Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Review: SKIVE by Paul Adam Levy

Why? Why do I go to a job I hate? Why am I with this person every waking minute? Why do I even get up in the morning? Why, why, why? Insanity or stupidity?  

This is the story of a man going about his repetitive, daily routines with bitter doubt and sarcasm.  “I needed to knock myself down to a self-hating drone with all the fight chiselled away. I needed this job to work its black magic on me before I could stomach a morning of hard manual labour.” (6) Don’t we all?

“I was on my feet, torn between throwing a chair through the window and smashing my skull open on the wall.” Plagued by gut-wrenching decisions, the main character (often called either “Al” or “Alex” – for some reason we don’t know his real name) trudges through life questioning every ounce of his existence.

“[Simon] saw the light and powered toward it without a moment’s thought about consequences. Doubts silenced by dreams. Routine shattered by opportunity. I hated Simon. I hoped he would fail. I hoped his relationship with that girl I never met would crumble and he’d be stranded in a shanty town somewhere in Asia, begging for food in a language he didn’t know. I imagined him getting hacked to death with a machete after he was caught stealing a handful of rice from a market stall.” (19)

“There’s no goal. There’s no satisfaction. Some people have an eternity of bliss after death, some have a four star cruise around the Caribbean after retirement and some have a bottle of rum after a shift. No one cares. It doesn’t matter. The people who you sit next to on the bus, the ones that pass you on the street, they don’t care if you work forty-five hours a week on minimum wage or have yacht filled with porn stars and champagne. It makes no difference to them. As long as whatever you do doesn’t leak into their world. You could reduce your carbon footprint to zero or kick stray dogs to death, they will never know and they’ll never want to. You could die right in front of them and you’d just be a small blip in a life of theirs that was filled with moments of personal woe and happiness. Your collapsing corpse would be merely an anecdote at the next social event or an affirming showcase of how fragile and short life is. Maybe your dead, limp body would inspire them to redecorate the bathroom or maybe to take a trip around Asia with a girl who did yoga and hated the same things as you. They would never say you lived an honourable life, they would never say you deserved to die, you’d always just be how they saw you last, for better or worse.” (19)

“The more I thought about everything I left behind, the more I knew I could never face it again. The 5am starts, the buses, the endlessness of filling skip after skip, shelf after shelf. And the people, the God damn people. They want things. They want to know where this is, where that is, they want to speak to your superior. They shove disabled kids in your face and shout rape at the top of their lungs. They won’t be happy until you’re dead so they can burn your corpse in a cardboard box and scatter your ashes over landfill. But I didn’t have to go anywhere. I could just sit here, forever.” (35)

The definition of “skive” is the instance of avoiding work or duty—something we ALL dream of doing, but, for some reason, don’t. And whether from boldness, exhaustion, or frustration, this guy says “F-#@ work!” and chucks it all away. Very admirable!

He says what we’re all thinking, and he speaks the truth. Some of the British slang and little typos were a little hard to comprehend at times. And, at times, the language can be slightly crude. The plot slowed down a bit when the guy joined the crazy hobo saying “F-#@ this” and “F-#@ that” so often that it grew tiring. But, of course, it all beckons you back as our hero schleps through the London streets with cynical views for a cold and gruesome world.

Gritty and poignant, this is a tale so colorfully illustrated with diverse characters and hopeless luck that reinforces the age-old mantra: “The world was unfair.” (13)

Brilliantly candid and down-to-earth with a splash of humor! You can’t help but relate to it every step of the way.

My rating: 4 stars

Friday, September 5, 2014

Review: WITHOUT A NET by Jill Blake

Eva has played it safe her whole life. Then she meets Max, “the ultimate hit and run artist.” Of course, Max has never had any interest in settling down with a family, not with his fast, adventure-seeking lifestyle. But suddenly a broken leg and Eva’s smile could make him re-think his perspectives.

Still, with everything she had to go through with her late husband’s illness, infidelities, and all his debt, the last thing Eva needs is another womanizer—you know, one of those “good-looking, cocky, and too charming to stay mad at for long” perps. (86) Oh, the ones that just drive you nuts!

