Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Mark Dawson: In Cold Blood

In the first book in his new series Mark Dawson has a retired assassin who has her own kill list:

Beatrix Rose was one of the most deadly assassins for an off the books government kill agency, that was until the agency attempted to let her go, permanently. Her husband was killed and her daughter stolen from her, Beatrix had no choice but to lay low until she was able to find and retrieve her daughter. She has her daughter back and with that came the name of six people on her kill list. Those that she needs to take care of so that she and her daughter can be safe. Beatrix knows that she has a limited time in order to execute her plan; this is name number 1 on her list.

This book has a Kill Bill feel to the revenge state of things but with a more final twist thrown in. Even looking at the cover there is a Kill Bill play there as well and I am pretty sure that Beatrix did not use a sword at all throughout the book. However, she is very deadly with guns and knives so maybe she is also good with a sword as well.

This is the first book in the series Right? (…goes to check Goodreads again…Yes it states that it is...okay). There is a whole back story to this book that I feel like I have missed out on. Dawson does refer back to it from time to time, but not enough that I truly know what the back story was. I have so many questions about Beatrix that are left open and maybe Dawson addresses these in the next book in the series. I'm actually not even sure if this is a spin off series or not, part of me thinks that it is but I'm going to have to do some research in order to find out.

I am a big fan of Beatrix and her skill set as well as her motivation of wanting to protect her daughter from those who would use her against her. Beatrix seems to be deadly with any weapon that she finds in her hands but she also has the qualities that you expect of an expert assassin, ability to plan, wait and adapt when it is needed. I really wish i had more of the back story on her and the fight for her life (literally) that she is in, but even without knowing these things I still enjoyed her as a character.

This is a quick read but that does not mean that it lacked action scenes and I did find myself devouring this book even though there were times where I felt like I was missing some key aspects of the plot. As I also enjoyed the Kill Bill movies I liked this book and if people can get around the similarities between the two I think they will enjoy this book as well. I would read the next book in this series and hope that Dawson is able to fill in some of the gaps.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

RebekahTurner: Chaos Broken

You will need to read the first two books in this series Chaos Born and Chaos Bound before reading this book as they really set up who Lora is, what she has discovered about herself and her powers as well as all of her relationships. Turner also does most of the world building in the first novel Chaos Born so a reader jumping into the third novel may not get the Applecross and the world that Turner has created.

In the third book (and possibly final???) novel in Rebekah Turner's Chronicles of Applecross series, Lora has been left in charge of the runners and everything goes to hell:

Lora Blackgoat does not want to be in charge, especially when she loses a lucrative contract (of no fault of her own I assure you) and the business is struggling to stay afloat. Lora is desperate to make money any way she can even if that means looking for a missing cat. Who knew a missing cat was going to turn into a murder scene of magic that Lora has never seen before and all hell is about to break loose in the city. There is a new headman coming to head up the Order of Guides where everyone who has ever practiced any magic can be sentenced to burn at the stake. Lora is trying to make sure she does not make it to the stake, find a murder and Oh Roman is back in town stirring up all kinds of trouble; Just another day in the life of Lora Blackgoat (the musical???).

I'm really not sure if this is the last book in this series or not, I personally hope that it is not as I still think that there are many questions that need to be answers after reading this book. Maybe this will be the last Applecross series and move into a different setting with the same characters, but I think that Turner needs to continue the series because I love Lora as a character, the ideas that Turner comes up with, the world she has built and her ability to balance the fantasy, fight scenes and romance within the book. It was interesting to see Turner bring in a little bit of real history into the book with the introduction of burning witches at the stake, without a trail, just needed someone to accuse a person that they had seen them performing some aspect of the dark witch craft and to the stake they went. This added Lora the need to be not only extra cautious but to watch her back as she is well known throughout the city for her witch craft.

Lora has grown up quite a bit since the first book to this book, she barley drinks in this book and I don’t think she attends one dice game, who is this person. At first I questioned if this our Lora Blackgoat from the first two books, but the more I think about it, Lora is still there in a lot her actions and verbiage/sarcasm, but the act of being responsible for the Runners has made her have to change, well that and Crowhurst helping to keep her in line. One of the things that I love about Lora is her unswerving loyalty to those that she cares about and willing to put herself front and centre to protect them.

My one criticism for the book is that I think that Turner attempted to do too much and had too many ideas for this book. Yes, Turner is able to bring everything together in the end, but at times it seemed like there was a little too much going on for Lora to handle and at times I found myself getting a little bit lost. There is the murderer using magic she has never seen before, Lora trying to keep the Runner business afloat, Roman and all the problems he brings to town and then the introduction of a new head to the Order of Guides which causes all sorts of problems. Let’s just say that more than once it seemed like Lora's head was spinning and in turn mine was as well, so maybe that is a sign of good writing as I was so in tune with that was going on with Lora, that I felt just as lost and confused as she did at times.

