Dark Falls by Gregg Olsen

Dark Falls (Detective Megan Carpenter, #3)

Description

They say your past can come back to haunt you. For Detective Megan Carpenter, her past might just come back to kill her.

Detective Megan Carpenter is no stranger to horrifying crime scenes, but when she arrives at the home of a woman whose body has been brutalized, Megan is shocked to discover that she knows the victim. Monique Delmont helped Megan when she was in danger years ago. And the killer has left a disturbing calling card… two laminated photographs of a sixteen-year-old high school girl – Megan.

Someone is taunting her in the worst way possible and Megan is convinced she knows who is responsible. She just has to find him.

With the help of her new partner, Deputy Ronnie Marsh, Megan begins to unravel the clues that will lead them to the killer including links to three female murder cases from nearly twenty years ago – one of which was Monique’s daughter.

But to protect those closest to her, Megan must continue to hide the dark truth of her past, even if that means lying to her team about her connection to Monique.

When two photographs of a teenage Megan are found at her boyfriend’s place in Snow Creek, she knows the killer is circling and ready to strike again.

Can she get to him before he finds her? And will she pay the ultimate price for trying to keep her terrifying past buried?

My thoughts

I didn’t know this was the third book in a series when I requested it from Netgalley, and for a while I was confused because it felt like the continuation of a series but the recaps were so many and detailed that it also felt like a standalone giving the character her backstory.
I got frustrated with the main character outright lying to everyone around her and withholding vital information in a murder case. I have to be honest and say I didn’t like her very much. She was very egocentric.
My favourite character was Ronnie without a doubt. She is smart and I look forward to her character and role development in future books. And I liked the small town setting.
The story was good and a page turner.

Contacts by Mark Watson

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Description

James Chiltern boards the 23:50 sleeper train from London to Edinburgh with two pork pies, six beers and a packet of chocolate digestives. At 23:55 he sends a message to all 158 people in his contacts, telling them that he plans to end his life in the morning. He then switches his phone to flight mode. He’s said goodbye. To him, it’s the end of his story – and time to crack open the biscuits.But across the world, 158 phones are lighting up with a notification. Phones belonging to his mum. His sister. His ex-best friend. The woman who broke his heart. People he’s lost touch with. People he barely knows. And for them, the message is only the beginning of the journey.

Funny and wise, tender and deeply moving, Contacts is a beautiful story about the weight of loneliness, the importance of kindness – and how it’s never too late to reach out.

My thoughts

This is a powerful cautionary tale. James has reached the end of his emotional endurance, feeling insignificant and shunned or forgotten by his friends and family. He decides to end his life and sets off on an overnight train journey to the place he has chosen to die. En route he sends a text message to the 158 contacts on his phone, and then switches it to flight mode so that he doesn’t have to deal with any responses.

From here the story is told from the points of view of his former best friend, his ex-girlfriend, his flatmate, his sister, and his mother as they reflect on their relationships with James and where they may have failed him or done better, interspersed with James reflecting back on the pivotal moments in his life that have brought him to this point. The chapter headers show the clock ticking toward 7.30 a.m. when the train will arrive at its destination, which enhances the sense of urgency.

I can honestly say there were elements to almost every point of view that I could relate to, and some hit close to home in this era of everyone being busy and how easy it is to lose touch with loved ones because we always assume there is more time. As a result I felt emotionally invested in the outcome and sat up to find out how it ended. Which is all I will say as I don’t want to give away the ending.

The afterword by the author sums it up well:

“‘Contacts’ is about the fact that, for all its dangers, the age of instant communication gives us what is basically a superpower … If only we choose to use it.”

Going Green by Nick Spalding

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Description

From the bestselling author of Dumped, Actually comes a laugh-out-loud story about saving your job…and maybe saving the planet in the process.

Meet Ellie Cooke. When it comes to all things environmental she’s, well, a bit ‘green’. It’s not that she doesn’t care about things like climate change and plastic pollution, it’s just that life has always got in the way of that sort of thing.

