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review 2017-10-13 20:38
The Fifth Element by Jørgen Brekke
The Fifth Element: A Novel (Odd Singsaker) - Jorgen Brekke

I started reading this in Norwegian shortly after it came out four years ago, but then my Norwegian neighbour wanted it back to lend to someone else, as I was taking too long. So when I saw it had been translated to English, I immediately put it on my 'to-read' list, and I'm glad I did. The American English translation is excellent.

 

The book isn't written chronologically, but jumps back and forth in time from different POV's. It takes some getting used to, but, once done, it's an absorbing read. 

 

It's very 'Scandi noire': short sentences, spare descriptions that let the reader fill in the blanks, yet always enough to keep building the pressure in some areas, yet letting it out in others.

 

For me, the underlying theme is, what is evil? Is it banal, as Hannah Arendt wrote? Do good people do evil things, and evil people good things? When do we cross the line from good to evil? Are we all a mix of both? There are no answers here, just many questions, if the reader is one who muses over those sorts of things.

 

But that's the subtext. The plot itself is a good, solid thriller. Here's the American publisher's blurb:

 

Police Inspector Odd Singsaker has been captured, imprisoned on an island off the Northern coast of Norway. He wakes to find himself holding a shotgun. Next to him is a corpse. But what events led him to this point? And how did he get here?

A few weeks earlier, Felicia, his wife, disappeared. Though he didn’t know it, she was trying to find her way back to Odd to reconcile, but then she vanished into a snowstorm. Possibly involved is a corrupt, coldblooded cop from Oslo, a devious college student who’s stolen a great deal of cocaine from drug dealers, and a hit man hired by the drug dealers who have been robbed. All of these lives intersect with Odd’s as he searches for Felicia.

 

The Fifth Element is ultimately the story of what happened to Felicia Stone. Within that journey, brutal crimes are uncovered, tenacious love shines through, and chilling characters with nothing to lose will stop at nothing to get what they want. Jorgen Brekke once again delivers a chilling thriller that readers will tear through to unravel what happened-and why.

 

I can understand why the existential undertones of the book are played dow--they wouldn't exactly sell it to an American market, but I've been living in Denmark for so long I've come to expect them. The first books I ever read in Danish were Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö's, which, I later read, are the pillars of crime fiction from the 70's on. 

 

Recommended.

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review 2017-10-06 09:35
Daddy Defender by @janiecrouch
Daddy Defender (Omega Sector: Under Siege) - Janie Crouch

I look forward to every new Intrigue from Janie crouch, and this one is another winner. A fleshed-out recurring villain, a well constructed suspense plot, a terrific cast of characters whom we recognise from the other books in the series, and a romance that is both touching and funny.

 

Here's the blurb:

 

What a serious case of mistaken identity. Ashton Fitzgerald is no unassuming handyman but a highly trained sharpshooter intent on protecting Summer Worrall and her baby daughter. The Omega SWAT member has a debt to pay and he isn't about to let Summer out of his sights. 

For someone else has set their own sights on the lovely widow. Her unexpected relationship with Ashton has put Summer and her child straight into a madman's line of fire. Suddenly a mission to make amends becomes Ashton's quest to defend this little family with his very life. 

 

The mistaken identity hook is great, and provides an entertaining contrast to the very suspenseful plot. 

 

Janie Crouch, along with Paula Graves (grinding Appalachian poverty), Elle James (the plight of American family farmers) and Elizabeth Heiter (terrible US adoption system) has underlying themes in her books that lend richness and depth to them. In the current series, there's Damien Freihof, a demagogue who uses people as pawns in his own game (and Freihof's next pawns are a family called Trumpold).

 

One of my favourite books in this series is Man of Action, with the romance between Brandon and Andrea. There's an underlying theme of how stigma hurts. I wrote about it here One of my fave characters from that book, stripper Keira Spencer, may even get her own story soon. I hope so; she's a wise person.

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review 2016-01-07 20:51
Moment Of Impact by Karen Stivali
Moment of Impact - Karen Stivali

Outside is scary, inside is terrifying.



