Becky’s One Hundred and Ninety-Seventh Book Review: “The Summer of Dead Toys” by Antonio Hill

“The Summer of Dead Toys” by Antonio Hill was a very strange book. It is the debut novel by Antonio Hill introducing Inspector Hector Salgado, set in Barcelona. When we meet Inspector Salgado he has just been taken off an investigation after beating up a suspect. The more we get to know the inspector, the more obvious it is that he has a problem controlling his emotions. “A burst of rebellion was still pricking him in the chest: an absurd, break-my-balls thing, decidedly immature for a cop just turned forty-three.” (The Summer of Dead Toys, pg 20). Throughout the novel the inspector has moments like this where his anger is building up inside of him and he is barely able to keep it under control.

Inspector Salgado is charged with investigating the death of a young man, whom by the looks of it, simply fell to his death after having too much to drink. It is only at the insistence of the boy’s mother that the case is being looked into at all. For this case he is given a rookie to work with and makes it clear that he doesn’t enjoy having her along for the ride. I didn’t feel anything much about her. She wasn’t a character that made a lot of sense to me. There was another female cop that I kept thinking was her and it ended up getting very confusing.

That was the one thing that I didn’t really enjoy about this book was how many different people were telling the story. Usually, I favor that sort of writing. It allows the reader to see into multiple characters’ minds and live in their worlds. But it felt like too much in “The Summer of Dead Toys”. There were simply too many characters trying to tell their story and make themselves relevant to the novel when they really weren’t. It was just unnecessary and rather confusing. With so many different characters telling their stories it became difficult to remember who was who and how they were related. It felt like Antonio Hill was trying to make too many things happen in his novel.

Would I recommend this book? Yes and no. On the one hand, for the majority of the book I was interested in what was happening. I was trying to solve the puzzle right along side the Inspector. But there were parts that were on the dull side and the sheer volume of characters in the novel really took away from the story. It also seemed like there was too much that the author was trying to make happen in one book. There was a bit of a supernatural implication at one point and it was almost put in as an afterthought. This took away from the book. I could see myself picking up another book by this author, and I really did like Inspector Salgado but I don’t think this book would appeal to a huge audience. It was at times slow, and that is not what I expect when going into a book with “A Thriller” written after the title. It was an okay book, but not something I would rave about.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

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Becky’s One Hundred and Ninety-Sixth Book Review: “The Maltese Falcon” by Dashiell Hammett

“The Maltese Falcon” by Dashiell Hammett was chosen for the Wall Street Journal Book Club in early March. I was pretty excited about the choice as I really enjoy mysteries. A book centered on the search for an invaluable artifact with a private detective as the main character – count me in. Add in a description of “a treasure worth killing for” and my interest was certainly peaked.

Right away I liked Detective Sam Spade, he’s both smooth and blunt, and overall entertaining. When a girl comes to him and his partner needing undefined help, he is consistent in his behavior towards her and he doesn’t allow her looks to distract him from her dishonesty. ““I mean that you paid us more than if you’d been telling the truth,” he explained blandly, “and enough more to make it all right.”” (The Maltese Falcon, pg 33). I liked that he calls her out right away for not telling the truth. I also enjoy his cavalier method of explaining things, not just to her but to everyone around him. Lying is a constant for all the characters in “The Maltese Falcon” including Sam Spade. It made reading “The Maltese Falcon” slightly challenging trying to keep up with what the truth was to each character.

I found the girl, Bridget O’Shaughnessy to be annoying as her loyalties and her story change from one minute to the next. But it certainly kept the book interesting. Despite my personal dislike of Bridget O’Shaughnessy, I did enjoy her interactions with the other characters in the novel, especially Sam Spade. She plays the innocent, docile woman but always has an ulterior motive and Sam calls her out on it. “What have you given me besides money? Have you given me any of your confidence? any of the truth? any help in helping you? Haven’t you tried to buy my loyalty with money and nothing else? Well, if I’m peddling it, why shouldn’t I let it go to the highest bidder?” (The Maltese Falcon, pg 57).

