Valentina by S. E. Lynes
This story is deceptively simple and surprisingly good.
There are three main characters - Shona, Mikey and Valentina.
I liked Shona. She’s struggling with her new baby and with her lovely new house. She's moved to the Scottish countryside and she's hundreds of miles from her friends. She wants to make her marriage work. She’s proud and doesn’t want to admit her new life isn’t working for her. Doesn’t want her new husband, nor her old friends and family, to know how alone and isolated she feels. Shone is also no push-over, as we’ll see as the story progresses.
Then there’s Valentina. Valentina is charismatic, charming and beautiful, and the new best friend Shona’s been longing for. But is Valentina really such a good friend?
Mikey wasn’t someone I liked and, as the story progressed, I liked him even less. He thinks he can have everything, and, for a while, he does.
The first part of this story was a bit slow for my liking. However, the author has a nice style of writing where Shona is talking directly to the reader and reflecting back on her choices. This feels very personal and deflects from, even makes up for, the slowish pace.
The friendship/love/hate triangle between the Shona, Valentina and Mikey, plays itself out in unexpected ways. Toward the end of the book, we switch from Shona to Valentina’s view point, and the story really becomes enthralling.
The tension builds throughout – going from innocent beginnings to disaster.
Top picks. Looking for a summer read?
For a bit of madness, I decided to compare five of my favourite crime/thriller reads. They’re all start of series books -
BLINDSIGHTED (Grant County #1) by Karin Slaughter
I liked most – the detailed back stories to the characters and how those stories come into the present. Strong tension and dynamics between police officer Lena and her murdered sister, Sara Linton the coroner and her ex-husband, police chief Jeffrey.
Didn’t like – the first murder which is bloody and graphic. Followed by graphic scenes at the autopsy.
THE MERMAIDS SINGING (Tony Hill and Carol Jordan #1) by Val McDermid
I liked most – Tony Hill. Tony is a creepy criminal profiler who is working with the police (Carol) to bring down a serial killer.
Didn’t like – the sadism and sexual gratification of the killer, which is described in detail for the first two killings.
TRIPTYCH (Will Trent #1) by Karin Slaughter
I liked most – the storyline which weaves together the past and the present in twisty ways you’d never predict. Will Trent has his work cut out bringing down the killer, and the killer is always one step ahead.
NOW YOU SEE ME (Lacey Flint #1) by SJ Bolton
I liked most - Detective Constable Lacey Flint’s secrets and her hidden past which gives this story its edge. A complex, intriguing plot.
SILENT SCREAM (DI Kim Stone #1) by Angela Marsons
I liked most – great storytelling with plenty of layers.
Didn’t like - a bit of a flat pace.
Top picks – TRIPTYCH and NOW YOU SEE ME.
Links to my full reviews on Goodreads –
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1595965133 Now You See Me
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1931304815 Mermaids Singing
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2027028064 Silent Scream
Void by David Staniforth
A void in one’s memory is filled with more than the fear of not knowing, it swirls with the dread of what those missing memories might contain.
When a young man wakens in a freezing car, his mind a complete blank, he embarks upon a journey that brings that very dread to the fore. Who is he? What has he done? Where does he belong? Why can he not remember?
VOID: a psychological journey of discovery that forces the question: To what extent can our memories be trusted?
What I liked best about this book was the atmosphere and tone. It stays grey throughout, as the author keeps us balanced on the edge of disaster. Everything is murky and the facts stay unclear and this is matched by the bleak world ‘Tom’ finds himself in - cold and foggy and lonely.
There’s an intensity, as the main character pieces together the clues about who he might be and what sort of a man he’s been.
It’s surprising, but there’s a strong romantic thread to this story too, because Tom discovers a memory of love and that there might be a woman who loves him. Despite his fears about himself, Tom shows himself to be sensitive and loyal and this made me like him a lot.
One small thing which didn’t work for me, was the way the author writes about the importance of music to Tom and quotes lyrics. And since you know how I can be picky, I also thought there was a tad too much repetition which made the middle of the book a bit soggy.(These really were minor issues.)
The ending was a tragic surprise and gave the whole story another perspective. I don’t want to spoil it by saying more.
I can see why this is classed as a thriller but I think romantic thriller does it more justice – the story has a lot more subtlety and meaning than most thrillers on the shelf and I think that’s it’s strong point.
