DNF REVIEW: Careless In Red – by Elizabeth George

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Title: Careless In Red
(Inspector Lynley #15)
Author: Elizabeth George
Genre: Mystery, Fiction, Crime
First published: 2008
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Finished reading: August 30th 2016
Pages: 568
DNF at page 80
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WARNING: upopopular opinion ahead!! Honestly, I’ve tried. I think this is only the second or third book I have ever DNFed and I still feel a bit guilty for doing so… I must have started reading Careless In Red at least four or five times before over the last two years, but I just can’t bring myself to keep reading. There are too many storylines and the pace is slower than a sleeping snail. On top of that the descriptions are superlong, dull and the story itself just doesn’t grab my attention either. It’s honestly a shame because this book belongs to one of my favorite genres… And I’m aware Careless In Red is actually book nr. 15 in a series, but after this sample I don’t think I want to read the first book after all. I know a lot of people seem to enjoy this series, but it definitely isn’t for me.

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Detective Superintendent Thomas Lynley retreated to Cornwall after his wife was murdered. There he spends six solitary weeks hiking the coastline, but he cannot seem to escape his memories. On the forty-third day of his walk, Lynley discovers the body of a young man who seems to have fallen to his death. He has no choice but to abandon his solitary life and has to ask for reinforcements. While the closest town seems to be an unlikely place for murder, it soon becomes clear that a killer is indeed at work. And this time, Lynley is not a detective but a witness, and even a possible suspect…

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I always enjoy reading a good mystery/detective story, but somehow I never managed to read but a few pages at the time of this fifteenth book in the Inspector Lynley series. The pace is so slow and the descriptions are so long that it’s really hard to stay focused, and I also found that it had way too many storylines going on. That said, I’ve only managed to read the first 80 pages, so things might improve later on. I guess I will never know…

BOOK REVIEW: Suicide Notes – by Michael Thomas Ford

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Title: Suicide Notes
Author: Michael Thomas Ford
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
First published: October 14th 2008
Finished reading: April 13th 2016
Pages: 295
Rating 3,5qqq

“I’m still kind of a mess. But I think we all are. No one’s got it all together. I don’t think you ever do get it totally together. Probably if you did manage to do it you’d spontaneously combust. I think that’s a law of nature. If you ever manage to become perfect, you have to die instantly before you ruin things for everyone else.”

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Suicide Notes is not the first book I’ve read that uses an interesting mix of humor and a serious theme like mental ilness and (teenage) suicide and therefore its plot is not exactly original. In fact, both It’s Kind Of A Funny Story and The Shock Of The Fall use quite a similar setting with a main character inside a psychiatric ward and if I have to be honest I feel those two books mentioned above did a better job especially when it comes to character development and credibility in general. (I’m aware the second title was published years after Suicide Notes, but that doesn’t take away the fact that I think it was better). I want to make clear that I am by no means saying this novel by Michael Thomas Ford was a bad read and I mostly enjoyed reading it, but I did have a few minor problems with it that influenced the rating. First of all, I wasn’t completely convinced by the credibility of the characters and their (lack of) development of both the main character Jeff and the other patients. Also, I’m not sure I appreciate some of the mental ilness, suicide and glbt related humor used during this story. Not only can some of it be found offensive (especially the glbt related parts), I also thought the humor felt forced at points… I do agree the pace is fast and the story is easy to read even though it’s about such a serious theme. I would probably have given it a higher rating if it wouldn’t have been for the last part… I won’t go into details to avoid spoilers, but it has something to do with the glbt theme that I found slightly offensive and the (sort of) love triangle was somewhat annoying as well.

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When fifteen-year-old Jeff wakes up on New Year’s Day, he finds himself inside the psychiatric ward. Even though he doesn’t really remember what happened the other day, someone clearly made a huge mistake when they brought him to the ward… Jeff is determined to leave as soon as possible, claiming he doesn’t belong there along with the ‘nutjobs’. But what about the bandages on his wrists and the notes on his chart? Jeff doesn’t see what the big deal is about what happened, but other people do seem to be worried about him. It turns out Jeff is part of a forty-five-day program and won’t be able to leave early even though he thinks he is perfectly fine and ‘normal’. But as the days go by, the ‘crazies’ start to seem less crazy and Jeff slowly starts to accept what happened to him…

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Suicide Notes is without doubt an interesting read with a fast pace and a healthy dose of humor to lighten up the serious theme. Still, I do believe there are better books out there with a similar plot. And although I enjoyed reading this novel in general, the characters were not always completely credible and I wasn’t always completely convinced by the humor either. The glbt related parts were probably my least favorite and sometimes even slightly offensive and cliché… But otherwise it is still worth reading if you are interested in the theme.

