Book Review: We All Die In The End by Elizabeth Merry

My first review for Indie Only Month 2020 is Elizabeth Merry’s collection of interconnected tales, We All Die In The End. My thanks to Elizabeth for providing me with a copy of the collection in return for an honest review. 

 

You can find my Afternoon Tea interview with Elizabeth Merry here.  We All Die In The End can be found on Amazon and Goodreads.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Perfect summer reading if you enjoy real-life styled tales, some light, some dark, all compelling, evocative and well-written. A fantastic read. 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

This is a diverse collection of interlinked stories set in a small, seaside town in Ireland. Some of them verge on the macabre; others deal with abusive relationships and many of them are grim. But there is humour here too – although it is dark humour.

There’s Sadie, avoiding her mother’s advice:
“Sadie said nothing. She trimmed the fat off the kidneys and the liver, her fingers curling away from the soft, red slither and she held her breath against the faint smell of blood. Madge lifted her walking-stick and rattled it against the leg of the table.”

And poor, wee Andy, struggling with a teenage girlfriend and their baby daughter:
“Andy felt the unhappiness grow in his chest again. It was heavy and he fought against it. No, he said to himself. No. He held his arms up and out in front of him and made soft, crooning, engine noises.”

And then there is recovering alcoholic, Arthur:
“So, I watched Lydia and waited for some bloody nuisance of a child to come screeching after her but no child came. Well, that didn’t make any sense but then Lydia stopped and I saw her speak to the doll. Oho, Arthur, I said to myself and I threw down the cigarette. Oho, I said, what’s this? What have we here?”

Just a couple of the strange and interesting characters in this ebook available on Amazon Kindle.

Favourite Quote

What does it matter?  What does any of it matter?  We all die in the end.

(From We All Die In The End by Elizabeth Merry)

Review

I really enjoyed reading this collection of nineteen interconnected short stories. I loved how a mention of one character in one story sets up another story, in a very loose, roundabout sort of way as the stories themselves are all separate.  It gave great fluidity to the book, and once I started reading I found it very difficult to stop.  The stories were compelling and addictive, and the characters so well-devised that I found myself gripped, wondering where the next story was going to go. The connections between the characters come in the form of family ties, friends, neighbours and work colleagues, giving a cross-section of the population of a small Irish coastal town.

A wide variety of topics and themes are covered: infidelity, the struggles of young parents, crime, mental health issues, religion and spiritualism, dreams and first kisses, sadness, manipulation, regret, guilt, love, fear…There’s a little bit of violence in a handful of the stories, and adult themes and bad language gets a mention a few times as well, but there is nothing graphic and it’s not overused.  It adds to the stories rather than detracts from them, and I think it is always worth pointing that out.

As I’ve already said, all the characters have depth and authenticity.  It doesn’t take long for the author to present the reader with fully-fleshed people, and it is the thoughts and emotions of these people that bring these stories to life.  The author has a great grasp of people and captures wonderfully the two faces of an individual – the one they show to the world and their real self.  And it is the secret side of themselves, what they think, what goes on in their homes once their doors are locked and curtains closed that ensure the reader keeps reading.  Not everyone we meet is likeable, not everyone we meet is nice.  There are characters with ugly personalities and brutal ways, but there are others just trying to make it through the day or realise their dreams.

The descriptions of the town, especially down by the sea (the beach, the pier, the harbour) and the pub, are so clear and evocative that I could easily imagine them as I worked my way through each story.  Indeed, the whole town felt very real, I could picture the different houses and flats, and the different rooms within each, quite clearly.

The tension of some of the situations some of the characters find themselves in is palpable, and some of the twists that unfurl aren’t predictable but make perfect sense for the characters they happen to.  In essence, these stories are about people; they’re not real, but they could very easily be, and they serve to remind us, we don’t really know other people as well as we sometimes think.  A fantastic read.

Rating

Book Review: Deadly Secrets by Terry Odell

Deadly Secrets is the first book in the Mapleton Mystery series by Terry Odell.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An enjoyable, quick read mystery with an added handful of romance.  An interesting setting with an engaging cast of characters, I look forward to reading book two in the series.  4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Mapleton, Colorado’s police chief, Gordon Hepler, would rather be on the streets than behind a desk, but he promised his late mentor he’d accept the position. And to Gordon, a promise is a promise, even if the person you made it to isn’t around anymore. However, doubts creep in, and he wonders if he was shoved into the job because his mentor thought he couldn’t cut it on the streets.

