The Hard Way : Jack Reacher Novel #10 by Lee Child. Was it Worth the Time?

My first introduction to Jack Reacher. Thank you, Lee Child, below, for handing a modern day hero for grown ups. This novel has an almost fantastical undercurrent to it. That ‘one man is magnificent and can solve all crimes’ we all like to believe in. You don’t ever find yourself doubting in Reacher’s ability to crime solve, which means you can easily sit back, and escape into this tale. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it was incredibly thrilling but what I will say is that it is gripping, a plot you would think is easy enough to guess but actually you hit a few bumps and rocks along the way. It is a fast-paced novel worthy of it’s success but from online reviews it appears it may be the worst in the series. Which, is in fact promising.  As a virgin, never to have experienced Jack Reacher before, I have a few holes in this novel to pick with Lee Child about his style. Although he must be doing something right if this is number TEN in the series!

Lee Child The Hard Way

As I said, I haven’t read the other Jack Reacher novels but is Reacher supposed to be a know-it-all. I do appreciate Child’s desire to create a one-man-takes-on-the-world character, sort of modern day cowboy, to feed into the “child” in everyone, but at times it merely gets ridiculous. This is a man who can break a mans two wrists in one movement – OK, believable, because he is ex military – but he is also someone who knows the definition of a Grange offhand but has never heard about texting? This drew me out of the novel and thought of Lee Child sitting, trying to see where he can squeeze in a new found fact of the day. And for a character that has a tiny invisible clock in his head that allows him to tell the time perfectly in any time zone, ironically, makes me question what time the novel is set in!

Plotholes, mind you don’t fall in!

There is also a lot of plot holes. Where Reacher will be discussing facts with one of the ‘bad guys’ and they willingly discuss their pasts with him. Such happens in the scene where Reacher is trying to find out what happened to two of the men left in African war zone with one of the ‘guys’ Burke. Burke and Reacher take leisurely stroll where Reacher questions him about the two men, Hobart and Knight. For an Ex Marine, Burke seems altogether too eager to impart with information and seems to trust Reacher straight away. Child writes a few throw-away sentences of

“How (do you know their names)? Who have you been talking to? There’s nothing about them in those file cabinets you were looking through. Or in the computer. They’ve been erased. Like they never existed. Like they’re dirty little secrets. Which they are.’

Dirty Little Secrets..Why then, Burke, are you so happy to discuss them? You chat away with all the trust in the world to this person (Reacher) you just met and don’t even bat an eyelid when you see him rifling through your Commanding Officer’s filing cabinets? It is all too unrealistic, not only is Reacher apparently superhuman but he only suffers consequences for his actions if/when Child wants him to and/or when it progresses the plot.

Unbelievable…but in a good way?

There is also the case of Pauling recognising Reacher because Pattie must have passed along his physical appearance. However, it was clearly stated earlier that Patti has never been able to correspond with Pauling, she didn’t even know she was still working on her case. Maybe it is just me nitpicking, but these are the issues that pull me right out of a novel.

Ironically, as well, in his attempt to ‘colour’ his writing, I was taken even further out of the novel. Surprisingly from the very beginning his sentences are short and detached; it’s all very ‘matter-of-fact’. It takes a bit of time to get used to. But then you have, at times the opposite, like below. This is an extract when Child seems to remember he is a writer and tries to embellish his writing but ends up just saying the same thing in various different ways. His sense of description is convoluted and repetitive.

“two roads in, radial, like spokes in a wheel. One was north of northeast and the other was east of northeast. We called then the One O’clock Road and the Two O’clock Road. Like the face of a wristwatch? If twelve o’clock was due north, there were roads at the one o’clock position and the two o’clock position”.

Never Eat Shredded Wheat – North, East, South, West.

This extract also draws attention to the most infuriating addition to Child’s novel – the constant compass. Now, I should think that I am by no means unintelligent, but I still need to picture a compass in my mind and say my little rhyme (Never Eat Shredded Wheat) to even figure out where my house is positioned in the world. So forgive me if I skipped through Child’s constant breakfast bowl of shredded wheat. It seemed like every chapter was another description of a New York block that faced every which way. I am struggling to understand Child’s purpose for all of this, besides the fact that Reacher was in the army? Is this military talk? Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but to me it is completely alienating. I’ve been to New York, but I didn’t care what was north or west then so I certainly don’t need to read about it.

Swimming in a pool of negativity.. but I still want more?

OK, I know I have been giving Lee Child a hard time so far, but how come in the end I can say I will definitely read the rest of the series, what does that say about me?

