A little bit of sunshine is needed here…

I haven’t published a personal post here in quite a long time. I started this blog as a way to share my thoughts. It morphed into a space for sharing my bookish thoughts but today, I’ll deviate to vent a little bit.

I haven’t been reading much or blogging because I’ve been super busy at work. I changed jobs 7 months ago and it’s been an amazing, growth opportunity. However, working in an international organisation also brought me the reality of timezones which means working late most days so as to connect with my colleagues in the West Coast . It’s all been an interesting experience but yeah, books and blogging took a hit.

One of the experiences that I’ve been looking forward to with the new job is the travel. I used to travel in my 20s but my budget limited me to East Africa. You can imagine my excitement when I found out that my first International meeting would be in the UK, London. I was so excited and called everyone to let them know I’d be going to London.

I really wanted to the UK to experience the place, people and culture. I’ve never been outside East Africa. I wanted to see the streets of London and confirm whether they are as clean and pothole free like I imagine. I hear the West is clean with no garbage or polythene bags on streets. I wanted to visit River Thames and see if its as muddy as some people say or maybe that’s a rumuor to spoil the fantasy. I wanted to experience different meals and find out whether the English really do drink tea in tiny cups unlike tea lovers like me who drink tea in mugs. I wanted to catch a glimpse of a world different than what I’ve experienced in the past 37 years. As the African proverb says, He who has not travelled thinks that his mother is the best cook in the world. I want to travel to see what else is out there.

My flight was/is to be on May 12th. A week from now. In normal circumstances, I’d be so excited counting down the days. However, there is this small matter of the VISA. I’ve been waiting for a month for a response on my VISA application and I’m slowly losing faith. No flight tickets or any preps done because I can’t do that without the VISA. The other night, I had a dream that my VISA application went through and I needed to buy a suit case and get ready. Last night, I dreamt that my VISA was denied. This wait is becoming a nightmare. Maybe I put too much expectations on the trip, maybe I…. I don’t know but I’m so disheartened by the turn of events.

The VISA situation is stressful. I pray that I’ll get it in the next 5 days. If I don’t, I pray that the weight of my expectations and disappointment will not be too much. That I’ll have the serenity to accept what I can’t change.

Now the other thing on my mind is our new car, a beauty that was home for only 3 days before a drunk driver failed to slow down on bumps and the new car has been at the garage since. Can’t I catch a break?

I guess it’s just one of those seasons when the clouds stay dark and all I want is to catch a glimpse of the sun.

Morning walk photo taken at the beginning of April

Review: Into the Dark by Fiona Cummins

Review: Into the Dark by Fiona Cummins

Into the Dark is the new dark and gripping crime thriller from Fiona Cummins about revenge, greed, ambition and the true cost of friendship.

THE PLACE: Seawings, a beautiful Art Deco home overlooking the sweep of the bay in Midtown-on-Sea.

THE CRIME: The gilded Holden family – Piper and Gray and their two teenage children, Riva and Artie – has vanished from the house without a trace.

THE DETECTIVE: DS Saul Anguish, brilliant but with a dark past, treads the narrow line between light and shade.

One late autumn morning, Piper’s best friend arrives at Seawings to discover an eerie scene – the kettle is still warm, all the family’s phones are charging on the worktop, the cars are in the garage. But the house is deserted.

In fifteen-year-old Riva Holden’s bedroom, scrawled across the mirror in blood, are three words:

Make
Them
Stop.

What happens next?

Review

This book opens with a chilling chapter. Piper, a wife and mother, has disappeared with her entire family. The family’s housekeeper and Piper’s best friend, Julienne, found the missing family’s home in disarray. It appears as if they had simply vanished in the midst of their morning routine which included breakfast still left at the table. Julianne become worried for her friend when she noticed drops of blood in the house.

This story pulled me in right away. I was curious about the missing family. Soon, it became quite clear that the mystery was way deeper than just the missing family. Piper and Julianne were living quite interesting lives filled with intrigue and secrets around their families. Each reveal filled me with more curiosity that had me turning pages even faster.

The detectives working on the case added more tension and mystery to the story. I like a good vigilante angle and this story provided me with that. There are so many unlikable characters in this narrative but they are a perfect fit. They add to the darkness, heighten the tension and feeling of foreboding that creeps through all the chapters.

