Category Archives: 3-Okay

The Girl and the Bomb by Jari Jarvela

Today’s book is one of a few translated works I’ve been reading lately. While good, it’s obvious this book may challenge US readers with its cultural and societal differences. However, it’s good for us, especially now, to broaden our minds and horizons.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

TitleThe Girl and the Bomb
AuthorJari Järvelä, Kristian London (translator)
SeriesMetro-trilogia, Book 01
Publish Date: October 1, 2015 by Amazon Crossing
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: provided by the author/publisher

Publisher’s Description: Rust and Metro live life to the fullest in the small Finnish city of Kotka. The lovers work together by day and write graffiti by night, always staying one step ahead of the law. But their luck runs out after an ambush by rogue security guards causes Rust to fall to his death. Having literally left their marks all over the city, Metro cannot help but be reminded of Rust everywhere she goes, making it impossible for her to move past the tragedy. Heartbroken and alone, she becomes determined to get to the bottom of her partner’s death and to exact revenge on those responsible by using the tool she knows best: spray paint. As she fights to bomb the system, she is constantly—and harshly—reminded of how unfair life can be. Up against lies, betrayal, and corruption, Metro musters the strength and inspiration to persevere in the name of truth and by adding beauty to an ugly world.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent Annie says…

Good book. Really enjoyed the two points of view of the graffiti artist and the security officer as they told their side of the story. I thought the ending was weak because it didn’t have a sense of completeness. How did either person’s life change? Were they affected by their own or other’s actions? Did either of them have a change of mind or grow as a person? Without the events in the book, would there be a difference in the future?

However, what the thoughts were of the two as they battled discovering and being discovered was excellent. I think the translator did a great job of using appropriate American slang but kept true to the Finnish names and landmarks, which added to the flavor of the story. I also wanted to know more about the character “Baron.” It seemed like he was ignored for the last several chapters, but leading up to them, he could have played an integral part in the betrayal or even as a setup at the end. I expected something like the graffiti artists turning the tables on the investigators and taping the mistreatment during the investigation, which would be released to the press.

This is very much a book written for an audience different than US readers. There were too many cultural anomalies with difference in economies, education after high school, governance, taxes and privatization of social services and even law enforcement. I give it a 3.

Other recommendations…

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millenium, Book 01).

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom

Though The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom might be a great book for young adults new to the spy/espionage genre, it wasn’t unique enough to capture the interest of our spy-loving adult reviewers.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

TitleThe Cruelty
Author: Scott Bergstrom
SeriesThe Cruelty, Book 01
Publish Date: February 7, 2017 by Fiewel & Friends
Genre: YA Thriller
Source: Provided by the publisher

Publisher’s Description: When her diplomat father is kidnapped and the U.S. Government is unable to help, 17-year-old Gwendolyn Bloom sets off across the sordid underbelly of Europe to rescue him. Following the only lead she has—the name of a Palestinian informer living in France—she plunges into a brutal world of arms smuggling and human trafficking. As she journeys from the slums of Paris, to the nightclubs of Berlin, to the heart of the most feared crime family in Prague, Gwendolyn discovers that to survive in this new world she must become every bit as cruel as the men she’s hunting.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent Annie says…

The best line in the book The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom is in the very first chapter when the main character, Gwendolyn, pulls a book out of her backpack and tells us, the reader,

“It’s a novel with a teenage heroine set in a dystopian future. Which novel in particular doesn’t matter because they are all the same. Poor teenage heroine, having to march off to war when all she really wants to do is run away with that beautiful boy and live off wild berries and love. Paper worlds where heroes are real.”

This is echoed two hundred some odd pages later when Gwen, now called Sophia, who is in real danger from the Czech mafia, says “Damn my luck, having to go off to war when all I want to do is run away with that beautiful boy and live off wild berries and love.”

That about sums up what’s wrong with this book: it pretends not to be formulaic but follows the same pattern as all spy/espionage novels. This could have been written by James Patterson, Lee Child or Robert Ludlum and I really wouldn’t have noticed the difference. The author simply puts a 17-year-old girl in the role of the main character and, unfortunately, this doesn’t lend itself to believability. The only training this teenager gets is about a month from an Israeli spy, and she totally eludes and ultimately defeats criminals in several European countries included the “dreaded” Czech mafia and kills several of their number through a variety of methods?

I also really didn’t think that The “Cruelty” itself, which the author tries to describe as an internal “thing” rising up in Gwendolyn and taking over her more sane (regular) self, was well defined. He mentions it a few times as “wanting to get out” or “taking over” but I don’t think he spent enough time on her internal struggle. It felt really ho-hum when Gwen had to make difficult choices, like murdering someone in cold blood!