Would I recommend this book? Yes, especially to those that enjoy a mystery. It was more challenging to read than I had initial anticipated, mainly because it was a little difficult to determine when characters were actually speaking the truth at first, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. It’s a book that keeps you guessing to the last page. I am absolutely going to be adding the rest of the books written by Dashiell Hammett to my reading list and I would probably pick this book up again for a reread.

Becky’s One Hundred and Ninety-Fifth Book Review: “Butterfly” by V.C. Andrews

“Butterfly” by V.C. Andrews is the first book in the “Orphan Miniseries”. It was a short, quick read, which is what I have come to expect from a V.C. Andrews book. Her novels tend to be quick reads full of drama, disturbing behavior, incest, physical abuse, verbal abuse, psychological abuse, sexual violence, insane parental figures, and no happy endings. All the ingredients for a best-selling author! Based on my past experiences with V.C. Andrews, this is what I went into expecting from “Butterfly” and I was shocked when it didn’t deliver. At least, not everything I had been expecting.

The book starts off at an orphanage where we meet the main character, Janet. She is preparing for an interview with some potential parents, Sanford and Celine. They adopt her and we soon learn the adoption of Janet is Celine’s twisted attempt at fulfilling her dreams of being a famous dancer, a dream that disappeared when she was in a horrible car accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down. “…You won’t fail,” she said confidently. “I won’t let you fail. I’ll be your cushion, your parachute. You won’t suffer the sort of disappointments I suffered,” she pledged.” (Butterfly, pg 23). Early on it was clear that we could check the box next to ‘insane parental figures’.

Celine’s obsession with dance and more importantly making Janet her clone prove just how unstable she is. “She has a natural proclivity to do the right thing. It’s in her nature. She’s instinctive, just as I was, Sanford. She’s me. She understands.” (Butterfly, pg 54). I thought this quote really put it out there. Celine is convinced that she can mold Janet to be the dancer Celine herself was supposed to be. With all the ballet training comes new characters including a dance teacher, Madam Malisorf and a male student, Dimitri. As soon as he was introduced I thought he would be the one to push himself on Janet. I was half-right. Either way, the sexual violence was there. Another check box for the V.C. Andrews recipe for a novel, there was also the lack of a happy ending – but I won’t detail it in case you want to read it.

Would I recommend this book? Yes and no. On the one hand, I think that V.C. Andrews is not that great of an author. I bought all of her books together and I’ve come to find that there really is a formula that she writes with. It’s not the best. But at the same time, her books can be quite entertaining. It is fun to see where she is going to take it next and to play a guessing game to figure out which character is going to lose their mind and which one is going to be the unexpected nice guy and which will be the unexpected bad guy. And who is going to bring in the sexual violence aspect to the book – a V.C. Andrews book wouldn’t be the same without it. Overall, I wouldn’t put a lot of effort into reading her books, but it can be a unique kind of fun if you’re a weirdo like me.

Becky’s One Hundred and Ninety-Fourth Book Review: “Divergent” by Veronica Roth

I found it very difficult to put “Divergent” by Veronica Roth down. I went into the series with the expectation of an enjoyable reading experience since the series has become so popular. Still, I found that I enjoyed the book even more than I had expected. Early on we learn that in “Divergent” there are different Factions that people are divided up into and that these Factions define those within them. “At the Abnegation table, we sit quietly and wait. Faction customs dictate even idle behavior and supersede individual preference. I doubt all the Erudite want to study all the time, or that every Candor enjoys a lively debate, but they can’t defy the norms of their factions any more than I can.” (Divergent, pg 9).

