Whatever I thought THE GIRL IN 6E was about, I can't begin to tell you how wrong I was. Having said that I'm also now considerably more educated aboutWhatever I thought THE GIRL IN 6E was about, I can't begin to tell you how wrong I was. Having said that I'm also now considerably more educated about the world of paid Internet sex services than I ever thought I wanted to be.
The story is told from the perspective of “Jessica Reilly” who performs virtual sex acts online (known as camming), for customers willing to pay $6.99 per minute. She works through agency websites, and her private site, and has an extensive clientele of return customers. Male and female. Straight and kinky. She's equipped to satisfy anyone's fantasies, from a bed and elaborate, very technical web-camera, equipment, toys and costume collection.
She's also a voluntary shut in who hasn't left her apartment in 3 years. Everything she needs is delivered – normally by UPS. The amount of effort she puts into her lifestyle is quite impressive, although from the outset the reasons are decidedly odd. Deanna Madden is quite convinced she will kill anyone she comes into close personal contact with. To the point where she supplies a neighbour with the illicit drugs he craves to lock her in every night.
The only person who gets close (and that's mostly “Leave It. Thank You” spoken through the door), is the UPS delivery man, who it has developed a bit of an obsession about meeting Deanna / Jessica. When he finally does, it's not quite what he was expecting and not just because of the camming.
But what do you do when you're voluntarily shut in, when you have the violent and high-risk sort of background that's slowly revealed, and a client who seems to be threatening something truly horrible?
Somewhere in the middle of the discomforting explicit sex acts, and the internal voice that obviously had a lot more to reveal, THE GIRL IN 6E became compulsive reading. The character of Deanna is strong, and whilst her voice is tempting, hinting almost teasing the reader, that sort of fits with her day job. It's very easy for the reader to feel some sympathy, just as it is to wonder where on earth this book was going.
Engaging, compelling, and inventive with really strong story telling, THE GIRL IN 6E has been revised and reworked from the original, self-published version “On Me, In Me, Dead Beneath Me”.
When Michael (Dan) Mori first appeared on our TV screens, and in print, defending David Hicks, his sincerity, and his belief in fair play always shoneWhen Michael (Dan) Mori first appeared on our TV screens, and in print, defending David Hicks, his sincerity, and his belief in fair play always shone through. As did the way that he appeared to consider his words, take care with the message he was delivering, and acted with the best will in the world to do what was right by his client. In short, he always seemed like a very impressive human being, and after reading his book, can't shake the feeling that we're lucky to have him here now in Australia.
David Hicks, and his time spent in Guantanamo Bay has been documented in the past in his own book, and one by an ABC journalist. I doubt there's an Australian who doesn't at least have some knowledge of the case, and an opinion. Regardless of whether or not your political leanings are to the left or the right though, there is always the presumption that justice, and a fair trial are part of what it means to live in a democracy. Personally I've no patience for, or understanding of, the "why do you need a defence in cases like this" argument. It's ignorant. Having now read IN THE COMPANY OF COWARDS, it's hard to be less convinced of the need for two sides in a trial, as it is hard to understand how the system of Military Commissions ever was allowed to come into being. And what our Prime Minister and Cabinet were doing supporting them.
Whilst I'd be the first to say that there's very little to admire about Howard's coalition government, and considerably more to regret, reading this book makes you realise how insidious the active disengagement process had become. Mori's own increasing despair at the unfairness of the system he was working within is palpable in this book, although at no point does this disintegrate into a rant. He's even-handed in the telling, which probably makes the nature of the system, and the way it was supported here, even more concerning.
It will not be at all surprising if likely suspects leap to with partisan political "takes" about this book, although to be frank, they are going to have to work hard at making this sound like anything more or less than what it is. An insider's view of the Military Commissions, and the treatment of a particular individual who was held without charge for an inexcusably long period of time, who was subjected to horrendous mistreatment and who was ultimately swept under the carpet into something / anything to get this mess out from under the upcoming Federal Election. Mori is, was and remains a man who comes across as a man who believes absolutely in due process. He's a Military lawyer, a man experienced in both prosecution and defence, and somebody who went on to become a Navy-Marine Corps Military Judge in Hawaii.
