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review 2018-06-20 16:49
Thirteen
Thirteen - Steve Cavanagh

[I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.]

Hmm… The premise sounded interesting, for sure (the killer’s not on trial, but in the jury!). However, the execution made it a little too far-fetched to my liking.

I didn’t know the ‘Eddie Flynn’ series before—this is actually the fourth book, although it’s not a problem: it reads as a standalone, and whatever background you need to know about Eddie (ex-con artist, estranged family…) is mentioned soon enough for a reader not to be confused at some missing backstory. I also quite liked the character himself, who in spite (or perhaps because of?) his past displays a strong moral fiber, and doesn’t abandon his clients even when everything conspires against them. Maybe he had a slight tendency to boast sometimes, but nothing too bad.

On the other hand, many of the other characters were really one-dimensional, almost caricatures: the famous lawyer who pulls out as soon as the deal’s not so juicy anymore, the prosecutor who’s only interested in fame and winning all his trials, corrupt cops… I was hoping that things would go differently with the jury consultant, since Eddie and him didn’t like each other, but acknowledged their respective skills and made efforts to work together; alas, this didn’t come to pass.

Most of all, I had trouble with the killer’s part of the story. He was too much of a villain with everything going for him: special abilities, smart, always prepared, always one step ahead, with contacts on the inside, able to bug the lawyer’s office, etc. There were no flaws in sight, nothing I could really use to build hypotheses as to what would be his downfall… And yet, paradoxically, even with all those aces in his sleeves, Flynn was still able to guess he was on the jury. I think this would’ve gone down better for me if it had been Kane’s first time only; his plot is quite complex, and interesting. But as a repeat plot, it didn’t work for me—his successes vs. what happens in the novel don’t add up.

Writing: The book was a fast read, not difficult to follow at all even if you don’t know much to US law procedures. The writing style was OK in places, annoying in others (too many short sentences will kill the rhythm just as much as too many long ones). There were typos, too, but I don't know if I got technically an ARC, or the final copy; if they're in the final copy, it's not good.

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review 2018-06-20 16:41
The Nice and the Good
The Nice and the Good (Vintage Classics) - Iris Murdoch,Catherine Bates

This might officially be my last Iris Murdoch novel. 

 

As with Fitzgerald's short stories, there was a time when I loved Murdoch's novels but the last couple of times I've read her books, I didn't enjoy them much at all ... Granted, the messed up relationship games in A Severed Head did nothing to endear the book to me, but even this one here (The Nice and the Good) is struggling to spark any enthusiasm in me. And I'd be happy to skip much of the relationship-babble and stick to finding out why the Whitehall official shot himself (or did he?).

The trouble is, by focusing on the mystery part, I'm going to miss Murdoch's point, which, inevitably, is not going to be about solving the puzzle. 

 

Saying that, will this story about a set of well-off members of a rather homogeneous section of society that is really similar to the sets of characters in Murdoch's other books really reveal any new aspects of Murdoch's writing? Unlikely.  

 

I've dithered for the last 30 pages whether to finish this one or move on to something I am likely to enjoy more, and I don't believe this book will ultimately hold the same magic for me as the novels that introduced Murdoch to me initially.

 

DNF @ 135 out of 350 pages.

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review 2018-06-12 05:19
The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
The School for Good and Evil - Soman Chainani

Every year in Sophie and Agatha's village two children are taken away. The children are always opposites of each other: one kind, one mean; one handsome, one ugly, etc. The children never return, but a new book of fairy tales arrives every year, and children will sometimes recognize one of their former friends in the pages of the book.

Most children dread being taken away, but Sophie can't wait to be taken. She knows she will go to the School for Good. She's pretty, does what she thinks are good works, she's pretty, and....Then there's Agatha, who is an outcast, dresses in black and likes cemeteries. Sophie is sure Agatha will go to the School for Evil. Agatha doesn't seem to care.

