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review 2018-02-12 13:33
If you enjoy well-researched international thrillers and love team-spirit, don’t miss this one.
The Violin Man's Legacy - Seumas Gallacher

I had read Gallacher’s Self-Publishing Steps to Successful Sales (you can check my review here) a while back and had several of his books waiting to be read but had not managed yet. But when his first novel, The Violin Man’s Legacy became available in audiobook format, I knew I had no excuse.

Although I tend to use the text-to-speech facility on my e-reader, I haven’t listened to many audiobooks (mostly my own) so I was intrigued by the experience. I found the narrator, C.C. Hogan, engaging, able to hold my attention, and very good at keeping the characters separate (and there are quite a few!) and individual. He is also very good at accents and managed the international locations and names without faltering. Unfortunately, my Kindle is quite old by now and could not accommodate the Whispersync option, that would have made it easier to check some things (like names and details), as I also had a copy of the Kindle version of the book.

I’m not a huge reader of spy novels, and although this book is classified within the crime and suspense thriller category, this international action-thriller reminded me in style of many spy/international conspiracy novel, although with a more European feel, and less frantic in pace than many American spy thrillers. There is plenty of action, and even some sex (and yes, the main character is incredibly skilled, can fight like the best of them, and outwit his opponents, although the brains behind the operation is his boss), but there are also slower moments when we learn the back story, not only of the main characters, like Jack and his teammates, but also of some of the people they collaborate with, and even some of their enemies. This allows us to get to know more about the players and to understand how they got to where they are. (The story behind the title and the way it relates to Jack’s past is particularly touching).

The book is narrated in the third person, from a variety of points of view. We mostly follow Jack Calder (as it should be, as this is his series), but we also are party to the thoughts of many other characters, although there is no confusing head-hopping, and even in the narrated version, it is clear which point of view we are being privy to at any given moment. This helps create a more complex story, with layers of information and to get a better grasp of what the different players have at stake. There are those who are only interested in money, others involved in power games and politics, and others for whom reputation and loyalty are the main objects.

The story takes us from London to Amsterdam, Hong-Kong, and South America, and the author is meticulous and well-informed, providing credible settings and a detailed exposition of the procedures and operations that brings to mind the best police procedural novels. But although we follow each detail of the investigations and the operations, there are always surprises to keep us on our toes.

Jack Calder, the central character, is a breath of fresh air in a genre where heroes are almost superhuman and can fight entire wars single-handedly. Although Jack, an ex-SAS captain, is indeed great at his job, he is traumatised by a family tragedy; he is self-deprecating and knows when to give credit where credit is due. He can follow orders and acknowledges his bosses’ superior planning skills. He is also a friend of his friends, and a loyal team-player and the novel highlights how important good relationships and contacts are in the world of international security firms and businesses.

I loved the fact that the characters talk like real people talk (yes, they use clichés sometimes, make bad jokes, and sometimes are lost for words), and, although there is violence and terrible things happen (justice and law are not always on the same side of the divide), there are also very funny moments.

The writing style is fluid and the pace ebbs and flows, with moments that are fast-paced and others that allow us to catch a breath and learn more about the ins and outs of the businesses and the characters involved. Readers need to remain alert, as there are many characters, locations, and plot threads, and, it is important to pay attention to the details.

I recommend this book to those who love spy and international intrigue thrillers, especially to readers who like complex situations and stories with plenty of twists and turns, but who don’t mind stopping to take a breath every so often. A great first book in the series and many great characters I hope to meet again.

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review 2017-04-01 00:00
The Dragon Head of Hong Kong
The Dragon Head of Hong Kong - Ian Hami... The Dragon Head of Hong Kong - Ian Hamilton Q:
“Thank you, but I have never had a large capacity for grief. I prefer looking ahead to looking back. Swimming to Hong Kong limited my soul as well as my body. So trying new things, even at my age, holds no fear for me. I suspect you have the same spirit of independence and adventure.”
(c)
This is rather an uncharacteristic thing for a person of Chinese descent to say. The Chinese language has a propensity to place future behind and past before you. It is so because you have already lived the past you know what it holds therefore it's before your mind's eye. And what the future holds you can never tell before you have actually lived it therefore it is behind you back, unseen as of yet.
This excerpt betrays that the book was written by someone of Western culture not Chinese.

