The Crow Girl by Erik Axl Sund (out today) #BookReview #CrimeFic #DisturbingReads

crowgirlTitle: The Crow Girl
Author: Erik Axl Sund
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 784 pages
Publication Details: April 7th 2016 by Harvill Secker
Genre(s): Crime Fiction; Thriller
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

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It starts with just one body – tortured, mummified and then discarded.

Its discovery reveals a nightmare world of hidden lives. Of lost identities, secret rituals and brutal exploitation, where nobody can be trusted.

This is the darkest, most complex case the police have ever seen.

This is the world of the Crow Girl.

Review

Everything about this book drew me in until I realised that it’s almost 800 pages long! I probably would have been put off if I’d realised that before I requested a copy (because as a ‘in spare-time blogger’, I aint got time for that), but I’m so glad I started reading first. It was totally worth the investment of time. 

The Crow Girl is one of the darkest, twisted, deviously woven crime books I’ve ever read. As the synopsis suggests it starts with one dead body, and mannnn does it escalate from there. 

We follow protagonist Jeanette Kihlberg, a respected detective who is assigned the case when a mummified boy is discovered. Jeanette is a strong protagonist. She’s clearly dedicated to her work but is also consumed by it, which takes its toll on her private life. As more bodies show up, and the search for a killer intensifies, Jeanette’s life starts to unfurl. 

The Crow Girl isn’t a simple whodunnit tale. It’s a complex saga of child abuse, paedophile circles, corrupt officials, false identities, human trafficking and psychological battles. It took me a few chapters to get hooked and adapt to the dark and twisted tone of the story but once I did, it was impossible to not get completely invested the story.

Originally written as a trilogy, and published here as one volume, The Crow Girl has been painstakingly translated from Swedish. Despite the length, I’m really glad I read this all in one go as I think it would have been too confusing in three separate books and I’m not sure I would have appreciated the first part enough to read the second; it’s all about the bigger picture and the pay off at the end! I was also extremely thankful for the short chapters – they really helped in making the book less of a chore. 

This is one of those books where I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but what I will say is that The Crow Road is a book that sheds light on child abuse and the damage it can cause. The effects of which ripple throughout all 700+ pages of this disturbing Swedish triumph.

It actually reminded me a lot of the Hannibal TV show with similarities in both content and style/tone, so if you enjoyed that I’d highly recommend giving this one a try.

unicorn rating 4

Lazy Saturday Review: The Amber Fury by Natalie Haynes #BookReview

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I started doing ‘lazy Saturday reviews’ as a way of getting reviews done in just 30 mins, and they proved to be quite popular. They are quick and snappy, and concentrate less on the plot and writing and more on my general feelings about said book. They generally end up being a bit of a rant. My fave!

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Title: The Amber Fury
Author: Natalie Haynes
Series: N/A
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
Publication Details:  November 6th 2014 by Corvus
Genre(s): General Fiction; Mystery
Disclosure? Nope, borrowed from Dora!

Goodreads // Waterstones

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When you open up, who will you let in?

Alex Morris has lost everything: her relationship, her career and her faith in the future. Moving to Edinburgh to escape her demons, Alex takes a job teaching at a Pupil Referral Unit. It’s a place for kids whose behaviour is so extreme that they cannot be taught in a normal classroom. Alex is fragile with grief and way out of her depth.

Her fourth-year students are troubled and violent. In desperation to reach them, Alex turns to the stories she knows best. Greek tragedy isn’t the most obvious way to win over such damaged children, yet these tales of fate, family and vengeance speak directly to them.

Enthralled by the bloodthirsty justice of the ancient world, the teenagers begin to weave the threads of their own tragedy – one that Alex watches, helpless to prevent.

Review

I really enjoyed this story of a theatre director who ends up teaching troubled teens in Edinburgh following a personal tragedy.

It’s one of those books that spoon feeds you most of the story but omits the most important piece of the puzzle to keep you guessing.

We know that Alex’s vulnerable state has weakened her judgement and as a result the children in her care have suffered. We discover that one of the teens in particular has done something terrible, and that Alex perhaps had the opportunity to stop that from happening but failed.

I enjoyed the writing and the setting; I could tell that the author had spent time in Edinburgh where it was set. The characters were well developed and interesting, and Alex was a great protagonist. Her vulnerability had the potential to get a bit woe-is-me, but her passion for the Greek Tragedies she taught and for helping the children stopped that from happening. 