IN THE COMPANY OF COWARDS does not read like a point scoring exercise, a grandiose attempt to garner publicity, or even a blow by blow analysis of war policy. It's a look at a deeply, profoundly, terminally flawed system, implemented in haste, bolstered and carried by political masters, in an attempt to do what? As Mori says, the worst of the worst can be tried in the Military Court-Martial system (and were and have been since). Cautionary tale if ever there was one.
The combination of cars and girls makes absolute sense to me. Include them in a series of noir styled, dark and pointed short stories, and CARS &The combination of cars and girls makes absolute sense to me. Include them in a series of noir styled, dark and pointed short stories, and CARS & GIRLS from the Pankhurst Collective was both unexpected and an absolute pleasure to read.
Whilst the central theme of cars and girls carries through each of the stories in the collection, they are a varied bunch, in setting, style and resolution. The exciting thing though is that no punches are pulled. This is a dark and frequently violent collection, full of explicit sex and gun battles putting the central female characters in the sorts of roles normally allocated to men. And doing it seamlessly.
Given that each story has it's own particular flavour and style, there are some aspects (other than the darkness and the violence) that hold throughout. Each story is fast-paced, strong, gritty and in your face. That's not to say that anything is particularly gratuitous, it's finely balanced noir. There's tension and pace in most of them, and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing, although to be fair, the first story, 500, is of a slightly less frenetic pace, and perhaps a little more predictable than what's to come.
The collection is made up of 500 by Zoë Spencer, Road Runner by Tee Tyson, Barracuda by Madeline Harvey and Crown Victoria by Evangeline Jennings.
CARS & GIRLS definitely isn't a book for fans of traditional women protagonists. You get the distinct feeling the only use that any of these women would have for a teapot couldn't be discussed in polite society. It is, however, one for readers interested in something different, smart, stylish, and undeniably very clever.
The second book in the Nadia Tesla series, THE BOY WHO STOLE FROM THE DEAD starts out in Alaska with a sports journalist Lauren Ross in pursuit of theThe second book in the Nadia Tesla series, THE BOY WHO STOLE FROM THE DEAD starts out in Alaska with a sports journalist Lauren Ross in pursuit of the story of a mysterious young hockey player who seems to have appeared out of nowhere. He's certainly noticeable now though, having been charged with the death of a man in New York City.
From Alaska to New York City, onto Ukraine and other locations, there is a real attempt at pace and tension in THE BOY WHO STOLE FROM THE DEAD. To start out, the plot pushes forward in bursts, unfortunately getting bogged down by back-story which, presumably, harks back to events in the first book. It's a tricky prospect obviously, but, particularly in a thriller, that need to flesh out a lot of details really does slow things down, often at the wrong time. There are also a couple of dangling elements, such as the sports journalist who appears, and then strangely sort of fades away or becomes less of a focus. On the other hand, it was particularly timely to find out some of the background to Russian / Ukraine animosity.
Strangely for something with that much harking back, there were still elements to some of the characters which didn't quite seem to add up. Although I will admit that could be specific to this reader who was really struggling at points - connecting with some of these characters was elusive, and I'm not talking "like" but understand. So many things didn't make a lot of sense, not helped by the fact that I also found myself struggling with some of the dialogue which seemed very formal, stilted even.
To be fair, this could very well be a series that you absolutely must read from the start. The plot here is so intricate that keeping up with it, and working out who is who at the same time was a big undertaking. Have added the first book to the read list though, just to see if things make a bit more sense when you start at the very beginning.
Loved this idea when I first heard about it - a set of fictional adventures for a real-life movie star. And one that even I've heard of!
Making a manLoved this idea when I first heard about it - a set of fictional adventures for a real-life movie star. And one that even I've heard of!
Making a man like Lee Marvin star in these adventures obviously means that these are going to be noir stories, hard-boiled as a rock, with a dark sense of humour in some cases. Based, it seems, on events from his real life, the stories range through a varied set of scenarios, timeframes and locations, although there is a propensity for hard-drinking and dedicated womanising to show up frequently.
