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review 2018-05-31 22:26
Recommended to fans of action and spy thrillers looking for a fun read.
The Beauty of Bucharest (A Clean Up Crew Thriller Book 1) - S. J. Varego

Thanks to the publisher for offering me a free copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.

It is quite difficult to review this novel without revealing any spoilers, and the description does not help much (it is gripping although extremely discreet) but considering the genre, this is pretty understandable, and I’ll try my hardest not to spoil the fun.

I am not a big reader of spy novels but have watched a fair amount of spy movies,and although this is not a spy novel per se, it shares with them many of its characteristics. We have professionals working in an international team, taking up false identities, travelling all over the world to undertake dangerous missions, using weaponry and skills beyond those of most normal individuals. We have the goodies and the baddies (and they are very bad indeed, no question about it), we have secrets, risky situations, and a fair amount of violence. The novel also requires a great deal of suspension of disbelief but not more than is usual in the genre.

The story, as suggested by the title, takes place, in its majority, in Bucharest, and it involves a beautiful model, but also many other women who are at risk. The background of the operation and the individuals the two protagonists —Dan and Nicole, a married couple— are trying to get rid of are bad beyond discussion. We are not dealing with white-collar crimes or morally ambiguous matters. I don’t think any readers will find it difficult to root for the protagonists, who are also likeable and have an endearing, if somewhat idealised, relationship.

The novel manages to combine what might be some women’s fantasies (having plenty of power, running an international company that deals with and avenges those who do evil, helping make the world a better place, knowing how to use powerful weapons and possessing fighting skills, whilst at the same time having the perfect husband and children), with some men’s fantasies (having a gorgeous and younger wife, the perfect family life, retiring after having dedicated one’s life to creating a company that is fun to run [a company that designs computer games], becoming involved in fascinating adventures, and then being able to use his geek skills to save his kick-ass wife). It is a fast-paced adventure, exciting, and there’s not a moment’s boredom. Although we get a sense of what Bucharest is like, there are no lengthy descriptions to slow down the action, and we do not get lost in psychological studies of the characters either.

This is, first and foremost, a plot-driven book, and we do not get to know much about the characters or their motivations, although this is book one in the series and there are hints that we will get to discover some important secrets in future novels. The story is told in the third person but from the points of views of both of the main characters (and sometimes briefly from some of other characters, including one of the baddies), and, although as I said there is no deep analysis of the individuals, having access to their thoughts makes it easy to empathise with them. There is a degree of head-hopping (sometimes the narration quickly moves from the point of view of one of the characters to the other), but I did not find it confusing as it is quite evident who is thinking what. I am not sure the characters are always fully consistent, but they are confronting pretty challenging circumstances and that is not what the book is focused on. (I must confess to feeling quite intrigued by one of the bad characters, the female bodyguard. Not likeable but…) The writing is dynamic and fluid, and although there are some USA-based cultural references, they do not detract from the understanding of the story.

There is violence, some fairly explicit (although not extreme), and there is a scene that although very bloody, will be satisfying to most readers (just deserts come to mind, and I was close to cheering at that point) but the book is not a heavy read. Although it deals with serious matters, these are not the subject of far-reaching analysis but rather an evil that has to be fought.

In summary, this is a fun and quick read, full of action, with a degree of role reversal (strong and powerful females, and males who are side-kicks at best and distractions at worst, although they end up coming quite handy), in an interesting setting, with a very satisfying ending and a promise of more secrets to be revealed in future instalments. I could not help but think of many of the spy movies I’ve watched, and with the right cast, it could turn into a blockbuster. Recommended to lovers of action and spy thrillers looking for a fun, non-taxing read.

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review 2018-05-29 18:35
Mind Wreck by J.Z. Foster
Mind Wreck: Shadow Games - J.Z. Foster

This book arrived in the mail and before I could warn her, my daughter picks it up and says, “You’re reading a book with a kitty on the cover!” Then she peers closer and with a look of horror on her face sighs, “oh, of course, it’s bleeding” and drops it like a hot potato as I laughed. OF COURSE! Sheesh, what kind of monster must she think I am? And how is this child even mine?! 

Haha.

I wasn’t sure what to expect of this book after reading the synopsis but it intrigued me enough to accept a review copy. It’s more dark urban fantasy than it is horror but there are enough horrific and terrifying scenarios and graphic scenes to please the dark heart of most any horror fan too. 

Matthew is going about his life unaware that life as he knows it is about to end. He’s been having scary dreams and seeing things that may or may not be there. Things that linger in dark corners. Then one not-so-fine day a talking cat enters his life. A talking cat that looks and smells a little like death and claims it is his father! As if that weren’t enough to digest, he’s told he is about to go through the “Mind Wreck” and come into powers that will force him to go on the run from a group who wants to use them for their own nefarious goings-on. Matthew is ill equipped to enter this sinister game but his daddy cat sticks around to help him out and offer advice and sarcasm. I loved the sarcasm coming from a bedraggled cat body so much.

“I just really miss having thumbs.”

This isn’t my typical kind of read but I enjoyed it. Matthew is a relatable character who just wants to meet up with his dream girl but is caught up in all of this crazy. His cat-dad is a sarcastic smart-ass who is sketchy, a little mean, secretive and always unpredictable. It kept me on my toes guessing what would happen next, it was a little gross and a little funny and it never bored me which is more than I can say for a lot of books! 

4 ½ stars

I received a copy from the author. Thanks!

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review 2018-05-08 01:22
Ice Games
Ice Games (Games, #3) - Jessica Clare

I adore figure skating and I liked the previous 2 entries in this series. I ended up disappointed. The inaccuracies bothered me (triple axel anyone?) when it came to Zara and her skating. While what she did at the Olympics was funny, it also would be something unlikely to happen. Then not getting a second chance later? (If she was doing the triple axel, she would still have been very competitive). That aside, I liked Zara. Ty? Not really. I didn't like him. I didn't like his whiny-ass at the beginning. I didn't like how he thought it was okay to get into bed with Zara without asking. (Hey, he was drunk, so I guess he gets a pass? Yeah, no). That ruined the whole romance for me. And I could not get on board.
Now, I liked how the show played out. And I liked the ending. I was pleasantly surprised. Zara does get some respect and redemption.

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url 2018-04-26 19:51
The Great American Read: America’s 100 most-loved books
Anne of Green Gables Novels #1 - L M Montgomery
I, Alex Cross - James Patterson
A Separate Peace - John Knowles
The Eye of the World - Robert Jordan
Charlotte's Web - E.B. White,Garth Williams,Rosemary Wells
Moby Dick - Herman Melville,Frank Muller
The Martian - Andy Weir
The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway

Voting starts May 22 and ends October 2018.  See link for more of the 100 nominees.

 

I'm about this but do wish they had done it by categories or even time periods (I.e., published before 1900, before 1950, before 2000, type of splits).  I agree that those are 100 of the most read, most popular and even most influential books.

 

I just mean it's weird seeing beloved childhood books like Charlotte's Web and Anne of Green Gables up against Carch 22, Then There Were None, and long running contemporary series like Alex Cross and Wheel of Time?

 

Then the hordes of fans for Twilight, Fifty Shades of Gray, Pride and Prejudice, Harry Potter  ...

 

(I am not at all disrespecting Harry Potter; frankly I think those books are responsible for an entire generation of readers.  It's just weird to see it up against the other nominees.)

 

How would you vote -- a childhood favorite that made you a reader or your favorite recent read?

Source: www.pbs.org/the-great-american-read/books/#
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text 2018-04-18 06:14
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