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review 2017-12-14 03:56
When it ended, I wasn't sure what point the author was trying to make!
The Midnight Line - Lee Child

The Midnight Line, Lee Child, author; Dick Hill, narrator The book is read well, but is often unsettling because the narrator’s voice has a tremor. Also, although he enunciates and expresses the narrative very well, he fails to adequately delineate between the characters so it is often difficult to figure out who is speaking. The story also rolls out slowly and sometimes becomes too detailed, causing the reader to lose interest. Jack Reacher is a wanderer. A former Army officer in an elite division, he does not like to stay in one place. His years of service to his country have left its mark on him. When he wanders into a pawn shop in Wisconsin and discovers a class ring from the West Point class of 2005, he becomes intrigued because he does not believe that anyone who worked so hard to graduate would give it up willingly. The ring is small, indicating it was probably owned by a tiny woman. Reacher is a larger than life man, and he had graduated from West Point many years before, so he purchases the ring and is obsessive about finding its owner. The story follows a circuitous path, which often has some holes in it, leaving the reader wondering about how Reacher arrived in one place or another or reached one or another conclusion. Since he has no car, he hitchhikes and walks to his destinations. On the way he meets many different odd characters, some of whom are dangerous, some of whom are benign. When he finds the person who supposedly knows where the ring came from, he discovers that he has a very shady past. The ring and the people involved with it seem to be, in some way, possibly connected to drug smuggling, possibly as users, possibly as distributers or pushers. Often Reacher uses unconventional methods to glean information. He refuses to give up his quest to find the woman who owned the ring regardless of the obstacles placed in his way. He faces danger, stares it in the face calmly and survives. Soon he discovers that someone else is looking for her. Her twin sister has hired a private detective because she has not heard from her in over a year. Reacher also discovers that law enforcement has an interest in her and in some of the people she may have known. When Reacher tries to get information from West Point, he discovers some files, including hers, are sealed, but he does discover she received a purple heart. This leads him to believe she may be hiding for a reason. Together, all of the characters weave a tale about the search that takes the reader to unexpected destinations, sometimes without adequate explanation. In the end, I was not really sure what point it was that the author was attempting to make. Was it to highlight the terrible drug epidemic in this country? Was it to highlight the terrible effect of war on our soldiers? Was it to highlight the horrific dangers they faced? Was it to highlight their bravery? Often soldiers suffer grievous wounds with poor recovery options. Was it to highlight their lack of proper care or the toll on their psyches? Was it to highlight the corruption that was found in unexpected places that placed people in danger? Perhaps some readers will find a plausible explanation for the quest and the end result. I kept trying to figure out the author’s point, but, ultimately, that point somehow got lost along the way.

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review 2017-12-11 22:41
A morally ambiguous thriller and a story of tainted friendships that will appeal to readers of King’s It.
The Chalk Man: A Novel - Tasha Tudor

Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin UK for offering me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

This story, told in two different time frames by Eddie Adams (known as Eddie Munster as a child, because all the friends had nicknames and somehow the Munsters and the Adams became conflated into one…), has all the elements fans of mysteries and thrillers love. Strange characters, plenty of secrets, red herrings and false clues, lies, many suspects, a slightly odd setting, bizarre murders, strange relationships… A murder involving bizarre circumstances (a chopped-up body with a missing head, strange chalk drawings…) took place in a small and picturesque UK city (it sounds small enough to be a town, but as it has a cathedral, it is a city) in 1986 (although there were other strange things that happened at the time too, coincidental or not), and became known as the Chalk-Man murder. Thirty years later someone starts asking questions and stirring things up. Eddie narrates, in the first-person, the events, including his memories of what happened when he was a teenager and also telling us what is happening now. Those of you who read my blog know I have a thing for unreliable narrators, and, well, Eddie is a pretty good one. He is an English high school teacher and seems fairly reliable and factual in his account, and he does a great job of making us feel the emotions and showing us (rather than telling us) the events; although slowly he starts revealing things about himself that make him less standard and boring, and slightly more intriguing. Eddie does not have all the information (it seems that the friends kept plenty of things from each other as children), and sometimes he is unreliable because of the effect of alcohol, and possibly his mental state (his father suffered early dementia and he is concerned that he might be going down the same path). But there are other things at play, although we don’t fully get to know them until the very end.

