Monday, March 20, 2017

Kill Someone by Luke Smitherd

Note: The book reviewed contains graphic depictions of violence and discusses other related themes only appropriate for those over the age of 18. Also, take heed that there are some SPOILERS below.

Would you kill one person to save five others from being murdered? That is the choice a 21-year-old Chris faces in an ‘experiment’ he has been ‘chosen’ to participate in.

It is an impossible choice. A choice, as Chris likes to remind a reader now and again, one can hardly judge Chris for the way he goes about making it.

The premise of Kill Someone is as intriguing as it is horrifying and thought-provoking. Alas, while the concept of the story is fascinating, its execution is more than a little elusive.

The writing is loose, replete with rambling, repetitions, and digressions in the first person POV. One short third person POV segment is thrown in for no apparent reason, except maybe for the author thinking it would be cool to change the POV or not knowing how to approach that part of the narrative through Chris’s POV.

The whole thing felt a lot like a self-insert with some alterations – and that feeling got only stronger after reading a rather lengthy afterword which was all too similar in style to the novel’s narration.

And, whereas the umpteen reminders not to judge Chris throughout the story were at least somewhat in place, the same being said in the afterword sounded as if the author forgot that Chris is, after all, not a real person, but his creation.

Speaking of the said creation, it could use some more forethought, because Chris’s character fell into the area of implausibility on quite a few points.

For example, Chris thinks of himself as a kid at the age of 21 (!) and he has never been in a fight (even I, a chronically ill child, had been in a fight or two in school). And even a decade later, despite his experience, he still behaves and thinks much the same. What a missed opportunity to show character development.

His family is living on a decrepit farm BUT Chris never mentions anyone doing any farm work AND YET his family is well-off (enough for the parents to vacation in Maldives?) Does not compute.

Additionally, Chris’s parents seem to be keen on him being on the straight-and-narrow path for him, but they are okay with him working for a call centre instead of going to college?  

Then, there was a very sexist matter of reducing five women to quintuplets, although that is not what they were, technically, but triplets and two younger sisters. And the author either wasn’t bothered to do the math or thought it was perfectly fine for them to be ‘very close in age’, so close in fact that they must have been born within 24 months.

That is right, three births (including triplets) within two years. Ah, men and their unrealistic expectations. But, hey, it is just women, right, what else are we for than popping out kids?

So, yeah, that detail made me angry right at the beginning of the book and it hardly improved much as it went on.

By 40 % of the book I had a thought that maybe someone switched the word order in the title, because what I was thinking was ‘someone kill me’.

Oh, yes, it was this book this tweet was about:

At least the resolution was somewhat sensible, when Chris figured out that he had the option to choose a merciful solution. (Although, I forgot whether killing himself was against the rules, because that was definitely an option that came to my mind. But no judging.)

The ending and the reveal of why Chris was ‘chosen’ for this experiment at least provided some food for thought.

And here comes a SPOILER.

Guilt-tripping people into helping improve the world by forcing them to committing a crime first is something I disapprove on principle, because wouldn’t it be better if no one died and a person chose to do good without having to atone for something bad?

On the other hand, though, a question arises whether one person’s death could be an acceptable price for the many other (perhaps hundreds, thousands) lives the murderer would improve in trying to atone for their crime?

My first instinct is to say ‘no’, but the answer is much more complicated than I can come up with, at least not now.

Chris, at least, found an answer which he could sleep with, which is also something.

Therefore, the thought-provoking ending somewhat redeemed the book in my eyes, but it was a shame that the rest of it was stylistically and narratively underwhelming and felt not thought-through well enough. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

DNF Review: Lords of the City by Alice Ward

Note: The book reviewed contains themes only appropriate for those over the age of 18. Also, take heed that there are some SPOILERS below.

There is a first time for everything, including writing a DNF review, right?

Lords of the City is a bundle of standalone romance novels featuring Chicago billionaires finding their HEA with the women (and the readers, I guess) they bring to their knees with their alpha-maleness and bad boy attitude.

Alas, the stories themselves fall extremely short of this highly misleading description, apart from the first novella. 

This is what I noted down when I finished Lured:
It is a shame this wasn’t a full novel, because Niall and Emma and their relationship totally intrigued me. Unfortunately, as it is only a novella, the story, characterization, and relationship development (or not-development) are rushed and one has to imagine and/or speculate about the depths of their characters and relationship, although there are so many things that should/could be explored more in depth in regard to both characters, but especially Niall, which are only hinted at.                                                                                  
Nevertheless, it is an interesting introduction to the series and I expect the epilogue novella will function as a second part and hopefully deliver a satisfactory (and happy) conclusion to this tragedy. And it is a tragedy, because while Niall behaves like a jerk and he is an idiot, there are certainly reasons for him being as he is and I really need to see him getting to the bottom of his idiocy and his painful (I assume) past and become a better man.                                                                
And while I can give Niall a bit of a benefit of the doubt, I also understand Emma’s hurt and her own conclusions about Niall’s supposed (at least currently) irredeemability.                                                                                                                                  
Overall, it was a bit of a hit-and-miss, because it felt like I could like the story and the characters but I missed that added depth that would make me actually like them. The price of the shortness, I guess.
And that was all that was good about the series.

I read a few chapters of Torn, but I should've guessed that the protagonist describing herself as quirky couldn't mean anything good. I couldn't get into the book, because I didn't feel any connection to the characters.

I found Noah particularly annoying with his wish to remake the female protagonist (I can't even remember her name) into what he wants 'his' woman to be. Fine, if you want to have a dress code for your company and compensate your employees for having to readjust their wardrobe to fit the code. But forcing a woman to limit her style exclusively to 'curve-hugging' dresses with disregard of her own comfort and style is sexist and disrespectful, not romantic and certainly not 'professional' and the book lost me there (especially with the 'quirky' lady happily going along with it.)

I tried the beginning of the second book, but I, again, wasn't drawn neither to the story nor to the characters. So, I decided to quit and not even bother with the third book.

The epilogue novella was a also a disappointment, because instead of continuing Niall and Emma's story, Emma simply disappears and instead of her another woman appears in Niall's life out of the blue and I guess he gets his HEA with Candace (but of course it must be Candace), probably without having to overcome his inner turmoil or, god forbid, change.

Also, despite the description that says that these lords of the city would bring us to our knees during a 'raw, emotional journey', these 'bad, bad boys' and their supposedly 'sexy and delicious' stories were pretty tame and far from 'thrilling' – quite the contrary, to me the series was actually too boring to finish.

There are two parts of another Ward's series included in the bundle but I didn't even bother with those.

I can see why this was on sale: give people a deal price for the bundle and 'lure' them in with the first, otherwise unavailable, novella, just in case at least some people might find any appeal in the rest of the materials included.

Overall, the best part of this was the prologue novella, Lured, even with its tragic ending, which I guess was also worth the price of a bit over an euro, while the rest was a free 'bonus'. 

3 stars for Lured, 0 stars for the rest.