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#TuesdayBookBlog #Bookreview Hope by Terry Tyler(@TerryTyler4) A compelling dystopia that feels too close for comfort

Hi all:

I bring you a novel by an independent author who has become a firm favourite of mine in recent years. You’ll love this one.

Hope by Terry Tyler
Hope by Terry Tyler

Hope by Terry Tyler

Terry Tyler’s nineteenth published work is a psychological thriller set in a dystopian near future – the UK, Year 2028.

Blogger Lita Stone and journalist Nick Freer live and work online, seeing life through soundbites, news TV and social media. Keeping the outside world at bay in their cosy flat, they observe the ruthless activities of the new PM and his celebrity fitness guru wife, Mona (hashtag MoMo), with the mild outrage that can be quelled simply by writing another blog post.

Meanwhile, in the outside world, multinational conglomerate Nutricorp is busy buying up supermarket chains, controlling the media, and financing the new compounds for the homeless: the Hope Villages.

Lita and Nick suspect little of the danger that awaits the unfortunate, until the outside world catches up with them – and Lita is forced to discover a strength she never knew she possessed.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hope-Terry-Tyler-ebook/dp/B07S89DK54/

https://www.amazon.com/Hope-Terry-Tyler-ebook/dp/B07S89DK54/

https://www.amazon.es/Hope-Terry-Tyler-ebook/dp/B07S89DK54/

Author Terry Tyler
Author Terry Tyler

About the author:

Terry Tyler is the author of nineteen books available from Amazon, the latest being ‘Hope’, a dystopian, psychological drama set in the UK, a decade into the future. She is currently at work on ‘Blackthorn’, a post-apocalyptic stand-alone story set in her fictional city of the same name. Proud to be independently published, Terry is an avid reader and book reviewer, and a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

Terry is a Walking Dead addict, and has a great interest in history (particularly 14th-17th century), and sociological/cultural/anthropological stuff, generally. She loves South Park, Netflix, autumn and winter, and going for long walks in quiet places where there are lots of trees. She lives in the north east of England with her husband.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Terry-Tyler/e/B00693EGKM/

My review:

I received an ARC copy of this novel prior to its publication, and I freely chose to review it.

I have read some of Terry Tyler’s work before (I’ve read her dystopian Project Renova series and I cannot recommend it enough, you can check my review of the last novel in the series, Legacy, here), and I was keen to read her new novel, which also fits into that genre.

This story, set in the UK in the near future, felt even more prescient than Renova, and it perfectly captures some of the realities of today’s society (the increased reliance on AI and machines to replace many jobs, the dominance of social media, fake news, and the near impossibility of living a truly private life, the increase in populist politics, the problems of housing and homelessness in a society averse to welfare…), creating a mirror effect that reflects back to the reader some very ugly truths about today’s world. The rise to power of a politician supported (?) by a huge corporation, whose spouse is a media darling, the doctoring of social media news, hashtags, blog posts and reviews, a “new” (read “final” for a historical parallel that this novel will bring to mind as well) solution to deal with homelessness (very akin to “out of sight, out of mind”), the lack of funding for volunteer and charitable organisations, all sound far too real, and a more than likely scenario illustrating what fascism might look like now or in the near future. And the novel also makes readers realise that something like this could be the rule, rather than the exception. What would it take for many of us to lose everything and not be able to afford a roof over our heads or food on our tables? The author points out, loud and clear, that it is a likelier scenario than we’d like to believe.

Tyler always manages to combine gripping plots with engaging characters. Here, Lita, a blogger with a sad and unhappy childhood, tells most of the story in the first person, and although she is very private (understandably so, due to her circumstances), it is easy to identify with her (well, in my case I also blog and review books, so I felt particularly close to her), her friends and co-workers, and the people she meets. There are some fragments of the story that are narrated in the third person from the point of view of the people in charge, and that allows readers to get a wider picture of what is going on (and to fear even more what might be coming).

I don’t want to go into a lot of detail about the plot, to avoid spoilers, but the ending is great (creepy, worrying, but not totally black), the writing is of great quality, as usual, and I challenge anybody to read this novel and not feel chills down their spine.

