Outsider in Amsterdam (Amsterdam Cops) – Janwillem Van De Wetering

(Reviewed by JD Jung)


“Papuans…He saw the wild men from the early ages who once populated the swamp that, now, today, was called Holland.”

Today in 1970’s Amsterdam, most have learned about these people from the Dutch colony of New Guinea in school, but few had ever met one. Also, in 1970’s Amsterdam—on a somewhat unrelated note— murders are few and far between.

So partners, Detective-Adjutant Gripstra and Sergeant de Gier, will soon find their purpose as policemen.

They are called to the hindist society where a man is hanging from the ceiling as an apparent suicide. This man is Piet Verboom, the head of the society and a Papuan. The more the two detectives look into the situation, the more it looks like murder: with multiple suspects from religious/business associates to an ex-wife and almost everyone who had contact with Verboom. Of course this leads to a variety of possible motives, some involving a pregnant lover,  miso soup, hash and heroin.

Originally published in 1975, the late Janwillem van de Wetering, referred to his experience as a part-time policeman as the motivation for his novels.

Outsider in Amsterdam is a tightly knit crime novel that explores racism and the effects of colonialism, along with the city’s long-standing drug culture. It was the first of thirteen novels in the “Amsterdam Cop” series featuring the two detectives: Gripstra– older, portly, married and badly-dressed, and de Gier, unmarried, womanizing and somewhat philosophical. Luckily these two, opposites in appearance and personality, report to an elder commissari, who at first seems somewhat bumbling. However unlike police captains and high ranking officers in most detective novels, he provides an experienced and intuitive perspective to their cases.

Though there is nothing bizarre or extraordinary to classify this as a “must-read”, I think that fans of crime novels with a cultural angle will enjoy this one.

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Someone Must Die – Sharon Potts

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

Exceptional

Aubrey Lynd has always lived her life in blessed ignorance, clinging to the illusion of a protective bubble wrap. And then, her nephew is kidnapped from the middle of a carnival while he was with his grandmother and her mother, Diana Lynd. With the notion that her family comes first, she decides to make a trip back home. But as the clock ticks, her dysfunctional family starts appearing stranger than what she believed. Secrets start unraveling that make her start questioning how far can morality go, especially when lives are at stake?

Someone Must Die is one of those books that have to be read simply because the story is so damn good. The plot is brilliant and the narrative style helps to carry it to success. The characters are well built and play their roles brilliantly and as you progress through the book you can see how there is no wastage of character in the story line.

Everything complements each other in this book; the plot, the characters, the style of narration, the title, the cover image. What I didn’t like was the fact that the moments of flashbacks experienced by the characters were lost in narration; if they had been italicised, it would have been easier as a reader to get more involved in the book.

Someone Must Die is a pretty damn good book to recommend further. Definitely interesting!

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The Little Book of Sham: More secrets than “The Secret” Funnier than “The Tibetan Book of the dead” More urgent than the “Power of Now” – Keith Martin

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“Trolls use to live under
bridges.
Then they migrated to
Twitter.
Now they run for President.”

Or how about this one?

“Swearing is caring.

Swearing shows passion, can

help reduce the

sensation of pain and is an

indicator of a larger than

average vocabulary.”

These words of wisdom and so much more can be found in The Little Book of Sham.  The sayings are so funny that was difficult to pick one to share. Keith Martin  even expands on popular mottoes and clichés, such as “Work smarter, not harder…”  “Haters gonna hate…” “Death and taxes…”.  Want to know his spin on these? You’ll just have to buy the book, (and it’s really cheap!)

What do Dorian Gray and Donald Trump have in common?  In fact there are a few references to the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee; about the same number as those relating to flatulence. This Irishman has an amusing take on American politics.

The Little Book of Sham will make a great gift for someone who needs humor in their life. I wish it would come out in paperback instead of e-format ; that would make it easier to wrap.

The book is little in volume but big on laughs. It will take less than an hour to get through including laugh breaks. It definitely made my day.

 

 

 

Posted in Humor & Satire, Irish literature | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Warning Order: A Search and Destroy Thriller – Joshua Hood

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

Exceptional
War on terror has never been more serious or terrifying, when Mason Kane – special ops personnel with a questionable past–finds himself trapped in the middle of a plot that seems to involve intelligent minds from both sides. Survival has never been sweeter than when each turn reveals a new set of dangers that seems to have been orchestrated from the very core of his own government.

