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review 2019-05-31 03:23
Nasty, brutish, and short (I mean that as a compliment)
Instant Karma - Todd Morr
Teller was the next to clue in, he sprung from his chair drawing his service revolver while Doyle started crawling for the back exit. The shooter was tall, wearing wraparound shades, a black baseball cap turned so it was shading the back of his neck, and a long leather trench coat. He had a gun in each fist, big semi-automatics with extended magazines. Teller was thinking this guy was an idiot, the kind of dumbass who thinks John Woo movies are documentaries, until he took two in the chest.

 

The gunman alternated firing each gun. Teller fell to floor and bounced the back of his head off the hard tile, putting him to sleep. Jones had just cleared his pistol when a bullet caught him in the shoulder, spinning him around. The next two bullets hit him in the back and sent him sprawling face first to the floor.
Nah, I didn't give anything way (really). That's at the 3% mark. The real action comes later. But that's a good taste.

 

I hate being trite. I hate being cliche. I don't want to say the same thing that everyone else in the world is saying. I don't want to be the 3487th person to say that Instant Karma is Tarantino-esque. But you read this book and not say something like that, I dare you (like Ralphie's classmate, Schwartz, I'll skip to the coup de grâce -- I triple-dog-dare you to).

 

Let's start with a underworld organization that may or may not exist -- Instant Karma, Inc. (think of a West Coast Murder, Inc., with a smaller staff) and the intimidation (and worse) they inspire by maybe existing. Then you've got yourself an aging, but still vital, yakuzza Mr. Yasuda (called Mr. Burns by everyone not in his presence due to his age/resemblance to a certain Nuclear Plant owner) who disapproves of the man his daughter is sleeping with (and who expresses that disapproval in extreme fashion). That man is a disgraced ex-cop named Hondo, a security consultant for people like Mr. Yasuda/Burns. His daughter is an ex-kindergarten teacher who decided she was devoting her prime years to a bunch of annoying kids and decided to toss that career to the side to have fun and make bad choices (see: Hondo). Throw in a couple of cops who are hewing a little too close to the line; some people in Yasuda's organization who want to make a name for themselves; a recovered addict and her pastor; and a lot (I mean a lot) of bullets and blood. Throw all that into a blender and this book comes out.

 

I want to keep this post as snappy as the book, so I'm not going to get bogged down in plot details -- just know that there's a few people just trying to stay alive and get a little bit of happiness in their lives, and there's a whole lot of other people who are willing to stop them (and anyone else who's in the way).

 

There's a lot of humor in this book, as well as the action -- some nice character moments and a lot of heart (frequently coming from directions you don't expect). It's also one of the most violent books I've read this year (actually, probably the most violent book this year to date). It's about vengeance, hope, justice, love and a hope for a little bit of peace -- but little of that is as flashy as all the violence.

 

I'm glad this weighs in at a slim 120 pages -- I'm not sure I could've take much more. This is like a good double-shot of espresso -- why waste time sipping a cup or two to get your caffeine fix? Knock back the 60 ml and move on with your day. This quick read feels all the quicker because of the pacing of the narrative, the action of the scenes and the smoothness of the prose -- the adrenaline rush doesn't hurt either. I'm not sure I can say enough good about it, actually. I had a blast, and bet that you will, too.

 

Okay, I'll stop now and get out of the way so that the the 3488th Tarantino comparison can get underway.

 

LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge 2019 Cloak & Dagger Challenge

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2019/05/30/instant-karma-by-todd-morr-nasty-brutish-and-short-i-mean-that-as-a-compliment
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review 2019-04-18 10:07
Twists, turns, exotic locations and philosophical insights. Unmissable.
Two Rivers, One Stream (Karma's Children #2) - John Dolan

I am a big fan of John Dolan’s writing and enjoyed the first book in his new trilogy, Karma’s Children, so much that I started to read the second book straight away. Unfortunately I’ll have to wait a bit for the conclusion… Because yes, it’s another great book.

