Book Review: Then She Was Gone (2016)

Luca Veste, Then She Was Gone, 2016

Luca Veste’s Then She Was Gone is the fourth, and possibly final, in the Murphy and Rossi detective series. Murphy and Rossi are assigned the task of finding Sam Bryne, a prospective MP for Liverpool (a Conservative MP, at that), who has been missing for a few days prior to their involvement. Veste’s novel leads us down a long and often puzzling road in uncovering the mystery behind Sam’s disappearance as Sam’s past and present come together.

Veste’s decision to have Sam Bryne working for the Conservative party is both intriguing and unnecessary. We are informed early on of Sam Bryne’s political party, and that he is young and hugely popular with the locals, forcing the possibility that a Conservative may actually win in Liverpool, although it is made pretty clear soon afterwards that this disappearance has nothing to do with politics and that his political choice then becomes a simple characteristic of him. This, however, leads to various characters making derogatory remarks about the Conservative party which, although would be commonplace in Liverpool, feels unnecessary to the plot.

It wasn’t just the Conservatives that were spoken of in this way; Rossi and DC Hashem are both female and foreign, which opened the door for some casual racism and sexism to be joked about, which, along with the political bias from the characters and the lack of a comeuppance for the remarks, is too much for me.

Another slight issue is the sheer amount of setting. For those in the know of the Liverpool setting being informed of each street may be interesting, but for those who do not know the Liverpool area are left with paragraphs of street name after street name with SatNav style directions.

Those minor issues aside, Then She Was Gone was a consistently interesting novel with a lot of twists and turns to leave you second guessing every scenario of who the kidnapper could be. Another interesting aspect of the novel is the chapter style; while it uses a numbered chapter system it also has various other chapters which go into the past to create more of a story behind the characters, as well as a few chapters titled ‘You’ where the kidnapper talks directly to us as if we were the killer. It’s spoken in the second person and this insight into his/her mind is a very unique way of having this secret person talk to us, allowing us to read between every line t try and find a clue of some sort to reveal their identity.

While there are a few negatives they don’t take anything away from a carefully put-together investigative novel, with a satisfying and well-paced crescendo and an exciting finale. Veste has stated he is moving on to other works, taking a break of unknown length from Murphy and Rossi, and if this turns out to be the last we see of them it’s a very satisfying way to bid goodbye to them.

Final Verdict: A couple of issues feel unnecessary but a very satisfying novel.

8/10

*Buy it on Amazon here*

Other Works by Luca Veste:

Murphy and Rossi series:

  • Dead Gone
  • The Dying Place
  • Blood Stream
  • It Never Leaves You

Book Review: Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter (2015)

Kent Wayne, Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter, 2015

Kent Wayne’s first instalment of his Echo series introduces us to the characters, the life and the setting for his science fiction series. All the inhabitants reside on Echo, a planet humans have inhabited, and the novel takes place some 1,000-plus years in the future with the planet divided due to a civil war that is raging on.

The protagonist is Atriya and we are informed early on he is a member of the army, and one who strives to be constantly better than what he is. While the army setting ca account for some, one downside of Wayne’s novel is the sheer amount of swearing from all of the characters, narrator included. It seems most of the characters resort to swearing in almost all of their conversations and it does somewhat become farcical towards the end hearing exactly how much they swear. Swearing aside, though, the novel is very well written and it is clear that Wayne has personal experience in the forces (being a former employee) as the detail with which he explains their training regimes, weapons and strategy plans is exceptional. While it would have been nice to hear the characters more to flesh out their inner personalities, I can’t help but feel Wayne’s detailing of everything will be valuable when the second instalment comes around.

Echo Volume 1 sets up a lot of stuff for what the series will probably use, however it seems to sacrifice itself in doing so. The novel itself doesn’t seem to have a clear ending, more of a cliff-hanger leading into the second instalment, and it makes the novel feel like an extended prologue rather than a self-contained novel of its own. In terms of setting up the rest of the series he does a wonderful job in painting all the right pictures and explaining all the ranks within their force, as well as unleash a few surprises along the way, however it does feel like it is simply a set-up for what will come afterwards.

While it’s short, it’s certainly impactful, with a few twists and surprises along the way opening up the reader to a wider world that they live in, and it certainly does not distract you from wanting to read further. Echo Volume 1 makes you have a lot of questions, but, sadly, within the confines of the novel as a whole, doesn’t provide you with any answers.

Final verdict: Short and sweet, but you need to read further on in the series to appreciate this instalment.

