Thursday, January 31, 2013

“The Mysterious Affair at Styles” by Agatha Christie – The Birth of a Legacy

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (book cover)
Those of you who know of Agatha Christie are probably acquainted with some of her more famous novels, such as And Then There Were None, formerly known as Ten Little Indians (with the original title using language considered racist by today’s standards), Death on the Nile or Murder on the Orient Express. However, Agatha Christie had already started making giant waves in the world of literature with her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

Before giving you a brief idea of what it’s about, I’d like to note that this novel was written back in 1916 and published in 1920. I believe I’ve said it once before, while the mystery may seem clichéd, this is actually where the cliché was born. And rest assured, it’s arguably done better than in most stories which came after, setting the blueprint and raising the bar for murder mystery novels.

“The Inquisitor” by Mark Allen Smith – The Thin Line Between Right and Wrong

The Inquisitor by Mark Allen Smith (Book cover)
Geiger is a man with a most unusual life. For starters, he remembers nothing before the moment he came to New York on a bus. What’s more, he turns out to have a very useful gift: being able to instantly tell if someone is lying. As such, he has become employed as an agent in charge of extracting information from people, and needless to say, he has a whole bag of tricks up his sleeve to make that happen.

While some of his methods are physical, Geiger truly flourishes when it comes to "convincing" people to say the truth via fear rather than pain. However, he is not all ruthless as he does have one principles he always abides by: never work with children. When his partner brings a client who demands that Geiger interrogate a twelve year-old buy, things go awry as our protagonist saves the boy and flees to his New York apartment, where the true journey begins.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

“Agent 6” by Tom Rob Smith – Digging Up Skeletons

Agent 6 by Tom Rob Smith  - book cover
The previous two entries in the Child 44 trilogy by Tom Rob Smith were each unique in their own rights, and now that everything has been fully-fleshed out and developed, the time has come for our beloved Leo Demidov to set out on an epic journey of vengeance in the name of his family, who met a very tragic end after being lured to New York City under the pretense of being invited to a "Peace Tour".

With absolutely nothing left to lose, Leo Demidov sets out with the determination of a juggernaut to find out the truth about the conspiracy he and his family found themselves in neck-deep. Being denied the request to formally investigate his family’s murder, Demidov understands that it’s up to him to find out what happened. And so, he sets out on a three-decade journey which takes him across the world, from the cruel mountains of Afghanistan all the way to the dark and seedy New York alleys, Leo goes through it all in search for the one person who can shed light on all that has been happening: Agent 6.

“The Secret Speech” by Tom Rob Smith – The End of the World’s Shortest Era

The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith (Book cover)
In the previous novel by Tom Rob Smith, Child 44, we were presented with an unbelievably strict and authoritarian Soviet Union where the government and law enforcement agencies reigned supreme. Thankfully however, even dictators are human and can succumb to death, which is precisely what happened in the second part of the trilogy, The Secret Speech.

The year is 1956, and with Stalin’s death some sizable reforms are expected to arrive to the Soviet Union, with his successor, Khrushchev, promising things to be different from now on… and oh boy, he couldn't be more right. With the iron fist having considerably loosened its grasp, many have seen an opportunity to truly live and blossom.

Monday, January 28, 2013

“Child 44” by Tom Rob Smith – Law and Disorder

Even though Stalin’s Soviet Union may not have lasted a very long time, at least in comparison to other political regimes, it hasn't failed to leave quite a sizable mark on our history, mostly due to the genocide of dozens of millions of people.

Despite the fact that it was a tyrannical reign which broke the lives of countless people, it remains a somewhat fascinating look at what life would really be like should be we be subjected to the iron-fisted and law-driven rule of madman. In Child 44, Tom Rob Smith explores life in this setting through Leo Demidov, a war hero and security officer who strongly believes in the rule of law and in Stalin’s righteousness.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

“Suspect” by Robert Crais – Loyalty Knows no Species

Suspect by Robert Crais - book cover
Scott James is an officer with the LAPD (The Los Angeles Police Department) who has had a very difficult eight months, with the problems starting when a group of mysterious assailants attacked him and his partner, Stephanie, killing her, and very nearly killing Scott himself. After this incident, somewhat understandably, Scott is filled with rage, hatred, and a very deep sadness, making him quite unfit for duty, even of the desk variety.