I haven’t read a phycological thriller in quite a long time. I am so happy that this turned out to be a remarkable read for me. Dark, chilling and quite twisty, this is such a captivating read.

Review: You Love Me (You #3) by Caroline Kepnes

Joe is done with the cities. He’s done with the muck and the posers, done with Love. Now, he’s saying hello to nature, to simple pleasures on a cozy island in the Pacific Northwest. For the first time in a long time, he can just breathe.

He gets a job at the local library—he does know a thing or two about books—and that’s where he meets her: Mary Kay DiMarco. Librarian. Joe won’t meddle; he will not obsess. He’ll win her the old-fashioned way: by providing a shoulder to cry on, a helping hand. Over time, they’ll both heal their wounds and begin their happily ever after in this sleepy town.

The trouble is, Mary Kay already has a life. She’s a mother. She’s a friend. She’s busy.

True love can only triumph if both people are willing to make room for the real thing. Joe cleared his decks. He’s ready. And hopefully, with his encouragement and undying support, Mary Kay will do the right thing and make room for him.

Review

Joe Goldberg is a captivating lead character. Watching ‘You’ on Netflix now has me thinking of Penn Badgley as Joe. Penn does play the hell out of that character. He is also part of the reason why a creepy stalker like Joe is quite endearing to me. This story begins with Joe on the hunt. He has found a Librarian who he is in love with. Of course, the Librarian is also in love with him. At least this is true in Joe’s mind. He is committed to do everything in his power to match his dreams with reality.

As done in the previous books in the series, the story is narrated from Joe’s POV. We are literally stuck in his stalker mind and get to see the world from his twisted view. I took a little longer to adjust to the first-person narrative this time round. However, once I got comfortable with the writing style, I became totally engrossed with Joe’s dark, humorous thoughts.

There are a number of twists throughout the narrative although the pace did feel much slower than the previous books in the series. It did improve after the half way mark and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough after this point.

This is an entertaining series. I am not sure if there is anything left for Joe but I know the author will likely surprise his fans with another twisty journey and I can’t wait for it.

Review: Black Orchid Girls (Detective Amanda Steele #4) by Carolyn Arnold

The first rays of sun filter through the tall trees, casting a faint light on the girl lying at the water’s edge. Her tears have frozen on her pale face, a black orchid rest against her cold white skin.

When hikers find the body of a beautiful young girl on the banks of the Potomac River, Detective Amanda Steele is shaken and confused. What is the significance of the delicate flower resting on the girl’s torso? A sign of affection, or a twisted killer’s calling card?

The girl is Chloe Somner, a local nineteen-year-old ecology student well-known to the park rangers and loved by all her classmates. Searching Chloe’s home, Amanda can’t work out who could have tempted her to the water in the early hours of the morning, but a long night hunting through cold cases gives her a possible lead: twenty years ago another local girl was murdered, a red rose left on her body. But why would this killer strike again now?

Focused on the past, the last thing Amanda expects is the news that Chloe’s roommate has been found dead, another black orchid left. Terrified that more innocent victims will follow, can Amanda uncover the significance of the flowers and stop this cold-hearted killer before he returns for the next orchid girl…?

Review

The Black Orchid Girls is the fourth book in the Detective Amanda Steele series. It begins with a chilling scene when a lone woman is attacked at a park. Detectives Amanda and Trent have very little to go on. Despite the woman being identified pretty fast, its unclear why she was in the park so early in the morning. Was she meeting her attacker? Was this someone known to her? There was a black orchid placed on her posed body which further raised more questions.

This was a solid, complex case with false leads and an unsub who was good at hiding. I couldn’t guess the identity of the perp until the final pages when the reveal was made.

Although this was a stellar read, it wasn’t my favorite in the series so far. I felt like it lacked the urgency I am accustomed to in this genre. The pacing moved a little slower and, in the end, I took quite long to read it. Don’t get me wrong though, Carolyn’s writing is top-notch and I had to find answers. I just wasn’t in a hurry to. I don’t know if that makes sense. I also hope to see more character development especially with the support characters as they still feel more like just names but not people that I know like the Lead Character.

I can’t wait for the next installment in the series. I look forward to catching up with Amanda and seeing the new developments in her life especially with her new family.

Review: You Need to Know by Nicola Moriarty

The holidays are here. The extended family has gathered. The cars are packed and the convoy sets off. The cottage is a few hours’ drive – but not everyone will live to see it …

For Jill, her three sons, their wives and children, a terrifying road crash will tear apart their family.

