Atlas Alone (Planetfall #4) by Emma Newman

Atlas Alone Cover

Six months after she left Earth, Dee is struggling to manage her rage toward the people who ordered the nuclear strike that destroyed the world. She’s trying to find those responsible and to understand why the ship is keeping everyone divided into small groups, but she’s not getting very far alone.

A dedicated gamer, she throws herself into mersives to escape and is approached by a designer who asks her to play test his new game. It isn’t like any game she’s played before. Then a character she kills in the climax of the game turns out to bear a striking resemblance to a man who dies suddenly in the real world at exactly the same time. A man she discovers was one of those responsible for the death of millions on Earth.

Disturbed, but thinking it must be a coincidence, Dee pulls back from gaming and continues the hunt for information. But when she finds out the true plans for the future colony, she realizes that to save what is left of humanity, she may have to do something that risks losing her own.

My Thoughts

4 / 5 stars

Atlas Alone is a dark and kinda twisted story with a sting in the tail and an endlessly debatable ending.

Dee is an independent person with a lot of trauma from her past life. She is used to surviving on her own and struggles to connect or open up to people. She is one of the few witnesses of the life-changing event at the end of After Atlas and she feels helpless and lost. She is stuck on a ship with people she doesn’t know and power structures that she doesn’t understand and is finding it very difficult to cope with.

When a mysterious person invades her VR space and offers her the opportunity to take revenge she finds herself forced to face up to the trauma of her past at the same time as her morals and her personality are being tested.

I’m loving Emma Newman’s Planetfall series. I like how each book is its own story, with connections to the others but its own characters and its own story to tell. Atlas Alone follows straight on from the ending of After Atlas but because it’s about a different character it feels like its own, separate story. The setting is still rich in AI and lovely tech details but this one goes much more into the online immersive gaming and social world. It gives this book much more of a cyberpunk feel than the other books in the series.

I had fun trying to guess the identity of Dee’s helper. I did guess it in the end but honestly not that much sooner than Dee did herself and it was an enjoyable bit of mystery mixed in with the sci-fi. I always love a good mystery!

The story is full of suspense and excitement and has a lot of depth to it. There are a lot of parallels in the book with modern slavery, the issues around workers rights and the fears about AI and the way technology is going. Dee finds herself questioning her morals and how far she will go for revenge and to stop the new world society from mistreating their workers. I feel like this would be a good one for a book club discussion! It gets very dark along the way and there are a lot of moral questions.

I loved and hated the ending at the same time. Loved because it worked so well and like I mentioned it raised a lot of moral issues. Hated because I generally like a good happy ending with issues resolved and this was the exact opposite. I got very frustrated with Dee and some of the choices she made, but it all fit the story so I can’t complain too much. You don’t always need a main character that you admire to enjoy or appreciate the story.

Another good entry in the Planetfall series, I’m hoping that the story continues!

I received a free copy in return for an honest review.

Atlas Alone
Planetfall
Emma Newman
Sci-Fi
April 16th 2019
Kindle
320

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister the Serial Killer Cover

My Sister, the Serial Killer is a blackly comic novel about how blood is thicker – and more difficult to get out of the carpet – than water.

When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach.

This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first.

Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other.

My Thoughts

My Sister, the Serial KillerMy Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this when I read it, but I had to wait for it to get round the rest of the book club before I could review it and now I find that I didn’t remember much of it at all. I admit I had to wait for the other book club members to remind me what had happened before I could write this review!

I do remember that I found the characters frustrating. Korede has serious issues with her sister Ayoola, she has a lot of jealousy and paints her sister as a beautiful woman who has everyone wrapped around her little finger, getting everything she wants. Korede herself is, in her own words, plain and awkward and lost in her Ayoola’s shadow.

As the story progresses Ayoola steals the heart of the man that Korede is in love with. Korede fears for his life but can’t do anything to help him without causing harm or jail time to her sister.

