Quick take: The story of Hughes’ rise to fame, descent into total drug addiction and eve...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought
2.5 stars actually
Quick take: The story of Hughes’ rise to fame, descent into total drug addiction and eventual recovery.
Description: Glen Hughes joined the English rock band Deep Purple when they were at their peak. He was a highly talented singer, songwriter and bassist and had previously spent six years in the band Trapeze, but as part of Deep Purple he immediately achieved worldwide fame. After two years Deep Purple split up and Hughes then went on to make a lot of music with a string of bands and as a solo artist, in addition to being a session musician on a long list of recordings by other artists.
The book tells the story of Hughes musical career and his relationships with many people in the music industry, both famous and not so famous. It also describes in some detail the lurid lifestyles led by many successful people in the industry. But the main focus on the book is on his introduction to drugs, his subsequent addiction, his chaotic descent into a personal (and professional) hell, and his eventual return to sobriety and relative normality. He pulls no punches in describing what it is like to be a drug addict and the impact it had on himself and all those around him.
The book is liberally laced with quotes from a great range of people who have come into contact with Hughes throughout his life and career.
John’s thoughts: I loved (and still do love) a lot Deep Purple’s music, so I was a very happy camper when Shellie presented me with this book. I read with great interest the content relating to music, musicians and bands. It was interesting to read about who he interacted with and to find out more about some key people in the music scene.
What wasn’t so interesting was the drug-related content. I soon tired of reading about drug dealers, users, addicts and the impact of addiction. It is obviously important content, and telling that story is no doubt one of the big reasons why Hughes created this book, but reading about someone totally screwing up their lives and often being a jerk while doing it just isn’t a lot of fun. Plaudits to Hughes for finally getting his act together, getting clean and recreating his life, and I admire his brutal honesty in telling the tale. I just lost a bit of interest half way through the book.
It didn’t help that the autobiography wasn’t very well put together. It jumped around a lot and contained loads of snippets that just seemed to be patched together. Things didn’t really flow smoothly.
I’d recommend this book for any big fans of Deep Purple or Hughes’ other music, and it would also be a good read for anyone wanting to learn more about the perils of drug use and the travails of an addict. Unfortunately it left me a little cold. I’d rate this book 2.5 stars. (less)
An atmospheric mystery with a moody setting that questions the connections behind a missing mother and a...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
An atmospheric mystery with a moody setting that questions the connections behind a missing mother and a murder.
Description: Set in the Ozark mountains, the story starts with a local photographer discovering the mutilated body of a mentally disabled young women at the base of a tree. Just eighteen years old, Cheri’s death disturbs the small close-knit community and particularly Lucy, who was a friend to Cheri and whose mother had gone missing when she was a small child. In the back of Lucy’s mind she cannot help but connect the two losses and becomes determined to find out more about both. What this determined young woman finds is disturbing and unexpected.
A convoluted, dark, coming-of-age story that is told in alternating chapters from the main character Lucy and her mother Lila, while also bringing in the perspective of the other key characters from the story as the book progresses. It unfolds piece by piece, slowly revealing what happened, with a shocking ending that questions the strength of the bonds between family members.
Shellie’s thoughts: The story has the perfect setting for a thrilling read. It’s a place with forested land and a large cave with a dangerous passageway that plays a significant part in the story. The small close-knit community that does not take well to strangers also contributes to the isolation and dark feeling that pervades the novel.
An excellent and accessible read with writing that flows, this is for the reader who likes thrilling stories that keep you guessing and engaged. It’s for readers who enjoy realistic settings since it does not contain any paranormal elements. And it’s definitely for fans of horror, as it has violent scenes as well as a variety of other mature themes. So it’s not for sensitive readers. And if you enjoy themes that highlights human darkness then this will be a great book for you.
Conversely, there is a small amount of romance which lightens the story a tad. And with it’s spunky 17 year old main character it will appeal to readers who like feisty female leads. The story will speak to women in particular since most of the main characters are female and it also addresses women’s issues. But I think many men will enjoy it too. This is a recommended read and a great debut from a promising new author who is one to watch out for. Highly recommended at 4 stars.(less)
A book that goes back in time and sets the foundation for the popular “Repairma...moreOriginal review by John posted at Layers of Thought.
