Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Review: Forward into Hell by Vince Bramley


5 stars for Forward into Hell by Vince Bramley.

Forward Into Hell is a candid first person account written by Vince Bramley, an English soldier from the ranks, one who cheats death not once, not twice but more than thrice during the Falklands War in 1982, and lives to tell this gripping and unnerving account of the bloody battle fought in Mount Langdon.

It has been donkey years since I read a Non-Fiction. If my memory serves me right, my last read Non-Fiction was in 2002, “It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life” written by the now infamous Lance Armstrong long before he has fallen from grace with the doping revelations. As much as Armstrong’s book is inspirational (at that time), I did not manage to complete my reading as the writing and thought process are all jumbled up and too disorganised for my liking. It is understandably so since most writers of Non-Fiction books are not cut out to be author material but merely present their life stories based on facts and information as and when they see fit. Thus, I am deeply impressed by Vince Bramley in his well-structured and methodical writing of his true-life account of the Falklands war.

Vince Bramley mentions in his foreword that he has always been saddened when history dies with a soldier. I agree with him in a way. My maternal grandfather survived both World War I and II to live to a ripe old age of 94 before crossing over to the rainbow beyond in 2005. Though he had seen and lived through the worst of World War II during the invasion, he had never shared with me any part whatsoever of those days of darkness he was subjected to. It is with great regret as I look back on how much is lost forever with his passing.

Therefore, I feel it worthy to document down the events and experiences of one who has survived war and its aftermath. A re-telling of the war account may serve several purposes: ease the narrator’s pent-up burden, provide the well-deserved recognition for the troops especially those unheeded junior ranks who form the backbone of the war machine with their close range combat, and function as an invaluable lesson to be learnt by future generations.

In this book, readers gain access to insights based on the first-hand experiences, thoughts and feelings of Bramley, an ordinary soldier: how the war affects and changes him and his attitude to life, what dominates the forefront of his mind in battle and why faces of his dead comrades continue to haunt him long after the war. One that strikes a chord with me is Bramley’s indifferent depiction of the nothingness he undergoes after having killed (Had we killed? We must have) using a spray of machine-gun bullets in the cover of the night. Because he has neither seen the enemies nor killed at the end of a bayonet, it feels surreal to Bramley that the enemies even exist at all. This mentality is somewhat similar to the thinking that death will not happen to one’s own self but only to other persons. In truth, the reality of facing death head-on and having to kill is one such petrifying belief that most, if not all soldiers simply switch off from the sights, choosing to go numb over going nuts.

In a battle between life-and-death, decisions are made on the spot, questions asked afterwards. Indeed, the rights and wrongs of war can never be argued from the comfy chair, and there are always causes and reasons to contend with. It is clear that while Bramley disagrees with war, he will not hesitate to fight again for his country and its beliefs. Perhaps that is something only soldiers, especially those on the frontline can fully understand and identify with.

Publisher: John Blake; Reprint edition
Publication date: 6 Jun 2011

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Written by a soldier from the ranks, this book is a candid account of the bloody battle for Mount Langdon during the Falklands War. Vincent Bramley describes in shocking detail the 12 hours of brutal man-to-man combat that it took before the Third Battalion Parachute Regiment were able to take the mountain from the Argentine forces. He exposes the effects that the fear of dying and the reality of killing have on the ordinary soldier during the heat of battle. He tells how some men went AWOL, how others faced their fears and confronted the enemy, and how some went on a vicious killing spree. Bramley's underlying message is that war should be avoided at all costs. But, while wars continue to be fought around the globe, the grim reality of life on the frontline will be fully comprehended by all who read this book.

*Blurb from Goodreads*

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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Review: Payoff (Mindspace Investigation #1.5) by Alex Hughes


5 stars for Payoff (Mindspace Investigation book 1.5) by Alex Hughes.

Payoff is a novella aptly titled to suit the story and lead character vis-à-vis his payment due in kind to someone who holds tremendous power and voice in the eyes of law.

