Sweetpea by C.J. Skuse

Sweetpea by C.J. Skuse

The last person who called me Sweetpea ended up dead…

I haven’t killed anyone for three years, and I thought that when it happened again I’d feel bad. Like an alcoholic taking a sip of whiskey. But no. Nothing. I had a blissful night’s sleep. Didn’t wake up at all. And for once, no bad dream either. This morning I feel balanced. Almost sane, for once.

Rhiannon is your average girl next door, settled with her boyfriend and little dog…but she’s got a killer secret.

Although her childhood was haunted by a famous crime, Rhiannon’s life is normal now that her celebrity has dwindled. By day, her job as an editorial assistant is demeaning and unsatisfying. By evening, she dutifully listens to her friends’ plans for marriage and babies while secretly making a list.

A kill list.

From the man at the grocery checkout who always mishandles her apples, to the driver who cuts her off on her way to work, to the people who have it coming, Rhiannon is ready to get her revenge.

Because the girl everyone overlooks might be able to get away with murder…

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve been lucky to read a lot of books over the years – even more since I started reviewing books. Predictably the books I’ve read have run the scale from good to bad. Unfortunately for me, my first read of 2019 was a disappointment given how much I was looking forward to it.33229410

Sweetpea is the first book written for adults from YA author C.J. Skuse. It is written in the form of a diary, belonging to Rhiannon, an aspiring journalist who lives with her boyfriend Craig and chihuahua Tink. She hates her job, and is becoming increasingly fed up that her first novel only garners rejection after rejection and finds her group of friends irritating more often than not. She even has a fantasy “kill list” at the start of her daily entries – those who have most annoyed her on that day that she would love to snuff out. She is a seemingly ordinary, if disgruntled, young woman trying to navigate life.

But she hides a dark past that has lead to an even darker secret – Rhiannon is a cold, brutal killer. Granted, most of those she has killed are horrible people, tormentors, abusers, rapists and paedophiles. But she has taken it upon herself to play the role of judge, jury and executioner. She hides behind her normal, mundane life by day that allows her to take down those that attract her eye.

On paper, I really liked the sound of this book and had been looking forward to starting it. Sadly, I felt like it was the first book for adults written by someone used to addressing a much younger market. I felt as if the author had a sense of throwing off the shackles and being blunt and unrestrained. The language was colourful in the excess at times, with needlessly over the top insults and frequent swearing. I have no problem with swearing in a book, I feel like it adds realism when used correctly, but this was a whole new level. Certain elements felt like a desperate attempt to dive into the deepest, darkest and more depraved parts of humanity purely because this book was not a young adult story. Add to that, I could not engage with Rhiannon on any level. She struck me as having little humanity, and is overpoweringly self-indulgent. Everything came across as me, me, me and oh woe is me – it made her detestable and not in a good way. I won’t be in any hurry to read the follow up to it.

My rating:
notforme

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Deep Dirty Truth by Steph Broadribb

Deep Dirty Truth by Steph Broadribb

Single-mother bounty hunter Lori Anderson has finally got her family back together, but her new-found happiness is shattered when she’s snatched by the Miami Mob – and they want her dead. Rather than a bullet, they offer her a job: find the Mob’s ‘numbers man’ – Carlton North – who’s in protective custody after being forced to turn federal witness against them. If Lori succeeds, they’ll wipe the slate clean and the price on her head – and those of her family – will be removed. If she fails, they die.

With North due in court in forty-eight hours, Lori sets off across Florida, racing against the clock to find him and save her family. Only in this race the prize is more deadly – and the secret she shares with JT more dangerous – than she ever could have imagined. In this race only the winner gets out alive…

Brimming with tension, high-stakes jeopardy and high-voltage action, and a deep, emotional core, Deep Dirty Truth is an unmissable thriller by one of the freshest and most exciting voices in crime fiction.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.