The author includes two short-stories that, according to her notes, had initially been written as part of the novel but she later decided to remove, to improve the flow of the story even further. They provide background information about Lita and Mona, and they enhance the novel, in my opinion. Mona’s story, in particular, should serve as a warning to parents (fat shaming and lack of true affection will have enduring negative consequences) and feels psychologically so true… I advise readers to make sure they don’t miss them, as they give a more rounded picture of the characters, and particularly in Mona’s case, an insight into a character that otherwise we only see from outside and feels totally unsympathetic (not that I loved her after reading the story, but I gained some understanding of how she got to be her, and also as to who might be behind it).

Another great novel by Terry Tyler. Do read it and take the warning about our future to heart. I will keep reading her novels, for sure, and I just hope she is wrong.

Thanks to the author for another great book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling! (And be prepared!)

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview Malibu Motel: A novel about the colossal cost of free cash by Chaunceton Bird (@JHPsocial). A modern A Rake’s Progress facilitated by a lottery win

Hi all:

I bring you a book that’s very modern but tells a very old tale.

Malibu Motel by Chaunceton Bird
Malibu Motel by Chaunceton Bird

Malibu Motel: A novel about the colossal cost of free cash by Chaunceton Bird

Based on the incredible true story of a hapless lottery winner, Malibu Motel is a raw, timeless novel exploring the undercurrents of capitalism. Caish Calloway is struggling to maintain a stake in the land of limitless privilege. Blinded by pride and fueled by greed, Caish is slave to the wiles of a moneyed mind, as only one who has tasted wealth’s powerful fruit can be. ‘A stunning and visceral look into the high stakes world of big money and the risks taken by the wealthy elite.’ Anthony Avina, Edge of Sanity

https://www.amazon.com/Malibu-Motel-novel-colossal-20190426-ebook/dp/B07W4DN5MT/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Malibu-Motel-novel-colossal-20190426-ebook/dp/B07W4DN5MT/

https://www.amazon.es/Malibu-Motel-novel-colossal-20190426-ebook/dp/B07W4DN5MT/

Editorial Reviews

“Absolutely Fantastic! Definitely worth the read!” -Erik McManus, Breakeven Books

“Brilliantly entertaining.” -Stacy Garrity, Whispering Stories

“Chaunceton Bird has created a fantastic story in Malibu Motel… A stunning and visceral look into the high stakes world of big money and the risks taken by the wealthy elite.” -Anthony Avina, Edge of Sanity

“An intensely readable riches-to-rags story, Malibu Motel will have you gripped till the last page.” -Bridget McNulty, Now Novel

“Malibu Motel explores the darkest places one is willing to go to when all they care about is money. Having it. Possessing it. Living a good life and not wanting to work for it. Dark and seedy, this is a cautionary tale and the writing portrays that mood perfectly… This isn’t a story you read to your children at night. This is a story I would recommend only to those brave enough to delve into the dark.” -Southern Today Gone Tomorrow

Author Chaunceton Bird
Author Chaunceton Bird

About the author:

Chaunceton Bird is an attorney and author. While in law school, Bird published an award winning academic article and won several awards for exceptional writing. Following graduation, he clerked for the Utah Supreme Court, entered into private practice, and began writing. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

https://www.amazon.com/Chaunceton-Bird/e/B07L4Z9Q42

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and John Hunt/Zero Books for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

I’ve seen this book described as a cautionary tale (that it is), although it also reminded me of the morality plays of old (or even Hogarth’s series A Harlot’s Progress and A Rake’s Progress, their pictorial equivalent), where you have a character that does not learn from life’s lessons and at each step of the way makes the wrong decision, setting the course of his/her life into a downward spiral that the protagonists seem unwilling and/or unable to stop. This novel (although based or inspired on a real case it is a novel nonetheless) is set in modern times (although the time, like many other details are not specified), and therefore, the choice of vices is slightly different, but not by much. Yes, Caish, the protagonist, loves expensive cars (there were no cars in Hogarth’s time, but there would have been expensive houses, carriages,…), some of the drugs and illnesses the character falls for are relatively new, and the fact that the character keeps checking social media is also a novelty, but that’s a change in setting, rather than the spirit of the piece and its message.

