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review 2018-06-11 09:32
Neatly observed hard boiled noir
A Lesson in Violence - Jordan Harper

Nate McClusky is just out of prison. He knows his life and that of his family is in danger as crazy Craig Hillington president of Aryan Steel,  has put out a death threat on Nate, his ex wife Avis and his daughter Polly. Crazy Craig  has already murdered  Avis..."knifed dead in the dark on the bedroom floor"..... but can Nate save Polly from the threats of the assassins bullet. He collects her from school and there then starts a cat and mouse game with Nate trying to save his daughter from those who might do her harm. He was trained in the art of bank robbery by his dead brother Nick and uses these skills now to wreak revenge on those hell bent on his destruction. He has a need to gain the trust and possibly the love of Polly especially as he has neglected her for so long. Police officer Park assigned the task of looking into the death of Avis soon finds himself embroiled in a much more complicated and dangerous situation when he discovers that she  was murdered some 12 hours after McClusky's prison release....is there a connection here?

 

This is hard boiled noir tale that successfully blends the badness and anger of Nate McClusky with the innocence and youth of Polly whose one real friend "Bear" is nothing more than a child's teddy yet always a confidant and protector. A Lesson in Violence is also a coming of age story showing that the bond existing between a daughter and father is resilient to the harsh realities of life. As the story progresses Nate comes to the realization that he needs the warmth and respect of his daughter more than she needs him.

 

This novel grabbed me from the opening page..."She wore a loser's slumped shoulders and hid her face with her hair, but the girl had gunfighter eyes"......and continued with some beautifully observed prose...."That was the way Polly felt, that outside she was quiet and calm but inside her acid winds roared"......"Rod was the king shit of the Nazi Dope Boys"......"That soon as you found something to live for, you found something to die for too. But he guessed in the end it was a good trade"......

 

A neatly observed crime story that successfully pays homage to the writings of such notorieties as Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Jim Thompson and at the centre is one cool hero Polly and her close companion "Bear" Recommended.

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review 2018-05-28 02:27
ARC Review: Nasu by Jet Lupin
Nasu - Jet Lupin

I was approached by the author about a review for this book. The blurb doesn't really tell you a whole lot about who (and what) Shige is, but I was intrigued so I said yes.

I'm glad I did. This was an interesting and enthralling read, despite the multitude of grammatical and spelling issues that a good editor or proofreader should have found. 

Phil, a nurse, is in dire need of some time off. He basically works, comes home to take care of his dog Hugo, eats, sleeps, and goes back to work. His shift is the graveyard one, so he's awake at night and asleep during the day, which doesn't really make for much of a social life. But now he's got some vacation coming, and his good friend decides they both need a night out on the town.

While at a club, Phil meets Shige, a handsome stranger. Attraction is instantaneous and mutual, and they spend a night together.

Then weird things happen. 

I won't spoil the plot here, but suffice it to say that the book had a myriad of interesting characters and doesn't focus on the romance between Shige and Phil. Evil forces are at work, and the relationship doesn't develop naturally because of those, as Phil and Shige don't spend a whole lot of time together, and even when they do, they keep getting interrupted. 

While Phil and Shige are interesting and engaging characters on their own, I didn't feel as if their relationship truly developed outside of the potential supernatural attraction they felt. Shige's mysterious aura, combined with his unwillingness to reveal his secrets, made for a contentious relationship, and though Phil eventually believes what his eyes (and everyone else) are trying to tell him, he too expresses a reluctance to commit. Not that I blamed him - if your entire life is suddenly uprooted because some guy you met a club whisks you off to his lair because of having put your life in danger, but doesn't tell you what's going on, you'd be pissed off too. 

The author did a fine job with the world-building. There was no info-dumping, and information was revealed slowly as part of the plot. There's a myriad of supporting characters, and the atmosphere created here is often dark and mysterious. The book kept me interested, and I didn't feel bored at all. The dialogue felt organic and believable, and I liked that Phil didn't take any crap from Shige or anyone else unless he absolutely had to. I also liked that he wasn't written as a "damsel-in-distress". 

What bothered me a bit was the ending - this wasn't advertised as the first in a series, and I was a bit surprised when I came to the end without having a HEA or even a strong HFN. There are still too many open questions, and I wasn't all that happy to find that the 2nd book isn't finished yet. While we leave Phil and Shige in a somewhat good place in their still developing relationship, their story isn't done, and I wish I had known this before starting this book. I wouldn't call it an absolute cliffhanger, but it wasn't a real ending. 

I mentioned the editing issues - on occasion, they would yank me out of the flow, and I recommend that the author get a good proofreader to fix those issues. I'd hate to see folks miss out on a good book because they can't get past the errors. 