But fate has a funny way of bringing two people together. Max needed a graphic designer for his new book and Eva is the starving artist desperate enough to take anything.

Beginning with the accidental bump of the shopping carts, the reader is immediately thrust into the potential and swiftly budding romance of the two main characters. I thought Max had attributes that were a little too perfect with his sculpted body, surfer’s tan, and his ineffable ability to make women swoon in the blink of an eye; on top of that, he has a PhD, climbs mountains, and can write a best-selling novel. Is it any wonder that Eva fell for this “perfect” type, especially since she did it once before? It’s interesting how people have a tendency to repeat the same pattern.

Of course, Max’s one flaw was his Hugh Hefner status. Frankly, a guy who has 100 ladies on speed dial is not likely to give it all up for one girl. Frankly, I wouldn’t even bother trying. But, supposedly, Eva needs to see that there is something more to Max beneath his conceited, vapid—and, let’s face it, sexy—exterior. I must admit that I was impressed by Max’s researched knowledge concerning the book publishing business. There’s this dialogue scene where he explains the pros and cons of traditional and digital publishing (useful for writers.) Okay, so the guy wasn’t an idiot either.

Witty and well-written, this is a tale of taking risks, jumping at opportunities, and following your heart.

Fun and adorable! A quick and simple love story you’ll enjoy!

My rating: 4 stars

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Review: THE GIFT by Jonathan Lynch

There is nothing clearer than the power of the written word.” (5)

As Michael writes in his diary, he recalls his botched suicide attempt. Or was it a dream? But it felt way too real to be a dream. Was he hallucinating? Did he have some kind of sixth sense? What was going on?

The story grabs the reader from the start. You can’t help but relate to these down-on-the-luck characters as they struggle to survive. Michael is this high-school loser that’s never had a girl and has always been bullied; Ann (his mother) is working two jobs and can’t pay her bills; and Maggie is married to a rich bastard who is only getting crankier the older he gets. Still, “it was a relief to see that others were having problems too.” (62) Misery loves company, right?

But why were they seeing a “dark figure?” Where was all this terror coming from? Were they trapped in a strange alternate hell? Or were they just all having a mental breakdown? It was just a mass of wild confusion.

The “dark figure” reminded me of the winged monster from the Jeepers Creepers movie. One minute, you’re standing there; the next, gone.

It seems the greatest battle lies in the darkness. What was that noise? What’s that I feel on my skin? Are the shadows moving? What’s going on here, I can’t see a thing!? I can’t think of anything scarier than being in the dark. But what lurks within the dark? A Gift? What if a gift could eradicate all your pain and suffering and give you all that you ever dreamed of? But, wait, what’s the catch? There’s always a catch.

Well-written but long-winded. A couple of times I found myself wishing the writing would just get to the point already. It wasn’t necessary to relay information we already knew. Still, I was compelled to see how the story would unfold.

Lynch weaves an intriguing tale of dark surrealism, a delightful blend of fantasy and horror, while exploring the crippling desire of temptation and the burdening weights of morality. Our hero must learn that beauty, love, and fortune all come at a dreadful price.

This was a fantastic story full of twists and irony. Loved it!

My rating: 4.5 stars

Friday, August 22, 2014

Review: THE TRUTH ABOUT EMILY by Madi Brown

29-year-old Emily Greene looks the part, but she’s still working on becoming a modern-day woman. Not that she’s one to back down from a challenge, but living as an eternal work-in-progress wasn’t exactly the goal that she had in mind. It’s a harsh but true realization---the idea that that time isn't on her side, and the notion that wanting to have it all, doesn't mean getting it. The verdict is in; with zero prospects for a relationship and a stalled blogging career, Emily has every reason to believe that she’s been living a life too humdrum for her own good.

Making the change won’t be easy. She’ll have to do whatever it takes; start dating like a man, become more selective about which rsvp’s she accepts, and work even harder at getting her dream job.The payoff’s huge;a modern twist on a storybook ending, but gains don’t often come without risks. In the here and now Emily just may be forced to choose….It’s got to be one or the other----the profession that she’s always wanted, or the love that she’s never had.


