SJ2B House of Books

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

RUBY by Cynthia Bond

Ruby by Cynthia Bond
Published by: Two Roads - 7th May 2015
Pages: 368
Format: Digital
Source: Publisher via - bloggingforbooks


Waterstones Synopsis:
THE NEWEST OPRAH'S BOOK CLUB 2.0 SELECTION A NEW YORK TIMES TOP TEN BESTSELLER The epic, unforgettable story of a man determined to protect the woman he loves from the town desperate to destroy her, this beautiful and devastating debut heralds the arrival of a major new voice in fiction.

Ephram Jennings has never forgotten the beautiful girl with the long braids running through the piney woods of Liberty, their small East Texas town. Young Ruby Bell, "the kind of pretty it hurt to look at," has suffered beyond imagining, so as soon as she can, she flees suffocating Liberty for the bright pull of 1950s New York. Ruby quickly winds her way into the ripe center of the city-the darkened piano bars and hidden alleyways of the Village-all the while hoping for a glimpse of the red hair and green eyes of her mother. When a telegram from her cousin forces her to return home, thirty-year-old Ruby finds herself reliving the devastating violence of her girlhood. With the terrifying realization that she might not be strong enough to fight her way back out again, Ruby struggles to survive her memories of the town's dark past.

Meanwhile, Ephram must choose between loyalty to the sister who raised him and the chance for a life with the woman he has loved since he was a boy.

Full of life, exquisitely written, and suffused with the pastoral beauty of the rural South, Ruby is a transcendent novel of passion and courage. This wondrous page-turner rushes through the red dust and gossip of Main Street, to the pit fire where men swill bootleg outside Bloom's Juke, to Celia Jennings's kitchen, where a cake is being made, yolk by yolk, that Ephram will use to try to begin again with Ruby.

Utterly transfixing, with unforgettable characters, riveting suspense, and breathtaking, luminous prose, Ruby offers an unflinching portrait of man's dark acts and the promise of the redemptive power of love

My Thoughts.

'Ruby' has all the elements a Southern Gothic tale should have: It has dark, disturbing racial themes with a supernatural, fantastical edginess; It focuses on damaged, complex and flawed characters; There are a multitude of disturbing acts of violence, cruelty and rape committed by members of the town's community; And an all too willing blindness and indifference from the rest of the townsfolk towards the suffering victim. So why was I not enamoured as the majority of readers were with 'Ruby'?
'Ruby' is the debut offering of Cynthia Bond is set in an all-black hamlet called Liberty Township, in East Texas.  It is the first of a planned trilogyI'm not sure at this juncture whether I'll read any more or not. I didn't feel connected enough to the characters, well maybe with the exception of Ephram Jennings an innocent sweet, bumbling character of a man who is besotted with the stunningly beautiful Ruby Bell.  However I couldn't bare to read anymore about Ruby's 'haints', or the spirits that burrowed inside her until she gave birth (or death, whatever it was) to them. It all just seemed so fantastically over the top, and took an age to move along with the story line.

I'm still wondering why I didn't enjoy it more. I didn't hate it I just felt indifferent. I found the dialect difficult to understand and felt that perhaps the author was trying too hard to impress and write a prize winning novel that she lost her true direction and concentrated too much on being overly descriptive.  I just know that I didn't connect with any of the characters nor care enough to want to continue reading about them.

Maybe it's just 'wrong timing' so maybe I'll try again sometime, so please do not let me dissuade you from reading 'Ruby' as I'm certainly in the minority with my views and it has received a staggering amount of rave reviews. Even 'Oprah' is championing this one. It just wasn't for me.  Book groups would definitely have some interesting discussions and debates over this one.