The crash will be an accident but the shattering that follows has been long coming.

Because at the heart of this family lies a secret – concealed, wrestled with, festering and harmful – and nothing now can stop it coming out.

But will any of them survive it?

Review

I have always loved stories about families, secrets and lies. Jill believes in Christmas traditions. As the matriarch, she ensures that the entire family gets together for the holidays at the family’s getaway home. Last Christmas ended up in tragedy. This year, Jill is determined to get the family together and recapture the magic of Christmas. Things don’t exactly go as planned.

We get to follow the story from different perspectives as narrated by Jill, her son Darren and two daughters-in-law, Mimi and Andrea. Each section of the book ends with a chapter on an accident that takes place on Christmas eve. Through each chapter, we get to know what happened, who was involved and the aftermath. Each little reveal added to the tension in the story.

This was a well-written, captivating story. As much as I wanted answers, I still didn’t want it to end. The family had quite a number of secrets and this kept things interesting up to the final page. The main reveals were jaw-dropping and heart-breaking at the same time. I didn’t see them coming.

This book had me thinking about family secrets. Do we really know everything about our family members? I know I have secrets of my own. I wonder what kind of secrets my family might be keeping too. Well, I hope our secrets remain buried unlike Jill’s family haha. I sure did enjoy this read and I absolutely adore Nicola Moriarty’s writing. Highly recommended.

Reviews:  Stolen Angels (Detective Ellie Reeves #5) by Rita Herron

Lara is baking cupcakes when her daughter Ava runs to catch the school bus just one block away. Chasing after her, Lara sees the bus tumbling past, and waves. But Ava never turns up at school.

Detective Ellie Reeves is in a race against time to find her––in missing child cases, every second counts. Searching the small town of Crooked Creek, she finds the child’s bunny in the local park, the toy Ava carried around everywhere. Did Ava ever get on the bus?

While Ellie works around the clock, a local reporter gets a message: There are others missing girls out there. Digging into previous cases, Ellie discovers that another girl went missing on the same day the previous year. How many more children could there be?

Ellie is certain that the date means something––and that the person who sent the message is the key. But the community is up in arms, with everyone worried that their daughter will be next and blaming Ellie. The pressure is mounting, and time is running out to bring Ava home. Can Ellie solve the toughest case of her career––and save Ava––before it’s too late

Review

Stolen Angels is the fifth book in the Detective Ellie Reeves series and it didn’t disappoint. Rita Herron’s writing is amazing. She has a way of bringing characters and cases alive that makes this series quite immersive.

Ava is missing. She ran out of the door to catch the school bus. She was out of her mother’s sight for a few minutes and that is all it took for someone to take her. Once again, Crooked Creek is rocked with another crime. Parents are holding their children closer and the whole town is tense. Ellie is once again on the wrong side of the townspeople. It seems that no matter what she does, the people always find ways of blaming her. This time, it’s worse.

Once again, I was totally pulled into the case. The author always makes the cases so realistic and gives an in depth look at the investigation. This was yet another case that was quite twisty. It led to more answers even for questions not yet asked. I was invested in each and every detail and couldn’t stop working on the case with Ellie and Derrick.

Ellie is definitely one of my favorite detectives. This time, Cord takes the back seat a bit but we get to spend more time with FBI Agent, Derrick, who I also like. The other support characters are all quite developed. I like the direction that Bryce’s character took in this installment. As always, it was a joy to reconnect with Shondra and the rest of the team.

This was good, captivating case. It was also quite an emotional read but I enjoyed the twists and unpredictability of the narrative. This is definitely another great addition to the series.

Review: Frozen Souls (Detective Ellie Reeves #4) by Rita Herron

She looked like an angel. She lay perfectly still, silky blonde hair falling to her pale shoulders. Icicles clung to her eyelashes as snowflakes fluttered to the frozen ground, burying her body.

As a snowstorm wreaks havoc in the mountain town of Crooked Creek, a woman is found buried in ice. Detective Ellie Reeves is first on the scene. Examining the body, she finds frozen blonde hair, pink nail polish and a silver heart necklace engraved with Mine Forever.

Ellie has first-hand experience of the monsters that lurk in the mountains––her childhood is testament to that. She vows to catch this one, but she’s up against the brutal weather, with snow covering footprints and making forensics impossible.