I have been in love with Matthew Reilly since the day I got my hands on one of his books. But never in my life, could I imagine a book that could compete with the sheer brilliance of Reilly’s action-packed narrative. Warning Order seriously lived up to every expectation that I had after reading this book.

Every single chapter keeps you hooked in such a way that it is a compulsion for you to finish the book before you find peace. The second book in the Search and Destroy series is simply brilliant; the plot is simple and yet flavorsome and the action packed into every single narrative and nuance helps in making the reader want for more. The characters are definitely interesting and wholesome and will make you want to learn more about them.

The cover image lives up to all expectations that you have when you come across a book on covert operations. However, I did not see why the title has been named so.

I am definitely recommending Warning Order. Personally, I am going to go hunt out the entire series now.

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Shadowboxing With Bukowski – Darrell Kastin

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Exceptional

The universe shrank daily around me, the bookstore itself was the center, the black hole, the very bottomless hell that would consume me in the end. ..the bookstore was insatiable, a structure of otherworldly forces. It devoured everything that came within its sphere of gravity, and didn’t bother to spit out the pieces.”

Nick Kastinovich, owner of The Little Big Bookstore, simply wanted to supply his harbor community of San Pedro, CA with quality literature, not the mediocre fare prevalent in chain bookstores. He felt most authors followed a basic formula; he was seeking those who took chances. However the more difficult this became, the more obsessive he became. He could either make money and pay off his creditors, or make it his mission to discover great authors and poets and keep them and existing ones from fading into obscurity.

This quest consumed him to the point in which he imagined that the great writers such as Poe, Twain, Dostoyevsky, Cervantes and Fante were actually in the bookstore making fun of him. He was sure that even the books were mischievous as they were moving when no one was watching.

Nick admired the work of  local legend and acquaintance Charles Bukowski, but all of a sudden it hit him that Bukowski along with Hemingway were just like the others, mediocre. He wrote a scathing letter to Bukowski and then feared that “L.A.’s meanest poet of the streets” would retaliate. For the sake of what sanity he did have left, he escaped the bookstore, taking a Hemingway-esque trip to Mexico while still consumed with constant fear and paranoia that Bukowski was on his tail.

As a tribute to the independent bookstore, this well-written, character-driven novel takes us through the daily life and thoughts of a once indifferent twenty-eight year old who found his passion by struggling to uncover and preserve remarkable literature. Our protagonist isn’t the only essential character in this fictionalized memoir. Each of the supporting characters who work or roam the streets of 1980s San Pedro- –also coping with various levels of sanity— plays a vital role in making this a unique and enjoyable read.

If you only appreciate formulaic run-of-the-mill novels, the dark but comic Shadowboxing with Bukowski is not for you. However, if you’re like me (and Nick for that matter) who  are desperately seeking something introspective, distinctive and different, you’ll enjoy this one.

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His Wicked Wish – Olivia Drake

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

The daughter of a disgraced lady of nobility and a common actor, Madelyn Swann knows the hardships of life. She knows that no proper lady would actually sell herself at an auction to the highest bidder. But desperate times call for desperate measures. What she never expected was to become a wife to Nathan Atwood, Viscount Rowley.

What Nathan wants is a wife who can embarrass his snobbish father, the Earl of Gilmore. Being an actor, Madelyn fits all his requirements. What he didn’t count in the equation was getting charmed with his beautiful and witty wife.

Can love overcome the grievances of the past?

I somehow find the characters of regency novels more fascinating than the average of-the-mills romance books. There is strength in the individual characterisation that fascinates the reader because of how close the fictional characters are to the realities of human beings. This book managed to evoke the same feelings when it comes to the perfect characters who bring the setting and main plot alive with their individual spirits. The narrative style is simple and eloquent and keeps pace with the setting and overall tone of plot. The cover image and title is dramatic and seductive enough to capture your attention.

The plot is lively and engaging and keeps the reader involved with its anticlimax. However, by the very end of the book, the overall tone of excitement and liveliness dials down to a flatness that did disappoint me. Considering the lead characters who were introduced in such a dramatic way, I expected a more dramatic ending than what I read.

What confounds me more is the fact that though the book is part of a series, I failed to feel any continuity that is usually seen in books that are part of a series.

His Wicked Wish is another one of those uncomplicated quick reads that you will enjoy reading.

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Forever We Play – David Belisle

(Reviewed by Don Jung)

Does “forever” mean forever in the world of baseball?

