Sunday, 5 August 2012

Review: Fish & Chips and Divide & Conquer


Fish & Chips by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

There’s a certain challenge in reviewing novels of a book series back to back. How do I say the same things and still keep the review fresh and interesting to read? Because obviously, the problems I had in the first two book of the Cut & Run series about FBI special agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett, still exist in the third instalment. 

The repetition, it’s still there. Not as strong as in the beginning or even in the second book, mind you, but it exists. In the third book, however, it focuses more on catching up the reader after a longer pause between published books than rehashing the same thoughts, themes and events within the book. Although, that does happen too. 

The adverbs and everything that reminds me of bad fanfiction writing, are still there. The fact that I occasionally laughed or snorted at funny lines or incidents, doesn’t change the fact that dialogue tags include unnecessary words ending with -ly. This infection isn’t limited to dialogue tags either, but it fades better within the body text. 

Plot advancement continues to happen in short paragraphs used to tell the reader (more like recap) what has happened. Apart from a handful of discussions and scenes that unsurprisingly also centre around the two main characters and their assumed character and relationship development, majority of this book is spent in scenes mirroring Ty’s and Zane’s behaviour around each other.  

As for the hairline thin plot thread holding this book together that was marginally better done here than in the first book, and significantly improved upon the second—which is hardly a surprise considering that Sticks & Stones had no plot at all.

So what do I talk about, after that quick refresher? 

About the reason why I keep reading, of course—the characters of course.

That however will prove to be a challenge. I already listed a number of reasons on a Goodreads comment for my earlier review and it’s difficult to talk about the subject without repeating myself. 

I shall try.

From the start, Ty and Zane had that not unique kind of chemistry and banter interaction that I find appealing. They’re not mushy, but snarky and rather caustic. They don’t get along in the very beginning, but like the men they are, they only connect after having bruised and maimed each other—as if having others to do that them wasn’t enough. Trust is earned.

Then there’s a disconnect. 

Between books one and two something happens and the characterisations are altered significantly. Where Zane was the one more in touch with his feelings in Cut & Run, in Sticks & Stones it’s suddenly Ty. Ty also has his momentary relapse to childhood behaviour patterns, which should be familiar to every adult ever visited his or her parents after a long absence. In Fish & Chips Zane very clearly regresses to a state more fitting his history revealed in the first book, whereas Ty ends up embracing his submissive side. 

It’s almost like the authors started writing two different characters, went back and changed few history details, and only after having submitted the first manuscript for publication realised they needed to change how the characters acted too. The altered details matter very little if the motivations springing from them don’t ring true. I read Fish & Chips as an desperate attempt to correct the course away from those rocky shores laid out in the first book and towards deeper, safer waters.

I only wish Madeleine Urban & Abigail Roux had skipped publishing their practice run and waited for their first actual sailing trip.

As things stand now, between books three and four, I have a very hazy picture of the characterisations the authors are trying to convey. I suspect it would be easier to accept what I’m told, had I skipped the first book and started the series from Sticks & Stones. However, with the absence of actual plot I can’t recommend this option for anyone else either.

Three stars for the sheer grace of not annoying me as much as the previous two.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

Series: Cut & Run #3
Pages: 314 (paperback)
Publisher:    Dreamspinner Press
ISBN: 9781615812271
Published:         December 6th 2010
Source: NetGalley


Divide & Conquer

No. I’m not going to go through with the list again. Let’s just say that I have issues with the quality and style of writing Urban & Roux produce and leave it at that. 

Or let’s not. 

I must mention the utter lack of medical research. It’s like they didn’t even try. Admittedly I’m not a medical professional, but there are characters in this book that are supposed to be and they’re not acting like they are. There’s a very serious situation where Zane loses his sight. No one knows whether the loss is temporary or permanent, but the doctors just shrug: 

“You don’t want to stay in the hospital do you?”

They just discharge him without providing him with the information or contact numbers for people who help newly blinded people to cope with their situation. There’s not a phone call or a quick talk, there’s nothing. You’d think the doctor or a nurse would at least put Zane in touch with someone regardless how resistant he might be. 

Also, the family. Where is Zane’s family? The doctor asks. Texas, Ty answers, but no one contacts them. Oh, Zane doesn’t want to talk to his family?  Okay then. These people, the hospital staff or the FBI, don’t know that Ty and Zane are a couple. They act like it’s normal for work partners to stay at each other’s homes for prolonged periods of times instead of making tentative plans for the day after tomorrow when Zane’s home and his partner at work like he’s supposed to be. 

Except Ty’s not at work. He’s conveniently sent home to not be a target. A target in a federal building, which you would think has better security measures than just letting random bombers walk in through the front door. 

As for the so called mystery, it’s getting annoying being thrown at these clues in such a casual manner. I do understand that the authors are trying to foreshadow things to come, but the problem with this is that they are relying on clues very much entwined with the characterisations. And those clues, aspects of these characters, aren’t necessarily in line with what has been told about them in the previous books. Like Ty’s latent OCD. Ty’s always been observant but Zane was the detail orientated. Except when it fits the plot. 

This is where you ask ”what plot?” and I nod knowingly. The one where the whole point was to provide convenient circumstances for Zane to finally say the I love you, to Ty. As opposed to the serial killer hellbent on their destruction. 

Whatever. Two stars and the book is hanging on to that second star by tooth and nail. 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

Series: Cut & Run #4
Pages: 320 (paperback)
Publisher:        Dreamspinner Press
ISBN: 9781615817160
Published:        October 14th 2011
Source: NetGalley


24 comments:

  1. I don't think I would be picking up this series anytime soon...

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  2. That sounds like a good choice.

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  3. I have to second that after reading your reviews

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    Replies
    1. I hope the reviews at least were entertaining.

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  4. Well I guess there is something to be said for not annoying you as much as the first two, but it sounds like disappointment. Hope your next read is better.
    Happy reading,
    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. Believe it or not, I've not given up on this series, but I have read other books.

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  5. That's a shame about this series. It looks like it has such good potential. Just goes to show you can't judge a book by the cover (or the blurb).

    Thanks for the review!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks. Yes, blurbs and covers are not to be trusted. Friends' reviews yes, but nothing that comes through the PR department ;)

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  6. Man. Major cookie points for sticking this fair into the series. I would have barely finished the first one.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. Can I eat those cookie points? I'm craving something sweet right now.

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  7. So sad, this is a genre i typical enjoy but no too many flaws. bummer :(

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    Replies
    1. I've only been reading m/m romance novels for a year or so. Before that I did read slash fanfiction, and I guess ruined me for the subpar works publishers decide to print.

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  8. Ah, bummer. I will avoid these, but I like your metaphor about the sailboat and rocks and practice runs :-)

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. What can I say—I was inspired by the cover?

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  9. That's too bad. I do enjoy your thorough reviews though.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. I will try to keep writing them.

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  10. These books sound like they had such potential. I know what annoyed you, will annoy me, so kudos for finishing them! I think I will give these a pass for now.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. Nothing's worse than wasted potential.

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  11. you're sot so lucky with books for now... I hope it will be better. I didn't know this one but it's nice to know more about them.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, I hope it'll get better too. Earlier this year I was reading so many great book back to back that I have to think I'm paying for it now.

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  12. These are definitely books that I will be sure not to buy or check out!! Sorry that they were bombs!

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    Replies
    1. I am sorry too. Such a shame what happened to the premise. I definitely wouldn't recommend spending money on them, or your precious time.

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