Shadow Sands by Robert Bryndza

Description

The internationally bestselling author of Nine Elms and The Girl in the Ice is back with a nail-biting new Kate Marshall case, a woman with a dark secret and a powerful sense of justice.

When Kate Marshall finds the bloated body of a young man floating in the Shadow Sands reservoir, the authorities label it a tragic accident.

But the details don’t add up: why was the victim there, in the middle of the night? If he was such a strong swimmer, how did he drown?

Kate is certain there is more to this case than meets the eye. As she and her research assistant Tristan Harper dig deeper, they discover a bloody trail that points towards an active serial killer hiding in plain sight. People have been silently disappearing for years, and when another woman is taken, Kate and Tristan have a matter of days to save her from meeting the same fate.

My thoughts

This is the second book in the Kate Marshall series. I really enjoyed the first and this maintained the momentum. If you haven’t read the first book I would recommend it, not just to get Kate’s history but also because it’s such a great read.

Kate and her son are diving in a reservoir when they come across the body of a young man. The police investigation’s findings are a little too convenient and the mother of the dead man begs Kate to investigate. Kate and her colleague Tristan start looking into the case unofficially and find their efforts blocked by the police and other parties. The pacing keeps the story moving and interesting.

Kate has become my favourite crime solver. I love her, warts and all, as she struggles to redeem herself in the eyes of her family and friends. Her colleague Tristan complements Kate perfectly and I was very happy to see him back. We learn a bit more about him and his own personal struggles and difficult family relationships in this book. I’m enjoying their character development.

I’m very much looking forward to the next book in the series!

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Sometimes she heard night-sounds she didn’t know or jumped from lightning too close, but whenever she stumbled, it was the land who caught her. Until at last, at some unclaimed moment, the heart-pain seeped away like water into sand. Still there, but deep. Kya laid her hand upon the breathing, wet earth, and the marsh became her mother.

She knew the years of isolation had altered her behavior until she was different from others, but it wasn’t her fault she’d been alone. Most of what she knew, she’d learned from the wild. Nature had nurtured, tutored, and protected her when no one else would.”

Please don’t talk to me about isolation. No one has to tell me how it changes a person. I have lived it. I am isolation,” Kya whispered with a slight edge.”

Description

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

My thoughts

This book was a slow starter for me. For a while there I wasn’t feeling all the love that others had professed, despite the beautiful language and imagery. But once the solid groundwork of Kya’s back story had been laid and the story settled into the day-to-day of her growing and learning and surviving I started to really enjoy it. The interludes with the police broke the rhythm just enough to remind us that there was another story happening in the background, which would later take centre stage. This book really does have it all – prejudice of a town against a girl born of lowly marsh folk and now growing up wild, the innate racism of the time shown to Jumpin, a beautiful love story, and a murder – all wrapped up in the beautifully described setting of the salt marshes of Carolina.
I did guess the ending but it wasn’t a sure thing and I felt more a sense of satisfaction (and relief) that the author made the ending perfect than disappointment that I had guessed it.

Another Woman’s Child by Kerry Fisher

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Description

Could you take in your best friend’s child, even if it risked destroying your own family?

Jo had thought that her life – and her heart – was full. With a busy job, a husband and a teenage daughter who is going off the rails, keeping her life running smoothly had already felt hard enough.

But now Jo sits at the funeral of her best friend Ginny, crushed by the loss of a friendship that had endured for thirty years: from college and their first days at work through to settling down and raising their own children.

Against her husband’s wishes, Jo has made a life-changing decision: to take in Ginny’s teenage son Victor and raise him as her own. Despite her misgivings, Jo feels she had no choice: Ginny was a single parent and Victor had no other family who could take care of him.

But Victor’s arrival is about to break open the fragile cracks that were already forming on the surface of Jo’s family life and in her small rural community… and expose a secret that has remained hidden for many years, with devastating consequences.

From the bestselling author of The Silent Wife and The Woman I Was Before, Another Woman’s Child is an unputdownable and heartbreaking read about the secrets we keep from our families, and the sacrifices we are willing to make for those we love. Perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult, Liane Moriarty and Diane Chamberlain.

