Author Archives: lexiepiper

Following The Dectectives – Edited by Maxim Jakubowski

Synopsis: Whether it be the London of Sherlock Holmes or the Ystad of the Swedish Wallander, Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco or Donna Leon’s Venice, the settings chosen by crime fiction authors have helped those writers to bring their fictional investigators to life and to infuse their writing with a sense of danger and mystery. “Following the Detectives” follows the trail of over 20 of crime fiction’s greatest investigators, discovering the cities and countries in which they live and work. Edited by one of the leading voices in crime fiction, Maxim Jakubowski, each entry is written by a crime writer, journalist or critic with a particular expertise in that detective and the fictional crimes that have taken place in each city’s dark streets and hidden places. The book includes beautifully designed maps with all the major locations that have featured in a book or series of books – buildings, streets, bars, restaurants and locations of crimes and discoveries – allowing the reader to follow Inspector Morse’s footsteps through the college squares of Oxford or while away hours in a smoky Parisian cafe frequented by Inspector Maigret, for example. Aimed at the avid detective fan, the armchair tourist and the literary tourist alike, “Following the Detectives” is the perfect way for crime fiction fans to truly discover the settings of their favourite detective novels.

Review: The book contains: Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series, set in Edinburgh; Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe series, set in Los Angeles; Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti series, set in Venice; Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski series, set in Chicago; Arnaldur Indridason’s Erlendur Sveinsson series, set in Iceland; John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series, set in Florida; Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse series, set in Oxford; Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander series, set in Sweden; George V. Higgins’s Eddie Coyle series, set in Boston; John Harvey’s Charlie Resnick series, set in Nottingham; Andrea Camilleri’s Salvo Montalbano series, set in Sicily; George Pelecanos’s novels, set in Washington DC; Peter James’s Roy Grace series, set in Brighton; James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series, set in New Orleans; Georges Simenon’s Inspector Maigret series, set in Paris; Ellis Peter’s Brother Cadfael series, set in Shropshire; Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade series, set in San Francisco; Declan Hughes’s Ed Loy series, set in Dublin; Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer series, set in Southern California; Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series, set in London and Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder series, set in New York.

As you can see from the list above, this book has a massive range from classics to modern books, and they are set all around the world. The book itself is of great quality, the pages are thick and beautifully designed, and there are great photos and maps scattered throughout, giving you a real sense of the places within each of the books talked about. The information provided is fantastic, and goes into great depth about the author, the detective featured and the places the stories are set. I really enjoyed reading about the various characters, even the ones I haven’t come across before, and have added lots of books to my wishlist! I think my favourite thing about this book are the pages inside, they are so colourful and pretty, and I loved the photos that are added to each section, it’s just a lovely book to own. This is an absolute MUST have for fans of any of the authors or books featured, or even for fans of detective books in general.

Rating: 5/5

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Tess Gerritsen – The Killing Place

Synopsis: Something terrible has happened in the snowbound village of Kingdom Come, Wyoming. Twelve eerily identical houses stand dark and abandoned. Meals remain untouched on dining room tables. Cars are still parked in garages. The human occupants have vanished, seemingly into thin air. This is the unsettling place where Maura Isles finds herself trapped during a snowstorm. She has joined a group of friends on a drive to an isolated ski lodge, but when a wrong turn leaves her car stranded in deep snow, she stumbles down a private road into the valley of Kingdom Come, where she takes shelter – and disappears. Days later, Jane Rizzoli flies to Wyoming to search for her missing friend. A crashed vehicle has been found with four badly burned bodies still inside. The authorities assume that one of the women is Maura. But is it? Jane Rizzoli’s search for the truth leads her to Kingdom Come, where a terrifying and gruesome discovery lies buried beneath the snow.

Review: While at a medical conference, Maura bumps into an old friend from medical school, and decides on the spur of the moment to accept his offer for a side trip to a cabin for a few days. But when a bad snow storm forces them off the road, they come across the village of Kingdom Come, which eerily is completely empty, even though there are plates of food still on the tables. When Jane hears that Maura has disappeared, she flies out to try and find her, but instead only finds a car with four bodies inside…is one of the them Maura?

I absolutely loved this book. I’m a huge fan of the Rizzoli/Isles series so I knew I would enjoy The Killing Place, but it surpassed even my expectations. This is the most haunting plot yet, and it was so gripping that I found it absolutely impossible to put it down. There were so many twists that I just didn’t see coming and the ending had a great twist too. I enjoyed the fact that you really get to know Maura so much more in this book, and can start to understand her a bit more as a person, rather than it being mainly about Jane. Definitely my favourite book yet, and I’m already eagerly awaiting the next installment! The Killing Place can easily be read as a stand alone book, but I would highly recommend reading the whole series, purely because the books are just so fantastic!

