Archive for the ‘Bantam Press’ Category

Review: Don’t Stand So Close – Luana Lewis – Plus a Giveaway!

Don't Stand So Close by Luana Lewis

Title: Don’t Stand So Close
Author: Luana Lewis
Publication date: 13 February 2014
Publisher: Bantam Press (Transworld)
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9780593072301
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Psychological thriller / Suspense
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository

In a nutshell

What would you do if a young girl knocked on your door and asked for your help? If it was snowing and she was freezing cold, but you were afraid and alone? What would you do if you let her in, but couldn’t make her leave?

What if she told you terrible lies about someone you love, but the truth was even worse?

Stella has been cocooned in her home for three years. Severely agoraphobic, she knows she is safe in the stark, isolated house she shares with her husband, Max. The traumatic memories of her final case as a psychologist are that much easier to keep at a distance, too.

But the night that Blue arrives on her doorstep with her frightened eyes and sad stories, Stella’s carefully controlled world begins to unravel around her…

My thoughts

I have a soft spot for psychological thrillers so I fell in love with Luana Lewis’s story the minute I read the synopsis. I had very high hopes for Don’t Stand So Close and luckily, it didn’t let me down. I loved it from start to finish and I’m not exaggerating when I say I read the first hundred pages in one sitting.

One of the reasons why it’s so difficult to put it down is that you have no idea who’s lying, who’s manipulating who and who the (real) victims are. Blue turns up at Stella’s house with an innocent enough story but once she’s inside, it turns out things are more complicated than they seem. Both of them are acting strange. Stella has been cocooned inside her home with symptoms of agoraphobia and anxiety, and been on heavy medication for years so she’s clearly not the most reliable character you’ll ever find. Blue says she knows Stella’s husband but she keeps changing her story all the time. You have no idea what’s going on and you want to find out who’s telling the truth so desperately that by the time you manage to put the book down for a few minutes, it’s midnight and you realize you forgot to have dinner. And lunch. It’s very addictive!

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Review: Like This, For Ever – S.J. Bolton

Like This, For Ever – S.J. Bolton

Title: Like This, For Ever (Lacey Flint #3)
Author: S.J. Bolton
Publication date: 11 April 2013
Publisher: Bantam Press (Transworld Publishers)
Format: Ebook
ASIN: 9780593064153
Length: 400 pages
Genre: Thriller
Age group: Adult
Source: Netgalley
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | Amazon US | The Book Depository

Synopsis

Bright red. Like rose petals. Or rubies. Or balloons. Little red droplets.

Barney knows the killer will strike again soon. The victim will be another boy, just like him. He will drain the body of blood, and leave it on a Thames beach. There will be no clues for detectives Dana Tulloch and Mark Joesbury to find. There will be no warning about who will be next. There will be no good reason for Lacey Flint to become involved … And no chance that she can stay away.

My thoughts

After reading and absolutely enjoying three (or four, if you count If Snow Hadn’t Fallen, a Lacey Flint short story) books by S.J. Bolton, I think it’s safe to say that no matter what she comes up with, I’m going to end up loving it. Needless to say, Like This, For Ever was a great read full of twists and turns, which kept me guessing right until the end.

Perhaps what I enjoyed the most about this book – apart from the obvious, i.e. trying to figure out what on earth is going on and who the murderer is – is the narration. Unlike the previous books in the series, most chapters in Like This, For Ever are narrated by an eleven-year-old boy (who happens to be Lacey’s neighbour) called Barney. Telling the story from a kid’s point of view can be quite tricky but Bolton pulls it off and both Barney’s and the adult characters’ narratives sound totally believable. (I’ve read a few books in which kids of Barney’s age sounded like adults and way too mature for their age, which eventually ruined the whole story for me – Like This, For Ever is definitely not like this.)

Is it the best book of the series, though? No, for me it wasn’t. What I was missing from this story is the creepiness and the ability to scare the living daylight out of you from the very first page, something which the first two books in the series were quite heavily relying on, something in which the author is brilliant at, and something which, despite the fact that they gave me a few sleepless nights, I absolutely loved. I’ve seriously never been as freaked out as when I was reading the previous two books. Like This, For Ever just didn’t have this effect on me for some reason. It might be down to the fact that a) I found this story a bit more predictable than the previous ones. While the first two books had me at a loss and I hadn’t the faintest idea who was guilty and who was innocent, I managed to recognise some of the red herrings quite soon in this one. Mind you, I still had no idea who the killer would be and it did surprise me when I read the last chapter – I would have never guessed. But I figured out who some of the innocent ones were (no matter how shifty their behaviour was) surprisingly fast. Or b) this book is centred around children and teenage boys, which obviously makes the whole issue a lot trickier (after all, you can’t have the same amount of brutality in a book about Jack the Ripper – one of the most notorious serial killers of all time – and one in which young boys are being murdered, unless you want to piss everyone off), I don’t know. All I know is that while I enjoyed the investigation part, loved Lacey and Mark’s subplot and once again, the killer’s identity took me by surprise, it just wasn’t haunting enough to keep me up till the crack of dawn as the previous books did.