I think that this series keeps getting better and better the more books that Turner adds to this series, I'm not sure of anyone else who has read this book but I am personally excited for Lora Blackwood the musical. I know I would go see it. It says on Goodreads that this book is the final installment of the series, and I seriously questions that just based upon how this book ends and all the unanswered questions that I think that Turner has left open. This better not be the last book in this series as I really enjoy Lora and the world that Turner has created.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Dennis Lehane: The Drop

Dennis Lehane is probably best known for his novel Mystic River and from what I understand from other reviews, he returns to Boston where the Chechen Mob runs the street and the bars:

Bob Saginowskiis a lonely bartender at his cousin's bar really just looking to for something to live for. When he rescues an abandoned and abused puppy left in a trash can it opens him up to new life experiences and something to live for. Bob has some secrets though, the bar where he works at used to be his cousin's bar but it is now owned by the Chechen mafia and when the bar is robbed one night it is up to Bob and Marv to make sure that they get the money back, and keep the police at bay. Bob just wants to have a regular life and has found some things to live for, but can he keep them, the mafia is known to take drastic measures in order to ensure that they get their money.

This is the first book that I have read by Lehane and I was really impressed with his writing style and how he laid out the plot in this story and how his is able to create the neighbourhood that Bob lives in and the players in a very short amount of time. You feel like you are walking the streets with Bob at night, or serving up drinks in the bar with him. I'm not quite sure how to describe this book it is part working for the mob, part trying to be independent and part love story. This book is not about fast action scenes or shoot outs, it is more about the slow burn as you try to put the pieces together of several different puzzles that are occurring at once, which I think is why I liked it so much. All the stories are interconnected somehow and it is really not till near the end that everything seems to come together.

I'm a sucker for books that have animals in it and I’m a sucker for a Man in a book that takes care of an innocent animal, so I was a big fan of Bob. Bob is slow, I think that is the best way to describe him, how he takes and interacts with people just seems a little bit off. He does not have many friends, other than his cousin Marv, and is awkward in social interactions (even as a bartender), but he wants to have someone or something in his life to love but struggles in how to do that. The protection he feels towards Rocco, the pit bull puppy he rescues, is really part of his charm and it is the puppy that not only leads him towards danger but also helps him learn to care for someone else. You can tell that Bob is loyal to a fault even when that loyalty ends him up working for the Mob; I think he is unable to see any way around it as that is the life that he has always known.

Marv is an interesting character; he is really stuck in the past and the Glory days when he used to have respect from people on the street and the Mob. Marv got into some gambling debts and was forced to "sell" his bar to the Chechen Mob to cover his debts and the bar has become a drop point for their cash whenever they want it. You can tell throughout the novel that Marv always wants more but is really unwilling to do anything to get it. Although Marv is supposed to be Bob's friend he often treats him badly and makes him do all the work, as he knows that Bob has no one else and capitalizes on how Loyal Bob really is.

This is the first book that I have read by Lehane and it is not one of his well-known ones. I think if he is able to write this well and keep me invested in a book that was not as popular as his other novels then I need to try to read the rest as well. This book is a quick good easy read, that I found was very entertaining and able to draw me into Bob’s story.


On a side note, this book was also made into a movie (oh how I love Tom Hardy...) also called The Drop (watched it on Netflix so it could still be there) and the movie does a really good job in following the book almost exactly. There are a few additional elements that are left out, but they were not essential to the overall story.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Michael Buckley: Undertow

Michael Buckley takes the reader to Coney Island, but here the rides are all closed and something from the Ocean has taken over:

The lives of everyone who lived on Coney Island changed when 30,000 Alphas emerged from the Ocean and arrived on the beach. The Alpha's are a warrior group from the great deep who have finally made their presence to the human world known. Lyric was there when they emerged from the Ocean and has witnesses the changes to Coney Island since then. But humans has never been known to accept those who are different than them quickly and the wonder of a new intelligence species, soon turns to paranoid, fear and hate and the town is turned into a Military zone. The USA government is determined to make peace with the Alphas and assimilate them into the American and Human way. Lyric is recruited (albeit against her will) to help the crown prince named Fathom learn about human culture and interaction, but this helps puts her in the sights of those who want to destroy the Alphas and even walking the streets becomes dangerous for Lyric. Lyric also has something to hide as well, a secret that would change her life and that of her family forever and being in the spot light is the last thing she wanted, she need to hold it together even as everything else around her crumbles.

