“The Fade Out: Act One” by Ed Brubaker

The Fade Out: Act One (The Fade Out, #1)(Author: Ed Brubaker) + (Year: 2015) + (Goodreads)


For some reason, I had completely different expectations about this book and I thought I was going to be reading a supernatural noir, instead of just a regular one.

The Fade Out, much to my disappointment, was a rather ordinary crime novel set in the late 40’s in Hollywood. I say disappointing, because this volume had every single characteristic of every other noir novel: a troubled main guy, who is unwillingly dragged into a murder investigation and has alcohol problems; a dead starlet; a shady media mogul; a shiny boytoy with a nasty personality; a good guy who is getting destroyed by the sad events, etc etc. As a plus, this book also has Clark Gable. It’s very fortunate that I watched Gone with the Wind just a couple of weeks ago, so I was more excited to see him than I normally would have been.

Character-wise, everyone is basically one of the cliches I listed above. Story-wise, the book isn’t much more original.

If I was expecting a supernatural thriller, it didn’t work out to begin with. However, even the volume that I ended up reading didn’t possess many redeeming qualities. Except for the art. I rather liked the art style. It had ups and downs – the ups being that it very well fit into the 40’s Hollywood style and it was very pretty; and the downs, a lot of the characters kind of looked like each other to a point I wasn’t sure who was who.

I usually go optimistically about comic book volumes, persuading myself to continue with the next ones, but I think I will pass on act II of The Fade Out.


“The Devil’s Prayer” by Luke Gracias

The Devil's Prayer(Author: Luke Gracias) + (Year: 2016) + (Goodreads)


The Devil’s Prayer were two very interesting books!

The reason I say this is that there can be a line drawn very distinctively between the first and the second part of the book, and each could have been perfectly great on its own.

The Devil’s Prayer is the story of a woman, Denise, who, after winning the lottery is abducted, raped and left to die. Instead of dying, she makes a deal with the Devil. Later on, she finds out about the existence of an old book, one part of which is called The Devil’s Prayer, and she sets out to find it.

I greatly enjoyed the first part of the book – the story of Denise before she started looking for the book. It was a page turner and it was very exciting and creative. The end of this first story was a big surprise, even though I had guessed the general lines of where it was headed.

The second part, the one about The Devil’s Prayer, was something else. It was interesting in a completely different way. This storyline was more in the vicinity of Dan Brown back when I enjoyed his works, and it had a great plot behind it. It also sort of reminded me of one of my favourites, The Historian, so that was another bonus for me. However, this part of the book also felt underdeveloped. It took entirely too little time in terms of the book, and it could have been so much bigger and more explosive. The author had a great “conspiracy theory” about a document signed between Arnaud Amalric and Jebe Noyan in the 13th century. I would have LOVED to read a more detailed and suspenseful novel about this. Not to mention that part of this story was set in Bulgaria, so I couldn’t help but being proud of our history. Sadly, it seems that the author wasn’t sure what to do with this treasure of a plot line, so he rushed it and he left big parts of it just hanging there.

The ending of the book was also not ideal. The entire narrative seemed like the introduction to a much larger story, which never happened. The ending was supposed to be, in my mind, a bigger event, and instead it was left completely unresolved. If there’s a second book coming, I would definitely read it, because the ending didn’t satisfy my curiosity.

Nevertheless, a very interesting book indeed.

  • Also, for those who have read the book, this is the vampire burial from Perperikon:


He had a metal knife stuck in his heart, and his left leg was cut off under the knee, severed in three and put next to the body. As The Devil’s Prayer points out, this grave is from the 13th century and this “anti-vampire” ritual was Christian.

“Smilla’s Sense of Snow” by Peter Høeg

Smilla's Sense of Snow(Author: Peter Høeg) + (Year: 1995) + (Goodreads)

(Around the World: Denmark)


Smilla’s Sense of Snow depicts the victims in the world of the strong. The struggle of the outsiders in the country of their conquerors. It tells a lot about the systematical overtaking of the Danish culture against that of the Inuits. It also shows the cold world of power, money and desire for fame and glory, which is common for all people, but has no equal than that of the Western, developed, world, where people have already managed to get what they need to cover their basic needs, so they now have the spare time to struggle for things less essential, but just as important to them. Smilla’s Sense of Snow in some ways encapsulates everything that I have heard about the cold north of Europe.

This is also the point in which you can see the gap between the developed world and the third world countries. In the former, they fight for glory, in the latter – for survival.