None of the characters are very likeable but their back story is revealed slowly throughout the book and that gives insight into why they are the way they are. I don’t actually mind characters being unpleasant and these two certainly have reason to be the way that they are.

It starts out as a dark story and parts of it are a little disturbing but it doesn’t really stay that way. It could have been much darker and pushed the story more to an extreme. I didn’t find that there was much in the way of humour in it either. It’s well written (especially for a debut) and very readable, I just wanted a bit more from the story.

An enjoyable, dark and a little disturbing short read, well written, but ultimately not very memorable – if I’m being honest I can’t actually remember the ending.

My Sister, the Serial Killer
Oyinkan Braithwaite
Fiction
November 20th 2018
Hardback
226

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

The Confessions of Franie Langton Cover

They say I must be put to death for what happened to Madame, and they want me to confess. But how can I confess what I don’t believe I’ve done?

1826, and all of London is in a frenzy. Crowds gather at the gates of the Old Bailey to watch as Frannie Langton, maid to Mr and Mrs Benham, goes on trial for their murder. The testimonies against her are damning – slave, whore, seductress. And they may be the truth. But they are not the whole truth.

For the first time Frannie must tell her story. It begins with a girl learning to read on a plantation in Jamaica, and it ends in a grand house in London, where a beautiful woman waits to be freed.

But through her fevered confessions, one burning question haunts Frannie Langton: could she have murdered the only person she ever loved?

My Thoughts

The Confessions of Frannie LangtonThe Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It took me ages to get through this book because I had to keep taking breaks and reading something else. The pace is very, very slow moving and it tackles some heavy issues but it’s not the most interesting of storylines. So I struggled to read it, I had to keep taking breaks to read something else and then come back and read a bit more.

The story only picked up at the end when it turns to the actual trial but then that is just rushed through in a couple of chapters. Though since the trial itself only lasts a day and a half – a sham trial, the minds of the judge and jurors made up before they enter the room – it’s actually a realistic representation. If there had been more of the events of that night or the things Frannie did when helping Langton with his experiments revealed at points through the book it might have added a bit more interest and life to the story. Most of it focuses on her obsession with Marguerite – something that never felt believable to me.

What I like most about this book is that Frannie is angry. She’s not a kind-hearted, self-sacrificing good girl. She’s angry at the way she’s treated and she doesn’t win people over with the kindness of her heart and you can believe it is quite possible she might actually have murdered her master and mistress.

I also liked that it goes in-depth into the overt sexism and racism prevalent at the time and the viewpoint from the slave feels realistic. I can feel Frannie’s frustration at her situation coming off her in waves. An intelligent woman who would be happy with just a bit of free time to read a book every now and again, she is treated as a savage and a beast, as though she is not human, by everyone around her.

This book has a lot to say and it’s worth reading for its viewpoint on race and slavery alone. I just found it too slow to hold my interest for long periods of reading and it’s also a bit dreary and very depressing.

I received a free copy in return for an honest review.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton
Sara Collins
Fiction
April 4th 2019
Kindle
384

The Night Sessions by Ken MacLeod

The Night Sessions Cover

The first Enlightenment separated church from state – now the second Enlightenment has separated religion from politics. In this enlightened age there’s no persecution. But the millions who still believe and worship are a marginal and mistrusted minority – and now someone is killing them.

My Review of The Night Sessions

The Night SessionsThe Night Sessions by Ken MacLeod
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A detective story set in Scotland in the near future where religion has been marginalised and robots have started to become self-aware. A priest is murdered and Detective Inspector Adam Ferguson has to solve the crime before the killer strikes again.

I enjoyed this a lot, it has a lot of my favourite things in – a near future setting, self-aware robots and a murder mystery. I loved the setting of a near future Edinburgh. There was a lot of thought put into the tech and the politics and how everything worked and it built a very realistic, familiar but futuristic world.

