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Book Review: Nothing to Lose July 14, 2011

Posted by Jaidis in 2 Tree Reviews, Book Reviews, Hazel O'Shea Reviews.
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A novel of insight and great humor, this is a Cinderella story about the triumphant makeover of the body and spirit of April Taylor, a fat girl from Queens with the right mind but the wrong body.

April – 60 lbs. overweight, reeling from a broken marriage wangles a job as a softgoods copywriter in a suburban department store. There she meets Don, the black design manager who is determined to help her. “You’re not really breathing,” he tells her. “You’re holding your breath for the next insult . . . such a waste, such a pretty face.” April capitulates and the program begins: the wogging, the jogging, the hip walking and near starvation that will melt her prison of fat.

Nothing to Lose is also about April’s fantasy lover, Luis O’Neill. Luis is a half Irish, half Puerto Rican boy from the projects who makes it to Princeton and utilizes his dazzling good looks to become the youngest president in Burdie’s history. Set against the backdrop of the outrageous world of advertising and marketing this is a jubilant and satisfying story of risk-taking and love between two worthy survivors.

My Review:

Nothing to Lose by Consuelo Saah Baehr is a story about breaking free from the stereo types, beating the odds, and taking the unexpected path in life. Good things don’t come to those who wait. They’re snatched up by those who seize the moment and make it their own and that’s exactly what April Taylor and Luis O’Neil were going to do!

April had always been a heavy-set girl but hadn’t really seen that as a hindrance. It merely was what it was. She had her mother’s large hazel eyes and her father’s thick chestnut hair, making it obvious to others that she’d be a total knock-out if she could just lose the extra pounds. Thankfully Sylvie, April’s best friend, had found a great job for April that would not only take her out of her comfort zone, but would help get April going in the right direction with her life. She soon left Queens and jumped straight into a Manhattan lifestyle! She had lost weight and gained the self-confidence she needed in order to get ahead and go after what she wanted…love. She set her sights on Harald, falling hard and fast. Everything was picture perfect, just as it should be. Unfortunately, her fairytale ending didn’t last long and April found herself alone and diving deeper into her bad habits and self-destructive ways. That is, until she went to work for Mr. Luis O’Neil.

Luis O’Neil was the son of an Irish father and Puerto Rican mother. He was a handsome and academically gifted child, straying from the expected street life he grew up with. Instead, he focused on achievement, being the best at what he did, and living the American dream! After studying at Princeton he landed himself a job with a major retail corporation, starting off small as a buyer and quickly becoming one of the company’s presidents! He had worked hard and it had paid off, giving him all he had ever wanted. Everything but love. Real, secure, unquestionable love. Then he met April.

Miss Baehr tells a tale of life, love and what happens when fate interjects. A concept I have always been a fan of, but it didn’t quite have the spark and connection to the reader that was needed. April seems to fall in love with any man who so much as smiles at her and her struggles with being overweight are too drawn out and redundant. Instead of identifying with and feeling for April, I found myself slightly annoyed by her. I had the same problem with Luis’s character, as he didn’t really have any depth to him, having gone through life with almost no resistance or road blocks. I also found myself distracted by typos throughout the entire book. I do feel this story had incredible potential, but that it needed more excitement to provoke and engage the reader.

My Rating:

Happy Reading,

~Hazel O’Shea


Book Review: Pandora’s Succession July 14, 2011

Posted by Jaidis in 2 Tree Reviews, Book Reviews.
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For fans of Barry Eisler, Robert Ludlum, and Clive Cussler. Where would you hide if you learned the CDC and a major pharmaceutical company unleashed a hyperdeadly microbe on the human race?

CIA operative, Ridley Fox, never stopped hunting his fiancée’s killers—a weapons consortium called The Arms of Ares. When an informant leads him to an old bunker outside of Groznyy, Chechnya, Fox is captured, beaten, and left for dead. When the informant rescues him, Fox learns that his capture was no coincidence: someone had set him up—possibly another government agent. Fox barely escapes after learning that Ares has acquired a hyperdeadly microbe—called Pandora—that is believed to have wiped out ancient civilizations. The trail leads Fox to Tokyo where he discovers that people within the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Japanese Intelligence want Pandora for themselves. The only person Fox can trust is a woman from his past who he nearly got killed.

My Review:

The Arms of Ares, a global criminal organization staffed by former KGB officers, has gained possession of the most powerful biological weapon in history and is intent on selling it to terrorist groups worldwide. Standing in their way is elite CIA operative Ridley Fox with his own personal vendetta: Ares murdered his fiancee. When the weapon is stolen by a doomsday cult called The Promise the chase is on. Who will get to them first, Fox or Ares? Or will The Promise with its brainwashed followers and army of ninjas succeed in its plan to exterminate mankind?

This action-packed, globe-trotting thriller has all the classic ingredients of an enjoyable, if rather cliched, James Bond style adventure. However, the novel also has its flaws, some minor, and some rather more serious.

The book is unashamedly cliched. In terms of the general plot this is not necessarily a problem and can help the book feel instantly comfortable, but in the dialogue and action, the corny moments quickly become annoying. A little more imagination in the execution would have significantly improved the novel.

The author has clearly researched his overseas locations well and generally does a good job at making them feel believable by inserting little tidbits of local information. Unfortunately, this level of research does not extend to the science, computers and weaponry. In a novel, such as this it is permissible to take a few liberties in order to improve the story but they should be taken in a calculated manner and only where necessary. Particularly important are details about weaponry as thriller fans will instantly spot mistakes – simply knowing the names of a few exotic weapons is not sufficient.

Further damaging the credibility of the story are the numerous flaws in logic and continuity errors. These should have been fixed during the editing process, as should the typos (I counted 39 but bet there are more!)

The most important element in any thriller is tension. Ultimately, this is the biggest failing in this novel. The hero is too perfect for us to ever doubt his success and the main characters instantly figure out what’s going on with insufficient evidence to inform them. This is a real shame as having created a plot involving insiders, impostors and frequent double-crossing the opportunities for building tension are legion. The most glaring failures (and the easiest to fix) are those where the hero finds himself in a sticky situation. The hero’s plan is consistently described in detail and then soon afterwards we read the near identical description of his actions as the plan is executed perfectly (except for on one occasion in the opening chapter). It would have been far more satisfying if, instead of telling us what the hero is about to do, the author had built up the difficulty of the situation before surprising us with the hero’s solution.

Overall, this novel reads like a first draft. There is potential in the plot and this could, after several re-drafts, become a real page-turner. Even in it’s present form, there are far worse novels to pick up. However, in this competitive genre, you will never run out of thrillers to read that are of far better quality and so I cannot recommend purchasing this one.

My Rating:

Happy Reading,

Rob J.