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review 2017-02-19 14:20
The Gatekeeper- Michael Sisti

 

At first I thought my failure to keep a grip on the long cast of characters was going to sink me and at felt a few early point of view shifts were a little too sharp, however once I settled into this very fast paced book I really enjoyed it. Sisti has structured this story with very short chapters that add to the pacey feel. We are trotted through literally years in which a business grows from nothing into a large regional bank, and then collapses in the trauma field of the financial crisis started by the 2007 sub-prime mortgage collapse in the USA.

The gatekeeper in the male testosterone fired world is a woman, and not one modelled on a kick-arse beauty that can floor any man with a combination of looks, intelligence and gymnastic battle crafts, the likes of which have never yet actually been witnessed in real life. All the characters are just about believable, if in many cases rather clichéd. With so many actors to follow it was as well that many were solidly familiar, stock personalities.

This book makes business acquisitions and mergers seem like exciting stuff, and as if this isn’t enough there is an interesting bit of sexual intrigue as well. This is a fun read, one that once it had me hooked had no trouble keeping me so.

Sisti is a good pulp fiction writer. I mean that with the greatest of respect. He writes in a sharp entertaining, to the point, style, that draws unrepentantly on those characters that surround us all in real life. And all this is done without any demonstrable physical violence, murder, torture, or natural disasters. I’m sure I’ll read another Sisti before very long.

For the traveller, those short chapters make this book just right for reading on a crowded train.

AMAZON LINK

 

 

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review 2017-02-18 08:21
Review: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
Redeeming Love - Francine Rivers

Quick review for a progressive read. I read this over the course of a week, and it feels like I finished a marathon (in a good way). "Redeeming Love" came as a recommended read to me and it's my first experience reading Francine Rivers. If there's something to be said about her writing, Rives really knows her characters, conflicts, and has a way of weaving the narrative to make the most of the emotional gravity contained in the story.

This is a romantic retelling of the story of Gomer and Hosea, set in the year of 1850 during the American Gold Rush. The story starts out showcasing the experiences of Sarah, a girl sold into sexual slavery at a very young age, ultimately being renamed "Angel" by those who exert control over her. She grows up leading a numbed life as a prostitute. While she has those she calls friends, her heart is closed, and she doesn't have a single male figure in her life that she trusts or respects given what happens to her mother and the way other people have treated her personally.

Michael (Hosea) is a farmer who falls in love with Angel as he's conducting business in the city and sees her passing by (by a guard/handler no less). While their initial encounters are tense, Hosea struggles to try to get to know Angel by buying her time with the wages he earns. He doesn't use the time for any intimacy, but rather talks to try to get to know her and break down her defenses and distrust. He ultimately rescues her by making her his wife and taking out of the abusive residence she's in. Despite his promises of love and seeing her for the person she is rather than her horrible experiences, Angel still doesn't trust him and thinks he'll end up hurting her. She flees from him many times, thinking she won't be able to escape the pain of her past and subjecting herself to what she believes she deserves. Ultimately it's a story of redemption and acknowledgement as Angel and Hosea's relationship progresses, not just between each other, but with the people they come to know - and the challenges they face in their communications and environment around them.

I really appreciated the entire cast of characters in this book - they were very well drawn and vivid. While Sarah/Angel/Amanda appears to be an insufferable character due to the way she treats many of the people in this novel, it was hard for me not to rally behind her because I understood her grief, I understood her pain and how twisted it made her perceptions and relationships. It was difficult not to get emotional for what she endures and how she lashes out at the people around her when they try to help her with the best intentions. Her vulnerabilities show in places where she's challenged and doesn't know how to reconcile them, giving her due dimension. The joy for me was watching her grow as a person through the thick of it all. I liked Hosea as well, though he also had his share of stubborn streaks and flaws through the course of the narrative. The side characters in the novel were easy to follow and identify with as well. It's a compulsively readable title that gives due investment and tribute to the narrative and matters it chooses to mirror. If there were one thing that slowed the experience down for me, it'd probably be the fact that the self-references of the narrative to the characters in the Bible probably weren't needed, because it was already clear in the retelling that Hosea's character was modeled after...Hosea. It seemed a little meta to have Hosea talk about Hosea as referenced in the Bible. (He's named after the character, for goodness sake. At first I was like "Maybe this was done just to make it clear that this was rooted from a Biblical story", but you kind of get that in the context of the narrative itself. )

It was one of the strongest Christian fiction titles I've read to date, though. It doesn't feel too overbearing (certain parts of the narrative drag their heels, but it was more towards the end than the beginning). I took the better part of a week reading this just to take in the writing and the narrative for what it was worth, and I would honestly revisit the story and more of Rivers' writing given the opportunity.