Overall, I thought The Amber Fury was a good, solid read, if not a teeny bit anti-climatic! 

unicorn rating 3

All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage (#DNF #review) #OutToday

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Title: All Things Cease to Appear
Author: Elizabeth Brundage
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 384 pages
Publication Details: March 8th 2016 by Knopf
Genre(s): Thriller; Mystery
Disclosure? Yep! I received an advanced copy in exchange for an HONEST review

Goodreads // Waterstones

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Late one winter afternoon in upstate New York, George Clare comes home to find his wife murdered and their three-year-old daughter alone–for how many hours?–in her room down the hall.

He had recently, begrudgingly, taken a position at the private college nearby teaching art history, and moved his family into this tight-knit, impoverished town. And he is the immediate suspect–the question of his guilt echoing in a story shot through with secrets both personal and professional.

While his parents rescue him from suspicion, a persistent cop is stymied at every turn in proving Clare a heartless murderer. The pall of death is ongoing, and relentless; behind one crime are others, and more than twenty years will pass before a hard kind of justice is finally served.

At once a classic “who-dun-it” that morphs into a “why-and-how-dun-it,” this is also a rich and complex portrait of a psychopath and a marriage, and an astute study of the various taints that can scar very different families, and even an entire community.

Review

What came first…the book, or the book slump? Now there’s a question! I stopped reading this book at around the 35% mark, which I really try not to do for ARCs as I like to fulfil my end of the bargain as much as possible, but I just couldn’t. 

I’m not sure why, as it wasn’t badly written, or even overly dull, I just couldn’t muster the motivation to keep going. It may be nothing to do with the book, and everything to do with the fact that I read two really amazing books in a row and was a bit burnt out…who knows!?

All Things Cease to Appear has the makings of a really great mystery/thriller. George comes home to find his wife dead, brutally-murdered-dead, and his little girl alone and scared. George is instantly the prime suspect and his reaction to his wife’s death is quite strange, so he is always a suspect in the reader’s mind too. 

I think the main reason I couldn’t get into this book was because I didn’t like any of the characters in it. George is aloof and strange, even his parents are a bit – bland. Yes, bland is how I would describe most of the characters. 

I do think that if I was in the mood for this book it could have gone differently. I’m sure it would become clear why the characters were dubious, but I just wasn’t in the mood to get to the endgame. 

ATCTA may not have worked for me, but it might for you. I thought the lack of quotation marks for dialogue was interesting, and it actually didn’t bother me at all, I think it was just a mixture of bad timing and ambiguous characters that turned me off. 

I DNF at 35% and therefore won’t be giving it a rating.  

The Poison Artist by Jonathan Moore [Out this week]

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Title: The Poison Artist
Author: Jonathan Moore
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 228 pages
Publication Details: January 26th / 2nd Feb (UK) 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre(s): Thriller; Mystery
Disclosure? Yep! I received an advance copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads // Purchase

Dr. Caleb Maddox is a San Francisco toxicologist studying the chemical effects of pain. After a bruising breakup with his girlfriend, he’s out drinking whiskey when a hauntingly seductive woman appears by his side. Emmeline whispers to Caleb over absinthe, gets his blood on her fingers and then brushes his ear with her lips as she says goodbye. He must find her.

As his search begins, Caleb becomes entangled in a serial-murder investigation. The police have been fishing men from the bay, and the postmortems are inconclusive. One of the victims vanished from the bar the night Caleb met Emmeline. When questioned, Caleb can’t offer any information, nor does he tell them he’s been secretly helping the city’s medical examiner, an old friend, study the chemical evidence on the victims’ remains. The search for the killer soon entwines with Caleb’s hunt for Emmeline, and the closer he gets to each, the more dangerous his world becomes.

From the first pages up to the haunting, unforgettable denouement, The Poison Artist is a gripping thriller about obsession and damage, about a man unmoored by an unspeakable past and an irresistible woman who offers the ultimate escape.

Review

I was in the mood for a gritty crime thriller so I figured The Poison Artist was the perfect ARC for the job. Unfortunately, it ended up being a bit of a let down.

I was really intrigued by the idea of a toxicologist studying and experimenting with the chemical effects of pain, and thought it would make a great thriller, but the majority of this story was about Caleb’s obsession with a mystery woman, and the whole toxicology thing took a back seat.

I think the main reason I wasn’t enamoured with this book was because I didn’t warm to Caleb at all. He’s ruined his marriage and is heading towards alcoholism which is taking its toll on his work. You know, a total downward spiral kind of thing. All he can think about is a brief encounter with a beautiful woman who drinks nothing but absinthe.