The mystery and the big reveal weren’t all that amazing but it’s quite dark and it had enough surprises and twists to keep it interesting. All the fun was really in the investigation and all the future tech they were using.

Very readable, The Night Sessions is gritty and dark and it had me hooked. I couldn’t put it down!

The Night Sessions
Ken MacLeod
Sci-Fi
August 7th 2008
324

Masked by Moonlight (By Moonlight #1) by Nancy Gideon

Masked by Moonlight Cover

IN THIS STUNNING FIRST BOOK FROM NANCY GIDEON’S SIZZLING NEW SERIES, A TENACIOUS COP AND HER SHAPE-SHIFTING ENEMY SACRIFICE EVERYTHING FOR FORBIDDEN DESIRE. ALL SHE WANTS IS REVENGE.

New Orleans homicide detective Charlotte Caissie is dedicated to bringing down the crime boss responsible for her father’s murder. Using Jimmy Legere’s mysterious and irresistible right-hand man is a dangerous gamble, and not only due to his reputation as more monster than man. Because her feelings for Max Savoie are complicated.

THEN HE RISKS HIS LIFE TO SAVE HERS. Rescued from the swamps as a child, Max exists silently in Legere’s shadow, heeding only his voice—until Charlotte Caissie awakens his emotions and tests his loyalties. Stepping outside his cautious rules threatens more than just his heart. He could expose his darkest secret.

NOW THEY’RE BOTH IN OVER THEIR HEADS. Testing boundaries they weren’t meant to cross means facing the truth about who and what they are—and what they need from each other. If Max is the murderer she seeks, Charlotte could be his next victim. She can’t afford to trust any man. Good thing Max isn’t one.

My Review of Masked by Moonlight

Masked by Moonlight (Moonlight, #1)Masked by Moonlight by Nancy Gideon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Way more of a romance than an urban fantasy.

Charlotte is a detective in New Orleans. A rubbish one but that’s ok because the murder mystery doesn’t amount to much anyway. Max is the bodyguard of the underworld crime king and he has been in love with Charlotte for years. Cue much angst and drama.

The setting of New Orleans is massively underused. I understand that New Orleans is an unusual city with a distinctive style and atmosphere but this could have been set anywhere. The story outside of Charlotte and Max’s relationship starts with potential but gets lost in all the romance drama.

There isn’t one scene that Charlotte and Max don’t end up together in, talking and flirting. Normally with Urban Fantasy, I get annoyed because the love interests spend so little time together so you’d think I should have liked this. But, I don’t know why, it just got too much, even for me. I think it was done at the expense of building Charlotte’s world and so it all feels very limited.

Max is a sweetheart and my heart breaks for him the way he’s head over heels and just wants to be with Charlotte. For a character that’s supposed to be a hardened killer, he seems like just a big softie. He carries the whole book and I read it really just for him.

Charlotte is independent and fun to read but also she’s kinda mean and closed off. She has her reasons but Max is such a sympathetic character and it’s easy to forget he’s a killer so it makes it hard to like Charlotte when she is so cruel to him.

The writing is average, there are some dodgy bits here and there but it’s not offputting and it’s a fun and easy read. There are 10 books in the series though so hopefully it will improve as it goes on!

I intend to read the next one, all the setup has been done so I’m hoping for a bit of a more in-depth story. If not I’ll be quite happy with just reading another book with a lot of Max in it!

Masked by Moonlight is a fun, quick Urban Fantasy romance read with a likeable and very sweet love interest!

Terrible cover though.

Masked by Moonlight
By Moonlight
Nancy Gideon
Urban Fantasy
May 25th 2010
Kindle
375

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra (Baby Ganesh Agency Investigation #1) by Vaseem Khan

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra cover

On the day he retires, Inspector Ashwin Chopra inherits two unexpected mysteries.