My thoughts: Right off the bat, Emily is one fast-moving, fast-talking broad living the New York life in designer wear—wears that I didn’t know and couldn’t recognize.

“As a teen, she’d always journaled. Reading her coming-of-age entries aloud to her friends somehow became a regular past-time, which resulted in them being completely entertained. They’d laugh, they’d cry, and yep, the reviews were better than a Broadway musical; but writing professionally? That had been nothing more than a dream. Her father had mentally shaken her awake from that one on more instances than she could name. “Becoming a writer isn’t realistic. It’s not going to pay the bills. It’s a hobby,” he’d declare.” (15) Being a fashion writer ain’t too shabby.

But, most importantly, Emily always tries to follow her lists.

What I liked best about Emily was that she was an independent gal trying to follow her dreams, even if that seemed to be making jewelry for haughty celebrities. Still, Emily struck me as a superficial and shallow character, one that contemplates her world with the language of chic and fancy living—in fact, she kind of reminded me of Cher from Clueless.  As if! (Not my favorite movie really.)

I found some of her conversations to be monotonous and superfluous. So you’ve decided to go vegan. Who cares? And must it be necessary to make appearances at all these birthdays, baby showers, engagements, and anniversary parties, which prompt her to buy gifts from Lame R’ Us? No wonder Emily craves the high-society life.

Additionally, her views on dating and relationships were somewhat vapid.

The whole time I wondered: What was the deal with Emily? What was the point of her story? I couldn’t figure it out. Based on the summary, I expected something else from the book—something more aspiring and meaningful. 

Overall, this was a lackluster read. I just couldn’t get into it.

My rating: 2 stars

Monday, August 11, 2014

Review: THE BELIEVERS by Travis Gulbrandson

Edith Parker has been a widow for ten years, but she tries to keep her husband’s memory alive by carrying a picture of him from room to room. Then, on the anniversary of his death, she is visited by a young man who claims to have a message from him. On the promise of further communications with the deceased, Mrs. Parker invites the mysterious stranger to live with her. While this visitation first seems like the answer to her prayers, she soon finds her actions may have started a chain of events that yield tragic consequences for everyone she cares about.

Dark, at times suspenseful, infused with black humor, The Believers examines a number of issues relating to the nature of faith, but it never tells the reader what to think.

My thoughts: I had a bit of a slow start with this book as it begins with a young man walking aimlessly around town, looking for an old woman. In the interim, he encounters various, eclectic, odd-ball characters—all anonymous with discernible traits.

Mrs. Parker is the widow. Ever since her husband died, people have been treating her like fragile glass, fearing that she might shatter at any moment. She just can’t seem to let go of the life she had, which is why she continues to carry her old traditions (i.e. sleeping on her side of the bed, etc.)

Then Jacob Peterson (the young stranger from the beginning) comes along with a message from her dead husband. Apparently, he listens to that little voice in his head that tells him to do things (like give a message to a weird old lady that you’ve never met.) Supposedly he’s taking orders from God or whatever. He’s like the ghost whisperer. Or perhaps he was possessed by the dead husband?

Nonetheless, the old woman and the young man find a special bond with all this spirit nonsense.

What I liked best was the descriptive nature. The author describes the greasy diner, the old woman’s house, the antiquated church, and so on, all with vivid detail. I didn’t really take too much to all that talk about God, the bible, and the whole “let us pray” ritual because I’m not religious.

My favorite character was Sarah, the waitress. She was the epitome of the drab, working-class stiff. Her motto: “life sucks so why even try?” Of course, she gets her buttons pushed when she meets the ghost whisperer (Jacob). “Why don’t you like anybody,” he asked. NUNYA! If she doesn’t smile, then don’t force her. It’s not like she’s going to be “touched by an angel” anytime soon. I agreed with her regarding the na├»ve gullibility people have in faith.