This was my first book by this author, but I'm definitely interested to see what they cook up next. 


** I received a free copy of this book from the author. A positive review was not promised in return. ** 

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review 2018-05-23 02:45
What's that joke about a gorilla and a typewriter?
The Murderer's Ape - Jakob Wegelius

I love a good Swedish to English translation (except for that one time I attempted Wallander) so I thought that The Murderer's Ape by Jakob Wegelius would be no exception. However, I cannot unequivocally state that I loved this book...or that I loathed it. The book is told from the standpoint of a gorilla who has been christened Sally Jones. She's been around humans her entire life and therefore not only understands what they are saying but can read as well. She's a gifted engineer who the reader discovers has the ability to figure out most mechanical devices be they accordions or airplanes. (This is integral to the storyline.) Her best friend is a (human) man she refers to as Chief and who took her on as a partner when he got his own ship. But all of this was before they ran into some trouble. Without giving too much away, the two are separated and Sally is forced to adapt in order to survive. At its heart, this is an adventure story with a lot of drama. What I enjoyed were the illustrations which were done by the author and accompanied the heading of each chapter as well as a gallery of character portraits at the very beginning. Some of the issues I had with this novel were in its dealings with race, religion, and ethnicity. It was hard for me to pinpoint if the problems I had could be explained by viewing it through the lens of the time in which the novel took place but I found them unsettling nonetheless. Overall, I wasn't totally blown away but I wouldn't throw it out of an airplane door either. 4/10

 

Source: American Library Association

 

Examples of the illustrations. [Source: Playing by the book]

 

 

What's Up Next: Golda Meir: A Strong, Determined Leader by David A. Adler

 

What I'm Currently Reading: The House With a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2018-05-21 21:24
The Sound - Sarah Alderson

Trigger warning: Mention of rape/abuse of minors. Not implicit, but it is fairly important to the plot later on and not what the reader might be expecting.

 

I loved this book! Really loved it. Yes, it is practically a trashy teen romance with lots of cliches. I’m not denying that. However, I’d rather have something like this – which doesn’t need to try very hard to do what it sets out to do – than some kind of overambitious dystopian future with countless plot holes which falls apart in a few chapters. This book was consistent, and I liked that.

 

I enjoyed all of the characters to some extent, even the horrible ones. (They weren’t horrible all the time.) I also really loved the dynamics between the protagonist and her love interests more than naything. Ren was a great character to read about, and her interactions with Jesse and Jeremy were really, really cute. We had a pretty large cast and lots of directions to take the plot, and it felt like everyone was important in some way or another.

 

This book tries to make out that it’s something more than just teen romance, but…it isn’t, really. It’s about Ren finding love in America and there’s no two ways about it. There’s this subplot about a serial killer on the loose but strangely enough it’s mostly in the background whilst we focus on Ren making out with Jeremy, or Jesse, or whichever half-naked shirtless hot boy she’s enamoured with. Like, I was 2/3 of the way through the book before they were like “Oh shit, somebody else has been murdered. Ren, don’t you think you should be going home now before you get killed too?”

 

The story being this: Ren is working as a nanny in America for the summer. Here, she ends up getting romantically involved with two of the many hot guys who lives here, and…well, that’s the bulk of the book. There’s a serial killer in town who goes around murdering foreign nannies. Just like her. You can imagine how that works out.

 

It’s strange that the serial killer is mostly in the background the whole time and does almost NOTHING until the last chapter (in fact, I almost forgot he was there). He kills one girl in the entire book, and he doesn’t even do a good job of it. (She runs away and only dies of her wounds much later). The murder seemed almost like an afterthought, but I understand that wasn’t the focus of the book. It’s also not easy to guess who the killer is, because of the large cast and there’s so many characters that he could be.

 

There’s another subplot where one of the boys has been preying on underage girls. I say “preying”, but rape and abuse are involved (though in the past tense, that is, since it’s crimes he’s committed before). Nobody has filed any charges against him because he is very rich, has a lot of connections, and has a powerful lawyer that will protect him from any consequences.

 

This guy was actually more iconic than the fricking serial killer, I swear. You really wanted to see him thrown in prison for his crimes, he showed no remorse for anything he did and actually bragged about it. He also got more focus than the murderer did. If anything, he was a lot more interesting because he was one of the main characters, too. The scenes where they finally confront him are some of the most intense ones in the entire story.

 

Let’s take a look at the core of the book - Ren’s two love interests.

 

Love Interest Number One: Jeremy. He’s one of the first boys that Ren meets in the story, and is a total gentleman from the very beginning. He opens doors for her, compliments on her appearance all the time, takes her out to parties, makes her feel like the world revolves around her, makes out with her quite a bit and she’s always swooning over him. He sounds like the perfect boyfriend.