Frantically trawling through missing-person’s reports, Ellie identifies the victim. Nadine Houser disappeared eleven years ago. Where has she been all this time? Why was she only murdered now?

As storm clouds roll in, another girl is reported missing. Ellie retraces the steps of Ginger Weston who was renting a cabin in the mountains. She discovers a gold chain in the snow, spotted with blood. The killer is accelerating, and it’s just a matter of time before more innocent lives are robbed.

With the town blaming Ellie for the missing girl on her watch, and everyone fearing for their safety of their daughters, it’s down to Ellie to solve the toughest case of her career. But when the killer comes after her, will she live to save Crooked Creek from its ruthless monster?

Review

Just for the record, I wouldn’t want to live at Crooked Creek. It sounds like a scenic small town with lovely views of the mountains but it does host some really twisted individuals. Lucky for the townsfolks, Detective Ellie Reeves always works hard to keep them safe.

The discovery of the body of a young woman frozen in the snow has the detectives puzzled. The case becomes more complicated when its discovered that the victim had been missing for over a decade. When another young woman goes missing, Ellie and her team know that the discovery wasn’t an isolated case. Someone is preying on young women in Crooked Creek.

The story is told by multiple narrators including the killer whose POV was quite chilling. Ellie is the main narrator and through her we get to follow the investigation. This was a long, frustrating case for the detectives. Once again, the mountains provide such a huge area for the unsub to disappear and stay hidden.

I continue to enjoy Ellie’s development through the series. I didn’t like her in the first book but now, I adore her. I like how well she now works with Derrick, Shondra and Cord. Her personal development is also quite interesting. I love to see how her relationships have grown through the series. That said, she had me totally hooked on the case. I was anxious for her and the team and couldn’t wait for them to catch the predator.

This was yet another stunning installment to the series. Its fast-paced, well-written and quite twisty. I am glad that I already have the next book in the series. I can’t wait to find out what awaits my favorite characters and their small town.

Review: Left for Dead (Detective Bernadette Noel #3) by Joy Kluver

When DI Bernie Noel hurries to Keira Howard’s hospital bedside, she knows that Keira has been lucky. Barely conscious and badly injured, at least she is alive. Convinced that Keira’s attack is the latest in a string of increasingly violent assaults on young women in the area, the next victim might not be so fortunate. So she vows to find the man who did this, and to stop him before anyone else gets hurt.

Spurring her team into action, she quickly hones in on a prime suspect. But then he suddenly dies while on police watch, and Bernie’s investigation goes into freefall. When Bernie’s superiors won’t let her take the case any further, her gut instinct tells her there’s much more to his death than meets the eye. If it was murder, who would want him dead, and why? So she determines to set out on her own to find out what happened.

But the closer Bernie comes to discovering the truth, the more she is putting her own life in danger. And with Keira finally strong enough to talk her about her attack, Bernie worries she may be at risk yet again. There’s someone out there who has killed to stay safe in the shadows; can Bernie stop another senseless death, and save Keira, before it’s too late?

Review

Left for Dead is the third book in the Detective Bernadette Noel Police Procedural series. This is one of my favourite series at the moment.

A young woman is found brutally attacked and left for dead. DI Noel and her team suspect that she is the victim of a serial rapist who has been attacking young women in the area. They need to stop the person before he attacks another woman. I absolutely loved just how complex this case was. It was intertwined with another case involving Anderson, Bernie’s partner. The investigation led to more reveals and took turns that I wasn’t expecting. To say that I was thoroughly entertained feels like an understatement. This was an absolutely fascinating case.

DI Bernie is one of my favorite detectives of all time. I love that she is pregnant. I have read numerous police procedural but this is the first time I have encountered a pregnant lead detective and I loved it. As I have mentioned before, my mom is a retired police detective with 3 children. She used to work up to her due date and was only entitled to 3 months maternity leave before resuming duty. Bernie made me think about mom and what it was like for her. I hope her colleagues were as supportive as Bernie’s. I like how well developed Bernie is as a character and how the author continues to masterfully focus on her personal life without overshadowing the investigation. The characters in Bernie’s team are also quite well crafted. In this installment, we are introduced to Leigh, an officer on the spectrum. I really hope she will join the team moving forward. She is such a joy to read about.

