ARC REVIEW: Rough Roads With Reckless Drivers – by Lara Pass

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Title: Rough Roads With Reckless Drivers
Author: Lara Pass
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mystery
First published: October 30th 2015
Finished reading: December 18th 2015
Pages: 132
Rating 1,5qqq

“The colours of the house were dreary and grey with harsh lightting and dark shadows. The house seemed to reflect Anna’s mood and how she felt about being exiled to live with a father she never saw.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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When I was approached by Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd. with the question if I wanted to read and review Rough Roads With Reckless Drivers earlier this month, I immediately said yes because it sounded like an interesting short story. I really wanted to like this novel by Lara Pass. Unfortunately, I have to be honest and say I probably only finished this read so I could write a proper review about the problems I had with the story. First of all, Rough Roads With Reckless Drivers is supposedly a YA novel with teenagers fulfilling the roles as main characters. Nothing wrong with that, would you say, but the prose sounds painfully formal both for the target age and in the dialogue of the teenage characters themselves. And not only the tone is off, but the prose itself is quite annoying as well. I normally don’t add a lot of comments to my goodreads updates as I read, but in this case I had so many I decided to add them to my review:

goodreadsroughroadscomplaints  As for the bright/wide/big blue/green eyes: if I counted correctly, they were mentioned about 30! times in 132 pages. A bit of an overkill and seriously annoying, if you ask me. Another thing that bothered me is the slow pace and the fact that nothing really happens until you’re about 65% into the story. I honestly think I wouldn’t have made it to this point if Rough Roads With Reckless Drivers hadn’t been an ARC, because the first part is painfully boring and slow to read. The last part of the story has more potential, but the action feels rushed and the ending doesn’t make a lot of sense. I have the feeling this story could have been a lot more interesting if the focus and prose would have been different… Because as it is, neither the prose, plot nor the characters convinced me.

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After her parents separate Anna has been having trouble to settle down and make friends. Her mother doesn’t exactly have a stable life, and Anna decides to live with her dad for a time so she can focus on her school work. She doesn’t have a lot of contact with her dad because he is never around, so she feels quite lonely… But Anna convinced her mother she would be fine and promised to try and make friends at her new school. It’s not easy, but slowly Anna is starting to fit in and her new friend Holly helps to make her feel at home. Anna also meets a guy named Luke; annoying, but she cannot seem to get him out of her head. And when she decides to spend her Holidays at Holly’s place, things become really strange…

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I was looking forward to this read and I really wanted to like Rough Roads With Reckless Drivers. Unfortunately, I had a hard time finding something positive about this short story. I couldn’t really connect to the characters both because of the formal prose and unnatural dialogue. The pace was slow and the plot basically didn’t exist until the last part of the story. The last part had a lot of potential, if only it would have been introduced earlier and elaborated more… All in all a very unsatisfying read that I wouldn’t recommend.

BOOK REVIEW: Takeover – by Lisa Black

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Title: Takeover
(Theresa MacLean #1)
Author: Lisa Black
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: August 12th 2008
Finished reading: December 3rd 2015
Pages: 341
Rating 1,5qqq

“Love has to be balanced,” she said as they reached the reception desk, “with being a human being. You can’t trulydo one without being the other.”

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I keep telling myself that I’m not reading enough mystery/thriller books, so I tried reading Takeover by Lisa Black to help me get out of my reading slump. It didn’t work. Not only does the plot lacks imagination and the pace is dreadfully slow, but the story itself is just plain boring. The whole my-fiancé-who-is-a-cop-ends-up-being-a-hostage-in-a-bank-robbery plot has simply been used too many times to be interesting and it didn’t really help that I couldn’t connect to the characters either. Sure, Lisa Black tried to incorporate a few plot twists into the novel, but I could already guess who was really helping the bankrobbers very early on in the story… NOT GOOD! On top of that, the pace was so slow that it surprised me that I actually ended up finishing this read. I always hate handing out low ratings, especially to books belonging to one of my favorite genres, but I know I wouldn’t forgive myself if I lied about my feelings. At least I can cross Theresa Maclean off the list of series I will have to finish one day…

