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Book Review: Three to Get Lei’d by Jill Marie Landis (Series, #3)

Book Review: Three to Get Lei'd by Jill Marie Landis (Series, #3)Summary:
A jigger of tranquility is all Em Johnson wants, but now that her beloved Tiki Goddess Bar has been chosen as the location for Trouble in Paradise, TV’s hot new reality show, life is anything but tranquil. When a member of the camera crew is found dead in her kitchen-stabbed to death with Chef Kimo’s sashimi knife-the scene on the sleepy North Shore of Kauai goes from eccentrically crazy to downright dangerous. Suspects lurk behind every paper drink umbrella.

Review:
This book brought back all the strengths from the first book with the added delight of everyone at the Tiki Goddess Bar being featured on a reality tv show. As a (not-so-secret) lover of reality tv for the over-the-top ridiculousness and a lover of cozies for their delightful tongue-in-cheek puns and ability to not take themselves too seriously, the marriage of the two in this book was sheer delight.

A couple of scenes in particular struck me as the type of mad-cap tom-foolery seen in older 1920s romps, only with the added twist of reality tv cameras following the moves. I honestly would love to see a “The Office” style take on this series…a fake reality tv show version of the Tiki Godess Bar. That’d be a hoot! Anyway, one scene I really enjoyed involves the Hula Maidens in hula costume sneaking around on a golf course. Delightful.

I also like that the plot, although a bit predictable, weaves in a few different elements of various characters’ lives and stories. Em’s life moves forward, as does her uncle’s. Nothing is stagnant, just because murder is happening. I also thought grief and concern for loved ones’ safety were depicted well and realistically without slowing the plot down or removing the joy from the narrative.

All-in-all, a fun entry in the series that left me eager for the next one….and hoping the reality show will be back!

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Gift

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Previous Books in Series:
Mai Tai One On, review
Two to Mango, review

Book Review: Grey by Jon Armstrong (Audiobook narrated by Macleod Andrews)

April 23, 2012 3 comments

Man in a suit looming over a woman.Summary:
In the near future capitalism has entirely taken over, and the world is ruled by a few families….and their corporations.  People from all walks of life are also completely obsessed with fashion.  Michael Rivers is the heir to the River Corporation and is being sent on worldwide-aired dates with Nora, the heir to another company.  Just when they are about to announce their engagement, however, a freeboot shoots at Michael leaving the families blaming each other for the incident.  Michael refuses to accept his father’s demands that he marry a different woman, however, and his quest to figure out a way to Nora leads to some deep dark scandals hid on all levels of the company.

Review:
I have to say that this is the first time I was sorely disappointed by a read I originally discovered via Little Red Reviewer’s blog.  I was intrigued by the idea of fashionpunk, which is what this book is supposed to be.  Fashionpunk is a new genre.  Think scifi with a heavy focus on fashion.  It’s unfortunate that the fashion aka world setting was the best part of the book.

Armstrong richly presents the near future he has imagined.  People’s tendencies to reflect their world views via their fashion choices is completely exploded in this world.  Michael identifies as a Grey.  He wears only shades of grey and chooses everything from what bands he likes to what restaurants to eat in based on the grey fashion’s magazine.  Every other type of fashion is similar.  Even the Rivers security team are referred to by the type of clothing they wear–the Satins.  I know!  This sounds awesome and delicious to be in, and it was. But…..the story, you guys. The story.

This book’s plot is like the Kardashian show if it was written down and entirely sympathetic to Kim Kardashian. I know, right? Even reading that sentence is painful.  It’s not that I’m saying someone wealthy can’t be a main character, but it helps if some aspect of them is sympathetic, and Michael is just not.  He’s whiny and wimpy and sooooo obsessed with inane things and his “love” of Nora completely squicks me out.  It reads more like an unhealthy obsession than star-crossed lovers.  And he never really changes!  No matter what he learns or what happens he’s still the same Michael by the end as he is at the beginning.  There’s just….no character development.  No underdog to root for. No nothing.  I liked seeing Michael’s world, but I really would have preferred to wander off and follow the life of the director or a chauffeur or even the inane girl he goes on a date with who has pink fur growing out of her skin.  See what I’m saying?  Someone with a more interesting perspective.  The problem with Michael is that grey truly is the best way to describe him.  He’s dull and annoying.  Like a grey, rainy day.

So why did I continue listening to it and finish it so quickly?  The audiobook narrator, Macleod Andrews, is completely brilliant.  It was like listening to a one-man show.  He somehow managed to breathe some life into the dull plot.  For that I thank him, and I also will be checking out what else he’s narrated on Audible.

