Review ~ The Breakdown, by B.A. Paris. 

I am new to this author as I have yet to read Paris’ mega-successful debut Behind Closed Doors – reviewed by Thalia – so I was unaware of what to expect on one hand, but on the other hand, was looking forward to this read. 

I don’t want to talk too much about the plot, except to say that it is entertaining (if you take it with a pinch of salt, and don’t mind the blatant oversimplification of dementia), and it did keep me reading to see what happened at the end. 

The pace and characters are nothing particularly new or original, particularly within this genre; the book did keep up its pace and never really seemed to stall or lose itself. 

Bottom line: if you want a quick and easy read, go for it and give this book a go. If you want something with a little more substance and oomph (yes, that is indeed an acceptable technical term!), then I’d respectfully suggest another read. 

The Breakdown releases today: The Breakdown

Until next time ~ Pegasus. 

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Review ~ The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn.

img_0335Wow, where do I even start?   You know that moment where you have a genre, or even an idea of a genre, that you really fancy reading?  Well, you finally find it and hope that it delivers, even if it is just a fluffy entertaining read… and it does… In fact, it more than delivers, it smacks you and brings you back for another smack!   This is a bit like how I felt when I recently finished reading The Alice Network.

For a while now, I’ve wanted to read some good French Resistance/WWI/WWII fiction, and after many a “wasted” hour spent trawling Amazon, GoodReads, et al, I found this title and thought I’ll give it a go.  I didn’t read any reviews (no, that’s not a hint that you should stop reading this one!), and I delved straight in.

Now, I am going to warn you that this story is split/dual narrative and timeline/setting.  I know some people find that really jarring, but here, it seems to work well.  We have Charlie in 1947, looking for her cousin who disappeared in WWII, and then we have Eve, in 1915, who is approached to become a spy for the French Resistance in German occupied France.

Charlie is given Eve’s name as someone who may be able to help her, and therefore goes to find the now older spy.  From there begins a journey that neither character, or reader, could have predicted.

Now, I haven’t read any of Quinn’s previous novels (from what I’ve seen, Quinn seems to stick to Roman and medieval style Historical Fiction), so I had no expectations of her writing style, characterization, pace, etc etc…  The writing in The Alice Network is stark, to the point and realistic.  There is little unnecessary flowery language that tends to get used as filler.  The characters, for the most part, are three dimensional, believable, and not cliched.  I even really enjoyed the side characters, and each one could have easily warranted their own story in another book.

What I liked best about this book is that Quinn doesn’t patronize the reader; the actions of the characters are genuine and realistic.  While there were a couple of times that I would have taken a particular story thread in a different direction, overall I was really satisfied with the eventual traveled path.

I would have no hesitation is giving this novel 5 stars, and/or recommending it (as I have been) to anyone that likes to read.   See for yourself and pick up a copy!

~ Pegasus.

The Alice Network

Review – Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories, by Mariana Enriquez. 

I’m not usually a huge fan of short stories – they always seem to leave me wanting more, and to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much more from this collection by Mariana Enriquez.  However, on this occasion, I’m glad to report that I was proven wrong. Very wrong. 

Set in Argentina, Things We Lost in the Fire, is a collection of short stories about loss, the macabre, ghosts, and horror. 

Whilst not necessarily happy subjects, Enriquez has a talent of not wasting words. Each word you read is like a building block for the story, and I didn’t ever feel like there were filler getting in the way. 

I’ll definitely be keeping an eye for more by this author! 

Until next time, 

Pegasus. 

Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories

Review ~ The Travelers by Chris Pavone

imageThis is the third installment from Chris Pavone that includes The Expats – Pegasus’ review, The Expats – Urania’s review And then The Accident – Pegasus’ review. As is Pavone’s M.O., once again, we are transported to a world of traveling and European locales.

The Travelers is a travel magazine, one of the last in a dying business of print media. Its senior reporter, Will Rhodes, is on assignment in Argentina, when he is approached by a woman who he ends up sleeping with and then being told that he must join the CIA due to his carte blanche access to foreign locations. Yes, I wouldn’t blame you if you had puked whilst simultaneously caused yourself ocular strain by the eye rolling. However, bear with me…. From here, Will is thrust into an espionage world where nothing is what it seems.

This is not a unique storyline, but with all the different locations, the double crossing, characters who have multiple motives, and fast pace chapters, The Travelers, is truly a fun and exciting read. The characters are good enough (although I feel as though they could have had more room to develop), if not a little one dimensional, but let’s face it, this isn’t type of novel that necessarily requires it.