However much Smilla’s Sense of Snow told me of Denmark, as a book it was a lot more mediocre than I hoped. While I do have my prejudices against people whose main motivation in life is power and money, I am not saying that I dislike the people in countries like Denmark. On the contrary, I have recently developed quite a fascination with this small and less loved Scandinavian country (especially as I have so many Swedish friends who dislike it). Therefore, I did have high expectations for Smilla’s Sense of Snow.

The first 100 or so pages were very good and riveting. The mystery developed fast and it went deep. I had no idea what to expect and I was eager to go further. After those first 100 pages, though, things started getting increasingly worse. There was a constant stream of characters who served the same purpose, had the same personality, and all hated the main character, Smilla. At one point, more than halfway through the book, I just gave up trying to keep track of everyone. Too many names, too many unimportant stories, too much fluff.

And don’t even get me started on the stories. From the mystery around the death of a young boy, this book took so many turns, went through so many sub-plots, so much insanity… The author didn’t stop for a second to throw one thing after the other. Each of these elements could have made a fine book all on their own, but Høeg was relentless: murder, drugs, smugglers, Nazis, meteorites, legends, science fiction, ships, agents, killer parasites, Inuit culture, snow, ice, ice, snow, BDSM, ice, missing mothers, dead fathers. Not one of the stories was even finished. Most of all, I expected some sort of a conclusion to the death of Isiah, but I did so in vain. Høeg tried, but failed miserably, to explain the death and give closure. And I was there asking myself “Was that it?” Not to mention that the meteorite story did not fit into the world of this book at all. It was as if I was reading two different books simultaneously, and neither me, nor the characters could understand what to make of it.

If you think that, taking all of this into account, this was a fast-paced book, you would be wrong. For every half a page of intense action, there were 20 pages of descriptions of how many centimeters there are from the door to the light switch, and what the quality of the silence in the room is, and last, but not least, ice and snow and ice. I know that the book’s title is Smilla’s Sense of Snow, but to be describing in detail every state of snow and ice for pages on end is quite special. Not in a very positive way.

Lastly, Smilla might be one of the least pleasant main characters that I have read about. She is extremely angsty, but I failed to understand WHY exactly that is. Sure, her life was not a fairytale, but for example, why did she hate her father so much? What was the reason for that? I never got it. I just knew that she hates him, so by default we have to hate him, too. Also, Smilla is so self-contradictory that she is not a realistic character at all. She spends 99% of her time in the present moping around and daydreaming about 50 shades of snow; and in her memories, she is spending extensive amounts of time reading to Isiah or giving him baths. However, while that was happening, she also managed to go to 20 expeditions to Greenland, to write 2000 papers, to get 89 university degrees, to be arrested 50 times, to tag polar bears, to spend time on ships, to be a part of a million institutions, to sit around and hate her father, to run away from home and go to Greenland without money or documents, to become a person of interest to the police, to investigate, to be well schooled in biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, engineering… Do you see where I am going? And now, her age: 37. As a conclusion, I would say that Smilla is not a very well built character. She is mean for no reason whatsoever, she hates everyone, despite having had a mostly good life, and she is rude and self-important.

I like him. I have a weakness for losers. Invalids, foreigners, the fat boy of the class, the ones that nobody ever wants to dance with. My heart beats for them. Maybe because I’ve always known that in some way I will forever be one of them. 

Err… why?

“Bad Monkeys” by Matt Ruff

Bad Monkeys(Author: Matt Ruff) + (Year: 2007) + (Goodreads)


Before starting the book, I skimmed through the Goodreads reviews. Also, my flatmate, who let me borrow the book, she shared the opinion of everyone on Goodreads.

So, I need only but confirm this: This book starts amazing and then falls flat on its sad, miserable face.

The story of Bad Monkeys might not have the most original concept ever, but the thing is, I really liked the basic idea. I wish that it had continued working on that, instead of developing into a weird sci-fi-wanna-be-karate-freakshow.

The story is as follows: Jane Charlotte has been arrested for murder. While she’s already in custody, she meets with a psychiatrist and starts retelling her story to him. Jane admits to being a member of the division Bad Monkeys of a secret organization, which deals with assassinating dangerous, evil people. Jane explains in detail her childhood, her integration into the organization, and what lead to her being in custody. While many of the things she says turn out to be the exact truth, many are proven wrong by the official facts her doctor manages to unearth in his investigation. Is Jane really part of an assassin organization? Is she simply crazy?

The thing which drew my attention was the idea behind the organization: it intervenes when a really evil person is set loose and is probably going to cause a lot of damage to society. The basic notion behind this, I would say, is the mistrust toward the justice system. If you asked me about it, I would say that I absolutely don’t believe that criminals get the deserved punishment. As there is no retribution, it’s really hard to believe in justice.

