Review ~ The Breakdown

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The Breakdown
Author ~ B.A. Paris

The Breakdown is a suspenseful thriller that will keep you hooked from the opening lines when Cass Anderson's husband makes her promise not to take the back-woods shortcut when coming home from drinks with friends, to the very last sentence (which I won't even write about for fear of spoilers).

Cass Anderson is a woman who thinks that she did a terrible thing, by leaving the scene of a broken down car only to find out the next morning that the woman in that same car has turned up murdered.  The act of leaving the women stranded compounded with the fact her own mother had dementia Cass begins to fall into despair as she starts to experience memory lapses.  Forgetting scheduling lunch dates with friends, what the alarm code is, how to use the microwave are just some of these lapses and with strange phone calls during the day, the slow loss of her memory Cass begins to experience a breakdown so terrify that you can almost feel it happening to yourself.

I have to admit, although I was curious what what happening in this story right from the beginning, I didn't like Cass Anderson.  Not at first at least.  By the closing pages of The Breakdown though my feelings of Cass had completely changed.  I think that the reason I didn't like her at first was mostly due to how she bowed down to her husband about taking the short-cut and then subsequently not telling him about it because he would get angry with her.  To me this seemed like such a silly thing to lie about, especially when she was feeling so guilty about the lie.  I hard a real hard time relating to her about this.  As the story progressed though and her panic and despair started to rule her life, I no longer felt that I didn't like Cass and I got really concerned about her safety and sanity and by the end of the book I was rooting for her as she had my heart racing at times.    

For me a good book is one that I don't want to put down and will read really quickly just so I can find out how it ends.  The Breakdown was a quick read, even though I thought I knew what the ending was going to be.  I was pleasantly surprised when B.A Paris managed to keep me guessing till the final few chapters.

4 Penguins

I received an free ARC of The Breakdown from St. Martin's Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
 

 

Ack! Apologies are in order

Hello everyone!  I wanted to send out a quick apology that my next book review is taking so long.  I'm actually almost finished writing it and I'll have it posted shortly.  

The reason for the delay is that I found myself getting a little overwhelmed trying to write a long and detailed review of the books I've been reading.  It it started feeling like is was a chore instead of something fun to do and as I read more and more books, the thought of writing long reviews of them became something I was dreading.  I didn't want to give up doing the book reviews, but I also needed to figure out a way to continue to enjoy reading and not dread writing the review.  

It took me some time to finally decided what I wanted to do with the book review section of my website.  In the end, I came up with the idea to write the reviews in a different manner than I had started out with, the biggest change is that I'm not going to worry about how long they are.  Some books I just really don't have anything to say and others I have a tone of stuff to say and those books that I didn't really have anything to say about them were incredibly stressful to write "enough" words about them.  So from this point forward some of my reviews might be short and to the point while others will be more detailed.  I'm going to let the writing just come and not pressure myself to reach a specific word count.  I feel that this will be a good compromise between continuing with the reviews and not overwhelming myself with trying to become a wordsmith.

You may be wondering what I have read in the meantime since my last review. Well I've read twelve and a half books between May and June.  Eleven of those books you'll find  have a short review in the post, with a fuller review of the book Pandemic (The Extinction Files #1) by A.G. Riddle as my next "full length" review.  I hope you enjoy reading the mini-reviews.

Mini Book Reviews

#1) The Seventh Plague by James Rollins
A pandemic style story with ancient Egyptian origins.  The member of Sigma Force have to discover who is trying to unleash a plague straight out of the bible.  This isn't one of my favourite of the Sigma Force stories.  I've been finding that each story seems to be getting a little bit more and more ridiculous as  this series has been going on.  I also found that The Seventh Plague seemed to be action scene followed by action scene without a ton of character development.  This being the twelve book in the series (with a bunch of novellas too) I wonder if James Rollins is getting tired of Sigma Force.  I hope the next book is better.