Collin Fitzpatrick did NOT have an easy life. Controlled by a fanatically religious mother, the missing locks on his bathroom and bedroom doors were just some of the small things that had a lasting effect on him. Being gay wasn't remotely up for discussion in his family. Even the thought of being intimate with a guy was completely out of the question. Consequently, Collin is living his life with an unhealthy amount of guilt, shame and anxiety mixed in, and the big crush he has on his straight college roommate, Tanner, doesn't help one bit. Quite the opposite, because after listening to Tannner banging his friend with benefits the whole semester, the one night he gets caught staring? Turns out Tanner isn't as straight as Collin thought he was, and his undesirable thoughts aren't as impossible as he was hoping.

This book surprised me a little. The writing was good, even though some of the dialogue and inner musings seemed a bit forced at times. But it didn't bother me too much. I had more problems with the fact that Tanner slept with his roommate while Collin was right there. I don't care if he thought his roommate was asleep or not. You just don't DO stuff like that. Especially not when you allegedly have a huge crush on the other person sleeping in the bed right beside your own. Just no.

Other than that I enjoyed the story. Collin never had it easy with his family, therefore never really accepted himself or at least got comfortable with his own body. His anxiety and shame burden him in almost every situation, his fear of discovery is almost all-consuming. No wonder that this kind of angst influences the bloossoming relationship with Tanner greatly, and not exactly in a good way.

This was a good, short gfy-ofy story, even though I got a tiny bit annoyed with the "near-death/severe-situation-changed-everything" plotline. It's not a bad formula, but it's been done more times than anyone can count, which si why more often than not it lost its' shine. I can understand it, I can read it and somewhat enjoy it, but in the end, I wish the characters could grow, change and make decisions without life-altering events forcing their hand. But I know that's me, so other readers might not be bothered by it.

All in all a good start of a series and I picked up the second installment out of pure curiosity right after I finished this one.

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review 2015-10-26 00:00
Playing for Keeps
Playing for Keeps - Avery Cockburn

4.5 stars for an awesome Scottish love story

Oh dear, where to begin?

Let's meet Fergus first. He's an architect who likes his job, but is even more passionate about football/soccer and especially his LGBT team. After a personal and professional betrayal, Fergus has a hard time moving on, and so does his team. In order to survive and get over the humiliation he and his mates had to face in the straight league they're playing in and in their personal life, Fergus has to step up and be the leader he never wanted to be and the master of his own fate. The last thing he needs is a powerful attraction to a stranger who has his own cross to bear. But what can you do when a charming, hot and interested guy like John Burns comes into your life and makes you feel things you thought you never would experience again? Start something new and exciting, but always keep your wits about you. At least a little.

Long story short, I loved this! But I'm not sure how much other readers would be able to enjoy it. Firstly, there is the dialect. Scottish is not your "standard English" as such. For me, it wasn't that big of a problem. I studied British English - including Old English, Middle English, a little bit of Scottish, Welsh, Galic - you get the drift. So, I don't really have a problem with the written Scottish, understanding the spoken words is far more difficult for me. So I enjoyed the writing very much and had no issues with comprehension. I do see possible difficulties for others who had no contact with this dialect before. Some of it might be hard to understand and might even dimish the joy of reading because even though you're reading a variation fo your native langugae, you actually might need a translator. For me personally, it added to the charm of the story and made me like the book more.

Secondly, the topics involved.

The romance plot is important and I liked how it developed over time. Although I did have some issues with the way the secrets were handled (especially the "big crash"), I still enjoyed it very much and found it realistic and believable.

But, and I understand where some readers are coming from with their issues, there are other topics involved in the story. And they do play a rather big role. The historically grown conflicts between Catholics and Protestants are issues in modern day Scottland you problably haven't heard a lot about if your not a Celtic or Rangers fan, or very interested in Scottish history and or/ politics in general. Again, I have a degree in English language and literature, as well as in history. These conflicts are not new to me, even though I'm far from an expert in Scottish history specifically. But I have a good basis, something that some readers might not have and therefore might not enjoy these story lines as much as I did. I don't think that it's harder to understand the book without the backround knowledge. Avery Cockburn does a fantastic job by telling a tightly knit story of two young men deeply involved in these issues. There are enough explanations, and also self-explanatory scenes, to make you see and understand what is happening. But I can still see why it might be a tad boring or confusing for readers who are not innately interested in politics today and/or history. As I said, these are things that made me like the book that much more. Because it was something special for me, to read a story involving so many things I love - langugage, history, culture, politics, soccer and romance.