Overall score: 4/5 stars.

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review 2017-02-18 08:14
Review: Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta
Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil - Melina Marchetta

Quick review for a progressive read. It's hard to describe my reactions to this novel, because, on one hand, this is quite apt to Melina Marchetta's style of writing - strong characterizations, compelling family-centered stories, and emotional revelations on the topics she touches upon (particularly with respect to race, violence, prejudice, etc.) I enjoyed the journey this novel took me on for the most part, even as it handed down its revelations progressively rather than in one felt swoop like the magnitude of the crime(s) this book centers upon.

It took me quite a while to get into this novel, and there's a large cast of characters within this narrative to keep track of. Hence why the pacing feels like it crawls in sections of the novel, but on the whole of things, this is a powerful novel with more of a focus on the people who are caught within these tragedies/mysteries.

Bish is a suspended inspector whose daughter is among the victims of a bus bombing. Although his daughter isn't hurt, Bish learns that a young woman whom he'd encountered many years before is at the center of suspects surrounding the bus bombing: Violette LeBrac. His journey to not only find Violette but determine who was behind the bombing takes him to many places and uncovers many difficult situations in Bish's own past. Other major characters include Bee, Bish's daughter, Violette, who struggles to maintain her own innocence despite the fact her mother and other members of her family were charged in a bombing that took several lives years before; Noor LeBrac, Violette's mother and a complex character in her own right - reluctant to help Bish, but it's clear she cares for her daughter and family greatly.

I wish the presentation of the novel had been more smooth for transition and consistency in narrative voices. The stories in this novel were powerful and impactful, ones that definitely stood out to me long after I finished the novel, but there were times when the narrative threw me out for the sheer length of time and amount of stories packed into the narrative itself.

Overall score: 3.5/5 stars.

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review 2017-02-18 08:00
Review: King's Cage (Red Queen #3) by Victoria Aveyard
King's Cage (Red Queen) - Victoria Aveyard

Quick review for a not so quick read. Short version: This book was a hot mess. I'm basically ending my journey with the series here because of how things were (mis)handled through the narrative. Read on for details.

 

Yeah, I'm a fair shade of vexed, might as well get the hot air out of me before I dive into the bulk of my review. I feel like I just wasted a day and a half's-worth of reading time just to do, what - power through close to 500 pages of filler? Anti-climatic self-indulgent character tokenism with incomplete scenes that seemed to jump willy nilly? Vital scenes that could've been interesting to watch/see/experience are skipped while others about bland place details or character self-loathing go on for page after page? Side characters, who have interesting motivations on their own, keep marching to the chain of centering on the heroine while their own stories and revelations get shafted?

 

I just...can't, man. Argggggh.

 

Okay...hot air gut reaction released. Now into the reasons why I'm so thoroughly vexed at the journey of this book. I'll put this in list form just to make it easier to digest.

 

WARNING: MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD!!![

 

 

1. Poor pacing which is both anti-climatic and over focused on details that don't matter in the scheme of the story. This book could've easily been shaved about 200-250 pages. I'm not kidding. The story summary of "King's Cage" summed up in a nutshell has Mare being held captive by Maven, wallowing around in her own misery for a good 200 some pages while waiting either to be rescued or for some political conflict she witnesses to give her an opportunity to act like a badass and escape. (Though many times she's like "What's the point? I'm just gonna get captured anyway. Can't use my power. They're all too powerful, blah blah.") And then after said revolt comes into play, she has a momentarily happy reunion with Cal, some time with the family, jumps back into the fray of conflict, leaving less than 15% of the book to put in some key scenes of conflict. Much of the narrative felt like wasted space and time.

 

Granted, I'll give credit for a few scenes that furthered the political rift between the Reds and Silvers. I can name them on three fingers really:

 

Mare being marched like a puppet and causing doubt among the Scarlet Guard in their respective role for things - but we've seen this before.