The mystery of the bodies turning up in the bay held my attention for a little while, but I just didn’t get hooked into the story and unfortunately I found it a slog to finish (although the ending did improve it)!

Not for me, but I’m sure some people will enjoy this murder mystery/ dark tale of infatuation.

unicorn rating 2

 

Bizarro High: Sanctuary Bay by Laura J. Burns & Melinda Metz #YAReview

sanctuarybay

Title: Sanctuary Bay
Author: Laura J. Burns & Melinda Metz
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 320 pages
Publication Details: January 19th 2016 by St. Martin’s Griffin (USA) // February 13th (UK)
Genre(s): YA; Thriller; Mystery
Disclosure? Yep! I received an advance copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads // Purchase

When Sarah Merson receives the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the most elite prep school in the country-Sanctuary Bay Academy-it seems almost too good to be true. But, after years of bouncing from foster home to foster home, escaping to its tranquil setting, nestled deep in Swans Island, couldn’t sound more appealing.

Swiftly thrown into a world of privilege and secrets, Sarah quickly realizes finding herself noticed by class charmer, Nate, as well as her roommate’s dangerously attentive boyfriend, Ethan, are the least of her worries. When her roommate suddenly goes missing, she finds herself in a race against time, not only to find her, but to save herself and discover the dark truth behind Sanctuary Bay’s glossy reputation.

 

Review

I fell in love with the cover of this book instantly, and when I read that co-author Melinda Metz was one of the writers of Roswell (one of my favourite TV shows of all time – no shame!), I knew I had to read it.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the premise though. The elite prep school part appealed to me, and I assumed the story would follow the mystery of the missing room-mate, but Sanctuary Bay was SO much more than that.

Protagonist Sarah is really interesting character. She witnessed her parents getting killed when she was just three, and she remembers it vividly. Everyone tells her that it’s impossible to remember at such an early age, but Sarah knows that her brain works differently to other people’s.

Sarah has grown-up in foster homes, some good, some terrible. She considers herself pretty poor, and she’s determined to make something of herself. When she’s offered a scholarship out of the blue to the most elite prep school in the country, it’s practically a miracle. But Sarah wants to believe her luck has changed, and feels that she deserves this great opportunity, so she’s determined not to mess it up.

But of course, if something’s too good to be true, there’s usually a reason. And Sanctuary Bay is definitely not your average school.

Marketed as a ‘full-immersion’ school, in which pupils can never leave (it’s on an island so they really, really, can’t), or have any contact with the outside world including family, apart from being allowed monthly care packages to arrive through the post.

The students are therefore quick to form bonds. At first Sarah is blindsided by how friendly everyone is, and she soon feels like part a family – something she has longed for her whole life. But it’s not long until things start getting weird. She’s initiated into a secret society whose ‘missions’ get weirder and weirder. And then her room-mate goes missing and Sarah is stuck between loyalty to her brothers and sisters, her own sanity, and the truth.

There is so much more to this story as well. I absolutely loved Sanctuary Bay and couldn’t put it down! I liked the contrast between the futuristic-type technology at the school and that part of it was built on a POW camp, and how all of this is woven into a great mystery.

The setting was awesome, I couldn’t fault the writing, and it was a fast-paced, thrill-ride.

I’m extremely happy and impressed at how the YA genre has evolved over the last ten years, and it’s all down to diverse, unique, and exciting books like this one. Success all round.

If Sanctuary Bay is anything to go by, 2016 is going to be another great year for YA…have ALL the unicorns!

unicorn rating

Lazy Saturday Review: Behind Closed Doors by Elizabeth Haynes #BookReview

behindclosedTitle: Behind Closed Doors
Author: Elizabeth Haynes
Series: DCI Louisa Smith #2
Format: Digital, 416 pages
Publication Details: January 29th 2015 by Sphere
Genre(s): Crime; Thriller
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads // Purchase

‘To begin with, nothing was certain except her own terror . . .’

Ten years ago, fourteen-year-old Scarlett Rainsford vanished without a trace during a family holiday to Greece. Not being able to find Scarlett was one of the biggest regrets of DCI Louisa Smith’s career and when Scarlett is discovered back in her home town after all this time, Lou is determined to find out what happened to her and why she remained hidden for so long. Was she abducted or did she run away?

As Lou and her team delve deeper into Scarlett’s past, their investigation throws up more questions than it answers. But as they edge closer to the truth about what really went on behind closed doors, it is more sinister and disturbing than they had ever imagined.