2.5 stars actually.
A book that goes back in time and sets the foundation for the popular “Repairman Jack” series of novels. He is the “urban mercenary” and fix-it man who helps victimized people that have nowhere else to turn.
About: Jack is a 21 year old college dropout who decides to sever all home and family ties and move to New York City. With absolutely no personal documentation or links to his past life, he moves “off the grid” and leads a solitary and hard-working life, being paid in cash and using only cash to live on. While initially working with a group of Latinos as a gardener, inevitably he ends up taking on some dodgy jobs – not hard-core crime but definitely not legal either.
Through a growing reputation for reliability and trustworthiness, he builds up a core of contacts who find him useful and who may be able to help him. Some might even become friends. But living life on the edge of society, he also comes across many unscrupulous and dangerous people.
In no time he encounters (or becomes embroiled with) interstate smugglers, a child slavery ring, a group of dangerous jihadists, the mob, a vengeful con-man and a pair of ruthless vigilantes – some of whom Jack aggravates. While already blessed with wits and plenty of “street smarts”, he has to learn quickly from some of his new-found friends and contacts in order to stay one step ahead of his new enemies.
John’s thoughts: This is a fun, action-oriented piece of escapism. A few bits of the plot and some of the characters aren’t very believable, but it doesn’t really matter in a story like this.
However - annoyingly, the jacket describes this as a novel and it isn’t; it is a partial novel. After reading 360 pages you find out that nothing is answered, nothing has become clear, and you have to read more books in the series in order to reach any sort of conclusion. Very frustrating. When I read a book that is clearly part of a series, I do expect there to be some loose ends or hooks that can provide a foundation for future stories, but I also expect the book to be reasonably coherent and to stand on its own. This one does not.
So I can’t tell you about how cleverly multiple plot threads are brought together or how the story builds to an exciting climax, because I don’t know. Which is a shame, because the Jack character is interesting and the story pulls you along at a good pace. I blew through the 360 pages in no time at all and was looking forward to seeing how everything turned out.
Given that I have no idea how anything ends up, I can only rate the book 2.5 stars. It’s definitely one for existing Repairman Jack aficionados, or for people who like the sound of the character and are prepared to invest their time in a lengthy series of books. (less)
Shellie’s quick take:A retelling of the Gothic classic Jane Eyre - it’s a special young-adult novel featu...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
Shellie’s quick take:A retelling of the Gothic classic Jane Eyre - it’s a special young-adult novel featuring snippets of Victorian genre classics at the beginning of each chapter. It also spotlights significant and current issues present in young women’s lives – such as romance, self esteem, drug abuse, violence - all in a readable, atmospheric story with a different type of vampire, and a sweet mythic thread.
Shellie’s description: “Mousy girl” is Jane William’s nickname. She is from the lower-class and violence-ridden town called Helmsdale - or “Hellsdale” as they term it. Jane is an orphan and once ward of the state, who has lived in foster homes since she was 6 years old and remembers nothing of her previous life because of an accident. Although Jane’s life is not easy she has a stubborn tenacity, clinging to a belief that studying and getting high marks in school are her way out of the troubled and rough town - where the norm is drug addiction, prostitution, violence, and where the most ruthless males control the streets.
As a result of her good grades Jane receives an all expense paid scholarship to the exclusive and very wealthy boarding school “Birch Grove Academy”. Arriving at the school Jane is overwhelmed by her own little cottage, an expense account, and new clothes to replace the used hand-me-downs she’s become accustomed too. And just a few days after arriving, the school’s poised head mistress Mrs. Radcliff invites Jane to dinner. There Jane meets the Radcliffs’ model gorgeous son, Lucian, and their other son Jacob who is a down-to-earth musician, and not quite as cute as his brother. Jane is blatantly smitten with Lucian and annoyed by Jacob. But as are most things that appear just a little too wonderful - all is not as it seems. And this is only the beginning of the story, which is an intriguing retelling of the Gothic classic - Jane Eyre.
Shellie’s thoughts: First off, this is a physically gorgeous book. It’s a small easy-to-handle hardbound book which has a moody dark cover with a slightly metallic shine – so it glows gently. It has a stylish interior layout with Gothic themed print and decorations giving this a book a flavor that would make it a special gift for someone. Best yet is that beyond the surface it’s jam-packed with layers of wonderful stuff.
