Cause and Effect by Clive Carr

5b702313d7433b254590c32bf34d5b71ffe6bd2a-thumbBefore you start to read this book I must warn that it contains references to drugs, sex and repeated use of a particular swear word that offends most people, especially women. Therefore I would probably not recommend it for a younger audience, or people who are easily offended. I, however, liked it and found that the language used was appropriate for the story and the character who was telling it.

Cause and Effect is a powerful, if not difficult to read novel, which outlines how violence and mental health can go hand in hand. Told from an autobiographical view Cause and Effect is about Simon, a young man who has been picked on for most of his life and he is often beaten up for being different. He works with people who are not nice, the girl he is infatuated with despises him, his father is disappointed he is not more ‘manly’ and then to top it all off his Parents kick him out of home. Simon is wandering around and is confronted yet again by an aggressor, intent on stealing his money and injuring him. However with nothing left to lose, Simon fights back.

Carr employs a very different style of writing. To start with I thought I was reading the authors notes on how he had developed the novel. It wasn’t until I was already 12 pages in, that I realised that this was not the case. While I found that the chapters were not well defined and some things are a bit drawn out, for example where the narrator spends five pages describing his new love interest and still doesn’t actually divulge her name  (if you continue reading, you will later find out why), the story remains solid and has an approach which actually reflects well on the narrators mental state. However he also admits his faults in writing: “Of course normally at this point in a book I would now be thinking: that this is about the time I should stop reading this trash and find myself something else, a bit more rewarding and a lot less slushy to lose myself in instead of this load of romantic drivel. But I believe the discovery of her true identity and the effect she has had upon my life is worth the read.” (Excerpt From: Carr, Clive. “Cause and Effect.” iBooks).

Carr employs lots of 1980s slang with mostly good effect. There’s just one thing: Could someone explain to me what he means by “took in a ‘Chinese’ on the way home”? Maybe this is an old term that a Gen X’r such as myself is unlikely to know? Or maybe it’s a term specific to the British, but it did cause me to spend quite some time googling, unsuccessfully, for the answer. I vaguely got the impression that maybe he is talking about a prostitute, but I couldn’t quite be sure.

If you are expecting an easy read that you can sit down and read in a day Cause and Effect is not for you. It is definitely more of a thought provoking book, but if you can handle profanity and a bit of violence, it is still a good read.

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Genre: Fiction

Rating: 4/5

Heartbreaker Series by George Saoulidis

514a4f6fb26b396a684079b6f88d870fd0212bfe__300x0“You see, there is no progress without discord. There are always two sides, competing. There are always breakups and fights. It’s how we move on.”
Excerpt From: Saoulidis, George. “Heartbreaker Episode 1.

Colourful, comical and Witty, Heartbreaker is a miniseries of novelettes  set in Athens about Eris a 25 year old woman who is fired from her job after a string of complaints, and decides to take a job delivering bad news to people. Specifically she delivers a message that their significant other is breaking off the relationship.

I have to admit, this is not the first of Saoulidis’ novels I have tried. I attempted to read Nanodaemons previously, but found it difficult to read due to the amount of jargon and disjointed story telling. I barely made it to page 20. I also tried to read The Impossible Quest of Hailing a Taxi on Christmas Eve, and got bored and gave up on the second page. You might ask why with that kind of track record I would even bother to start reading a new book by this author, and the answer is simple – I went against all common sense and judged a book by its cover… and I am glad I did.

The Heartbreaker Series seems to have hit that sweet spot between being comical and believable, with a story that is quite different to anything else I have read before.  The main character Eris reminded me of Stephanie Plum from Janet Evanovich’s One for the Money series. She’s smart, sassy, down on her luck, and willing to do something for work that most people would not be capable of, let alone enjoy. The difference is that whilst Stephanie has a charm about her and seems to draw characters to her, Eris can at times come across and a bit tactless and as a result seems to have difficulty with her relationships. The other difference is that Eris is actually good at what she does, and it not bumbling along helped by fate. Saoulidis hasn’t introduced a love interest for Eris as yet, which is fine, because as a stand-alone character, I felt Eris was enough.

The first episode is very short, which seems to be keeping in character with many of Saoulidis’ works. But on the other hand the first episode is also free making it an excellent value. To continue reading the subsequent novelettes, you will need to purchase them, however In this case paying for the subsequent episodes doesn’t bother me as the strength, wit, complexity and hilarity of the story compels me to want to read on and Saoulidis has selected a price point that is affordable (and probably fair).

If I had to sum it up I think the words “nailed it” would do nicely. If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself, I guarantee that after reading the interaction between Eris and her brother’s latest girlfriend you will get a giggle at Eris’s quick wit.

 

Rating: 5/5!

Genre: Humour & Comedy

Click here to view the series on Smashwords

The Smell of Money by Janet Kole

b47872cb78e4929a4eb822bbdd393d80b61e7a49-thumb A contract killer considering retirement (Larry Evans) and a freshly retired lawyer (Jack Morgenthau) work together to save Jack’s daughter from a terrible fate. A couple of murders and a dash of villainy provides an intriguing if not simple plot line.