Our hero, a Level Eight telepath, is facing off one of his worst nightmares. Life without telepathy is unthinkable -- alone, empty and under tremendous pressure -- the absence of mind reading is changing the whole ball game of how our male lead goes about solving and interacting with the people implicated in cases under his charge.

Well penned and smooth flowing, the author delivers an unexpected punch to this 74-page short novel with an atypical ending which reminds me of the culmination we sometimes see in some movie productions.

Mindspace Investigation is seriously a remarkably well written series such that the books can be read in any order. But still, I will recommend to read in this order: book 1 Clean, book 0.5 Rabbit Trick, book 1.5 Payoff, book 2 Sharp.

Publisher: Roc
Publication date: 5 Mar 2013

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Being a telepath, I should have seen the hell I was getting myself into…

I used to be one of the most powerful telepaths in the guild. That was before my drug addiction and before they kicked me out. But I’m not a bad guy. Now I help the Atlanta PD solve murders. And even though there are only a few people I call friends, I’d do most anything to keep their trust.

So when a judge asks me to help investigate a missing college kid, I’m down for it. No questions asked. No problem. But in this dark world, things are never easy and a favor is never just a favor. Turns out, politicians don’t like being murder suspects. And it’s bad to anger someone with more power than you. I thought I had nothing to lose… I was wrong.

*Blurb from author's website*

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Review: Rabbit Trick (Mindspace Investigation #0.5) by Alex Hughes


5 stars for Rabbit Trick (Mindspace Investigation book 0.5) by Alex Hughes.

Rabbit Trick is a short story that takes place before the events of Book 1 Clean.

I am glad to have taken on this prequel only after having read book 1 Clean and book 2 Sharp. Since I am already familiar with the two central characters and their background, I can plunge head on to fully appreciate this short story of 45 pages and enjoy it immensely.

There are a few things I really like about this introductory book to the Mindspace Investigation series. First is the book title. The author has chosen a spot-on name to start off the series with. None other name than Rabbit Trick will do justice to our telepathic hero and his subsequent narratives. Next is the pleasure of reading a short story and not feeling short-changed. Though the account is short, the author starts off with a good beginning and wraps up with an equally appropriate ending. Finally, I love it that the story concludes with an ending but yet, not an ending.

For those who have not yet started on this series but planning to, I will recommend to read book 1 Clean first, follow by this prequel Rabbit Trick, and then move on to whichever next.

Publisher: Alex Hughes
Publication date: 4 Mar 2014

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When the cops call me in the middle of the night, I know it’s bad. One of their own is dead, strangled in her car by a professional killer, and it’s up to me, telepath consultant extraordinaire, to pull the rabbit out of my hat and solve the case. Only this time I’m not so sure I can.

Homicide Detective Isabella Cherabino is breathing down my neck. The dead cop’s partner is too. And now, the worst—there was a five-year-old kid in the car, a kid no one can find.

*Blurb from author's website*

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Review: Conditional Love by Cathy Bramley


2.5 stars for Conditional Love by Cathy Bramley.

To some extent, book covers do affect my decision to place a book high up as priority reading or simply add it to my ever growing list of to-be-read to be dealt with later. So with this cutesy picture of a book cover which I simply adore, Conditional Love has been upgraded to a read-now rather than later book.

This standalone novel starts out great with a strong focal point drawing upon a mysterious inheritance with specific condition to be met, but unfortunately fizzles out less than a quarter to the story. Don't misunderstand me, the plot is fine and the writing is fairly smooth flowing but I find it really draining to try liking the female protagonist, Sophie Stone, a girl who likes to daydream herself silly, makes inane assumptions and ignores well-intentioned sensible advice from friends. Perhaps the author is trying to construct a before and after distinction by creating a female lead who starts out with fluff brains so as to differentiate her from the later bettered version. If so, the plan undoubtedly backfires, at least the case for me. Though I can understand why the heroine is crafted as such initially, I find it difficult to appreciate a doormat who readily accepts what life throws at her and continually chooses to go with the flow just so to avoid responsibility, disappointment and failure. More so, I find it even harder to accept that Sophie practically swoons and worships the ground on which Marc, an incorrigible character of a man steps upon. To make matters worse, there is this really selfish mother of hers who is unbearable downright to the core.