Review

Behind Closed Doors is another compelling, page-turning read from Police Analyst Elizabeth Haynes.

This is the third book I’ve read by Haynes and I’ve found them all to be edge-of-your-seat thrilling and interesting in the most excellent dark and gritty way. Behind Closed Doors was no exception.

Haynes is masterful at navigating the multi-layer plot about a girl who was abducted on a family holiday and has returned after 10 years, posing more questions than there are answers.

Obviously, I felt for Scarlett and all the horrible things she went through, but she was frustrating too in the way that she refused to tell her story. Of course, this is what made it such a page-turner and I couldn’t wait to find out who was behind the whole thing.

No one in this book is a sure thing. Scarlett’s family were weird to the point of being suspects, and even Scarlett herself can’t be trusted.

Haynes’ experience as a Police Analyst brings an obvious insider knowledge to her thrillers, but they never feel clinical. They have heart, and I liked that this story in particular shows how different people act differently in extreme situations, making it impossible to judge anyone’s intentions.

You never know who to trust…

unicorn rating

First Look: Sanctuary Bay by Laura J. Burns & Melinda Metz #HorrorOctober

I can not wait for this book. It sounds twisted and sinister…something that needs to be done more in the YA market if you ask me.

And not only that, but I did a bit of fangirling when I realised that in the past the authors wrote episodes of ROSWELL together. YES, THAT ROSWELL (I will never be ashamed of my love for that show)! Ahhh this has to be good right? RIGHT?

Roll on January!

sanctuarybay

Sanctuary Bay

Authors: Laura J. Burns & Melinda Metz
Editions: Hardback, Kindle/e-book, 320 pages
Publication Details: Expected January 19th 2016 by St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre(s): YA; Thriller; Mystery; Horror

Goodreads // Netgalley // Amazon PRE-ORDER

In this genre-bending YA thriller, will Sarah Merson’s shiny new prep school change her life forever or bring it to a dark and sinister end?

When Sarah Merson receives the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the most elite prep school in the country-Sanctuary Bay Academy-it seems almost too good to be true. But, after years of bouncing from foster home to foster home, escaping to its tranquil setting, nestled deep in Swans Island, couldn’t sound more appealing.

Swiftly thrown into a world of privilege and secrets, Sarah quickly realizes finding herself noticed by class charmer, Nate, as well as her roommate’s dangerously attentive boyfriend, Ethan, are the least of her worries. When her roommate suddenly goes missing, she finds herself in a race against time, not only to find her, but to save herself and discover the dark truth behind Sanctuary Bay’s glossy reputation.

In this twisted YA thriller, Sanctuary Bay, Sarah’s new school may seem like an idyllic temple of learning, but as she unearths years of terrifying history and manipulation, she discovers this “school” is something much more sinister.​

About the Authors

Laura J. Burns has written more than thirty books for kids and teens, touching on topics from imaginary lake monsters to out-of-control Hollywood starlets. (Those two things have more in common than you’d think.)

With Melinda Metz, she has also written for the TV shows ROSWELL, 1-800-MISSING, and THE DEAD ZONE.

You can pre-order your copy now!

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If you are an author, publisher or agent and would like to be featured on Lipsyy Lost & Found, drop me message on lipsyylostnfound[at]gmail[dot]com

The Reckoning Stones by Laura DiSiverio

reckoningstones
Title: The Reckoning Stones
Author: Laura DiSilverio
Series:
Edition: Digital Review Copy, 360 pages
Publication Details: September 8th 2015 by Midnight Ink
Genre(s): Thriller; Mystery
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads // Purchase

After accusing the pastor of her close-knit religious community of molesting her, fourteen-year-old Mercy Asher is branded a liar and publicly humiliated. She runs away on the night someone beats the pastor into a coma and kills his wife.

Two decades later, Mercy has become Iris Dashwood, an emotionally troubled but brilliant jeweler. She thinks she’s in control of her life until news of Pastor Matt’s miraculous awakening broadsides her and leaves her unable to design. Iris returns to Lone Pine, Colorado, determined to confront her past to restore her creativity.

Iris reconnects with her mother, best friend, and boyfriend who harbor secrets she must unearth to find a killer. In the final reckoning, the truth may cost more than she anticipates. Will it bring redemption…or devastation?

Review

The Reckoning Stones is a tightly woven, compelling mystery set in a tiny community in Colorado. But Lone Pine isn’t your average community. It’s inhabitants are all deeply religious and must live within certain rules and strict codes of conduct.

