Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Excerpts from Manual for a Murder by Goncalo JN Dias

Today, I'm featuring Portuguese author Goncalo JN Dias, who often has lots of interesting ideas for books. I hosted him before on Nadaness In Motion, where we did a short interview with book excerpts from The Good Dictator.

Goncalo has a new book out called MANUAL FOR A MURDER. I'm featuring two excerpts from the book.

Both of Goncalo's books can be found in English and Portuguese.

Synopsis for Manual for a Murder

Marina, a 38-year-old accountant in a crumbling relationship, falls in love with her charming colleague Andre.

Oscar, a homicide detective, is assigned to the case. He is a man dedicated to his work and to his family, and he likes to joke about and mock the typical American police series.

The book is narrated from two perspectives, Marina and Oscar.

The first excerpt is from Marina's view in chapter 1.

Looking back, I can identify several reasons why I fell in love with Andre, and they are largely related to defects that I projected onto Julio to justify my behaviour. His sense of humour was one reason. Andre was funny, with his dark humour, refined and clever, but he could also be melancholy, quiet and needy. He was comfortable talking about his faults, his defeats, failures and fears.

Julio’s sense of humour was more conservative. He was also funny, but he couldn’t laugh at himself. He held himself in high regard, thought that he was intellectually superior to most people, and had an opinion about every topic. He loved to argue and never took the blame for anything. I would be lying if I said that physical factors had no bearing on my choice. During our thirteen years together, Julio had gained over three stone. When we met, he was a handsome young man, almost 5’9” tall and weighing 12 1/2 stone, and with lovely, curly light brown hair. Thirteen years later, he weighed nearly 16 stone. He was practically bald, but refused to accept it by preserving half a dozen hairs in an absurd attempt to hide the fact. He knew that he was becoming fat, but did nothing to get in shape; he constantly made plans but never put them into practice. Andre was no Greek god, but he was clearly more attractive. Every Sunday morning he played squash with friends from university. He had a small belly, but his body was firm, and he was happy to use creams and perfumes.

Julio was a true gentleman when he made love; he always asked permission, and if I said that I wasn’t in the mood, he understood and never insisted. He liked to talk during the act, to ask me if everything was good, if I wanted to change position. At the end, he wanted me to approve of his performance. Andre never asked permission; he won the right to make love through his insistence, confidence and determination. He never spoke during the act, nor asked for an assessment. He knew that he satisfied me.
However, out of all the reasons I could find to justify my actions, what really made me want to be with Andre was hope: the fantasy of being with someone who understood me, who didn’t criticize me, who saw the world through the same eyes; it was the belief that Andre would banish all my ghosts, my doubts and anxieties, and that I would once again dream, fly, have projects and ambitions, wake up in the morning with a lust for life. What I saw in Andre was hope, so much hope.

The second excerpt is from Oscar, a homicide detective, who is assigned to the case. From chapter 2 in Manual for a Murder.

The autopsy results came on Monday. There were no signs of violence or rape. The victim had been injected with bleach or a similar cleaner and then, already unconscious, had died in the fire with her hands cuffed to that car’s armrest, so that she couldn’t flee and survive. Pretty macabre and sick. Neither on her body nor on the remains of her burnt clothes did we find any fibre from anyone we could use as evidence. Which led to another question: if she had been killed for money, why hadn’t the killer withdrawn anymore? Or stolen her laptop or her wedding ring?

There were several questions to ask Sofia’s relatives, principally Andre, so we waited until the funeral that Wednesday, and then, on the followings days, we called in different relatives to give statements. The funeral was held at the Limiar Cemetery, fairly close to the deceased’s house. It was full of people, relatives, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and the curious. I watched Andre carefully, looking for some abnormal reaction or odd closeness, but I detected nothing.

Add Manual for a Murder by Goncalo JN Dias on Goodreads and stay tuned for the book review by Nadaness In Motion!

Follow Goncalo JN Dias on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Blog, and Amazon.

Purchase Manual for a Murder via Kobo or Amazon.

About Goncalo JN Dias and his books
The life of this character is full of contradictory information and rumours. Both his date of birth and home town are uncertain. Some say he hails from a suburban ghetto in Lisbon, Portugal; while others claim that he was born in eastern Russia, in the city of Vladivostok, sometime in the ‘60s.

According to gossips, he worked for the Reagan Administration in the early ‘80s, and helped to weaken the Soviet economy, although others say that he worked for the KGB as a spy in the western world.

At the end of the ‘80s, he was spotted in Seattle, working as a grunge music producer under the pseudonym of Johnny Blanco.

Goncalo JN Dias

His location was a mystery for over a decade until, at the beginning of the century, he emerged as an executive in the burka trade between the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan with the name of Mustafa Blanco. Clashes between the Taliban and US troops forced him to vanish again for a while.

Nowadays, there are some rumours that he became a hermit and lives in the woods of a small town, No Name, Colorado, United States, spending his time reading and writing; others, however, claim that he resides in Tennessee as a country music singer, with the name Marcogekson Blanco.