It just might for a young realtor, Ashley Merkle. She attends a baseball game, gets hit in the head, falls off the railing by a foul ball, and dies…

The problem is that she doesn’t realize it and instead enters into a strange world driven by the sport of baseball. She’s put on a bus to find her “soul taker” (a Houston Astros rookie) who will guide her out of purgatory. However she must find her soul in order to go to heaven. To do that, she must confront her dead grandfather, a former Chicago Cubs player.

Forever We Play is a ride that travels back over a century into baseball’s past. Through all of this, Ashley finds more about the value of life through the game of baseball. She meets a lot of diverse people along the way and has to adjust to various situations.

This is a short novel (under one hundred pages) that you can read fairly quickly. It will keep you guessing as to what happens next as she tries to sort out the trials of yesteryear’s baseball history.

If you’re a Chicago Cubs fan, Forever We Play is definitely the book for you. If they’re not your team, but appreciate baseball like me, you’ll probably still enjoy it. Now I will go out on a limb and suggest that even if baseball isn’t your religion, but you’re seeking out an unusual read it may be worthwhile to still pick up this feel-good novella.

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Seconds to Live – Melinda Leigh

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

Exceptional

Everyone has a past to run from. Wildlife biologist Mac Barrett is no different from the norm. He returns from Brazil with a physical scare and a secret in heart and ends up in a car accident where he almost runs over the naked body of a woman lying on the road.

Police detective Stella Dane knows there is trouble brewing in Scarlet Falls when drug addicts from an anonymous society are disappearing and showing up dead hours later. No one is ready to place their faith in her instinct that a psychotic serial killer is working its way through their town.

Now, Mac and Stella have to work together to find answers before the deadly game becomes personal.

The characters are excellent and complement each other well with the well thought-out plot. Being a second novel in the series, you can see the bond between the characters. But despite being a sequel, the book manages to stand apart on its individual strength as a brilliant story. It’s well choreographed with thrilling moments and a balanced climax. The ease of narrative style definitely contributed in making this an interesting read.

While the title justifies the main plot, I really didn’t like the cover image that has been employed here. It lacks the imagination and darkness that is often associated with a thriller.

Seconds to Live is a fabulous book that I will definitely recommend to all thriller fans.

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Savaged Lands – Lana Kortchik

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Exceptional

“Kiev was still burning and executions at Babi Yar continued, even though the river of condemned people had gradually dwindled to a creek. Not because the Germans relented, no. Because there was hardly anyone left to execute. “

September 1941 . Teenagers Natasha, Lisa and Nikolai Smirnova had no idea of the horrors that awaited their once peaceful city. Yes, the Nazis had bombed and attacked Kiev, but they were sure that the Red Army would push them back. Their grandparents had evacuated Lvov, Poland and joined them and their parents in their small apartment. Their older brother was fighting with the Soviet Army and Lisa was engaged to be married.

But despair set in as family and friends were taken away one by one by the Nazis to face a certain death. “Germans only” restaurants keep the Nazis and their women fed, while the rest of the Ukrainians starve. Do you work for the Germans in order to stay alive? “Nine out of ten will sell you for a piece of bread. The trick is not to confide in anyone.”

The only bright spot for Natasha was that she fell in love with a heroic Hungarian soldier. But the Hungarian troops were forced to fight alongside the Nazis. Would Natasha be considered a traitor by giving aid and comfort to the enemy?

Though the love stories in this novel were predictable as far as war stories go and too melodramatic for my taste, the human suffering of war seemed all too real. Savaged Lands is a gut wrenching historical novel that will tear you apart.

This is a must-read for all. We should never forget the horrors of WWII and the evil leaders and citizens involved. More importantly, we need to be reminded that this evil and corresponding suffering still exists in the world and we can’t sit back in apathy or denial and just let it happen.

 

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Time to Run: Part One (Nick of Time) – John Gilstrap

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

Exceptional

A young woman, on the verge of dying, decides to take a last joyride with a man who is killing more than time.

John Gilstrap has made a name in crime thrillers so I had really high expectations when I requested  this book in exchange of an honest review. Being the first in the Nick of Time series, this book definitely acts as a foundation for the whole plot and promises a future of action and fast-paced drama. Being a founding book has its advantage. You not only learn about the plot but also get to see the characters from the very beginning and see them grow as the book/ series rolls out. The same stands true for this book. The style of narration is quite simple and engaging, and overall matches with the tone of the plot.

The cover image and the title is dramatic enough to attract your attention and both of them complement each other and the main plot very well.

The book is an engaging tale of action and drama that will make the readers come back for more.

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