However, a cop cannot stay traumatized forever if he or she wants to get back to work, and Scott is able to do so upon meeting Maggie: a German Shepherd who survived three tours in Iraq and whose master was claimed by an IED (an improvised mine, basically).

With both of them suffering from some kind of traumatism, they are paired up, and as literature would have it in these cases, they bond quite well, each one relying on the other not only for moral support, but also for the drive to keep on living. Quite soon, Scott and Maggie are assigned to a case neither of them wants to touch, that of the murder of Scott’s partner, Stephanie.

And so, armed with a badge, a gun, canine teeth, and a powerful case of PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder), they both set out to find the mysterious men who turned Scott’s life into a living hell. As the investigation goes on though, the line between truth, lies and fiction starts to get blurred, at which point all guarantees of coming out of this story alive disappear, and such is the premise of Robert CraisSuspect.

While it is true that the story is driven by the death mystery, which involves a great deal of criminality – including corruption, greed, larceny, and of course, murder – the true meat of the story lies in the partnership between Scott and Maggie. Both of them injured in one way or another, neither are seen as being nothing more than washed up nutcases who aren’t good for anything anymore.

However, they develop a love for each other, a loyalty that will allow them to put their lives on the line for the other. What makes the story truly gripping, in my opinion at least, are the parts where we see the world through the eyes of the book’s wonderful heroine, Maggie. I simply found it very interesting to conjecture how a highly-trained, loyal and service dog would see, understand and interpret the world around him or her.

Naturally, Scott isn’t left undeveloped, but it seems that all the major things you need to learn about him are given away at the beginning, which kind of dilutes the sense of mystery around a heartbroken character, but that is a very slight fault when compared to all the positive points of the book.

All in all, it’s a very heartwarming book with a gripping story and worth a read for anyone who wants to relax while flipping through the pages of something that will require them to observe more than think, although the latter element is certainly present, for those who want to indulge in it at least.

Robert Crais (June 23, 1953)

Robert Crais

Personal site

Robert Crais is an American author who has virtually always stuck to detective novels, which can be explained by the fact that he started his career by writing scripts for numerous television shows, including Miami Vice and L.A. Law. His more prominent works include The Monkey’s Raincoat and The Two-Minute Rule.

More of the Robert Crais's book reviews:
The Promise
The Two Minute Rule
The Monkey’s Raincoat

Saturday, January 26, 2013

“The Art of Happiness” by Dalai Lama – Seeking Within Yourself

The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama - book cover
I believe that regardless of what it is we are doing with our lives, every single person on Earth has the same goal: to achieve happiness. Naturally, what makes a person happy is really something which ought to be studied case-by-case, but the fact remains that we are all chasing after a certain feeling.

If you are anything like me, then chances are moments of happiness serve as interludes to a great, long-lasting period of problems and frustrations. While I’m not going to claim that there is one road to happiness that will fit all, I do believe that in order to achieve happiness, every person ought to think along a certain mindset; the conclusions they draw may be different, but the reasoning they use should be similar. In an attempt to share with people what he has come to learn over the course of decades about inner happiness, the Dalai Lama has written a book (although it really is more of a spiritual guide) called The Art of Happiness.

Friday, January 25, 2013

“Going Clear” by Lawrence Wright – Scientology: Religion or Profitable Institution?

Going Clear by Lawrence Wright (Book cover)
Those of us who know about Scientology content ourselves by referring to it as that crazy religious sect with beliefs so out-of-this-world that it’s not even funny. More prominently, there are a few celebrities, such as Isaac Hayes and Tom Cruise, who have openly embraced the Church of Scientology, which did make a few of us raise our brows in disbelief.

