Friday, February 27, 2015

Circle of Assassins by Steven Rigolosi

Mystery

An ad is placed in a local newspaper, telling readers that they only need to write in to help get rid of the person they hate the most in the world. After careful selection, there are 5 people in this circle of assassins. Each has submitted someone they want killed and each must kill one of those people. The rationale is explained by each assassin. Some make sense, some don't seem like enough. But each assassin has their instructions and must carry out their tasks.

This book is completely unlike anything I've read. I enjoyed the format of it, with some of the story taking place through adverts and letters and some taking place through narratives. Each character is given a letter and a colour. I found myself having to flip back a few times to figure out who was doing what but eventually I started to remember. It would have been preferable if the author only used letters or colours to try and reduce the confusion.

The thing I liked the most about this book was the imperfection of the story. Not all of the victims deserved to die. Some of the assassins were completely selfish. All walks of life were represented in this book which was also interesting. How does an old lady set about to kill someone?

This book had some good twists near the end that kept me on my toes. I would pick up another Rigolosi book in the future!

First Line: "Revenge is sweet!"

Rating:
(4/5)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Swimmer by Joakim Zander

Thriller

Klara Walldeen was orphaned as a baby and brought up by her grandparents in a remote part of Sweden. As an adult, she works in Brussels as a political aid. An ex-boyfriend reaches out to her to let her know she'll be in town and wondering if she wants to meet. Klara puts off getting back to him until she's called by him frantically saying he needs to meet. Hearing the urgency, Klara agrees and is brought in to a dangerous situation of the American government's secrets and what they are willing to do to make sure no one has access to them.

Before talking about the book, I want to mention how much I enjoy the cover art. It's difficult to tell from the picture, but the red of the cover is shiny and the ripples of the swimmer are raised. It's really an eye-catching cover.

Klara is a strong female character to centre most of the narrative around and she holds her own. Some thriller novels with female leads make the female weak in some way, usually with a love interest, but Zander didn't do this, for which I was thankful. Klara could have given up many times throughout the story but she didn't. She saw through to the end because of her strong morale foundation.

What I found amazing, and rather scary, about this book is how ruthless the government was willing to be to protect this secret. Local police were involved but had no clue what they were helping the American government do. Some small piece of me believes that this could happen and governments would be willing to take these steps to stop some secrets from being told.

This is a debut novel but it reads like an experienced thriller author. I had troubles putting this down. It's the best mystery/thriller I've read so far this year.

You can visit the author's Twitter if you're interested. Thank you to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this tour.

First Line: "Every time I hold you is the last time I hold you."

Rating:
(4.5/5)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Metro Girl by Janet Evanovich

Mystery

Alexandra Barnaby gets a call from her brother in Miami that ends with a woman screaming. She knows something isn't right so she heads down to Florida to try and find him, coming across NASCAR driver Sam Hooker. Alex's brother stole Hooker's boat so he has reason to try and find him.

Evanovich is known for her fun-loving characters, specifically with the number series and Stephanie Plum. The problem that I had with this book is that it felt like a cheap copy of the characters from Evanovich's number series. Alex was the independent female with a carefree attitude towards danger. Hooker is the sexy but somewhat undesirable man who tries to help. There's also a cast of characters that help these two find the brother. Really, the only thing that was missing was Grandma Mazure.

That said, this book was still fun. Just not as fun as Stephanie Plum!

First Line: "Just because I know how to change a guy's oil doesn't mean I want to spend the rest of my life on my back, staring up his undercarriage."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Watermark by Vanitha Sankaran

Historical Fiction

Medieval France is a completely different world. A mother sacrifices herself to save her child, which turns out to be an albino. The nurse cuts out the child's tongue so that it can't speak any heretics or devilish words. The child survives and is called Auda. Auda's father is a paper maker and her sister is recently married. Auda has learned her letters and helps her father make the paper, though her sister wants her to marry and her father wants her to be happy and carry on his legacy. Life isn't that easy in France though. There are inquisitors roaming the country looking to persecute heretics. Anyone that acts or looks differently could be brought before the inquisitors, which puts Auda in danger.

The first half of this book is captivating. You immediately pull for Auda because of the circumstances in which she was born. You want her to prove the nurse wrong and turn her life into something positive. Auda starts to do this. She knows how to read and write, which is unusual for females at this time. She learns her father's business and starts to investigate adding a watermark to their papers to show the papers are made by them.