In contrast to Restless Earth (you can check my review here), this book is less complex in structure and reminded me more of the previous series, Time, Blood and Karma, although it would be wrong to state that any of the books by this author are “simple” or “straightforward”. He has built a universe of characters, locations, and events that interconnect in ways that bring to mind a spider web. It is beautiful, complex, and depending on your location you might, or might not, be able to see how the whole structure works. But, back to the structure. Here, the story is told mostly in chronological order (sometimes the characters might recall things from their past, but the actual events in the main story are told in what appears to be the logical order), by two main characters. We have the first-person present tense narration by our hero, David Braddock (well, hero/antihero), and here the narration is much more in tune with previous books, bringing back his wit, his observations, his quotes, but also, his anxiety and his lack of insight at times. (He seems to have taken a page out of my notebook, though, and he shows some evidence of trying to grow up at the beginning of the story). I was pleased to hear from him from his own mouth, as such, even if I must confess that the previous book made me keep my eyes more closely trained on him and question his reasoning and his motives even more than usual.

The other main character is Ross Gallagher, a newcomer to the story, and a professional baddie at that. His story is told in the third person but from his point of view, so we get to “understand”, if that is possible, how his mind works. He is matter of fact, and seems distanced from himself (yes, as the narration notes, he disassociates from his behaviour), but despite his professionalism, there is evidence that he is slowly unravelling. We learn about his past history, and it is not long before we discover that fate and karma are at work again, ready to prove that the world can turn up to be much smaller than we think. The author does not write one-dimensional characters, and this is not just an evil character you’ll love to hate. I wouldn’t say I liked him and yet…

It’s a bit difficult to talk about this book in detail without risking giving away any spoilers. This time, as the description hints at, things get pretty personal for Braddock, and despite the support by the many women in his life (I’ve become a huge fan of Da, and I’m pleased Braddock is giving her more of a free rein) and their mature attitude, he is in turmoil. And, unfortunately, things only get worse. There is a twist at the end (it didn’t surprise me, but I won’t say anything else), and I wonder if some readers might class the ending as a cliff-hanger. In my opinion, we get answers to most of the questions posed in the book, thanks to the two points of view employed and to the ending. Having said that, this is a trilogy, and we are left desperate to know how it will all conclude. And that is as should be.

Fans of Dolan’s novels will enjoy the quality of his writing, the philosophical insights (that we might share in or not), the many quotes (Macbeth plays a big part, although references to rivers and the sea brought to mind Garcilaso de la Vega for me), the varied and complex characters, the mystery/thriller parts of the story (I had an inkling that all was not well, but I didn’t quite work out all the details), the contrasting settings (from Thailand, to London, to Marbella, to Bali, beautifully described), and the ending, which opens up more questions and promises a final book where everything will come to an explosive end.

I would not recommend readers who’ve never read any of the author’s books to start here. At the very least, I’d advise anybody who wants to get a full sense of the story to read the previous book in the trilogy. And, if you have time, start right at the beginning, reading book one in the Time, Blood and Karma series, Everyone Burns. You’ll thank me later.

A must-read for lovers of intrigue, complex characters, exotic settings, philosophical insights and reflections, excellent writing, and stories with red herrings and twists and turns. I can’t wait for the last book!

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review 2019-04-11 12:09
Great characters and settings, a complex mystery and a masterful villain. Another winning series.
Restless Earth - John Dolan

Anybody who has been following my reviews for a while will know that I love John Dolan’s writing. I discovered his books a long while back and I’ve been following his career with interest ever since. I was both sad and exhilarated when he brilliantly closed his previous series Time, Blood and Karma with the novel Running on Emptiness (you can check my review here). I bought a copy of his new book, the beginning of a new series, Karma’s Children a while back, but it wasn’t until I received the ARC for the second book that I realised I had yet to read and review the first one. Yes, I’d been busy, but I wonder if part of my reluctance was to do with starting a new series afresh, after having enjoyed the previous one so much. Could it live up to my expectations?

