Sunday, April 9, 2017

Heart Collector

Heart Collector, originally published as Au Cœur du Solstice, is a crime thriller by French author Jacques Vandroux (translated by Wendeline Hardenberg).  I wish the translation hadn't completely altered the title, because the original title makes much more sense.  That is neither here nor there, though, and any other slight awkwardness in the writing that could be a product of translation didn't detract from the story, to me.

In Heart Collector, we follow police captain Nadia Barka as she investigates a series of abductions (and subsequent murders) of young women in Grenoble, a city nestled at the foot of the French Alps.  Assisting in the investigation is Julien, a computer technician who, for some reason, is having visions of the victims just hours prior to their deaths.  Despite knowing how crazy it will make him seem, Julien brings his information to the police, where he is obviously met with skepticism.

Capt. Barka feels she has nothing to lose from following Julien's tips, however, as there are few enough viable leads for this case, and some of the details of the murders bring to mind a case from her past that still haunts her - the murder of another young woman who had been seemingly tortured extensively before being killed.  Not to mention the fact that these particular murders are especially gruesome - the victims' hearts are nowhere to be found, having been expertly removed.  It becomes a race against time when Julien has a vision of yet another woman:  will he and the police reach her before her heart is removed as well?


I got this book through Amazon's Kindle First program, and I'm really glad I selected it as my free ebook for that month.  When I read the premise, I wasn't sure what to expect, since this seems to be marketed more as mystery/suspense/crime fiction rather than as, like...urban fantasy or something, so it was anyone's guess whether the 6th sense element would end up being too corny, or if it would even work within the context of this story at all.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Anna Dressed in Blood

Anna Dressed in Blood is the first book in Kendare Blake's Anna series (although there are only two books so far, so it may remain a duology, I'm not sure).  

Theseus Cassio (Cas for short) is not a typical teenage boy, by any definition of the word "typical."  He has taken over the family business - dispatching murderous ghosts from off this earthly plane.  This work has the family move frequently from place to place, all over the world, wherever the latest legitimate tip sends them; this time, they've followed a tip to Thunder Bay, Ontario, where Cas intends to find and "kill" the ghost known as Anna Dressed in Blood, a teenage girl who was found murdered in the 1950s, and whose ghost has been busy literally ripping apart  anyone unfortunate enough to set foot in her house since.

For Cas, this case feels different from the start, and his instinct proves true when Anna turns out to be unlike any ghost he's yet encountered.  Will he be able to finish the job he came here to do?


I got this book back when it was new and making its initial rounds in the book blog community, but I only just got around to reading it; the premise and the cover art really drew me in.  I enjoy paranormal fiction and ghosts, so this seemed right up my alley.  For the most part, it didn't totally disappoint.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

There's Money Where Your Mouth Is

There's Money Where Your Mouth Is by Elaine A. Clark is as subtitled:  A Complete Insider's Guide to Earning Income and Building a Career in Voice-Overs.  In only 23 chapters, Clark covers everything a beginner to voice-over could possibly want or need to know, from simply what voice-over is, to recording tips and producing a quality demo reel, to working with an agent and the differences between union and non-union work.  I have the 3rd edition of this book.

If you've ever read anything about working professionally in voice-over, then a lot of the information in Clark's book will be a review for you, but that isn't a bad thing - fundamentals are always important to remember, no matter the topic, and the way Clark breaks down each aspect of the field makes it simple to learn even if you're just skimming through instead of properly reading it.

Where this book truly shines is that it is so comprehensive as to include a variety of detailed copy samples for the reader to practice the concepts and tips Clark discusses.  In books like this, I always prefer to be given that sort of content; I'm not much of a creative type, in that I would never know what to come up with if I had to write my own copy to practice with.  It would just feel silly and disingenuous, which pretty much defeats the purpose.  Besides, I'm not a professional in the field - Clark has already made a successful career in voice-over, so I can trust that copy samples she provides are representative of what one would see when booking a job. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

I am back from the longest hiatus ever, and the first book I'd like to share about is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Seth Grahame-Smith (and, of course, our friend Jane Austen).  I'm pleased for this to be the first book I review coming back, as it's one I truly enjoyed.  