6/10

*Buy it on Amazon here*

Other works by Kent Wayne:

Echo series:

  • Echo Volume 2: The taste of Ashes
  • Echo Volume 3: The Dialectic of Agony

Book Review: Expired Listings: Revenge Begins at Home (2016)

M. Barr, Expired Listings: Revenge Begins at Home, 2016

Full disclaimer: As a general rule I don’t enjoy erotica fiction. That being said, though, D. M. Barr’s novel, Expired Listings: Revenge Begins at Home, combines the BDSM lifestyle with a murder mystery novel effectively. There are a few full chapters of erotica but the main focus of the novel falls on the murders of realtors in Dana’s home town. The novel itself is a well-written and well-structured novel which kept me second guessing everyone’s chances at being the killer, and I still found myself surprised at the eventual reveal.

The main aspect on a murder-mystery novel rests on the finish with the reveal, and Expired Listings successfully executes this in a way which is surprising yet laden with clues. The chapters are presented by dates, yet starts off by including a chapter from March before returning back to January. This, along with a couple other sporadic chapters continuing this timeline, proves effective as it allows us into the killer’s first-person narration, even if it doesn’t offer us very much insight at face value. On the topic of the chapters being dated, one issue I had was the lack of weekdays given. When characters were pondering events that are to happen on a certain day, it felt a little bit frustrating not knowing exactly what week day we were currently on to know how long they have left. One on instance it was the same day yet I was unaware.

That, and the ever-changing mindset on whether the Oxford comma should be used or not, was the only issue I had with the novel which kept me reading and absorbing clues despite my failed guess at the killer. While the erotica chapters were of no interest to me, the kink world that Dana is involved in helped the story. Dana, operating under her kink nickname of This, seeks out an alibi from Dare, her kink-partner, but as a married man he is reluctant to help, and this living a double life proves clever as characters such as Dare are shown to keep secrets, which we uncover as the novel progresses.

Overall D. M. Barr’s novel was a very interesting murder-mystery novel that kept me second guessing right to the end. The characters were each unique and believable with a variety to choose from when predicting the ultimate killer. Very much worth a read.

Final verdict: A well worded and put together novel that kept me guessing through all the suspects.

8/10

*Buy it on Amazon here*

Book Review: Starved (2016)

Kelleen Silveira, Starved, 2016

Starved, the first instalment in Kelleen Silveria’s Starved series (followed by Maimed), follows the path of Tate Vasilievich, a young woman who wakes up inside a grave only to discover that she’s been killed, along with her mother, and is now awakening as a vampire. Tate befriends Malek, who himself holds vast knowledge of the vampire world and personal secrets of his own, and together they set about on a mission to find Tate’s younger sister, Katie, who has gotten involved with the powerful vampires around the city.

While necessary, Silveria’s decision to have it written in first-person poses one problem, for me, throughout; she rarely seems to be really upset about her mother’s death. She’s informed of the story but never visits her grave (admittedly in a world where they need to be careful it’s probably wise) nor really spends an exuberant amount of time mourning her mother. Considering she makes enough mistakes in visiting places she shouldn’t, it seems weird she never visits the mother’s grave to truly mourn her loss.

While the narration is detailed and proves effective, there are times where the plot seemed to be taking an unnecessary detour. Tate’s romantic interest in Malek comes about very late in the novel when it seems they should be fully focussed on saving/finding Katie, and hunting vampires late at night and work on the serum to help kill the lead vampire, Kisin, seem to be pushed back. I was expecting their romantic interest to peak earlier, or save it to the very end, but its position seemed late and distracting to their efforts.

These minor issues aside, though, Starved is a very well-written and well structured novel with enough twists to keep you reading. Regular flashbacks to various points in Tate’s life help build the history and the downfall of Katie’s character, as well as painting more of a history on how Tate was as a human. And, while the usual desire for blood was there, an interesting take on eating and the weight-loss effects after having become a vampire helps give this enough detail to stand it out from regular and everyday vampire stories.

Silveira’s first instalment leaves enough happening to render it a capable story on its own, but leaves enough going forward that it can entice readers to come back to find out. A story well worth checking out.

Final verdict: An intriguing vampire novel, if, admittedly, with a few issues.

6/10

*Buy it on Amazon here*

Other works by Kelleen Silveria:

The Starved Series

  • Starved
  • Maimed

Soul of the Woods

Divine Impulse

Little Seal Pup Goes to the Beach

Little Rainbow Dinosaur takes a Bath

Little Brown Dog travels the World: Classic Poems About Travel

A Year for Black Bear: Classic Poems about the Seasons

Giraffe’s Rainy Day: Classic Poems About Weather

Book Review: Grey: A Life Unraveled (2016)

Lee Miller, Grey: A Life Unraveled, 2016

Lee Miller’s debut novel explores the life of a young woman, Sara, who is left as the sole survivor after a horrific incident in her home which left her husband, Chris, and Chris’s assailant, Tommie, both dead. Sara has her friend Beth move in with her as they try their best to return some form of normality in their lives. Throughout the next year Sara has many episodes where she images seeing things that aren’t there or is told that she’s done something which she has no recollection of (an early instance of this was when she slept through an entire day yet Beth and her mother-in-law informed her that she had awoken the previous day as normal).