Earlier in 2018 I was fortunate enough to get the chance to read the second book in the Lori Anderson series by Steph Broadribb, Deep Blue Trouble. I hadn’t read the first book at the time, and still haven’t, not that it makes a major impact as Steph Broadribb does a wonderful job of describing characters and referring back to past events to keep a reader picking up any book up to date. Having tore through Deep Blue Trouble, I jumped at the chance to read a proof copy of the latest outing for Lori on Christmas break.41058687Lori finds herself mixing with the Miami mob once again, fully against her wishes. Kidnapped, she is pushed into working on their behalf to remove an employee from FBI custody. She has the option to refuse, but it would be at the expense of partner JT and their daughter Dakota who were both caught up in events in Deep Blue Trouble, only a few weeks before the next book kicks off.

Left with little choice, Lori has to pit her wits against the FBI, police and factions within the Miami Mob that have no intention of seeing her succeed. In a race against time Lori must work to free the man from protective custody, while keeping him safe from the splinter faction and protecting her family as best she can with some help from old friends.

Broadribb has once again delivered an action-packed, high pace thriller with more twists and turns than a theme park rollercoaster. The attention to detail is meticulous in ensuring past events are not overrun with conflicting details, characters are developed to a deeper level still and the narrative kept me reading to the very last. I hope the wait for the next outing from Lori Anderson isn’t too far off – the only negative I could find with Deep Dirty Truth was the immediate and urgent need to read the next installment.

My rating:
goodread

You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood

You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood

An unnamed defendant stands accused of murder. Just before the Closing Speeches, the young man sacks his lawyer, and decides to give his own defence speech.

He tells us that his barrister told him to leave some things out.Sometimes, the truth can be too difficult to explain, or believe. But he thinks that if he’s going to go down for life, he might as well go down telling the truth.

There are eight pieces of evidence against him. As he talks us through them one by one, his life is in our hands. We, the reader – member of the jury – must keep an open mind till we hear the end of his story. His defence raises many questions… but at the end of the speeches, only one matters:

Did he do it?

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

For my penultimate read, and last review, of 2018, You Don’t Know Me really did tick all of the boxes. For starters, the main character: I felt like I really knew him by the end of the book and yet we never get to know his name. Imran Mahmood paints the reader into the role of juror in what is, sadly, a very timely novel. Our main character is on the stand for murder of a London gang member; a murder he is adamant he didn’t commit. cover107653-mediumThroughout the course of the book our leading man looks at the eight key pieces of evidence the prosecution are hoping will sink him without a trace and resign him to a lengthy jail term. Deciding his legal representation isn’t quite grasping the need to tell the whole truth, something that has changed as the reader discovers since he first gave evidence, leads the main character to go it alone for his closing statement. And here is where this book is interesting: it solely contains the closing statement of the accused.

He dives into each piece of evidence presented against him, agreeing that each one in turn adds to the look of guilt assuming you only look at it from the angle the prosecution directs you to. But he goes on to explain that viewed from another perspective each item paints a very different picture. The concept left me thinking throughout the book, never quite certain what the truth really was.

I loved the way You Don’t Know Me really brought into stark relief how life in certain parts of London, and a great many other large cities across the UK, if not the world, really is right now. I found myself feeling like I was in the court listening, analysing, assessing everything presented to me, everything so well argued that it all had more than one way of being reviewed. And the real clincher for this book? In the end, no verdict is given. As we are there as a member of the jury, we are left to pronounce guilt or innocence ourselves. If I am entirely honest, I really don’t know that I am overly sure even now on that score!

My rating:
goodread

My Daddy The Serial Killer by Cindy Kovacik

My Daddy The Serial Killer by Cindy Kovacik

Katelyn Deason was young, naIve, and innocent at six years old.

That is, until she made the mistake of descending those cellar steps and viewing the first of many horrors down below.

You see, her father wasn’t who she thought he was. He wasn’t the loving and “normal” daddy that all the other kids had. He was very different.

She soon realizes how different as the years pass and unspeakable things begin to happen.

Will Katelyn be able to cling to her sanity after witnessing all of Daddy’s horrors?

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.