Everything changes when a fatal traffic accident well outside Mapleton seems connected to the elderly Rose and Sam Kretzer, two of Mapleton’s most beloved citizens. When Gordon ties the car accident to a grisly murder in Mapleton—the first anyone in town can remember—he’s afraid he’s into more than he bargained for.

The arrival of Megan, the Kretzers grown godchild, and Justin, their grandson, add to Gordon’s troubles when Megan is mugged and someone breaks in and ransacks the Kretzers’ home. Gordon’s fears that he’s in over his head are realized when his investigation seems to link the Kretzers to a Nazi war criminal. Can he work with the big-city detective brought in to assist? Will he be able to solve the crime without revealing the secrets of his citizens?

Favourite Quote

Things happen for a reason.  As a cop, it’s your job to find it.  Don’t worry about whether it makes sense.  People are nuts.

(Deadly Secrets by Terry Odell, Chapter 25)

Review

I really enjoyed the first of the Mapleton Mysteries, Deadly Secrets.  A cosy mystery with a handful of romance, it reminded me of a TV movie, the type you can easily get lost in for a couple of hours and not realise how much time has passed.

The mystery was good, even if it did get a little complicated towards the end. There are plenty of twists and turns and red herrings for an amateur sleuth to wade through, which did a fantastic job of holding my interest.

As for the characters, they were all engaging and entertaining, but I did struggle a little bit to connect with Megan.  For some reason, I just didn’t quite like her, but neither did I dislike her.  Perhaps as I read more in the series, I will warm to her…

I thought the pace was good overall, and that the story moved forward at just the right speed.  I liked how the story was told from multiple viewpoints.  When something happened in the plot we were given the best POV to show us what was going on.  This had a great effect of heightening the tension and suspense throughout.

I loved the setting. The small town of Mapleton came to life as I read, and so did the characters.  All the details a reader needed was cleverly woven into the narrative.

Deadly Secrets is a well-written and well-crafted story, and I am looking forward to a return trip to Mapleton for book two, Deadly Bones.  Recommended to fans of (cosy) mysteries, but unlike most cosy mysteries, this book does have one adult scene which are not typical of the genre.

Rating

Book Review: The Watchmaker’s Daughter by C. J. Archer

The Watchmaker’s Daughter is the first book in the Glass and Steel series by C. J. Archer.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Engaging, entertaining and a good first book in a series.  A fun read, with an interesting cast of characters and a great setting.  Looking forward to reading the next book.  4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

India Steele is desperate. Her father is dead, her fiancé took her inheritance, and no one will employ her, despite years working for her watchmaker father. Indeed, the other London watchmakers seem frightened of her. Alone, poor, and at the end of her tether, India takes employment with the only person who’ll accept her – an enigmatic and mysterious man from America. A man who possesses a strange watch that rejuvenates him when he’s ill.

Matthew Glass must find a particular watchmaker, but he won’t tell India why any old one won’t do. Nor will he tell her what he does back home, and how he can afford to stay in a house in one of London’s best streets. So when she reads about an American outlaw known as the Dark Rider arriving in England, she suspects Mr. Glass is the fugitive. When danger comes to their door, she’s certain of it. But if she notifies the authorities, she’ll find herself unemployed and homeless again – and she will have betrayed the man who saved her life.

Favourite Quote

“You’d better not wager anything you can’t afford to lose.”

(The Watchmaker’s Daughter by C. J. Archer, Chapter 17)

Review

I’ve been meaning to read “The Medium”, the first book in the Emily Chambers Spirit Medium Trilogy, by this author for ages.  I can’t remember how long it’s been sitting on my digital shelf, but it’s been there a while.  Then when I was perusing the same set of digital shelves last week for an indie read, this cover called to me.  To be fair, I think this book has also been waiting at least a year for some attention, and it’s finally got it.

First thing’s first. I love the cover.  The colours and fonts are eye-catching, and the imagery is well-suited to the story.

The Watchmaker’s Daughter is a fantasy story set in Victorian England; I’m not sure there are enough elements in it to categorise it as steampunk, at least not yet – that might come as the series continues.  I found the storyline very interesting: characters from the Wild West on a quest through dark and gritty Victorian London, with the help of young, destitute woman with connections to the city’s watchmakers.  What’s not to like?