As I have mentioned, the author keeps some details vague. Is Caish a man or a woman? (According to what I’ve read, the lottery winner the novel is based on is a male). Much is made, at the beginning of this long book (yes, it is quite long and much of the content feels repetitive, because the main character is self-obsessed and obsessed with money, possessions and social status, and the story is narrated in the first-person, so we get a lot of that) of the fact that people keep getting the name wrong (Cash, of course, but other combinations of sounds as well), although at some point Caish has other problems and things to worry about and stops correcting people’s pronunciation. I assumed, at first, the character was male (the way of talking, the hobbies and some of the behaviours seemed quite typical, at least of male characters in books), then at some point I became convinced the character was a woman, and finally, I thought that the author left it intentionally vague, perhaps to show that it could happen to anybody and everybody, and rather than making readers think that what happens is the fault of a particular character, we should conclude that huge amounts of money that come too easy to somebody can destroy them (in fact, Caish is not the only one in the book to suffer a similar fate).

Caish is self-centred, egotistical, vain, selfish, big-headed, rush, lacking in any kind of insight, has no self-control, no common-sense, and no redeeming features. We do get to know a bit some members of his/her family, but there is no depth to the character, and despite the way things go, Caish never learns anything. As I have mentioned, the story is told in the first-person, and being inside of the character’s head is not comfortable. There are hilarious moments (because the character’s behaviour is so extreme that it’s a bit like watching a person tripping over the same obstacle or slipping on the same banana skin over and over), there are turns of phrase that are very funny, and the way the character misconstrues everything  and insists on talking about statistics and claiming to being an authority on all kinds of things s/he knows nothing about is hilarious (and yes, it does bring to mind some people in authority as well). If we stop and think, it is terribly sad as well, not so much what happens to the character (for somebody who loves the lottery so much, Caish should know that there are chances we shouldn’t take), but the destruction s/he spreads around, that of course, is never his/her fault, is appalling, and, worse still, s/he never has a kind thought for anybody else. If you are looking for a novel where you can empathise with the main character, this is not it. There is nothing likeable about Caish, other than some wit, but…

One of the things that bothered me as I read the novel was the fact that the character seemed quite articulate (if not well-informed or truly literate) when commenting on things, but the few times when Caish quoted her own conversations with others, s/he could hardly string a sentence together. In fact, most of the characters seem to speak in the same way, at least if we are to judge by the quoted conversations we read (it could be a problem of reporting the dialogue, evidently), no matter who they are, their different backgrounds or circumstances. Then, towards the end of the book, Caish comes upon a new scheme to make money — writing a memoir/life-story— and then we learn that s/he gets some assistance with editing. That could explain the different registers, although it undermines somewhat the whole of the story. Is the character truly as awful as s/he appears to be or is it an exaggeration introduced by the editor? Oh, well… If you read it, you can make your own mind up.

By the way, at the end of the book there are a number of documents included: what seems to be the results of the toxicology report and the medical reports following the discovery of a dead body at a motel. All the details fit in with the story and are realistic, down to blacking out the specific details, but I am not sure if they are real or not or whom they belong to.

I thought I’d share a few jewels from the book with you:

When I’m making money again, I think I’ll hire a butler. I have a small house staff, but they mostly just clean. What I need is somebody who can go get my Zippo when I leave it inside. Seems like the type of job for a butler. And if I’m buying a butler, I might as well buy a Batmobile too. No halfmeasures.

The standard of living around the world is higher now than ever before. Just check Facebook for proof of that.

Would I recommend this book? Well, you’ll know from the very beginning where the book is headed, and although there are some surprises in the way, these are mostly small details that don’t derail the story from its course. The novel depicts scenes of drug use (in plenty of detail, including how to go about getting scripts for painkillers, for example), sex (this not graphically or in any detail), homelessness, and a variety of crimes (including arson). There is always a fine line with these kinds of books between sharing enough of the behaviours to put people off and not making them too attractive or too easy to copy. Yes, I know it’s very easy to find information on all those subjects nowadays, but I thought I’d warn you. As I said, if you want to find a character to root for or to empathise with, this is not your book. There are also some issues of consistency that are, possibly, explained towards the end of the novel, but I am sure that the choices the author makes and the style chosen to tell the story will not work for everybody and might put some people off, so do check a sample before making a decision.

