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Search tags: halloween-bingo-2018
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review 2018-12-04 22:32
The Water Rat of Wanchai
The Water Rat of Wanchai - Ian Hamilton

They had been profitable years, with Ava earning enough money for the condo and the car and an impressive investment portfolio. But the best thing about the jobs she and Uncle did was the ride getting to the money - it was never the same twice, and though it taxed her emotionally, it also forced her to expand her senses and her thought processes. Then there were the clients. Although she complained about them sometimes, especially those who in utter desperation were far too clinging and demanding, she also accepted Uncle's conviction that they were simply lost souls looking for redemption. "When we get them their money back, what we are really doing is saving their lives," he would say. Ava believed that, too.

Ava Lee is a forensic accountant, but we learn very little about what forensic accountants do in this book, because right from the get-go, Ava Lee turns into this shady figure tracking down people and information by using any means necessary - deception, coercion, chloral hydrate, but very little accounting.

 

Oh, I am so conflicted about this book. I really wanted to like this a lot. I was really hoping to find a new series that would fill that silly void left by other series about action-packed espionage. And this one looked good because the idea of a Bond-like figure written as a woman sounded too good to pass by.

 

However, the execution of the book didn't live up to my expectations at all. There are silly plot elements that required me to suspend disbelief just a little too much, like when Ava calls up a shipping company out of the cold and they remember every single detail about a one-off, very ordinary, transaction from 8 weeks earlier, and they didn't even have to consult their files? I found that hardly credible.  

 

There were other elements of the writing that also grated on me: the use of brand names instead of descriptions, was a major annoyance. I find this so lazy. Even if we get to learn that someone wore Adidas pants, it still doesn't tell me what colour or style or whether they were tracksuit bottoms or the more fashion-conscious kind. All I know is that they may have stripes down the sides (tho not all of them do...). 

So lazy. Yet, this book is full of this. Brand names appear so often that I once even laughed at how the multitude of product placement compared to a James Bond film, which is famously full of the same advertising. 

 

There was one particular scene where the author has Ava decide between two hotels in Hong Kong (or was it Macao), and I literally had to skip the page because I was not going to put up with reading an advertising leaflet for the Mandarin Oriental. Still, as we can see, the advert worked as I will forever remember the name of the hotel. Gaaaahhh...

I'm so annoyed about this. And I haven't even mentioned Ava's addition to a particular kind of Starbucks coffee sachet...

 

In all of this, what I can only describe as an exercise to replace descriptive writing with consumerist imagery, the plot and character development gets left behind. 

In the first half of the book, Ava does little else than answer phone calls and jump on planes to exotic locations. 

In the second half of the book, the plot thickens. Or rather, Ava breaks out her martial art skills to kidnap someone...

Ironically, this is where I should have really gotten into the book and just didn't. It took me a lot longer to finish the book than I thought, because I just could not face the tedium of reading about Ava's attempts to restore money to a company account. I think I'd have been more interested in it if the underlying purpose had not been quite so ... transactional, and if there had been more emphasis on the characters involved.  

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review 2018-11-25 08:57
"The Mermaid's Madness - Princess #2" by Jim C. Hines - the series gets a little darker
The Mermaid's Madness - Jim C. Hines

"The Mermaid's Madness" is the second book in this series about three princesses who aren't quite the ones you know from the fairytales and the Disney movies. The first book, "The Stepsister Scheme" brought together Snow White and Sleeping Beauty as agents of Cinderella's new mother-in-law, the Queen Beatrice of Lorindar. Snow is a sorceress with a slightly ribald sense of humour, Beauty (never call her that to her face) is a trained assassin and the Cinders, who now has a young son, has a magic sword and an ability to lead.

 

"The Mermaid's Madness" gives us a different look at what the story of The Little Mermaid looks like if you drop the soft-focus and treat the mermaid at the centre of the story as a real person. The story starts with the Undine/merfolk, who are lead by the most senior female undine, breaking a long-standing truce with Lorindar and attacking and wounding Queen Beatrice.

 

As the Undine will only treat with women, the three princesses set out to try and end the war with the Undine and save Queen Beatrice's life.

 

The Undine, as Jim Hines imagines them, are not just humans who can swim underwater, they are an aquatic species with their own culture, gifted with significant magical abilities, especially via their voices, who are able to communicate with humans. When an undine princess falls in love with a human prince who betrays her, she goes mad with grief and everything else follows.

 

Like it's predecessor, this is, at least on the surface, a boisterous, trope-twisting, witty romp of a book but beneath that shiny surface is something much darker. There is a vein of sadness that runs through the book whenever we get to how the young women in the story have been treated by the powerful, especially powerful men. The book is filled with strong women but almost all of them have been damaged or at least wounded by their encounters with people who fail to see them as fully human.

 

I admire Jim C. Hines' ability to write a rollicking tale with mermaids and selkies and sea battles that has a fast pace and is lubricated with humour and yet still bring the reader back time and again to real sources of pain.

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review 2018-11-18 15:34
Dark Voyage
Dark Voyage - Helen Susan Swift

by Helen Susan Swift

 

Two people are out on a pleasurable boating trip on the North Sea when storm clouds suddenly move in and turn the sea violent. As if that weren't enough to ruin their day, things take a strange turn.

 

This is a ghost ship story with a few weird turns. It did stretch believability in some places, but was overall an interesting read. My one complaint is some lazy writing where one of the main characters would 'just feel' what she was meant to do or that a ghost wanted her to do something.