A collection that is obviously going to work better for fans of Marvin, it also worked well for this reader - whose knowledge of the man himself is sketchy at best. Alternatively, if you are a fan of darker, noir styled story telling, this is a clever concept that's executed very elegantly.
It's taken quite a few attempts to read CASEBOOK, it's been one of the most picked up and discarded books in the review pile for quite a while.
The ideIt's taken quite a few attempts to read CASEBOOK, it's been one of the most picked up and discarded books in the review pile for quite a while.
The idea behind it was part of the problem – a young boy eavesdropping on his family as his parent's marriage falls apart. It feels therefore like it's going to be very personal. Devastating even. Unfortunately the storytelling relies heavily on the stream-of-conscious voice of young Miles – who frankly – doesn't feel “real”. Or maybe he just doesn't feel right – too voyeuristic. Odd. Creepy. Certainly tediously addicted to the sorts of injokes that some people like to use to keep others on the outside. It's not hard to get the hint you're not part of the cool group.
Which isn't a great way to be made to feel if you're reading something. It made every paragraph, every chapter, every page a drag. Constantly being reminded of not getting the joke, by a kid that was making your skin crawl a bit, and about people that frankly were considerably more dreary than anything else. I was bored. And annoyed. The more I got so obsessed with how bored and annoyed I was, I found I was reading just to make myself more and more convinced that I was right to be bored and annoyed. About half way through I found I couldn't even remember who most of the characters were, but I was still bored. And annoyed.
So I threw in the towel on CASEBOOK about three-quarters of the way through. Which is most unusual – normally I can find something. But in this case the voice didn't work, the characters weren't interesting, likeable, identifiable or understandable and their path to salvation was definitely not heading in my direction.
A fascinating combination of historical exploration of real places and time-periods in history, and the fictional tale of two young people, THE BONE CA fascinating combination of historical exploration of real places and time-periods in history, and the fictional tale of two young people, THE BONE CHURCH, opens with the story of two fugitive lovers, whose lives are impacted by the natural death of her mother (in difficult circumstances), and the murder of his father (and their protector) by the Nazi's.
Weaving the Nazi invasion of Prague and the Cold War in Czechoslovakia into the lives of these two people provides a stark reminder of the length of impact that wars have had on that part of the world. The idea that the same two people who fled the Nazi's are still being impacted in the mid-1950's was chilling, although that is tempered by the lengths to which people who are willing to help will go. And a well judged sense of humour.
The style of storytelling is particularly interesting in THE BONE CHURCH. Whilst the main thrust is sparse, matter-of-fact and so all the more chilling, much of the atmospherics, and environment comes across as sumptuous and utterly at odds with events. Using that sparse style, the author is able to look at those events, in particular the impact of the invasion and the subsequent war on Jewish and Gypsy populations, in a clinical and precise manner, whilst weaving them into a complex plot. The way that the action ebbs and flows and shifts and spins was realistic, in particular the way that the impetus for both good and bad is often in the hands of the people who surround Felix and Magdalena. Because of that, try as they might, their path forward is twisted and frequently muddied by others. As you'd expect in that sort of scenario, everything cannot always be drawn to a tidy conclusion and the reader is left to imagine, to wonder and to ponder. An unsettling experience when the paranoia of the time is so stark.
A very assured debut, THE BONE CHURCH is a really good thriller. It is also a character study, an exploration of the human psyche, with a touch of history and a strong sense of place as well.
A review book obtained through Netgalley THE POOR MAN'S GUIDE TO SUICIDE was one of those "why not" book choices. The overview describes it as "a poweA review book obtained through Netgalley THE POOR MAN'S GUIDE TO SUICIDE was one of those "why not" book choices. The overview describes it as "a powerful, slashing, terrifying, hilarious, explosive, sarcastic, misanthropic and lyrical black comedy about losing your will to live — and possibly getting it back."
Most of which is going to be very subjective based on the reader's own experience as THE POOR MAN'S GUIDE TO SUICIDE is an interesting beast.