Right from the very first short chapter, I already disliked the villain. Maybe I am, as Kole so eloquently puts it, a “sentimental slob who love[s] animals”, but I think perhaps the more likely scenario is that my complete disgust and recoil and immediate hatred for the villainous act he committed was exactly what Kole had hoped for her readers. However as the plot progressed I began to understand that Larry Evans, the initial villain, might not be ALL bad, but more of an enigma. So for curiosities sake, I just keep reading and as I continued to read, I came to realise that the real villain might actually be a 97 year old business owner, who has no qualms lying, blackmailing and bribing people to get her own way.

The problem is that the premise of the plot is the whole story and there is no more. Towards the end of the book a new story line develops with another unrelated family, who the main characters (Evans & Morgenthau) have to rescue, which appears as if Kole was trying to meet some sort of word count, and tried to fluff out the original story line which just ends up being a bit disjointed.

Kole has a talent for describing a scene, which gives the reader a very clear understanding of where her characters are, what they are thinking and doing. Her relatively small cast of characters combined with her unique writing style, which includes an impressive talent for seamlessly changing each chapter from omnipotent story telling to first person and then back again, allows for the reader to gain a greater depth of understanding into each of the characters, and their perspective. It’s just a pity that this didn’t really make up for the lack of depth in the plot line. What happens to the law firm after the lawyer leaves? Why did the contract killer have a sudden change of heart? Was it an intended artistic licence that Kole has tried to leave us hanging? Yes. It turns out that Kole’s next book will pick up Jack Morgenthau’s story where we left him, so I now feel a little less cheated…. But not enough to actually bother to read the next one.

Genre:
Rating 1.5/5

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The Girl in the Shadows: A Pint of the Black Stuff by Kim O’Shea

afee3c53afff0421ee1396fc79156d1dac2e0187-thumb The Girl in the Shadows: A Pint of the Black Stuff is Kim O’Shea’s second fiction novel, after having written several non-fiction works.

It is set in rural Ireland during the 1940s-50s and revolves around the musings of a young girl called Grace. Grace has a very naïve view of the world and is naturally curious and often asks questions that, at the time, were considered socially inappropriate. We find out later in the novel that Grace in fact has some form of mild intellectual disability. Despite her disability Grace doesn’t see herself as being any different to everyone else and her family certainly treat her as equal.

Throughout the writing I could sympathise with the pain of Grace’s confusion as she often doesn’t understand what she has done wrong when she asks a question that the adults around her believe is inappropriate, and often doesn’t understand why other people are so excited about things that she has no interest in. But there is also a funny element to Grace’s naivety, for example, her belief that her father is often tired or ill, when he is most probably hung over, or speaking with her local priest when she has concerns that her Grandmother might go to hell for drinking and smoking.

The supporting characters are written very well and I was impressed at the strength of character within her immediate family and friends, who defend Grace so vehemently when a cousin speaks of her disability negatively. I would imagine that it would be difficult to write a story from the point of view of a character such as Grace and still achieve this, and therefore in this respect I was very impressed with O’Shea’s story. However I was disappointed to find that this was only Part One of Grace’s story, and a twist at the end leaves me wanting to find out what will happen to Grace in the future. I feel this does the book an injustice, given the short length of the book could have easily allowed for the incorporation of Part Two without splitting.

Had O’Shea chosen any other narrator for the story, it is likely that the end result may have been quite dark, but fuelled by Grace’s innocence and perpetually sunny outlook; I would suggest that this story is better described as cute, than as lugubrious. But it is a solid story and an easy read. Furthermore, despite the fact that I have to wait for O’Shea to publish her next book to find out what happens to Grace, I did enjoy it. I believe it is a very poignant comment on a person’s ability vs. disability, which despite the historical setting, still has a great relevance in society today.

Genre: Fiction: General , Humour & Coming of Age

Rating: 4/5

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Overdue Item by Peter Menadue

Julia is a junior librarian from a large but understaffedOverdue Item library in Sydney, Australia. She is jaded with her job, the lack of a challenge and she is considering a change of career, but seems to be lacking the motivation. Her life becomes more interesting when she discovers homeless man’s dead body in the library. Suddenly she becomes part detective to find out who the dead man is, and who killed him.

Julia is a likable character from a middle class family and mild-mannered to a point. Although Menadue writes her polite responses, he also gives insight into her true thoughts, which include telling her boss exactly what she thinks.
The library has a colourful cast of supporting characters. I found the most interesting of them to be Bronwyn – the library manager, and Julia’s boss, who claims she is “allergic” to books and does exactly zero work and is always looking for ways to sue the council she works for in hopes of a big payout. Bronwyn’s complete incompetence in her job, and her self-absorbed litigious nature is just one of the many comical character elements in the book.

Although at times predictable, the plot has enough twists to keep the reader intrigued until the end, where the whole story is concluded nicely. One thing Menadue has done very well is tying up all loose ends. There are no unfinished subplots, which in a complex story is a truly great thing. I finished reading the novel with a great deal of satisfaction, knowing how each of the characters would continue on in life.

If I have one criticism it would be the occasional typographical error. Although minor, they do stick out and cause the reader to stumble slightly. It caused me to have to re-read a few lines which although did not deter me from finishing, did cause a mild annoyance. As my followers would know, I’m a stickler for proof-reading and I would advise Mr. Menadue to find a new or additional proof-reader to help improve his work.

However overall the Story has a good pace, and compels you to keep reading. It is an enjoyable and mostly easy read with a comical element, which I believe would suit a broad audience.

Click Here to View and Download Overdue Item

Rating 3.5/5

Genre: Mystery/ Comedy