Review: Girl On Point (Cheryl Guerriero) @uncle_cher

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Alexandra Campbell’s life comes to a crashing halt the night her younger sister is killed during a convenience store robbery. Shattered by guilt, Alex distances herself from her friends and family. Months later, with the police investigation stalled, she fears justice may never be served. Determined to avenge her sister’s murder, Alex disguises herself and joins the gang responsible for the shooting. To identify the one who pulled the trigger, she must put her own life at risk in a world of dangerous criminals. But the longer she plays her new game, the more the lines blur between loyalty and betrayal.

I was in serious need of an unputdownable book. I couldn’t finish my last read, so I wanted something fast-paced and short, something I could devour in a day. My instinct told me Girl On Point would be a good option and I ended up finishing it in a sitting. I really enjoyed it!

I had requested this one on a whim, mainly because I love books and films about undercover agents and revenge stories where people have nothing to lose. Girl On Point seemed to feature all those ingredients: a young woman infiltrating a dangerous all-girl gang while trying to discover what happened to her sister. I need to confess that the first pages didn’t impress me and I started wondering if I had made a good decision. A basketball match isn’t the best way to win me over, but I kept on reading because the blurb had me intrigued. To be honest, I felt everything happened too quickly at first and I wasn’t entirely convinced, but then the scenery changed and Alex moved to a hotel to start working on her revenge. And I was hooked. Inevitably captivated.

I really liked Alex, which I still don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing. She was so brave and willing to sacrifice everything! I admit that the scene with the gun left me a bit shocked. I also loved how she made friends with the girls and learned to get what she wanted from them (and even though I would’ve never followed her actions, I kind of admired her). Reading this kind of books makes me realize I’m a coward, but it’s okay, I admit it, let’s move on!

I guess this is what you’d call a YA novel… the main character is seventeen years old and she’s still going to high school. But I didn’t mind. The book was violent, dangerous and addictive. The writing was straightforward but the author did a great job of describing the gang, the girls, and their robberies and dealings. I could picture it all in my head and I honestly would’ve have minded if the book had been a bit longer. At first, I wondered how Alex would keep her parents in the dark about her activities, but in the end, I believe it was done pretty well. I didn’t think it was too unrealistic and she was smart enough to say what her father wanted to hear (I also liked the part where she gave a woman 20 dollars to talk to him).

I can’t say the ending shocked me, as I was expecting that revelation from the beginning, but I still thought it was a good conclusion to the story and I think I would’ve chosen the same outcome. I quite enjoyed the final chapters where we were told what happened afterwards. A really nice surprise.

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Netgalley, Red Adept Publishing, 2017

Review: Shadow Man by Alan Drew @AlanArthurDrew

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Detective Ben Wade has returned to his California hometown of Rancho Santa Elena for a quieter life. Suddenly the town, with its peaceful streets and excellent public schools, finds itself at the mercy of a serial killer who slips through windows and screen doors, shattering illusions of safety. As Ben and forensic specialist Natasha Betencourt struggle to stay one step ahead of the killer, Ben’s own world is rocked again by a teen’s suicide. Ben must decide how far he is willing to go, and how much he will risk, to rescue the town from a long-buried secret, as well as from a psychotic murderer.

This book wasn’t what I expected at all, an in a good way. Shadow Man is a contemporary drama and a mystery of sorts as well, although I wouldn’t say that the crime aspect is the main aspect of the story. Those looking for a fast-paced thriller won’t find it here. However, if you’re willing to give it a chance, I think you could end up really enjoying this little gem.

I warmed up to Ben Wade from the very beginning. Since that first scene with his daughter, I was sold. I loved their interaction. I highly enjoyed reading about Ben and his family, too: their struggles, their obvious love for each other. It was heartbreaking and realistic and I really felt for them. Wade was a tortured man, still fighting demons every day, but that made him even more interesting. The story was set in the 80s, but it could’ve also happened today, as the themes portrayed in this novel are equally important now.

I don’t want to say much about the plot, especially because I read a review on Goodreads where they spoiled the main idea. I think it’s not that hard to figure it out after a while, but I would’ve loved it if I hadn’t known what the book was about before reading it. And believe me, it was not an easy book to read, but it was beautifully written and everything was treated with delicacy.