The first is the case of a drowned boy, whose suspicious death no one seems to want solved. And the second is a baby elephant. As his search for clues takes him across the teeming city of Mumbai, from its grand high rises to its sprawling slums and deep into its murky underworld, Chopra begins to suspect that there may be a great deal more to both his last case and his new ward than he thought. And he soon learns that when the going gets tough, a determined elephant may be exactly what an honest man needs.

My Review of The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector ChopraThe Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A lighthearted and warm story of elephants, mystery and murder, set in the busy Indian city of Mumbai.

Inspector Ashwin Chopra is a man of integrity with a strong sense of morals and honesty. He has to take early retirement because of heart problems but he can’t let his last case as a police officer drop. A boy was drowned and everyone seems to want to accept that it was suicide. Upset that the case is not being treated properly, Chopra starts his own investigation.

To make things more complicated, his uncle has bequeathed him a baby elephant to care for! Not an easy task when Chopra lives in a flat in the middle of Mumbai.

Chopra loves the city he lives in, that much is obvious. He treats us to an exploration of Mumbai, a bustling, lively city that is expanding fast. But Chopra is an honest man, so we also see the darker side of Mumbai, the slums, the criminals and the corruption. The busy, noisy, overcrowded feel didn’t quite come alive for me but it was a decent effort to create the atmosphere.

I like Chopra but my favourite character is by far the elephant, Ganesh. He had the funniest scenes in the book, the part where Chopra’s wife Poppy dresses him up as an elephant god had me laughing!

This is at heart a detective novel, and I fully enjoyed the mystery and Chopra’s investigation. There were a couple of ‘too easy’ or ‘too coincidental’ moments that let it down near the end but he did do a fair bit of footwork and detecting to solve the case.

I didn’t like the female characters in the book. There was the stereotypical harridan mother in law and Chopra’s wife Poppy who was described as confident and taking no nonsense but was actually written as a typical dependent wife. I know the culture in India is different to where I live but I still find it hard to read when the author has the protagonist’s wife tell us, “A woman abandoned by her husband had no value in India. She would become invisible, a ghost that no one wished to associate with.” and there is no criticism, it’s just accepted as normal and ok.

The drama between Chopra and Poppy felt a bit fake, I don’t think it was necessary. They’ve always been close and told each other everything yet suddenly they stop communicating and start keeping secrets? It’s like it was just added in to create a bit of tension for Chopra. I ended up skim reading the bits with Poppy in.

This is one for someone that enjoys cosy mysteries. It’s lighthearted and fun and the authors love for the city of Mumbai shines through. I didn’t like the female characters but they’re not a big part of the story and I could just skim over those bits.

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra
Baby Ganesh Agency Investigation
Vaseem Khan
Mystery
September 15th 2015
Kindle
320

Dead Man’s Chest (Phryne Fisher #18) by Kerry Greenwood

Dead Mans Chest Cover

The gloriously unflappable Miss Phryne Fisher returns in this deadly treasure hunt.

Travelling at high speed in her beloved Hispano-Suiza accompanied by her maid and trusted companion Dot, her two adoptive daughters Jane and Ruth, and their dog Molly, The Hon Miss Phryne Fisher is off to Queenscliff. She’d promised everyone a nice holiday by the sea with absolutely no murders, but when they arrive at their rented accommodation that doesn’t seem likely at all.

An empty house, a gang of teenage louts, a fisherboy saved, and the mystery of a missing butler and his wife seem to lead inexorably towards a hunt for buried treasure by the sea. But what information might the curious Surrealists be able to contribute? Phryne knows to what depths people will sink for greed but with a glass of champagne in one hand and a pearl-handled Beretta in the other, no-one is getting past her.

‘Missing housekeepers and secretive Satie-swaying, patchouli-soaked surealists are all part of the scene, plus, of course, a whiff of delicious murder.’ Australian Women’s Weekly

‘If you haven’t yet met the delectable Miss Phryne Fisher, it is certainly time that you did.’ Ballarat Courier

My Review of Dead Man’s Chest

Dead Man's Chest (Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries #18)Dead Man’s Chest by Kerry Greenwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Super easy to get into. From the first paragraph, I was drawn straight into Phryne Fisher’s world. The writing is wonderful and made the book feel more real to me than my actual life!