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Review: Dead Scared – S.J. Bolton

Cover of Dead Scared by S.J. Bolton

Title: Dead Scared (Lacey Flint #2)
Author: S.J. Bolton
Publication date: April 26, 2012
Publisher: Bantam Press (Transworld Publishers)
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9780593064153
Length: 378 pages
Genre: Thriller
Age group: Adult
Source: Purchased
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon | Awesome Books | The Book Depository

Synopsis

When a Cambridge student dramatically attempts to take her own life, DI Mark Joesbury realizes that the university has developed an unhealthy record of young people committing suicide in extraordinary ways. Despite huge personal misgivings, Joesbury sends young policewoman DC Lacey Flint to Cambridge with a brief to work undercover, posing as a vulnerable, depression-prone student.

Psychiatrist Evi Oliver is the only person in Cambridge who knows who Lacey really is – or so they both hope. But as the two women dig deeper into the darker side of university life, they discover a terrifying trend… And when Lacey starts experiencing the same disturbing nightmares reported by the dead girls, she knows that she is next.

My thoughts

Christ, why is it that every time I try to write about S.J. Bolton’s books I’m at a loss for words (and then end up writing a whole novella)? There are so many things I’d love to say, yet, I don’t want to give anything, not even a tiny hint, away in the hope that you’ll pick them up and read them. Because what I can’t possibly emphasize more is that they are brilliant, unputdownable and are guaranteed to chill you to the bone.

Having read and thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the series and an accompanying e-book short story, I couldn’t wait to pick up Dead Scared and find out how Lacey Flint’s story continues. While I’m normally quite wary of sequels and am often disappointed by them after a brilliant first book, this one was just as twisted, haunting and well-written as Now You See Me and If Snow Hadn’t Fallen were and completely lived up to my expectations.

A good story, for me, is made up of three things. Firstly, and most importantly, I have to feel safe in the knowledge that I’m in the hands of a great writer. In these cases, the writing is so effortless and so engaging that I know for certain that nothing can and will go wrong, that it will all be neatly wrapped up in the end, it won’t leave me feeling puzzled or wanting more. A good book also needs to leave a lasting impression. These are the books that, once I finish them, I don’t feel like reading anything for a couple of days or even a week, purely because the characters are still with me long after I finished the last chapter and I’m still reliving what I’ve been reading in the past couple of days.  Thirdly, an exceptionally good book for me is so intriguing, so full of twists and turns that it makes me want to keep on reading despite the fact that it’s half past three in the morning and I have to get up in just a few hours. Dead Scared ticks all these boxes. If there’s an author who knows how to keep you reading long after your bedtime and – sorry for putting it like this – scare you shitless with such ease and without excessive violence, it’s definitely S.J. Bolton. And I mean this in the best possible way.

One of the things I enjoyed the most about this particular book (and the whole series, for that matter) is the fact that it keeps you on the edge from start to finish. There are no dull moments in the story, no unnecessary facts or background information that is unnecessary for solving the mystery. There are a great deal of red herrings to make sure that you’re taken by surprise when the case is solved and the killers’/killers’ identity is revealed and an even greater amount of foreshadowing which makes it an unputdownable white-knuckle ride. And a terrifying one at that. Despite the fact that many people claim its opposite, it’s definitely not a character-driven book, if you ask me. The appeal of this novel lies not with its intricate background stories and complex characters but its twisty, edgy, unpredictable plot. Mind you, it doesn’t mean the characters are shallow or one dimensional. Quite the opposite, actually. They still remain absolutely believable, common, everyday people we can all relate to – which makes the story itself feel so much more creepier and much more real. Another thing I’ve already mentioned in my review of the first book and something I particularly like about Bolton’s books is the fact that you can feel how much research went into writing these stories which, again, makes them a lot more real and frightening. While we had detailed descriptions of the Jack the Ripper myth and all his/her victims in Now You See Me, the author gives a thoroughly detailed account of how these suicides (or murders?) are committed in Dead Scared. And this is where I’m going to be very vague because revealing how people are killing themselves (or are being killed) would mean revealing the whole mystery behind the book, but let’s just say all these details and the fact that it’s all so well-researched makes it so much harder for us to separate fiction from reality.