Rating: 5/5

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Rebecca ‘Bea’ Dakin – The Girlfriend Experience

Synopsis: Rebecca Dakin – or Bea, as she is known to her clients, is an honest, friendly and vibrant woman. She is a fun-loving lady who oozes passion and is a slender, natural blonde. In short, she is every man’s dream… She specialises in offering what she calls ‘the girlfriend experience’. A date with Bea is a million miles away from the sex-fuelled romps that most people imagine when they think of escorts. She prefers longer and more relaxed dates and expects her dates to be a two-way thing. Here for the first time, a modern-day escort is prepared to put her name and face to her story and reveal exactly what she gets up to behind closed doors. Dispelling the myths and preconceptions that surround her job, Rebecca tells all – the glamorous, the grim and the downright hilarious. A frank memoir, with no detail spared, this book gives a unique insight into the intimate adventures of one of Britain’s most notorious escorts.

Review: A frank behind the scenes look at what it’s like to be an escort, specifically one that offers the ‘Girlfriend Experience’. The GFE entails more than just sleeping with a client, it includes a dinner date, maybe a walk or a show, and acting more like a couple. The book’s chapters alternate between memorable clients/stories and her life outside of escorting, with regards to relationships with family, boyfriends and friends.

For some reason I wasn’t expecting this book to be quite so frank, with regards to the sexual stories about clients, and intially I was surprised. But I quickly got used to the way the book was written and it was really interesting to read more about what happens behind closed doors when it comes to the escorting life. Some of the stories told made me laugh and others made me cringe, for example, when Bea went on a date with a guy who when eating, had fish all around his face. I would find that incredibly repulsive and think Bea is a better lady than me to put up with such disgusting manners! I also think it’s a brave thing to bring out a book such as this, because of the bad ‘slutty’ reputations escorts can have, but Bea shows it doesn’t have to be like that at all. An enjoyable read, although one definitely not for teens because of the sexual descriptions. If you’re interested in what goes on the behind closed doors of an escort, or are just generally curious, this is the book for you, it’s very open and shows you the warts and all aspect of the escorting profession.

Rating: 3.5/5

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Dacre Stoker – Dracula: The-Undead

Synopsis: The official sequel to Bram Stoker’s classic novel Dracula, written by his direct descendent and endorsed by the Stoker family. The story begins in 1912, twenty-five years after the events described in the original novel. Dr. Jack Seward, now a disgraced morphine addict, hunts vampires across Europe with the help of a mysterious benefactor. Meanwhile, Quincey Harker, the grown son of Jonathan and Mina, leaves law school to pursue a career in stage at London’s famous Lyceum Theatre. The production of Dracula at the Lyceum, directed and produced by Bram Stoker, has recently lost its star. Luckily, Quincey knows how to contact the famed Hungarian actor Basarab, who agrees to take the lead role. Quincey soon discovers that the play features his parents and their former friends as characters, and seems to reveal much about the terrible secrets he’s always suspected them of harbouring.

Review: When Quincey defies his parents and becomes an actor, he comes across a play about his parents and Dracula, and finds out all about the secrets his parents have been hiding from him. Then when people start getting attacked by what looks like animal bites to the neck, it appears it’s not over and Quincey has to step up and relive his parents past.

I love vampire stories, and this one was everything that I expected. I haven’t actually read the original Dracula story, but I’ve seen the film and know lots about the tale, but that doesn’t matter, Dacre did a great job of recapping the previous book without making it boring and repetative, and I never felt like I was missing any plot lines as it was always explained. I adored the inclusion of Jack the Ripper, who is another subject I find fascinating, and I thought Dacre’s take on it was really interesting, and it fit in well with the story he was telling. My only dislike about this book was that it took me forever to read, and it sometimes felt disheartening that I didn’t seem to be making progress very fast. Recommended to any vampire or Dracula fans, or to anyone who likes old gothic horror tales.

Rating: 4/5

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Richard Jay Parker – Stop Me

Synopsis: Forward this email to ten friends. Each of those friends must forward it to ten friends. Maybe one of those friends of friends of friends will be one of my friends. If this email ends up in my inbox within a week, I won’t slit the bitch’s throat. Can you afford not to send this on to ten friends?