But when the PR firm Ellie works for is taken over by keen environmentalist Nolan Reece, it’s clear that if she wants to save her job, she’s going to have to get serious about being green—or face being recycled.

Going green is no walk in the park, though. It involves a lot of big changes, tough choices…and at least one case of accidentally showing your knickers off to your boss.

Can Ellie do enough to save her job, and maybe do her bit to help save the planet while she’s at it? And what will Nolan think of her, now that she can’t stop thinking about him…?

My thoughts

The story opens with Ellie working for a failing PR company which is taken over by a new ‘green’ minded boss, Nolan, and there are going to be lay-offs. Despite having no green aspirations Ellie comes up with a strategy to keep her job – pretend to be an eco-warrior and impress the boss.

The rest of the book follows Ellie in her often misguided attempts to impress, while being attracted to Nolan. There is slapstick humour and there were some genuine laugh-out-loud moments, like the incident with the ebikes.

Alongside the humour is Ellie’s slow awakening to the fact that what she is doing as a ploy to remain employed is actually important to the planet and increasingly to Ellie herself.

If I have one niggle it was the mentions of Nolan’s physical likeness to Adam Driver. Once was enough but several times was too much. As someone who doesn’t find him attractive (sorry, Adam Driver) this was very distracting and a bit off-putting, and as a reader I prefer to come up with my own mental images of what a character looks like, based on a description.

This was a very light, fun read with a satisfying conclusion.

The Faithful & The Fallen book series by John Gwynne

The Faithful & The Fallen by John Gwynne - Anji Books

I’ve already written reviews for the first two books in this series, Malice and Valour, but I’ve decided to write a review for the series as a whole because the four books make a perfect whole. I don’t often give 5-star ratings, but this series deserves it. The Faithful & The Fallen has jumped into my top three favourite series. All four books maintained the high standard of writing, tight story arcs, and great character development, and the series just kept getting better and better with each book.

It’s great to read a series where there are no weak women. Each one is strong and skilled in her own right and holds her own against the strong male characters.

I have a huge book hangover after finishing Book 4 this morning. I may come back and write more, but really there’s nothing else I can think of to say except I am grateful to Petrik whose Goodreads review of Book 1, Malice, made me take a chance on this series.

Away With The Penguins by Hazel Prior

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Description

Veronica McCreedy is about to have the journey of a lifetime . . .

Veronica McCreedy lives in a mansion by the sea. She loves a nice cup of Darjeeling tea whilst watching a good wildlife documentary. And she’s never seen without her ruby-red lipstick.

Although these days Veronica is rarely seen by anyone because, at 85, her days are spent mostly at home, alone.

She can be found either collecting litter from the beach (‘people who litter the countryside should be shot’), trying to locate her glasses (‘someone must have moved them’) or shouting
instructions to her assistant, Eileen (‘Eileen, door!’).

Veronica doesn’t have family or friends nearby. Not that she knows about, anyway . . . And she has no idea where she’s going to leave her considerable wealth when she dies.

But today . . . today Veronica is going to make a decision that will change all of this.

My thoughts

At 86 years old Veronica is the epitome of stubborn and humourless. She leads a life where everything must be just so, although it is down to her long-suffering ‘daily’, Eileen, to achieve this for her. With no children other than a now deceased son that was adopted out shortly after his birth, Veronica realises that at her age she should be considering what to do with her considerable fortune. With Eileen’s help she discovers that the son she didn’t know also had a son, Patrick, and Veronica decides to meet him. Patrick is not at all what Veronica is expecting and their brief meeting leaves them both feeling disappointed. Now feeling as though she now has no outlet for her to devote her life and money to, Veronica decides to turn her full attention to the plight of a dwindling population of Adelie penguins on a remote and inhospitable island in the Antarctic that she has been following in a nature documentary series on television.