2.5 Penguins

#2) Syndrome E by Franck Thilliez (translated from French into English by Mark Polizzotti)
The North American debut of Frank Thilliez will provide you with one of the best murder mysteries I've read.  The story starts off with an old-film connoisseur who ends up blind after viewing his most recent acquisition, an odd film from the 50's.  While his ex-girlfriend investigates his blindness, she discovers that the film is connected with 5 bodies that were recently discovered in the woods.  This murder-thriller is filled with shocking plot twist that will have you travelling from France to Canada, Egypt and Rwanda and keep you guessing right until the very last sentence and beyond.

5 Penguins

#3) Bred to Kill By Franck Thilliez (translated from French into English by Mark Polizzotti)
The sequel to Syndrome E.  While investigating the brutal animal attack of a graduate student, it is discovered that she was actually murdered.  The investigation leads us into the Alps only to discover that a thirty-thousand-year-old virus has been discovered and their are plans to unleash it on the world.    

Bred to Kill picks up about a year after the events in Syndrome E.  While the murder mystery of Bred to Kill isn't quite as gripping as Syndrome E, the personal development of the police detectives more than makes up for it.  I wish that I could either read French or that more of Franck Thilliez's novels were translated into English.

5 Penguins

#4) American Gods by Neil Gaiman
The main idea behind American Gods are that gods exist because people believe in them.  American Gods centres around Shadow and his work as an errand boy for Mr. Wednesday.  

A cross between fantasy, fiction and ancient mythology American Gods is Neil Gaiman at his best.  It's a real shame that I just don't really like Neil Gaiman.  I read the book because the show was coming out and I wanted to see what it was all about.  For 3/4 of the book, I found it just barely interesting enough to keep reading and it wasn't until the last quarter of the book that I was final hooked.  This book took be 12 days to read, which may not seem like a lot to some, but when I finish a book on average every 2-3 days, this was an extremely long time for me.

1 Penguins

#5) Snapshot by Brandon Sanderson
This short novella is a science fiction detective mystery.   At some undetermined point in the future we gain the ability to produce a "snapshot" of the day.  An exact recreation of any given date.  Detectives use the snapshot to help solves murders.  

I really enjoyed this novella.  The idea of a snapshot was quite creative.  I'm not a huge fan of short stories or novellas because just as I'm really getting into them, the story is over.  I felt that Brandon Sanderson did an excellent job of balancing the shortness of Snapshot while still providing the details needed for me to enjoy.

4 Penguins

#6) The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
Some point in the future, after a great tribulation, earths humanity only has a dim relocation of humanity before, a small village roots out "deviations" and destroys them as abominations.  The Cyrysalids focuses on one boy, who hides that he his a deviation.  

I enjoyed reading The Chrysalids.  This is one of the books that tends to be on the high-school syllabus, but I always had the English teacher that taught the "other" books on the syllabus, so I never read this in school.  I was entertained throughout, my only complaint being that the ending of the book seemed a little rushed and I would like to have know what happens afterwards.

4 Penguins

#7) Thrawn by Timothy Zhan
Grand Admiral Thrawn was first introduced in Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire Series.  Now considered to be Legends and no longer cannon in the Star Wars world, many believe that it was this series and it's captivating antagonist that brought Star Wars back into mainstream and paved the way for the re-releases and prequels, and now an entire world of movies.  Disney was very smart to bring Grand Admiral Thrawn into Cannon and they were even smarter to have Timothy Zhan write Thrawn's history.  I grew up reading the now legends Star Wars novels, and while a lot of them were and are quite terrible stories, there were also a ton of them that were quite amazing, including the Heir to the Empire Series.  Thrawn is the first book in the new canon that I have really enjoyed.  It reintroduces us to the blue skinned, red eyed Chiss commander and documents his rise through the Galactic Empire to become a Grand Admiral.  If you've only ever seen the movies, you can easily read Thrawn and be captivated by this master of military strategy.  

4 Penguins

#8) Calamity (Reckoners #3) by Brandon Sanderson
The third and final book in the Reckoners Series by Brandon Sanderson, and my favourite of the three.  The professor has gone rogue and it's up to David and the rest of the Reckoners to save him from himself.  These stories are about the corruption that the people who've gained special powers have to face.  