Q:
“I can’t remember the last time I drank a bottle of wine by myself,” she said.“And I cannot remember the last time I offered someone a job and they turned me down and then gave me two hundred thousand dollars,” he said with a smile.
(c)
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review 2016-04-02 00:18
Close, but no cigar
A Devil in Hong Kong - David Harris Lang

I'm going to be brief here, thanks to my away-from-home-readathon last week, I'm very behind, and I don't have much to say about this one. I'm going to be vague, too -- because I just can't muster up enough enthusiasm to get too specific about the book (and if I did, I'd end up not being brief...)

 

This started off with a slightly disturbing and intriguing chapter involving torture, a distinctively tattooed man and an ancient artifact -- a white jade burial suit. Which was enough to get me interested, even if the scene was a told in a heavy-handed manner (and, for the record, I'm not that into torture scenes, but it does work at getting a reader's attention).

 

Sadly, the start was wasted by then turning to an uninteresting historical tour following the suit from its creation in the year 889 through its discovery by amateur archaeologists and eventual disappearance -- there was decent material there in a pulp-y sense, but Lang just didn't sell it. The suit shows up on the black market in the late 20th century, and that starts the dominoes falling to get us to the first scene.

 

When we return to the modern time, we meet a loser video game player who is "recruited" to join a private intelligence/criminal enterprise. Nothing about this storyline, the characters involved, or the way that the Chinese government uses them for Black Ops was believable, well-told, or interesting. Nothing.

 

We then get to the Hong Kong detectives investigating the brutal murder that happened following the initial torture scene. These guys are so clichéd, the interaction between them is so stiff, and the way they do their business is -- well, I just didn't like it.

 

Do you sense a trend?

 

There's not one character here that I want to spend any more time with -- strike that. The tattooed man has promise -- give me a book focusing on him -- or the hunt for him in other contexts -- I'd probably indulge in it (I might end up regretting the indulgence, but you never know).

 

The writing here was mediocre at best. The plotlines, the "twists", the incredible coincidences, etc. were pure melodrama -- and don't get me started on the denouement, I could do 500+ words on it alone, and I'd end up dropping my rating. The dialogue? Painful. Really painful -- like the kind of thing that Joel and the Bots (or Mike and the Bots, or Jonah and the Bots) should be mocking. Still, you give this one decent edit from someone with an ear for dialogue and another edit by someone focusing on cleaning out the plotlines and I can see where this would appeal to fans of Dan Brown and/or James Patterson.

 

There's a hint of a decent novel buried under a lot of nonsense here, I guess that's the best I can say. Your mileage may vary, but I wouldn't recommend it.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this by a friend of the author in exchange for this post, which was half-baked, I realize, and I feel bad for that. On the other hand, he may not want to see the fully-baked version.

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2016/03/31/a-devil-in-hong-kong-by-david-harris-lang
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review 2014-05-05 01:22
The Story of Lee (vol. 1) by Sean Michael Wilson & Chie Kutsuwada
Story of Lee 1 - Sean Michael Wilson,Chie Kutsuwada

The Story of Lee focuses on Lee's relationship with her family, her love of British music, her desire to go to London, and her attraction to Matt, a handsome foreign man.

Lee is in her early twenties and lives in Hong Kong. On the one hand, she is told she must show her father respect and keep in mind his wishes for her. On the other hand, Lee feels like her father's wishes for her are stifling her. She doesn't know what to do, but she's not happy with the way things currently are.

Lee's father couldn't be more obvious about his desire for Lee to marry Wang. There isn't anything wrong with Wang – he makes decent money and seems to like her – but Lee isn't at all interested in him. She goes on one date with him because her father basically forces her to, but she makes it clear that there will be no kissing or anything else. And all thoughts of Wang fly completely out of her head when she meets Matt.