This was the point at which the story switched from being enjoyable to being thoroughly entertaining and engaging. We alternate between Veronica’s excursion to visit the penguins, depositing herself into the lives of the three horrified resident scientists on the island, and Patrick’s humdrum, unfulfilling existence in Bolton as he tries to recover from his girlfriend suddenly leaving him for another man. Much of Veronica’s back story is given to us through the journals she wrote as a teenager in war-torn Britain and which she gave to Patrick to read.

This is without doubt the sweetest, most charming book I have read this year. It has made me cry and it has made me laugh out loud. And now that I’ve finished it, even though it concluded perfectly, I am feeling a little bereft because I want to know more about what the future holds for Veronica, Patrick, the scientists and, of course, Pip the penguin!

Valour by John Gwynne

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Description

The Banished Lands is torn by war as High King Nathair sweeps the land challenging all who oppose him in his holy crusade. Allied with the manipulative Queen Rhin of Cambren, there are few who can stand against them. But Rhin is playing her own games and has her eyes on a far greater prize… Left for dead, her kin fled and her country overrun with enemies, Cywen has no choice but to try to survive. But any chance of escape is futile once Nathair and his disquieting advisor Calidus realise who she is. They have no intention of letting such a prize from their grasp. For she may be their greatest chance at killing the biggest threat to their power. Meanwhile, the young warrior Corban flees from his conquered homeland with his exiled companions heading for the only place that may offer them sanctuary – Domhain. But to get there they must travel through Cambren avoiding warbands, giants and the vicious wolven of the mountains. And all the while Corban must battle to become the man that everyone believes him to be – the Bright Star and saviour of the Banished Lands. And in the Otherworld dark forces scheme to bring a host of the Fallen into the world of flesh to end the war with the Faithful, once and for all.

Quote

“Memory is a double-edged sword, Uthas. It can keep you strong through dark times, but it can also cripple you, keep you locked in a moment that no longer exists.”

My thoughts

A truly engrossing read which continues flawlessly from where the first book, Malice, left off! Good character development and world building. I’m enjoying this series so much I’ve already started Book 3! That speaks volumes as I avoid anything longer than a trilogy these days due to lack of time.

The Minders by John Marrs

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Description

Everyone has secrets. They know yours…

In the 21st century information is king. But computers can be hacked, files can be broken into. So a unique government initiative has been borne. Five ordinary people have been selected to become the latest weapon in thwarting cyber terrorism. A revolutionary medical procedure has turned them into the ultimate secret keepers – the country’s most secretive information has been taken offline and turned into genetic code implanted inside their heads.

Together, the five know every secret – the truth behind every Government lie, conspiracy theory and cover up. Only somebody has discovered who the secret keepers are. And one by one, they are being hunted down…

‘One of the most exciting, original thriller writers out there. I never miss one of his book’ – SIMON KERNICK

My thoughts

There’s a really good reason why John Marrs has become one of my favourite authors. Put simply – he writes bloody good books!

The Minders is set in the same futuristic Britain that The One and The Passengers are set in, although it is not a series as such and each book is a standalone. It would be beneficial to understanding the way the direction the world has turned to have read those books first because, although events from those books are mentioned because they are relevant to the plotline in The Minders, this book is a story in its own right and doesn’t dwell on them.

I really enjoy the way time is taken to fully introduce each character and make sure the reader knows who they are and how they got to be the person they have become before then taking us on their transformational journey with them. Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the five main characters but it is never confusing although the story is intriguing and gripped me from the first page. And John Marrs is not afraid of sucker-punching us occasionally.

I’m not sure how he manages to be so productive with such complicated and inventive plots but I’m glad he is. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long until his next book!

The First Time I Saw You by Emma Cooper

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Description

From the author of The Songs of Us. Fans of Jojo Moyes and Lucy Dillon will love The First Time I Saw You by Emma Cooper.

Six-foot-two Irish man who answers to the name Samuel McLaughlin.
Has weak shins and enjoys show tunes.
If found, please return to Sophie Williams.

Before Sophie met Samuel she saw the world in grey.
Before Samuel met Sophie, he never believed in love at first sight.

When they first meet, something tells them they are meant to be.
But fate has other ideas.