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When Theresa MacLean is called to the scene of a murder in the suburban Cleveland, she doesn’t know her day is about to get a whole lot worse. Not only does she have to find out who bashed in the back of the skull of the man they found, she will also have to face a more difficult situation when her fiancé ends up taken hostage in a bank robbery. Theresa’s fiancé is a police detective and when he goes to the Federal Reserve Bank where the victim and his wife work, two criminals enter right after him and take the undercover cop hostage along with six others. One of the best hostage negotiators, Chris Cavanaugh, has been brought in to get everbody out safely, but the bank robbers do not seem to act like normal criminals… And Theresa is not sure she will ever see her future husband again. Will they be able to end the hostage situation without spilling any blood?

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The blurb, while not original, sounds quite interesting, which made me pick up my copy of Takeover in the first place. Unfortunately, this novel turned out nothing but a disappointment. This story is slow paced, has a weak plot and is simply boring in general. In fact, I’m still not sure why I actually finished it… The mystery/thriller genre is one of my favorites, but this book just didn’t do it for me. As you might have guessed already, I definitely wouldn’t recommend this novel.

BOOK REVIEW: Love And Other Foreign Words – by Erin McCahan

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Title: Love And Other Foreign Words
Author: Erin McCahan
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 1st 2014
Finished reading: November 25th 2015
Pages: 336
Rating 1,5qqq

“In someone else’s language, you become a visitor, a guest – sometimes a very welcome guest received with shrieks and hugs – but still always a guest. Because as soon as you stop speaking the native language of the group, you stop being one of the group. And then you’re just alone, no matter who you’re with.”

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I’m not sure if it’s because I misread the blurb, because I actually studied sociolinguistics back in Uni or because it’s simply that bad, but I was more than disappointed by Love And Other Foreign Words. I was especting a story a story about two people not understanding each other because they speak a different language, not what should be called social dialect or sociolect. I thought I would be able to connect to this story since my hubby is Argentinian and Spanish is not my native language, but I was in for an unpleasant surprise. Not only did the many erroneous sociolinguistics references bother me, I was really annoyed by the characters in general. Josie, Kate, Geoff… I’m not sure which of the three wins the prize for most irritating character, because they were all equally frustrating. I even almost came to the point to DNF this novel by Erin McCahan, which doesn’t happen often… And I only made it to the end because I let myself skim through the last hundred pages or so. Sure, the prose is easy to read and the pace is fast, but the humor felt forced and the characters are simply unbearable. You can probably already guess I wouldn’t recommend reading Love And Other Foreign Words

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Josie and her best friend Stu are gifted and not even Stu seems to fully understand her when she speaks ‘Josie’. She lives her life in translation, switching between High School, College, Friends, Boyfriends, Family and other social groups. Josie feels most comfortable with Stu and her sister Kate, but everything seems to change when Kate gets engaged to a guy that according to Josie is all wrong for Kate. She and Geoff are off to a rough start and Josie is determined to stop the wedding. Kate on the other hand is determined to prove Geoff is the one and wants Josie to change her look to to fit in with the other bridesmaids. Their discussions turn into battles and both want to win… Will Josie be able to find out what the real meaning of love is as well as sort out her own feelings?

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The work of Erin McCahan has been compared to John Green and Rainbow Rowell, but honestly I don’t see other similarities than all three authors writing (mostly) YA contemporary novels. The prose and character development Love And Other Foreign Words is nowhere close to the same level as the novels of the authors mentioned above. The main characters were simply unbearable and I came really close to just DNFing it. Josie has a horrid character and the way Kate and Geoff treated her was just despicable. I don’t like handing out low ratings, but I just couldn’t get myself to give this novel a higher rating. If you ask me, stay away from this one; there are so many great YA contemporary novels out there in the first place…

BOOK REVIEW: A Twist In The Tale – by Jeffrey Archer

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Title: A Twist In The Tale
Author: Jeffrey Archer
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Short Stories
First published: 1988
Finished reading: May 1st 2015
Pages: 320
Rating 1,5

“I shall never forget your reply. She is, you said, far better than us, if the only way you can prove your superiority is to punch her friend in the face.”