I liked the characters.  India Steel, I liked on the whole, though on a handful of occasions I questioned her thinking / actions.  It’s always nice to come across a character who turns out to be stronger than she thought possible, and who has what it takes to triumph over the difficulties in her path, and this is how I saw India for the majority of the book.  Matthew Glass, again was a likeable character.  His secrets gave him a mysterious air, though the way he was portrayed suggested (to me, if not India) that he could always be trusted.  As for the rest of the characters, they are quirky and / or disreputable, and I think they worked well in both the setting and the story.

I was engaged enough with the story to not want to put the book down.  I wanted to see how this first instalment would end, and even though I anticipated much of what was to happen, I enjoyed the reading of it, and there were still a number of plot twists I didn’t expect.

I couldn’t decide between awarding this book 3.5 or 4 stars, but the beautiful cover encouraged me to be generous.  For the first book in a series, I thought it did a good job introducing the reader to the world it is set in, and to the cast of characters, and I’m looking forward to continue reading it.  The next book in the series, The Mapmaker’s Apprentice, has been added to my TBR list.

Rating


Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019 – I’ve chosen this book for challenge #19 in the list: A book by an indie author.

Book Review: Pretty Is As Pretty Dies by Elizabeth Spann Craig

Pretty Is As Pretty Dies is the first book in the Myrtle Clover cosy mystery series by Elizabeth Spann Craig.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A captivating first book in a series, with a fabulous main character in Myrtle and an interesting mystery. Entertaining, fast-paced and fun.  5 / 5

Summary (from Wattpad)

Pretty on the outside may not mean pretty on the inside.

Parke Stockard was certainly sitting pretty.  Blessed with good looks and business sense to boot, she should have been content.

Instead, Parke makes trouble in her small town.  When retired octogenarian schoolteacher Myrtle Clover discovers her body, no one in Bradley is particularly upset.

Myrtle decides to show up her police chief son and investigate the crime herself.  And, just in time to play detective, she meets a widower newcomer who proves the perfect sidekick.

Favourite Quote

Telling yourself to go to sleep wasn’t any good when you weren’t used to following orders.

(Pretty Is As Pretty Dies by Elizabeth Spann Craig, Chapter 10)

Review

The Myrtle Clover series of books is one of my favourites.  I love Myrtle – she’s like Miss Marple, but far more cheeky and a lot less subtle in her sleuthing.

Unusually for me, I am reading these books out of order.  So, after reading books four, five and six, I have decided to go back to the beginning and read book one.  The fact that I am happy to read these stories out of sequence tells me that these books work perfectly well as standalone reads as well as part of a series, a point I always think it is worth making.  Not everyone has the time to dedicate to a new-to-them book series.

Pretty Is As Pretty Dies is a captivating first book in a series.  I enjoyed going back to see how Myrtle began her sleuthing, and to discover how she found the perfect sidekick in Miles.  The supporting characters, from Myrtle’s neighbour Erma to Crazy Dan and the psychic, Wanda, make this a well-rounded, and always amusing, read.

I love the way Myrtle chooses to show her displeasure towards her son, Red, when he’s done something she doesn’t like: she fills her front garden with dozens of gnomes.  And, seeing as though he lives across the street, it’s a bold statement he cannot avoid seeing.

The mystery was interesting and entertaining; you will probably guess whodunnit before the reveal, but the getting there is fun.  The story is also fast-faced as we move along with Myrtle’s investigation and watch as she deals with the red herrings that Red deliberately puts in her path.

This is light-hearted escapism at its best.  If you like your cosy mysteries fast paced and fun, but you’ve yet to meet Myrtle Clover, I can’t recommend this series to you highly enough.

Rating

Favourite Books from 5 Years of Indie Only Month


For my first bookish-themed post for Indie Only Month 2019, I thought I would look back at some of my favourite reads from previous years.  I’ve been dedicating the month of July to indie authors and indie publishers since 2014, and from looking at the books listed below, the challenge has helped me to discover some great book series over the last five years…

Indie Only Month 2014

One of my favourite reads from Indie Only Month 2014 was Amanda Hocking’s Hollowland.  Self-published before attaining almost* every writers dream – getting discovered by a traditional publisher – this book introduced me to her work.

