start to a new life. Her husband Bradley’s best friend Cooper Wells is also seeking a new life. They are poles apart, just the opposite. But when they found themselves holed up in a cabin (one of my few gripes as it was too expedient), they begin to see each other in new light. Will they find their rainbow after all the storms they passed through?

Debut author Shelly Alexander who has lived out a fairy tale love story herself for over twenty five years now constructed an unbelievably satiating love story which is funny, clever, spirited, sharp and sexy as it can be, yet not bereft of scandals and secrets. As much as it is a story full of fun and laughter, It’s In His Heart is also a story of new beginnings and second chances - a story of healing and passion. And now I can't wait to read the next book in the series, It's In His Touch, which is scheduled for November 3rd release.

Cold Black Earth
Cold Black Earth
by Sam Reaves
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars COMPELLING AND SPINE-CHILLING!, 1 Aug. 2015
This review is from: Cold Black Earth (Paperback)
In this surprisingly compelling story, author Sam Reaves weaves a hard-hitting tale of a woman who fled her home to build a life of her choice only to return when her dreams went up in smoke. Physically and emotionally drained, all that Rachel Lindstrom wanted was the comfort of a town she once knew. But with a dysfunctional family that also has to cope with a family tragedy nagging her, peace seems to be the last thing she will find.

Cold Black Earth by Sam Reaves is a suspenseful mystery thriller with a female protagonist and several quirky characters. When the town she returned to is gripped by fear with a mad killer on the loose, Rachel, tired of running all her life and living in fear summons the courage and strength to take on him head-on. Author Sam Reaves penned a story that is as complex and intimidating as it is thrilling. It is a story that will entertain and delight readers, giving hours of reading pleasure.

The Einstein Prophecy
The Einstein Prophecy
Price: £3.98

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars THRILLING BUT COMES SHORT OF EXPECTATION!, 1 Aug. 2015
The Einstein Prophecy by Robert Masello is an absorbing and entertaining supernatural historical mystery thriller with elements of horror, occult and a delightful dose of romance. Full of suspense, this is one story that is designed to hook you from the first page as the award-winning journalist-author has crafted an entertaining story that is both chilling and thrilling.

Set during the Second World War in 1944, the story revolves around the discovery of a mysterious relic, an ancient Egyptian ossuary, in Germany by American soldier Lt. Lucas Athan. Thought to be stolen by Hitler, the relic containing unexplained items and human skeletal remains was brought to Princeton, New Jersey, where it was thoroughly studied. And there seems to be unexplained deaths connected with the mysterious ossuary. Egyptian scholar Simone Rashid, who along with her father first unearthed the relic, joined Lucas in Princeton where Albert Einstein was also working in the same campus on a secret project. And they must solve the mystery before it is too late.

The Einstein Prophecy by Robert Masello promises a lot of excitement and thrill but as the story unfolds, some of the early expectation gave way to a sense of predictability and though the story moved along at a swift speed, there seems to be stunted progression in how it moves forward, and at one point it seems to be breaking apart at the seams. There are various threads in the story but all tied up in the end. The romance between Lucas Athan and Simone Rashid added a delightful flavour to the story. Like the unexplained mystery which resulted in several deaths, The Einstein Prophecy ended up coming short of expectation though it is still an enjoyable and engaging supernatural thriller.

The Hundred-Year Flood
The Hundred-Year Flood
Price: £3.99

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A MASTERFUL NOVEL OF SELF-DISCOVERY!, 1 Aug. 2015
When I asked for a review copy of The Hundred-Year Flood by Matthew Salesses on NetGalley, I never expected to read a story told in poetic language and lyrical sentences. As a debut novel, I expected more of a disjointed rumblings yet the book is solidly grounded in vivid details while it is both atmospheric and sweeping, with enough spins to keep me going.

In The Hundred-Year Flood, debut author Matthew Salesses slowly but surely builds up an absorbing story that is set shortly after the attack on the World Trade Center. Thomas, nicknamed Tee, who hails from a dysfunctional Korean family, fled to Prague when his uncle committed suicide, and he discovered that his father and aunt have been in an illicit relationship for over a decade. As he tries to deal with the situation in the best possible way, Tee met three characters who will forever change the way he sees and thinks - Pavel, his wife Katka, and their friend Rockefeller.

While Tee comes across as self-obsessed, author Matthew Salesses’ intelligent and fine writing makes the reading a real pleasure. But Tee’s self-obsession may be forgiven in the context of the story as he is out in the world trying to create and find a niche for himself. The landscape of Prague comes alive in lyrical sentences which is both fascinating and delightful. Readers will be pulled along as flood engulfed Prague, desperate to find out how it will all pans out. The Hundred-Year Flood by Matthew Salesses is a journey of self-discovery as much as it is a story of forgiveness, family and heritage. If you want to read a story that will keep you thinking long after the last page is turned, this book is definitely a must-read.

Young Babylon
Young Babylon
Price: £3.99

16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A SATIRICAL LITERARY HUMOR!, 1 Aug. 2015
This review is from: Young Babylon (Kindle Edition)
Young Babylon by Lu Nei is a satirical literary humor set in the nineties in China. It is the story of a young and headstrong Lu Xiaolu who at the age of nineteen feels the strong need to find a work, and thus begins his daily routine at a saccharin factory, which the author described in fascinating details. Insightful and delightfully funny, the book offers a close look at the socio-cultural life of the Chinese.

Through his portrayal of Lu Xiaolu, author Lu Nei crafted a pen picture of China which will surprise and shock many readers. Yet, it is an engrossing read, a firsthand account of the culture and custom of the Chinese people, and how the average people lead their daily life.

The Girl at Rosewood Hall (A Lady Jane Mystery)
The Girl at Rosewood Hall (A Lady Jane Mystery)
Price: £3.99

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WELL-RESEARCHED AND WELL-WRITTEN STORY!, 1 Aug. 2015
The Girl at Rosewood Hall by Annis Bell deals with an unsavory topic but one which needs to be addressed. Reading the story makes me realize that we are nowhere near to ending such abuses and ill-treatment of the less privileged and orphans today than they were over a century-and-half ago. The situation has more or less escalated, with merchants of the orphans making pile of money in the name of the poor, enriching themselves at the cost of the lives of many miserable children the world over. Annis Bell’s story is a brutal portrayal of the suffering of the orphans and how many some despicable people live a life of entitlement in the name of the suffering of the less privileged.

The novel takes the reader on a tour of Victorian-era London into the life Lady Jane for whom Lord Henry Pembroke has organized a ball, inviting the most eligible bachelors of London society. When an irritated walked out of the ball into the wintry night to find peace and solitude, she stumbled on a dying girl in the park of Rosewood Hall. With her last breath the dying girl asked Jane to search for her friend Mary and save her. The self-assured and over-confident Jane promised to help. When Lady Jane set out to investigate, she received unexpected support from Captain Westcott, a secretive, rather bleak acting, but also attractive man.

The Girl at Rosewood Hall by Annis Bell is a realistically written, well-researched and wonderfully conceptualized story. The book carries with it the aura and atmosphere of the period wherein it is set, making it easy to imagine the story as it unfolds. The writing style was clear and fluid. The flowing prose with which the author narrated the story quickly transported the reader to the period. It is unimaginable how orphans are leading a life of beatings, starvation, rape and fear in many orphanages. And I really loved the book for highlighting the plights of orphans and the cruelty of the people who are supposed to take good care of them. All in all, an eye-opening book, well worth the time invested in reading it.

#Received an uncorrected proof advance reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 7, 2015 4:42 PM BST

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