Laced with irony and heavy on the sarcasm, the tone of this book needs the reader to get to grips with those aspects right up front. Without that "concept" in your head, or if you're the sort of reader that can't abide that idea, then Wesley Weimer is going to be a tricky undertaking. Told in the first person, without the sarcasm prism, his viewpoint is very self-indulgent and involved, very judgemental, and frequently just plain tacky and offputting. Even with the sarcasm prism firmly in place there are aspects of the inside of this bloke's head that make you want to head straight for a shower... or for your shotgun.
Having said that, there's something that seems fundamentally truthful about this portrayal. Weimer is a man in deep depression, and because of that everybody else is fat, stupid, ugly, unnecessary or at fault. Except for when it's all his fault. Either way, it's not a pleasant concept by any means but somehow it felt honest. Cruel. Judgemental. Misanthropic. Inconsistent. Confrontational. Nasty. And honest.
Partially because of this device and the amount of time you spend deep inside the head of somebody who really does need help, there are points where the story bogs down. You can't avoid the feeling that somebody as self-indulgent as Weimer doesn't really need quite this much airtime. At points, maybe when the sly sense of humour abated a bit, this reader found herself contemplating the shower or gun a little more firmly.
And therein probably lies the other challenge with this book - readers are probably going to find this voice funny, enlightening and revealing, or profoundly annoying and deeply disturbing. Doubt there's going to be a lot of middle ground. Which always makes books like THE POOR MAN'S GUIDE TO SUICIDE an interesting prospect. Albeit one that could lead to a bit of table thumping during discussion.
Originally published in 1935, DEATH-WATCH is the fifth book in the Dr Gideon Fell series by "golden-age" writer John Dickson Carr.
After marrying an EnOriginally published in 1935, DEATH-WATCH is the fifth book in the Dr Gideon Fell series by "golden-age" writer John Dickson Carr.
After marrying an Englishwoman, Dickson moved to London, the setting for many of his novels. Referred to as one of the "Golden Age" writers of mysteries, most of the books relied on complex plots, although Dickson was a particular proponent of the "locked room" style of puzzle. Dr Gideon Fell is one of the great solvers of the seemingly impossible crime and in DEATH-WATCH he is working closely with Inspector Hadley to solve the odd mystery of the death of an undercover policeman. The house in which the policeman died is that of clockmaker Johannus Carver, who is then connected to another case - the wounding of a store detective - and the theft of jewellery and a unique watch, also connected to the house via the maker.
DEATH-WATCH really is a classic "Golden-Age" mystery, with a complex plot relying on connections and circles within circles. To say nothing of wading through a lot of red-herrings and around a lot of possible suspects. Much of the investigating relies on the keen observation of Dr Fell, who notes, sees and considers all the actions, and comments of everyone who lives in the house. Needless to say the police are there to run errands, pick up evidence and generally serve the machinations of the Great Detective.
Obviously this is old style mystery writing, so it is very wordy compared to current standards, and quite convoluted in places. There's also a decided propensity to write hysteria and oddity into just about every female character in the book - they are either prone to suspicious behaviour, over the top outbursts, mad personal affectations, or completely bland. In DEATH-WATCH this tendency seemed to be even more pronounced than normal even allowing for the time that the novel was originally written.
If you are a fan of Golden-Age mystery writing, then you might already have come across the Dr Gideon Fell novels. If they are new to you, and you can handle the wordiness and the attitude towards women then this book is perfectly readable as a starting point, or a point in the middle, or even if you're in the mood to work your way through the series from the beginning.
It's hard not to admire the bravery of an author that opts to write a crime novel in a strong, first person voice. A lot of a reader's enjoyment of thIt's hard not to admire the bravery of an author that opts to write a crime novel in a strong, first person voice. A lot of a reader's enjoyment of that novel may then be hanging on their like, or dislike, of the central character. In the case of crime reporter Syeeda McKay we have a very upfront woman, despite her recent breast cancer surgery; her on again, off again relationship with Detective Adam Sherwood; and odd friendships and encounters with old school friends.