Overall, the concept of fashionpunk that Armstrong has worked out is intriguing and makes for a visually and culturally rich world.  Unfortunately, I found his plot completely unappealing.  Perhaps people who enjoy the lives of the rich and famous would feel differently, however.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

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Book Review: Death Island by Joan Conning Afman

January 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Skeleton hanging from a tree.Summary:
In future America the prisons are so overcrowded that the government needed to come up with a new idea.  So they started sending the worst criminals to a remote island to live out their lives (or deaths).  Naturally, this Lord of the Flies style punishment is also a nationally televised weekly reality tv show.  When Danny is wrongfully accused of serial killing five women with an axe, including his own wife, this reality tv show becomes his stark….reality.

Review:
At this point, the idea of a reality televised punishment type thing run by the government is relatively passe.  A trope of the dystopian scifi genre, even.  However, Afman does bring a unique twist to this basic idea that keeps the book fresh and engaging.

For instance, the inhabitants of the island are not forced to pit themselves against each other.  They sort of naturally divided up into the Village, the Tribe, and the loners.  The Village consists of those men who feel badly about their crimes and are trying to live out their lives with some semblance of normalcy.  A lot of them have formed couples and shacked up.  The Tribe are basically the psychopathic killers who periodically get drunk on their homemade rum and randomly attack others on the island.  The loners are relatively self-explanatory.  Having this type of conflict naturally happen instead of forcing it upon the participants is a nice throwback to The Lord of the Flies.

On the other hand, the fact that Danny proclaims his innocence and is innocent makes the plot far less appealing to me.  There’s no real moral ambiguity at the center that would drive the reader to question her own belief system or the concept of justice in general.  It’s odd to me that Afman chose Danny as the main character when there is a minor character on the island who admittedly committed a crime but perhaps for the right reasons.  This is where the meat of a real story would lie.  Choosing Danny instead makes it sort of like those tv shows people put on for background noise but don’t pay any real attention to.

Of course, Danny is not the entire plot.  We also have the minister’s wife, Charlie, who firmly believes in Danny’s innocence and works toward freeing him.  She provides the connection to the real axe murderer and a really odd romance layer to the book.  Seeing the program how those in America do is interesting, but wouldn’t it be more interesting to travel around to various viewing parties in the US?  Perhaps to those who are blood-thirsty to the casual viewers to family members of those sent to the island, even.  Instead, every time Charlie’s plot interrupts Danny’s it’s distracting.

All of those things said, it’s not that the book is badly written.  It’s not.  It’s just not amazing or even very good.  It’s just good.  It entertains for a couple of hours and then is easily tossed aside.  Perhaps for some people that’s enough.  Personally I was hoping for more.

Overall, I recommend this book to those who are a fan of the concept looking for a light, quick read.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: LibraryThing’s EarlyReviewers

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Book Review: Point by Thomas Blackthorne (series, #2)

September 7, 2011 4 comments

Text-heavy black book cover.Summary:
Mysterious cutter circles are showing up in the Britain of the future.  Thirteen teenagers gather in a circle, then slice the wrist of the person next to them all the way around the circle.  The MI5 recruits a neuroscientist to help figure out the circles before they reach epidemic proportions.  Meanwhile, her boyfriend, Josh Cumberland, finds himself sucked back into his old special forces unit when a civilian job reaches a mysterious end.  Are the two events connected?

Review:
I received an ARC of this book through the Angry Robot Army, and I sort of wish I’d noticed it was the second in a series.  I just dislike reading books out of order.  Also, I think perhaps if I’d read the first book in the series, I wouldn’t have been so misled by the cover.

In case you can’t see the cover, it says, “Britain, tomorrow.  The latest craze: cutter circles.  Thirteen kids. Each has a blade. On a signal everybody cuts. What else is there when life has no point.”  This makes it seem like this will be a book about depression and suicide in a post-apocalyptic world, right?  In fact the people committing suicide have been brainwashed by music in an emotiphone to further a political power move.  Which has…..nothing to do with real suicide or depression.

There’s nothing wrong with being a political intrigue book, but I am a bit disturbed at how Blackthorne utilizes psychology, psychiatry, and neuroscience in the book.  He makes it look like in the future we’ll be able to just….program people out of it or to do whatever we want them to do.  The brain is much more complex than that, and I just don’t like the message that such a plot device sends.

When looking at the book as the political espionage it actually is, as opposed to a book about mental illness in a dystopian world, it’s not a bad book.  I have the feeling that those who enjoy political intrigue books will enjoy it.  Josh is your typical wounded hero, and I did enjoy the scenes of him training.   Blackthorne creatively incorporates reality tv into the plot-line that many readers will enjoy.  The characters aren’t flat, but also aren’t particularly well-rounded.  That’s ok, though, because the focus of the book is the action and political intrigue.

Overall, the book seems to be an average future political intrigue action flick…in written form.  I recommend it to fans of that genre, but others will probably be bored.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: ARC from publisher

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