My Daddy the Serial Killer is a thriller centreing on a father with a murderous streak and his young daughter. For quite a while Katelyn has a reasonably normal life with her father, a journalist, and her cat. Or at least as normal a life with a dad with mood swings and a door to the basement permanently padlocked shut. Katelyn hears strange noises, whimpers and moans coming from the basement one day, and spots the door is unlocked. The temptation is too much but what she discovers will turn her world upside down.
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The story follows Katelyn’s discovery at a relatively young age that her father is a serial killer, and how she copes with it as she continues to grow up. The sometimes violent mood swings and erratic behaviour along with multiple murders take their toll on the maturing girl traumatically affecting her. As adolescence takes hold, she desperately seeks ways to get away from her father. Underage drug use, drinking, prostitution and an unhealthy level of teenage partying ensue in an attempt to escape the trauma she has experienced.

As Katelyn spirals into a sense of defeat, she feels the only way out is to take her life. A number of unsuccessful attempts later leave her resigned to failure and an overwhelming idea that she cannot escape. That is until an unexpected pregnancy offer her new hope and a dose of luck and fortune see her out of the situation, and in to an adulthood of marriage and parenthood. But with a call bringing her back to her past to visit her father, terminally ill in hospital, Katelyn must work to keep everything she has worked had for from crumbling around her.

The story isn’t too bad overall, with an overarching sense of despair and defeat running throughout the book. Sadly though I felt the ending to be all too predictable. The sense of time felt a bit disjointed throughout the book, and the ending left too much unanswered for me.

My rating:
okaybook

Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

London is a city on wheels – a future city like you’ve never known before. In the terrible aftermath of the Sixty Minute War, cities which survived the apocalypse became predators, chasing and feeding on smaller towns. Now London is hunting down its prey, getting ready to feed. But as the chase begins, Tom uncovers a secret – a secret full of deadly consequences. Soon he is plunged into a world of unkillable enemies, threatened by a weapon that will tear his life apart…

I purchased a copy of this book for my personal reading.

I purchased the full series of these books some time ago and with the release of the film of the same title now seemed the most opportune moment to give it a read. Mortal Engines offers up a blend of steampunk set within a post apocalyptic future vision of Earth. In a world destroyed by war, resources became limited and coveted by all. Many of the settlements, towns and cities became mobile – roving the scarred wastes in search of much needed materials. The largest settlements prey upon anything smaller, harvesting them while smaller towns feast on any scraps left behind.287861I was hooked early on. Reeve’s descriptive style captivated me, really immersing me in the story. The “good guys” are relatable and likeable, riddled with character flaws and failings even though they mean well. The villains of the series are utterly loathsome – from the deluded Mayor Crome, the self-loving Thaddeus Valentine to the part-machine assassin Shrike. The characters have been created so well I found myself loving and loathing them as their arcs unfold.

The plot is well defined, and the world building throughout is excellent. The details really bring to life a ravaged world filled with scavengers, hunters and people desperate to survive in peace. Twists appear throughout the story and are used to good effect without ever feeling like they are there just because. Character motivations ebb and flow and reveal themselves at just the right time and where relevant to the storyline.

Mortal Engines ticked all the boxes from the first page to the last. I loved the world and locations so vividly brought to life – a vibrant, dangerous futuristic world of survival and power. It sated my need for a well-written steampunk novel without overplaying its hand. I am looking forward to seeing how the story develops in the three books that follow Mortal Engines.

My rating:
goodread

A Very Funny Murder Mystery by Paul Mathews

A Very Funny Murder Mystery by Paul Mathews

Untimely death is part of everyday life in the quirky English village of Upper Goosing – European Murder Destination of the Year 2015. And when Lady Peculiar’s butler – a part-time comedian – is found drowned in mango chutney, Detective Inspector Clinton Trump comes blundering onto the scene – ready to shun logic, breach protocol and trust in his own gut instincts.

What will “South East England’s greatest detective” uncover? Is her ladyship a murderess? Was the killer a comedy rival? Or are darker forces at work in this particular corner of Brokenshire? Join our self-proclaimed British detective genius, as he races against time to solve this very funny murder mystery – so he can play in a golf tournament without distraction!

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.