My thoughts

This is another poignant, thought provoking book by Kerry Fisher. I was hooked from the outset by the unexpected point of view in the prologue, and my interest was sustained throughout the story. The story arc covers some challenging themes surrounding friendships, secrets, family relationships, and racism both overt and subtle. At the centre is Jo, a wife and mother who has lost her closest friend to cancer and has taken in her friend’s almost eighteen year old mixed race son, Victor, against the wishes of her husband and against the advice of her friends. While the family is adapting to accommodate a near stranger into their home amidst a lot of external pressure, Jo is also struggling with a difficult relationship with her sixteen year old daughter, Phoebe. There is a lot to relate to in this book and the situations Jo has to deal with, often on her own, feel very real. If we haven’t had to deal with them ourselves then I’m guessing a lot of parents of teens have at least worried about having to deal with something similar at some point.

Another very satisfying read from Kerry Fisher.

The Immortal Words by Jeff Wheeler

Book Three in The Grave Kingdom trilogy.

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Description

To defeat an immortal evil, a young warrior must enter the land of the dead in the spellbinding conclusion to Wall Street Journal bestselling author Jeff Wheeler’s epic Grave Kingdom trilogy.

As kingdoms fall, brave young warrior Bingmei fights to fulfill a prophecy and save what’s left of the world from the coming darkness. Should she fail, Echion, the diabolical Dragon of Night, and his queen will hold sway over the next thousand years. With Echion comes his unstoppable army of dragons—powerful, vengeful, and under his control.

Accompanied by her loyal friend Quion, Bingmei journeys toward her last hope. It lies among the savage beasts just beyond the ancient Death Wall—an uninhabited realm from which no one has ever returned alive. Bingmei’s mission is to find the phoenix shrine and learn the Immortal Words that will allow her to harness eternal magic. With Echion and his legions in pursuit, Bingmei must choose her words wisely to break Echion’s spell and accept her fate.

Bingmei knows what she must do. She must join the ranks of the dead as well. For a fearless and selfless warrior, it’s the ultimate sacrifice. But Bingmei is about to discover that even in death, the greatest sacrifices are yet to come.

My thoughts

What an enthralling trilogy this has been – and the author does not rule out revisiting this world for future stories!

I’ve lapped up this entire trilogy and Book 3 has maintained the high standard of writing and story-telling. Bingmei’s growth has continued and threw a surprise at me in a good way. I really liked the ending and can see the direction potential future books might take. There were a couple of things that, although tied up, I would have liked to seen in more detail, but nothing that detracted from the story in any way.

I’d also like to mention the stunning cover art, not just on this book but on all three, but I forgot to mention it in my reviews of the previous two books.

The Buried World by Jeff Wheeler

Book Two of The Grave Kingdom Series

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Description

The young warrior Bingmei pits her courage, combat skills, and very life against a brutal tyrant’s dark magic in the follow-up to Wall Street Journal bestselling author Jeff Wheeler’s The Killing Fog.

The orphaned Bingmei didn’t choose to be a hero. She has no wish to cross the Death Wall to save the world. But she has awakened Echion, emperor of the Grave Kingdom and Dragon of Night, and it is her destiny to defy him. From his imperial city of ancient sorcery and immortal darkness, Echion conspires to fulfill his own destiny: vanquish Bingmei, revive his queen, and rule together for another eon unchallenged.

Traversing a labyrinth of caves and mountains, Bingmei and her band of allies prepare their defense against a fateful war they cannot win. But when they are overcome by Echion’s terrible power, Bingmei is left vulnerable to a ruthless assassin…one with orders to capture, not kill.

Before he destroys her, Echion craves something more than Bingmei’s soul. Only she has the power to resurrect Echion’s ancient queen, Xisi, whose evil is matched only by his own. Once reunited, their dark shadow will fall like a shroud over the realms. To be a savior, Bingmei must first survive what she has unleashed, and to survive she must begin to understand the seeds of power she’s never learned to control.

My thoughts

Rounded up to 4.5 Stars.
Oh my goodness I am enjoying reading through this trilogy. In my experience the middle book of a trilogy usually the least exciting, the one you need to read through to get to the exciting conclusion (being the third book).
Not in this case! The Buried World is every bit as good as the first book, The Killing Fog. The action continues and the characterisations develop nicely. And throughout there is Jeff Wheeler’s lovely writing. I have become quite a fan of his description’s of Bingmei’s gift and the way he slips them into the prose seamlessly as though it is the most natural thing in the world.
I can’t wait until the final book!

The Killing Fog by Jeff Wheeler

Book One of The Grave Kingdom series

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Description

The Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Kingfountain series conjures an epic, adventurous world of ancient myth and magic as a young woman’s battle with infinite evil begins.