Vacation Killer Leo Sharpe’s life is shattered when his wife Laura suddenly disappears. His desperate need to find her turns to obsession when he becomes convinced she’s the latest victim of The Vacation Killer who has claimed eleven lives already – is Laura going to be the twelfth? The MO is the same every time – a woman disappears and within hours inboxes around the world receive a threatening email. A few days later, grim evidence of the victim’s death is delivered to the police. But in Laura’s case, nothing is sent. Has the killer spared her life? Why? And for how long? For Leo, the clock is ticking – he needs to do everything in his power to stop the killer before it’s too late.

Review: When Leo’s wife disappears from a restaurant, he doesn’t have a clue what’s happened to her. That’s until he sees the newest email from the Vacation Killer, and is positive he has her. But when no jaw bone is sent to confirm she’s been murdered, Leo’s life falls apart. He is determined to find out what happened to Laura, and will stop at nothing to get answers…

It’s hard to believe that this is a debut novel because it’s just so well written. The story flows effortlessly and it’s so easy to sink into Leo’s world, even though his reality is so warped. I really loved Leo as a character, even though he was so messed up, there was just something so endearing about him. The ending completely surprised me, I would never have guessed how it played out, but I thought it was great. I would definitely recommend this to thriller fans, it’s something you will certainly enjoy.

Rating: 4/5

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Marina Fiorato – The Madonna Of The Almonds

Synopsis:

Young widow Simonetta tries to rebuild her family in 16th century Saronno, tuscany, following the death of her husband in one of the battles ravaging the land. In pursuit of a means to keep her estate together, she stumbles upon a new drink made by inffusing almonds with alcohol. At the same time, she encounters Bernadino, the protege of Leonardo da Vinci. What follows is a glorious story of passion, betrayal, warfare and bravery.

Review:

Two parallel stories of love, loss and growing up. Simonetta is a widow at 17, and her dead husband has left her broke, so in order to save her house she agrees to pose as Madonna for artist Bernardino Luini who is painting a religious fresco in her local church. Peasant orphan Amaria is being raised by a kind woman she calls Nonna, and when she tells Nonna of the strange wild man in the woods, Nonna goes to look for him and takes him into their home. On the verge of death, the man they call Selvaggio has what appears to be many war wounds, but he doesn’t remember anything of his former life or how he came to be injured.

Historical fiction is a genre I’ve not really tried before, as I didn’t think I’d enjoy it very much. How wrong I was! The story was so easy to get in to, and the characters are fantastically written, I found it so easy to imagine them in my mind with the vivid descriptions that are given. I enjoyed reading about the wars and the religious persecutions of Jews and thought both subjects were written about really well. To put it simply, there was nothing about this book I disliked at all, everything about it was great. I’d really recommend it and I’m eager to now read The Glassblower Of Murano, Marina Fiorato’s first novel set in the same time period.

Rating: 5/5

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Kathy Balland – Lose The Diet

Synopsis

Are you tired of yo-yo dieting? You have the power to look and feel great without dieting. With this book, your weight and your life can bring you peace of mind. You ll find answers that will end your need for dieting and uncomfortable food deprivation that ultimately leads to weight gain. Instead, you’ll find the good health and happiness that you deserve. Lose the Diet is your complete, easy-to-use guide for reconnecting with yourself and discovering the power to achieve and maintain a healthy weight without diets. Drop the diets and the weight in a healthy and natural way. Find out why deprivation doesn t work. Learn about the mind-body-soul connections effect on weight. Discover that happiness leads to a healthy weight rather than the other way around.

Review

A guide for reconnecting with yourself as a way to lose weight. Each chapter covers a different aspect in achieving this such as meditation, fitness and relationships with other people, especially focusing on the fact many people have lost the connection with the world, other people and even themselves, causing them to eat unhealthy food out of unhappiness and boredom.

As a yo-yo dieter for many years, I hoped this book would be full of different information on the battle of weight loss and I wasn’t disappointed. This book is a positive experience from page 1, focusing on what you can change in your life and help to achieve those changes rather than focusing on any failures you may experience along the way. I love the tips and techniques that are scatted throughout, and will definitely be referring back to them as my weight loss attempts continue. I’ve learned a lot, especially about the power of positive thinking and focusing on your goals, using meditation and visualisation to get you there. As an emotional eater, I really think this is the perfect book to help you overcome the hurdles that make you eat out of sadness or loneliness, and eat only out of hunger therefore controlling your weight. I think this book has a unique approach, focusing on healing yourself to help you lose weight, rather than starving yourself or joining some fad diet.

Rating: 4/5

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Running With Scissors – Augusten Burroughs

Synopsis from Amazon.co.uk

There is a passage early in Augusten Burroughs’s harrowing and highly entertaining memoir Running with Scissors that speaks volumes about the author. While going to the garbage dump with his father, young Augusten spots a chipped glass-top coffee table that he longs to bring home. “I knew I could hide the chip by fanning a display of magazines on the surface, like in a doctor’s office,” he writes, “And it certainly wouldn’t be dirty after I polished it with Windex for three hours.”