Matt is handsome, blond, and British (Scottish?), and he writes poetry. Once Lee and Matt find an opportunity to talk, they realize they get along pretty well. They talk about British music, poetry, and more. It was nice to see Lee fully relax around someone and have a frank, open, and easy conversation with them. At first, I liked Lee and Matt's relationship.

In the end, though, I think I would have liked this graphic novel more if it had completed left out the relationship with Matt and focused more on Lee's relationship with her family and her wishes for her own future. The scenes involving Lee and her family were the strongest. It was sweet, watching her read to her sick grandmother, or seeing her talking to her uncle. It was easy to see that she loved them all, even her father, with whom she butted heads the most.

My worries about Matt first began when Matt and Lee were talking about British men and women versus Asian men and women. Lee said she preferred British men “because they are kind and caring. Not because of the way they looking” (70). Matt flat out admits that he prefers the way Chinese and Japanese women look to the way Western women look. However: “The ladies round here [in Hong Kong] are very attractive... But many of them don't seem to have much to say” (67). I let that go, because Matt truly did seem to like Lee for the whole package, her looks as well as her strong personality.

I was much less happy when, later on, Matt invited Lee over to his place to watch a movie. He assured her he wouldn't pressure her for sex, which I was fine with and even applauded. However, as they were watching the movie, Matt started kissing Lee and worked his way up to fondling her breast. She protested and was clearly uncomfortable. Here's the conversation they had next:

 

Matt: “What's wrong?”
Lee, embarrassed/uncomfortable: “...You said, 'no sex.'”
Matt: "It's only touching."
Lee: “What's the difference?”
Matt: “Sex and touching is different...”
Lee: “For me is not. It's not my culture to do such quick things...too soon.”
Matt: “Well, it's okay in British culture... And I think it's healthy for a man and a woman to touch.”
Lee, still looking uncomfortable: “This isn't Britain, we don't...”
Matt, smiling and moving closer to touch her chin: “I thought you wanted to be more 'international,' learn about other cultures. Well this is one example, right now.” (96)

 

He repeatedly made her uncomfortable and embarrassed, and, instead of respecting her desire to take things more slowly, pulled out the “I thought you wanted to be more 'international'” card. Um, excuse me? No. I was very, very happy when Lee once again put a stop to things and left, but it didn't erase the fact that Matt had just tried to talk her into accepting things she was clearly uncomfortable with doing and then never apologized.

 

When Matt and Lee eventually did have sex, it was after Lee had reached her lowest point. Her father had found out about her relationship with Matt and thrown her out, and then Lee had spotted Matt laughing with another girl. Lee got drunk at her friend Chang's workplace (Chang worked at a hostess bar) and almost got raped by one of the guys there. Chang dragged Lee back to her place to sober up, called Matt over the next morning, and then left the two of them alone. That's when they first had sex. Meanwhile, I was still wondering if the woman Lee had seen Matt with was really just a friend or if Matt had been lying, and whether Lee would ever be able to mend things with her family.

(spoiler show)

 

The happy ending was too sudden and left me wishing that the resolution with Lee's family had been fleshed out more. Since I was already unhappy with Lee's relationship with Matt, my unhappiness grew when the ending became thoroughly linked with Matt. As far as I can tell, a second volume of this series was never published, but I could too easily imagine that second volume featuring Matt leaving Lee behind for his friends and/or another woman after he was back on his home ground in Edinburgh.

All in all, the artwork was nice, and I enjoyed seeing how Lee would work things out with her family. Unfortunately, the romance did not work for me at all, to the point that it tainted the "happy ending."

 

 

(Original review, with read-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2013-12-03 17:50
Mrs. Pollifax and the Hong Kong Buddha
Mrs. Pollifax and the Hong Kong Buddha - Dorothy Gilman

More Mrs. Pollifax. Dated, and more than a little ridiculous, but lots of fun.

Source: bysinginglight.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/november-2013-reading-list/#Mrs Pollifax
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