Now they have lost each other and can’t see a way back.
But they’ve already changed each other’s lives in more ways
than they could have predicted…

My thoughts

Ah, Emma Cooper has done it again. She has written another unique and unpredictable romance and nailed it! Sophie’s and Samuel’s characters feel so real that they could be my friends or neighbours, and are written with such warmth and love that I want them to be. Samuel especially was such a great character in the way his struggles were captured. I really felt his despair and frustration and also his moments of pure humour when he was able to laugh at himself. I fell in love with his family and their individual ways of coping with Samuel’s situation, as well as their attempts to help him. This isn’t an easy book to read in places, and in fact it is heartbreaking at times, but I had to know how it all ended. There’s so much I’d love to talk about but can’t because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, but suffice to say this book put me through a whole range of emotions from one page to the next and had me crying one moment and laughing the next, even if it was through tears sometimes. I absolutely loved her first book The Songs Of Us, and after finishing this one I cannot wait for her third book!

Placed Into Abyss (Mise en Abyse) by Rachel Swirsky

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Description

From Nebula Award-winning author Rachel Swirsky comes a time traveling adventure Placed into Abyss (Mise en Abyse), a Tor.com Original short story.

Chris would rather be anywhere but here, cleaning out his deceased, hateful grandparents’ house with his relatives. Each room he visits takes him back in time to another traumatic memory. To escape this house and his grandparents and his past, he’ll need to take time travel into his own hands.

***Content warning for fictional depictions of verbal, physical, and sexual child abuse.***

At the Publisher’s request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

My thoughts

This is one of the most harrowing short stories I’ve ever read because it rings so heartrendingly true. It was an uncomfortable read but I couldn’t tear myself away and I suspect will stay with me for a while.

Malice by John Gwynne

(The Faithful And The Fallen, #1)

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Description

A black sun is rising …

Young Corban watches enviously as boys become warriors under King Brenin’s rule, learning the art of war. He yearns to wield his sword and spear to protect his king’s realm. But that day will come all too soon. Only when he loses those he loves will he learn the true price of courage.

The Banished Lands has a violent past where armies of men and giants clashed shields in battle, the earth running dark with their heartsblood. Although the giant-clans were broken in ages past, their ruined fortresses still scar the land. But now giants stir anew, the very stones weep blood and there are sightings of giant wyrms. Those who can still read the signs see a threat far greater than the ancient wars. Sorrow will darken the world, as angels and demons make it their battlefield. Then there will be a war to end all wars.

High King Aquilus summons his fellow kings to council, seeking an alliance in this time of need. Some are skeptical, fighting their own border skirmishes against pirates and giants. But prophesy indicates darkness and light will demand two champions, the Black Sun and the Bright Star. They would be wise to seek out both, for if the Black Sun gains ascendancy, mankind’s hopes and dreams will fall to dust.

Quotes

“I shall stay and tell my tale, hope that it may serve some purpose, that eyes shall see it and learn, that the future will not repeat the mistakes of the past. That is my prayer, but what use is prayer to a god that has abandoned all things . . .”

My thoughts

Well, it took me almost three weeks to read this, due to it being a busy time for me just now, and that did impact on my experience because of lack of continuity. This is not a book that you should stop and start. It’s a decent length (672 pages), has a lot of characters, several locations, and a complex politically-driven story line set in a fantasy world.

That said …. I loved it!😍

I just would have loved it even more if I could have committed to reading through it without so many interruptions. If you like a fantasy you can really sink your teeth into then this ticks a lot of boxes. And I can’t believe it’s a debut novel! It’s the first of four books. Since I avoid anything longer than trilogies these days it says something that I am going to finish this series!

UPDATE 15 Nov 2020:
I needed to come back after completing the final book to say that The Faithful & The Fallen has jumped into my top three favourite series. All four books maintained the high standard of writing, tight story arcs, and great character development. For anyone reading reviews of the first book because they are unsure whether to commit to the series, I say ‘Just do it!” You won’t be disappointed.