Having now read the first book (and started the second one straight away), it’s fair to say that it has. The new book is not a complete break. Some of the characters and the settings we are already familiar with (I don’t feel qualified to comment on how well the book stands on its own. My inkling is that it could be read and enjoyed by somebody who hadn’t read any of the previous books, but there would be quite a few lose threads and I’m sure the reading experience would be completely different). Yes, we have David Braddock, the British amateur detective-cum-therapist living in Thailand who decides to confront some of the issues pending in his life (he’s always reminded me of Hamlet, and I must say that like Shakespeare’s character, he can make me feel impatient at his dithering sometimes), but not others. We also have Jim Fosse, a fascinating villain, a psychopath or sociopath who is up to his old tricks and some newer ones. And we have two other characters that bring new concerns (some at least) and settings into the story. Sam Trask, an American Iraq War veteran, who has suffered physical injuries that he has mostly recovered from, but the same cannot be said for the mental scars from his experiences, and another American character, Reichenbach, who remains mostly in the shadows, and whom I suspect we haven’t seen the last of (and I’ll keep my peace and let you make your own minds up about him).

The story moves between the different characters, and although, apart from Sam’s military history it is mostly shown in chronological order, there are changes in setting and point of view, and a fair amount of characters, which require the reader to remain attentive at all times. Most of the story is told in third-person mostly from the point of view of the character involved (although I was more aware of the narrator in this book that I had been before. This was particularly evident in the parts of the story following Sam, who is not a bookish man, as evidenced by his dialogue and his backstory, but even when we are with him, we are provided insights and observation that go well beyond his psychological and cultural makeup), and the alternating points of view allow us to be privy to information that gives us more of an overall and multifaceted picture than that of any of the individual characters. However, the Jim Fosse’s fragments of the story are narrated in the first person and that makes them particularly chilling and at times difficult to read. A character with no moral compass and good brains, a master manipulator and plotter, his attitude reminded me at times of the main character in American Psycho (although more inclined to psychological mind-games than to out-and-out violence); and his role is central to most of what happens in the story, although I won’t reveal any details. He does not have any redeeming qualities (at least none than I’ve discovered yet), but he is witty, his observations can be humorous (if you appreciate dark humour) and accurate, and there is no pretence there, and no apology. He plays his part well for the public, but in private he does not hesitate or dwell on the consequences of his actions. If he wants something and it does not involve a high risk for him, he’ll go for it. And I find that refreshing indeed. No, he’s not somebody I’d like to meet (or rather, he’s not somebody in whose way I’d want to be), but he is a great character to read about.

These men (well, not so much Jim Fosse, although he does, at points, becomes obsessed with what seems to be his female counterpart) are obsessed by women, one way or another, and riddled by guilt (definitely not Fosse), be it by commission or by omission. But, if we truly look into it, these are men whose issues with women seem to hide some deep insecurity and doubts about their own selves. Sam Trask, in my opinion the most sympathetic of the characters, is an innocent abroad (he has been out of his country as a soldier but otherwise he is quite naïve to the ways of the world), without being truly innocent. He is tortured by the memory of something he witnessed. His difficulties made me wonder if guilt by omission is not even worse than true guilt. Because if you’ve done something terrible, you can tell yourself you won’t do it again, but if what happened was not of your own doing, how can you guarantee that it will not happen again? Yes, you might tell yourself that you will react differently next time, but you can never be sure you will be in a position to do so, or it will make a difference. You were, in a way, another victim of the situation but complicit in it at the same time. No wonder it is not something one can recover easily from.

As I said, I enjoyed meeting Sam, and felt for him and his difficulties. I’ve mentioned Jim Fosse, and I am curious about Reichenbach, who pulls some of the strings. I felt less close to Braddock than I had in the past. I am not sure if it was the narrative style, or the fact that he is less central to the story, appears less sharp (he missed quite a number of clues), and seems to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about smoking. He remains intent on protecting himself and not fully confronting the truth about his relationship with this father and his own unresolved issues. I’m sure it’s a personal thing, but when he reflects on women and their role, I felt like shaking him and telling him to grow-up. I guess I’m coming more and more to Da’s  (his faithful no-nonsense secretary/associate) way of thinking.