 

The majority of the story is told through the voice of a doctor who had been on the ghost ship and what happened to the rest of the crew. There are some triggers here. It was a sealing ship and animal lovers like myself may find some passages difficult, though it isn't gratuitous gore. Just the thought of a sailing expedition whose purpose is to slaughter animals, including baby animals, is enough to be upsetting.

 

The writing is excellent and the supernatural aspects of the story are very well done. The beginning and end sequences felt rather rushed, but the bulk of the story, told by the doctor's journal, made for a very good read.

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review 2018-11-15 17:58
"The Elementals" by Michael McDowell
The Elementals - Michael Rowe,Michael McDowell

If you're looking for a deeply atmospheric, well-written and perfectly narrated novel to fill you with an inexorable dread, "The Elementals" is the book for you.

 

"The Elementals" has a remarkably powerful, cliché-free start, that embeds your imagination in the South like a throwing knife splitting a rotting log. What better way to start than with a funeral that goes from dire and depressing to deeply disturbing in a few pages.

 

I'd never read Michael McDowell before but I wasn't surprised to learn later that he was an excellent screenwriter.  The style of"The Elementals" is cinematic in a lots-of-close-ups, see-the-motes-in-the-sunlit-air lighting and strange but intimate camera angles kind of way.

 

The characters, especially Luker and his preciously independent daughter India are engaging and believable. Despite being unconventional people (Luker came from around hear but he raised his daughter in New York City so you can't exactly expect them to be normal, can you?) become the anchor points for sanity in a world that is sliding towards the lethally strange with the slow grace of an unmoored house sliding of a cliff into the sea.

 

The heat becomes almost a character in the story in its own right. India discovers for the first time the heat and humidity induced languor of the South that bends time and alter perceptions. Luker explains to her that this hot humid coastal resort of Beldame is:

"...a low energy place. The kind of place where you can only get one or two things done in a day and one of those is getting out of bed."

 

Not surprisingly, the horror in this book is of the slow but deeply disturbing kind. It seemed to me that the dread in this book had a pulse: slow and strong, like an ambush predator waiting on a branch.

 

Having this atmospheric tale delivered to my ear in R.C. Bray's gravelly but insistent voice was a remarkable reading experience.

 

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review 2018-11-04 22:55
Brief Thoughts: Small Town Spin
Small Town Spin - LynDee Walker

Small Town Spin

by LynDee Walker
Book 3 of A Nichelle Clarke Crime Thriller

 

 

A YOUNG ATHLETE IS DEAD.
A TRAGIC SUICIDE?  OR FOUL PLAY?


A retired NFL quarterback's teenage son is found dead on a rocky shoreline near his family's Virginia home, and crime reporter Nichelle Clarke is called in on special assignment to handle the delicate story.  Just yesterday, T.J. Okerson seemed destined to follow in his father's footsteps towards gridiron glory.  Now his parents, close friends to one of Nichelle's inner circle, are blind-sided and grieving.

The sheriff of the sleepy Chesapeake Bay town is ready to stamp the case a tragic drug overdose and move on.  But Nichelle isn't so sure.

Determined and unafraid, she dives into the seedier side of the quaint island community.  Nichelle's investigation reveals an underground moonshine operation--and more suspicious deaths.  Soon she finds herself confronting a killer who will stop at nothing to keep Nichelle from uncovering the truth.



Small Town Spin is another solid story in this well-written cozy series that I'm happy to have been recommended.  As per usual, I love Nichelle's thought process whenever she starts investigating each case, and I love that she's so resourceful and confident.  I also appreciate the fact that Nichelle has kind of learned from her previous experiences and indeed DOES try not to be the TSTL.  As she mentions, she's not exactly looking to get herself killed or anything.  She just wants her story.

Unfortunately, danger just seems to keep popping up because she's so determined to get to the truth of each story.

Of all the books so far, I kind of feel like this is one with a meatier plot than the rest.  It's quite thought-provoking, even if the entire detailed outline of the murder mystery was quite convoluted.  Maybe Nichelle was following too many trails, I don't know.

Still, this was highly enjoyable!

On a side note:  the love triangle is quite prominent in this particular book than it had been in the previous.  I suppose I understand Nichelle's need to play the field a little bit.  But something about triangles just really ruffle me up.

On another side note:  I was chatting with my BFF about this series, wanting to introduce her to it if she were in the mood for a new cozy.  The topic of the love triangle came up, and then I suddenly admitted that I was really hoping that Nichelle and fellow reporter, sports persona Grant Parker would end up together.  I'm sure that's not going to happen, because the two have already friend-zoned each other; AND Parker is in a committed relationship.  Also, a lot of other readers seem to be rooting for the mafia boss...

But anyway, I just felt like Parker and Nichelle just clicked really well, especially after they finally started communicating more properly at the end of the first book.  Now the two are sort of partners in crime as he had helped her out, both in the previous book and this one.  And they seem to really understand each other.

While love interests, Joey and Kyle, will just tell Nichelle she needs to stop getting herself into trouble, Parker will offer his services to aid her investigative efforts.  I think I like that he doesn't immediately try to coddle her... then again, he's also not playing the role of over-protective potential boyfriend.

Anyway, another entertaining installment to the Nichelle Clarke series, and three more to go!

 

 


 

Halloween Bingo 2018

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2018/11/brief-thoughts-small-town-spin.html
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