Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Blog Tour: The Last Day of Emily Lindsey by Nic Joseph

With a story built alternatively between 'then' and 'now' and page turning twists of psychological revelations, The Last Day of Emily Lindsey is a unique adventure which keeps you curious until the very last page.
Everything starts when a woman, apparently Emily Lindsey, the author of a popular inquisitive blog is found in her apartment, covered in blood which is not hers with a knife which does not belong to her either. Detective Steven Paul which was going through a rather difficult career moment is assigned to the case. Once the inquiry advances and more and more strange and outerwordly moments occurs, he is about to lose his fragile balance too, as his visions and nightmares he was coping with his entire life are coming back more and more often. 
The second lane of the story - which is relatively slower and more focused on psychological details and descriptions - takes place in a bizarre orphanage where every June 2nd there is a terrible event happens.
At the beginning, it is quite difficult to make the connection between the two stories, but once the end is revealed, all the pieces of the puzzle are nicely put together. It is one of those books whose value is dramatically increased by the final ending, as the art of the writer is to create suspense and keep the reader into a state of permanent inquiry. Ironically, even if you are trying to make suppositions about a possible course of action, you are proven always wrong. 
A book recommended to anyone strong enough to read without pause - because you can hardly go to sleep before you know what really happened to Emily Lindsey - a haunting story which will stay with you longer, much longer

Rating: 4 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Sunday, October 29, 2017

A Terrific Psychological Thriller: When You Disappeared, by John Marrs

When Simon, the happy half of a wonderful British family , a man in his early 30s with a promising architect career suddenly disappeared his devoted wife, Catherine, cannot believe that only death set them apart. But the truth is cruel and will stay hidden for the next 25 years. 
Written as an alternating diary of Simon and Catherine, a step-by-step mention of going out of grief, the weight of the past or the family responsibilities, When You Disappeared by John Marrs is a page turned, although predictable at a certain extent. Although some revelations are not surprising - for instance, who killed the younger son, Billy - the psychological weight of the stories is dramatic and displays a great storytelling craftmanship for this genre. 
From a scene installment to the other, the perfectly evil nature of the ambitious architect is revealed, a display of how delusional are the appearances. Simon himself became a serial criminal from a delusion, an apparent affair of his wife with his best friend who had actually a crush on him many years ago. A quarter of century later, he is confessing to the brave Catherine, a fantastic character with strength and an outstanding desire to live her life, whatever the circumstances. The dedicated wife from the first months after the mysterious disappearing - 'The strength and support he'd shown me during the worst thing that could ever happen to a parent, had proved he was a fantastic husband and dad, and I desperately needed to believe that he was alive' - is turned into a hard working bread winner and the strong woman who won against a terrible malady and was powerful enough to start a new life and even face the truth of the lies and crimes of her ex-husband. 
It is a dark novel, going deep into the murkiest corners of the human mind, telling as often as possible in different wordings that the humans can be sometimes slaves of their strong self-destroying criminal emotions, especially if there is a genetical predisposition to it. I am not sure about this, but meeting the literary character of Simon might be just enough for a while. 

Rating: 3.5 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Friday, October 27, 2017

How To Take Your Novel to the Next Level

Fiction writing requires a lot of craftmanship and polished writing skills and it is never too late or too early to learn how to improve your writing. Take Your Novel to the Next Level by Marjorie Reynolds offers a systematic variety of knowledge about improving your manuscript while considering various aspects such as defined characters, creating an 'unique and intriguing' plot, emotion suspense, tension and realistic dialogues. It inspires the beginner or intermediate writer 'how to breathe life into characters and color a scene with sight, sound, smell, touch and taste'.
It is the kind of book to read with a notebook on your side, as it has interesting and noteworthy details for every stage of the novel development, with detailed examples from classical successful books. Equally, if you are a professional book reviewer, this book provides also directions about how to evaluate the quality of the writing and the eventual flaws of the story. 
It not only covers all the development levels to be considered for the first draft, but also has suggestions about how to create and evaluate the second one, as well as a glossary of terms to understand the language of a literary agent or the observations sent by a publishing house.
As there are only a couple of days until the NaNoWriMo - which I might consider to join this year, after 7 years of absence - you still have time over the weekend to read this book and figure out what you want to write and especially how.

