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review 2019-02-15 04:15
Steve Hamilton: The Second Life of Nick Mason
The Second Life of Nick Mason (A Nick Mason Novel) - Steve Hamilton

Steven Hamilton introduces readers to Nick Mason who is about to start the second chapter of his life, just not quite the second chapter he was hoping for;

Nick Mason has spent the past 5 years in prison when an offer comes that he cannot refuse, he can get out 20 years early. For Nick this means h can once again be part of his daughter's life, he can try to be a new man on the outside. Nick doesn't fully understand the terms of his release until the first call comes in, he has to follow the orders, there is no yes or no answer he must do what he is told. He is now being controlled by  Darius Cole who is a criminal mastermind and rules his organization from his prison cell. Nick is forced to commit even more serious crimes than the one that he was originally put away for, but he cannot renege on agreement. He wants to go straight but in order to do so he has to risk everything and become ruthless in the process.
 
I really enjoyed this book it was fast paced and gritty with interesting main character. What stands out in this book is that Hamilton did not shy away from the grit that needed to be in this book to make this book not only believable but also unputdownable. This is fully a character driven book, yes there is some mystery as to why Nick is being asked to complete these tasks and who is this Darius Cole guy (he is explained in the book) but it more about Nick readjusting to being outside, trying to stay there and adapting to his new life and the tasks he is asked to complete. Now with many books where the main character is released from prison there are some cliche found here but even though they are cliche I think they hold a ring of real world truth, like the wife divorcing him and wanting to remarry or regretting the choices he made that landed him in prison. Sure similar books have this too but I think this just adds to the realism of the book.

Mason is an interesting anti-hero. He is willing do to anything to protect those he loves (he's loyal to a fault) and that includes murder, yep you read that right straight out murder, but he tries to keep to a certain type of rules and code to. Obviously this code/rules is hard to stick to when someone other than himself is giving the orders. The one thing that I did not get out of Nick’s personality was he goes from thief/robber to cold blooded murderer. Maybe Cole saw something in Nick that we as the reader are not aware of but it just doesn’t fit his previous profile. However, it is intriguing to see how much Nick does change from the beginning to the end of the book and it was quite a ride.

I’m extremely happy this did not have a cookie cutter ending where everything works out, if it did not only would I have liked the book less but in the scheme of the plot it would not have made sense to be tied up nicely in the end. I’m really looking forward to continuing on with this series.

Great start to a series. Nick is an awesome character who really is the main focus of this book and Hamilton does him justice in his development and story. I will unqestionalby be picking up the second book in this series.

Enjoy!!!!

If You Like This, 
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review 2019-02-09 22:02
Main Bad Guy - Nick Kolakowski

Yeah, weird day for me to post something like this, but it's what Kolakowski asked for -- and he wasn't a jerk about it like the last guy who wanted a Saturday post. I also did a quick Q&A with the author.

---

Bill could tell you all about things going haywire.

 

Like Fiona’s plan, for instance.

 

How the hell had he agreed to this insanity?

 

The answer was obvious: They had no choice.


It had to come down to this, didn't it? After being on the run for a book to a book and a half (depending on the character), Bill and Fiona have to face off with the Dean, the Rockaway Mob leader who put out the hits on them both. They really don't much choice, the whole starting over quietly thing didn't work too well. Or at all.

 

This picks up right after Slaughterhouse Blues, the pair are having a difficult time getting out of New York, and ultimately find themselves locked in a panic room at the top of a skyscraper, surrounded by Crow Man -- "a stellar chemist, and a better botanist" -- his crew, and his product. Which is a pretty awkward place to be. Unsurprisingly, Crow Man works for the Dean (don't you love these names?). The Dean had been having a pretty lousy day up until this point -- and when the Dean has a bad day, a lot of people suffer. Then things start looking up, and the Dean is handed two of his most wanted on a silver platter.

 

Meanwhile, a mysterious figure named Walker is making his way from Canada to New York. He's seen that the pair found some trouble in Oklahoma and assumed Fiona wold need help. By the time that word got out that they were in New York, he was already on the way, knowing that'd be the case. Walker is one of those classic aged "been there, done that" characters. The old pro who's tried to retire and ends up having to get back into action one more time -- which is good, because they really don't do well with the quiet life anyway. I'd sign up for a series focusing on him in a heartbeat. I'd almost say this is worth reading just for Walker -- even if you know nothing about Bill, Fiona, the Dean, etc. Eh, I'll go ahead and say it, read this just for Walker. But you'll like it more if you've read the others.