 

Love Interest Number Two: Jesse. Practically unapproachable “bad boy”. Most people avoid him because he has a reputation for being aggressive and violent. Prior to this book, he literally beat the shit out of another guy, landing him into hospital. He’s done time in juvenile prison as a result and also has a restraining order. Yeah, it’s that bad. But wait, he also plays guitar and sings in a band, and that makes him cooler. When Ren meets him for the first time, she finds him pretty intimidating already (but he also has his shirt off at the time and she can’t stop looking at his muscles).

 

Guess who she’s more attracted to? You think it’s the guy who treats her like she’s the centre of his world? The non-violent one?

 

Nope. Guess again. She goes for the violent bad boy who’s done time for assault. Seriously. What is wrong with her? Who in their right mind would do that?! Even her friends think she’s nut for going for him. He may be her second choice, but she gets attracted to him pretty fast.

 

However! We get a plot twist, and it turns out Mr Nice Guy was just using Ren to score points with another dickhead friend of his, so actually he’s no longer nice or a gentleman at all. It also turns out that Mr Violent Guy had a very good reason for wanting to put that other guy into hospital – but the fact remains that he still lost control and beat him to a pulp, meaning that he’s still very violent and our protagonist seems to forget that.

 

I guess if she’d read on in the book then she might have a reason for dating Jesse for plot reasons, but it still doesn’t make sense. The first time she meets Jesse, he literally looks like he wants to kill her…I mean, come on. This isn’t healthy. This just sounds like she’s attracted to really violent men. Good thing that the violent guy wasn’t actually that violent after all, but man, it just feels a bit off.

 

Even so, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was romantic, it was cute, it had conflict – and just the right amount, too. It didn’t try to shove tons of drama and conflict down our throat like some YA books I could name, and it never made me feel bored at all. It was just right. There was a love triangle, obviously, but it actually made sense and didn’t feel forced.

 

I cannot tell you what a breath of fresh air it is in a YA novel to have a love triangle which actually feels like it BELONGS there. So far, I’ve only found this to be true in actual romance books which revolve around the romance and very little else.

 

I guess one criticism was that Ren was pretty similar to most female protagonists you find in a YA novel, and didn’t seem very unique. But you know what, I didn’t care. The romance was done well enough that it hardly seemed to matter. And I can’t fault the book for that.

 

All in all, I’ll give this a 4.

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review 2018-05-13 17:38
Flawed - Cecelia Ahern

I can't believe I sat through this entire book.

 

This is an example of what happens when an author tries to mimic a YA dystopian future, but doesn't flesh out the world enough. This is what happens when the author concentrates on all the wrong aspects completely. This is also what happens when the author puts in a very shoddy and superficial love triangle, has the main character make constantly bad decisions (despite being supposedly "clever" and "flawless", by the admissions of everyone else around her), and manages to cram far too much content into too few pages.

 

It's disappointing, really, because the first chapter was really well-written. The world seemed well thought-out, it was a novel idea, but by gods that's where it ended. About two-thirds of the way through the book, it felt like the author had no real idea what she was doing, and it just felt like an utter trainwreck by the end of it. With a sequel planned, no less.

 

Here's the setting, then: the book is set in a world where people are branded for being "Flawed". That's for making morally unethical decisions - be it lying, stepping out of line of society, stealing from society (that's also in a metaphorical sense, too, which leads to all sorts of trouble). It also includes helping out another Flawed person.

 

In this world, Flawed people are treated like subhumans. They are constantly monitored, are bound by a strict curfew, must stick to a diet of bland food, are despised by the rest of society, and no more than two of them are allowed to be together at one time.

 

Oh, and they are *physically* branded when they become flawed - the courts have a branding iron placed upon a part of their body, branding the letter F on their body, and they must wear a red armband so everyone knows they are Flawed.

 

The first chapter of the book begins with our main character witnessing one of their close friends being arrested for being Flawed, for no other reason than because she took her ailing mother to a different country to administer euthanasia to them. So far, so good. We can already tell that the justice system is fucked up. Tell me more.

 

Our main character is called Celestine North. She's a model member of society and is deemed to be near-perfect. Class-A student. 

 

What happens is that she sees an old man suffering on a bus, and helps him to his seat. An old man who is Flawed. By doing so, she has aided a Flawed person, and is deemed Flawed herself. And punished accordingly.

 

Despite being only 17, the major courts are very angry at her and have her branded 5 times at different places on her body (mainly because this becomes a very public case for the media, her father works in the media as well), especially when she refuses to admit that she was wrong.

 

This, uh, seems a bit excessive. 