Rating: 5 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Murder in the NYC Hasidic Community

Haunted by the memory of the mother that left her when she was only 6 months old, Rebekah Roberts is moving to NYC to work as a journalist. As a beginner reporter for the New York Tribune, she is dealing with her first serious case investigating the mysterious murder of a woman belonging to the Hasidic community to which her mother belonged before running away for a short time with a non-Jewish man, Rebekah's father.
In just a couple of days, the young reporter is going through a serious identity crisis, while she is looking to reconstruct the life of her mother through the snipets of life of the Hasidic people she meets. It is a world full of secrets and interdictions, secluded within high walls of prohibitions and very limited interactions with the outside world. Guided by chance, Rebekah is making her way through an overwhelming world she was not aware of before, looking to reconstruct the life of the victim while trying to understand what brought her end.
As I am familiar with this world, I easily got into the mystery, but I think that in general the information regarding the background context is greatly accessible, without overload of Yiddish slang or a simplified, cartoon-like reality. You are offered enough information to understand the story.
But what matters the most in a thriller story is how do you find the truth and in this respect Invisible City is a page turner, with an end more complicated than expected. My mind wandered from a potential suspect to another and then another, without being 100% sure about the real criminal. What disappointed me though were the dialogues, not so well crafted and interesting.
Invisible City was only the first installment of the series having Rebekah Roberts as the main character, and would love to read the other two from the series too. 

Rating: 3.5 stars   

Monday, October 23, 2017

Book Review: Live from Cairo, by Ian Bassingthwaighte

The protests in Tahrir Square are unfolding, Mubarak is out of power, at least physically, and refugees from all over the Middle East and Africa are stuck in Cairo waiting for a green light to leave for better worlds. There are international organisations at work to help them, but not all of them are qualified to get the official support. Escaping the chaos from Iraq with her husband, Dalia failed to convince the UN representatives that she deserves to join her husband in the States. But attorney Charlie who handled her case cannot give up, also because he is deeply in a kind of love with her; he tries, against the law, to get her the proper (fake) documentation, and he even get into the plot a fresh employee of the UNCHR.
I personally have a couple of mixed feelings about the book. I enjoyed the writing and the author has a certain power to keep you turning the pages, although the plot development is not always satisfactory. I've found more than once that the different little stories making the book do not necessarily connect smoothly, one of them being Charlie's platonic love. One of the parts that really made sense was about the process of analysing and accepting/rejecting the various files, but I suppose that for that you don't need to read a novel, as a scientific/feature article might be just enough.
I've pushed myself until the end - which was less than satisfactory - trying to read it, but my overall impression is that it could have been (much) better.

Rating: 2.5 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Everything you Want to Know about Ghostwriting

Long long time ago, I used to believe that politicians were writing their own discourses and celebrities their own books. As soon as I made a step behind my journalist work, I discovered that on the other side of the screen it was a big army of speech writers and ghost writers ready to translate into beautiful words raw and sometimes incoherent ideas of VIPs from various domains. Eventually, I ended up being one of them for a short amount of time.
For those considering a career of ghosts (writing), The Complete Guide....by Teena Lyons is offering the right inspiration and guidance from the very beginning of the career. It explains the process, the pitching, how to use various opportunities ans the main techniques to follow at the beginning or mid-level career. 'It is difficult to write a book, which is why there are ghosts in the first place'. More importantly, it uses quotes from experts to illustrate the different stages of the process, which gives authenticity and the proper inspiration to move forward.
Although I personally found a bit redundant the first chapters, where the ghostwriting is described in the smallest details, till the end of the book I discovered many useful ideas, especially when it comes to setting up and developing a collaboration with 'the author', the planning and various techniques of approaching hectic and/or difficult personalities.
A book recommended to anyone considering ghostwriting as part of their writing career.