The most stand-out element is that Marta Acosta includes an intriguing trope where quotes from 100 plus year old Gothic literature are included at the beginning of each chapter. Each snippet has a significant meaning for the chapter. The quotes pull the reader into its classic writing, creating a desire to research the works that are highlighted (or at least it did for me!) Marta Acosta uses examples from authors such as Eliza Parsons, the Bronte Sisters, Henry James, Charles Dickens, Ann Radcliff, J. Sheridan Le Fanu and more. With 37 chapters and an epilogue there are loads of quotes to ponder and to “Google”.
The book also has multi-layered themes twisted to especially suit teens, containing many important elements and issues. For example, it has unique and well developed characters, great romance, a setting near San Francisco (gotta love that, since it’s my home), a “mythic” theme, and an interesting take on vampire mythology. More importantly, it also examines science, art, family, love, abuse, race and class issues (all important for everyone to think about.)
I listened to Dark Companion in audio (as well as read bits) where it features a realistic enactment from its talented reader - Kate Reading. But what I liked best was that Dark Companion is a story dealing with very real life issues that many teens face. I am also a big fan of Gothic novels - the more I read them the more I enjoy them and the deeper I go. Let’s hope this book works the same magic on its younger readers as it did on me. A splendid retelling that I recommend for teachers to give to students, for parents/adults to give to teens, and to be read in groups for discussion. It’s a 4.5 stars for me, and highly recommended.(less)
A tragic page turning story that has madness, and themes of water and fire at its core...more3.5 stars actually. Original review posted at Layers of Thought.
A tragic page turning story that has madness, and themes of water and fire at its core.
About: This is the second version of Vincent Zandri’s award nominated story first published in 1995. It’s a heartbreaking thriller with a broken main character named Mary Kismet. She has a family history of mental illness, her first baby drowned accidently in the household bathtub and her husband has subsequently left her. As she struggles to keep herself together, her only solace is her weekly visit to her psychiatrist, who has overstepped his professional boundaries. But he too has his secrets, which he is unable to share. The question is: will it take Mary over the edge?
Thoughts: The above is the first part of a heart-stopping story which although interspersed with some happier moments spirals down, becoming more convoluted until its heartbreaking ending. Told in an unusual writing style, Zandri is both down to earth and unique in his word usage. He also does a fine job of taking the perspective of a woman on the edge or sanity.
With its theme of water running through the novel, there is a drowning and a trip to Venice as key events. So be prepared to be taken on a trip to Italy and more, where you have to keep reading to find out what’s going to happen next. I enjoyed this novella, give it a 3.5 stars, and recommend it for those who enjoy tragic thrillers.(less)
It’s a page-turning, action-packed steampunk murder mystery with even steamier romantic elements. It has...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
It’s a page-turning, action-packed steampunk murder mystery with even steamier romantic elements. It has a feisty lead character so it’s a perfect read for the fans of Gail Carriger – only it’s a bit darker.
About: Petite and feisty redheaded Cherry St. Croix is a bit tarnished. Orphaned at an early age, she is from an upper class family and lives comfortably with a variety of servants in her estate home - albeit as a ward to a never-present male benefactor, since women from this alternative Victorian period cannot own and are considered property. Darker still is that she is addicted to laudanum or opium depending on which is closer at hand; and she is a collector – a hired bounty woman who tracks down the wanted.
As she travels the polluted and sooty underworld of this different sort of London, she is asked to “collect’ a “ripper” who is killing local “sweets” (the most beautiful and desirable prostitutes) and taking their body parts for goodness knows what. It’s in the process of finding this insidious killer that she discovers darker things about her past; and sidesteps two romantic entanglements.
Thoughts: I really liked Cherry, the intelligent, tainted and strong main character who denies the existence of magic and only believes in science. It was also appealing that she is adamant about not wanting to get married, contrary to proper behavior for the time.
Although I really dislike comparing newer novels to wildly popular ones, I would say that this historical-ish novel felt quite similar to Gail Carriger’s Soulless, which I really enjoyed - although Tarnished is darker, less humorous, and has a more realistic setting than Carriger’s books. But like Soulless it includes science and gadgets, along with Victorian fashion and propriety, so it’s a genre-blender mystery story like Soulless.