Survivor of a combat school, the orphaned Bingmei belongs to a band of mercenaries employed by a local ruler. Now the nobleman, and collector of rare artifacts, has entrusted Bingmei and the skilled team with a treacherous assignment: brave the wilderness’s dangers to retrieve the treasures of a lost palace buried in a glacier valley. But upsetting its tombs has a price.

Echion, emperor of the Grave Kingdom, ruler of darkness, Dragon of Night, has long been entombed. Now Bingmei has unwittingly awakened him and is answerable to a legendary prophecy. Destroying the dark lord before he reclaims the kingdoms of the living is her inherited mission. Killing Bingmei before she fulfills it is Echion’s.

Thrust unprepared into the role of savior, urged on by a renegade prince, and possessing a magic that is her destiny, Bingmei knows what she must do. But what must she risk to honor her ancestors? Bingmei’s fateful choice is one that neither her friends nor her enemies can foretell, as Echion’s dark war for control unfolds.

My thoughts

This is an easy 4.5 stars for me.

Considering I love the fantasy genre so much it’s a bit of an oversight for me that I haven’t read any of this author’s previous books – only because I never knew which series I should begin with! When I saw The Killing Fog – the first in The Grave Kingdom series – offered on Netgalley I jumped at it and am so glad I did.

We are thrown immediately into the action as Bingmei’s entire family and community is slaughtered and she narrowly escapes. From there the story continues to progress at a good pace, neither hurried or too slow, and Bingmei becomes a formidable fighter in a band of mercenaries led by Kunmia. Kunmia’s team are sent on a mission, along with an exiled prince and his friend, to find a legendary palace buried beneath a glacier. Also buried and now awoken is a powerful lord, Echion, who commands a legion of outlaws and who rules over The Grave Kingdom – the kingdom of the dead.

I loved the Asian influences throughout the book. It was very fitting for the storyline. The author has drawn a cast of characters whose unique strengths and weaknesses are revealed bit by bit along the way. Together they make a strong ensemble. The magical components add an element of unpredictability to the story.

I now know why Jeff Wheeler is such a popular author!

Not A Sound by Heather Gudenkauf

Description

“I’m going to die tonight. But I won’t go quietly.”

When a tragic accident leaves nurse Amelia Winn deaf, she spirals into a depression that ultimately causes her to lose everything that matters – her job, her husband, David, and her stepdaughter, Nora. Now, two years later and with the help of her hearing dog, Stitch, she is finally getting back on her feet. But when she discovers the body of a fellow nurse in the dense bush by the river, deep in the woods near her cabin, she is plunged into a disturbing mystery that could shatter the carefully reconstructed pieces of her life all over again.

As clues begin to surface, Amelia finds herself swept into an investigation that hits all too close to home. But how much is she willing to risk in order to uncover the truth and bring a killer to justice?

And how do you catch a killer when you can’t hear him coming?

My thoughts

I was excited to read this book as I had seen good reviews. And I wasn’t disappointed!

Amelia is a truly flawed character – but she’s done her time as a victim and is now putting her shattered life back together. Finding the body of a once close friend in the river where she paddle boards to fight against the demon of alcoholism, Amelia finds herself thrust into the centre of the murder investigation.

I liked Amelia. She’s ballsy and determined and fiercely independent, yet has a vulnerable side that she doesn’t like people to see. Having lost her hearing in an accident, Amelia has fought her way back to recovery the hard way via alcoholism, but now that she has hit rock bottom she can now start climbing back up. Equally I loved her service dog, Stitch, who only responds to commands spoken in Czech – and only when he’s in the mood.

The story is good and the writing keeps it interesting. I loved the setting of Amelia’s cabin and the surrounding terrain and the author’s descriptions made it easy to visualise everything that was happening and where. The wintry backdrop gave an added dollop of danger. Amelia’s disability was well written and added an extra dimension to the danger she found herself in. Everything tied up well at the end and I am going to look for this author’s other books.

Finding Hemingway by Ken Dortzbach

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Description

Hyper-focused, overachieving New York lawyer Callie McGraw has six months between jobs and a hefty severance check when she is called to Spain by Ernest Hemingway. She begins packing her bags for the sun-kissed streets that night. Starting in Barcelona, Callie embarks on a six-month escapade of a lifetime, a whirlwind of Spanish food, wine, art and dancing, with a revolving cast of friends and lovers keeping her company in each new locale. Callie’s next cocktail is never far away, but Hemingway knows her secrets, the demons that plague her deep down. With each mysterious call and each enigmatic clue, Hemingway challenges her to open herself to laughter, passion and love. Ultimately, he defies Callie to face her greatest fears and embrace life on her own terms.