Rating: 4 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

About Dinner at the Centre of the Earth

Can you write about Israel avoiding the everyday political implications? Hardly if not impossible, unless you are writing a very special dystopia. Despite the political buzz though, can you create good stories to be remember after the political actors are long ousted from the stage? Definitely yes!
The latest book by Nathan Englander, whose What We Talk When We Talk about Anne Frank is a beautiful collection of short stories, is a literary contribution to the never-ending and not always literary productive discussion using Israel, peace, Palestinians as main key-words. What it results from the random mixture of those three words is not necessarily a good combo, from the literary point of view at least. You have a given readership that probably expects you to have a point of view, but you still can write beautiful stories if you focus more on writing beautiful stories not engaged or entincing or attractive stories. 
Dinner at the Centre of the Earth is made up of different small stories which are interwinning but chopped so drastically, bullet-speed-like, that you can hardly put together the fragments to have a narrative of any kind: you have the story of spy Z - inspired by the Australian-born Mossad agent prisoner X - Z's guard, the guard's mother, the General in coma - Ariel Sharon -, Farid, the Palestinian businessman in Berlin. 
You have a bit of a spy story, a kind of historical thread, with Sharon's memories about the founding of the country, even a love story. Maybe with so many variants of truth it is difficult to create a common story, aka co-existence, but isn't it a higher stake for a story?Somehow, I felt that the author is about to embark on a world mission to find the answers of most political secrets - for instance, how was it possible for Sharon to change so much his point of view and accept the Gush Katif - I personally think that it is less a secret but more a matter of adaptability, because politicians follow strategies and the cure for traumatic historical events. 
Intentionally or not, some scenes and episodes are ridiculoulsy grotesque, while others are just filling the space of the pages - like in the case of most of Farid story. 
Some topics are too big for one single story, and maybe if you want to avoid the cliche you better find more humanity and less politics and ideology to tell it. I was personally partially disappointed about the book which means that there is always a chance of a much better next book by Englander. 

Rating: 3 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Although it was a bestseller for more than one year, I was never curious enough to check any review about The Girl on the Train or look for the book immediately the news of the success reached me. Actually, I was so detached from the media mainstream that when I took the book from the shelf of the library, all I knew about it was that it is a bestseller which happens in the case of over 50% of the books I read. This apparent information gap created quite an almost non-existent wall of expectations. I've just started reading the book without any knowledge about what it will happen and how the thriller may further  I may confess that once in a while I am doing it. 
During the couple of hours of reading, I went through the ups and downs of the story, made doubts and expressed concerns without being sure of my feelings and assumptions. Therefore, I enjoyed the full pleasure of the lecture. 
The lecture was pleasant overall, although sometimes it reminded me of some episodes of the Hausfrau, meaning there is a lot of daily nothingness with as much appeal as a very bored housewife. However, there is an insidous part of the story which warns about the everyday evil. How, in fact, a very innocent looking playboy with a penchant for lying can be as dangerous as a first page criminal. And there is Rachel, which is the genius character of this story, the key of solving the murder, although the least trustworthy witness. 'Drunk Rachel' which 'sees no consequences, she is either excessively expansive and optimistic or wrapped up in hate. She has no past, no future. She exists purely in the moment'. 
Although the story in itself is not the most brilliant in the world, Hawkins creates a fine work of writing, seismographically outlining the most common tensions, insecurities and doubts, in a killing cadence of morning/evening, following the dairy entries of the main women characters of the story: Rachel, Megan and Anna.
Overall, it is a book worth reading, if not for the story, for some fragments of good writing. Once I started the reading it was hard to leave it and sometimes it is just enough to want to recommend the book further.

Rating: 3.5 stars  

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Book Review: Nine Women by Frances M. Thompson

My motivation to keep reading in the given order and all the short stories of a volume of short stories is the chance of a journey through different characters and encounters, while discovering a bit about the author' style in each and every one of them. Nine Women by Frances M. Thompson is such an unique adventure.
You can read each and every one of the stories at your own pace, start in your desired order, read it again and again, or just keep the author's choice. Any of those choices are a guarantee of the pleasure of reading. 
The pleasure of reading does not have to do with swimming within your comfort zone. The women and men of those short stories do have doubts, emotional breakdowns or deeply hidden truths, are looking for emotional identity and are fighting hard with confusion and despair. The writing often takes a poetic turn, inviting the reader to float together with the charaters through ambiguity and incertainty. It is where the pleasure of reading can lead you without acknowledging it, but once there, a true reader will confirm that it is the best place to be. The writing of Frances M. Thompson makes you float between worlds in a realm shaped by words. I praised the intellectual adventure and the emotional topsy-turvy. There is so much to guess about ourselves only at the borderline. 