Part of what works about McKay's voice is a hint of self-doubt, and humour. Which is particularly useful as she does seem to be prone to jumping off the deep end, straight into the mouths of sharks when it comes to her investigative technique. I suspect if her voice, and her personality is at all jarring to any reader, the number of times she seems to close her eyes, whack on the most inappropriate shoes (so to speak) and launch herself into the shark enclosure will drive you utterly bats. Somehow, luckily, for this reader, her voice worked, and whilst there were times when a good slap around the ears seemed warranted, at the same time it made sense that she'd be leading the charge of the well-intentioned but mildly daft.
Whilst elements of the plot revolve around another one of those "mad / bad / lunatic serial killer / targeting women / probably because he hates his mum or his aunt made him eat his sprouts or whatever" scenarios, NO ONE KNOWS YOU'RE HERE does manage to bring some new angles to that well raked patch. There's enough there to make you wonder whether it is the serial killer striking always, or whether there's a copycat, or even an opportunistic villain out there. And whilst we do have some concentration on the killer, there's nothing voyeuristic or uncomfortably intense about it. As McKay is the central figure, the action always comes back to her viewpoint, and she does a particularly good line in the poking a hornet's nest style of investigation, all the while dealing with her own personal issues in a rather matter-of-fact and refreshing manner. Although you do wonder what she did in a previous life as everything seems to happen to Syeeda McKay. Which leads us onto what appears to be the major downside of this book. The ending is just too unbelievable and yet somehow, sadly, very predictable.
But, even allowing for the odd wobble, if you'd like to read something which has a really strong, unique central female character then NO ONE KNOWS YOU'RE HERE has more than enough good to balance it all out. Certainly left me hoping that McKay makes another appearance.
Having not read any of the Vin Cooper series this started out as an exercise in seeing if I could catch up in a hurry. So, for newcomers to the seriesHaving not read any of the Vin Cooper series this started out as an exercise in seeing if I could catch up in a hurry. So, for newcomers to the series as well, a few points. Cooper's an interesting character in an over-the-top military style thriller. Definitely a bit of an all-action hero with the physical prowess and durability of a tank, he's also got a touch of humour about him that somehow makes him slightly less hard-boiled than you'd expect. It did, however, leave this reader with a sneaking suspicion that there could be more than just Cooper's tongue firmly planted in his cheek.
The scenario that STANDOFF puts him in is straight out of the wild ride handbook. Very very wild. Towards the end, positively lunatic. Oddly believable for a hefty portion of the plot, with only a couple of points at which the reader might be forgiven a slight sneaking doubt, particularly when it comes to motivation. Although that's really isn't all bad for this style of book.
Of course the violence is extreme, and the mayhem pretty full on. But back to the plot. Which is nicely evil to start off with, with the baddies very bad, and slightly mad; and the good guys very mad, and only sometimes bad. There's lots of twisting and turning, and some evil women who were, and then weren't, there just as sex symbols, and a reason for all the mayhem which was... well madder than most of the mad thriller type scenarios.
Which makes it all a bit hard to put into any context. On the one hand I really liked Vin Cooper. On the other I've no idea if STANDOFF's slightly weird plot is typical. Having said that, can't think of a single reason not to find out.
Books like THE GOOD NURSE aren't really designed to give you a warm and fuzzy feeling about any health service. Particularly one that seems to be motiBooks like THE GOOD NURSE aren't really designed to give you a warm and fuzzy feeling about any health service. Particularly one that seems to be motivated by profit and avoidance of lawsuits, programmed to just move a problem on, and avoid looking too hard at anything that might be slightly amiss.
This is really a chilling story, looking closely at the career (nursing and killing) of registered nurse Charlie Cullen. Particularly chilling as there was nothing merciful or even understandable about the killing spree that led Cullen to kill patients. Randomly choosing his victims, even hands off killing by injecting drugs into random, unallocated IV bags, Cullen's motivation for his actions seem to be wrapped up in his own severe psychological problems. Unfortunately Cullen himself isn't particularly forthcoming about his childhood or his background so there are points at which the narrative is at a loss, the author is at a loss, everyone is at a loss to explain why this man did what he did.