 

Walker's travel is beset by trouble from uneasy allies, his age, and just how much the city has changed. One of the best scenes with him starts with Walker revisiting a favorite dive bar that had been "gentrified into a monstrosity" where he felt like he was "attending a wake for someone that nobody in the room had liked" in the middle of the velvet art, sky-blue walls and pop music. Kolakowski grounds this with reflections on September 11 and the effect it had on the City and its citizens -- making it more than just a fun moment in the book. The intelligence he picks up in the bar justifies his brush with gentrification and enables him to come to Fiona's aid. Hopefully in time.

 

Bill and Fiona are great together, their dialogue crackles. Watching these two try to get out of Dodge is so much fun, you find yourself wishing that Kolakowski had figured out way to stretch this into a quatrology. One of the problems I had, I now realize, with Slaughterhouse Blues was how little Bill and Fiona were together. They spent a lot of A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps apart, too -- but that was different. Bill's a better character with her around, and Fiona works better too -- if for no other reason than she has to be a bad-ass and watch out for him, instead of just being pure bad-ass all the time. I'm not sure that makes sense to anyone not living in my head. Hopefully it does.

 

There's excitement, there's gunplay, there are explosives, violence, witty dialogue and a whole lot of bad-ass characters facing off with each other (and Bill's around, too). This is the literary equivalent of a Martin McDonagh film (when he's in a more playful mood) -- or, if that doesn't work for you, think Fargo meets Tarantino, but not as long-winded. Kolakowski ties this to A Brutal Bunch so well (and in ways you won't expect), providing a perfect ending to this saga. There are so many quote-worthy lines in this brief novella that it's driving me crazy that I can't work more of them into this.

 

A lot of novella-series can be read in a clump, like one big novel. This is not one of them. Each novella has its own feel, its own themes and structure -- while being one story. Last year, Kolakowski impressed me with his novel, Boise Longpig Hunting Club, this series has shown me that wasn't a fluke at all and that I need to read anything I can by him.

 

I can't tell you what's holding me back from making this a full 5 Star, but something is. It's close enough, though (and on Amazon/Goodreads, I round up), so I don't feel too bad about chopping off that half-star here. But focus on the important things here -- it's a great read, a great conclusion and about as much fun as you'll have in a thriller this year. Bill and Fiona are a great couple (at least in fiction, they'd probably crash and burn in real life) -- and a lot of fun to read about.

 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

2019 Cloak & Dagger Challenge


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review 2019-02-05 03:10
Broken Antiheroes on a Last Chance Power Drive
Slaughterhouse Blues - Nick Kolakowski

“What’d you put in there?” Don said, nodding at the soiled duffel bag in the backseat.

 

“About twenty pounds of tobacco, but don’t worry, no leaves, just the little bits. I asked the sweepers to give me the scraps.”

 

Don laughed. “A couple years back, we tried taking those scraps, making cigarettes out of them. They sold, but not enough. You can’t fight Big Tobacco.”

 

“You know what’s a good rule for life?” Fiona said. “Don’t fight groups dedicated to killing millions of people.”

 

It didn't take long for Bill and Fiona to realize that the business relationship they found themselves in at the end of the last novella to be just as unpleasant as the one they'd just left. They hadn't jumped into the fire per se, more like they'd jumped from one frying pan into another. And their new associates took a similar approach to their older associates to their exit -- they wanted them dead. So now the pair are trying to avoid two large-scale criminal enterprises bent on revenge, while trying to secure enough of a nest-egg to retire and disappear.

 

That doesn't sound fun. At least not for them, for readers on the other hand...

Fiona is off doing a small -- but hopefully profitable -- job for a couple of brothers she's worked for before. They're cigar manufacturers in Nicaragua, where the competition might just be getting lethal. Bill, on the other hand, is in another country trying to hide out among the throngs of tourists. Let's just say that neither of them meet with a lot of success -- but Fiona does manage to get a lead on what should be an easy heist. The catch is, it's in New York. Right in their old backyard.

 

So we have an easy heist, an uneasy alliance between the couple and a less-than-trustworthy man who can lead them to a big pay, assassins on their tail and some others who discovered that the couple has delivered themselves to their city. Chaos ensues.

It's action-packed, but with a smaller body count than the previous novel. But at least one of the deaths happens in a way that will stay with you. Not in a haunting way -- but in a "wow, what a cool visual" way (something you can appreciate in fiction -- in real life, it'd be horrific and witnesses would likely need therapy).

 

There's an interesting tie-in here to some things that happened at the end of World War II, reminding the reader just how much moral gray area existed for US troops in those last days of the War in Europe. Well, a lot of gray existed, and some of it might have been made. Either way, it was there.