So, you can imagine how relieved I am when finally the author decides to give Sophie a wake-up call in the second half of the story by making her face up to her future: take up the responsibilities, make her own decision, design her dream house, stand up to her unforthcoming selfish mother and most importantly, build her future on her own terms. Even so, the damage has already been done as first impression matters and it tends to stick. With that, I see the stars for my review rating of Conditional Love floating away one by one, or more accurately, half by half, slowly but surely as I read on.

Overall, this is a fairly ok story for a debut romance novel albeit tending on the long side. Due to lack of much surprises and monotony of the plot, I admit to being guilty of skimming through the story from third quarter of the book onwards.

Publisher: Cathy Bramley; 1 edition
Publication date: 26 Dec 2013

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Meet Sophie Stone, a thirty-something, serial-procrastinator. Tesco knickers, Take That, and tea with two sugars is about as exciting as it gets. But when her boyfriend dumps her on Valentine’s Day and a mysterious benefactor leaves her an inheritance, even Sophie has to accept that change is afoot.

There is a catch - a condition in the will that threatens the very foundations of Sophie’s world. What did the old lady want her to discover? Was there more to her parents’ break up than she was led to believe?

With a boss from hell, bickering flat mates, manipulative mother and sexy ex-boyfriend, Sophie has plenty to contend with without the brooding architect who puts his foot in it every time he opens his mouth. Sophie will have to face the past and learn some shocking home truths before she can finally get her own happy-ever-after.

*Blurb from author's website*

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Monday, November 3, 2014

Review: Three to Get Deadly (Stephanie Plum #3) by Janet Evanovich


4.5 stars for Three to Get Deadly (Stephanie Plum book 3) by Janet Evanovich.

Having read a dystopian feminist fantasy trilogy in continuous succession prior, it is indeed a refreshing welcome change to a mirthful romantic suspense novel, especially one involving Stephanie Plum.

Stephanie, our much loved heroine and narrator, with no knacks in skip tracing and practically zero background as apprehension agent, has surprisingly managed to stay in trade as bounty hunter for five months straight since she wiggles her way into bail bondsman cousin, Vinnie's employment in book 1 One for the Money.

Subsequent to her last major success in nailing a bail jumper who implicates funeral parlors, caskets and cadavers, Stephanie now moves on to her next prime case, albeit with some reluctance given that this assignment involves apprehending a man who is widely known in the Berg to be the most law abiding citizen, someone who has and will never have done anything wrong.

In Three to Get Deadly, Stephanie goes around looking for the perpetuators with the help of Lula, her so-called partner-in-crime. The more I read on Lula and her uproariously entertaining dialogues with Stephanie, the more I like Lula and her ballsy character. Though uncouth and crude at times, Lula has certainly grown to be a very likeable character, especially so when combined with the likes of our female lead, Stephanie Plum. Together, they render the undertakings of their manhunt enlivening and dramatically sensational.

To top it off, one of the characters that I cannot wait to see finally makes an appearance in this book. And it is a pleasantly delightful surprise that more background and information about this particular character is revealed than I have come to expect.

By and large, book 3 of the Stephanie Plum series is an easy read, lighthearted and very enjoyable. I am definitely looking forward to reading more on Plum and her exciting narration as a bond agent in the books to come.

Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 15 Jul 1999

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It’s January and the weather’s as bleak as Stephanie’s chances of apprehending Moses Bedemeir, Trenton’s most beloved candy store owner. So loved is Uncle Mo, the very fact that Stephanie’s out to bring him in makes her the most hated woman in town. Fortunately Trenton vice cop, Joe Morelli, seems to still like Stephanie. Maybe a little bit too much. It’s possible he’s just using Stephanie to help find Uncle Mo first.

Super bounty hunter, Ranger, Stephanie’s Grandma Mazur, and sidekick, Lula are also all in on the search. As they trip down a trail littered with dead drug dealers, Stephanie is beginning to suspect that kindly Uncle Mo has traded in his ice-cream scoop for a vigilante gun.

*Blurb from author's website*

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