What I did like about this novel is that it is quite fast paced. Quickly getting over the patronising compass and random convoluted descriptions, the novel flowed well. I did think the climax was easy enough to guess, but there was still enough plot to distract the reader and take them on a journey. Despite all the parallel between minuscule matter-of-fact sentences and long convoluted attempts of embellishment

I read it in one sitting so I would happily go back and read the series from the beginning. It is fantastic as a one timer (I don’t think I will return to read it again anytime soon)

I have read some promising reviews of the other novels online and they have convinced me not to allow this novel to taint my opinion of the series. The Hard Way is a good enough book to stand alone, I did not feel like I was missing anything that could only have been learnt from the others, so overall I imagine it fits well within the series as a whole.

Apparently, the Reacher novels are worth reading because of the mixture of mystery, plot twists, action, and Reacher’s blend of justice. That sounds good doesn’t it?

Can anyone confirm this? Has anyone read any other of Lee Child’s? If anyone has more info on this strange ‘matter-of-fact’ writing – please save me from myself and let me know if it’s worth reading his others?!

All I know is, Lee Child has given us a tenth novel to help us escape from our world. Who cares if his writing isn’t on point, I will even overlook the compass, this character has an incredible skill to tell the time whenever and where ever he is (What?!). He also has a depth of knowledge that I am sure he never picked up in the army, learning how to smash the bones  in a wrist or send someones cheekbone into their brain, but this is fiction. Is that not OK? If we cannot create a fantasy in Fiction then where can we? 

One point of absolute value that I have taken from this book is Jack Reacher’s mantra of No use fretting about what you cannot control. Yes. Yes. Yes. Thank you. For any of you that have read my About Me page, I live by the philosophy of – you always have the power to choose your own attitude. And it seems Reacher feels the same. Worrying won’t change things, so choose to be happy or proactive or crazy or dance around the place in moments of madness because you, and you alone, are the only person who can change how you feel. Don’t let anybody else do it for you.

lee_child

So, I salute you, Mr. Child, I look forward to seeing what other repetitive and bonkers situations Reacher can get himself into next!

Don’t forget to let me know what you guys thought in the comments below! Thanks for reading!

The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez

 

An altogether easier read than the Girl Who Played With Fire, this novel is ideal for a trip away or a light read for parent’s leading a busy life who then try and meet the girls once a month for a bookclub. It isn’t very taxing of a novel but has some hidden messages.

 

                            The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez

Immediately I noticed the blurb gives a run down of each character to be expected to appear in the novel, I wondered how Rodriguez would manage to do so seamlessly. She begins with Sunny, the owner of the Little Coffee Shop and quickly establishes the heart of the novel. Counteracting the happiness of the first chapter Rodriguez injects the more realistic terror of what we have come to know of novels set in Kabul, Afghanistan, by introducing Yazmina. A young girl stripped from her family to be sold but is cast away on the streets once her captors learn she of her dark secret. From the get-go I anticipated the arrival of the rest of the women, and I kept flicking to the blurb mid paragraph to see if I could predict how Rodriguez would wove them into the story. As I was constantly expecting a new character and ticking them off as I read, I feel this does not make for a good reading experience. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Rodriguez’ style of writing won me over and by the 6th chapter, the arrival of the fourth woman, I was hooked and had forgotten to expect the rest of the characters. She does this by offering enough information about the first three women, that we are more interested in their lives. Particularly, Halajan. In Chapter 5 Rodriguez releases the first of two insights into the minds of two of the men in Halajan’s life. One, the kind and ever patient childhood friend whom gives her a letter once a week she will never read for her illiteracy, and, two, her son who up till now is the first man we see who is in conflict with the strong women around him. Both accounts of these men distract us from the idea that more women will be introduced because the story is interesting enough already. And then we meet Candace. Rodriguez does the same for Isabel, she distracts us with exposition from the other women’s lives and then introduces her storyline.

Hello, is that you, Mrs. Hosseini?

Growing up, I was a huge fan of Khaled Hosseini – the author of the bestselling The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns and And The Mountains Echoed– and this novel reads the same. Albeit, Rodriguez uses far more simple language and at times can be a bit mundane. Yes, The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul, is reminiscent of a Hosseini novel but is this only because of the setting? Hosseini has been instrumental in bringing forth the issues women face in Afghanistan to the Western World of fiction but something is stopping me from giving Deborah Rodriguez the same status. I don’t think this novel deals with the issues Muslim women face with the great weight they deserve. Don’t get me wrong, there are some distressing scenes in the novel yet, because there are so many, it becomes difficult to invest in all of them. And I am in two minds as to whether the author does them justice or not, can you help?

Does a rundown of every possible catastrophe work or not?