I give this book a 3 for being too much like other books I’ve read in this genre and not having enough of what the title featured.

Percy Procrastinator says…

For me, as a forty-four-year-old long interested in thriller/spy/espionage novels, this was a tough read. I didn’t read it all, either. At about the halfway point, I realized that I had read this story before by some other author. It’s not that it was bad; it just wasn’t good enough to pull me in. I don’t know if it was because it’s geared toward young adults or if I have just read and seen too much of this kind of story.

The setup is quite good. It was easy for me to believe that Gwendolyn could become a spy. She knows languages and had gymnastics, so had some of the rudimentary skills needed. It wasn’t luck that had her know several ex-spies, people who could set her on the path to find her father. I was happy that she got a month of training and even a test so she knew if she could do it.

Reading about her training was interesting to me to see which way the author would have Gwendolyn go. And once she made her choice, I knew how the rest of the story would go, again from decades of reading these kinds of novels. I just wasn’t interested enough in reading this particular story. I skimmed through several chapters of her meeting people, going up the chain and following the leads. I can easily see how this would be a great introduction for someone to these kinds of novels. It’s just not for me.

Finally, I will say that the ending left me a bit disappointed. I read the final ten percent of the book and I don’t think I got the payoff I wanted. The twist didn’t surprise me and the ending left me with a sour taste in my mouth.

I give the book a three. It might deserve a four because it handles the subject matter well, but I can’t be the one to give it that rating.

Other recommendations…

Advanced teen readers could probably jump right into the Alex Cross, Jason Bourne, and Jack Reacher thrillers, or go with the classics and give the original James Bond novels a try. Unfortunately, those all have male protagonists. For female protagonists, here is a list of 9 Best Thrillers with Strong Female Protagonists.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

The Marvelous Misadventures of Ingrid Winter by J.S. Drangsholt

Professor, wife, and mother Ingrid Winter is sent to a conference in Russia, where all her mental anxieties push her into some crazy antics.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

ingridTitleThe Marvelous Misadventures of Ingrid Winter
AuthorJ.S. Drangsholt
Series: stand-alone
Publish Date: March 1, 2017, by Amazon Crossing
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Purchased via Kindle First

Publisher’s DescriptionIngrid Winter is desperately trying to hold it all together. A neurotic Norwegian mother of three small children and an overworked literature professor with an overactive imagination, Ingrid feels like her life’s always on the brink of chaos.

Her overzealous attempt to secure her dream house has strained her marriage. She’s repeatedly reprimanded for eye rolling in faculty meetings. Petulant PTA parents want to drag her into a war over teaching children to tie their shoes. And an alarmingly persistent salesman keeps warning her of the potential dangers of home intrusion.

Clearly she needs to get away. But Russia? Forced to join an academic mission to Saint Petersburg to promote international cooperation, Ingrid finds herself at a crossroads while drinking too much cough syrup. Will this trip push her into a Siberian sinkhole of existential dread or finally give her life some balance and direction?

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent_Annie_100Agent Annie says…

The Marvelous Misadventures of Ingrid Winter by J.S. Drangsholt is a careening ride through the stream of conscious of a neurotic, anxiety-riddled woman. I read this book so fast because the narrator’s anxiety was so strong you just couldn’t step away from it. If the author’s hope was to give you a glimpse as to how anxiety makes a person say or do crazy things, she hit the mark, but man, I never want to be that immersed in it again.

badge3v4Outside of the good writing of conveying what Ingrid was thinking and feeling, I wasn’t a big fan of this story. It seemed kind of boring as far as the action goes or the main character’s relationships. Not much really happened. I think the promotional material from Amazon’s Kindle First program didn’t really convey the true nature of this book and I was disappointed. I appreciated getting a early opportunity to read it, but I would have never spent money on this book. I did however suggest it to a relative that enjoyed Where Did You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple and I would be interested to see if they liked this book. I personally can only give this book a 3.

Other recommendations…

Here are some other novels with anxious main characters: A Stranger on the Planet by Adam Schwartz, Planetfall (sci-fi) by Emma Newman, Daffodil Dancing by Jean Jardine Miller.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Wardbreaker by J.A. Cipriano

Welcome to Saturday Shorts, in which we review shorter works such as short stories, novellas, middle-grade books, and graphic novels. All Lillim wants to do is get away for a bit – escape her world where monsters and mayhem reign at every hour. She ends up in sunny Orange County for a little relaxing time and, instead, finds herself facing a group of powerful vampires that the Dioscuri organization she works for has blatantly ignored.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

TitleWardbreaker
AuthorJ.A. Cipriano
SeriesLillim Callina, Book 0.5
Publish Date: October 15, 2015
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Source: Provided by the author

Publisher’s DescriptionA city full of vampires. A dark ritual. A runaway determined to stay hidden.

