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Like Mind by James T. Wood

Like MindPremise: Corey Tosh is a slacker in Portland, Oregon who gets by on just enough work to survive, making sure to put out minimal effort in everything he does. That is why he responds to a Craigslist ad looking for medical test subjects in exchange for fifty bucks. Of course things go terribly wrong when people begin following him and trying to kill him. But in the process he discovers he has an amazing new ability.

Thankfully, the cute redhead from the medical office is there to help him. Anka is the prettiest girl who has ever talked to him, but she’s not really a nurse. She works for the NSA. She also doesn’t really find Corey’s continual pop culture references to be incredibly endearing, at least not at first. But Corey’s understanding of women is about as obscure as his constant movie quotes are to Anka.

Now they must find the doctor who performed the experiment on Corey’s brain because whatever the doctor did is killing him. They also learn that, of all the people trying to kill or kidnap Corey, nobody can be trusted, not even Anka’s boss at the NSA.

Themes: How do you learn new things? Do you need to see them done first or do you work through trial and error? Corey is forced to learn new things instantly, and with it comes the shock of being able to do many new things without the understanding of why or how.

Meeting Anka not only makes Corey evaluate his own understanding of women, but it also makes him look at himself and his past romantic relationships, or lack thereof. Corey does some soul searching on why all his relationships failed and what part he played in making them fail. It also helps him to understand what it is that some women find attractive, especially when it comes to Anka.

Like Mind also touches on government conspiracies, international spying, and terrorism through intertwined plots that quickly spiral downward in a race for their lives. Corey and Anka discover that who they can trust might not be those they first expected.

Pros: Like Mind is laced with humor that helps to make an otherwise typical chased-by-the-governments-trying-to-kill-you story into something more unique and fun to read. This book is pretty short, so the pacing is quick and the character exchanges are crisp. And if you have never been to Portland, Oregon or driven up through Washington, Like Mind is spot on, giving references to local landmarks and places to see such as Powell’s Books, the hipster culture, even down to the terrible traffic on I-5 and I-84 (the Banfield). I’m glad I got most of the movie and television references because most of them add to the comedic tone of the story. The editing is actually very good, especially for a self-published book.

Cons: Some of the humor will be lost on many readers as obscure movie and television quotes are thrown out mercilessly. I am certain that few will get every pop culture reference in Like Mind and will perhaps even find themselves connecting with Anka more than Corey in her constant eyebrow raising at his lame jokes. With it being Anka’s first assignment her nervousness and questionable abilities make sense, but I figured her training would have made up for some of these things. The one thing I noticed most with the editing was some missing or misplaced comma usage. We don’t learn the protagonist’s name until the third chapter, which makes the front end seem clipped, like there is something missing. And being a short book might not be a positive for some readers.

Recommendations: Like Mind is a quick, fun romp through Portland, Oregon with a local slacker making light of a government trying to kill him. I thought of the television show Chuck as I read Like Mind, but instead of a database implanted into Corey’s brain it is the triggering of mirror neurons allowing him to imitate everything he sees. I only wish the story was a little longer with some more context into why Anka would be interested in someone like Corey in such a short period of time, even with the stressful things they go through together. Like Mind actually gave me some hope that not all self-published books are terrible. In fact, this one is actually pretty good.

James T. Wood’s website
Like Mind on Goodreads
Buy Like Mind from Amazon
Download Like Mind for your Kindle
I received a copy from the author to write this honest review. We also used to be roommates.

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2013 in Fiction, Romance, Science Fiction

 

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The Darlings by Cristina Alger

The Darlings: A NovelPremise: When Paul Ross loses his job, it is a no-brainer to go work for his father-in-law, Carter Darling, as general counsel for his hedge fund. Paul’s marriage to Merrill has been one of privilege now that he is a part of the Darling family, whose lavish parties and weekends in the Hamptons have become common practice. However, in the midst of the 2008 market crash, all eyes are on the financial industry and Paul might have found himself put in a dangerous place right in the middle of it.

When a tragedy hits the Carter family and one of Delphic’s funds is under suspicion, the Carter family comes together. Paul is thankful to be one of the family, and his first inclination is to defend Carter and the company. When suspicion is pointed to Paul after only working at Delphic for a couple months, he must decide between going out of his way to clear his own name or be willing to protect his family in spite of what he knows to be right.

Themes: Family loyalty is probably the most prevalent and obvious theme in The Darlings. In the middle of Ponzi schemes and media outcry, what will a family do to protect those they love, even if it means putting out their own neck for them? This might also ultimately mean covering up indiscretions and put protecting family over telling the truth.

The Darlings also makes the reader consider the dangers of the pursuit of riches. In the middle of Wall Street scandal, riches were made at the expense of many others, and those riches can be so quickly taken away if ill-gotten or unwisely spent. Even with so many possessions, morals seem to be more easily thrown aside for the sake of keeping a lavish lifestyle.

Pros: If making every character unlikeable was the goal, Alger succeeds in The Darlings. She does a good job of laying out the lives of the New York elite, and the financial and legal lingo are accurate as far as my knowledge of those two worlds goes. The story takes place in about a week, which helps to keep the pace quicker. The writing is good, especially as it paints the setting and characters with great detail.

Cons: I wasn’t sure who I was supposed to like or dislike since I ended up disliking every character. Perhaps it is because they all come off as pretentious rich people, which is ultimately what they are even for those who lose everything. With characters talking about living in Manhattan and their homes in the Hamptons, and then how living in the suburbs is so terrible, it is difficult to feel sorry for any of them, including those we are supposed to like. I believe the word is “clueless” as to their knowledge how most people in the country live. Hating every character doesn’t make me like the book more; quite the opposite.

Recommendations: I don’t normally read fiction like The Darlings, but it ended up being more interesting than I expected. Though it lacks real punch in the way of action, there is enough intrigue here to form a thriller out of the boring setting of the 2008 financial crisis. With a more likeable protagonist I think The Darlings could have possibly succeeded even more, though it might have made it blend in with all the other underdog attorney novels caught in a power struggle like most John Grisham legal novels. Those with a legal or financial background might take to The Darlings more readily. If anything, reading The Darlings might make you more thankful for  what family and possessions you have or realize the pursuit of those things only makes the fall from grace that much greater. The Darlings is a solid debut novel from Cristina Alger. I only hope her next book will have at least one character that isn’t a wealthy, pretentious jerk.

Cristina Alger’s website
The Darlings on Goodreads
Buy The Darlings on Amazon
Download The Darlings for your Kindle
I received a copy from the publisher to write this honest review.

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2012 in Fiction

 

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