Miller’s storytelling throughout the novel is well paced and keeps the right amount of intrigue throughout as the mysterious grey clouds remain hovering over the city. Suspecting her blackouts and visions as a result of dealing with the after-effects of her husband’s death is too easy a reason so we are left wondering throughout the novel what is causing this. Her friendship with Beth is also refreshing as they are presented as two ultimate best friends with no betrayal or arguments occurring. This, along with her close relationship with her mother-in-law (a closeness she didn’t really have with her parents), keep the feel-good factor alive in spite of everything that has occurred.

Where Miller’s novel falls short, however, is within the writing style. Miller chooses to have full conversations embedded within lengthy paragraphs, which leads to some confusion on multiple instances where it is a bit unclear as to who exactly is talking. Another niggling occurrence is that of spelling and grammatical errors, which, although easily removed, can affect the reading. These two faults intertwined when a missed closing speech mark failed to alert me when one character had finished, and, with the lengthy paragraphs all grouping it together, I had to re-read sentences anew with the narrator in mind rather than a character.

Despite these errors, which are easily fixed with a thorough editing, the novel is a fun little read with an interesting twist at the end. It keeps you second guessing what exactly the titular ‘grey’ is, and why she has visions and episodes, with an intriguing revelation at the end to explain it all. Should it be revisited with an effective revision mixed with his innate storytelling and eye for detail, its final overall grade can easily go up.

Final verdict: An interesting novel; but in need of a revised edition.

5/10

*Buy it on Amazon here*

Book Review: Infected: the Shiners (2014)

Tara Ellis, Infected: the Shiners, 2014

Tara Ellis’ Infected: the Shiners is the first instalment in the Forgotten Origins trilogy, and introduces us to Alex, a sixteen-year-old girl who finds herself unwillingly thrust into a fight to stave off an infection which has come to earth during a meteor shower. She remains unaffected by the virus, as do her younger brother, Jacob, and a school friend, Chris, and together they are led by clues left behind from her deceased father about how to prevent the infection from fully taking over.

A very promising start for my book reviewing venture, Ellis’ book follows the traditional path set by recent Young Adult novels; that of a hero/heroine fighting alongside a small group against a higher power, however, unlike that of Tris or Katniss or the like, Alex has to rely more on her intellect and intuition, rather than strength, to solve the cryptic clues left behind by her father. This makes a fresh change to the genre as we are not simply following an ‘ordinary’ person with surprisingly extraordinary skills use these skills to their survival; we are following a girl who’s following her father’s extraordinary work.

This type of story, with a protagonist trying to figure out clues, alongside the early chapters about the virus, detailing its early effects on her mother and several of their classmates and neighbours, make the first half of the novel have a relatively slow build, but that doesn’t take away from its excitement. Throughout the deterioration of her mother, and her eventual surprising return to full health, we are left wondering about what caused this virus, and are immediately placed within the society left waiting day-by-day for the virus to either leave their systems or complete its mission.

While the novel is entertaining and exciting, there are a few confusing issues. While Ellis does a good job informing us of the various ways people have used Alex’s name (‘“Alexis?” Mom only uses this form of my name when it’s something important.’) we are not afforded the same with her younger brother. First introduced as Jake, we are not informed of his full name being Jacob, so when she first mentions a Jacob it can appear as if there’s an additional character. This name change occurs in her narration frequently; with Alex calling him either Jake or Jacob without really granting us a difference.

Another issue is the quickness that Alex and Chris were thrust together. While it is established they have a history, albeit a brief one, their friendship seems to become really close really quickly; in a novel taking its time this felt a little off. We are never really granted the full reasons why Alex and Chris are so close, or what about him she likes, or vice-versa, so we’re left with a mixture of hem being brought together by fate (being survivors) yet being really close.

Those two little niggling issues aside (and the occasion to-be-expected grammatical error), Infected the Shiners is very well presented and a very interesting introduction to the world they live in. Knowing it is part of a trilogy it is intriguing to find out where they can go from here. The narration is easy to follow, and Ellis finds the right blend of having Alex struggle with the clues before prevailing, and the stark contract between where they begin and where they end up, with all the wonderful in-depth details of their locations, makes for a good read.

Final Verdict: A very good introduction to the ever growing world of self-publishing.

7/10

*Buy it on Amazon here*

Other works by Tara Ellis:

The Forgotten Origins series:

  • Infected: the Shiners
  • Heritage, Blood of our Ancestors
  • Descent, Into the Darkness

The Samantha Wolf Mysteries

  • The Mystery of Hollow Inn
  • The Secret of Camp Whispering Pines
  • The Beach House Mystery
  • The Heiress of Covington Ranch
  • The Haunting of Eagle Creek Middle School
  • A Mysterious Christmas on Orcas Island

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