Whilst all three novels are definitely stand alone, Pavone has managed to interweave some characters and plot points that you’ll probably recognize if you read the books in order of publication (The Expats, The Accident, and The Travelers). This books is solidly entertaining and well worth reading if you enjoyed the previous two.

Until next time,

Pegasus.

The Travelers: A Novel

Review – A Long Way Down, by Nick Hornby.

10073People say that brain surgery is hard, and I agree, it probably is, but I also imagine that writing a story about suicide, and making it into a dark comedy, is also very hard!   Nick Hornby has achieved this major feat in his novel, A Long Way Down.   Now, this book came out 10 years ago, but it is the first Hornby novel that I have read.   I’d always been interested in picking up one of his novels (Hornby is perhaps most famously known for his novel, About a Boy), but it was a case of never pulling the trigger, so to speak.    Well, I’m certainly glad that I did!

The novel explores the lives and interactions of four characters that incidentally meet on the top of a building on New Years Eve; all have the intent of jumping off said building.    Hmmm…. Sounds pretty grim, huh?   Well, let me give you an example of what drew me in:

Can I explain why I wanted to jump off the top of  tower block?  Of course I can explain why I wanted to jump off the top of a tower block.  I’m not a bloody idiot.  I can explain it because it wasn’t inexplicable: It wasn’t a logical decision, the product of proper thought.  It wasn’t even very serious thought, either.

The first few lines of the book are full of dark humor, philosophy (actual, realistic philosophical thinking) and candor.   Hornby’s use of the first person narrative really draws you in and entices you into each character’s experiences and story.   Talking of which, the characters are a huge reason this novel works so well; each character is real.  They all have their flaws, and you will spend a considerable amount of time disliking them, wanting to slap them silly, but at the same time, wanting to give them a hug and talk things out with them.   I think when you’re story circles around such a profound and personal theme of wondering how your life has ended up the way it has and not seeing any way forward, the characters need to be real; they need to be human – someone we can relate to.

Hornby is British, so his humor is very dark, discrete and dry.  I personally loved it, but I can see how a lot of people may miss it, or simply not find it amusing.   However, I think this novel will have something for everyone, as it offers hope, perspective and a good old fashioned kick up the rear end.    It’s not all doom and gloom, but it also doesn’t offer a glossy shine on life.  Oh, and there is a film version of this book, on Netflix, and while it isn’t a bad  film, it doesn’t offer nearly the same amount as the book does (and in my opinion, the casting person for that movie should have read the book a little more carefully!), so steer clear until you have finished the book!

Until next time,

Pegasus.

A Long Way Down

Review – The Art Forger, by B.A. Shapiro

14568987I’m subscribed to this service that offers books on demand each month, much like Netflix, and the other day I was browsing through the selections, and came across this book. It sounded interesting enough to start, and well, I only put it down 2 times (and that was due to sleep!). The Art Forger is one of those novels that is ultimately fiction, but bases it upon real life events. Anyone who happens to have a passing interest in art, and/or was alive and kicking in 1990, will probably remember the art heist that occurred at the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum in Boston. To date, this robbery is considered America’s biggest ever art heist. Shapiro sets her book 25 years later, when Clair (a struggling artist – yes, I know, very cliche), is offered a large sum of money to produce a copy of a famous Degas painting, one that happened to be among the collection that was stolen from the museum 25 years ago. Clair goes along with this idea, and the book follows her process, whilst presenting a dual narrative with Isabella Gardner.
What I really loved about this book was that it was an easy, entertaining read, and yet, I learnt a lot. I learnt a lot about the art world, museums, art forgery, and the history behind some big name artists. The characters are authentic enough for you to believe in them, but at the same time, you’ll have no trouble putting this book behind you once you finish it.
I believe it really takes a talented author to write a story that has substance and quick entertainment value at the same time. This is one of those books where you get a cup of coffee and Baileys, curl up on the sofa and read the day away. However, if you’re anything like me, you’ll also spend hours on Google afterwards, researching all the historical truths presented in the story!
If you want a mix of history, contemporary, art, and mystery, then I highly recommend this book. It might not win any literary awards, but in my view it wins the award of providing solid entertainment and intrigue.

P.S., this book won’t even cost you anything if you are part of the Kindle Unlimited program!

Until next time,

Pegasus.

The Art Forger: A Novel

Joint Review: The Stranger by Harlan Coben

strangerPegasus: Here’s the predicament: How far would you go for love? How far are you capable of going? I bet if you asked 1000 people, you’d get 1000 unique responses. Love is one of those emotions that has no universal meaning, and yet everyone knows it when they are hit with it. We all have different ways of expressing it, and we all have different depths to which we’ll go in order to keep it, or at least a resemblance of it. This is the central theme that Harlan Coben explores in his new thriller, The Stranger.