A mysterious plague has befallen the nation, so rather than the Napoleonic Wars, the country is battling against the rising dead; the sisters Bennet are trained (and well proficient) in the deadly arts, and although they studied in China rather than the more fashionable Japan, their prowess is nigh incomparable, and they are tasked with the defense of their home at Longbourn and the surrounding neighborhood - until such time as they each marry, as upon taking a nuptial vow, their duty will shift from crown to husband.

I don't think this book needs much more introduction or explanation of the premise than that, since it has been made into a movie, so let's just get right to it, shall we?  As with Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, when I originally bought this book, I wasn't sure whether I'd be going into it with mixed feelings or what, but after having read that, I went into this with much more enthusiasm from the start.  Even though the two novels have different authors, they have a very similar feel, and both Grahame-Smith and Winters have done an equally commendable job of weaving the new elements in with the original stories in a way that makes these books hold their own:  you don't need to have read the original works to understand or appreciate these as stand-alone novels (although I highly recommend that you do read Austen's, because she was a treasure and her collective work is a gift).  

Thursday, June 18, 2015


Moxyland by Lauren Beukes is a cyberpunk novel set in a dystopian, not-too-distant future Cape Town, South Africa.  Big corporations run everything, and society is essentially controlled through technology:  for example, law enforcement can easily use a citizen's cell phone to tase them, and being disconnected is one of the worst things that can happen to a person.  Corporate-run orphanages are used to train and recruit employees, and the penalty for attempting to defect to a rival company can be high.

Beukes's book follows the intertwined stories of four young people:  Kendra, an art school drop-out who's been accepted to participate in a potentially sketchy marketing program; Toby, a drug-addicted vlogger who engages in all kinds of illicit activity in Cape Town's underground scene; Tendeka, an activist trying to foster revolution against the corporate tech-driven society; and Lerato, product of a corporate orphanage and now a high-ranking employee for Communique.

When I read Neuromancer, I thought that cyberpunk was just way too technical for me.  I didn't major in computer science, I'm not a programmer, and you're going to completely lose me with all that sort of jargon.  But then I read Snow Crash, and I felt like I "got it." Moxyland is written more along that sort of vein:  there's an element of grit and seediness amidst all the shiny future tech, and that is the sort of cyberpunk that I can get on board with.  

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The One That Got Away

The One That Got Away by Simon Wood is a contemporary mystery/crime thriller, and a good one at that.  Zoë and Holli are grad students at UC Davis who went to Las Vegas to let their hair down and de-stress, but on the drive back, something terrible happens.  Zoë wakes up to find herself naked and bound in a dirty toolshed, and she can hear someone screaming - it's Holli.  They had stopped for food and gas in a small town, but everything is fuzzy and Zoë can't remember what got them into this situation.  All she can think about is getting out of it.

Fifteen months later, the events of that night have changed Zoë completely.  Her life is on a much different track and she's a different person now.  She hasn't gotten over what happened - not even close - but she's coping in her own way.  That is, until something happens that sends her right back into the path of the man who abducted her and Holli.  The media has nicknamed him the "Tally Man," and it seems he has a score to settle with Zoë.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Her Dear & Loving Husband

Her Dear & Loving Husband, by Meredith Allard, is the first in her Loving Husband trilogy.  After a recent divorce, Sarah Alexander has moved to Salem, Massachusetts.  If she thought the quaint seaside town with all its historic charm would quiet her recurring dreams and night terrors, however, she was very much mistaken - moving to Salem seems to have had the opposite effect, in fact.  

Through a colleague at the library, Sarah meets James Wentworth, a professor at the college, and her resemblance to his late wife causes him to feel drawn to her.  James is hiding a secret which keeps him disconnected from engaging in any kind of a real social life and has kept him from being settled in any one place for very long.  His attachment to Sarah is powerful enough to potentially disrupt the quiet life he's built for himself, but there are questions which need to be answered:  is James attracted to Sarah, or is it her resemblance to his beloved wife which attracts him to her?  And if it IS Sarah he is attracted to, will his secret threaten any romance between them?

With a meddling reporter buzzing around asking questions about James, his secret might come out whether he's ready for Sarah to know it or not - but if exposed to the whole world, James fears a new mass hysteria and hunt will ensue.