It seems that everything done in that religion is subject to criticism, but due to their reclusiveness very few have bothered to actually examine the subject in-depth, and that’s precisely what Lawrence Wright does in Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief.

First, it has to be mentioned that Lawrence Wright won a Pulizter price for his study of Al-Qaeda’s 9/11 Attack, meaning this is one journalist who knows what he is talking about, seeking to bring the unaltered truth above all else. This book, Going Clear, is based on hundreds of interviews from current and ex-Scientologists, years of archival research and field investigations. Mr. Wright doesn't spare words in the exploration of the religion itself, going as far as looking at the life and biography of its founder, science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, who basically invented a new religion amongst his thousands of other works.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

“The Good Lawyer” by Thomas Benigno – Justice for All… Except those with a Good Lawyer

The Good Lawyer by Thomas Benigno - book cover
Even those who spend their lives working hand-in-hand with the law must wonder from time to time whether the law actually enforces justice, or if there are way too many holes in it for it to stay that way.

This is kind of what we are treated to in The Good Lawyer by Thomas Benigno, which is actually somewhat based on a real story, that of a young and ambitious lawyer who sought to make a name for himself outside of the confines of his family’s long history of ties with the mob.

The year is 1982, with the Spiderman rapist making waves on the media. The lawyer witnesses the suicide of a rape victim. Outraged by all that is happening around him, he decides to take on the case of a teacher’s aide being accused of raping three children. Truly believing that his client is innocent, the “good lawyer” maintains his perfect record of no convictions ever, and sets his client free.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

“Murder on the Orient Express” by Agatha Christie – Vengeance is Best Served with a Cold Knife

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie - book cover
I've already written a couple of reviews of Agatha Christie’s books, so I won’t go spend as much time as I did earlier telling how much of an impact she had on the murder mystery genre, single-handedly revolutionizing certain aspects of it and setting the bar higher than ever before.

While it may be true that some of her novels were groundbreaking, it also has to be noted that on many occasions she preferred to stick to the rules she knew best, and in my opinion it kind of shows in Murder on the Orient Express.

In this book, Hercule Poirot, her famous private detective, is taking a trip aboard a train, when suddenly one of the passengers is discovered to be dead in his compartment, stabbed multiple times, with the strangest fact being that his door is locked from the inside. Being the detective that he is, Poirot sees the need for him to lead his own investigation and put his hands on the murderer before he or she strikes again.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

“The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” by Agatha Christie – Trusting Nobody

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie - book cover
Agatha Christie is celebrated around the world as being one of the best and most influential contemporary writers, having left quite a noticeable mark on the world of murder mysteries, introducing many new concepts and raising the bar for writers of the future. While many of her novels are indeed widely celebrated, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd may very well be the one which really put her in the spotlight.

In The Murder of Roger Ackroyd we follow the adventures of Christie’s legendary detective, Hercule Poirot, through the narration of Dr. Sheppard, who under the circumstances, takes on the role of being Poirot’s assistant. What circumstances are these? Well, while Hercule wanted to spend a nice little vacation, suddenly Mrs. Ferrars, a very wealthy widow, dies of what seems to be an accident.

However, it is discovered that a certain Roger Ackroyd was supposed to marry her, and what’s more, he claims she confessed to killing her husband before committing suicide herself. As the title would suggest, Ackroyd is himself found murdered recently after, and the list of suspects for the crime is taller than the Eiffel tower.

Monday, January 21, 2013

“And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie – Never Trust Strangers

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie - book cover
I’m sure that many, if not all of you are to some extent familiar with the name Agatha Christie. If you aren't she is perhaps the world’s most popular detective fiction writer, writing some of the most well-constructed murder mysteries by anyone’s standard, and even giving birth to two of literature’s most capable investigators, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.

Without a doubt her most famous novel is And Then There Were None (the original title had a word in it which by today’s standards would be considered racist), with there being multiple movie adaptations of the story.