Not to mention that the main villain, Judge Crevan, goes further and puts a sixth brand on her spine without anaesthetic, which is quite illegal and fucked up.

Basically, that chapter was very hard to read and is mainly about the main character being tortured excessively because that's apparently the only way the author can make this impact upon us.

 

This part also takes half of the book.

 

We already know this happens from the synopsis on the back of the book. By the time it happens, the book is half over. Uh...I'm sure you could have made your book a bit longer? It hardly feels like anything happened except Celestine's court case...

 

Somehow, the next half of the book concentrates on how Celestine finds a way to fight back against this tyrannical organisation. Almost as if she's hardly weakened at all from being branded six times and subjected to prejudice and torture. There's also a graphic bullying scene which is also very hard to read through.

 

You're telling me that this one character has been put through to hell and back and, without even a thought for her own safety or anything, immediately starts trying to bring down Judge Crevan for administering that sixth brand illegally - I mean we could have some more thoughts from herself on the matter, maybe? Just a little? It just felt like she did it for terms of plot alone...

 

Nothing was fleshed out enough. There's another Flawed boy called Carrick, and Celestine somehow falls for him. They say one sentence to each other. That's all. Yet she somehow spends most of the book searching him out because she feels a connection to him - she doesn't even KNOW him. it's ridiculous.

 

Which makes one love triangle after another - her boyfriend Art who mysteriously disappears after her trial, then comes back, then finds out she is going to a party with another boy, then throws a jealous fit and disappears (and he NEVER returns again). And then another love triangle with Art and her sister?? Are you serious? Why put him in the book at all?!

 

There are also so many plot holes because apparently criminals have a separate justice system of their own, and once they serve their time, they get to have a normal life. As in, they're not Flawed. It doesn't make sense. How can you make someone Flawed for helping another Flawed being, and say that makes them lower than a murderer? Why is the criminal not also Flawed? It makes no sense at all...

 

A lot of the book was also based on the political impact.

 

This is where the book really fails, because Celestine is made out to be this great paragon of a rebellion against the organisation, even though nothing like that actually happens. If the book had been twice as long and the rebellion happened near the end, then maybe it would have made sense...but barely anything is fleshed out at all! It's somehow fast-paced without anything happening.

 

Like, her teachers at school refuse to teach her because she's Flawed. The one teacher who agrees to home-school her turns out to have political motives for her to speak at some kind of gathering of the Flawed and it just gets ridiculous. I got the impression that the Flawed aren't allowed to have gatherings like this, but apparently it's legal? There wasn't enough detail about any of this at all.

 

Oh, and don't get me started on Celestine herself.

 

She makes so many bad decisions. She goes around poking her nose into all of these situations which would see her in tons of trouble, and gets almost nothing for her efforts. She is easily tricked into attending a party by one of her classmates (who then kidnaps her and locks her in a shed to try and make her miss her curfew). And she keeps trying to search for that one guy called Carrick for no real reason other than because he was her age and happened to be in the same cell as her. (Again, they never said a word to each other.)

 

I see a lot of people hating on Celestine, but she's not a terrible character. She's just extremely bland and not that compelling of a protagonist. Her sister, Juniper, is actually rebellious and seems to know what to do, and I'm surprised that she doesn't have a bigger part to play. Her granddad is cool too. It's like everyone except Celestine is a decent character.

 

Near the end, the story dives into ever-more ridiculous territory as Celestine somehow single-handedly starts a riot just by standing up to a police officer (just one), has a long extended conversation with her teacher's Flawed husband (he appears just one chapter before the end and yet talks for several pages about plot-important stuff, even though he is also really drunk at the time and I couldn't take anything seriously here), and finally we discover that the other judges are turning on Judge Crevan and are willing to help out Celestine if they join their side.

 

Like, all these people are so willing to help Celestine. It's not as if she's alone. All these political sides everywhere, except I don't care at all because the author has forgotten to flesh out all of the other parts of the world. It just doesn't add up at all. It's just a really badly-written dystopian future (it feels more like a dystopian present) and so little is left out.

 

I don't know why Celestine acts so stupidly throughout the book, yet everyone excuses her actions and says what a clever girl she is because she studied mathematics. (The teacher's husband tells her that she can use mathematics to work out how to get out of her situation. I did mathematics at university. He's an idiot.) I don't know why the author chose to delve into the political side and leave out everything that could have been interesting.

 

I don't understand the reason for the terribly-written love triangle, or the love interest that never appears until the end, or the boyfriend who disappears in the second half of the book, or the desire to make the villains so ridiculously evil and sadistic that I can't take anything seriously anymore. 

 

By the end of it, I had come to the conclusion that this book is so bad that it's good. And good god, I am not reading the sequel.

 

 

 

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