Rating: 5 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the author in exchange for an honest review 

The 12-Step Plan to Take Charge of Your Career

A healthy inspiration for both women looking to open their business or just to upgrade and adjust their career plans, Boss Bitch offers mind opening and straight forward professional advice. When you are embarking on a new career, you need honesty and reliable support.
Of course it is amazing to have your own business and be your own boss, but failures and bankrupcy can be as real as your dream of becoming a billionaire. 'There's no one-size-fits-all-path for your career', says Nicole Lapin and she is perfectly right. Taking the right decision is what you need, based on your skills and professional background, but do it fast because 'as they say, the road of life is paved with flattened squirrels who couldn't make a decision'.
Being a boss (bitch) means more than giving orders and having a top career enjoying the pleasure of an office and many (frightened) employees, it means an attitude and a way of life, while you 'run your life like a business'. 'A boss mentality is all about how you feel and carry yourself', and this idea is one of the best I got in the last months. It means being in charge of yourself in a majestic way, having the right screening capacity to make choices and decide, while eliminating the background noise of  naysayers and unproductive thoughts. 'No, you shouldn't change yourself or your personality drastically for any job (or relationships). But you should accentuate those parts of yourself that align with the company's brand and culture'. 
I am usually a very speed reader, but I wanted to take my time for carefully going through all the advice in the book, as I am right now in a very important career turning point. Put the swearing beside - but it is in fact a good example of being yourself and showing your way without complexes, regardless what people say - you will find a lot of extraordinary advice about tailoring the best outfit for your career and life. It starts with the very beginning of creating the plans and identifying what you are good at, and continues with shaping the right career path of being more than a manager, but a leader with a strong voice at the business table, inspiring other people and writing your own business story. It is more or less a question of defining success and happiness and moving forward accordingly, while staying with the feet deep into the ground.
I will definitely read this book more than once, as it really helps channeling the real you and creating both complex life and career opportunities. It is the kind of useful book that you wish you had in your hands before starting your business.

Rating: 5 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange for an honest review 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Welcome to the House of Spies

After the Black Widow, I curiously waited the new adventures of the Israeli spy Gabriel Allon, now chief of the intelligence service. There is something addictive in the way in which Daniel Silva is telling stories about terrible events and complicated geopolitical structures, with the historical, intelligence and political background gently introduced into the narrative. 
House of Spies is following Allon's efforts to annihilate Saladin, his no. 1 enemy, the creator and orchestrator of a 'new generation of suicide warriors'. Based on the main trademark of Saladin: 'He believed that in terror, as in life, timing was everything', he creates an international team which is trying to decipher his traces going from Marseilles until the hidden corners of Morocco. 'His target was a man. A man who had built a network of death that had laid siege to the great cities of the civilized world'. As his main profits for investing in the terror plans are the narcotics, the intelligence agents are going back to the origins of the narcotics trade in Europe. As in all the previous book from the series I've read, it mentions current events and world stage evolutions, which are inserted into the story, such as, for instance, the fears of the cybercaliphate: 'Martyrs-in-waiting would be radicalized in hidden corners of the dark web and then guided toward the masterminds they had never met. Such was the brave new world that the Internet, social media, and encrypted messaging had brought about'. 
Until the very end of the book, there are interesting spectacular turn of events taking place, with unexpected changes and challenges and breathtaking surprises. What I liked less what the insertion of some new age elements, with some jinni hungers praying near a toilet seat in Morocco and some future reading lady in Corsica.
Right now, I set the countdown until the next book by Daniel Silva. Maybe I can fill the waiting time with some of his 17 books I haven't read yet.

Rating: 4.5 stars

A Summer at Rose Island that Changed it All

There is certainly a recipe for developing 'feel good' books: you have a new comer looking to start completely fresh and a mysterious, sometimes grumpy foreigner with a kind of dark history. Until the end of the story, you have a romance going on, frequently finished by a proposal.
What makes the difference though is how do you feel this matrix, the art of creating the story. Darcy arrives at White Cliff Bay after a high record of personal and professional failures, with a fresh new job at the local council and the promise of a new start far away from her overcritical parents. The lonely resident of the historical lighthouse, Riley, put his eyes on her and will become her boyfriend soon. 
What I love about this romance story, which goes on very nicely, is the context created: the fight for preserving the historical lighthouse, whose destruction is imminent for making place for a lavish hotel. Darcy's social involvement for preserving the lighthouse creates an interesting human background story which balances the relationship history.
Overall, it is a pleasant reading, with its English charm and an optimistic vibe, a good reading companion for the summer or the holiday season in general. 

Rating: 4 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange for an honest review