The Last Choice by Alex Anders

c2fd092f3bffbd9e85657244b58df7cbde9fe4a1-thumbThe Last Choice by Alex Anders is only Part One of the story, but leaves you with the desire to purchase and read Part Two.

Set in a futuristic scene with robot servants, grass that can be grown in any colour you like and google glasses have evolved into contact lenses that project advertisements in front of you.  The story follows a contestant in a popular TV show, The Bachelorette. I’m the first to admit I dislike reality TV shows, and the one I dislike most would be The Bachelorette/Bachelor series, but Anders writes a story that is not only appealing, but also funny and gripping in that you just can’t put it down. Even from the prologue you know that his story telling ability is immense and that you are in for a good read.

Part of the appeal is that Anders version of the TV show has been strongly influenced by The Hunger Games. This leads the reader to enjoy the story whether you like reality TV or not. Anders has his main character running from Tigers and undertaking medieval challenges, and the story moves quickly keeping the reader engaged. There are also several humorous elements  to the plot, but none more so than a character who is nicknamed “Buck-naked Billy” because he is naked for pretty much the entire time.

The main character, Ford, is good looking, cynical and compassionate towards his fellow contestants, even when referring to them as “Darwinian rejects”. The characteristics which Ford displays all fit well with the story and the way it is told. The underlying mystery in the plot is that many of the characters appear to forget events that have occurred, which leads the reader to one of two conclusions, either the main character is, as every other character implicates, insane, or he is the only sane one there. He also seems to have had less preparation than the other contestants, which just adds to the mystery.

In a way the story is a comment on society and our obsession with reality TV and fame, but also concurrently just what insane lengths someone would go to in order to  stand out from the crowd. Although it’s short, the story is well written, engaging, enjoyable and leaves you hanging out for more.

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Genre: Mystery/Adventure

Rating: 5/5

Backstage by Caitlyn Duffy

aacb0eb2ef19596cc1a10f5fe1d2423ee1480f27-thumbBackstage by Caitlyn Duffy is a bit like buying a budget brand shampoo and then realising it was better than you expected. You hair stays cleaner longer and you love the smell. I found myself speeding through the book at an unusually fast pace, just because it was so easy to read.

Duffy creates an instantly like-able heroine in Cassie, who is not only altruistic, with a strong sense of morality, but she is actually cool in a completely unpretentious way. I especially liked it when she compares her hair colour to “the colour of nausea”. However, Cassie has a jaded side due to a distant relationship with her mother and frequent moving due to her mother’s occupation which has an influence on her willingness to make and keep friends.

The plot is driven initially by an overly enthusiastic theatre teacher who initially encourages the reluctant Cassie into taking a chance on working on a school play, but quickly develops into a coming of age story which many can relate to in some way. It doesn’t take long before Cassie meets a boy through the theatre club and becomes enamoured with him. Despite being warned to stay away from him, Cassie follows him to an American Idol type audition which will surely make him a star. With awkward first kisses and all of the unnerving uncertain aspects of a developing teenage romance, at times the plot can be anticipated, but suffice to say that Duffy does not leave the reader disappointed and the ending takes a surprising turn.

One of Duffy’s talents appears to be her ability to move a plot line along without excessive dialogue from the characters. When her characters speak, it is because they have something to contribute, and dialogue is not used as a filling agent to pad the story. She also appears comfortable using pop-culture references and cameo characters from her other novels to build anticipation.

Overall Duffy has created a story which is both engaging and easy to read, but also has a sense of individuality and morality. Some of the story has a comfortable predictability, however because the main characters are both easily likeable with a rebellious streak, I found myself rooting for them throughout the novel. The ending is unexpectedly sedate, but leaves you feeling good about where each of the characters are in their lives and how they will proceed.

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Genre: Young Adult

Rating: 4/5

Lust is Easy, Love is Complicated by Joseph Rivers

In e3e61cc24fe4f997a3bd665850bed087baf15116-thumbLust is Easy, Love is Complicated, Joseph Rivers, the self-proclaimed “award winning” author writes about the internal struggle of a woman trying to decide if she should give love a chance. Although the premise is good, the writing itself is lacking something special.

The main character, Noni, is somewhat unrealistic and, as a woman, difficult to relate to. She appears to have no flaws or insecurities, and is described as beautiful, successful and in many ways just seems conceited. In fact this is evident from the outset, when it is mentioned that she just “knows” that all of the men in her office are lusting after her. Then again, I find myself questioning if I should expect anything else of a male writer trying to write from a woman’s perspective? Am I expecting the quality of writing which one could expect of a Helen Fielding or Sophie Kinsella novel? The answer is probably yes, however I don’t think this means we shouldn’t expect a character who is at least like-able as the main protagonist. Regardless of who writes it, any writer should know their demographic, and I believe Rivers simply does not.

The quality of the dialogue is also lacking, and at times cheesy. The author appears to like over-using the word “girl” as a term of endearment between female friends. This could have been used as an endearing way to differentiate one of the characters with potentially great effect, but because all of the female characters use the term, it simply comes across as another example of how Rivers lacks an understanding of the female friendship dynamics. It was also particularly frustrating when one of the characters started to plug another of Rivers’ books, in a clearly shameless attempt to encourage the reader to buy his other book.

Further to this there were so many typographical errors in the body of the work; that it was actually difficult to read. Clearly Rivers did not obtain his “award” for proof-reading. It could be argued of course that an independent author should not be held to the same standard as print books, however I disagree. There are plenty of indie authors who produce high quality works, which are well structured and edited, and these works are the bench mark that authors should work to.

The story itself could have some merit, if a little more effort was put in. In fact I may have been able to overlook all of the other faults listed above if the story had measured up. Unfortunately the story ended leaving me wondering where the rest of the book was. A cruel joke where Rivers leaves the reader hanging after just introducing what should have been the beginning of a great plot development. Maybe he intended to leave it that way, however it reads like he just didn’t know where to take the story next so decided to publish it anyway without actually finishing the story.

All in all I would say it’s an OK first attempt at the beginning of a novel, but without a middle or an ending, I can honestly say that I would have been annoyed with the purchase if the e-book had not been free.

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Genre: Romance (Supposedly)

Rating: 1/5