I really enjoyed this book and for the last 50 pages I did not want to put it down I need to see how this book would end. That said this book is very District 9 except the creatures came out of the ocean and not space and all the challenges that are associated with those ideas. Buckley does a fantastic job in creating the different creatures associated with the Alphas. The different types of clans, what they look like and their abilities were the parts of the book that I enjoyed the most. Buckley needed to create a whole culture around these aspects especially since they are a warrior culture. There were also different amounts of how “human” each of the Alpha’s looked, some could almost pass for human, those that were from the Siren tribe and then there were those that would probably be something out of a horror novel with spikes and malformed limbs that looked more like sea creatures than human. I have not read an ocean based created before so this was cool and refreshing to me. The fact that we have explored only a fraction of the any of the Oceans makes the idea of different types of life forms down in the Great Abyss a very real possibility.

Lyric was an interesting character as you can tell that she wants to rise above the racism and bullying that is occurring in her school with the introduction of the Alphas however, she also knows that she has to lay low in order to protect her family and she struggles with this throughout the book as it really is against her nature. Lyric does have some typical teenage thoughts throughout the book, about wanting to be popular and the need of a boyfriend, but I think that these traits are expected in a YA novel.

This book tackles quite a few of the topics/themes that are common in YA novels; racism, bullying and domestic violence. You can tell that Buckley took from different times in history as inspiration for each of these topics. The racism in the book sounds right out of the history books in the 1960 when the USA government did away with segregation within the school system, with the violent crowds out front of the schools, the out spoken representatives and the bullying that happened within the school. The gangs that formed out of this forced integration and the actions they took against those who did not see their way just shows the power of the mob and the spread of misinformation. Bullying within this book is really highlighted not only within the school but also with the use of social media and how information can spread with just a click of a button. I find how fast social media can spread information especially false information to be extremely scary.

I felt the place where Buckley lacked in this book was that I did not feel any connection to the secondary characters within the book. Bex and her mother are beaten by Russell, the mother’s boyfriend, and it just seems like an accepted fact no matter how much Lyric and her parents attempt to help her out. I just did not feel any connection with Bex or Shadow (who I think could have been a very interesting character and had something similar to Mira Grant’s Newsflesh characters), they just seemed to be there and we were supposed to care about them and what happens to them, but I was never able to get there.

The creation of the Alpha's and their culture in this book is what makes it stand out to me, as the other topics that Buckley tackles within the book are fairly typical to the YA genre  and there were some inconsistencies within the writing, but for me the introduction of the Alpha's was enough. I was really drawn into this story especially as I got farther into the book that I really did get to the point of not wanting to put the book down. I'm excited to see where Buckley takes this series and I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Chris Knopf: Cries of the Lost

I have read some reviews that have stated that is book could be read as a stand-alone novel, but I completely disagree. I think you need to read Dead Anyways before this book as it sets up everything and more for this book and I feel that a reader would be at a disadvantage if they did not read the first book in the series first. Plus the first one ends in a nice cliff hanger which will bring you to this book anyways.

When Arthur Cathcart emerged from a coma, he thought that that only mystery was who killed his wife Florencia and attempted to kill him. But his search for justice has uncovered a whole new mystery that Florencia seemed to be involved in, and what appears almost a whole life that Arthur knew nothing about. Arthur does what he does best, finding out information about people, he just never thought that he would have to do it on his deceased wife and what he would find would start the bullets coming for his head again. As Arthur follows the path around the world to track down who Florencia really was, he soon realizes that he is in a Cat and Mouse game with the USA government and terrorist groups alike.

It was a while ago that I read the first book in this series, so it took me a bit to remember what had happened in the first, but Knopf did a good job on going over the main parts of the previous novel in this series. That said I do not think that this book could be read as a standalone book as everything in this book is based upon the first one.

This is a book that you cannot just skim over you have to pay attention as there is a lot of information coming to the reader and just missing the tiniest piece will throw you off. This is why I liked this book so much, it is smart, intelligent and you never have the full picture as you are waiting for Arthur to uncover the next piece of the puzzle for you both to put it together. There is no figuring it out beforehand in this book, though you’re welcome to try (I always do). Additionally, I liked that it is not all about thugs and guns and shoot ups (though there are a few in there as well). It is more about the digital age that we live in now, how information is accessed and how easy it is to find information online as well as procuring things online as well. It is amazing what you can do with a little bit of knowhow.