[* I say almost, because I’m aware there are plenty of indie authors out there who are not only happy remaining in control of their writer career, but who are also very success at it.]

You can read my review of Hollowland here.

Indie Only Month 2015

In 2015 I discovered Amber Lynn’s Avery Clavens series. For that year’s Indie Only Month, I read the first two books, Not In My Job Description and Just Another Day at the Office.  Here’s a quote from my review of Book 1:

The plot and subplots worked well and came together in spectacular fashion.

I remember bits and pieces from this series (most notably that, for some reason, I didn’t read the last book), but the quote above has persuaded me that it might be a good idea to go back and re-read it from beginning to end.

You can read my review of Not In My Job Description here, and Just Another Day At The Office here.

Indie Only Month 2016

It was during Indie Only Month 2016 that I read, reviewed and fell in love with the Earthen Witch books by Sarah Doughty, reading Just Breathe and Focus, and ensuring that the following Indie Only Month, I read the third book in the series, Listen.

You can read my review of Just Breathe here, and Focus here.

Indie Only Month 2017

2017’s challenge month introduced me to Elizabeth Spann Craig’s Myrtle Clover mysteries, one of my favourite cosy mystery series.  Each year since, I have read and reviewed – and thoroughly enjoyed – one book from the series for Indie Only Month – as well as more throughout the year.  I can’t get enough of them!

You can read my review of the first Myrtle Clover story I read, A Body In The Backyard, here.

Indie Only Month 2018

From last year’s list, two stories really stand out: Not Famous in Hollywood by Leonie Grant, which was a thoroughly entertaining read, and Winter Prey by T.M. Simmons, a paranormal mystery that once it got going, I struggled to put it down.

You can read my review of Not Famous in Hollywood here, and Winter Prey here.

Book Review: Wolf’s Wife by Julie Midnight

Summary (from Goodreads)

Alice is twenty-four, far old enough to know that a change of scenery can’t repair the cracks in a relationship long strained. But when her lover insists on a trip to a remote cabin to get away and recharge, Alice agrees…and soon discovers that among the beasts of the forest, there is one that shouldn’t exist and yet does: a wolf that changes into a man and a man who changes into a wolf. He’s savage, suspicious, and feral. And he’s as undeniably interested in her as she is in him…

Wolf’s Wife is an erotic paranormal romance and the first book in the Monstrous Hearts series.

Favourite Quote

Even in a mind worn into paths of silence and appeasement, the urge to snap and claw and kick burns like an ember hidden in the ashes.

Review

Like my previous review, this isn’t the usual type of paranormal book I read.  There is a lot of mature content to be found in the story – so should you go off and read it yourself, you’ve been warned…  Neither is it full of the usual werewolf fare.

I loved the story, but more than that, I loved the characters.  I warmed to Alice very quickly; her relationship with Magdalene was hard to read, so tipped were the scales.  Colton, the werewolf, with his aloofness, his wariness, was very realistic.  He’s gruff and rough and suspicious, almost animal traits that he brings with him into his human form rather than leaving behind with the wolf.  And that makes this werewolf more lifelike than what is usually depicted in supernaturally-themed tales.

There is a complexness in this story that makes this paranormal romance so believable.  The characters are well-crafted and the story well-thought out and well-written.  The author knows how to build atmosphere and tension, and as the quote above shows, there is a beauty to the prose.

There’s also a rawness about this tale.  Colton, as a man/wolf between worlds has to decide whether he can trust this stranger.  And as for Alice, who also finds herself “in between”, between her world and his, between her relationship with Magdalene and her feelings, she’s trying to navigate her way through some pretty difficult territory.

I will certainly be reading the sequel, Wolf’s Bane to find out how the story continues to unfold.

Rating

Book Review: Not Famous in Hollywood by Leonie Gant

Not Famous in Hollywood is the first book in the Not In Hollywood series by Leonie Gant.

Quick Review (Read on for the full review)

Quirky and fun.  An unexpected treat.  Can’t wait to read more from this series. 4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

There are some mornings when you really should make the time to stop for coffee. When Trudie Eyre came to Hollywood as personal assistant for the famous and indulged, she expected to see wealth, glamour and maybe a little crazy. What she did not expect was to be wedged in a doggie door, trying to rescue America’s Sweetheart from a potentially career destroying booty call with Hollywood’s Sexiest Man Alive. Finding the dead body of Hollywood’s favorite bad boy slumped in a shower did not feature in the job description either. Blackmailed by the police for her help, Trudie is drawn further into the lives of the famous and not so famous. In a world of secrets and betrayal she must find a killer before becoming the next target.