I honestly don't have a lot to complain about, except for the one thing I already mentioned earlier. The secrecy. In a way, I understood John perfectly. His family, his backround, his duties. I GOT it. There is no easy solution when family, love and politics collide in such an extreme way. On the other hand, I got frustrated so much with him after a while. Because we both knew where this was headed. We both understood perfectly what he was doing wrong, when he should have acted differently, when he crossed the line from not saying anything to actively deceiving Fergus. But he did it all anyway and drove me up the walls. Therefore, the resulting conflict was too predictable for me, even though the actual solution was a little unusual, if not frustrating in its own way.

All in all, I was very impressed with this book. Avery Cockburn managed to write a complex, yet not too angsty or heavy book about two young men, soccer players at that, who not only found love but also a way to come together despite some very serious and difficult issues. Considering my small niggles here and there, I'll give it 4.5 stars and a recommendation for everyone. Yes, everyone. Just be prepared for some things that might not fit your idea of an "average british romance".

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review 2015-09-01 00:00
How to Repair a Mechanical Heart
How to Repair a Mechanical Heart - J.C. Lillis

3.5 stars rounded up to four because I liked the writing so much

This one was a little difficult for me. I've been looking forward to this one for a long time. And in a way, I wasn't disappointed. The writing was really, really good. I loved the voice, I felt so much for Brandon and I could have read about his inner musings all day long. I actually did.

I also really enjoyed the whole part about fanfictions and the world of fandoms. It was funny, it was entertaining and in some aspects it was dead on. It's not everyday that you laugh about something so hard that was actually part of your own life at some point. Overall, I was thoroughly entertained, grinned and laughed a lot, and had a lot of fun with Brandon's very own way of describing, acting and retorting. Loved it.

And I was very happy with his character development. His struggle with his religious upbringing was heartbreaking to read, but in a very good way. I think it's important that stories like these exist. No matter how often you tell yourself that it doesn't matter what your family thinks and that you're entitled to live your own life exactly the way you want to, in the end it's all just BS. It takes an unbelievable amount of time, and PAIN, to get over your very own family rejecting you - no matter what the reason behind it. I'm not even sure you really can get completely over it. It gets better, but you know what they say about opening wounds and inner scars and all that. What made it so good for me to read Brandon's story was the fact that he knew, he just KNEW in his head that what his church was preaching was wrong. He didn't believe in it, not really. But he doubted a lot. And had an even harder time standing up for himself AFTER his coming out than many others have who are rejected completely by their family the minute the word "gay" is on the table. I'm not saying they have it easier, far from it. But I do believe that it's harder to break out of a hurtful situation and finding your own way outside of your family valueas and beliefs, when on the other hand, you somehow feel your family members' affection and concern - no matter how twisted - shine through here and there. Brandon's struggle with who he wanted to be, who he was supposed to be, and most of all, how to react to a family that wouldn't accept him completely but "tried" to love him anyway, was wonderfully done and I loved every minute. I might have wished for more of his "F*** You, I am who I am and you are supposed to love me unconditioanlly no matter what!"; but in the end that just wasn't him and that's all there is to it.

Now on to my problem with the story. It was a great CoA-YA story. It delt with religion and family and church respectfully and in a very real way. Nothing was just black and white, nobody was completely good or bad - not at home, not in the fandoms, not even the drunks and assholes from the TV show. Even the side characters were three-dimensional, very well crafted and real.

But the romance? I'm sorry, but this book would have been better without the romance in it. Why? Because I couldn't feel the connection between Abel and Brandon. They were great friends, best friends even, and their Bromance was actually kind of sweet. But as a couple? Nah, I just couldn't see it. That had nothing to do with the sex happening off page. I couldn't care less. Sure, seeing some of the intimacy in bed can be part of a good romance, but it doesn't have to be. Good sex doesn't make the story, and it sure doesn't break it when it isn't explicit. But even before that, even when it was just about kissing and touching, or "having a crush", it didn't work for me. I didn't feel a thing, except maybe amusement about their friendship. I thought the fights might save it, because you know, I'm a sucker for emotional explosions and word-vomiting and hurt feelings and good apologies. But that, too, fell flat for me. Again, everything worked as a nice Bromance, just not as a love story. The ending was very sweet, but I still couldn't buy it. Maybe because I never really connected to Abel in the first place.

So I liked the book, just not the romance in it. Which is kind of bad when you're reading a romance. But, whatever. I liked it, I understand why people love it, it just wasn't a real hit for me.

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