This being a multi-layered case, I couldn’t guess the identity of the Perp. I didn’t even have time to try and go ahead of the detectives and solve the mystery. I was invested in the investigation and worked together with the team. The reveal was quite a surprise. In addition, the book ends with a twist in Bernie’s personal life and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead for her.

This was a fast-paced, absolutely gripping, page-turner. I can’t wait for the fourth book in the series. Although this can be read as a stand-alone, going back to the beginning of the series allows you to get to know the characters better. Their background stories and development is quite interesting.

Review: Last Seen (Detective Bernadette Noel #1) by Joy Kluver

When five-year-old Molly Reynolds is snatched from the park in the small village of Otterfield, Detective Bernadette ‘Bernie’ Noel throws herself into the search, sick with worry for the quiet, sensitive little girl and her distraught mother.

Wasting no time, Bernie finds a small green cardigan under a bush in the park. It still has the smiley face sticker Molly won that week at school. It’s the first in a chain of clues – and Bernie can’t shake the feeling that it was left deliberately, as a message.

But Bernie encounters a wall of silence. Otterfield is a close-knit community, yet no one in the village seems to care that Molly is missing at all. Why?

And then Bernie makes a chilling discovery: twenty-five years ago, another little girl went missing from the area. Her name was Sophie, and all they ever found of her was her teddy bear, hidden under a bush. Now Bernie knows she’s in a race against time to save Molly’s life.

Bernie’s team work round the clock to find a connection between the two girls, and just when they think they’re making progress a devastating tragedy strikes at the heart of the case. Molly’s family have been hiding a secret, and now their little girl is in greater danger than ever.

Can Bernie outwit the most warped criminal she has ever faced and bring Molly home safe, or will another innocent life be lost?

Review

Last Seen is the first book in the Detective Bernadette Noel Series. I read the second book in the series last year and couldn’t resist going back to the beginning with this title. Once again, I find myself reading another missing child mystery. I decided to slow down on these but then again, all my series seem to have at least one case that deals with a missing child. I certainly don’t regret reading this one though.

The story begins with five- year old Molly going missing while playing at a park. A missing child is shocking enough but a town that doesn’t care, that caught my attention. Instead of going out searching for the little girl, the town folks shunned the family. They just didn’t seem bothered at all. I was naturally curious as to why this was happening even as I wondered what happened to Molly.

Bernadette is a great lead detective. She is likeable, no drama or jaw dropping secrets. She works well with her team and I was rooting for her and Anderson. The problem with reading the second book first is that I jumped ahead in terms of the characters’ back stories but I’m glad that I had a chance to go back and see how different relationships were formed.

This was a captivating, well-written cop procedural with an intriguing lead detective. I am currently reading the 3rd book which is quite good so far.

Review: The Silent Witness (Detective Amanda Steele #3) by Carolyn Arnold

When the bodies of a local family are discovered on a quiet street in the small town of Dumfries, Virginia, Detective Amanda Steele takes charge of the case. Brett and Angela Parker were shot three times each, leaving no hope of survival, and their tidy suburban home has been ransacked. Their daughter, Zoe, is left mute and traumatized, but alive.

With Zoe completely uncommunicative, Amanda must find another way to untangle what destroyed this seemingly perfect family. It’s clear that the killer is searching for something the Parkers had, and until she has this monster behind bars, Amanda fears that he may return for Zoe. When she learns that Brett Parker cut short the family’s recent lakeside vacation, she wonders why. What happened at that lake house, and did it ultimately get them killed?


Review

The Silent Witness is the third book in the Detective Amanda Steele series.  Amanda’s latest case involves a home invasion that ended in a double homicide and left behind a scared, little girl. Amanda and her team have to solve the case fast as they fear that the killers might come back if they find out that the little girl survived and had likely witnessed the murder.

This is one of those cases that will have you scratching your head. The murders were committed by a professional who left little evidence behind. Although Zoe might have witnessed the crimes, she is traumatized and silent. The detectives cannot rush her and have to be careful not to cause her more pain that she already experienced.

Amanda continues to grow on me. I wasn’t too sure about her in the first book but now she is definitely a favourite. I like how she is invested in her cases and how well she works with her team and especially Trent.

This was an emotional case and my heart went out to Zoe and Amanda too who was facing her personal issues and trauma. Nonetheless, I was captivated by this read and it kept me guessing up to the last page. I am glad that we now have closure on some of the issues in Amanda’s personal life. I can’t wait to reconnect with her in the next book.