In any case, And Then There Were None is about a group of ten strangers who are brought to an island by a letter from a certain U.N. Owen. Even though the hospitality leaves nothing to be desired, the guests are somewhat alarmed at a lack of any real host. All is fine and dandy, until they discover that one of them has been murdered throughout the night, and a collection of ten little Indian figurines has one of its pieces missing. As another victim is claimed, it is discovered that whoever the killer is, he or she is following an old nursery rhyme, "Ten Little Indians". While the possibility of someone else being on the island isn't exactly ruled out, it becomes apparent that the killer is indeed one of the ten strangers, but who?

If I had a gun pointed to my head and had to pick the absolute best whodunit mystery on the planet, this is the one I would choose (please keep in mind this is simply my opinion). Every single element in this book has been crafted to perfection: each one of the ten characters is interesting, and while in some cases you don’t get a whole lot of backstory, you can feel the importance of everyone’s presence. While it is true that some of them may feel a tad stereotypical today, it is safe to say that this novel is one of the factors responsible for the creation of those stereotypes in the first place.

As far as the story goes, this is perhaps one of the most engaging mysteries for two reasons. First, if you are hell bent on solving the mystery before all is revealed, you are actually given enough clues to do so, although it will require a powerful brain and a very good sense of logical reasoning.

Second of all, you are always kept on edge, regardless of what happens. Because no character is beyond suspicion, you are drawn to pay close attention to all the details, not to mention that you just get hungry in anticipation for the next clue or piece of information. Because of the nature of the story, the setting and the small cast of characters, it is quite easy to keep up with the events at all times; chances are you’ll only get lost if you’re tired.

All in all, And There Were None will always be the book which, in my eyes, defines the isolated murder mystery genre the best, and is definitely worth a read for anyone who hasn’t had the chance to get to it yet.

Agatha Christie (September 15, 1890 – January 12, 1976)

Agatha Christie
(September 15, 1890 – January 12, 1976)

Personal site

Agatha Christie is thought of by many as being the grandmother of murder mysteries. Throughout her novels, which include the classics And Then There Were None and Death on the Nile, Christie developed many groundbreaking techniques for her time, most of which are being used in one way or another by modern murder mystery writers.

More of Agatha Christie's book reviews:
The Mysterious Affair at Styles

Sunday, January 20, 2013

“Paper Towns” by John Green – The Heart and Brain Don’t Mix

Paper Towns by John Green - book cover
How many times has it happened that you took a liking for a person you met, but the more time you spent with them, the more you discovered their true self, learning that your first impressions couldn't have been more wrong.

This is especially the case for situations where the heart is involved; somewhat unfortunately, emotions don’t have eyes or brains, and it is not until they fade that the logic and rational thinking can start to kick in. This is somewhat akin to what happens in Paper Towns, a novel by two-time Printz Medalist and New York Times bestseller, John Green.

In Paper Towns, we are presented with Quentin Jacobsen, a young man who has spent most of his life idealizing a relationship between himself and the girl he loves more than anything, Margo Roth Spiegelman. For most of his life, Quentin was forced to admire her from afar, wishing for the day this pain would come to an end… and he gets it. One day, Margo decides to crawl into his life and lead him on a path that takes him God-knows where.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

“Zero Day” by David Baldacci – The Dangers of Isolation

Zero Day by David Baldacci - book cover
Many of the great murder mystery and horror stories which have been written over the years, whether in literature or in movie format, have been successful because of one main element: they played with our innate fear of isolation, especially in a time when we are all used to living amongst thousands, or even millions of other people in a city.

Just to give a few examples, consider Murder on he Orient Express, And Then There Were None and Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie, or perhaps, if discussing movies, I could point you to Friday the 13th, The Evil Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Silent Hill. What made these stories so great is that the characters had no one but themselves to rely on, with the worst part being that one or more murderers (or something terrible, as is the case with Silent Hill) are on the loose with no authorities to intervene. Deep inside, even though we often seek isolation from the world, we fear it, because we know no one will be there to help us.