There is Yazmina’s hidden pregnancy, a secret school for terrorists disguised as an educational system, two love affairs, various scenes set in an abhorrent women’s prison, three bombings and a wedding…to name a few. This world is far from the one I live in, especially here in Ireland and worlds away from anything most of her fanbase would have experienced. I feel as though the author rushed through parts of the novel where she could have expanded a lot more or maybe she could have referenced such issues in parts of the novel initially before they happened. For example, it is absolutely shocking to learn that it is common for terrorists to set off at least two bombs consecutively, a couple of minutes in between, one to kill as many as they can and the next to kill the loved ones who come running. This contemptible act is thrown on us as the reader more as a fleeting thought as the bombs are happening. Again, without much weight to it.
At the risk of perpetuating Western World Elitism – can you imagine such a harrowing thought? To have to always be on guard for such terror. From a stylistic point of view I would imagine this fact would hit home a lot harder to readers if it was introduced in a conversation in the beginning of the novel before any event of bombing so that it resonates with the reader and allows them time to mull it over in shock, thus, making the scene of the bombings a whole lot more significant.

Does Rodriguez know this?

However, perhaps this is intentional. Because Deborah Rodriguez herself has lived in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, and I presume has witnessed most if not all of the accounts she has recorded in the novel, then, I think you could become immune to the gravity of the oppression these women (and men) suffer in Afghanistan. Though maybe, it is my narrow mind, so far from these troubles that I think she is immune. Perhaps it is actually the alternative completely – Rodriguez has experienced this city firsthand and perhaps by not devoting paragraphs and paragraphs of explanation and attempts to drive the point of devastation into the heart of the reader, she is giving a truthful, unembellished, account of what life is like in Kabul? As I said before, she rallies off several harrowing events that just one alone would make for a climactic novel but perhaps this is on purpose, because it is not common for just one bomb, one secret pregnancy or one man to suffer through the demons in his mind debating between tradition and modern society, but many. This is a very real thing that is happening in our world. Not history, but right now. These things happen every day and Rodriguez is not going to demean or belittle that in any way by succumbing to the stylistic conventions of the modern world. What do you think?

Not for Everyone.

Kirkus Reviews said this story is ‘as if Maeve Binchy had written The Kite Runner’.

This novel becomes somewhat sappy and altogether a bit too cheesy for my liking but the author has humanised a war we so often forget. I wish the author could have spent more time fleshing out the characters – each as stereotypical as the next. She uses unrealistic terms and seems to forget that she can insert characters thoughts into a novel rather than them having to say them out loud to the opposite character. Sunny is scared for her love interest running into a bomb and he says “I will protect them” and she replies with “but who will protect you?” and the line goes dead.

In my mind, it would have been much more effective had the line cut before she could say anything and she mumbles that line to herself. We would still get the same knowledge from the scene and it creates more dimension to her character, which I cannot imagine would say something so blatant to the man she is idolising. She still has a long term boyfriend, let us not forget. It was moments like these that I STRUGGLED to read on. Absolute ‘Chick-Lit’ stereotypical nonsense.

Spoiler Alert

Unauthentic and implausible ending, unfortunately.

I, for one, can’t see a plausible solution to this terrorism any time soon and I don’t think Rodriguez does either, but, I will hand it to her –  she sums up the resilient strength of afghans through her character of Bashir Hadi, who manages to clout Sunny over the head with a baseball bat of reason:
“You Americans, I hear you talk in the coffeehouse every day and every night, revealing your personal problems. You expect so much, you feel that you deserve good things to come our way, and yet you understand so little. Afghanistan is hard and not only hard for foreigners. You can leave and get a job and see a doctor and go to college and buy whatever you want. We are trapped here always. You whine and moan over little things and we’re the ones who have to clean up after you.”
Just allow that to settle in.
The publishers have aimed this novel to the Book Club readerbase and has included questions to discuss with friends – opening up the floor to discuss the world of these five women in detail and creating a conversation that needs to happen.
For any of you who have read The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul and share my opinions or want to go through these questions with me then please leave a comment or send me a message!
I have set up this blog to find my own kind of interwebbian book club and would love to hear your thoughts!

Coming up next time is Lee Child’s The Hard Way – A Jack Reacher Novel.

Millenium || The Girl Who Played with Fire

 Learning why the Girl Played with Fire

As usual, I left a fad pass me by. For one reason or another, I refrained from reading the Millennium series back in 2010 and I never rode that wave with the rest of the world. Quick on the uptake, I am now currently expanding my literary pop culture and I have succumbed to Stieg Larsson. Larsson, you sensational writer and taken much too soon, I have a bone to pick with you. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo took me not 2 weeks to finish, not even a year to finish but almost a YEAR AND A HALF. In that space of time, I did move country and have three jobs but A YEAR. Come on, Stieg. In absolution, however, I finished it, moved home to Ireland and began the second in the Millenium Series. It took me two days. Two. Days.

The Girl Who Played With Fire

What a family.