There are two cases going on, one featuring a serial killer and the other revolving around a potential teenage suicide. It’s not that the serial killer aspect wasn’t interesting, but I didn’t think it was the main focus. I preferred reading about the other case, which was the one that made me more emotional. I remember feeling angry when the main character chose to do something that left me utterly confused. Fortunately, as it usually happens with great novels, it all makes sense in the end.

It is not a book that should be rushed through but rather savoured. I found it compelling and unforgettable and I’m still thinking about it even after a few days. Tragic and beautiful. Don’t miss it.

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Netgalley, Random House, 2017

Review: A Twist In Time (Julie McElwain) @JulieMcElwain

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Former FBI agent Kendra Donovan’s attempts to return to the twenty-first century have failed, leaving her stuck at Aldridge Castle in 1815. And her problems have just begun: in London, the Duke of Aldridge’s nephew Alec—Kendra’s confidante and lover—has come under suspicion for murdering his former mistress, Lady Dover, who was found viciously stabbed with a stiletto, her face carved up in a bizarre and brutal way. Lady Dover had plenty of secrets, and her past wasn’t quite what she’d made it out to be. Nor is it entirely in the past—which becomes frighteningly clear when a crime lord emerges from London’s seamy underbelly to threaten Alec. Joining forces with Bow Street Runner Sam Kelly, Kendra must navigate the treacherous nineteenth century while she picks through the strands of Lady Dover’s life. As the noose tightens around Alec’s neck, Kendra will do anything to save him, including following every twist and turn through London’s glittering ballrooms, where deception is the norm—and any attempt to uncover the truth will get someone killed.

Last year, I read and loved A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain. It was an amazing experience: a book that was fun, well-written, featuring a kick-ass heroine and wonderful supporting characters. The mystery was engaging and it was a gripping story as well. I couldn’t wait to dive into the sequel, A Twist In Time, and I must say I was not disappointed. This book follows Kendra, who is still stuck in the XIX century, while she investigates another crime with the help of the Duke (now that she’s officially his ward) and tries to save her friend Alec, who has been accused of murder.

I know some of you aren’t sure of these books because of the premise, but really, I’d love to convince you to try this series. They’re not fantasy books… the only magical element is the time travel aspect, which isn’t that important once you’re in the middle of the case. And no, these aren’t romantic books either. There’s a bit of a love story, but it is like 5% of the plot and it doesn’t bother me because I love both characters. These are purely mystery novels. Classic whodunnits. The whole book is basically Kendra and her friends attending parties and questioning the suspects.

I already said this, but Julie McElwain’s novels remind me of Agatha Christie’s Poirot mysteries. Kendra is quite a peculiar character: she always speaks her mind and loves to make up theories that might end up being true. She doesn’t always share her thoughts until she’s sure she’s right, and that is something that she shares with Poirot. I also love how she is a modern woman and refuses to let tradition change her beliefs. When someone (mostly men) questions her abilities, she always knows what to say.

I think I enjoyed A Murder In Time a bit more, but mainly because it was the first one and there were more funny moments because of Kendra’s arrival. However, now, everyone is used to having her around. I think I’d like for more people to know about her secret, as I think it could lead to potential crazy fun situations.

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ARC, Pegasus Books, 2017

The Girl Who Was Taken (Charlie Donlea)

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Nicole Cutty and Megan McDonald are both high school seniors in the small town of Emerson Bay, North Carolina. When they disappear from a beach party one warm summer night, police launch a massive search. No clues are found, and hope is almost lost until Megan miraculously surfaces after escaping from a bunker deep in the woods. A year later, the bestselling account of her ordeal has turned Megan from local hero to national celebrity. It’s a triumphant, inspiring story, except for one inconvenient detail: Nicole is still missing. Nicole’s older sister Livia, a fellow in forensic pathology, expects that one day soon Nicole’s body will be found, and it will be up to someone like Livia to analyze the evidence and finally determine her sister’s fate. Instead, the first clue to Nicole’s disappearance comes from another body that shows up in Livia’s morgue—that of a young man connected to Nicole’s past. Livia reaches out to Megan for help, hoping to learn more about the night the two were taken. Other girls have gone missing too, and Livia is increasingly certain the cases are connected. But Megan knows more than she revealed in her blockbuster book. Flashes of memory are coming together, pointing to something darker and more monstrous than her chilling memoir describes. And the deeper she and Livia dig, the more they realize that sometimes true terror lies in finding exactly what you’ve been looking for.