 

Mare witnessing the union of Maven and his new bride to be a show of power and prominence. (including an awkward bath scene for sexual tension when Maven and Mare have a conversation about said pending union).

 

And lastly: Mare and Cal having to deal with the aftermath of a key battle that didn't go according to plan.

 

But even then, considering how much time it takes to get to these key points, was it really worth wading through about 500 pages just to get to those points? (Answer: nope, nope, noppity, nope, nope.)

 

2. Misuse of multiple POVs: This could be contentious because, for what it's worth, I liked reading Evangeline and Cameron's perspectives and I wanted more of a deeper experience with their roles in the story. Definitely not when they were essentially tooting Mare's horn, leaving less room to dig into their own motivations and contentions within the overarching conflict (and it's pretty bad when you feel like one of the characters highlighted basically has her sexual identity shoehorned into the story just to add conflict and not for the time and connection that it truly deserved. Same with another character whose sexual identity really didn't have a lot of time to expand or develop, these are things that happened off scene and left me wondering "Wait, where the heck was I when this happened?" )

 

That served to piss me off on several occasions. Dude, when you have multiple POVs, it's to get into the heads and motivations of the characters you're writing about specifically, not toot the horn of the main character. Mare has her own space for that. It doesn't need to be spelled out. I get that Cameron has a like/hate relationship with Mare, she doesn't have to tell me this. I get that Evangeline reluctantly has to call a truce with Mare because she has her own reasons for acting the way she does, that can be shown as well. I get there's a purpose to their POVs in the novel, but the way they were done just felt...very fillerish and empty. Definitely not what they deserved through the whole of this narrative.

 

3. Mare. Yes, Mare still continues to be the Achilles' heel of this series. This is unfortunate because for a while, I was willing to follow her journey even with how insufferable she was through the last two books. It was hard to care, but at least I still cared enough to continue.

 

At least until this book. It showed me just how this series badly wants to paint her as a badass, TCO character only to actually portray her as being very passive and a product of the plot points this series pushes her through. This is said even knowing that the experiences she's going through are supposed to be traumatizing and noting the PTSD that she suffers towards the end of the novel. I didn't feel convinced by how this was framed because other dystopian/fantasy novels have done it with much better conviction and connection and didn't drag their heels while doing so. When her powers return, basically she has moments of returning to her self worth, but in the end it's dampened by her self-centeredness yet again. Which leads me to:

 

4. The climax/the ending. Oh heck no to all of it. I honestly think if the pacing and characterizations were more solid, this could've not led into another book. That may be up for debate in itself, but there were two things about the last 15% of the book that upset me. From the scheme of events, Cal and Mare are training for a battle against Maven and his respective forces. Okay. (Even if some scenes feel like they're lifted too closely from The Hunger Games or Divergent.)

 

They get into that respective battle and fight with a few harrowing scenes to match (never mind that none of the extra characters here are relevant other than passing mention. There's even a point where Mare says she doesn't remember a character, and I'm like "What goes with the main character mind, goes with the reader" so whenever Mare says she's bored or doesn't remember someone, how would one expect the reader to feel?)

 

I was thrown from the story towards the very end because a key scene felt like it was missing between the battleground and the direct aftermath (which switches to Evangeline's perspective). I couldn't get past how it just took that leap and the climax/promise of that scene just felt relatively unfulfilled. Maven escapes their grasp, but...you barely get to feel that sense of defeat or frustration from the main characters involved because of the change in POV and how it just sums up events.

 

The second point of frustration: Mare's selfishness creeps up again in the epilogue, leading to the next book for obvious *drama*. "Choose me or your kingdom, Cal!" essentially is what it boils down to without rehashing the whole of the exchange. Never mind all of the political tensions the book has established up to this point. Never mind that Mare knows very well what's at stake and is like "I don't care."

(spoiler show)

 

 

At that final point, to the effect of seeing this series through to the end? My reaction was much the same:

 

description

 

So I think I'll wait to see what other series Aveyard writes because this one's lost me. And that's unfortunate really, because there's so much potential in the ideas this series has, but the execution isn't there. Not at all.

 

Overall score: 1.5/5 stars.

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text 2017-02-17 14:47
Reading progress update: I've read 1064 out of 1344 pages.
The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) - William Shakespeare,John Jowett,Gary Taylor

Riddling for marriage, as in The Merchant of Venice, but this riddle hides a terrible secret!

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