Self-titled quite funny guy Paul Mathews, whose books have featured regularly on Books and Beyond Reviews, returns with the first book in a new series. Taking a break from Howie Pond in the We Have Lost series, The new series brings us an all new hero – Clinton Trump, South East England’s greatest detective. A Very Funny Murder Mystery takes us to Upper Goosing in Brokenshire, a quaint, chocolate box English village that just so happens to be home to a higher than average rate of murders.
42140765In the upper class of the village, a ladies curry night ends with the murder of the manor butler, drowned in his own mango chutney. Detective Inspector Clinton Trump with all the confidence a man who would bestow himself the title of greatest detective in the region arrives to take charge of the case and solve it by the end of the week so that he might enjoy a golf tournament at the weekend undisturbed.

In much a similar fashion to the We Have Lost series of books, the investigation is riddled with twists and turns and thanks to the overconfidence of Clinton Trump, his dislike at having to work with sidekick Constable Dinkel, an overbearing boss and a passionate desire to dodge work and get out to the golf course and often descends into farcical comedy. In his now typical style, Mathews manages to poke fun at just about anything possible – from American tourists and upper class dinner parties to self-important detective inspectors and a fantastic laugh at the expense of Russian visitors to Salisbury Cathedral. And in a humorous twist we even get an entertaining chapter seen through the eyes of Trump’s long suffering cats.

Having thoroughly enjoyed the We Have Lost series of books from Paul Mathews I held high hopes for this latest outing. Once again the genre, this time mystery rather than spy, has been taken and butchered with the bluntest of hatchets into something that could never be accused of taking itself too seriously. Mathews brings the laughs, creates colourful characters who all have relatable problems and puts them into laughable situations creating the beginning of what looks to be a brilliantly funny new series.

My rating:
goodread

The Azrael Initiative by K Hanson

The Azrael Initiative by K Hanson

Best friends Kayla Falk, an engineering student, and Olivia Bellamy, who is studying nursing, are nearing the end of their college career when terrorists attack their university. Through a combination of cleverness, bravery, and luck, the two manage to foil the deadly plot. A mysterious man from the United States government, Mr. Hightower, sees their potential and attempts to recruit Kayla and Olivia for a program to take on ISIS. They initially refuse, but another terrorist attack that strikes close to home pushes them to change their minds and join the Azrael Initiative.

After several months of hard training, the two women are dropped into Al-Raqqah, the capital of ISIS, in Syria. Once there, they must blend in with the locals as they strike from the shadows to kill ISIS leaders, destroy their facilities, and free captives. As Americans deep within enemy territory, they know that they will be killed if discovered. As women, they also know that they would suffer before death. Walking the line between vengeance and justice strains their relationship. As they work to resolve their differences, the symphony of brutality around them ultimately pushes them closer together and forges them into the warriors that they were meant to become.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the authors in exchange for an honest review.

Upon reading the premise of this book I was definitely interested. An action packed adventure dancing with deadly foes with two dangerous female protagonists. In a world filled with Jason Bournes and Jack Reachers, The Azrael Initiative struck me as a potential breath of fresh air. The core setting, Al-Raqqah, the heart of the ISIS Caliphate only heightened the sense of tension and drama to the synopsis of this book.The Azrael InitiativeSadly I felt the book really shot wide of the mark. I felt the author was almost trying too hard. The most mundane of things felt over-described – breakfast, lunch and dinner, tedious elements of the day. That is until the pivotal, life changing terrorist attack on a university completely upends the lives of our two core protagonists, which is swiftly followed by another devastating scene. This sounds fine in principle, but with so much occurring in the first 30 pages or so felt too much for my liking.

The dialogue also felt too stilted. The dialogue between parent and daughter following a potentially deadly terrorist attack was so casual it almost felt like it was just another day. There wasn’t any urgency or concern. Too often characters referred to each other by name, often in the same passage of conversation, and repetitively from sentence to sentence.

Though I wasn’t expecting best-selling, award-winning book I had hoped for more. There were occasional bright spots sprinkled throughout, sadly they were too infrequent in comparison to the heavy doses of implausibility. Elements of the book had a young adult genre vibe about them, and I wonder if that is part of my problem. An expectation of an action-packed thriller, but with YA elements, and never fully being either led to what was something of an anticlimax for me.

My rating:
notforme