There were certainly numerous chips in the childhood Burroughs describes: an alcoholic father, an unstable mother who gives him up for adoption to her therapist and an adolescence spent as part of the therapist’s eccentric extended family, gobbling prescription medicines and fooling around with both an old electroshock machine and a paedophile who lives in a shed out back. But just as he dreamed of doing with that old table, Burroughs employs a vigorous program of decoration and fervent polishing to a life that many would have simply thrown in a landfill. Despite her abandonment, he never gives up on his increasingly unbalanced mother. And rather than despair about his lot, he glamorises it: planning a “beauty empire” and performing an a cappella version of “You Light Up My Life” at a local mental ward.

My Review

When Augusten’s parents divorce, his mother starts having another ‘mental episode’ during which he gets sent to live with his mother’s psychiatrist Dr Finch and his rather crazy family. This is the true story of those years, almost unbelievable with events most people couldn’t even imagine.

This book is so crazy, I could easily believe it’s a work of fiction, but the fact this actually happened to someone is mind blowing. The main characters were weirdly endearing, even though they were slightly mad, in particular I liked Natalie and Hope, although I pitied them too. I really feel sorry for Augusten, being abandoned by your mother can never be easy, but into a house full of mad people must make it 10 times worse. I would recommend this book, if only to realise how normal your own upbringing was!

4/5

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Bone Cold – Erica Spindler

Synopsis from Amazon.co.uk

She thought the nightmare was over…

Twenty-three years ago, Anna North survived a living nightmare. A madman kidnapped her, cut off her pinkie, then vanished. Today Anna lives in New Orleans, writing dark thrillers under another name. She finally feels safe.

But it was only just beginning.

Suddenly Anna’s quiet life takes a frightening turn. Letters start to arrive from a disturbed fan. Anna is followed, her apartment broken into. Then a close friend disappears.

Anna turns to homicide detective Quentin Malone, but Malone’s more concerned with the recent murders of two women in the French Quarter. But after a third victim is found—a redhead like Anna, her pinkie severed—Malone is forced to acknowledge that Anna is his link to the killer…and could be the next target. Now Anna must face the horrifying truth—her past has caught up with her. The nightmare has begun again.

My Review

Anna North is still living in terror of the man that kidnapped her 23 years previously, so when she starts getting weird letters, and red headed women start getting murdered, she becomes very worried, but is it too late to stop what has already been set in motion?

Another fantastic thriller from Erica Spindler, I couldn’t put it down! It was fast paced and I really liked how the story weaved together, fitting all the pieces into place. I kind of guessed part of the ending, but there was still a few surprises in store that even I could not have forseen, and for these kind of twists Erica Spindler is well known. I’ve enjoyed every one of her books that I’ve read, and highly recommend them!

5/5

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Kandide And The Secret Of The Mists – Diana S. Zimmerman

Synopsis from Amazon.co.uk

When Kandide is crowned queen of the Kingdom Calabiyau after her father’s death, she becomes keeper of the Gift, the key to survival for all life. Like her father, she promises to be a great leader of all the Fée, despite her consuming vanity, a fitting characteristic in a land where physical perfection is cherished above all else. But then her wing is crushed in a terrible accident and she is exiled to the Mists, the uncharted territory to which all the flawed Fée are banished. Kandide must not only come to terms with her own horror at what she has become, but must also learn to survive in the dark, hostile land of the Mists. Encounters with dark magic and hideous beasts are just the beginning of her troubles. Within Calabiyau, there is a presence far more deadly that threatens her family and her people. Can Kandide prevail over injustice, wickedness, and greed to save the land she loves?

My Review

A fantasy story set in the world of Fée, centering around Princess Kandide, as she becomes Queen. Kandide is very beautiful, but she knows it, she’s vain, arrogant and selfish, so when she awakens after an accident with a bad injury, she’s is banished to the Mists, where Fée who are not perfect are sent. She soon comes crashing down to earth when she releases she’s alone in the dark scary woods with no way home, and no one to help her…

This is not my usual kind of book, but I throughly enjoyed it. It’s aimed at young adults, so it was very easy to read and follow the story without confusing any of the numerous characters and I feel it holds a very good message for readers about ‘perfection’. The characters were written well, with a wide variety of personalities so everyone will find at least one character to like, I must admit I liked most of them, and thought they were all written well. As the story continues over a series this book ends on a cliff hanger, so I’d be very interested to read the sequel to see what happens next!

4/5

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