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True, I didn’t realize this was actually a collection of short stories when I started reading A Twist In The Tale. I confess I mostly picked this read because I needed to read a book that was written in the year I was born (1988). I normally don’t mind reading short stories as long as they are interesting, but in this case they were just so… Bland. Uninteresting characters, weak plot and a ‘twist’ that you can guess as soon as you started reading them. The only reason I’ve given this collection a rating higher than one star is the very last story ‘Christina Rosenthal’. Only with that story that is in fact a letter written by a Jewish guy to his father, Jeffrey Archer was able to convince me. The rest of the stories mostly left me bored or even frustrated. Basically, what I mean is that I wouldn’t recommend reading this collection, unless you skip straight to the last story. If you ask me, the rest of them aren’t worth your time.

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Jeffrey Archer introduces us to a bunch of short stories where things turn out to be different than you originally think when you start reading them. Every short story has a twist in the end that is supposed to surprise you or teach you a lesson… The stories are set all over the world and have different characters. An African finance minister trying to defend his government, a husband who thinks he committed the perfect murder, a chess champion who thinks he can play his way into a woman’s heart, a Jewish man telling his father the story of his life… All form part of this collection.

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I’m not sure if I would call A Twist Of The Tale a waste of a time, but I cannot exactly say it’s worth reading either. The characters are flat, cliche and boring in general, with the one exception of the last story. The ‘twists’ were quite easy to guess early on in the stories, and all in all it was almost a struggle to get through this collection of short stories. Only the last story, ‘Christina Rosenthal’, was interesting enough to catch my eye, but the rest I definitely wouldn’t recommend reading.

BOOK REVIEW: Evensong – by Krista Walsh

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Title: Evensong
(Meratis Trilogy #1)
Author: Krista Walsh
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
First published: January 28th 2014
Finished reading: April 18th 2015
Pages: 317
Rating 1,5

“We all feel the need to prove ourselves. Just because you lost doesn’t mean you’d decide differently next time.”

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At first glance Evensong had so much potential. An author ending up being stuck inside his own fantasy story definitely sounded like an interesting plot… Such a shame this novel by Krista Walsh didn’t live up to expectations. At all. The beginning of the story was acceptable, although I wasn’t completely convinced by the characters or prose. But when Krista Walsh decided to not simply stick to the ‘author trapped inside his fantasy novel‘ plot and introduced both a dragon, a sorcerer AND zombies into the plot, I lost all my hopes for this one. That Evensong is a huge disappointment is an understatement. The characters are flat and the prose is not convincing at all. Some of the ‘romance’ scenes even disturbing… This book just doesn’t work for me, and I don’t think I would recommend it to anyone.

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Jeff Powell is an author trying to finish one of his newest novels, but he seems to be unsure how to continue his story… Then one day he wakes up finding himself trapped inside the fictional world he himself created. Feldall is in danger, and his main characters need his help. He doesn’t know, but he doesn’t have full control of what happens in this fantasy world… The first proof being the spell they wrote to bring him there.

A dragon is tormenting the people of Feldall and he seems to be invincible… And there have been people disappearing without a trace as well. Jeff doesn’t know how to help, but since the enchantress cannot seem to perfect the spell to send him back home, he is stuck in the fictional world for now. And the main characters aren’t happy with him either. Plus, there is a new villain to be worried about that is about to unleash his powers on Feldall…

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This novel just didn’t work for me. The characters, plot, prose… All either close to ridiculous or flat and boring. When I first read the blurb of Evensong, I thought it sounded promising and the plot quite refreshing. I guess I was wrong. Another trilogy I won’t be finishing any time soon… And most likely never. I definitely wouldn’t recommend this novel, although it’s an Amazon kindle freebie in case you want to give it a try anyway. (Or at least it was when I downloaded and read it…)

BOOK REVIEW: Black Roses – by Jane Thynne

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Title: Black Roses
(Berlin Series #1)
Author: Jane Thynne
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
First published: February 2013
Finished reading: October 14th 2014
Pages: 471
Rating 1,5

“Perhaps, he thought, there was some strange satisfaction to be derived from confining savage animals here, given that the savagery outside this place was the kind that couldn’t be confined.”

