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review 2019-08-19 17:32
It ends with a bang, not with a whimper.
Everyone Dies (Karma's Children Book 3) - John Dolan

I love John Dolan’s books. I was lucky enough to “discover” him early on in his career, shortly after he published his first novel, Everyone Burns, in 2013. Since then, he has completed two series, the first, composed of four books (the Time, Blood and Karma series) and now, this is the third (and final) novel in his second series, Karma’s Children. And I have read them, reviewed them, and loved them all. Therefore, I approached this, the last novel in the David Braddock universe (well, sort of, as it happens), with trepidation. I wanted to know how this series ended, because there were many issues left hanging after Two Rivers One Stream, but I was also sad that the end was near. Let me assure you, this book is a blast and a more than fitting conclusion to the series.

All these novels share the setting, mostly in Thailand, in Samui (well, some of the action takes place back in England, and there are some other trips and excursions along the way), and although I’ve never visited Thailand and can’t make comparisons, for me the novels have managed to create an atmosphere and a clear picture in my mind, not only of how the place looks like, but of its people, how their society works, and also what it must be like to live there day to day rather than just visiting as a tourist. The novels also share a main character, David Braddock, a British ex-pat/detective/therapist, who has issues of his own aplenty which we slowly discover through the novels. Not all the novels are narrated from the same point of view or take place in the same time-frame and following a chronological order. That gives us the advantage of getting background information and becoming familiar with the characters from a variety of perspectives, and we also become privy to some information that the main character doesn’t know (and that might make us think we are a step ahead, but, boy, are we wrong or what!).

This novel, narrated in first-person by David Braddock, the King of unreliable narrators, gives us another opportunity to share in his witticisms, his philosophising, his bad habits, and his peculiar interactions with those around him (ghosts included). I recently highlighted the first line of a book I read that I said had become one of my new favourites. The first two sentences of this book are also among the most memorable I’ve read (I’ll let you read them yourselves if you fancy the sound of the book. Remember you can check a sample on your usual online store). In case the description above is not enough, I thought I’d share how the book sums up its own content, because it will give you a fair idea of what is to come:

A tale of human mortality comprising a prologue, twenty-eight chapters, two interludes, and a Post Morten Report.

We find Braddock at a low point in his life, following the traumatic events in the previous novel and his very personal loss, and as a result, he starts plotting a revenge that would be complicated even for an experienced assassin, something he is not. His physical condition is also suffering due to his unhealthy lifestyle, but his goal keeps him going and then… I won’t go into the details of the plot, because I don’t want to spoil it for readers, and also because this novel brings together with great flair all the loose threads, not only of this series but of the previous one, and it would be difficult to explain it all to people who are not familiar with the story so far. This is not a novel I’d recommend to people who haven’t read any of the previous ones, because although there is enough background offered to refresh the memories of those who have read them over the years, I think much of the context would be lost if somebody started reading here. I had my suspicions about some of the new plot elements that are revealed in this novel, but I didn’t guess all of them, and I was in awe at how the author managed to weave such a complex story and make it flow naturally. I enjoyed meeting again my favourite characters (some who had not appeared for a while), and I was more than happy with some of the turn of events in the novel (but again, I’ll keep my mouth shut). 

I can’t resist sharing a couple of early lines from the book, as a taster:

When one’s focus is on murdering someone, the proximity of female legs —even if aesthetically pleasing— hardly registers.

“Disillusionment should start young. It stops you from becoming bitter when you’re older.”

“Grief is not the presence of some red-clawed monster; looming up at us in the night. In point of fact, it’s not a presence at all. It’s an absence. The absence of something good.”

Well-written, with a dark and sharp sense of humour, clever dialogue, wonderful characters (and some awful ones as well, but wonderful in their awfulness), a fantastic setting, plenty of great quotes (quotes of other books opening each chapter, and eminently quotable lines), and a more-than-satisfying ending, this novel has it all. I keep recommending Dolan’s books to everybody but make sure to read both series in the right order, first Time, Blood and Karma and then Karma’s Children. You can thank me later. Oh, and the author is hard at work, writing the next novel about another character in the Braddock’s universe, and I can’t wait.

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review 2019-08-05 19:14
OBAMA & BIDEN AS AMATEUR SLEUTHS IN POST JANUARY 2017 AMERICA
Hope Never Dies - Andrew Shaffer

Several months ago, I was in a local independent bookstore, where I found this novel on a solid wooden table filled with other mystery novels. The cover drew my immediate attention. (Jeremy Enecio the front cover artist - so acknowledged by the author in the Acknowledgements section of "HOPE NEVER DIES" - did a fantastic job of capturing the likeness of ex-President Barack Obama and Joe Biden.) I read the summary and promptly bought the novel.

"HOPE NEVER DIES" shows both Obama and Biden in Wilmington, Delaware several months into the year 2017. Biden is troubled by the death of a old friend, an Amtrak conductor, in a mysterious railway accident. He and Obama take on the role of amateur sleuths to uncover what the real deal is. Along the way there are some light, entertaining moments in the novel that highlight the special friendship ('bromance') both men had during their 8 years in the White House.