BOOK REVIEW: Confessions – by Kanae Minato

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Title: Confessions
Author: Kanae Minato
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: August 5th 2008
Finished reading: January 28th 2016
Pages: 240
(Originally written in Japanese: “告白”)
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“The world you live in is much bigger than that. If the place in which you find yourself is too painful, I say you should be free to seek another, less painful place of refuge. There is no shame in seeking a safe place. I want you to believe that somewhere in this wide world there is a place for you, a safe haven.”

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I always like reading foreign literature, both books written in foreign languages and stories set in different countries. I have a thing for languages and love traveling, and when I saw the English translation of Confessions by Kanae Minato I thought it was the perfect way to introduce myself further to the Japanese literature. This read is without doubt both intriguing, disturbing and dark at the same time. It took me a while to get into the story, but as soon as I started the second chapter (and confession), I was hooked. The story is told in the form of a bunch of confessions of different characters that play a role in the circumstances around the death of Yuko’s daughter Manami. Like I said, the first confession (told by Yuko herself) wasn’t the best, but the other confessions made up for it. Kanae Minato found a perfect way to build tension in her story and I definitely really didn’t see the ending coming. The characters and their development are intriguing and once you get used to the writing style it’s hard to stop reading. Through the voices of Yuko (the teacher), Mizuki (one of the classmates), Naoki’s mother, Naoki and Shuya you slowly get an idea of what really happened and trust me, you will be surprised in the ending. Recommended if you like the genre!

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Yuko Moriguchi ended up raising her daughter alone after her engagement was broken off because her fiancee discovered he had a terminal disease. She is a middle school teacher and she seems to have adapted her life good enough, until the unfortunate day she brings her young daughter to the school she teaches again. Manami has an accident on the grounds of the middle school and drowns in the pool. It is declared an accident, but Yuko knows better… And she is determined to make those responsible pay. Yuko resigns as a teacher, but not before telling her class first the story of what she thinks really happened that day and afterwards that she gave the two classmates responsible for her daughter’s death milk mixed with the infected blood of Manami’s father… Telling them that they will be sick as well.  What will happen to the two classmates and will Yuko find her revenge?

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I’ve kept the summary short to avoid any spoilers, because Confessions has some crazy plot twists and an ending you most likely won’t see coming. It is a dark and disturbing read that will definitely leave you wanting for a light read afterwards… But if you don’t mind reading shocking but intriguing confessions, I would definitely recommend this novel by Kanae Minato. It may take some time to get a feel for the story, but it is worth the try!

BOOK REVIEW: Let It Snow – by Maureen Johnson, John Green and Lauren Myracle

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Title: Let It Snow
Authors: Maureen Johnson, John Green, Lauren Myracle
Genre: YA, Romance, Contemporary
First published: October 2nd 2008
Finished reading: December 24th 2015
Pages: 352
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“Once you think a thought, it is extremely difficult to unthink it.”

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You know you’re terribly behind with your reviews if you have to review a Christmas themed read in January… Sigh. That said, it took me a long time to actually finish the three stories in Let It Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green and Lauren Myracle. The main problem with the first story was that I wasn’t exactly in the mood for this kind of read when I first picked up Let It Snow. The result: me being annoyed with Jubilee and a story so sweet it was giving me a tootache. The second time around I actually ended up enjoying The Jubilee Express, and it is my favorite of the three stories. (3.5 stars)  The second story, A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle, is a typical John Green story and unfortunately not one of my favorites. It almost felt like he was trying too hard to be funny and the whole cheerleader thing was really getting on my nerves… (3 stars) Things got worse though with the last story: The Patron Saint Of Pigs. That one is without doubt my least favorite of the stories and I REALLY disliked the main characters. (low 2.5 stars). I did appreciate the fact that all the stories are kind of connected with each other and I guess it is a pretty good Holiday themed read. But if I have to be honest, I would only recommend reading Maureen Johnson‘s (the first) story.

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In three different short stories written by Maureen Johnson, John Green and Lauren Myracle we read about the adventures of three different groups of teenagers after a storm on Christmas Eve buries the residents of Gracetown under multiple feet of snow. In the first, Jubilee has to travel to her grandparents after her parents were arrested in a very embarrassing incident. A storm takes her train by surprise and she ends up stranded in Gracetown with the rest of the train passengers… She braves the storm to a still open Waffle House and the rest soon follow. Soon various lives will be changed forever… Three friends also try to reach the Waffle House that night in a race. Whoever gets there first can stay and hang out with a group of cheerleaders that is also on the train. And more importantly, eat hash browns. Also the fate of a teacup pig will depend on a girl that can only seem to think about herself… And that is even more troublesome since she is currently very much lovesick after her (ex)boyfriend stood her up.