The story reminded me of Stephen King’s It, most of all because of the two time-frames and of the story of the children’s friendship, although the horror element is not quite as strong (but there are possible ghosts and other mysterious things at play), and the friends and their friendship is more suspect and less open. In some ways, the depiction of the friend’s relationship, and how it changes over time, is more realistic. Of course, here the story is told from Eddie’s point of view, and we share in his likes and dislikes, that are strongly coloured by the events and his personal opinions. The main characters are realistically portrayed (both from a child’s perspective and later from an adult one), complex, and none of them are totally good, or 100% likeable, but they are sympathetic and not intentionally bad or mean (apart from a couple of secondary characters but then… there is a murderer at work). Morality is ambiguous at best, and people do questionable things for reasons that seem fully justified to them at the time, or act without thinking of the consequences with tragic results. I am not sure I felt personally engaged with any of the characters (perhaps because of Eddie’s own doubts), but I liked the dubious nature of the narration, and the fact that there were so many unknowns, so many gaps, and that we follow the process of discovery up-close, although there are things the main character knows that are only revealed very late in the game (although some he seems to have buried and tried hard to forget). The parents, and secondary characters, even when only briefly mentioned, serve the purpose well, add a layer of complexity to the story and are consistent throughout the narration.

The mystery had me engaged, and the pieces fit all together well, even when some of them are not truly part of the puzzle. I can’t say I guessed what had happened, although I was suspicious of everyone and, let’s say I had good reason to be. I liked the ending, not only the resolution of the mystery but what happens to Eddie. If you read it, you’ll know what I mean.

The writing is fluid, it gives the narrator a credible voice, it gets the reader under the character’s skin, and it creates a great sense of place and an eerie atmosphere that will keep readers on alert. The story deals with serious subjects, including child abuse, bullying (and sexual abuse), dementia, and although it is not the most graphically violent story I have read, it does contain vivid descriptions of bodies and crime scenes, and it definitely not a cozy mystery and not for the squeamish reader.

A great new writer, with a very strong voice and great ability to write psychological thrillers, and one I hope to read many more novels by. 

 

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review 2017-12-11 02:59
Fabulous Read!!
Prescription For Love (Destiny's Child B... Prescription For Love (Destiny's Child Book 1) - Zee Monodee

Prescription For Love by Zee Monodee is an amazing book.  Ms. Monodee has delivered a book that is well-written and furnished it with phenomenal characters.  Margo is a forensic pathologist and is guardian to 11 year old Emma.  Jamie is the town physician and their new neighbor.  Their story is touching and will warm your heart.  There is plenty of drama, humor and spice to keep readers wrapped up in this fantastic story.  I enjoyed reading Prescription For Love and look forward to reading more from Zee Monodee in the future.  Prescription For Love is book 1 of the Destiny's Child Series but can be read as a standalone.  This is a complete book, not a cliff-hanger.  

 

I voluntarily read an Advance Reader Copy of this book.

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review 2017-11-28 02:52
A buck gets ten that you'll love this
The Midnight Line - Lee Child

“But this particular guy won’t talk to me?”

“I would be surprised.

“Does he have no manners?”

"I wouldn’t ask him over to a picnic.”

“What’s his name?”

“Jimmy Rat.”

”For real?”

“That’s what he goes by.”

“Where would I find Mr. Rat?”

"Look for a minimum six Hariey-Davidsons. Jimmy will be in whatever bar they‘re outside of.”


Three days after Make Me, Reacher hits the road -- and a few hours into that, he's already trying to track someone down. That conversation leads to the following:

There was a bar in a standalone wooden building, with a patch of weedy gravel for parking, and on the gravel were 7 Harley-Davidsons, all in a neat line. Possibly not actual Hells Angels as such. Possibly one of the many other parallel denominations. Bikers were as split as Baptists. All the same, but different.

 

(don't worry, I'm not going to tell the whole story in this detail, I just really enjoyed the writing here).

 

Reacher goes into the bar and then has a pleasant chat with a member of the local law enforcement community and a productive chat with Mr. Rat. In between those chats he may have engaged in a physical confrontation with the owners of those motorcycles, I'll let you guess what happened there. It was fun to read, I assure you. What led to him looking for Jimmy the Rat? Pretty simply, he saw a female West Point class ring in a pawn shop window. That's not an easy thing to earn/deserve. Reacher figures that there's got to be an interesting story behind such a ring ending up in a pawn shop -- and maybe some fellow alumnus needs a hand, one that he can give. Jimmy the Rat is just the first link in a chain of indeterminate length back to this graduate.

 

Because he's not an idiot, Jimmy points Reacher in the right direction: a laundromat in Rapid City. Also, because he's not an idiot, before Reacher is on his way, Jimmy calls in a warning to that laundromat. Jimmy's a rat, but he's a survivor, too. This laundromat is owned by a guy named Scorpio, who is absolutely not Rapid City PD's favorite small-business owner, if they could, they'd shut him down. This warning phone call, they hope, will be the harbinger of something -- his downfall, or something to give them enough ammunition to arrange his arrest and downfall. Either way, the PD is fine.

 

Reacher has a quick conversation with Scorpio, who also points him in a direction. Reacher interacts a bit with a member of the local PD about him, as well -- pointing out something that someone should've noticed already. There's a PI who's also pretty interested in Scorpio, but Reacher doesn't get to chat with him, at least not then. When he turns up in Wyoming a few hours behind Reacher, on the other hand . . .

