Forgotten, Neven Carr

Forgotten, Neven Carr

Forgotten

Neven Carr’s Forgotten offers a thrilling mystery approached from two very different viewpoints:  one that of Claudia Cabriati, a young teacher on Australia’s Sunshine Coast with odd gaps in her memory and an unshakeable certainty that she’s being watched, and the other from an underground investigator and troubleshooter, Saul Reardon. Saul is investigating an odd chain of murders that have no apparent links, and a cryptic telephone recording involving a prominent federal senator that mentions a woman named Claudia Cabriati. Saul is known for providing the kind of help to those in need that the law isn’t always capable of, and when Claudia’s fiancé is ritually murdered in their home, some of Claudia’s friends think that Saul’s kind of help may be exactly what Claudia needs…

Forgotten is a great read, the kind of mystery-thriller with more twists than a rollercoaster. From car chases to crooked politicians to Saul’s mysterious past, this book keeps you guessing all the way through, and the immediate, white-hot chemistry between Claudia and Saul is well-done without claiming the spotlight from the main storyline. The characters are expertly developed, each demanding your curiosity and bringing their own personalities, pasts, and plans to bear on the plot. Neven Carr’s exotic locations and gripping action scenes are guaranteed to keep you turning pages and to make you sigh when you hit the last page. A highly-recommended read.

Blue Vision, Marie Lavender

Blue Vision, Marie Lavender

Blue Vision: The Code of Endhivar Series Book 1

Ganardebragh Trantusa, aka Colin Fielding, is one of the team sent to research and evaluate new worlds and civilisations in search of a new homeworld. Ganardebragh has been assigned to a planet named Earth, and he’s aware it may not be an easy mission. Ships have vanished there. He expected the population to be dangerous; he didn’t expect to have his crash landing observed. He really didn’t expect to fall irresistibly in love with the wary, emotionally damaged woman who came to see what had happened. In fact, nothing about Earth was exactly what he’d imagined…not even where it concerned his own race.

Marie Lavender’s Blue Vision: Code of Endhivar Series is an entertaining, well-paced romance read, starring a hunky alien explorer, a rough landing, and a woman on a solitary holiday. The book definitely has a number of strong points, not least of which the author’s undoubted imagination and story-telling ability. It’s also very solid technically, which I always appreciate: there are no typos and other grammatical nuisances to yank a reader out of the story, and the scene-setting is evocative and detailed. I found that Colin’s complete change of heart (can’t give too many details without a massive spoiler here) halfway through the book was a little unheralded, but it certainly allows for a very nice, dramatic wounded-hero scene.

So why three stars? Feeling Grinch-y? I have to admit, I’m a cynic. I don’t believe in love at first sight. I can, plied with sufficient alcohol, just about crank my credulity high enough to credit lust at first sight; after all, that’s largely based on pheromones and sure, maybe. Given that, I found that the immediate falling in love aspect of the plot stretched my ability to suspend my belief a trifle. It’s why I make a lousy romance reviewer, and this, despite the sci-fi elements, is definitely a romance story first and foremost. All that said, I think romance readers (as opposed to cynics like me) would highly enjoy this book; it’s got location, it’s got love at first sight, it’s got sexy scenes, and it’s well-written.

The Chemist, Alan J Field

The Chemist, Alan J Field

The Chemist: Daniel Strong #1

Katelyn Currie is adopted, broken, and a genius. Under the thumb of her adoptive parent, she’s created one of the most powerful toxins ever seen; one that kills silently, and in seconds. As one of the main characters in The Chemist, Katelyn is skillfully written and fleshed out, more and more of her past coming to light in flashbacks through the story. Generally a high incidence of flashbacks makes me want to beat my head on the nearest solid object, but author Alan J. Field handles them particularly well in this book, the overall effect of sanity crumbling and letting the memories escape being one of the strongest elements of the story.

However, aside from the characters, the novel was a difficult read for me. From the technical aspect, a lot of the adjective and simile use was more than a bit over the top, which undermined the intended menacing effect in many of the passages. In addition, typos tripped me up on a number of occasions, pulling me out of the plot with (on a couple) unintended comedic effect. The combination of the two more or less shot the pacing in the foot as far as I was concerned, and rather than the breathless ride effect of a fast-paced thriller, I didn’t find my attention was held by this book.

There were also areas where sentences were repeated, or where two pieces of dialogue with much the same content but slightly different wording were jumbled together. It read rather as if the author had tried several different options for a particular line, but missed deleting the unwanted options – nothing that couldn’t be simply fixed, but jarring to come across mid-read.

Overall, I feel that this book would profit hugely from a ruthless copy-edit. It definitely has a lot of potential, but in its current form, it’s a very frustrating read, and it’s not doing itself justice.

A Clone Sacrifice, Paul Chaplin

A Clone Sacrifice, Paul Chaplin

A Clone Sacrifice

The second novel in the series, A Clone Sacrifice opens in the Unchartered Zone, with the three conjoined spaceships facing formidable defences arrayed against them. Torb is certain that his mental communion with a dead Drakna will provide him with the answers he needs, but for the time being, the answers aren’t coming and the power readings ahead of them are only increasing. However, if Torb survives this encounter, he will still have to deal with the emotional instability of his girlfriend, isolated in a different part of the ship—and it’s hard to tell which outcome is the more dangerous.

I have to be honest and admit that despite having read this novel and the first in the series, I remain confused as to what the ultimate aim of the story is. Much of Torb’s storyline appears to be a string of random incidents, and the unifying element of the plot wasn’t clear to me. In the meantime, much of the focus is on the male/female relationships in the crew. I found the character development a little lacking across both books, given how much time is devoted to the character interaction. There are two women aboard; each chooses a male partner early on in their acquaintanceship and promptly gets pregnant. By and large, these women have three basic responses to any situation—they scream, they weep, or they roll their eyes. The men spend their time leading, doing the heavy lifting, and doing the planning—this latter in fear of what their womenfolk will think of their plans. I felt that some more development in this area could have done a great deal for this story.

While the series remains a pleasant, light read, I’m sorry to say that the substance wasn’t quite there to draw me in and allow me to lose myself in the story.

Salby Evolution, Ian D Moore

Salby Evolution, Ian D Moore

Salby Evolution

Salby Evolution is the sequel to Ian D. Moore’s debut novel, Salby Damned. Simon Lloyd, infected in the first wave of the SALBY virus, escapes aboard a cargo freighter hours before nation-wide quarantine goes into effect. His only companion is Barbie, another infected, rescued from a mall toy store. Between them, isolated at sea, they slaughter the crew of the cargo ship in an orgy of rage. However, unlike the other infected, Simon and Barbie don’t die in the aftermath of their killing frenzy, but instead survive – altered, strengthened, and sought-after by their own government and every other.

This sequel work proved to be a much better showcase for the author’s undeniable story-telling ability, with much of the extraneous detail that bogged down the initial book’s plot eradicated. Simon is for the most part an unlovable but plausibly imperfect character, and the pacing of the action in Salby Evolution is faster and more compelling. Leavened with the occasional presence of some of the original Salby Damned cast, Simon and Barbie’s flight across the North Sea and their subsequent adventures in Russia with the People’s Resistance Army pull in threads of military thriller to mesh with the classic zombie action, and tie up several loose ends from the first novel. Definitely an enjoyable read for thriller and zombie fans alike.