Disclosure: I received a complementary digital copy from 'Blogging For Books' for an honest, unbiased review.  I initially decided to stop reading at 40% but continued after a day's break. Unfortunately I didn't feel any better about it and DNF'd at 60%.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bryant & May: The Bleeding Heart by Christopher Fowler


Bryant & May : The Bleeding Heart
Christopher Fowler
Series: Bryant & May #11

Published by: Bantam (12 March 2015)
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Source: DEAD GOOD BOOKS CLUB - April (Goodreads & Publisher)

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:
It’s a fresh start for the Met's oddest investigation team, the Peculiar Crimes Unit. 
Their first case involves two teenagers who see a dead man rising from his grave in a London park. And if that's not alarming enough, one of them is killed in a hit and run accident. Stranger still, in the moments between when he was last seen alive and found dead on the pavement, someone has changed his shirt...
Much to his frustration, Arthur Bryant is not allowed to investigate. Instead, he has been tasked with finding out how someone could have stolen the ravens from the Tower of London. All seven birds have vanished from one of the most secure fortresses in the city. And, as the legend has it, when the ravens leave, the nation falls…
Soon it seems death is all around and Bryant and May must confront a group of latter-day bodysnatchers, explore an eerie funeral parlour and unearth the gruesome legend of Bleeding Heart Yard. More graves are desecrated, further deaths occur, and the symbol of the Bleeding Heart seems to turn up everywhere - it’s even discovered hidden in the PCU’s offices. And when Bryant is blindfolded and taken to the headquarters of a secret society, he realises that this case is more complex than even he had imagined, and that everyone is hiding something. The Grim Reaper walks abroad and seems to be stalking him, playing on his fears of premature burial.
Rich in strange characters and steeped in London’s true history, this is Bryant & May’s most peculiar and disturbing case of all.

My Thoughts:
This is my second outing with the eccentric duo Bryant & May.

The Bleeding Heart begins, as it did with The Burning Man, the cast of characters listed on the 'staff roster', and is accompanied by another memo from the disgruntled PCU Chief, Raymond Land.

The Peculiar Crimes Unit has been moved from being part of the Metropolitan Police to the City of London Police.
Orion Banks, The City's Public Liaison Officer has been assigned, on what the team believe to be an advisory role, to the PCU, but it soon transpires that she has power to grant or withhold permission to investigate any particular line of enquiry as she sees fit.
The units first case involves two teenagers who apparently see a dead man rising from his grave in a London park, soon after this one of them is killed in a hit and run incident.  However much to Bryant's annoyance instead he has been assigned to another case, that of the stolen ravens from the Tower of London
Being of the old school of policing Bryant and May find it difficult taking orders from this young addition to the PCU who also happens to be a woman. In light of this they choose to investigate in their own unique way and ignore Banks' presence. 
As always this involves talking to a host of strange and bizarre people, including a benevolent warlock, a herbalist, a witch, and a modern day Burke and Hare group of body snatchers.
The Bleeding Heart is another story with a clever plot, lots of twists, and turns and misleads, and out of the two books I've read, I enjoyed this one the most.
Probably as with most of the series there is a predictable tying up of loose ends, but come on, this is 'cosy crime' at its best.  Brilliant in its character development, fun and with hugely likeable characters and humorous story lines. 
The Bleeding Heart was a fun read and suitable for anyone to enjoy without bad language or grizzly descriptions of any nature.
Another highly entertaining humorous crime thriller accompanied by Bryant's interesting historical facts and anecdotes about London.  I definitely recommend it to established readers and newcomers to the world of Bryant & May.  I'm definitely looking forward to reading more from this motley crime unit.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

THE THIRD TESTAMENT by Craig Russell


The Third Testament by Craig Russell
(Previously published in the UK as Biblical by Christopher Galt/Craig Russell)

Published: 23/04/2015 (Quercus)
ISBN: 9781780874838
Pages: 448 Paperback

Review: 5 out of 5

Previously published as 'Biblical' by Christopher Galt in hardback in 2014, I am delighted to see this brilliant thriller back with a great looking cover and a new, more suitable title. I felt at the time that 'Biblical' didn't give a true indication of its genre and felt it would not appeal to its rightful audience. With this issue resolved I'm confident that, The Third Testament by Craig Russell will receive the full recognition and praise it deserves.


My Thoughts:
The opening scene had me hooked immediately with the depiction of a French teenager finding herself in amongst a crowd of people witnessing the execution of Joan d'Arc.  She manages to take a picture of the horrific scene on her phone.

Around the world people are experiencing hallucinations, having feelings of déjà vu, and accidents and mass suicides are occurring on an alarming scale.