And all the food descriptions! Knowing what characters what like to eat makes them 10x more realistic to me. There are even about 3 recipes at the end of the book for some of the food they ate. And little gems like this made me smile:

“Dot supplied herself, Jane, Ruth and Tinker with cocoa and a few biscuits to guard against night starvation.”

I can relate to people that aren’t happy until they have planned when and what their next meal will be.

Descriptions of people are so well done I could imagine myself there in the book next to them.

“Madame Sélavy was tall, thin and haggard. Her face was bony, her nose beaky, her eyes as bright as pins. She was heavily made-up, white paint and red lips and kohl around the eyes. She wore a draped gown which Princess Eugenie might have considered overdecorated, dripping with black and gold bugle beads, embroideries, tassels and fringes to the utmost tolerance of woven cloth. She smelt strongly of patchouli. Rings burdened every finger, her neck was wrapped in pearl-studded chains and a band of brilliants encircled her throat. “

The main mystery was solved by an unlikely coincidence. I can forgive this because there was some decent investigating up to that point and Phryne did solve one of the sub-mysteries. That was enough to keep me happy so I’m not too bothered about the coincidence that was thrown in there.

There are a few loose ends that I can’t work out. I’m not entirely sure what the point of the treasure hunt was, or what the bit in the cave near the end was about.  And when the two men tried to abduct Phryne, who was watching from the neighbour’s house and why?

Everything else about the book I loved. I’ve read two in the series now and Phryne Fisher is already one of my favourite book characters. You’ve got to admire a woman that will quite happily abandon her clothes if it helps her escape the grasp of an attacker.

An absolute delight, this is a feel-good story that is perfect for a weekend of indulgent reading.

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review. 

Dead Man's Chest
Phryne Fisher
Kerry Greenwood
Mystery
January 1st 2010
Kindle
250

The Zig Zag Girl (Stephens & Mephisto Mystery, #1) by Elly Griffiths

The Zig Zag Girl Cover

Brighton, 1950.

When the body of a girl is found, cut into three, Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is reminded of a magic trick, the Zig Zag Girl.

The inventor of the trick, Max Mephisto, is an old friend of Edgar’s. They served together in the war as part of a shadowy unit called the Magic Men.

Max is still on the circuit, touring seaside towns in the company of ventriloquists, sword-swallowers and dancing girls. Changing times mean that variety is not what it once was, yet Max is reluctant to leave this world to help Edgar investigate. But when the dead girl turns out to be known to him, Max changes his mind.

Another death, another magic trick: Edgar and Max become convinced that the answer to the murders lies in their army days. When Edgar receives a letter warning of another ‘trick’, the Wolf Trap, he knows that they are all in danger…

My Review of The Zig Zag Girl

The Zig Zag Girl (Stephens & Mephisto Mystery, #1)The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A woman is cut into three and left in boxes in a train station. It’s a gruesome murder, and you might think it’s quite shocking, but in this book it seems to have very little impact.

The Zig Zag Girl is set in 1950’s Brighton, and while not quite a ‘cosy’ murder mystery it certainly comes close. The sense of danger or fear is never there, not in the first scenes of the murder, not when the detective has to look at the dead body, and not even near the end when he is coming close to catching the villain.

Edgar Stephens, the detective investigating the crime, doesn’t have much impact either. The magicians and showgirls around him don’t achieve much sparkle for it’s quite a glum book, but they at least have a sense of life. Ed doesn’t have a distinct personality beyond moping over his lost love, and his investigations are ineffectual.

Another big flaw for me is that I didn’t feel the 1950’s atmosphere was captured, it could easily have been set in the present day.