What's even less able to be explained is a medical system that refused to see what was happening. Either wilfully or stupidly, the reader is left speechless by the seemingly incomprehensible reaction of authorities, particularly once a couple of very dedicated policemen get onto his trail, and a dedicated and caring colleague steps up to assist the investigation.
To be brutally frank, whilst what Cullen was doing is horrifying, what was even more horrifying were the actions of the hospital administrators, lawyers and management who worked overtime at cover up. Their actions were criminal, and whilst it's some relief to know that some families were able to take legal action, there's absolutely no excuse, no justification, no reason on this earth that any of them should not have been hauled to account by authorities.
A GOOD NURSE is a really uncomfortable read as it's definitely truth being considerably more frightening than fiction. Whilst Cullen was ultimately convicted of a very minor number of the deaths for which he is responsible, and there is some feel good factor in the way that some dedicated policework and ethical behaviour from a single nurse prevailed, the rest of the system comes out looking underwhelming to say the least.
Obviously when you're a young ex-con you would restart your life outside using the skills that you learnt in jail. It made enormous sense that young eObviously when you're a young ex-con you would restart your life outside using the skills that you learnt in jail. It made enormous sense that young ex-con Brendan Lavin would start a bakery under those circumstances. It also made sense that because the bakery is struggling to survive he'd be convinced to get back into the old gang for just one big job. Which goes, of course, pear-shaped. So of course he'd flee New York City and head for Shanghai...
Okay so that last bit had me a little confused. It's not the immediate path you'd imagine. And it's a real testament to TOMORROW CITY that up until Lavin starts setting up another bakery in Shanghai, well into his life in the Chinese city that I suddenly thought.. what the. It was probably about the time that his ex-gang mates started showing up in Shanghai. Mind you, the thought was easy to bury. Too busy following things as they moved at a rapid pace into more pear-shaped carry-on only this time in China.
It helps that Lavin is a really great central character, flawed but well-meaning, hard-working and only dragged back to the dark side of life with regret. Of course it also helps that the gang mates aren't so well-meaning, their ruthlessness is as stark as Lavin's conflict.
It's a wild ride at points, with some in your face violence and, courtesy of the gang, some breathtaking lack of concern for others in the world. Not so Lavin who somehow remains very human, very believable and very vulnerable. Sure he escapes the mess he gets into in Shanghai but at what cost. Maybe he can start all over again. But at what cost. I hope we find out in a subsequent book.
NOAH'S RAINY DAY is the fourth novel in the Liv Bergen series, although it's the first I've come across. Which could be quite a large part of my problNOAH'S RAINY DAY is the fourth novel in the Liv Bergen series, although it's the first I've come across. Which could be quite a large part of my problem - I really could not work out who was who and what was going on. Was truly lost, and slightly baffled for the entire book.
The character of Noah is obviously carefully crafted to tug at the heart strings, as well as provide somebody to really barrack for. Even the bloodhound Beulah is a strong character, much stronger than the central character, Bergen, whose voice seemed strangely wishy washy. That wasn't helped at all by the fact that there is obviously a lot of back story to Bergen, her family (I lost track of who was who) and what connection there was somewhere between the missing boy's family and Bergen's family. Actually that's not true, I really couldn't see the point of it. But there's also the enigmatic lover Jack (who seemed a rather standoffish sort of a bloke for a "lover"), and the rather "convenient" element of having a kidnapped boy held in the house next door to Noah. To say nothing of senior officers stomping around on crime scenes, and some rather baffling flummoxing around by the investigation team.
NOAH'S RAINY DAY is probably one of those books that, if you've read the earlier ones in the series, works for you. It's also seemingly a series designed to give people somebody to really barrack for (assuming Noah, although Bergen's probably got her cheer-squad as well). To be honest I never really connected with any of them - and spent most of the book feeling somewhat like I'd shown up at a party in fancy dress, when that idea had been dropped by the hosts weeks ago.