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
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“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!

BOOK REVIEW: City Of Ashes – by Cassandra Clare

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Title: City Of Ashes
(The Mortal Instruments #2)
Author: Cassandra Clare
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: March 25th 2008
Finished reading: May 22nd 2015
Pages: 453
Rating 3

“I don’t want to be a man,” said Jace. “I want to be an angst-ridden teenager who can’t confront his own inner demons and takes it out verbally on other people instead.”
“Well,” said Luke, “you’re doing a fantastic job.”

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While I was reading City Of Ashes I couldn’t stop asking myself: how many love triangles does a story need? Seriously, there are so many different love triangles in this second book of The Mortal Instruments series that it’s becoming ridiculous. And I’m not even talking about what is going on between Jace and Clary… THAT is just seriously messed up.. Sure, the story has a fast pace and Cassandra Clare is using a prose that is easy to read and even funny at times. But I’m having serious difficulties with some of the characters and their behavior. I won’t be going into details to avoid spoilers, but those who’ve read this sequel already will probably understand what I’m talking about. There are quite a few plot twists and while some are quite interesting, others are plain cheesy. I already have a copy of the next two books on my TBR shelf, but I’m not so sure I will actually continue this series any time soon…

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read City Of Bones yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

After all that happened, Clary just wants her normal life back. But that is not as easy as it seems, because the Shadowhunter world doesn’t seem to be done with her. With her mother in the hospital with a coma, Luke being a werewolf and her newfound brother Jace being a Shadowhunter, things are just not that easy. Besides, Valentine is still out there planning something evil and he isn’t going to stop until he finished whatever he is trying to do. It’s up to the Shadowhunters to stop him before it’s too late… And they are trying to solve the Downworlder children murders as well. Who can they really trust and will they be able to win the fight against Valentine?

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I actually liked the prequel trilogy The Infernal Devices way better and I don’t think I will continue The Mortal Instruments series any time soon. I found the characters and their actions really annoying and I don’t think I can take any more love triangles for now. I’m not saying this is a bad read and it’s actually quite well written and funny at points, but I think there are way better YA fantasy series out there that I would prefer reading instead. This one turned out to be too much of a cheesy romance novel for my taste…

BOOK REVIEW: Paper Towns – by John Green

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Title: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: October 1st 2008
Finished reading: January 22nd 2015
Pages: 305
Rating 3,5

“It is so hard to leave—until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.”

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Paper Towns is my third John Green read in less than a year, and I think it is about time to ‘de-Green’ and put his other titles on my TBR pile on hold for now. Don’t get me wrong; I have enjoyed both The Fault In Our Stars and Looking For Alaska previously and now Paper Towns as well. But I have no other choice than agreeing with those who say there are many similarities between his books. I’m not saying that is necessarily a bad thing, but it does kinda lead to a John Green overdose. Like when you eat so many homemade brownies you actually feel sick… And I do love brownies. No doubt the way John Green is able to write teenage dialogue is simply brilliant. I didn’t necessarily like the main characters, but their personalities and the way they interacted just worked. The literary quotes were a nice touch and I’m definitely going to check out the work of Walt Whitman in the future. In short: the prose is interesting, the dialogue brilliant and while the characters are not exactly likeable, you want to continue reading anyway.

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Quentin Jacobsen and Margo Roth Spiegelman had two things in common: they are neighbors and they discovered the body of a man who committed suicide when they were younger. They used to be friends, but that didn’t last through high school. As they are about to graduate, she suddenly appears at his bedroom window one night. Dressed like a ninja, Margo tells Quentin she has chosen him as the get-away driver in a series of well-planned revenge attacks on some of her friends and former-boyfriend. Quentin has no other option than follow her, and he ends up having the night of his life.

The next day Quentin discovers Margo is not at school. It is not the first time she disappears for a few days so they don’t think too much of it. But when she doesn’t show up for quite a few days, Quentin starts to worry. He finds out that Margo left some clues behind that can possibly lead to her hiding place, but they are not that easy to understand… And while others give up and try to move on with their life, Quentin doesn’t stop looking. Will he be able to understand the clues and Margo herself for that matter?

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The teenage dialogue is hands down the best part of Paper Towns. The way the different characters interact is simply brilliant and at times even hilarious. John Green is able to mix humor with more serious messages and poetry without it becoming boring, which is a gift. I wasn’t able to connect to all the characters, but I think in this case the rest of the book makes up for it. Paper Towns is definitely recommended, but if you have read other books by him in the near past it might be better to wait a bit before reading this one. Maybe just before the movie comes out in June?