This is only the second novel I've read which featured living historical figures. (The other novel was 'The Golden Age' in which the author Gore Vidal inserted himself as a character.) If not handled right, this inclusion of real, living, public figures can go horribly wrong and come across as grossly inauthentic. Not here. Andrew Shaffer has done a masterful job of crafting a novel featuring ex-President Obama, Biden, and a variety of characters who made "HOPE NEVER DIES" one of the best novels it has been my pleasure to read this year.

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review 2019-08-02 00:15
John Dies at the End
John Dies At The End - David Wong,Stephen R. Thorne

This is another selection from the Albany Public Library Summer Reading Challenge. (Theme:  "Out of this world.")

 

The audio for this book was over 14 hours long.  I often found myself thinking, "Henry James would call this book "a loose and baggy monster."  Come to think of it, the book actually features some loose and baggy monsters.

 

If this book were a stew, it would contain ingredients from GhostbustersMen in BlackSupernaturalInvasion of the Body Snatchers, and Fringe.  There were parts that made me laugh out loud, but there were also parts that just rambled, on and on.  And way too many dick jokes. 

 

By the time the story got to its big twists near the end, I was exhausted.  I considered abandoning it, but didn't want to because then I'd have to find another "out of this world" book to replace it with.

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review 2019-06-20 18:53
John Dies at the End by David Wong
John Dies at the End - David Wong

I've been side-eyeing this novel for a long time, so when a recent trip brought us to a used bookstore I picked up a copy. I usually don't for recent books still in print, but I'm glad I went on the cheap side for this one.

 

'John Dies at the End' is mostly David Wong telling his story to a reporter. After accidentally taking a strange drug known as 'Soy Sauce' he and his buddy John have gained notoriety for their ability to spot and intervene in supernatural problems. Wong, which is an alias for the character as well as the author, can't avoid sharing some details about his troubled youth and lots and lots of details about what a lonely, sad life he has.

 

The humor is juvenile, but effective. Its the language of a bro and loser who got in over their heads. The angle that the demons or whatever have an even lower, racist and homophobic, sense of humor is kind of funny. Any inconsistencies within the logic of the story is played off because of drugs, lies, and other hand-waving - which is also fine. I'm not going to read a goofy horror novel and expect internal consistency. The plot itself has no real momentum, and the book feels like the episodic piecemeal narrative the novel originated as. The real problem with the book is the female characters. There are only two substantial women in the book: 1. Jennifer Lopez who looks like J-Lo from behind and is a love interest; and 2. Amy, the younger sister of an early character, and who becomes a major character herself in the last act. There's also the dog, Molly, who arguably has a more fulfilling character arc then either woman.

 

All other women are either non-entity off-the-camera coworkers, party guests, victims, and girls John is having sex with - one gets a name and a brief speaking role so we can admire her breasts. Which, that's the market for this book, fine.

 

I've read worse, of course, Wong interjects a few paragraphs about women and how they're more than objects of desire, so he tried, I guess. The book had some entertaining absurdist moments. If I come across the sequels for less than wholesale I'll think about it.

 

John Dies at the End

 

Next: 'This Book is Full of Spiders'

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review 2019-06-20 03:36
Review: When Love Dies by Francine Pascal, Kate William
When Love Dies (Sweet Valley High #12) - Francine Pascal,Kate William

Title: When Love Dies
Author: Francine Pascal, Kate William 
Series: Sweet Valley High, 12
Format: ebook, bind-up
Length: N/A
Rating: 3 stars

 

Synopsis: What terrible secret is Tricia keeping from Steven?

Steven Wakefield, Elizabeth and Jessica’s handsome older brother, is heartbroken. His girlfriend, Tricia Martin, no longer seems interested in him. She breaks their dates and doesn’t return his calls. Steven doesn’t understand why Tricia’s feelings have changed so suddenly.

Jessica, on the other hand, sees this as the perfect opportunity to set Steven up with her best friend, Cara Walker, but Elizabeth isn’t thrilled with the scheming, gossipy Cara. She is determined to find out just why Tricia left Steven—and is horrified when she discovers the awful truth.

 

Favourite character: Elizabeth
Least favourite character: Cara & Jessica

 

Mini-review: I always want to start off these reviews with "Well that was dramatic" which is because this series is more or less a teen book version of a soap opera.

This book alone had 4ish plots: 

1. Steven breaks up with Tricia due to her not telling him something, so he assumes it's another guy, but it's not.

2. Jessica practically forces Steven to take Cara on a date, making Cara throw a last minute party as well.

3. Jessica convinces Elizabeth that they should get jobs as candy stripers at the hospital due to the fact that (unbeknownst to Elizabeth) teen TV heartthrob Jeremy Frank is there with a broken leg.

4. Elizabeth gets a stalker.

 

Fan Cast:

Elizabeth Wakefield/Jessica Wakefield - Lili Reinhart

Steven Wakefield - Timothée Chalamet

Cara Walker - Sofia Carson

Tricia Martin - Katherine McNamara

Jeremy Frank - Zac Efron

Carl - Caleb Landry Jones

Enid Rollins - Joey King

Aaron Dallas - Cody Christian

Alice Wakefield - Laura Dern

Ned Wakefield - Patrick Warburton

Mr. Collins - Armie Hammer

Caroline Pearce - Shannon Purser

Todd Wilkins - Blake Michael

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