Book Review: Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas

Barracuda by Christos TsiolkasBarracuda: What it is about

From the publishers: “His whole life, Danny Kelly’s only wanted one thing: to win Olympic gold. Everything he’s ever done-every thought, every dream, every action-takes him closer to that moment of glory, of vindication, when the world will see him for what he is: the fastest, the strongest and the best. His life has been a preparation for that moment.

His parents struggle to send him to the most prestigious private school with the finest swimming program; Danny loathes it there and is bullied and shunned as an outsider, but his coach is the best and knows Danny is, too, better than all those rich boys, those pretenders. Danny’s win-at-all-cost ferocity gradually wins favour with the coolest boys-he’s Barracuda, he’s the psycho, he’s everything they want to be but don’t have the guts to get there. He’s going to show them all.

Barracuda: What I thought

My reading experience with Barracuda was very mixed. I loved the beginning, about Danny, from a poor family, going to a private school where he’d be coached in swimming. He was the best swimmer of them all. Although they initially don’t want much to do with him, the other boys are impressed by his swimming capabilities and he becomes reluctant friends with some of them.

The story about young Danny is intermixed with that of an older Dan. It seems things didn’t work out in the end. After a while, the story became too negative and I didn’t enjoy it anymore. I even put it aside, forgot that I was reading it, and read most of another book before I realized I was supposed to read Barracuda. I’m glad I did get back to it, because it did get better. When he gets to know his cousin, he finally finds a person he can relate to. I loved it how he connected with him.

The mix of past and present was sometimes confusing. The story in the past was written in the third person (Danny, he) while the rest was written in the first person (I), presumably to indicate how older -Dan didn’t relate to his younger version. That was made very clear in the story, so the change in point of view seemed a little redundant. Also, it didn’t help me while reading in deciding whether I was reading  the past or the present (I just forgot which was which until it became clear that Dan had distanced himself from Danny).

The story is about a boy, later a man, looking for recognition and belonging. Definitely well-written but a bit too bleak at places.


Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars (okay to good)

Number of pages: 528

First published: 2014

I got this: for review from Blogging for Books (ebook)

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

 

Book Review: Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

Horrorstör by Grady HendrixHorrorstör: What it is about

From the publishers: “Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Columbus, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring wardrobes, shattered Brooka glassware, and vandalized Liripip sofa beds—clearly, someone or something is up to no good. To unravel the mystery, five young employees volunteer for a long dusk-till-dawn shift—and they encounter horrors that defy imagination. Along the way, author Grady Hendrix infuses sly social commentary on the nature of work in the new twenty-firstcentury economy.

A traditional haunted house story in a contemporary setting (and full of current fears), Horrorstör comes conveniently packaged in the form of a retail catalog, complete with illustrations of ready-to-assemble furniture and other, more sinister accessories. We promise you’ve never seen anything quite like it!”

Horrorstör: What I thought

From the moment I heard of the book, I was smiling: this sounded like great fun! Like a holiday that is booked in advance, I was very much enjoying the anticipation of reading the book. My I*EA catalog arrived in the same week as this book, and it looks so similar! Well, from the outside, although some of the pages inside include a map of the showroom, pictograms of how to order and assemble the furniture, an order form, and some money-off vouchers.

Each chapter starts with the description of a piece of furniture (with unpronounceable names), its features, the size and color scheme, and product number. After a few chapters, the pieces of furniture become less pleasant pieces of horror equipment. The story starts during the day, but the further we get into the night, the darker it gets and the worse the experience for the brave shop employees that stayed behind to find out what is bothering their store at night.

They’re happy to find that the homeless man staying in the shop at night is the cause of the trouble. Problem solved. Oh wait! There is something strange about him. Wait, things are getting even stranger: there are noises and smells and fluids in the dark and fake doors in the displays leading to non-existing corridors. Oh people, it gets… terrible!

The ordeals are real, but the writing is smooth and fun. The story is seen through the eyes of Amy, who has a tendency to run away from responsibilities and for whom the job is just a job. But during the course of the night, Amy finds out things about herself, and becomes a braver and better person.

I loved this book as much as I hoped I would love it.