Friday, January 18, 2013

“The Secret Race” by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle – All or Nothing

The Secret Race by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle - book cover
Release date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Bantam
Pages: 320
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While it seems as if the sport of cycling isn't really popular in North America, chances are that very few people out there haven’t heard of the name Lance Armstrong, who many consider to be the face and frontier man of the sport. Having won more championships than anyone and overcome more harsh conditions than most, if not all of his teammates and competitors, Lance was on top of the world for some time. However, the threads started to unravel and it was discovered that Lance used performance enhancing drugs during his career.

At first, people felt like they had been cheated; one of the most inspiring role models of all time is found to have been using things he shouldn't have to gain the edge over his opposition. However, as is discussed in The Secret Race by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle, the concept of doping stretched far beyond Lance.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

“Low Pressure” by Sandra Brown – Bloody Storms

Low Pressure by Sandra Brown - book cover
Release date: January 29, 2013
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Pages: 480
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Low Pressure by Sandra Brown tells the story of Bellamy Lyston, who at the age of twelve witnessed her older sister Susan being killed on Memorial Day during a very stormy night.

The shocking events, coupled with Bellamy’s fear of storms, contributed to partially erasing her memory and modifying her memory of what happened on that day; the best she can manage to remember are brief, fractured and seemingly senseless flashbacks.

Now being a woman of thirty years of age, Bellamy decides to write a book chronicling her experience on that night. To protect her family’s identity from rabid fans and the media, she used pseudonyms. However, a sneaky tabloid reporter soon figures everything out, and of course exposes the family’s identity in relation to the book, bringing down a media scandal upon them.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

“The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger – Phony Adulthood

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger - book cover
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Sallinger has become such a highly-praised novel that it has even been made into a mandatory reading for various school systems around the world. However, despite it being seen as one of the greatest classics of literature, there are many, many people who see this book as being boring and unworthy of its status. Well, everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion, but the problem, the way I see it at least, is that most people don’t really have any well thought-out arguments to support their complaints of the book being boring.

In most cases, from what I understand at least, it revolves around a lack of action and plot, an inability to identify with the main character, and a dissatisfaction with how Holden thinks of the people around him, spending most of his time whining and thinking everyone but him is a phony.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

“The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz – All or Nothing

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz - book cover
Release date: September 2, 2008
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Pages: 339
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Some people insist that anything in life is possible as long as you work hard enough for it; well, it seems those people are quite disconnected from the reality of things, one where external factors you cannot control dictate your success and failure, depending on what you do. Such is the life of Oscar Wao, a tragically-overweight Dominican nerd who lives in a New Jersey ghetto, with aspirations of becoming known throughout the entire world as the Dominican Tolkien.

However, his financial and social situation leaves him quite challenged; his weight and interests make it hard for him to socialize in his environment, he is monetarily-deprived, lives with a mother with a very outdated mentality as well as a rebellious and conflict-prone sister. On top of that, it seems that Oscar’s family has been doomed to failure for generations upon generations, because of something known as the fukú, an ancient curse.

Monday, January 14, 2013

“Tenth of December” by George Saunders – A Rediscovery of the Soul

Tenth of December by George Saunders
Release date: January 8, 2013
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 272
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George Saunders, for those who do not know him, is one of the most original and eye-opening writers of this generation, at least in my opinion. Every single one of his works exudes style and intelligence, something very few authors out there are actually capable of. It seems that he has taken a liking to writing books with multiple stories in them centered on a main theme, and his latest novel, Tenth of December, is no exception to that.

The first story, titled “Victory Lap”, follows the story of a young boy who suddenly witnesses an abduction attempt on the girl next door. However, years and years of sheltered and restrained upbringing force him into an internal battle with himself; can he force himself to break the psychological shackles keeping him at bay before it’s too late?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

“Private Berlin” by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan – The Disappearance

Private Berlin by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan - book cover
For those of you who aren't acquainted with Patterson and Sullivan’s works, he has written Private novels in the past and they are centered around the best investigative agency on the planet called Private. The agency has headquarters set up in numerous parts of the world, and each of the books, so far at least, has taken place in different countries.