Photoshot of David Staniforth
Five Things You Didn’t Know about David Staniforth -
1. At the age of eight, I took part in a school television programme with celebrated botanist, David Bellamy. I was on camera for around a minute, so I reckon I’m still owed four minutes of fame.
2. At the age of eighteen, I almost died from alcohol poisoning.
3. Had I performed better in my O Levels, I would likely have become an architect and my life would have followed a completely different course, one in which I probably would not have discovered my love of writing.
4. My favourite ever song is ‘Stone in Love’ by Journey. It reminds me of the early years with the girl I met when I was nineteen, who I’m still married to thirty-four years later. There’s a line that goes “burning love comes once in a lifetime” and for me it has.
5. I read my own books for pleasure, enjoying them as if they had been written by somebody else.
Thanks for letting me review your book, David, and for telling us about yourself.
You can check out more about David Staniforth here
Portraits of the Dead by John Nicholl
The greater the evil, the more deadly the game…
When Emma awakens in total darkness, she is aware of her nakedness. Injuries. A bed not her own. A blindingly bright light suddenly pierces the blackness and a disembodied male voice calls her “Venus”.
Venus – the goddess of love, beauty, sex and desire. He says she is "Venus Six". What does this predator want from her? Can she outwit the masked man who demands to be called “Master”? Or will he be looking for Venus Seven?
Detective Inspector Gravel finds himself floundering when a local nineteen-year-old university student is abducted and imprisoned by a sadistic serial killer…
This is dark fiction – we live each day with the incarcerated victim, the perpetrator is twisted, sick and clever. The icing on the cake is that there’s an unexpected accomplice supporting the perpetrator and doing a chunk of the thinking for him – I really enjoyed that accomplice.
John Nicholl has a unique style. There’s immediacy in his writing and an informality. For instance, Emma’s internal dialogue takes you right into her mind. Another aspect that worked well for me was the banter and (darkish) humour between the DI Gravel and his long-time colleague, DS Rankin. Their exchanges made them very likeable.
The downside of Nicholl’s style is that he uses plenty of long-winded sentences that run on far too long, but that was a minor irritation. I have to say too, this story didn’t shed that positive a light on the police, since the advances in the case seemed to be ad-hoc and come by circumstance rather than great detection.
Some of the things the perpetrator made the victim do, turned my stomach, and since I’m a seasoned thriller reader (and writer), that’s saying something.
The ending was abrupt but it worked for me.
Maybe it sounds like I didn’t like this book, but I really did. This books works! It’s original. It’s got a punch. So forget any literary snobbery and enjoy it. (By the way, I gave it a rare Five Stars.)
Photoshot of John Nicholl
Five Things You Didn’t Know about John Nicholl
1. Fifty-six year old John Nicholl is happily married with three adult children and one grandchild. He and his wife met when they were just sixteen.
2. He lives in beautiful West Wales where he grew up, and spent most of his working life as a police officer, child protection social worker, manager and lecturer.
3. He has written three Amazon # 1 bestselling darkly psychological suspense thrillers, and is currently working on a fourth, which he hopes to complete by the summer. Given his professional experiences, he feels the genre chose him.
4. John has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and fought in competition, but it’s yoga and swimming that interest him these days.
5. John is a big sports fan, and particularly enjoys watching boxing, rugby and football (if Wales or Swansea are playing). He can sometimes be found at the Swansea City ground with his youngest son.
John has two other published books and they’re both thrillers (yay!) You can find more information here http://www.johnnicholl.com/
Good Me Bad Me
by Ali Land
Millie is struggling to build a new life and a new identity.
Looming dark and menacing are memories of recent events which led her to leave her mother's house and finally go to the police for help. Looming even darker, are Millie's struggles with her own conscience.
As a child, she has suffered terrible abuse at the hands of her mother, but can she ever escape the darkness she feels inside and feel like other girls?
Will Millie manage to withstand the trial against her own mother, at which she will be the main witness?
To make things worse, the situation is not straightforward with her temporary foster family. Millie is jealous of their teenage daughter. The two girls hate each other, though they are both pretty good at hiding it.
This story is a brilliant insight into the mind of Millie as she builds her new future.
The question is - what sort of future will she choose?
I gave this book five stars for the story set-up and for the portrayal of Millie. However, constant hyphenations of ordinary words got on my nerves so much I almost gave it a four.
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.
Join all of my family and at least some of your peers by signing up for news on promotions and upcoming releases...