What it does well is to show us the life of a performing magician in the 1950’s. The sequins and showgirls and the magic tricks on stage mixed with the grime of backstage were interesting enough on their own to keep me involved to the end.

Overall though it didn’t live up to the promise of a thrilling read and it left me underwhelmed.

The Zig Zag Girl
Stephens & Mephisto Mystery
Elly Griffiths
Mystery
November 6th 2014
Paperback
325

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl Cover

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears.

Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favours with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge.

Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behaviour.

Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

My Review of Gone Girl

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I hated both of the main characters. Nick is just awful, he wants to always look like ‘the good guy’ and he cares nothing about the people he’s supposed to love, concerning himself only with how they make him feel.

We learn about Amy through her diary entries. Starting just as she meets Nick we see the relationship from her point of view, and it’s completely different to the relationship Nick describes.

Amy starts to get better towards the end, and by better I mean more interesting. I actually kind of admire her. Nick just gets more and more pathetic. I actually wanted him to go to jail, whether he killed his wife or not.

I don’t mind that the characters aren’t nice though, sometimes that makes a story more interesting and it works so well in Gone Girl. I liked the way the lies that both Nick and Amy have told are picked apart and the truth about the relationship and the events on their anniversary are slowly revealed.

As for the story, it’s ok, it’s nothing special but it’s interesting and twisty. The first half is full of tension and I devoured it, but the second half was a bit of a letdown. It ends well though if a bit far fetched.

The strength of the writing and storytelling save this book. Gillian Flynn creates such interesting and complex characters and her stories have layers and layers to them.

I recommend any of her books for your next thriller read.

Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn
Thriller
April 22nd 2014
Paperback
415

A Man of Shadows (John Nyquist #1) by Jeff Noon

A Man of Shadows Cover

The brilliant, mind-bending return to science fiction by one of its most acclaimed visionaries

Below the neon skies of Dayzone – where the lights never go out, and night has been banished – lowly private eye John Nyquist takes on a teenage runaway case. His quest takes him from Dayzone into the permanent dark of Nocturna.

As the vicious, seemingly invisible serial killer known only as Quicksilver haunts the streets, Nyquist starts to suspect that the runaway girl holds within her the key to the city’s fate. In the end, there’s only one place left to search: the shadow-choked zone known as Dusk.

A Man of Shadows (John Nyquist, #1)A Man of Shadows by Jeff Noon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read once that taking away watches and clocks from people and not allowing them to know the time will slowly drive them mad. After reading this book I can believe it.

It starts out as a hard-boiled detective story set in a world that feels like a futuristic version of the 1950’s. The city is split into three different zones, Nocturna that is eternal night, Dusk, a place of fog and monsters where it is always twilight and no-one dare go, and Dayzone, a world of bright neon lights where it never goes dark and the citizens are constantly switching between the hundreds of different timelines.

John Nyquist is hired to find the teenage daughter of one of the richest men in the city. But like any good detective story, nothing is what it seems.

I loved the first half, the atmosphere created and the characters and the sense of place are almost perfectly done. Towards the middle it starts to feel surreal, it’s like a bad dream where Nyquist is losing his sense of time and reality. I struggled with reading this, I’ve never enjoyed dream sequences and this was more confusing than most. It messed with my mind, and it made me feel a bit ill reading it!

It settles down towards the end though and it got a bit easier on my brain.

The writing is brilliant, and it’s full of plot twists that I didn’t predict. The atmosphere and the world building is just right, I could see Dayzone in my mind, and I loved the contrast between the frantic pace of life there and the calm and quiet in Nocturna.

I do struggle sometimes with books that leave you to decide what’s real and what’s not, but if you don’t mind that then I highly recommend this book as it’s very well done, with an interesting story, good characters, and original ideas.

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

A Man of Shadows
John Nyquist
Jeff Noon
Sci-Fi
August 1st 2017
Kindle
384