I am not sure if I speak for all avid readers but the first instalment in the series, yes, used many of the common crime thriller ‘who-done-it’ techniques. Like burdening the reader with insane jargon of a mysterious family that occupy an entire island. (Crikey, that was a mouthful) Reminiscent of an Agatha Christie novel he relayed meticulous descriptions of each and every member which may or may not feature in the novel and left me exhausted yet made me realise I don’t even know my OWN family in such depth. It was at that point I put the book down and started on the rest of my bucket list, however, I wish I hadn’t. I had just put it down on (unbeknownst to me) the most crucial part when Salander joins Blomkvist on his quest for the truth. I must admit, upon returning to it 9 months later, I began to understand why these novels achieve such acclaim. The way Larsson tells a story is like dozing in the morning sun in summery Spain and then suddenly waking to 40 degree heat and all hell breaks loose because you’ve turned into a hot burning mess.

Choo choo!

What I enjoyed about The Girl Who Played with Fire, is that Larsson did not spend time repeating much of the first novel to an unknown reader but rather tied the important facts of each character seamlessly and from the get-go the novel took off on a completely new topic, as gripping and as filled with twists and turns as the search for Harriet Vanger in Millennium |. Rolling like a long-distance 1940’s steam train. This thriller moved steadily along, rushing at moments, but all we have to do is put all trust in Larsson, the driver, to take us to a satisfactory destination.

Phenomenal.

Literally. As Boyd Tonkin  said Lisbeth Salander “is the most original heroine to emerge in crime fiction for many years…” Independent. And he is utterly correct. To be expected Larsson weaves you into a web of characters once again and there were times I got a little lost within all the Swedish names. But, my god he captured me from start to finish. I could finally understand why these books had become a page turner for the masses.

Our Salander The Misfit

Lisbeth is a harrowing heroine that is the driving force behind this series (hence the title) A ruthless young woman with a hidden agenda of her own aspires readers to take the law into their own hands as she does so well. From a stylistic point of view Larsson has created a dominant character that is removed from one third of the book.  He left both the readers and his characters guessing for over 130 pages as to what could possibly be happening with Salander as the last we heard of her she was standing in a soon to be crime scene which amounted in two murders. This is a testament to the strength of his writing and his conjuring of such a powerhouse, yet vulnerable character of Salander. Like Blomkvist, we want to believe Salander is innocent but is murder completely out of character? I found myself returning to the last moment we see Salander, sitting having coffee with Johansson and Svensson to see if there is any clue whatsoever as to why she would be now charged with murder. And that begs the question of Zala. An apparent sub plot from the beginning that shocks us all by the end – the real reason the Girl Played with FIRE. But I am not interested in spoilers, I am more interested in what you think!

Life hacks to take from Lisbeth Salander

  • All rapists should be punished immediately – preferably with a makeshift tattoo gun. I recommend the poetry of “I AM A SADISTIC PIG, A PERVERT AND A RAPIST”. Let’s face it, these beautiful words are sufficient on any part of a violent sex offender’s body but the stomach is ideal as a blank canvas to write as big as you like. Remember, that should the offender repeat themselves then please do not refrain from repeating the poem along their foreheads.
  • Although never used, it is wise to always carry a hammer.
  • If at all possible, develop a photographic memory – this can come in handy in almost all walks of life.
  • When on holidays, like most do, study mathematical theorems that have baffled scientists for decades. (I’m not too sure why, but if this is something you enjoy then, by golly, it can’t be a bad thing!)
  • Befriend a fiery dominatrix woman for sex (because why not) and never ask her inappropriate questions, but do, take from her any cigarette case she may give as a gift. This is not only just a classy way to smoke but it has the power to remove you from all sticky suffocating situations.

 

As a whirlwind of originality, albeit time consuming, as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was, The Girl Who Played with Fire obliterated any feelings of contempt towards it. Needless to say, I was enthralled by the second Millennium instalment and I hope you were too. I cannot wait to sink my teeth into the third, and now possibly the FOURTH. However, I don’t know how pushed I am about someone continuing a series after the author’s death (I must look into that – any thoughts?). Please take this post as a tribute to Stieg Larsson, who has become one of the most sensational crime thriller writers of our time, unaffected by fame and money, he has given us raw talent, let his legacy live on for decades to come.

To any of you who is basking in the afterglow of one of Larssons great thrillers, half a decade after the rest of the world like me, Please leave a comment or send me a message with your thoughts, I would LOVE to hear what you think about it! 

I am always on the look out for new books so please, Online Literary World – any suggestions? It took me five years to pick up this trilogy and for the life of me I don’t know why so it’s safe to say I REALLY need your help!

Next up is The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul  by Deborah Rodriguez, stay tuned!