Personally, I laughed reading it (yes, I have a pretty dark sense of humour), I was appalled most of the time, and although I knew (more or less) how it would end, I couldn’t stop reading, but I’d recommend caution as some of the topics and the blasé attitude of the character towards them can be upsetting to readers personally affected by them.  I’ll be curious to see what the author writes next. And, I will carry on not buying lottery tickets.

Thanks to NetGalley, to the publisher and to the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling! 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog JUSTICE GONE by N. Lombardi Jr. (Mystery, police procedural, and an in-depth look at the US judicial system. A great read.

Hi all:

I bring you a book that might tick boxes for many of you.

Justice Gone by N. Lomardi Jr.
Justice Gone by N. Lombardi Jr.

Justice Gone by N. Lombardi Jr. Mystery, police procedural, and an in-depth look at the US judicial system. A great read.

When a homeless war veteran is beaten to death by the police, stormy protests ensue, engulfing a small New Jersey town. Soon after, three cops are gunned down. A multi-state manhunt is underway for a cop killer on the loose. And Dr. Tessa Thorpe, a veteran’s counselor, is caught up in the chase. Donald Darfield, an African-American Iraqi war vet, war-time buddy of the beaten man, and one of Tessa’s patients, is holed up in a mountain cabin. Tessa, acting on instinct, sets off to find him, but the swarm of law enforcement officers get there first, leading to Darfield’s dramatic capture. Now, the only people separating him from the lethal needle of state justice are Tessa and ageing blind lawyer, Nathaniel Bodine. Can they untangle the web tightening around Darfield in time, when the press and the justice system are baying for revenge? Justice Gone is the first in a series of psychological thrillers involving Dr Tessa Thorpe, wrapped in the divisive issues of modern American society including police brutality and disenfranchised returning war veterans. N Lombardi Jr. is the author of compelling and heartfelt novel The Plain of Jars.

https://www.amazon.com/Justice-Gone-N-Lombardi-Jr/dp/1785358766/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Justice-Gone-N-Lombardi-Jr/dp/1785358766/

Author N. Lombardi Jr.
Author N. Lombardi Jr.

About the author:

N. Lombardi Jr, the N for Nicholas, has spent over half his life in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, working as a groundwater geologist. Nick can speak five languages: Swahili, Thai, Lao, Chinese, and Khmer (Cambodian).

In 1997, while visiting Lao People’s Democratic Republic, he witnessed the remnants of a secret war that had been waged for nine years, among which were children wounded from leftover cluster bombs. Driven by what he saw, he worked on The Plain of Jars for the next eight years.
Nick maintains a website with content that spans most aspects of the novel: The Secret War, Laotian culture, Buddhism etc. http://plainofjars.net

His second novel, Journey Towards a Falling Sun, is set in the wild frontier of northern Kenya.

His latest novel, Justice Gone, was inspired by the fatal beating of a homeless man by police.

Nick now lives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

https://www.amazon.com/N.-Lombardi-Jr./e/B00CHHHWK0

My review:

I am reviewing this book as a member of Rosie’s book review team (if you’re an author looking for reviews, check here) and thank her, NetGalley, and Roundfire for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, ahead of its publication, that I freely chose to review.

This is not an easy book to categorise, and it could fit into a number of classifications, but it goes beyond the standard examples many of the readers of some of those genres are used to come across. When I heard about this book, my interest was piqued by several elements: the book features as one of its main characters a female therapist who has specialised in counselling war vets (many of them suffering from PTSD), and as a psychiatrist (and I did work with military personnel, although not from the US) I’m always intrigued by the literary portrayals of psychologists and psychiatrists and of mental health difficulties. There is a mystery/thriller element, and because I’m an eager reader (and writer) of those genres, I’m always keen to explore new authors and approaches. The novel also promised a close look at the US judicial system, and having studied criminology and the British Criminal Justice system, that aspect of the book was also intriguing. Could the novel deliver in so many levels?