It is a time where science is destroying religion as it answers the mysteries and miracles of old.

Macbeth, a psychiatrist involved in a neuroscience project, finds himself hurled into a race against time to uncover the mystery of the phenomena. Is it caused by a virus, or are these visions sent from God as believed by religious leaders and fanatics worldwide? Is the world readying itself for 'The Rapture'?

Craig Russell's 'The Third Testament' (previously released as 'Biblical')  is a fantastic piece of fiction blending elements of scientific fact and human genetic anomalies. Russell's characters come to life with his empathetic writing style, and the numerous memorable characters are totally plausible and mesmerising. I felt as though I were watching a film, they were so well drawn out. I couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen to each of them as their fate unfolded. Mary Vermont's heart felt tale of her frustration and anguish of suffering from Alzheimer's and the happiness albeit brief of the visions she has was particularly poignant.  It was easy to imagine what it must be like to have this awful disease looking through Mary's eyes. Each and every one of Russell's characters has an equally compelling tale to tell and I loved finding out about them all.

The Third Testament kept me guessing all the way to its mind blowing climax.  It is an intelligent, imaginative, addictive, apocalyptic thriller that kept me reading well into the early hours.

* Definitely my favourite thriller this year.

Christopher Galt is the pseudonym for the award-winning thriller writer, Craig Russell, author of the acclaimed Fabel and Lennox series. He lives in Perthshire, Scotland.

My review posted for Biblical last year Click here

Friday, April 24, 2015

DISINTEGRATION by RICHARD THOMAS On Tour - May/June 2015

Disintegration: A Windy City Dark Mystery by Richard Thomas

Published by : Random House Publishing Group - Alibi (May 26, 2015)
ISBN: 978 1101882527
Source: TLC Book Tours/Publisher

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Review To Follow: The TLC BOOK TOUR kicks off with my review on 26th May, 2015.

In a brilliantly stylish breakthrough thriller for fans of Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho and Will Christopher Baer’s Kiss Me, Judas, here is the compelling tale of a man who has lost it all—and is now navigating a crooked, harrowing path to redemption.
Once a suburban husband and father, now the man has lost all sense of time. He retains only a few keepsakes of his former life: a handmade dining room table, an armoire and dresser from the bedroom, and a tape of the last message his wife ever left on their answering machine. These are memories of a man who no longer exists. Booze and an affair with a beautiful woman provide little relief, with the only meaning left in his life comes from his assignments. An envelope slipped under the door of his apartment with the name and address of an unpunished evildoer. The unspoken directive to kill. And every time he does, he marks the occasion with a memento: a tattoo. He has a lot of tattoos.
But into this unchanging existence seep unsettling questions. How much of what he feels and sees can he trust? How much is a lie designed to control him? He will risk his own life—and the lives of everyone around him—to find out.
“Sweet hot hell, Richard Thomas writes like a man possessed, a man on fire, a guy with a gun to his head. And you’ll read Disintegration like there’s a gun to yours, too. A twisted masterpiece.”—Chuck Wendig, author of Blackbirds and Double Dead
Disintegration is gritty neo-noir; a psycho-sexual descent into an unhinged psyche and an underworld Chicago that could very well stand in for one of the rings of Dante’s Hell. Richard Thomas’ depraved-doomed-philosopher hitman is your guide. I suggest you do as he says and follow him, if you know what’s good for you.”—Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and The Little Sleep

About Richard Thomas

Richard Thomas is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in more than a hundred publications. Nominated for five Pushcart Prizes, he is the author of the novel Transubstantiate and two short-story collections, Herniated Roots and Staring into the Abyss. Thomas lives with his family in the Chicago area.