This time around, in Private Berlin, the story takes place in (obviously) Germany, and it is centered on Chris Schneider, the man in charge of running Private in that country. Quite recently, he has taken to try and solving very hard and possibly dangerous cases: a billionaire who may be cheating on his wife, a football player who seems to be throwing games, and a club owner who may or may not be connected to the Russian mafia (let’s not kid ourselves though, people who are suspected of being connected to the mafia generally are). Unfortunately though, Chris Schneider suddenly vanishes, and Mattie Angel, his ex and top Private agent, is tasked with finding him.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

“Behind the Beautiful Forevers” by Katherine Boo – The Never-Ending Search for Prosperity

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo - book cover
Release date: April 8, 2014
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 288
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Before talking about the book itself, I feel like I have to note that Katherine Boo is a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service winner, which was awarded to her as a result of her series of reports on group homes for mentally-ill people, back in the year 2000. However, she didn't stop her exploration of the human condition there, which eventually led her to write Behind the Beautiful Forevers, the result of many years of on-site reporting in Annawabi, Mumbai, India.

In Behind the Beautiful Forevers, we follow the lives of five different families, each one of them living in a slum of Annawabi located right next to the grandiose Mumbai airport and the many luxurious hotels next to it. The reports take us through the period when India started to prosper, igniting the flame of hope in even the poorest members of the slum.

Friday, January 11, 2013

“Beautiful Chaos” by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl – Loss of Control

Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Series: Beautiful Creatures
Release date: October 18, 2011
Pablisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 528
Amazon(US) |  Amazon(CA) |  Amazon(UK)

Before talking about the book, I’d just like to point out that Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl is the final entry in the Beautiful Creatures trilogy, so if you haven’t read the first two books,, I suggest you take a look at my reviews which you can access by clicking either of the following titles: Beautiful Creatures and Beautiful Darkness. If you don’t, you are going to read spoilers here, and needless to say, they make literally any story less exciting. Now that this is taken care of, on with the show.

Beautiful Chaos is once again centered on Ethan Wate and Lena Duchannes as they try to live out their lives in Gatlin. However, unlike before, it seems as if the supernatural powers lying beneath Gatlin are getting quite agitated; intense storms, unprecedented heat waves, and swarms of locusts turn the town in what seems to be a crude reenactment of the Ten Plagues. As if that wasn't enough, Lena and her entire family of Supernaturals are starting to lose control over their own powers, making the situation increasingly dangerous.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

“Pastoralia” by George Saunders – The Fruits of Capitalism

Pastoralia by George Saunders
Release date: June 1, 2001
Publisher: Riverhead Trade
Pages: 208
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There are millions upon millions, if not billions upon billions of different books on this planet, and yet it feels as if many novels are very similar to each other, in content, structure, characters, and even dialog in some cases. However, that is not (always) done as an attempt to cash in on a rip off… rather, people tend to try and follow conventions, which doesn't leave too much room for originality.

Fortunately, there are some authors out there who don’t mind taking risks and going on their own path, authors such as George Saunders. In his second collection of stories, Pastoralia, George Saunders looks at three different plot-lines, all of them set in the same universe: an America ravaged by capitalism. In that world, there are the rich and the poor, and people belonging to both social classes are grotesquely deformed, each in their own way. As you can guess, it’s a pretty dark, gruesome and gritty world, made worse by the fact that an Orwellian government is watching over everyone, ready to hand out prison sentences by the dozen.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

“Beautiful Darkness” by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl – Gatlin Unleashed

Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Series: Beautiful Creatures
Release date: October 12, 2010
Pablisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 512
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I have already discussed Beautiful Creatures, the first book in the trilogy by the same name. If you’d like to check it out, you can do so by reading my Beautiful Creatures review. If you haven’t done so and are planning on reading this one, I heavily suggest you take a step back and start at the first book, for this review will contain spoilers about the first part. You have been warned.