My thoughts

I wanted to like this book so much. The premise appealed to me and I really liked the idea of Callie, the main character, being independent enough to travel to Spain for six months alone. I started off enjoying the book and the writing is good. But then it lost momentum. Callie met Trevor, also drifting, and struck up a very strange relationship where he followed her lead completely while Callie seemed to rate him very low, judging by the number of faults she found with him. The story itself felt as though it was drifting – from bar to bar and cafe to cafe with brief interludes to sight see or sleep at the hotel. At this point I was still enjoying the book while I was reading it, but I wasn’t feeling any need to get back to it as soon as possible. Then Callie met Claudio – who quite frankly was too good to be true – and around the 40% mark is where the book lost me. Callie turned into an unlikeable diva, overreacting to ridiculous things but we were expected to believe that the men around her thought she was wonderful! Once I stopped liking Callie it made it difficult for me to enjoy the book, despite the good writing, because I really need to like or at least relate to or sympathise with the main character in some way.

Scarlet Odyssey by C.T. Rwizi

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Description

Magic is women’s work; war is men’s. But in the coming battle, none of that will matter.

Men do not become mystics. They become warriors. But eighteen-year-old Salo has never been good at conforming to his tribe’s expectations. For as long as he can remember, he has loved books and magic in a culture where such things are considered unmanly. Despite it being sacrilege, Salo has worked on a magical device in secret that will awaken his latent magical powers. And when his village is attacked by a cruel enchantress, Salo knows that it is time to take action.

Salo’s queen is surprisingly accepting of his desire to be a mystic, but she will not allow him to stay in the tribe. Instead, she sends Salo on a quest. The quest will take him thousands of miles north to the Jungle City, the political heart of the continent. There he must gather information on a growing threat to his tribe.

On the way to the city, he is joined by three fellow outcasts: a shunned female warrior, a mysterious nomad, and a deadly assassin. But they’re being hunted by the same enchantress who attacked Salo’s village. She may hold the key to Salo’s awakening—and his redemption.

My thoughts

This is a very impressive debut that doesn’t feel like a debut. The story is sophisticated and really well thought out and executed. It is told from several points of view, but the characters are introduced slowly so that you get to know each one and it doesn’t become confusing. There are also several different story arcs happening and again it is done so well that it is easy to keep track of them. My only criticism is that I wish I had known going in that it is the first in a series. I like to be prepared, but this is not a criticism of the book in any way and I enjoyed it so much that I will be looking out for the next one to be released.

Crossing The Line by Isabella Muir

Book Description:

Tragic accident or cold-blooded murder?

Retired Italian detective, Giuseppe Bianchi, travels to England to escape one tragic death, when he comes face-to-face with another. When the body of a teenager is found on a Sussex beach, Giuseppe is drawn to the case – a case with no witnesses, and a case about which no one is prepared to talk.

National news reports of a missing twelve-year-old in Manchester spark fear across the nation. The phrase ‘stranger-danger’ filters into public consciousness. Local reporter, Christina Rossi, already has concerns about her local community. Families are not as close-knit as they first appear.

As the sea mist drifts in and darkness descends, can Giuseppe and Christina discover the truth and prevent another tragedy?

Crossing the Line is the perfect summer read for everyone who loves Agatha Christie style twists and turns, with a Mediterranean flavour. Imagine the charismatic Italian police series, Montalbano, combined with those TV favourites set in the 1960s – Endeavour, George Gently and Call the Midwife.

‘A dashing Italian detective. A very English mystery. What more could you want?’ – Christoffer Petersen – bestselling Greenland crime and thriller author.

My thoughts:

This is a genre, an era, and a setting that appeal to me so there was a lot to like about this book.

The main character of Guiseppe, a retired Italian police detective visiting his cousin in a small seaside community in England, is very likeable. As his train is arriving it stops due to an accident. A teenage boy is dead. Guiseppe can’t help himself. He has to know whether it was an accident or something more sinister.

In addition to Guiseppe there is Christina, his cousin’s daughter who is an aspiring journalist at a time when women who worked were more likely to be typists and telephonists. She and Guiseppe form a mutually beneficial partnership to investigate the boy’s death.

There are other threads running through the book too, which I expect will be picked up and developed in future books – Marco’s past; Christina’s complicated relationship with Tony; and I hope we haven’t seen the last of Sean or Pearce.

The twists were a little too well signposted and I guessed them all, but everything that needed to be wrapped up did so nicely, and the things that weren’t leave a nice sense of anticipation for the next book.