More so, Bad Monkeys puts a very simple question to its readers: If there was an ex-director of a Nazi concentration camp, who caused the death of half a million people, and who’s now 90 years old, and living hidden in the forests of South America, and a guy who has only killed one person, but he has found a lust for violence, and is fairly young, which one would you kill?

I’ll let you answer that for yourselves.

However, no matter how intriguing and thought-provoking this core idea was to me, the book came short on so much more. For starters, the main character, Jane, was so confusing. I, as a reader, had a hard time caring about her as a person, and cared only about her story. She herself was just some side noise around everything that was happening in the story itself. Also, the author made some valid points taken from religion and the Bible, but at some point, there was so much religion and religious remarks and comparisons, that I wasn’t sure where he was going. As a person, who on the surface seemed to lean more on atheism, than on religiousness, he definitely didn’t prove it but his use of Christian allegories.

And, last, but by far not least, the ending of the book was absolutely ludicrous. Somewhere around 1/3 in, the book started getting increasingly ridiculous and messed up. And not in a good way. From a slow, methodical thriller, it turned into a really bad acid trip, which to me was like “Why do I even care?”, which made me read with less and less interest.

I am stubborn. I read the book despite the warnings. Don’t be like me, save yourselves the time. Read something else.

“The Lie” by C.L. Taylor

The Lie

(Author: C.L. Taylor) + (Year: 2015) + (Goodreads)


*** 3.5 stars ***

I should add this to the “Unexpected Netgalley Gem” shelf. I had not set any expectations and I was pleasantly surprised by the book.

My initial thought was that this can potentially turn in The Girl on the Train, which I really didn’t like despite all of the positive reviews it got. But I was surprised to find myself with a much more interesting and suspenseful novel.

The story revolves around a woman, Emma, who went on a nightmarish trip to Nepal with her friends after which she was forced to change her name and escape her previous life.

The setting was great, both the story in the past and the one in the present were engaging and creepy and I found myself having no idea what to expect will happen, which has become a rare occurrence nowadays. I was eager to read on and on and I kept that pace up until the book was over (and I was just about expecting someone to jump from under my bed). Personally, I found the events in Nepal to be scarier and  very unsettling. This is my second book of this type in the last couple of months (I will not disclose the other one because the common denominator in both is not shown in the description and can be seen as a spoiler by the pickier readers), but this was surely the better one. The entire storyline in the resort made me feel bothered and creeped out, which is always exciting when you are reading a book or watching a movie on a similar subject. Overall, the author did a very good job setting up the atmosphere, especially the jumps from the present to the past and the other way around, which were set in the exactly right moments.

As for the characters, I think they were also a writing success, that not meaning that I liked them. In fact, I disliked the majority of them with a special fire and I think that was the intention of Taylor, so good job, buddy. Daisy was a very unpleasant person, and although I saw what the others might have liked about her, she was overall just so damaged that I am surprised anyone could find her “the best one” in a group, which says a lot about the group itself. But it was Leanne that I could have punched in the face with… a chair or an ax or something. She was just the most horrible human being. Isaac was a close second but it was immediately obvious that there was something wrong with him and the entire hippie group in Nepal. However, among the four friends there was a certain normalcy at the beginning so it was both interesting and unbelievably frustrating to see how their relationship began falling apart because of their disgusting personalities. Al was just annoying, because she was the real peoplepleaser. She sided with whomever was convenient, not with whomever she really liked and trusted. As to Emma/Jane, she was by far the most normal one, but I do agree that she was a wet blanket. Especially considering how drastically her personality changed from the past to the present, which made it obvious that she could act like a normal person if she wanted to.

My issues with the book were of less importance, to a degree. I did not like the ending, specifically. The tension did not build to a high enough degree. The author did a masterful job of building it throughout the entire book and there was no outlet in the end. It kind of just dropped.

As for the other thing, it is not a problem as much as I found it weird. There were two expressions that I have never in my life seen in a book. Ever. I would have paid attention like I did now and I would have remembered it. I realize that they are probably local expressions to the author, but as they are clearly not that popular, as for me to have never read it among hundreds of books, I ask myself, why were they repeated so often. One of them in particular seemed like a joke the first time I read it but then it was repeated over and over and over again:

“But Leanne and Daisy have been living in each other’s pockets for days now.”

And this one… every time they were talking about blushing, this was used instead.

“… the base of her throat coloring pink.”

rainbow unicorn of the day the more you know

…about the English language.