BOOK REVIEW: Testimony – by Anita Shreve

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Title: Testimony
Author: Anita Shreve
Genre: Contemporary, Drama, Fiction
First published: October 21st 2008
Finished reading: July 23rd 2014
Pages: 352
Rating 2,5

“I could go to jail, I could stand the humiliation, I could even let my father hit me if he wanted to, but I couldn’t bear to look into your eyes and see the tape running, I just couldn’t.”

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Testimony is divided into many chapters in which perspective changes with every chapter. That way, Anita Shreve introduces us to many characters and their testimonies of the events around the scandal. The amount of characters is sometimes confusing and the writing not that great, and it is clear is that some are only used to ‘fill’ the story. The main characters are Silas and his girlfriend Noelle, Rob, J. Dot and the headmaster Mike. Or at least those characters have some dept… On a side note, the way the fourteen year old girl who changed her name into Sienna is described and acts is actually quite irritating, and I couldn’t feel sorry for her at all. Which is strange for a supposedly victim of sexual assault. Or maybe things weren’t as she told everybody that happened, and she was lying to keep out of trouble… Either way, this novel just didn’t do it for me.

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A time bomb is about to go off in a small community. A tape is found where four members of the Avery Academy are involved in a sex scandal. The tape incriminates three 18 and 19 year old teenagers (two of them respected and one of them even a local) and shows they were together with a fourteen year old girl… The headmaster tries to maintain the disaster by keeping the news within the boarding school’s walls, but the news leaks out as the girl’s parents go to the police. Soon the boys, headmaster and the whole school are under attack, and the small town bulges under the weight of hundreds of reporters trying to get their exclusive. 

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The general story and message of Testimony is interesting. It shows us that a few hours of drunken actions can turn many lifes upside down. That a person has the power to change and destroy the future of others and that actions sometimes have terrible consequences. In short you could say the idea is there and it could have been a great novel. It’s just that the execution of that idea is done poorly. Some of the characters are actually quite flat and the writing lacked creativity and was at times even annoying. This book could have been so much more… If only written in a different way. Only recommended if you like boarding school scandals, a little bit of drama and don’t mind a somewhat shaky writing style and characters.

BOOK REVIEW: The Appeal – by John Grisham

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Title: The Appeal
Author: John Grisham
Genre: Mystery, Legal Thriller, Crime
First published: January 29th 2008
Finished reading: May 6th 2014
Pages: 484
Rating 2

“The Senator did not know who owned the jet, nor had he ever met Mr. Trudeau, which in most cultures would seem odd since Rudd had taken so much money from the man. But in Washington, money arrives through a myriad of strange and nebulous conduits. Often those taking it have only a vague idea of where it’s coming from; often they have no clue. In most democracies, the transference of so much cash would be considered outright corruption, but in Washington the corruption has been legalized. Senator Rudd didn’t know and didn’t care that he was owned by other people.”

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I usually enjoy books written by John Grisham. Why do I say usually? Because this one disappointed me. Big time. The end just made me want to throw my mobile (e-book) against the wall, which would have been painful (and expensive). I’m not sure what he was thinking, but it looked more like a political statement  than the typical legal thriller. And I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling this way. It’s really a shame since I’m used to Grisham writing solid stories, but now I’m not so certain anymore… I’ll pick up the next book with great caution for sure.

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The story is about a big company situated in Mississippi dumping toxic waste close to a small town’s water supply, and therefore after a few years turning it into a town suffering from cancer, death and undrinkable water. The company tries to hide the evidence and moves its business elsewhere, but they cannot escape justice… Or can they? There is a big line of people wanting to sue the company, the first in line being the poor Jeanette who lost her husband and little boy to cancer. A small law firm owned by the Paytons is taking the case, almost bankrupting them in the process. Surprisingly they win the case, but the enormous 41 million verdict is worth nothing as the company directly appeals.

The owner of the company feels the Mississippi Supreme Court isn’t friendly enough, and he decides to buy a seat in order to save his company. We then see a election race between the supposedly liberal acting Justice and a new conservative and unsuspecting candidate named Ron Fisk. Fisk is being modelled into the perfect candidate, supported by and supplied for by big business. You can say they almost brainwash him into thinking whatever they want, and Fisk doesn’t even suspect anything… After a lot of mud throwing he wins the race, and even a terrible accident insolving his son cannot change the way he feels he has to act… And he does the unthinkable.

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Like I said before, the ending completely ruined The Appeal for me. The story itself wasn’t that bad, although Grisham was too political for my taste in some of the opinions expressed in this novel. All in all this definitely belongs to his best work and I would recommend picking up a different title if you want to read his work; he has plenty of books to choose from.