In any case, the second book in the trilogy by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl is called Beautiful Darkness, and once again, we follow the adventures of Lena Duchannes, a Caster who still hasn't been claimed by light or darkness, and Ethan, the mortal she fell in love with.

If you remember the first book, Lena carries around a curse with her, and with the loss of her Uncle Macon and the impending arrival of the 17th moon, Lena becomes tremendously worried her curse will destroy all she has and everyone she loves. She decides that the best course of action would be to leave Ethan, and so she heads for the Great Barrier, alongside Siren Ridley, her cousin, and John Breed, a most mysterious man.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

“Shadow Woman” by Linda Howard – The Gifts of Amnesia

Shadow Woman by Linda Howard - book cover
Release date: November 26, 2013
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pages: 400
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Even though the concept of amnesia has been incorrectly represented in movies and literature for God-knows how long (in practically all cases the sufferer forgets something specific as a result of a tremendous shock, rather than losing huge chunks of memory), it has been used time and time again as a plot device which prompts characters to go on journeys of self-discovery to remember their own lives (take the Bourne Trilogy for example).

While the use of this device may feel somewhat clichéd today, I have no doubt that most of you still enjoy it, at least when you are looking to relax for a moment and shut your brain off, and that’s exactly what Shadow Woman by Linda Howard gives its readers.

In Shadow Woman, we are presented with Lizette Henry, a regular woman who wakes up one day, looks in the mirror, and suddenly doesn't recognize herself anymore. What’s worse, she soon discovers that she cannot remember what happened in the last two years of her life. However, things get even weirder when she starts to successfully find well-hidden bugs in her house and her car, and even manages to escape surveillance.

Monday, January 07, 2013

“Beautiful Creatures” by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl – The Ominous Silence

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Series: Beautiful Creatures
Release date: December 1, 2009
Pablisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 563
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The town of Gatlin is known by people as being a small and quaint place where anyone can live out his or her life in peace and quiet. The town isn't very technologically advanced, with those living in it preferring to let nature take its course; there are plenty of overgrown gardens, forgotten graveyards and swamps no one has traveled in for ages.

However, things are far too simple and quiet; the peace and silence found in this town almost feel ominous, and not without reason. As it happens, there is a dark and ancient secret hidden somewhere in it, and it is only a matter of time before someone stumbles upon it.

As a matter of fact, the time may come sooner than expected: Ethan Wate, a resident of the town, is being bothered by mystical dreams of a young and beautiful woman he has never met. At the same time, a mysterious lady by the name of Lena Duchannes moves into the town… and Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her. Knowing what little he knows, Ethan decides that he must find out who that woman is and what kind of connection they share.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

“Two Graves” by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child – At the Heart of Evil

FBI agent Pendergast has spent the last twelve years in grief over the accidental death of his wife. However, someone comes into his life and brings new, very important information to him: his wife hasn't perished in an accident, but rather, she was murdered.

However, the story takes another, very sudden turn when Pendergast actually discovers that his wife is alive, but seconds before they could unite, she gets kidnapped.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

“Waging Heavy Peace” by Neil Young – A Legend’s Memories

Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young - book cover
Release date: September 25, 2012
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
Pages: 512
Amazon(US) |  Amazon(CA) |  Amazon(UK)

I think I don’t have to tell you about who Neil Young is, but just in case you aren't acquainted with the name, think of him as one of the greatest and most celebrated musicians of the 20th and 21st centuries. His legendary guitar-work electrified countless crowds, taking music to boundaries it has never seen before. Needless to say, it would be a shame for such a man to go without revealing what kind of life led him to be the man he was. Fortunately, it’s not something that will happen seeing as how Neil Young wrote Waging Heavy Peace, what one could call an autobiography.

What exactly does Young talk about in his book? Well, pretty much everything. He starts with his childhood in Toronto, how he first learned to love written words, his struggle with polio, his difficulty in paying rent during his early days with the Squires, performing in unbelievably remote towns, his spontaneous moving to America, his rise to fame with Buffalo Springfield, and basically every single important moment which marked his life up until the moment he wrote the book. All in all, this is about as complete of an autobiography as you could ask out of someone, often even covering more or less embarrassing and deeply personal events many would have opted not to share.