 


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars (very good)

Number of pages: 248

First published: 2014

I got this: for review from Quirk Books

Genre: contemporary fiction, supernatural

 

Book Review: Day of the Vikings by J.F. Penn

Day of the Vikings by J. F. PennDay of the Vikings: What it is about

From goodreads: “A ritual murder on a remote island under the shifting skies of the aurora borealis.
A staff of power that can summon Ragnarok, the Viking apocalypse.

When Neo-Viking terrorists invade the British Museum in London to reclaim the staff of Skara Brae, ARKANE agent Dr. Morgan Sierra is trapped in the building along with hostages under mortal threat.

As the slaughter begins, Morgan works alongside psychic Blake Daniel to discern the past of the staff, dating back to islands invaded by the Vikings generations ago.

Can Morgan and Blake uncover the truth before Ragnarok is unleashed, consuming all in its wake?

Day of the Vikings is a fast-paced, action adventure thriller set in the British Museum, the British Library and the islands of Orkney, Lindisfarne and Iona. Set in the present day, it resonates with the history and myth of the Vikings.

Day of the Vikings features Dr. Morgan Sierra from the ARKANE thrillers, and Blake Daniel from the London Mysteries, but it is also a stand-alone novella that can be read and enjoyed separately.”

Day of the Vikings: What I thought

This is a (long) short story, part of a series of thrillers. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t read the other books; it didn’t feel as if I was missing something.  The story was a cross between Dan Brown’s modern people looking into the history of some secret sect and the Canadian TV series The Vikings. I actually know the horific  Blood Eagle procedure from that series, so I could imagine it all too lively.

A fast-paced and fun read, although one particular ritual was repeated three times. That was a little too much. One of the characters could actually go back in time, in his mind. Now, I would love to do that, it so appeals to me!

I’m not a keen reader of short stories and think I would love this book better as a full-blown novel. The main characters are great people to spend some time with and I love stories about Nordic countries in general. This story actually played in the UK, partially in the British Museum and partially in the Orkneys (two of those must-visit places).

If the topic interests you, this is worth a read. It’s well-written, too!


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (good)

Number of pages: 77

First published: 2014

I got this: for review from the author

Genre: historical fiction,

 

Book Review: Inamorata by Megan Chance

Inamorata by Megan ChanceInamorata: What it is about

From the publishers: “American artist Joseph Hannigan and his alluring sister, Sophie, have arrived in enchanting nineteenth-century Venice with a single-minded goal. The twins, who have fled scandal in New York, are determined to break into Venice’s expatriate set and find a wealthy patron to support Joseph’s work.

But the enigmatic Hannigans are not the only ones with a secret agenda. Joseph’s talent soon attracts the attention of the magnificent Odilé Leon, a celebrated courtesan and muse who has inspired many artists to greatness. But her inspiration comes with a devastatingly steep price.

As Joseph falls under the courtesan’s spell, Sophie joins forces with Nicholas Dane, the one man who knows Odilé’s dark secret, and her sworn enemy. When the seductive muse offers Joseph the path to eternal fame, the twins must decide who to believe—and just how much they are willing to sacrifice for fame.”

Inamorata: What I thought

It’s always so d*mn annoying when one of my careful selected prejudices gets shattered. I hadn’t asked for this book, I just got it sent for review. I’m absolutely sure about that, because I never, ever want to read books that take place in Venice. Yuck-y-de-yuck. I just don’t like that fake-mysterious atmosphere, the rich people, the poor people, the masks, the dirty, stinking water. I’ve never been to Venice, but my unwillingness to visit it equals my unwillingness to visit Las Vegas. No, thank you!

Okay, short story: this book was great! I enjoyed it so much. The setting didn’t bother me. In fact, the traveling about in gondolas was fun! As were the large, old-fashioned houses.

The story was interesting, too. It was told from several perspectives and I especially liked Nicholas Dane, who is on a kind of witch hunt, with varied success. Will he be at the right place at the right time when his help is required? The twins Sophie and Joseph seem so innocent when they get to Venice, although they have just one goal: get someone to finance them, whatever it takes. But I wondered if they had a darker side.

There were a few dead bodies, which added to the mystery. The writing was very fluent and compelling.

So, this novel of Venice was great fun. Of course, I will not revoke my prejudice against all other novels that feature Venice, obviously.

 


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (good)

Number of pages: 412

First published: 2014

I got this: for review from Lake Union Publishing

Genre: historical fiction, supernatural

 

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