Book Review: Just One Evil Act

17624975Elizabeth George has delivered another solid read in the Inspector Lynley Series.

Originally, I felt some hesitation towards it, because of the length of it and wondered if the pacing would keep my interest in reading. Also, unfortunately, some of the reviews (just glanced at) didn’t express a lot of love for this 18th in the series. Yet, these hesitations were easily put to rest. I learned, fairly early on, Just One Evil Act was going to evolve into two mysteries – a kidnapping and a murder – involving the same characters taking place in parallel time. The pacing was just right and there weren’t any feelings of fatigue or boredom. That’s quite an accomplishment for the 700+ page novel! However, while I cannot say there wasn’t a high level of frustration with Detective Sergeant Havers for her damning behaviour in this story, I did understand her actions were due to her feelings for her neighbour, Taymalluh Azhar and his daughter, Hadiyyah. There was continued frustration as well with George’s heavy use of Italian, that for the most part went untranslated throughout. Yet, George does put it all to bed quite neatly in the end for a very satisfying read. Continue reading

Book Review: This Dark Road to Mercy

17349104Wiley Cash has once again created a page burner in This Dark Road to Mercy.

With a similar structure to A Land More Kind Than Home, the reader is this time treated to another tale and battle between good and evil but now with two sisters, an ex-detective and an often absent father on paths that converge to battle one bad ass dude.

Easter and Ruby are left (somewhat) orphaned after their mother’s pervasive drug addiction takes her from them at a very early age. Their father, Wade, has been absent for most of their lives, and has indeed signed a court document relinquishing his parental rights to the girls. It is a document he is now sorely saddened to have signed and is desperate to have the girls returned to him now that their mother is gone.

Wade isn’t the greatest stand-up guy around and has done quite a few bad things in his past, and most recently has stolen a vast amount of cash and is desperate to get his girls back. He feels his only option is to steal them in the middle of the night and spend the rest of his days trying to turn his wrong by them into a right.

Brady Weller is an ex-detective turned home security salesman and also a volunteer guardian. He is also Easter and Ruby’s court appointed guardian. He is now on the chase to find and bring back Easter and Ruby. Mixed into all of this is the one big, huge and juiced up dude named Robert Pruitt. While Pruitt is essentially hired to recover the stolen cash from Wade, it’s only a quarter of the real reason he wants to get his hands on Wade.

While the bad guy in this story wasn’t anywhere near as evil, or gave me the creepy, scared feeling the way Pastor Chambliss did in A Land More Kind Than Home, Easter is a well-written, wizened old-soul and her story and her fight to keep her sister safe and loved is one that will tear at your heartstrings. This Dark Road to Mercy also has an ending with a few unexpected twists that will leave you with a few tears staining your face. Another great read and I’m once again looking forward to more from Mr. Cash! (and to discovering what intriguing title is given to it. I love his uniquely named novels.)

Book Review: Golden Boy

15803173Thank you to Edelweiss and Atria Books for the advanced reader’s copy of Golden Boy, (and to the Windsor Public Library for loaning the hard copy). Golden Boy is an extraordinary debut by Abigail Tarttelin. As the back jacket flap reads:

Written by twenty-five-year-old rising star Abigail Tarttelin, Golden Boy is a novel you’ll read in one sitting but will never forget; at once a riveting tale of a family in crisis, a fascinating exploration of identity and a coming-of-age story like no other.

I couldn’t agree more. Golden Boy is a very engaging read and one I finished in just a few sittings. While reading I was almost given the sense of  “edge-of-your-seat” anticipation as to what will happen to Max next. An entirely different viewpoint however comes from Emily M. Keeler, a special reviewer for the National Post’s Afterwards. Keeler describes this as  “a disappointing novel” and had some scathing commentary on the characters in the book, particularly Karen, Max’s mother and Dr. Archie Verma, the doctor Max seeks out in confidence for treatment. Max is able to form a trusting, albeit short and scattered, relationship with Dr. Verma. Yet, according to Keeler, her role in the story is simply to make the topic and information about intersexuality palatable. Possibly, yet I found I grew quite fond of Archie as she did reassure Max using a calmer manner than other doctors Max has been subjected to by his parents over the years.

I am also not in agreement with Keeler’s other remarks about the characters in Golden Boy. I felt they were all wonderfully depicted, and yes, while Karen may be a woman you do not necessarily endear yourself to, I think how she is personified simply demonstrates Tarttelin’s wonderful command for creating such true, rich and wholly believable characters.