Throughout the whole book, Jacob seems to prod into the lives of the town, which was kind of annoying. There were too many characters to keep track of, all of which just go about their mundane, little lives with the church being mentioned quite often. What exactly was the point of this story? The summary indicated that the book was “infused with black humor.” Where was the humor?

Overall, this was well-written, but the story was one full of complexity with a drab theme centered on Christianity, a subject I have virtually no interest in.

My rating: 2 stars

Friday, August 8, 2014

Review: DELUSIONAL by Scott Spotson

Patricia Fowler is plain, simple, smart, and tall, all in one neat, attractive package. She is a serious planner, likes to exercise, and is a firm believer in taking care of herself. Right on! She also likes to keep her work life separate from her personal life and she over-thinks. That is SO ME!

One of her rules gets broken: she falls for her married  co-worker. Patricia hasn’t had much luck finding “the one,” but Paul seems different. Too bad he happens to be married to a crabby, old shrew. Like Patricia said, “I think everyone gets to that point…Sometimes it’s your job. You aren’t happy, but don’t want to leave, so you suffer through it.” (118) It was clearly obvious that he was unhappy with his wife, Wendy. And why would he? She was a bitch, yet there was something alluring about her. For example, how did she make those bees suddenly appear? She was the vindictive, jealous wife that you just love to hate, the enticingly wicked character that beckons you to read on.

Suddenly Patricia’s organized, little world is turned upside down, and she plummets into a whirling spin of chaos. What strange illusions were occurring? Was it a magic trick, or was it insanity?

Meanwhile, the story deviates away from Patricia’s love conundrum and onto a bizarre mystery. How did the famous Hope diamond get stolen? It’s a mind-boggling case for the FBI as they search frantically for the elusive thief.

A captivating novel full of mystery and intrigue. Spotson writes with witty intelligence while conjuring a delectable story of love, drama, and jealousy with a spicy touch of magic. The reader will be allured by the totally rad cover and be left with frightening chills by the end. A blood-curdling and heart-racing read!

My rating: 5 stars

Friday, August 1, 2014

Review: ELIXIR by Ted Galdi

Sean Malone is considered “the smartest person on Earth.” He is a super genius that can calculate math problems in his head in like a second. I mean, he was on Jeopardy at 11-years old for god sakes!

As part of an independent study project for college, (yeah, a 14-year old in college. Go, Doogie!) Sean creates something that could potentially do harm if it landed in the wrong hands. Now it seems that the government was using his algorithm to kill people, meaning cyber gangs would be after him to steal the information from his head. Sometimes being smart sucks, according to Sean.

Depression overwhelms Sean as he contemplates the philosophical aspects of death. I found this particularly poetic, almost (Edgar Allen) Poe-tic.

A new identity and a new life in Italy do nothing to eradicate Sean’s drug and alcohol use. He just can’t be happy. He will never be able to understand the science of happiness. That’s what happens when you have an Einstein brain. Still, I wish I could absorb an entire language in an instant.

Then, Sean, as “James”, meets and falls in love with Natasha. It seems he has found the “elixir” for happiness. I think that’s where the true story lied—finding happiness without science and logic. But “happiness” is fleeting and misery is a constant you can count on. Suddenly Natasha gets sick with a terminal illness and, of course, here comes Doogie! It’s up to Sean to use that gifted brain of his to find a cure.

And, EUREKA! He figured it out, but he must go home to the U.S., a kid presumed dead, alerting government authorities. It’s a race against time and a battling journey to the finish line.

I didn’t quite understand all the government entities and conspiracies. In fact, it was a tad boring. Everything happens so fast near the end that you don’t really know what’s going on. For a fast-paced thriller, I didn’t quite feel as excited toward the climax. First of all, the POV veered in different directions instantaneously, causing confusion. What’s happening here? How did he get there? I had to re-read a couple of parts just to understand. Second, I didn’t really believe Sean as the Bruce Willis type. I couldn’t see him climbing walls, dodging bullets, and blowing up buildings.

Overall, the writing was okay. I liked the concept of the story, which had a Die Hard feel (Die Hard being the main character’s favorite movie.) This was Doogie Howser in Mission: Impossible.


My rating: 3 stars