Lillim Callina was still trying to figure out how to live like a normal girl when the vampires attacked. Now, this former demon hunter must decide if staying hidden is more important than saving her new home from the largest vampire infestation she has ever seen.

The only problem is, if she stops the vampires, the people hunting her just may find her, and they aren’t too fond of deserters.

Wardbreaker is the first prequel in The Lillim Callina Chronicles, an urban fantasy series and takes place approximately one year before the first book, Kill it with Magic.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Kat Mandu says…

As much as I enjoyed this, it’s an awfully long “novella.” It took me almost as much time to read this as it does many YA books. I almost wouldn’t call it a novella, as only novellas vs. novels are determined by the word count. But hey, it was a good story.

Lillim’s a couple years younger in Wardbreaker than when you meet her in Kill It With Magic, the first official Callina novel. It’s her first time in California, but not her first venture to the human world. Things are still a little disorienting for her.

But then Luc shows up, looking for her help with a group of bad guy vampires and Lillim’s suddenly right back at home, facing down a myriad of monsters while wondering why the Dioscuri isn’t doing anything to help the humans who are being preyed upon.

One of the coolest things I like about Lillim’s stories are that the creatures she fights against are always very unique and many – sure, there are vamps and werewolves, but there are also ents (tree men), dragons, and pixies. If you like a variety of supernatural baddies, you’d enjoy this.

It’s a nice lead-up to the series and introduction to both Lillim and Luc. I found it just got lengthy in certain points, even when there’s a lot of action going on. Lillim is a commentator on everything and her internal dialogue only adds to the battle scenes—making them funny, yes, but also like I said, lengthy.

Other recommendations…

Mark E. Cooper, Donna Joy Usher, Inge-Lise Goss

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

I was really excited to read this since I enjoyed The Girl from the Well duology so well. There are some of the elements that I loved about Girl from the Well that are present in this novel as well: beautiful descriptions, gorgeous settings, and interesting characters. But somewhere it fell flat for me.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

TitleThe Bone Witch
AuthorRin Chupeco
SeriesThe Bone Witch, Book 01
Publish Date: March 7, 2017 by Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Source: NetGalley

Publisher’s DescriptionA Publishers Weekly Most Anticipated Young Adult Book of Spring 2017!

In the captivating start to a new, darkly lyrical fantasy series for readers of Leigh Bardugo and Sabaa Tahir, Tea can raise the dead, but resurrection comes at a price…

Let me be clear: I never intended to raise my brother from his grave, though he may claim otherwise. If there’s anything I’ve learned from him in the years since, it’s that the dead hide truths as well as the living.

When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.

In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha—one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.

Memoirs of a Geisha meets The Name of the Wind in this brilliant new fantasy series by Rin Chupeco!

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Luna Lovebooks says…

Likes: I love the fact that this is a darkly beautiful world. There is betrayal and war (mentioned in passing for the most part) and, of course, death. But death is what makes this novel unique. How, you ask? The answer is in the very title of the book! Bone witches raise the dead, heal the sick, and defeat demonic-like creatures. The way they are described reminds me of magic wielding geisha! I love the idea of heartsglass as well. It is a wonderful way to detect emotions and a fun way to bring sayings into literal play – for example, if you give someone your heart they have power over you. I love the relationship between Tea and her brother, Fox.

Dislikes: As much potential as this story has, it fell flat for me, and I gradually lost interest until the last couple of chapters when it picked up again. I devoured the beginning for its explanation of this world and the people in it. I flipped excitedly through the pages towards as I wanted to know what would happen. But the middle was a montage of years of training – only not. It felt like no time at all had passed and Tea became an asha in the blink of an eye, still only 14. The two timelines interwoven added to my confusion until the very end. But not much happens in either plot. There is a love triangle, but it is mostly hinted at. I can’t decide if this is worse or not – either way, the story does not need a triangle.

I would love to rate this book higher, but because of my confusion and the loss of interest for the middle section of the book, I have to give this 3 bones.

Other recommendations…

Dreamfall by Amy Plum, Poison Kiss by Breeana Shields, Roar by Cora Carmack.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.