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Review: Birdman – Mo Hayder

Cover of Birdman by Mo Hayder

Title: Birdman (Jack Caffery #1)
Author: Mo Hayder
Publication date: November 8, 2008
Publisher: Bantam (Transworld Publishers)
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-553-82046-1
Length: 397 pages
Genre: Thriller
Age group: Adult
Source: Purchased
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon | Awesome Books | The Book Depository

Synopsis

Greenwich, south-east London. Detective Inspector Jack Caffery – young, driven, unshockable – is called to one of the most gruesome crime scenes he has ever seen. Five young women have been ritualistically murdered and dumped on wasteland near the Dome. Subsequent post-mortems reveal a singular, horrific signature linking the victims.

Soon Caffery realises that he is on the trail of that most dangerous offender: a serial killer. Beset by animosity within the police force, haunted by the memory of a very personal death long ago, Caffery employs every weapon forensic science can offer to hunt him down. Because he knows that it is only a matter of time before this sadistic killer strikes again…

My thoughts

I should probably start this review with a warning and say that this book is not for the faint-hearted. I read quite a lot of crime fiction so I like to think I’ve had some time to get used to these kind of things and I’m pretty unshockable but some of Hayder’s descriptions of mutilated victims still made me shudder. This is not a book you should read at night or when you’re on your own either. Having said that, I still liked it. I should probably add that this is definitely not among the best handful of crime novels I’ve read and it didn’t exactly live up to my expectations but I will no doubt read the rest of the series. And I’ll tell you why.

So, the reason why I think this book didn’t really work for me or live up to my initial expectations is the fact that it didn’t keep me guessing. I like to read thrillers and/or mysteries where it’s all down to the detective – and the reader, of course – to figure out what happened, what type of a person the killer was and what motivation he had and piece all the clues together. In the case of Birdman, however, some of these are given. Beside the ongoing investigation, there are little bits of flashback episodes told from the killer’s perspective included in the book and we get a sense of what type of a guy he must be. Therefore, based on some of his stories from his childhood and his teens, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the police is looking for a sadistic sexual killer. The police may not be aware of that yet but we readers do know and it ruined it a bit for me. Another thing I didn’t particularly like is that most of the victims turn up all at once. There is a logical explanation for this in the story, of course, but this meant that it was not (or if it was, it didn’t work for me) the race-against-the-clock sort of thriller I was expecting, more of a ‘let’s figure out who dumped these five bodies here and why’ thing.

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Review: Now You See Me – S.J. Bolton

Cover of Now You See Me by S.J. Bolton

Title: Now You See Me (Lacey Flint #1)
Author: S.J. Bolton
Publication date: June 13, 2011
Publisher: Bantam Press (Transworld Publishers)
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9780593064139
Length: 395 pages
Genre: Thriller
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

Synopsis

Despite her life-long fascination with Jack the Ripper, young detective constable Lacey Flint has never worked a murder case or seen a corpse up close. Until now…

As she arrives at her car one evening, Lacey is horrified to find a woman slumped over the door. She has been brutally stabbed, and dies in Lacey’s arms. Thrown headlong into her first murder hunt, Lacey will stop at nothing to find this savage killer. But her big case will also be the start of a very personal nightmare.

When Lacey receives a familiar letter, written in blood, pre-fixed Dear Boss, and hand delivered, it is clear that a Ripper copycat is at large. And one who is fixated on Lacey herself. Can this inexperienced detective outwit a killer whose infamous role model has never been found?

My thoughts

What made me interested in Now You See Me is, as morbid as it may sound, a fascination with serial killers on both the main character’s and my part. Since I’ve always been fascinated by these people myself, I was curious to see how Bolton would incorporate the Ripper myth into her story and how it would work in a twenty-first century novel.

The book certainly has a compelling set-up. The original Jack the Ripper, a sadistic serial killer known for his brutality and keeping London’s population in complete terror for several years, has never been found. So the idea of someone attempting to do the same (and get away with it) in an age where CCTV cameras are everywhere and the police force is a lot more resourceful than it was back in the nineteenth century made me prick up my ears. How does a criminal plan to get away with at least five murders when a) the police know every tiny detail about the original murders and probably have an idea what to look for in a similar case or what to expect from a copycat killer and b) modern technology and forensics make the police’s work considerably faster and easier, and the killers’ a lot more difficult. I had a feeling it was going to be a gripping read but I wasn’t fully prepared for what was yet to come. Saying that I enjoyed reading this book would be the understatement of the year. It’s been almost two weeks since I finished Now You See Me but thinking about it still sends shivers down my spine. I was  reading it for three days in a row and I literally couldn’t put it down.