What I love about Arthur is that he is not willing to leave the mystery alone; he has this quality in him that he NEEDS to know. He needs to know his who deceased wife Florencia was why she did what she did and who she was involved in. It is not enough to just pull the thread he needs to unravel the entire thing. This just adds to Arthur tenacity to the point that he is willing to put himself and his girlfriend Natsumi in danger. Arthur is really more about his brain than physical ability and the relationships that he has made along the way are who help him out with the brawn that he needs. Arthur is very aware of himself and what he can and cannot do as well as his physical appearance and it is nice to have a character that is very self-aware. The one thing I do not like about Arthur is that he always comparing his old mind to his new one because of the bullet to the head and the coma he suffered. I understand that there is a change in how he thinks but he just really does need to accept it and that his new mind is just a brilliant as the old just in a different way.

My only complaint of this book and I think I had the same complaint in the first book was Arthur's reliance on just Google. There are so many other websites out there, Google really only gives you max of 10% of what is on the Internet and that includes going through every page. While you can tell this book is well researched in the art of money laundering, coding and searching for information, I wish that Knopf would have branch out from Google.

I like the sophistication that Knopf writes with and the way he takes his main character around the world. You really do need to pay attention as you read this book in order to solve the puzzles that Arthur is trying to compute, so I guess with those words I would not consider this book an easy read that you can just skim through. I will for sure continue on with this series and have found that Knopf has written another one as well that I will be checking out.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Kiera Cass: The Selection

Kiera Cass takes the readers to on a journey that I am sure most little girls and some adult women dream about, the chance to marry a royal Prince:

Thirty five girls are given the chance of a lifetime, a chance to improve their life and that of their family. America is probably the only girl in all of IllĂ©a that does not want a chance to wed the Crown Prince, she has found her love in Asher a boy that belongs to Caste 6. That is the problem though he is in a caste below her and that can cause problems for them when they decide to wed. Asher knows what a chance of being part of the selection would mean for America and her family so she encourages her to submit her name. When America is selected among the thousands she is forced to leave everything she knows and enter into a competition where up for grabs is a chance to be a princess, which means fierce competition. America did not know what it meant to be in the palace and to live that life, there may be luxury but also fear as there are rebel attacks where some become deadly. She doesn’t know if she wants to stay, but then she meets Prince Maxom and all her well laid plans seem to change.

This book was recommended to me by a friend, she told me not read what it was about beforehand and just give it a try which I thought sounded a little bit fishy. When I saw the cover I knew I would never have picked this book up, as it looked way too romancey based for me, but I still decided to give it a try. I will not lie, I got sucked into America's (is the main character's name, not the country) story I wanted to see how it played out and I was intrigued in about the different caste system that Cass introduced the reader to as well as the rebels fighting against the palace. For me this was a good read as it was an easy one and was able to keep me entertained and I needed something like this after the most recent books that I have read.

I don’t know if i'm alone here, but I am not a biggest fan of her name, America, it did not bother me that much when I was reading the book, maybe because she was mainly referred to as lady America in the book but each time I write it in this review, the name is starting to bother me. Besides the name, I liked America as a main character, I liked that she was not afraid to question the Prince and those around her, would fight for her friends, caste and those in the caste around her. Does she have some silly girl teenage moments in the book, sure, but this is a YA read for a reason, so I cannot hold that against her. Personally, I'm actually surprised at how mature America ended up at the end of this book and the decision that she made.

I found that the world building was lacking a little bit in this book and Cass does try to make up for this by have the selected go through a history of the realm class in order to fill this void. I also wanted more information about the North and South rebels why they are fighting against the palace and the rule, and really what they want. I think this may be addressed in the next novels as it seems to be information that Maxom is trying to gather, but I think not knowing what they are fighting for does hinder the story. I wish there was a little more action with the scenes with the rebels instead of them happening more on the peripheral. Personally I could see America fighting them off and putting herself in danger to save others as she does flaunt convention many times in the book. I would have liked this type of twist or threat of danger in the book. I hope that Cass is just starting to build the interactions with the rebels and how dangerous they are and there will be more interaction with them in the future books.

I'm never a fan of a love triangle in a book, it doesn't matter on the genre or whether the book is written for a YA audience or an adult one, I have never been a fan of them. In this book you have the poor boy from America's home town, Asher, who she has two years of history with up against The Crown Prince, Maxom, who well is a Prince (see above about many little girls’ dreams, lol).

I guess you can say that I am surprised first that I finished this book and second that I kind of enjoyed it. I'm sure I will continue on in this series as I did enjoy the easiness of the read that this book presented me with but I think it will be awhile before I need this type of a break again, but it is always nice to have book likes these to read. For me this was the right read at the right time, but those who enjoy this type of read on a normal basis I’m sure will enjoy this book.


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