Richard Thomas’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS

Tuesday, May 26th: SJ2B House of Books
Wednesday, May 27th: The Scary Reviews
Wednesday, May 27th: Crime Fiction Lover
Thursday, May 28th: It’s a Mad Mad World
Friday, May 29th: Mallory Heart Reviews
Monday, June 1st: A Reader’s Oasis
Wednesday, June 3rd: Bell, Book & Candle
Thursday, June 4th: The Qwillery
Monday, June 8th: Priscilla and her Books
Thursday, June 11th: FictionZeal
Monday, June 15th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Wednesday, June 17th: My Bookish Ways
Friday, June 26th: From the TBR Pile
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Saturday, April 11, 2015

I AM IN BLOOD Old Murders Never Die by Joe Murphy


I AM IN BLOOD
Old Murders Never Die
By Joe Murphy
Published:April 2015
O'Brien Press Ltd

Source: RealReaders

Rating: 4 out of 5

A multi-layered, Gothic tale of obsession and bloodshed set in modern-day and Victorian Dublin. Present day: Seventeen-year-old Nathan Jacob's interest in real-life crime leads him to a series of horrific murders committed in Dublin's red-light district, The Monto, in the late nineteenth century. As he delves deeper into this grisly mystery, someone - something - begins to speak to him through the pages of time. Something half-formed and dark; something that draws Nathan and his bloodline back to Victorian Dublin and the horrors that took place there. 1890: Sergeant George Frohmell of the Dublin Metropolitan Police is under pressure. His beloved, bedraggled city has become the hunting ground for a faceless monster, a creature that preys on the poor and vulnerable, leaving them butchered in back alleys. As the death toll increases and the violence moves ever nearer to his own heart, Frohmell must find his man - or lose everything.
My Thoughts:
I Am In Blood by Joe Murphy is written from 3 different points of view in two different time lines.

Dublin, December 2015: When Nathan's father dies he is devastated and propelled into utter despair. He feels totally disconnected and alienated from his adoptive family, and they are too wrapped up in their own grief to notice how badly Nathan has been affected. His grief is utterly debilitating. Already labelled as strange by his family and almost everyone at school he feels unable to talk to anyone and draws ever more into himself.  His only outlet is reading and he submerges himself into true crime stories and soon becomes obsessed with murders that took place over a century ago in 'The Mondo' Dublin. Nathan is compelled to investigate and with his only friend, Esther Gilsenan as accomplice, he uncovers some unnerving and terrifying revelations about his own family history.

Nathan's account is terribly emotive and unsettling.  I really felt for him in his misery and growing disconnection with the real world and his frustration at wanting to know who he really is now that everything dear to him has gone.

Dublin, 1890's: Sergeant George Frohmell (Fromhell !) is a man struggling to come to terms with past relationships and has a long term drink problem. His problems are about to increase tenfold with the discovery of a brutally murdered prostitute. With political unrest taking up valuable police time and resources, Frohmell finds it increasingly difficult and frustrating tracking down the murderer with little to no help from a police force that considers the murder of prostitutes a low priority.

Frohmell is fearful for these women, especially Rose a prostitute he cares about and despirately wants to apprehend the perpetrator. With the aid of his partner, Dr Oliver O'Sullivan, they endeavour to catch the killer before he finds his next victim.

The third perspective is that of the murderer as a child and is set in Sussex, England between the years 1843-1856. Each chapter begins and ends with what can only be described as the ramblings of a madman which have been penned in poetic prose. These are chilling, and confusing passages which only make a modicum of sense after reading the sections in between that go some way in explaining the mind and psyche of the developing psychopath.

The climactic collision of the two timescales was a little disappointing on Nathan's part of the story. Its a short sharp finale with no conclusion, but it does have the seeds of a sequel where we may find out what happened.

Summary:
The writing style of the book is overwhelmingly dark, with gothic atmospheric scenes of poverty driving women to put themselves in harms way and degrade themselves in order to provide for their family. Murphy was an artist painting the scenes so I could see, smell and taste and experience the misery, and harshness of life in Dublin during the 1890's.

Favourite quotes/sentences from the book were: 'Black coat, black scarf, black hair, black eyes. Her face floated like a petal in dark waters' & 'There was a broken edge to it that he didn't like. It was a twiggy sound, winter sound. Sharp and gnarled'.