This is where things started to fall apart for me. Auda finds a love interest in Jamie, an artist, but it seems contrived for the purposes of giving Auda someone to lean on. Not surprisingly, she becomes a focus for the inquisition, but how she handles herself makes absolutely no sense and doesn't really seem to fit her character. She is disloyal to her employer for no real purpose and then throws herself in to d anger for no real reason.

The paper making part of this book was quite interesting. The heretic and inquisition part I didn't care for. It's unfortunate that the author didn't focus on the part where she seemed to have done the most research and craft the story around that without introducing other plot-drivers that seemed like after thoughts.

First Line: "Elena clutched her distended belly and tried not to cry out."

Rating:
(3/5)

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Fiction

Somer almost has it all. She's got a great career as a doctor, a nice house, and a fabulous husband. What Somer doesn't have is a child. When she finds out she is not able to have kids, husband Kris suggests adopting from his home of India. The two end up adopting Asha, who was given up by her family because she was a girl, and take her back to America. Somer can't really relate to the Indian culture and has concerns about Asha wanting to find her real mother but tries to suppress these as she raises her daughter.

As Asha grows up, Somer and Kris grow apart. Asha gets a chance to travel to India for a year in university to further her career as a journalist and jumps on the chance to learn about where she's from. The family breaks apart because Kris wants Asha to be a doctor and Somer doesn't want Asha to find her birth parents.

This story is told from each character's perspective, including the birth parents Kavita and Jasu. This is part of what makes this book so compelling. You're let in to each character's head to learn why they are doing what they are doing and, for the most part, you can understand their motivations. I felt bad for Somer and could understand her concerns with Asha going to India. The weird thing is that I felt guilty for feeling bad for Somer. She should have been accepting of her daughter searching for her roots. Perhaps the problem was in how Asha treated her mom before she left and trampled all over her feelings.

The ending of this book was well done. It wrapped up some items nicely, both other events you wanted to happen for the characters didn't. It felt real in that some things worked out and some things did not. I breezed through this book and quite enjoyed it.

First Line: "He clutches the worn slip of paper in his hands, trying to compare the letters written there to the red sign hanging on the door in front of him."

Rating:
(4/5)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson

Fiction

Silver is orphaned at a fairly young age and is taken in by Mr. Pew, who keeps the lighthouse. Mr. Pew is a story teller and weaves tales for Silver about how the lighthouse came to be and the families that have been touched by it. There are love stories, there are stories of creation, there are stories of darkness and light. The stories of love and the history of the local family were very powerful to me. Without much semblance of time in this book, these stories had a timeless feel to them, making them feel a little magical. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book. However that same timeless feeling caused problems in other areas.

The lighthouse is upgraded to be more modern, kicking Pew and Silver out of their home. Pew leaves the lighthouse with Silver's dog but without Silver herself. Did I miss something? Why would Pew, who seemingly loves Silver, take her dog and disappear? Near the end of the book, there was a complete description of the opera Tristan and Isolde which, though I'm sure has deep meaning, felt completely out of place. Love, history, love, history, BAM here's a random story about an opera.

The writing itself was beautiful, just confusing at times.

First Line: "My mother called me Silver."

Rating:
(3/5)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

All Families are Psychotic by Douglas Coupland

Fiction

The Drummond family is getting together for the first time in many years to watch daughter Sarah launch in to space at Cape Canaveral. Mom Janet is separated from husband Ted, who shot son Wade when he found out he had slept with his new wife. Wade, protecting his mom, had the bullet pass through him in to his mom, infecting her with HIV. Sarah was born with one hand due to the medications that Janet was on during her pregnancy. Youngest son Bryan has tried to kill himself more times than they can count but has now gotten his girlfriend pregnant and has found a reason to live. Obviously this is an extremely dysfunctional family. The title of the book very accurately describes what to expect.

The characters in this novel are what makes this book. They are all imperfect yet as a whole family unit it works and they support each other. The whole book is completely unbelievable but it doesn't matter because you get invested in the characters and their crazy adventures.

I've been a bit disappointed with recent Coupland books I've read. Even though this isn't my favourite by him I still enjoyed it.

First Line: "Janet opened her eyes - Florida's prehistoric glare dazzled outside the motel window."

Rating:
(4/5)