 

Reacher ends up with one of the stranger ad hoc teams he's had to track down this woman -- and the extra-legal steps he has to take to help her aren't in his normal wheelhouse. But you go the extra mile for some people, and it's definitely in-character and understandable for him to do what he does. There's some interesting introspection early-on that I'm not used to seeing, and hope we get more of.

 

Here's a major weakness to me (normally, I'd shrug this off, but Child gets held to a higher standard): too many people don't know what "Bigfoot" is. If this took place in the UK or France or something, I could buy it. But in South Dakota? Sorry, not buying it.

 

The Midnight Line features more female characters than your typical Reacher novel -- and none of them are damsels in distress. Yeah, most of them need a little help -- but so do the males. Reacher's life is even saved by one of the women. These are all strong, confident and capable women -- not that the Reacher novels have ever been lacking in that regard, we just don't normally get that many of them at once.

 

I don't keep a spreadsheet or any kind of detailed notes on these things, but this might be one of the least violent Reacher novels ever. Make no mistake, Reacher has not turned into a pacifist and when he needs to punch, elbow, kick or headbutt (so soon after the concussion tests? tsk.) he does so very effectively, but I just think his count is a bit low this time).

 

Also, thanks Andy Martin, "Reacher said nothing." now jumps out at me every time it shows up. How it never jumped out at me before, I'll never know -- but wow.

 

I really enjoyed this -- it didn't blow me away in the same way that Make Me did, but very little does. It was a lot better than Night School, however. Reacher's knight-errant act is as satisfying as ever -- maybe even moreso in this conclusion that features more details on his acts of compassion than his violence (the last violent act happening "off-screen," although we get to see the aftermath). It was a fast read, full of action, great scenery and believable bad guys. I can't think of much else to say -- Reacher fans should love this, people new to Reacher should finish this with a desire to plunder the back-list, and everyone will start counting the days to #23.


2017 Library Love Challenge

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2017/11/27/the-midnight-line-by-lee-child
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review 2017-11-23 20:20
A great debut novel for those looking for a bit of magic and hope.
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance - Ruth Emmie Lang

Thanks to NetGalley and to St. Martin’s Press for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This book is a joy. Readers need to be prepared to suspend disbelief more than usual, perhaps, but from the very beginning, you realise you are in for a ride where everything will be extraordinary. Weylyn, the protagonist, is born in circumstances that his doctor never forgets, and he grows up to be more than a bit special.

I will not repeat the description of the book, which summarises quite well the main aspects of the novel. Weylyn’s story is told, mostly, from the point of view of the characters he meets along the way, and who, somehow, are changed by his presence in their lives. The story is set in the present, with interludes where a boy who literally falls on Weylyn (who lives like a hermit in the forest, with a wolf as his only company) keeps pestering him to tell him his story, and then goes back to the past, and the story is told, always in the first person, by a number of characters. As all readers know, narrators have a way of revealing a lot about themselves when they tell somebody else’s story, and this is true here. None of the narrators are unreliable, but they tell us more of their own stories through their memories of Weylyn than they do about Weylyn himself. We get to know him by the effect he has on those around him (children, adults, some of the characters —those he is closest to— her revisits over the years) and he remains a bit of a cipher, perhaps because he does not know himself or can explain himself fully either. We hear from him towards the end of the book, also in the first person, but he is not a character who defines himself by his “powers” (if that is what they are), and he never gives his talents a name, although he allows people to think whatever they like (He even tries to hide his prowess behind a pig, Merlin, insisting that the horned pig is the one who controls the weather). Despite all these points of view, the book is easy to read as each point of view is clearly delineated and their stories and narrative styles are distinct and appropriate to the characters. The writing flows well and there is enough description to spur readers’ imagination without going overboard.

In a world where children and parents have difficulty communicating, where fitting in and appearances are more important than true generosity, where politicians are self-serving and corrupt, where people stay in relationships because they don’t know how to end them, and where the interest of big corporations always trumps the needs of the common man, Weylyn is like the energy and light he manages to harvest, a ray of hope and a breath of fresh air.

Weylyn is a great character, but so are most of the other characters in the book. Some are more memorable than others, but they are all likeable and changed for the better by their interaction with Weylyn.

Although there are magical and fantastic elements in the novel, in my opinion, it fits into the category of magic realism (as the world the characters live in is our world and that is precisely why people are touched and surprised by his skills, his “specialness”). It would also fall under literary fiction, although it is a much easier read than many books classed under that label (and I feel this is a book not exclusively for adults either. There is minimal violence, clean romance, and many young characters, all distinct and likeable in their own ways).

A story for readers who love great characters and like to let their imaginations fly, not always feeling the need to remain anchored to reality. This is one of those books that we feel sorry to reach the end of and are thankful because we know their memory will remain with us. A great debut novel.

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