Category Archives: Book Reviews

[REVIEW] The Walls – Hollie Overton

Hollie Overton
The Walls
Hachette Redhook (US: 10th April 2018); Penguin Arrow (UK: 26th July 2018; AU: 15th August 2018)
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WARNING: Domestic violence.

Interesting to read about what it’s like to be a prison public liaison officer. Why aren’t more of them in crime fiction?

It’s sad watching Kristy Tucker’s journey from a strong single mother to a defeated spouse. But as she finds her feet again, we cheer her on. Her friendship with an inmate may seem strange, but he ultimately is her biggest supporter. She can handle abuse happening to her, but when her father and her son are threatened she knows life needs to change for the better. Her action plan may not be ideal, but realistically it’s the only way to prevent Lance from harming Kristy’s loved ones.

Hollie Overton’s debut novel, Baby Doll, had a great concept with uneven execution. But this sophomore novel gets things right, and it’s so rewarding to watch an author improve.

[REVIEW] Baby Doll – Hollie Overton

Hollie Overton
Baby Doll
Hachette Redhook (US: 28th August 2018); Penguin Random House Arrow (UK: 29th December 2016; AU: 27th February 2017)
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Lily Riser’s been kidnapped and hidden away for years, and twin sister Abby hasn’t coped well in her absence. Reunited, they adjust to life after.

I expected a thriller, but it’s more like family drama – which is fine, but inaccurately marketed. I connected with Abby, but no other character. (That epilogue is too HEA for me.) Plot points are brought up, but not examined in enough depth. (Lily scheming to steal her sister’s boyfriend, Sky missing Daddy Rick, etc.)

The novel’s concept has plenty of potential, and in the hands of maybe Jodi Picoult or Lisa Scottoline may have been a fulfilling read. But I feel like Baby Doll only skims the surface of issues. But there’s enough potential that I snapped up the author’s next novel…

[REVIEW] Seven Crows – Kate Kessler

Kate Kessler
Seven Crows (Killian Delaney, Book 1)
Hachette Redhook (US: 8th October 2019; UK: 14th November 2019; AU: 10th December 2019)
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Motorcycle clubs (if that’s all they are) are fine. “Bikie gangs”, however, are not for me. I hate seeing them romanticised, but thought I’d have better luck with this thriller.

It’s tricky. Because while a lot of it shows bikie gangs in all their horror, a fair portion of the novel does romanticise. Which is annoying, because there’s so much potential in the Seven Crows universe to truly shake up bikie fiction.

There are plenty of strong female characters…though they still choose to inhabit the very patriarchal society of bikie life. But imagine if all the women banded together and decided to ditch the dudes. Have an all-female club. Even make it an all-female gang, if need be…

I forget how Killian Delaney got involved with the Crows. Before or after she hooked up with Jason? Anyway, he’s dead. (Not really a spoiler.) But backstories aren’t shared unless they’re relevant to the plot…

She thought Jason was her “true love”. WRONG. But that’s OK, because there was another guy who loved her all along, and still loves her now, and now she loves him…

This is what I meant about the romanticisation. If you ask any bikie, they’d claim their club is the good one; that they only do bad stuff in revenge for other gangs’ bad stuff. And that’s the narrative the author pushes about the Crows. Killian’s new love has been “going legit”, because he’s not like other bikie members, or whatever.

And it’s just so boring and patriarchal. There’s so much set-up for revolution. While incarcerated in a women’s prison, Killian was in a sexual relationship with another inmate. So she’s bi, right? That would be so refreshing for a female to be bisexual in the patriarchy. However, Killian may have only been (and I hate to type this actual phrase that was in the book) “gay for the stay”.

That’s not the author talking. I’m pretty sure it’s the character and the bikie culture. It would’ve been brilliant if Killian’s new love was also female, to truly challenge bikie patriarchy.

Seven Crows is Book 1 in a series. Book 2, Call of Vultures, is due out later in 2020. I don’t know if more are contracted. And because this is only the first taste, perhaps later installments move more to destroy the patriarchy instead of enabling it. It’s just so frustrating to see so much potential go not-pursued in favour of less revolutionary threads.

Seven Crows is challenging. And because it has so much possibility the series will be all the more disappointing if it doesn’t reach its full capability.

[REVIEW] Dead Ringer – Kate Kessler

Kate Kessler
Dead Ringer
Hachette Orbit Redhook (US: 23rd October 2018; UK: 6th December 2018; AU: 27th December 2018)
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During the past few months, book communities have discussed “age-gap” romances. Well, that’s what some people claim. Others have pointed out that teen girls with adult men is statutory – and therefore not merely an “age gap”, and not a romance. After all, with a romance the reader should want the characters to be together HEA or HFN – NOT wishing that the adult man would be in prison.

Dead Ringer is a welcome relief. This is a CRIME novel, which puts the adult male/teen girl relationship where it belongs…as a CRIME.

But the central relationship in the novel is not romantic or sexual. It’s the sister relationship between an FBI agent and her twin who went missing as a teen. It’s a powerful novel that cements Kate Kessler as one of my favourite authors.

[REVIEW] All the Crooked Saints – Maggie Stiefvater

Maggie Stiefvater
All the Crooked Saints
Scholastic (US: 28th August 2018; UK: 3rd May 2018)
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It would’ve been so easy to quit this, which considered after three chapters. But because it’s not much over 300 pages, I persisted – and actually got a lot out of it.

But reading All the Crooked Saints requires patience and endurance. The writing style may be “poetic” or “lyrical”, but it’s off-putting. And it’s more story TELLING than showing, so the introductions of each character are all info-dump and more than a little absurd.

Why is it set in 1962? Because pirate radio isn’t a thing now? Why is it marketed to teens, when it suits an older audience better? Is it because Scholastic doesn’t publish adult fiction?

Even the author struggled to understand her manuscript while writing and revising it: http://maggiestiefvater.com/the-years-without-words/ She was later diagnosed with adrenal insufficiency (Addison’s disease), so she had a good reason.

A third of the way in, the story becomes much easier to read. The characters steal a gamecock!

The theme becomes clear: We can’t just leave people to solve their darkness alone. And we need help solving our own darkness. Once that’s established, life becomes easier. It’s a tearful read, but I may have been in a depressive episode at the time.

[REVIEW] Tin Star – Cecil Castellucci

Cecil Castellucci
Tin Star (Tin Star, Book 1)
Macmillan Square Fish (US: 24th February 2015)
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SPACE CULT!

Need I say more? No, but I will.

The sadness is real. The abandonment. Relying on the kindness of strangers at first. Then forging a life on your own, in a place of transit.

Whilst reading, I may have been in a depressive episode. Even if I wasn’t, the novel tears at the heart.

There’s plenty of space, but not nearly enough cult. The good news is that the sequel, Stone in the Sky, sounds like it may feature more of the cult. But start here.

[REVIEW] Cleaning the Gold – Karin Slaughter & Lee Child

Karin Slaughter & Lee Child
Cleaning the Gold (Will Trent & Jack Reacher; short story)
HarperCollins William Morrow (US & CA: 28th January 2020; UK: 16th May 2019; AU: 9th May 2019)
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I read Triptych years ago, while the next handful of Will Trent installments remain unread on my shelf. (I prioritise reading library books.) I remember nothing of Triptych. I may have only remembered that Will Trent is with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation from reading book descriptions.

I have no interest in the works of Lee Child, and after reading this novella I still have no inclination. Nothing personal against the author or his character, Jack Reacher.

Interesting to learn about Fort Knox, which I’d heard OF before but knew nothing.

Not sure if this novella is canon, so not sure if it affects either of the two series’s full-length stories.