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Like I said above, I liked the fact that all stories were connected. Unlike with other short story bundles, this one almost felt like one big story. And I say almost, because you could see obvious quality difference between them. The first one is almost too sweet, but very well written and I actually liked the cliche ending. The John Green story was quite a disappointment and the constant repetition of the cheerleaders’ presence became seriously annoying. The last story was the worst; the main problem being the horrible main character. In short: what started off as a promising collection ended up getting worse as I continued reading… And I stick with my opinion that I only would recommend the first story.

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
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“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: The Tales Of Beedle The Bard – by J.K. Rowling

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Title: The Tales Of Beedle The Bard
Author: J.K. Rowling
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Fiction, Short Stories
First published: December 4th 2008
Finished reading: September 11th 2015
Pages: 109
Rating 3,5qqq

“The heroes and heroines who triumph in his stories are not those with the most powerful magic, but rather those who demonstrate the most kindness, common sense and ingenuity.”

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Those who follow my blog will know that the Harry Potter series was one of my favorite reads when I was growing up and I still love rereading them whenever I have the chance. I’ ve read some of the novellas as well, but somehow I’ve never read The Tales Of Beedle The Bard before. While it still shows that J.K. Rowling is behind the short stories, I didn’t think they were as good as the main series. Sure, they are entertaining enough and I enjoyed reading Dumbledore’s commentary, but they didn’t reach the same level as the actual books. If you are a Harry Potter fan and cannot get enough of the series, you will most likely enjoy this short and fast read though.

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The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a collection of short fairy tales set in the wizard world of Harry Potter and his friends. The collection is famous among wizards and parents have been telling them to their children during centuries. Hermione Granger has newly translated them from the ancient runes and an extensive commentary by Albus Dumbledore has been added. “The Wizard and the Hopping Pot”, “The Fountain of Fair Fortune”, “The Warlock’s Hairy Heart”, “Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump” and the famous “The Tale of the Three Brothers”; they are all included in this collection.

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The Tales Of Beedle The Bard is basically a collection of the wizard version of a few old fairy tales. Professor Dumbledore gives his commentary after each story, although it tells little new for those who have already finished the series. I understand why J.K. Rowling would have published this novella (millions and millions of us have probably bought it over the years), but I wish she would have written more fairy tales or given us more details of what happens to the main characters… Although that would probably never happen. Nevertheless if you enjoyed the Harry Potter series and don’t want to say goodbye to their magical world just yet, this might be an entertaining read for you.

BOOK REVIEW: The Knife Of Never Letting Go – by Patrick Ness

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Title: The Knife Of Never Letting Go
(Chaos Walking #1)
Author: Patrick Ness
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopia
First published: May 5th 2008
Finished reading: August 15th 2015
Pages: 479
Rating 4

“War is like a monster,” he says, almost to himself. “War is the devil. It starts and it consumes and it grows and grows and grows.” He’s looking at me now. “And otherwise normal men become monsters, too.”

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I’ve had the Chaos Walking trilogy on my TBR for ages and I still don’t know why I haven’t started it sooner. The first book The Knife Of Never Letting Go is without doubt a very entertaining read. The dystopian world Patrick Ness created is quite interesting and the main character Todd and his talking dog Manchee really made the story into something special. The only real problem I had was with some of the ‘slang’ used; even after finishing the first book I still don’t have the feeling it really adds something to the story. I enjoyed Patrick Ness‘ prose in general, but I definitely struggled to understand some of the strange word alterations in the beginning (conversayshun, informayshun, direkshun etc. etc.) It just gets weird when too many of these kind of words are used together on one page. The rest of the story makes up for it though! Although the ending did have a big cliffhanger… Which is kind of frustrating since I don’t have a copy of the sequel yet.

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Todd and his dog Manchee live in a dystopian world where everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in a never-ending stream of Noise. There are only men left in Prentisstown after all the women supposedly died of the disease, and things are getting out of control… Todd is the only ‘boy’ left; he will be the last to turn into a man on his birthday next month. Not only humans suffer from the noise; Todd can hear the thoughts of other animals including his own dog as well. One day when Todd is collecting apples, he stumbles upon an area of complete silence. Todd wants to investigate and soon finds out Prentisstown is hiding a terrible secret… And he will have to run for his life to escape his fate.

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The Knife Of Never Letting Go is the very entertaining first part of a story that without doubt will become even more interesting in the sequels. I guess that in this case the main characters made this book into something special and I can’t wait to find out what happens next! I had some minor problems with the prose and the cliffhanger ending, but the rest of the story is good enough to make you forget all about it. Recommended!