The one aspect of 'School for Good and Evil' that truly worked was the switching of the obvious roles Agatha and Sophie play in their respective schools. Hideous, hideous Agatha is set down amidst wannabe princes and princesses and taught etiquette and cosmetics use (because she's a girl, the princes learn sword-fighting and whatnot), while Sophie is cast in with the uggos and taught 'uglification' and black magic. At least the School for Evil allows the girls equal opportunities. Within your school you compete to be the leader of the story, while lower-ranked classmates become bit players in new fairy tales. Good and evil compete with each other to see who triumphs in the end. The headmaster(s) is a two-headed dog with a dual nature played for comic relief. Does not scan.

So, the switching of expectations worked for about five to ten pages, but the book doesn't go deep into morality, but focuses mostly on how appearances determine how good or evil you are. The book challenges that assertion, but not soon enough. It makes the argument about appearances for too long and

 

Agatha is celebrated as being super pretty when she embraces her good side

(spoiler show)

 

Boooooo. And don't tell me its self-confidence, either.

Still, the book does raise some interesting questions about the nature of good and evil. It doesn't have any answers, maybe the raising of the question is what matters - even if they're paired with half-hearted answers. It was readable, if regressive. Younger readers probably won't care about the drawbacks. I'm hoping that Chainani addresses a lot of these issues with the Schools in next parts of the series, as part of the resolution of what happens at the end of this book.

Evil had controlled the school for ages. So maybe it threw in the gender stereotypes and the emphasis on appearance.

(spoiler show)

But that seems a little too subtle. The doubt keeps a star on the review, however.

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text 2018-06-11 07:42
How Do You Help Your Students Develop a Good Attitude Toward Learning

Given how long each student is in school, from the years of dedication and hours sat in seats each day, it can be hard to stay motivated. As a teacher, it is your job to foster a productive learning environment. Here are seven ways to help your students develop an attitude about learning:

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review 2018-06-05 03:37
Ali Land: Good Me Bad me
Good Me Bad Me - Ali Land

In her debut novel Ali Land explores how much our parents have the ability to shape us:

Milly's mother was a Serial Killer but Milly still loves her, but she knew the only way to stop her and save other children was to turn her in to the police. This allows Milly to have a fresh start, with a new identity, try to rewrite her past as well as a new foster family. But anyone can see that Milly has secrets and she has to fight to keep them. As Milly's mother's trial comes closer and closer Milly does not know if she will be able to testify against her mother, but more than anything she wants to keep the foster family that she was placed with. Milly begins to wonder how much of an influence her mother has had over her, how much of it has shaped her and whether she is really destined to just become her mother one day. As things become more and more intense in Milly's life she is going to show exactly the type of person she is; Good or Bad.

Wow, this book is insane and intense. Dark, twisted and disturbing on so many levels, but I enjoyed it all. What made this even more impressive is this is Land's debut novel. Honestly I do not know how she will be able to top this novel. This had so many positives in the execution and the way of psychology and the whole idea of nature vs nurture aspect played out that I think it will be hard to top this book. I think Land will have to go in to a completely different direction with another book as anything similar would not hit the mark.

This book did have some writing flaws but I think that because it was told by Milly there were times when the dialogue was sloppy on purpose as Milly tries to adapt not only to her new posh surroundings and the people she comes in contact with, but it also expressed how different Milly was from all of these other people. Milly is such an intriguing character on her own I understand why Land chose not to have other points of view in this book; Milly was more than enough.

I'm not really sure I'm completely happy with the ending, more so when it ended not how it ended. I wanted more, to know what was going to happen next with everyone (I don't want to give  too much away of what I wanted more of as that would give some major things away in the book). Nonetheless, I was able to figure out one of the major plot lines or twist near the end but I think that Land makes it easy to find or realize on purpose, as you as the reader secretly hope that you are wrong. That said it is great that you are right as Land is okay with showing the dark side of human nature.

This was a great debut novel by Land that has you questioning how much your upbringing can shape you and really explores some of the darker sides of human nature. I look forward to seeing what Land comes up with next.

Enjoy!!!

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