Iris, hasn’t been back to Lone Pine for twenty years, but she can’t put it off any longer, she has to face the very thing she ran away from, she has to free herself of her past.

Initially, I wasn’t sure about this book at all. I was intrigued by the synopsis but the first few pages really failed to pull me in. However, something finally kicked in a few chapters later and I was hooked.

I’m not religious in the slightest, and this book certainly made me glad of that; it doesn’t exactly paint a good picture of people of faith (albeit extreme faith). Lone Pine is much more than a community, it’s more like a cult which lives by, and governs its own rules, and that’s what I found really interesting about it (I’m strangely obsessed with cults btw).

I was with Iris the whole way through. I felt so sickened by what had happened to her all those years ago, and how the community still ostracised her. I liked that she was a complex character who was so strong in some ways, and so vulnerable in others.

Overall, I thought The Reckoning Stones was a great mystery, and one that I became completely engrossed in. It’s about facing your demons, overcoming your past and getting what you deserve, no matter how long it may take.

unicorn rating 4

This Week in Books 01.07.2015

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Welcome to my weekly post, where I sum-up what I’ve been up to in bookland the past week.

It’s July…holy crap!

Another short version of TWIB this week, guys, because I’ve been super busy and haven’t added anything new to the shelves or the wishlist, which is good and bad all at the same time!

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Now: The Ring of Morgana (The Children of Camelot #1) ~ Donna Hosie

I’m really loving this, I just haven’t had time to read it as much as I’d like!

I also started a new lunch-time read – Kiss Kiss by Roald Dahl, which is a selection of his short stories for adults. I’m on the fence thus far.

Then: The Bones of You ~ Debbie Howells

Loved it! It was released yesterday, and my review is here.

Next: ???

I know I keep saying this, but probably Horns by Joe Hill, and then I’m going to concentrate on my back-log of review requests for two months. I really need to clear them out, sorry, Lovely Authors!

So, that’s my (mini) week in books, now how about yours?

If you still do a similar WWW post (or just want to join in, leave your link/answers in the comments, OR why not tweet using #TWIB, and I’ll do my best to come and visit!

The Bones of You by Debbie Howells

bonesofyou
Title: The Bones of You
Author: Debbie Howells
Series: N/A
Edition: Digital ARC, 320 pages
Publication Details: June 30th 2015 by Kensington
Genre(s): Thriller; Mystery
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free, advanced copy in exchange for an HONEST review!

Goodreads // Pre-order/Purchase

When Kate receives a phone call with news that Rosie Anderson is missing, she’s stunned and disturbed. Rosie is eighteen, the same age as Kate’s daughter, and a beautiful, quiet, and kind young woman. Though the locals are optimistic—girls like Rosie don’t get into real trouble—Kate’s sense of foreboding is confirmed when Rosie is found fatally beaten and stabbed.

Who would kill the perfect daughter, from the perfect family? Yet the more Kate entwines herself with the Andersons—graceful mother Jo, renowned journalist father Neal, watchful younger sister Delphine—the more she is convinced that not everything is as it seems. Anonymous notes arrive, urging Kate to unravel the tangled threads of Rosie’s life and death, though she has no idea where they will lead.

Weaving flashbacks from Rosie’s perspective into a tautly plotted narrative, The Bones of You is a gripping, haunting novel of sacrifices and lies, desperation and love.

Review

I was totally hooked on The Bones of You from page one. Kate is a down-to-earth woman (literally – she’s a gardener), wife, and mother who is shocked and saddened at the disappearance of the girl next door, Rosie.

Rosie is the same age as Kate’s daughter, and although they were not friends, quiet, little Rosie would often visit Kate and help her look after her horses. It’s only when she disappears that Kate realises that Rosie had kept it a secret about visiting Kate, and all of a sudden, Kate is involved in the chaos that is a missing teenager.

It’s not long until Rosie’s body is found, in the exact place where Kate and her horse got spooked just days before and from there things just get weirder and weirder and the perfect family become much less perfect, page by page.

There were a lot of things that shouldn’t have worked in this book: The switching of narrators, the flashbacks and fluctuating timeline and the ghost of Rosie telling her side of the story from both before and after her death, but I thought it really did work.

The pace was fast, and I was dying to know (not really, don’t kill me) who had killed Rosie even though at times it seemed obvious. I also found it really easy to read and follow despite all the previously mentioned things which usually prevent that from happening where I’m concerned.

The Bones of You is a dark, interesting mystery turned psychological thriller, which ticked lots of boxes for me.

unicorn rating 4