 

At the end of the day, I didn't enjoy Slaughterhouse Blues nearly as much as A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps, but I think it says more about the latter than the former. It's a solid piece of writing, expanding and deepening the universe of these characters a tad. It gives us another opportunity to see them in action while doing some important things for Fiona's character. If nothing else, Slaughterhouse Blues sets up the third novella (which is better than either of the other two). But most importantly, it tells a good, entertaining story on its own. If I'd read this one not knowing who Bill, Fiona or Nick Kolakowski were -- I'd have sought out more about them and by him. That's good enough for me.

 


<i><b>Disclaimer:</b> I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.</i>

 

2019 Cloak & Dagger Challenge

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review 2019-01-27 02:06
Bad Kitty
Bad Kitty - Nick Bruel

Bad Kitty is normally a VERY good kitty. But when his owners run out of food for him and offer him delicious and healthy options, Bad Kitty shows where his namesake comes from. He destroys the house, makes racket, and starts annoying everyone he can get his hands on. But once his owners bring his favorite foods back, he has to start making amends for his actions and all seems well. Until they bring a puppy home. This is a wonderful book to introduce students alliterations as each of Bad Kitty's favorite foods consist of them such as "Zebra Zitit" and "Whale Waffles". An activity to engage students with this story is to have them create their own food that Bad Kitty would like using alliterations like the author did and illustrating it. An example could be "Dinosaur Donuts". 

 

Lexile Measure: AD390L

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review 2019-01-25 03:49
A fast, fun, and bullet-ridden adventure
A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps - Nick Kolakowski

Bill is a con man, a hustler, a grifter with a gift -- one that has been put to good use by the Rockaway Mob until the day that Bill has had enough. He just can't keep going the way he's been going. So he leaves New York and heads off on his secret plan to leave the country. Of course, before he left town, he helped himself to a large amount of the Mob's money to fund his retirement. Which is as popular a choice as you can expect.

Only . . . his plan isn't as secret as he thinks and people are on his tail immediately. A pair of employees are sent to take care of Bill and retrieve the cash. And then another is shooter is sent before those first two have even had a chance to fail. And it's a good thing that happened.

 

Which is all I should probably say about the plot. Very little goes the way you think it'll go once things get rolling. What follows is fast, fun and violent. It's the least subtle critique of civil forfeiture possible -- and a whole host of other things.

 

The backup assassin is our entry into this world, these characters -- .he's notorious, he's infamous, he's "that guy." And . . . he's kind of falling apart -- his wife can't handle his vocation any more and is divorcing him. His point of view chapters are a mix of attitude, a little snark, mayhem and despondency. Somehow, that mix is a blast.

 

On the other hand, we have Bill -- who you somehow can't believe was ever brought into the fold by the Rockaway Mob, but he's clearly good at what he does. But little else, it seems. He has a real knack for moving from fire to fireplace to somewhere hotter yet. One of the other assassins sent after him was the one who brought him to the Rockaway Mob, who vouched for him. Her name is Fiona, and she's one of the fiercest, deadly, aggressive characters you've met recently -- and at least until recently, was in love with Bill (not that he treated her too well in his exit, and probably cooled her affections as a result).

 

This is a novella -- and there's not a lot of space for character development, for fully drawing out a character -- and while these three aren't as well drawn as Kolakowski has in other work, they're good enough for what he's wanting to accomplish here. (I hope that doesn't sound like a slight -- it's not supposed to be). They may not be fully drawn, but they're a lot of fun -- and there's some intriguing emotional beats between them and some of the other characters in these pages.

 

This book is primarily an exercise in violence -- there's a hint of torture, just a hint (but most of it happens off-screen). What's not hinted at are explosions and gunfire. There's a lot of it -- the literary equivalent of so much of the stylized cinematic violence inspired by Tarantino in the 90's. It's adrenaline set to music -- think Edgar Wright action scenes, but more lethal -- to skip a couple of decades (actually, I bet this novella would pair well with much of the Baby Driver soundtrack).

 

I had a hard time accepting how the last few chapters went, because I had the wrong idea about what Kolakowski was up to with this book (and, I bet, the next two books that follow). But I had a blast with it -- even the last chapters, once I gave up my preconceptions.

 

This is a fast, lean novella -- there's not an ounce of fat, not one unnecessary sentence to this. Kolakowski has a story to tell and he tells it. I knew going in that this was going to be a fast read, but I couldn't believe how quickly I got through it -- between the lean prose, the fast pace of the book and the action scenes, this was just a bullet train of a read (no pun intended).

 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author. My opinions expressed above are my own. I appreciate the book, but I didn't sell out my opinions because of that..

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2019 Cloak & Dagger Challenge

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2019/01/24/a-brutal-bunch-of-heartbroken-saps-by-nick-kolakowski-a-fast-fun-and-bullet-ridden-adventure
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