Urania: Seriously, Pegasus? That’s what you got from this thriller? Here I thought it was about “How long does it take you to realise you’re completely selfish and surrounded by the same type of selfishness of all those around you”….oh wait…no…….maybe it’s, “You never really appreciate something until it’s gone”? Yep…that sums it up for me….I just can’t decide which one is the best summary of this novel….

Pegasus: I see what you mean in regards to Adam and Corrine, but my point really applies to the secondary characters that got blackmailed.  Love, naivete and stupidity, all mean the same thing when it comes to those two;  they have this fucked up relationship in which none of them know how to express what they feel, and indeed realise what they are feeling.

Pegasus: I read this in 24 hours – it is a very quick and easy read, which is more or less what you tend to expect from a thriller, and in that respect, I enjoyed this book. However, I had issues with some of the characters. First off, the main character that the plot focuses on is Corrine. What happened to her, did she do what she is being accused of, and why did she do certain things. The answers to these questions were the epicenter of the plot, and yet Coben did a poor job in really fleshing out Corrine’s character. There was no emotion there, no real understanding, just a basic outline of a mum obsessed with her son’s school sports. I think this book would have really benefited from some flashback scenes. Enough to show us possible motive and the chance for the reader to actually give a shit about what happens to her. The same can be said for Adam. Coben portrays him as this alpha male type character that won’t let anything or anyone harm his family, but that is all we get. Again, this is where some flashbacks would have really helped in order to show his vulnerability and indeed a 3D portrait of his character.

Urania: Well at least on this we agree. However (don’t you just love it when I say, “however”….can you just see me rolling me eyes as I say it?) I think the way Coben portrayed the characters just validates exactly how I felt about this novel. The only question I have it was it intentional? We get to see both the husband and the wife take each other for granted. We get to see them both act in ways that does not make their partners feel valid or cherished. Corrine is portrayed as a somewhat controlling, unfeeling person by her husband from the start. However, as the novel goes on, her husband starts to appreciate her more. We see glimpses then, and only then, of how he has taken her for granted and suddenly he is missing her and appreciating all she means to him and his children. We see how she has tried to be fair to many of those around her…when at first, we were led to believe that she was totally self-centered and ignored anyone’s else’s needs or wants.

Pegasus:  I think Coben was playing on the whole unreliable narrator made most famous in Gone Girl.  However, (see, I can use that word too!) he failed.  He failed big time.  To have a successful unreliable narrator, you need decent characters. and these ones were simply not given the consideration they needed.

Urania:  This outlying theme of selfishness and lack of appreciation can be said of every single character in this novel if you look at them all as a whole. Every single problem/crime/relationship conflict can all be tied to these two things…0000000

But hey ho….isn’t that the way it is in the real world as well?

Pegasus: I will give credit where credit is due though: The plot outline was good and had it had the benefit of another 100 pages or so, I believe it could have been a very juicy and emotional story. Also, Coben did pose some questions for us to ponder: What does love mean? How do we define it? What lengths will we go to protect it? What does it mean to be “living the dream”? What is perfection? As he made me think, I will give Coben credit, as many thriller writers don’t achieve that.

Urania: I never realised you were such a romantic, Pegasus….Credit is giving by me to Coben for just enforcing my belief that most people are only looking out for #1….just saying….

Pegasus:  But doesn’t that go hand in hand?  We think we love someone, but really, are just looking out for numero uno. What one may see as love, another may see as pure selfishness.

Urania: Oh dear…oh dear me…I can’t believe I’m going to say this…but here goes…I’m getting up there in age…and a few years ago I would have 100% agreed with your statement, Pegasus…but now? Not at all…call me foolish, but there isn’t any of that looking out for myself any longer…I come second….of course it’s a joint second and I’m tied with him…but numero uno? That’s *us*….100%….

Pegasus: I’ve said this in a previous review of Missing You, also by Harlen Coben, that the author has picked apart at this massive theme, and yet only scratched the service. It left me, in my opinion, feeling like I’ve just eaten a good meal, but the final taste just didn’t come together as I’d hope it would do.

Urania: yea yea yea…whatever….you didn’t really think I was going to give you the last word did you?

Pegasus: (-:

Until next time…

Pegasus and Urania

ARC provided by Netgalley for an honest review

Buy it now The Stranger by Harlan Coben