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I am SO disappointed with Black Roses. I even came to the point that I was about to DNF it, and I practically NEVER leave a book unfinished. I guess I probably decided to continue because the book was a gift and it just didn’t feel right not finishing it. But it sure felt like a waste of time. I normally love historical fiction novels. Especially when they are set during or between WWI and WWII. But this novel by Jane Thynne just couldn’t convince me. Sure, it shows she investigated the topic thoroughly and I don’t think she got the facts wrong. But the characters were so cliche and boring that I just couldn’t be bothered with what happened with them. And that for an English girl who is spying on the German female Nazi elite. Not recommended, unless you need an alternative for sleeping pills…

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The story is set in the Berlin of the year 1933, and Hitler is gaining power and influence. People around Europe are becoming worried and so is the English government. The young English actress Clara Vine is not aware of the dangers of Berlin. She decides to escape to Germany to follow her acting dream and unwillingly gets involved with some of the elite Nazi wives. Among them is Magda Goebbels, and she seems to fully trust Clara. Just as the English actress doesn’t want to continue seeing the Nazi wives, she meets an undercover agent working for British intelligence. Leo sees the true potential of her ‘friendship’ with Magda and the others, and asks her to become a spy.

Clara is not convinced at all, since it will not only ask for all of her acting skills, but also means that she will have to continue dating the Nazi Officer Muller. But when she finds out that her grandmother is actually a Jew, she is determined to do whatever she can to help the British intelligence. Soon she is in more trouble than both Leo and herself would have hoped as Magda Goebbles reveals an enormous secret… Magda asks for her help, and even though Clara knows that was is asked of her is extremely dangerous, she agrees to do it. And those actions do have consequences…

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Like I said before, I expected so much more of Black Roses. The entire novel has been a huge disappointment, and I definitely don’t recommend it. There are a lot of great historical fiction novels out there, and this is not one of them. It is such a shame, since the story had so much potential…

BOOK REVIEW: No Country For Old Men – by Cormac McCarthy

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Title: No Country For Old Men
Author: Cormac McCarthy
Genre: Thriller, Crime, Western
First published: July 19th 2005
Finished reading: April 1st 2014
Pages: 309
Rating 1,5

“You think when you wake up in the mornin yesterday dont count. But yesterday is all that does count. What else is there? Your life is made out of the days it’s made out of. Nothin else. You might think you could run away and change your name and I dont know what all. Start over. And then one mornin you wake up and look at the ceilin and guess who’s layin there?”

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I must be honest and say I wasn’t planning on finishing No Country For Old Men. I actually started reading this one a few months ago, but couldn’t grow into the book and left it. The lack of punctuation, Southern dialect and too many point of views without any explanation who the characters are… It all made me just want to bury the book under a pìle of dust to be never found again. But the fact they made a very succesful movie out of it and a lot of people seem to enjoy the story made me pick it up again. I would be lying if I said I liked it, but I admit the story became a little better later on. Although now finished it, I would never touch this one again.

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The three main characters of this book are Llewelyn Moss, Anton Chigurh and Ed Tom Bell. In the beginning we don’t know who the story is really about, and it’s quite confusing. Would it be Llewelyn Moss, who found a bunch of dead Mexicans in the desert with a briefcase full of cash with them? Or is it Anton Chigurh, who is trying to get the cash back at all costs, revealing himself as a coldblooded serial killer? But no, it is Ed Tom Bell, the sheriff, who we follow in the end. Being a war veteran, he has some issues of his own, but he seems to know what he is doing. There are a lot of deaths showing up in his jurisdiction though lately, and he is trying to find out who is guilty. Both Bell and Chigurh are trying to find Moss, and Moss has even more people hunting him…The money he found was drugs-related and those people aren’t the ones you want to play with. Moss isn’t able to hide forever, but Chigurh seems a mastermind in disappearing. Will Bell ever find him?

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I guess I only finished No Country For Old Men because I literally forced myself to read it until the end. I didn’t enjoy it, and the language he used annoyed me right until the very end. It might be that he impersonated the Southern dialect perfectly, but even as a philologist I just couldn’t enjoy the story. The lack of punctuation and spelling just got on my nerves. Part of the problem was that I felt almost confused about what the story really was about and even who was talking at certain points. So all in all I would only recommend this one to my potential enemies.