Friday, January 04, 2013

“The Pact” by Jodi Picoult – Love Kills

The Pact by Jodi Picoult - book cover
The Golds and the Hartes have been living next door to each other for years and years, to the point where they have become inseparable, practically merging into one family. It came as a surprise to no one when their children starting dating each other. It seemed as if Chris and Emily had the brightest and most hopeful future there is ahead of them, but as is usually the case in works of fiction, it seems it just wasn't meant to be.

A phone call comes in at three in the morning, alerting both families about a tragedy: Emily was shot to death… by Chris. As it seemed, that foolish action was part of a suicide pact, although Chris hadn't gone through with it. So you might think, what is this book about exactly? The legal procedures behind such a case? Chris’ journey of self-discovery? Well, there are some of those elements there, but mainly it focuses on the relationship between the members of the two families, how they get violently torn apart while in search for answers to questions beyond their understanding.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Power of Reputation

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - book cover
Release date: September 30, 2004
Publisher: Scribner
Pages: 180
Amazon(US) |  Amazon(CA) |  Amazon(UK)

Before getting started with this review, I’d simply like to point out for those who don’t know that The Great Gatsby is one of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most celebrated works of writing, becoming one of those world-renowned classics that gets translated into virtually every language. Regardless of what impression my review may give you of it, keep in mind that it is only my take on it, and if it somehow dissuades you from reading it, then all I can say is that you’ll be missing out on something terrific.

In any case, The Great Gatsby takes place in the United States during the 1920s, and contrary to most other works of fiction taking place in that time period, this one doesn't depict it as being classy and reserved.On the contrary, in this book, we are being thrust into what we understand to be a chaotic world, a time of more or less turbulent changes when "gin was the national drink and sex was the national obsession".

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

“Private London” by James Patterson and Mark Pearson – The Ripper Returns

Private London by James Patterson and Mark Pearson - book cover
If you have read James Patterson and Mark Pearson’s previous works, then you probably already know about Private, the world’s most resourceful and technologically-advanced detective agency, at the head of which sits Jack Morgan. Quite recently the authors have published their latest novel, Private London, and as you can probably tell, this time around, we get a look at how the organization operates in London, where an obviously-deranged killer is kidnapping, mutilating and murdering women on the streets, not unlike Jack the Ripper a few decades ago.

Alongside the murder investigation is also the story of Hannah Shapiro who had the fortune to be saved by Jack Morgan from a certain death eight years ago. In an attempt to rebuild her life, she moved to London and started anew. However, regardless of how far she moved the horrors never left her, and as it happens, her life is once again in great danger, and the only one who can help her is Dan Carter, the ex-husband of Kristy Webb, the woman who is investigating the London murders.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

“Looking for Alaska” by John Green – Crossing to the Other Side

Looking for Alaska by John Green (Book cover)
Miles "Pudge" Halter is a fairly uninteresting sixteen year-old who really hasn't experienced much of anything in life. However, he constantly wonders about what could be, what experiences the world still holds for him. In an attempt to find what the French poet Rabelais refers to as "The Great Perhaps", Miles sets off for Culver Creek Boarding School, and just like that, his life changes drastically. As he makes new friends and falls in love with the adorable yet dangerous Alaska Young, Miles starts not only to experience what the world has to give him, but he also learns valuable lessons about human nature, and most importantly, himself, especially when an unforgettable tragedy strikes the boarding school.

There are countless coming-of-age novels out there, so what is it that sets Looking for Alaska apart, at least in my opinion? For starters, John Green doesn't beat around the bush: the dialog is crisp and sharp, the descriptions are concise, and events unfold at a fast pace one after the other. Apart from making sure the reader doesn't get bored, this also serves another purpose: to recreate Miles’ state of mind. From his point of view, he is crossing into a strange new world where it seems there is no respite between new experiences.