I found the whole system that these characters live in to be interesting. Kids are raised in different Factions and then at their coming-of-age they have to decide which Faction to commit their loyalty to. In this society, your Faction is everything. “Decades ago our ancestors realized that it is not political ideology, religious belief, race, or nationalism that is to blame for a warring world. Rather, they determined that it was the fault of human personality – of humankind’s inclination toward evil, in whatever form that is. They divided into factions that sought to eradicate those qualities they believed responsible for the world’s disarray.
Those who blamed aggression formed Amity… Those who blamed ignorance became the Erudite… Those who blamed duplicity created Candor… Those who blamed selfishness made Abnegation… And those who blamed cowardice were the Dauntless.” (Divergent, pg 42-43). I thought this to be a very powerful speech and I liked that Veronica Roth outlined the history of this society for her readers.

One thing that I really enjoyed about “Divergent” was the main character, Beatrice or “Tris”. She is a very intriguing character. She’s strong and not in a strong-with-the-help-of-a-man, but strong in her own fashion. She looks out for her own interests and she doesn’t wait around for a guy before she develops into a strong person. She starts out that way. I really liked that about her. “I have realized that part of being Dauntless is being willing to make things more difficult for yourself in order to be self-sufficient. There’s nothing especially brave about wandering dark streets with no flashlight, but we are not supposed to need help, even from light. We are supposed to be capable of anything.
I like that. Because there might come a day when there is no flashlight, there is no gun, there is no guiding hand. And I want to be ready for it.” (Divergent, pg 138). I thought this was a great example of how Tris thinks. She doesn’t wait for something to happen, she sees the stirrings of discontent and realizes what this means. She knows that there is going to be a day when she needs to stand up and fight and she isn’t about to go into it unprepared.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I think that any fan of young adult would enjoy the Divergent series. This would probably not be the best book to introduce someone to YA because it can get confusing with the different Factions and remembering which one stands for which trait. But it was a very entertaining read. I think it is something I would especially recommend to the females of the world. We need more strong female characters. I am undeniably looking forward to the next books in the series.

Becky’s One Hundred and Ninety-Third Book Review: “Die Trying” by Lee Child

“Die Trying” by Lee Child is the second book in the Jack Reacher series. I have to be careful when reading these books. It is very easy to neglect everything around you when you start a Jack Reacher novel. That’s part of what makes these book so dangerous. They’re so good and intense that it is hard to concentrate on anything else until you’ve devoured the entirety of the novel.

At the beginning of “Die Trying” Jack Reacher finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time He is accidentally kidnapped along with Holly – the intended target. The kidnappers do not realize that they’ve gotten the wrong guy involved with their scheme. At first Holly wants to protect Reacher but she soon realizes that he can handle himself. “She knew the Army. She knew the soldiers. She knew the types and she knew Reacher was one. To her practical eye, he looked like one. Acted like one. Reacted like one. It was possible a doorman could pick locks and climb walls like an ape, but if a doorman did go ahead and do that, he would do it with an air of unfamiliarity and daring and breathlessness which would be quite distinctive. He wouldn’t do it like it came as naturally as blinking. Reacher was a quiet, contained man, relaxed, fit, clearly trained to the point of some kind of superhuman calm.” (Die Trying, pg 62). I thought Holly’s observations about Reacher were spot on. He really has some qualities that verge on the side of superhuman. That is part of what makes him so badass.

Reacher’s attitude is impressive. At one point he is trapped and has to get creative in order to escape. Then he finds himself in a similar situation and is determined to suppress the fear he felt the first time he was stuck. “He had learned a long time ago that some things were worth being afraid of. And some things were not. Things that he had done before and survived did not justify fear. To be afraid of a survivable thing was irrational. And whatever else he was, Reacher knew he was a rational man.” (Die Trying, pg 404)

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely, it was such an entertaining read and I’m really looking forward to the next book. I think the only downside of these books is the fact that it is extremely difficult to do anything else when reading one. “Die Trying” was very difficult to put down. I wouldn’t suggest anyone try to read it when they are trying to be productive.