Dr. Tessa Thorpe is an interesting character, and it seems that the author is planning to develop a series of novels around her. She is described as insightful and compassionate, with strong beliefs (anti-war), morals, and a trauma of her own. She is not the perfect professional, and at times her trauma affects her behaviour to a point that I thought would have got her into trouble if she were working in a different environment. We are not given full details of what has happened to her before, but the hints we get through the novel (where other characters in possession of that information refer to it) give us a fair idea. She is much better at dealing with others and understanding what moves them to act as they do than she is at dealing with her own issues, but that is a fairly realistic aspect of the book (although considering how insistent she is in getting others to talk about their difficulties, it is surprising none of the colleagues take her to task). What I was not totally convinced about was the fact that at some point she decides to support the vet going to trial accused of murder, and she leaves her practice and patients unattended for weeks. As she works in a private clinic and we only meet one of her patients, we don’t have sufficient information of her day-to-day tasks, and it’s quite possible that this is not a problem, but it felt counterintuitive to me. Tessa plays a central part in the plot in more ways than one, because although she is an expert in some aspects, she is totally new to what happens in other parts of the novel, like court procedures, and at those points she works as a stand-in for the readers, asking for clarifications and being walked through the process in detail.

The mystery and thriller elements, as I said, are dealt with differently to in many other books. The novel starts at an earlier point than many of the books that give advice to writers would recommend. It does not start in the middle of the action, or the crime (what the real crime is here is one of the main questions). We get the background to the events, down to the phone call to the police about a homeless man, which gets the ball rolling at the very beginning of the book. The police, who have been fed the wrong information, end up beating the man, a war-vet, to death. This causes a huge uproar, and we hear about the way the authorities try to sweep it all under the carpet, then the apparent revenge killing of the three policemen, the chase of a suspect, the hair-raising moment when he gives himself up (with some help from the doctor and others), and then we move onto the court case. There are moments where the book leans towards the police procedural, and we get plenty of details about the physical evidence, the investigation and those involved, we witness interrogations, we are privileged to information even the police don’t have, we get red herrings, and dead ends. The ending… there is a twist at the end, and although some might suspect it is coming, I was so involved in the court case at that point that I had almost forgotten that we did not know who the guilty party was.

I think this is one of the books I’ve read in recent times that best manages to bring to life a US court case, without sparing too many details and at the same time making it gripping. I will confess that the defense attorney, Nathaniel Bodine, is my favourite character, one of those lawyers who will happily cross the line for their client, and he seems, at times, a much better psychologist (and manipulator) than the doctor is. The judicial process is realistically reflected and at times it reads as if it were a detailed film or TV script, with good directions and fantastic dialogue.

And, we also follow the deliberations of the jury, in a few chapters that made me think of Twelve Angry Men, a play I remember watching many years back, although in this case we have a more diverse jury (not twelve men and not all Caucasian) and a more complex case. I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the novel as well, and I could clearly see the interaction between the sequestered jury in my mind’s eye. (It would make a great film or series, as I have already suggested).

The story is told in the third person by an omniscient narrator that at times shows us the events from the point of view of one of the characters, mostly from Tessa’s perspective, but at times from others, like her co-workers or members of the police force. At some points, the story is told from an external and fairly objective perspective (like the jury deliberations); although at times we glimpse the personal opinions of that unknown narrator. I know readers dislike “head-hopping”, but I was never in any doubt about whose point of view I was reading, and the alternating perspective helped get a more rounded view of events and characters. Although the style of writing is factual and to the point (some of the descriptions reminded me of police reports, in their matter-of-factness), that does not mean the book fails to produce an emotional reaction on the reader. Quite the opposite. Rather than emphasising the drama by using over-the-top prose, the author lets the facts and the characters’ actions talk for themselves, and that is much more effective, in my opinion.

I recommend this book to anybody who enjoys a mystery/thriller/police procedural novel which does not obey by the rules and is keen to engage readers in controversy and debates that go beyond a standard genre novel. (The author explains he was inspired to write this book by an incident not dissimilar to the death of the veteran at the hands of the cops at the beginning of the novel). The novel goes into more detail than most readers keen on those genres will be used to, and also follows the events from the very beginning to the very end. This is not a novel only interested in thrilling readers by highlighting the action scenes and ignoring the rest. Readers who always feel there are aspects of a story missing or underdeveloped will love this book, and also those who like complex characters (plenty of grey areas here) and a story that lives beyond the page. I also see book clubs enjoying a great discussion after reading this book, as there is much to debate and ponder. An accomplished novel and the first of a series that we should keep a close eye on.

Thanks to Rosie, to NetGalley, and to the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, review and keep smiling!

 

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