I seriously can’t tell you one thing that’s missing from the book or anything I would have liked to be done differently. I loved this book for so many different reasons and while I know this review is going to be terribly long if I carry on like this, I’d like to highlight some of the things that stood out for me the most.

The first thing I need to emphasize here is that the book is extremely well researched and you can see how much work went into just looking up facts and theories about Jack the Ripper. One of the things I enjoyed the most is perhaps how much information there is about the original Whitechapel murders – through Lacey’s monologues Bolton gives us a very detailed picture of Jack himself (or herself, according to some theories) and all five of his victims, down to the tiniest detail.  And by doing so, not only did the author make the story more gripping but she made me want to find out even more about the Ripper and read some of these theories that are mentioned in the book (one of them being that Jack might have, in fact, been a woman), and do some research myself. I’ve never tried reading any true crime before but thanks to S.J. Bolton, now I will.

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Review: I’ve Got Your Number – Sophie Kinsella

Cover of I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

Title: I’ve Got Your Number
Author: Sophie Kinsella
Publication date: February 14, 2012
Publisher: Bantam Press (Transworld Publishers)
Format: Ebook
ISBN: 9780385342063
Length: 448 pages
Genre: Chick lit / Romance
Age group: Adult
Source: Netgalley
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

I’ve lost it. The only thing in the world I wasn’t supposed to lose. My engagement ring. It’s been in Magnus’s family for three generations. And now, the very same day his parents are coming, I’ve lost it. The very same day. Do not hyperventilate Poppy. Stay positive!!

Poppy Wyatt has never felt luckier. She is about to marry the ideal man, Magnus Tavish, but in one afternoon her ‘happy ever after’ begins to fall apart. Not only has she lost her engagement ring but in the panic that followed, she has now lost her phone. As she paces shakily round the hotel foyer she spots an abandoned phone in a bin. Finders keepers! Now she can leave a number for the hotel to contact her when they find her ring. Perfect! Well, perfect except the phone’s owner, businessman Sam Roxton doesn’t agree. He wants his phone back and doesn’t appreciate Poppy reading all his messages and wading into his personal life.

What ensues is a hilarious and unpredictable turn of events as Poppy and Sam increasingly upend each other’s lives through emails and text messages. As Poppy juggles wedding preparations, mysterious phone calls and hiding her left hand from Magnus and his parents… she soon realises that she is in for the biggest surprise of her life.

I had no doubts about whether I would like this book or not since Kinsella has been one of my favourite authors for many years, but she managed to WOW me once again. You think you’ve seen it all before? Well, brace yourself – you’re in for another treat!

There’s literally nothing Sophie Kinsella cannot do. I picked up I’ve Got Your Number the other night, thinking I’d read a few pages before going to bed. Three hours and 130 pages later I was still clutching my Kindle, not wanting to let go. I swear I say this every time I finish one of her books but this has to be my favourite novel of hers so far. Well, maybe it’s a tie between this one and Twenties Girl, I don’t know. All I know is, it’s unputdownable.

I’m trying not to sound like an obsessed fangirl here (and failing miserably) but it really is that good. There’s a bit of a similarity between her books in terms of characters and plot but do you know what? I don’t even care. Poppy is an entertaining protagonist who, along with Sam, makes this book as good as it is. If you’ve read Kinsella’s novels before then you know what to expect: a laugh-out-loud plot, witty and funny characters, laughter, and some tears along the way. There’s only a few authors who manage to make me smile and cry at the same time and Kinsella is one of them.

Character-wise, I would say Poppy and Sam were my two favourites. Poppy is a bit clumsy, someone who tends to feel inferior to others and rarely dares to stand up for herself and confront other people, even if she’s right. I loved how much she changed by the end of the novel. Sam is your typical businessman who has confidence, power, but at the same time, some of his comments just made me laugh out loud – and as it turns out, there’s a more vulnerable side to him as well.

As for the plot, all I’m going to say is that it’s brilliant. It’s full of twists and turns and I almost never say this but I wouldn’t mind if there was a sequel to this book. You know that feeling when you find a really good book and by the time you finish it, it’s as if you had to say goodbye to your best friends? That’s how I feel about Poppy and Sam, and Kinsella’s characters in general. I just didn’t want the story to end.

I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who’s looking for an entertaining read or a swoon-worthy romance – I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. It’s another masterpiece from the ‘Queen of Chick Lit’ – simply perfect. I just can’t praise this enough. Do pick it up and you’ll see I’m right. :)

Rating:
*Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for sending me a review copy of this book*