Favourite Quote

To keep her stunning, impossible for normal people to attain figure, Eleanor pretty much existed on a no fat, no sugar and no fun diet.

Review

This was an unexpected treat.  This isn’t the sort of book I usually read.  I prefer the dark and the gothic to the glitzy and beautiful.  I especially avoid anything to do with celebrity culture and Hollywood.  But, when I came across Not Famous in Hollywood I was looking for something different to what I usually read.  And I certainly found it…

I thought the mystery was good and well-thought out, and there were enough plot twists to keep you guessing and the story moving forward.  The pacing was also good.  But it was the characters that really made this a quirky, fun read.  They were great. Trudie Eyre has a difficult job and so much more patience than I have.  She is also kind and caring and some of the things she does are really endearing.

The way Trudie gets caught up in the murder investigation is quite amusing. Her friends are always there when she needs their support (and help on the case)  and the love interest is, given the circumstances, sweet.

I could see this being made into a TV series or TV movie and would quite happily watch it 🙂

Definitely an easy, entertaining cosy murder mystery. I will be reading more from this series.

Rating

Book Review: Winter Prey by T.M. Simmons

Winter Prey is the first book in the Northwood Prey series by T.M. Simmons.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An engaging read, full of vivid descriptions and interesting characters.  I would definitely read this again. 4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Terrified she will harm hew newly-adoped daughter in the throes of a PTSD flashback, Kymbria James travels to the far Northwood of Minnesota to work with a Native American healer. As the monster captures one after another tribal member and drags each off to its lair, Kymbria is forced into the quest to destroy it. She must confront both her emotional situation and the monster only she can eradicate…if she can find the courage.

Favourite Quote

You are not sure of your own strength.  None of us are.

Review

I enjoyed this book.  Although to begin with I found it to be a slow burn, it gathered pace the more I read, until eventually I couldn’t put it down.

Kymbria is an interesting character.  She is strong and independent, and her determination in the face of adversity is inspiring.  As for the other characters, Caleb’s history makes him the perfect addition to the story, and there is an air of mystery surrounding the Native American healer, Keoman.

The storyline was gripping.  Not only must Kymbria come to terms with the fact that a monster – a Windigo – from her people’s mythology is real, but when it takes an interest in her personally, she must deal with it along with all the other drama going on in her life.

There is plenty of vivid description throughout the story, bringing the landscape in which it is set to life.  I could clearly imagine what was taking place and where as I read.  The dialogue was realistic, and the storyline, even though it contained elements of the paranormal and a mythical creature, was believable.

My only criticism is the ending.  I felt the story ended too abruptly and though one story line was satisfactorily resolved, another was only hinted at.  As it’s the first book in the series, there is a potential for this to be tackled in the next book.

The second book in the Northwood Prey series is Silent Prey.  I’ve added it to my TBR.

A great read, one I would recommend to those who enjoy paranormal mysteries.

Rating

 

What’s coming up at Sammi Loves Books…

As we move towards the end of June, the season of reading challenges approaches here at Sammi Loves Books. Yay!

July is Indie Only Month

August is Historical Fiction Month

And as always, I’m really excited! 🙂

Reading Challenges Update

So, it’s the last day of July, meaning here at Sammi Loves Books, it is the last day of Indie Only Month.  I read and reviewed six stories this month, a few less than I was expecting / hoping, meaning I didn’t get around to a few books that were recommended to me.  However, they have been added to my “To be bought” or “To be read” lists and hopefully I will get around to them later this year. (To see what books I did get manage to read and review, see Indie Only Month 2016)

But we (yes, the royal “we”) are not glum to be leaving Indie Only Month behind us.  Why?  Because August is Historical Fiction Month.  Hurrah!

Historical Fiction Month

The first Historical Fiction Month was held in 2014 and this year I already have a gem or two reviews that I am planning to share.

So, if you have any requests or recommendations, please get in touch!  For more information, check out the Historical Fiction Month page or Review Requests.