My only niggle was that I had a slight problem getting into the author’s writing style at first. But I found it became easier after several chapters. And once I did I was completely hooked. I also want to mention that this first book is a cliff hanger, but what better way of starting off a series since it definitely created a desire to read the next in the series, even if I now have to wait.
Highly recommended for those interested in steampunk, historical romance, urban fantasy, murder mysteries, and especially for those who like strong female leads. It’s a 3.5 star read for me. I can’t wait for the second in the series.(less)
A “post-adolescent coming of age” story where the “lost” main character finds herself through a series of events, some paranormal in nature.
About: Told in the first person and mixing the past with the present, the narrator Suki Piper is a young English woman who has just moved home to London from an extended stay in New Zealand. She has come back to her old neighborhood where she lived prior to her mother’s death from cancer. The problem is that Suki can’t seem to get her life together. It’s one bad situation after another. Worse is that she is having flashbacks or delusions, which are clouding her ability to make decisions.
Fumbling through her muddled life, she accidentally discovers the answers to the questions that are haunting her - questions that seem to be linked to a night in the past, where her mum, dad and family friends drunkenly explored a defunct air raid shelter after a party. It’s here that something which transcends time occurs.
Thoughts: I enjoyed this layered story with the author’s descriptive writing which is often dryly humorous. There is nothing like the British sense of humor for a good snicker, so expect some giggles. I also liked that it was a vicarious trip to London, New Zealand, Greece and slightly back in time. Set during summer it creates an enjoyable read for the warmer months. Lastly, with its light paranormal element there is an unusual twist to the story, creating it’s sweet ending. All wonderful elements for a story.
I did have several problems. One is that I did need to do some skimming to understand the plot, due to its literary nature - the author goes in depth about the characters and their experiences rather than the plot; not a bad thing for many readers. I also had a hard time relating to the damaged main character. She has an outlook that life probably could not get any worse, which is not the type of character I normally identify with. Suki was a series of car wrecks, understandably because she did have some tough events to digest.
In the end, beyond my niggles, I would say that this is a promising debut from a talented author. I give it a 3.5 star rating. Recommend for Anglophiles looking for a story with a magical twist, a positive ending, and summer settings in Europe.(less)
With a down-to-earth writing style and in-depth human insight, this page-turning crime fiction novel is a...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
With a down-to-earth writing style and in-depth human insight, this page-turning crime fiction novel is a quintessential summer read for those who like dark paranormal twists and a Southern Gothic flavor to their novels.
About: In a Southern town during the early 1970’s, a young teenage boy named Jim (aka Biscuit) lives with his grandmother after his stepfather has beaten him badly enough to leave him in the hospital; and it’s not the first time. When his cousin L.A. comes to live with them, because she too is being abused, a common bond and familial friendship is created.
What is special about Biscuit is that besides being unusually introspective for his age, he has a touch of “the sight” and sees glimpses of things in dreams and otherwise that others cannot. It’s all looked at as part of his heritage since the gift runs in the family, with L.A. and his grandmother possessing their own version of knowing.
When Biscuit and L.A. find a mutilated teenage girl’s body near the train tracks, there begins the discovery of a series of murders - all by a twisted serial killer who is profiled as a member of their community.
Thoughts: I really enjoyed this novel. Tom Wright has an interesting writing style that is both descriptive and unusual. In giving Biscuit his voice he has created a wonderful character. The boy narrates his story with a youthful southern drawl and local colloquialism that makes the read a special one; it gives the story a realistic and grounded feeling. I felt like Biscuit’s thoughts about life and growing up were reflective and respectable for a growing young man on the verge of adulthood. I liked that a lot.
A warning: this is crime fiction and depicts graphic details about the murder of young teens, including several violent scenes. Conversely, if you enjoy complicated characters and coming of age stories where a broad spectrum of beliefs are presented, then this will be an excellent pick for you.
One thing I am not crazy about is the cover - not a very comfortable position I am thinking! But beyond that it’s a fine debut and one which I could not decide whether to give a 4 or 4.5 stars to. In the end I have designated it a 4. Definitely recommended for readers who enjoy slightly paranormal themes and are looking for a summer setting.(less)