I found the first two books in this series filled with a lot of teen angst, and if put me off reading the final book for a long time.  The teen angst is gone from this book which I was very relieved.  Overall, it's a good wrap-up for the series, although the ending and final climatic event felt a little rushed.

3.5 Penguins

#9) Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton
During the late 1800's while the gold-rush towns are popping up everywhere, two rival palaeontologists, Marsh and Cope, are on the hunt for dinosaur fossils.  William Johnson, a Yale student with more privilege than common-sense makes a bet with one of his school-mates and finds himself in the West assisting on a dig.  When he is abandoned by the paranoid Marsh he joins forces with Cope and discovers a grave of huge historical significance.   With this find comes grave danger and his life is on the line.  

This is Michael Crichton at best, blending history, science and fiction flawlessly.  The palaeontologists, Marsh and Cope, are based of real people and the history of finding dinosaur fossils in the West are loosely true.  William Johnson is the fictional made up character that allows Crichton to blend history and fiction together in a cohesive story.  

4 Penguins

#10) Spin (Spin Saga #1) by Robert Charles Wilson
When the stars disappear, replaced by a black membrane, three friends will be forever changed once it's discovered that the black membrane has placed the Earth in a temporal stasis.  

With a cast of well developed characters, I was drawn into the story right from the get-go.  The narration takes place in both the past and present.  The present day narration takes some time before you understand what's going on and only until the past narration catches up do you fully get the scope of the story.  I very much enjoyed this science fiction story and at the time of writing this review I'm currently reading the second one in the series, Aixs.

5 Penguins

#11) Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn
Human Martian, Polly Newton, is sent to her with her brother Charles to the pretentious Galileo Academy on Earth.  While there Polly and Charles struggle to fit in with the privilege Earth teenagers as strange accidents start to happen.  

I really wanted to enjoy this story as it seemed very intriguing, a fish out of water type story, but I didn't.  I hated the main character, Polly.  I found her to be a whiny person filled with teen angst and never learned from her mistakes.  The story itself was well written though, which is why I was able to finish it and not give up half way through.

2 Penguins

Review ~ Company Town

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Company Town
Author: Madeline Ashby

In Madeline Ashby’s ambitious cyberpunk novel, Company Town, we see a futuristic Canada, where living on an oil-rig off the coast of Newfoundland, is part of everyday life. Entire towns have been created on these gigantic oil-rigs and the people who live there either work the oil-rig or support it in some way.  Augmenting yourself with the newest bio-tech is just one way to pass the times, the other major pass-time is securing the services sex-workers, who are now unionized and come with bodyguard protection.

When the company town of New Arcadia is purchased by the Lynch Family, Hwa, former bodyguard to the sex-workers, is manipulated into becoming the personal bodyguard and trainer for the youngest Lynch member, Joel.  As the heir to the Lynch Company, Joel’s protection is paramount to the prosperity of New Arcadia, and now his protection falls to Hwa, one of the last un-augmented humans in the world.

When a friend and former sex-worker of Hwa’s turns up dead, and an attempted murder on her own life, Hwa realizes there is more to the Lynch family than meets they eye.  As she delves into the murder, she discovers that more than one friend has ended up dead.  Who is this killer that seems to be extracting revenge on sex-workers?  Is she also a target of the killers ire? Is the Lynch family somehow involved with this killer?  As Hwa gets more involved, she discovers that time isn’t linear and that the killer can be anywhere.

The pacing of Company Town is a little odd, with what feels like entire sections of the story left out.  For example as a bodyguard, Hwa gets knocked around a bit during her duties.  There are multiple scenes where she loses consciousness at the end of a chapter, with the next chapter starting out a few days later with Hwa in another location and talking with different characters, and no mention of how she survived the last encounter.  The entire third act of the story was also incredibly rushed.  Ashby spent a great deal of time during the first and second acts setting up the world and her characters, and just as the big boss-battle happens, Hwa gets knocked about again and loses consciousness.  When next we see Hws, the battle is long over, months having passed.  No mention what happened or how she survived.  It seemed like Ashby was afraid of running out of room on the page to write, so just skipped over parts to advance to the final chapter, leaving out some stuff in the middle.