At first, we are introduced to Max Walker as seen through his younger brother Daniel’s eyes. To Daniel, and to the outside world, Max is a golden boy. He has the looks, the appeal, the following, the wit, the charm and the ease of which he seemingly glides through life. However, Max has a secret. It’s an immense secret. Not even his little brother knows about it. There is a very limited number of people that know about it. Obviously, his mother and father, and, as becomes an unfortunate situation later, his mother’s closest and best friend and her son, Hunter. Max and Hunter are the same age and have grown up with much closeness they refer to themselves as cousins. These are the only people that know of Max’s secret.

Max is intersex.

For Max’s parents this poses potential issues for the future as they both have high powered careers, and Max’s father is planning on running for MP. The former MP flamed out in a widely reported on scandal owing to his children’s partying and racial expressions. Therefore it is imperative that no scandal come out from the Walker’s household during this key time.

Growing up, and growing older, Max is aware of his differences, but in a somewhat vague manner. He is after all very popular with the ladies, seemingly identifies as male but at the same time quite aware that he isn’t going to be looking the same as his guy friends in the coming years – he’ll still remain a “pretty boy” with no facial hair – and he’ll never get past only kissing girls. He has more sense of his pending loneliness as he reaches adulthood. Max has also met a girl that he takes more than just a passing interest in. He worries more now about the relationships he’ll be able to form in the future.

One night, while Max’s parents are throwing a party at the house, Hunter enters Max’s room intoxicated, high, and sexually assaults him.  This brutal act causes great harm to Max, more harm than just the initial assault, which spirals into more damage to his family, his friends, his relationship with his younger brother and his girlfriend.

For much of the story, Max works to tell no one about the assault, the only person that knows is Dr. Archie. She has however avowed to keep Max’s confidence while looking further in to his “type” of intersexuality. At the time as her discovery, Max makes an alarming discovery of his own. It is this significant and crushing discovery which has the potential to destroy his family but is going to change everything that Max has had to realize about himself.

“The question he has to look inside himself to answer: Who is Max Walker, really?”

“I hate Hunter. I hate him for everything he’s doing to my mum, and to me and to my family.”

As I mentioned above, it’s this “edge of your seat” anticipation that propels you through Golden Boy easily and hungrily. Tarttelin has combined a coming of age story for an intersex boy with seamless explanation about the condition and the varied types of intersex persons. She has created an endearing and easily likeable character in Max and has beautifully described his coming of age with a twist. Outside of Max, easily my favourite character was his younger brother Daniel. He’s extremely precocious, has anger management issues, is highly intelligent and wants to build all life forms with robotic extensions –  but mostly, he thinks his brother is #1 in everything. His world consists of Max and the video game World of War. He worships Max, sees that his parents prefer Max over him, thinks Max shines at everything and can do no wrong. Tarttelin brilliantly captures his 10-year-old mind flawlessly in my opinion. Daniel will attach himself to your heart immediately. The longer the Walker’s keep Daniel in the dark, the more frustrated he becomes and the more you appreciate Tarttelin’s capture of true and rich characters.

Yes, Karen the mother, is shallow, annoying and frustratingly naïve in her wanting to keep Max as the sweet baby boy. Her yearning for Max stay as this soft, sensitive, never hormonal boy borders on the weird. Her deep-seated denial is almost laughable. She is determined to keep Max as this young boy and in a place where no one needs to find out about his secret – including Max himself it seems. But again, the drawing of this mother and her behaviour is excellent and completely believable. She’s the character you love to hate.

“I was walking in, waving him away…I didn’t want to talk about Max’s being intersex anymore.”

When the secret is more out in the open, and the true and hurtful event that Max has had to endure in silence is known is the time when Max must really come to terms with who he is, what he feels he wants to be, and what he can expect in the future. It’s all written so wonderfully.

“If I don’t have the operations now, I’ll start to look different. Or rather, everyone else will start to look different, and I’ll stay the same. This is the turning point. This is the time when whether you are a boy or a girl counts. And you to pick one. Why? Because those are the rules. Everything else is a nonentity. I wish I could just tell everyone. I wish being me was normal, or if not normal, then accepted. I wish I didn’t have to hide all these thoughts. I wish I didn’t have to be alone with this, to worry that I’ll always be alone. Maybe that’s the worse thing about being intersex. That I can’t tell anyone. I don’t want to be alone anymore.”

Golden Boy starts, continues and ends on very satisfying points. I read through it in a short number of days, glued to the pages the whole time. This is a wonderful debut from a very young author that is definitely one to watch for more from in the future. I know I will be! Kudos for describing an interesting yet difficult issue or topic in such an exquisite manner.