"I Am in Blood is a many-layered tale of darkness and bloodshed. It asks the question: Who are we? And most importantly: Do we have a choice"

The title’s reference to Macbeth and the line 'I am in blood' suggests to me that once started on a path, one is unable to undo any steps taken, or go back to the way things were. They have to see it through to it final fruition. Or, for the purposes of this novel, maybe it implies that a persons genetic makeup may predispose them to inheriting traits of their historical relatives including mental health defects and that untreated may develop into full blown psychopathic tendencies.


I would certainly recommend 'I Am In Blood' for YA's and more mature teens, they would certainly 'get' Nathan's 'teen angst'.  I'd also recommend it to anyone else for that matter who enjoy an atmospheric, and gruesome gothic thriller. Book groups would have some interesting discussions about the content too.

Disclaimer:
I received an advanced readers copy from, RealReaders for an honest review.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Bryant & May: The Burning Man By Christopher Fowler


The Burning Man by Christopher Fowler
Series: Bryant & May #12

Published by DoubleDay (March 26th 2015)
Pages: 416 
Format: Hardcover 
Source: Publisher (NetGalley)

Rating: 3.5

Synopsis:
London is under siege. A banking scandal has filled the city with violent protests, and as the anger in the streets detonates, a young homeless man burns to death after being caught in the crossfire between rioters and the police.
But all is not as it seems; an opportunistic killer is using the chaos to exact revenge, but his intended victims are so mysteriously chosen that the Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in to find a way of stopping him.
Using their network of eccentric contacts, elderly detectives Arthur Bryant and John May hunt down a murderer who adopts incendiary methods of execution. But they soon find their investigation taking an apocalyptic turn as the case comes to involve the history of mob rule, corruption, rebellion, punishment and the legend of Guy Fawkes.
At the same time, several members of the PCU team reach dramatic turning points in their lives – but the most personal tragedy is yet to come, for as the race to bring down a cunning killer reaches its climax, Arthur Bryant faces his own devastating day of reckoning.
‘I always said we’d go out with a hell of a bang,’ warns Bryant.

My Thoughts:
I have to say that I was a little unsure about requesting The Burning Man by Christopher Fowler to read this title seeing as it looked like being the latest in a long running series.  I also hate to read any series out of sequence. However the cover was very appealing and the synopsis indicated that it would be an amusing, interesting read, and something very different from my usual crime reads. The author on his website assures readers that the series can be read in any order or as a stand alone. In view of this I requested a copy.

Mr Fowler did not fib at all, there was enough information on each character that I didn't feel disadvantaged by not reading previous books in the series.

The opening chapter introduces the cast of characters by means of a 'staff roster'.  Also included is an excerpt from a speech by Mr Arthur Bryant given to the City of London Police Crime Directorate, and a highly amusing memo from the long suffering PCU Chief, Raymond Land.

From the outset I knew I was going to enjoy reading, The Burning Man, and at times it had me laughing out loud in public places.  I'll give an example of the humour; "...no more pawning items from the Evidence Room until payday..." and "...the entrance halls' visual-recognition system has been removed after Mr Bryant proved it could be cheated by the addition of a hat...".

The Burning Man was an enjoyable, highly amusing read about a team of misfits working in the Peculiar Crime Unit (PCU).  At the centre of which are two main character's Bryant & May, a totally mismatched elderly police duo.  Bryant is somewhat untidy and dishevelled, both in appearance and manner.  May is his polar opposite, immaculate in appearance and highly organised. The setting is present day London during the Guy Fawkes' celebrations, alongside this angry protests are raging over a banking scandal. During the ensuing riots a homeless man is set alight and burns to death while sleeping in a doorway.

The PCU is brought in to investigate what should be a simple case of accidental death and hope to tie things up quickly.  A subsequent death throws new light on the case and the PCU find themselves investigating a double murder.

Both characters appear completely out of step with modern policing but they still manage to get results using old fashioned policing practices, incorporating unorthodox methods of investigation in order to solve crimes.

A highly entertaining and humorous crime thriller accompanied by Bryant's interesting historical facts and anecdotes about London.  I definitely recommend it to newcomers and those already familiar with the world of Bryant & May.

Unfortunately in this latest story the octogenarian detective seems to be losing his memory causing him to be confused and forgetful. If this is an indication that this may be the last we are to hear of the duo I can console myself that I have the previous instalments to catch up with.