Up until the ending of the story I was really enjoying the world, the tech, and the characters that Ashby created.  The third act is the downfall of this novel, leaving you questioning what really happened during the final boss battle.  Company Town is an enjoyable read as far as plot and world building are concerned, but the pacing leaves little to be desired.

2 Penguins

Review ~ The Devotion of Suspect X

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The Devotion of Suspect X
Author: Keigo Higashino
Translator: Alexander O. Smith

From the opening pages of The Devotion of Suspect X to the final line in the book I was hooked on this murder mystery thriller with a twist.  

This is the third book in the “Detective Galielo” series, and the first one in the series to be translated from Japanese to English.  Don’t let the fact that this is the third book in the series dissuade you from reading this book, you will not feel lost at all.  The author, Keigo Higashino, has done an excellent job of providing you with any details you need to follow along in the story and not feel like you’re missing out on something.  If anything, after reading this story, you will wish that the first two books were also translated into English.  

The plot is fairly straightforward.  Yasuko Hanaoka, a single mother, has murdered her abusive ex-husband, Togashi.  Don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler.  In this classic who-done-it with a twist, you know exactly who the killer is.  At the very beginning of this book you read how Yasuko has murdered her ex-husband, and you know it’s her doing it at the time of reading.  The best part of this novel is that Higashino is able to keep you interested in the story when you already know who the killer is, and why she killed him.

Hearing the commotion of murder, her next-door neighbour, Ishigami, a middled-aged high school math teacher, offers his help in covering up the murder.  Having a bit of a crush on Yasuko, Ishigami, doesn’t want her to get into trouble with the police.   

When Togashi’s body is eventually found, and identified as Yasuko’s ex-husband, Yasuko comes under suspicion for murder by Detective Kusangi.  During the course of his investigation, Kusangi comes to speak with Ishigami.  At this time it is discovered that Ishigami once went to school with a personal friend and sometimes police consultant of Kusanagi's, Dr. Manabu Yukawa, otherwise known as Professor Galielo.  Kusangi becomes convinced that Yasuko is responsible for Togashi’s murder, and unable to convince his partner, he goes to speak with Professor Galielo to gain some insight.  When Professor Galielo finds out Ishigami is loosely involved he becomes embroiled in the investigation with Kusangi and a battle of wits ensues between him and Ishigami.  Was Ishigami’s help in covering up the death of Togashi enough for Yasuko get away with murder?  

I was captivated with this novel.  I found that the brilliance with this novel is that Higashino is able to keep you interested and engaged in the story even though you knew already who the killer is.  From the opening paragraph and then throughout the entire story I was constantly wondering what was going to happen next.  What part of the alibi that Ishigami helped concoct would fall apart and get Yasuko caught.  How was Detective Kusanagi going to figure out that Yasuko was the murderer?  

As the story developed I started to feel really bad for Yasuko.  Here is this woman who is struggling to get by and provide a good life for her daughter, she murders her ex-husband in self defence and is caught in a terrible place.  I’m not familiar with Japanese criminal law, but I had the impression reading the book that Yasuko would not be able to claim self-defense as a reason for the murder and desperate to hide the crime she accepted Ishigami’s help with covering up the murder.  The more you read about her life and her abusive ex-husband, and all you want is for her to get away with it.

It’s impossible for me to say more about the story without unintentionally revealing spoilers.  The interaction between the various characters seemed very real and you could imagine yourself having the same sort of conversations or thinking the same thoughts if you were in Yasuko’s place.  Reading as the murder investigation unfolded, following step-by-step as Detective Kusangi goes through the paces to prove his hunch gives you a sense of the drudgery that must happen during police investigations, as they ask the same questions over and over, trying to find the lie.  

The Devotion of Suspect X is an incredibly smart and intriguing mystery that will keep you guessing right to the very end. I would recommend that anyone read this book, especially if you like mysteries or noir novels.

5 Penguins