Don’t let the title bother you. In fact, it was the only thing I didn’t like about this book. The Girl Who Was Taken is an amazing mystery and it’s also an emotional ride. Although I haven’t read the author’s previous novel, I will definitely keep an eye on everything he writes from now on.

While I was reading this fantastic book, I realized it was exactly my kind of novel, my favorite type of story. I guess I like that it’s a sibling (this time, the sister) investigating the crime. It allows you to become more attached to the story because the characters are directly involved. It sort of reminded me of one of my favorite recent books: My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni, although that was legal-focused and this one is all about forensics.

In terms of structure, you must know that yes, there are plenty of flashbacks and different points of view, although none of them felt unnecessary. It was well-done and everything served a purpose. The prologue and the following chapter were the perfect way to grab your attention and leave you wanting for more. Two girls disappear one night, but only one of them returns. What did exactly happen? And where is the other girl?

Let’s be honest here: I didn’t guess the ending! There were several red-herrings that had me completely distracted. I remember thinking it couldn’t be someone in particular because it looked way too obvious and the book was too smart for that. I loved how the author threw some clues and made us wonder all the way through. I was suspicious of everyone and couldn’t wait to get to the conclusion, which didn’t disappoint me one bit.

As for the characters, I absolutely loved Megan and Livia and quite enjoyed the parts when they worked together. I know I won’t forget them easily. Nicole Cutty wasn’t the easiest character to like, but the way the media reacted to her disappearance in comparison to Megan’s return was devastating and I felt really sorry for her.

Last, but not least, I won’t mention the topic because of spoilers, but I will say that the main idea of this book had me completely fascinated. It was utterly creepy and perverse and it made me think of Gillian Flynn’s novels.

Whatever you do, don’t miss The Girl Who Was Taken.

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Netgalley, Kensington, 2017

Dead Woman Walking (Sharon Bolton)

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Just before dawn in the hills near the Scottish border, a man murders a young woman. At the same time, a hot-air balloon crashes out of the sky. There’s just one survivor. She’s seen the killer’s face – but he’s also seen hers. And he won’t rest until he’s eliminated the only witness to his crime. Alone, scared, trusting no one, she’s running to where she feels safe – but it could be the most dangerous place of all…

You probably know already that I’m a big Sharon Bolton fan. I’m currently in the middle of her Lacey Flint series and I’ve read a couple of her standalone novels as well. Daisy in Chains was one of my favorite books last year and I couldn’t wait to read her latest one: Dead Woman Walking. Well, prepare yourselves, because this is a truly fantastic book!

Of course, I read it all in a sitting. I was hooked from the very first chapter and a hot-air balloon trip had never been so fascinating. Dead Woman Walking was addictive and smart, a real page-turner and an excellent mystery overall. Don’t worry if you don’t understand much at first, it will all be clear after a while… I was definitely confused, but not for much time.

Only after reading the book I understand all the reviews that didn’t talk about the plot at all. It’s just impossible to discuss the events of this novel without spoiling the main idea, and you definitely need to discover everything by yourself. You just need to know that even if it sounds highly unlikely at first, nuns can actually be a great addition to crime novels 😉

If I’m being completely honest, I did guess the main twist and a couple of surprises, but it was one of those cases where I wanted to be right, as I thought that was the perfect move. So I didn’t mind. And no, it isn’t a predictable book at all, it’s just that every now and then I’m lucky enough to get inside the writer’s mind! My only small complaint is that there was a particular storyline that didn’t seem to add much to the main plot once it was revealed. Not that it bothered me much, but I was like: “Ah, ok then”.

If you liked Daisy in Chains or you simply enjoy surprising and unique crime novels that don’t feature the typical key players, this is the perfect book for you. There’s no doubt this will be a big success, and let me tell you: it is completely worth the hype.

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ARC, Transworld, 2017