The writing is supple, suffused with psychological and philosophical insights, a great deal of understatement and fun, witty comments, and eminently quotable. One can’t help but wish to have such a witty internal narrator to accompany us in our adventures.

The mystery (there are several but all end up fitting into a complex scheme) is cleverly constructed and although as I said we, the readers, know more than any of the individual characters (thanks to the different points of view and the multiple story strands), it is not easy to guess exactly how things will be solved. Those of us who have been following the stories from the beginning might have an inkling (of course things are not as they seem, but that’s no surprise), but I don’t think many readers will get it 100% right. And that is one of the joys of the story. The vivid and multiple settings, the accurate psychological and sociological insights, and the fabulous characters and dialogues make for a fabulous read as well. This is the strong beginning of another of John Dolan’s masterful series. And I’ll be sure to keep reading it.

 

 

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review 2018-09-24 04:32
Karma,Fate,Death,Cupid and more...
karma boxed set - Donna Augustine karma boxed set - Donna Augustine

Enjoyable series,maybe because of the sarcasm used throughout.

A young woman dies and before her soul goes to where ever it goes someone with a clipboard tells her that with signature she can stay on earth under a different name.(Karma).She signs a little to quickly and doesn't hear the fine details until later.

She works at a place called The Agency and as Karma she can see when some people do something that is out of line and she sees that they end up paying for it.

  Now the people she works with is an interesting bunch,Fate,Lady Luck,Murphy(Murphy'sLaw),Kitty(in charge of the black cats),Crow(keeps the ravens),Death,Cupid and more.If you were ever told it doesn't exist or there is no real explanation for it,it probably works at The Agency.

  There is a love interest,more like a love/hate interest.Enough so I would say for Mature Audiences.

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review 2018-05-01 15:13
The Life Lucy Knew by Karma Brown
The Life Lucy Knew - Karma Brown

A special thank you to NetGalley, Edelweiss and Park Row Books for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Lucy Sparks hits her head after suffering a winter weather related fall.  When she wakes up in the hospital with her parents and co-worker, Matt, by her side, she wonders where her husband, Daniel, is.  She believes that Daniel is her husband, but he's actually her ex-boyfriend that she hasn't spoken to in four years.  

She is suffering from what are fictitious memory recollections and her life as she knows it is completely different from her actual life.  Essentially, it's like honest lying—Lucy's memories are false, but because she can even recall such vivid detail, the memories seem incredibly real to her. Given that Lucy's memory can't be trusted and that this may be a permanent condition, it is a devastating experience for her friends, family, and especially for Matt.  You see Matt is Lucy's doting boyfriend, not just her coworker which is how Lucy remembers him.

Despite Matt's best efforts, Lucy continues to have feelings for Daniel.  Lucy must make a difficult choice about which life she wants to lead, who she wants to lead it with, and who she really is.

 

Karma Brown is one of my new favourite authors.  I had the pleasure of attending an author event featuring Karma last May and she is delightful!  It was a high tea and book signing at the King Eddy in Toronto that was hosted by BookClubbish.  Lainey, as in gossip maven, etalk correspondent, co-host of The Social, and founder of laineygossip.com Lainey, joined Karma for a Q&A session.  The women chatted about the writing process—Lainey has also has written a book Listen to the Squawking Chicken: When Mother Knows Best, What's A Daughter To Do? A Memoir (Sort Of)—what it's like being a woman in the publishing industry, and where Karma gets her inspiration from.  Both ladies were well-spoken and super interesting!  If you have an opportunity to attend an event with Karma, I highly recommend you do so, you won't be disappointed.

For fans of Karma's books, The Life Lucy Knew is a bit of a detour in style, but one that I liked! Without giving anything away, the ending of this novel is further developed than her other stories and in this case it really worked.  Also unique to this book was all of the Canadian references and I enjoyed Toronto's presence in the story.

Karma is such a gifted writer.  There were a few decisions that could have gone either way, and any of those scenarios would have worked because her writing is that good.  Congratulations, Karma.  Another fantastic read and I can't wait for your next book!

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