What is certain is that he wrote two books. The first one, The Good Dictator, was a real failure; although it was translated into several languages, it only sold two copies.  The second one, Manual for a Murder, was said to incite violence and killing, and has been banned in several countries, including Tuvalu and Kyrgyzstan.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Mass – Book Review

Book: A Court of Thorns and Roses
(A Court of Thorns and Roses, book 1)
Author: Sarah J. Mass
Publication date: 5 May 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury


Feyre's survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price...

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre's presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

Book review by Nadaness In Motion

A Court of Thorns and Roses is the first instalment in a series of the same name by Sarah J. Mass. It's my first read for Mass. It might take me a while it pick something else by her, although I was planning to read Throne of Glass.

The beginning opens with Feyre hunting and then a scene with her family, both revealing her character. Feyre is harsh on the inside and because of her hard life, a useless father, two useless sisters, she's also created a prickly exterior (not literally). I actually liked her then but the beginning trailed too long and I started getting bored. I wanted "the action", which came in quite late.

A Court of Thorns and Roses is narrated from the first person perspective of Feyre, the youngest of three with a broken father, and whose mother passed away without offering her a chance of education. Feyre has learnt to survive and taught herself to hunt. One day in the forest, she is tracking a deer but instead finds a wolf following the same deer. She kills both but the wolf isn't what it appears and Feyre is now indebted to the High Fae of Prythian.

"We need hope as much as we need bread and meat," he interrupted, his eyes clear for a rare moment. "We need hope, or else we cannot endure. So let her keep this hope, Feyre. Let her imagine a better life. A better world."
"There is no such thing."

While there was some fresh imagery in the book, there were A LOT of repeated images. I liked the "tore me to ribbons" image, and thought it was creative, but it was used once per chapter for six chapters! That's just overkill. The word 'feral' was used 17 times in the book. 17 times! I mean the English language must have some other words to replace this.

These are the most notable examples of repetition that really bugged me in the book. They also made me feel like I was not progressing. Didn't I read this before?

Despite never seeing fae in her life, Feyre is able to determine who is high fae and who isn't, which didn't appear logic to me.

Image via the Throne of Glass blog

There is a bit of a Beauty and the Beast theme in there. Although Tamlin, the masked High Fae, is not entirely a beast. He's actually more likeable than Feyre. The romance in the book is ok.

Even though we see Feyre as selfless with her family, when she meets Tamlin, she becomes selfish in her selflessness. I liked her varying character traits. In the end, her fight and strength are admirable.

Her thoughts and the endless repetition of the need to go back home after being sent to live with the fae are tiresome and could be trimmed down, though. 

His eyes became clearer and bolder than I'd seen them in years. "You were always too good for here, Feyre. Too good for us, too good for everyone." He squeezed my hands. "If you ever escape, ever convince them that you've paid the debt, don't return."

Feyre has an oversized inferiority complex. Despite that, she's a strong but emotionless and harsh character. Her development is slow but there. I loved Tamlin and Lucien. We also meet Rhysand, the trickster Highlord of the Night Court, who is set to appear in future books. I liked and disliked him at the same time. A kind of Snape character with a wry sense of selfishness and humour.

I felt that A Court of Thorns and Roses went on and on and on. I'd read several pages and then check the percentage completed and I'd find I haven't progressed much. The novel took a while to unfold to get to the important and interesting parts. Even towards the end, I felt that Mass had strained certain parts beyond the limit. The book was at an important turning point and the events needed to move faster.

I did like, however, how Mass kept throwing problems in Feyre's way. Testing her to very last breath.

I think I might have had higher hopes for this book. The length didn't help. When I checked book 2 and realised it was over 600 pages long, I was totally put off.  

Overall, I felt that A Court of Thorns and Roses could have been better. As I read books, I try to learn from them. I learnt the cost of repetition. I totally docked one star off my review for that.

Overall rating: 3 stars

Sunday, July 8, 2018

An Early Wake by Sheila Connolly - Book Review

An Early Wake by Sheila Connolly is the third book in the County Cork Mystery series. I was surprised to discover that it was the third book (didn't realise it when I bought it) because it reads like the first. Connolly gives great background so you don't feel like you've never met the characters before.

The novel is set in Leap, a small town in Cork Country, Ireland. Maura Donovan has inherited a pub from her grandmother. This was six months ago, but Maura still has a lot to learn. She interacts well with her part-time employees, even those that had been hoping for a share in the business but didn't get it.

One day a musician who had been famous a few decades back enters the pub and talk ignites of a musical reunion. Business kicks is better than the whole tourist season on the day of the music event, but the following morning Maura opens the pub to find a dead body.

One of the things I liked in An Early Wake was the use of Irish pronunciation and occasional Old Irish words, stuff like good morning and good luck. Some of those weren't translated, which was a bit hard to understand, but can easily be skipped. Irish pronunciation gives a strong feel for the novel. It had me practicing speaking like the characters a bit (don't try it out loud in public, you'll look weird).

"We've set the bird to flight and the ball to rolling and the clock to ticking. It'll be a day like no other since yer arrival."

On the flipside, I found Maura's character as difficult to believe. She repeatedly mentions that she's around 25 years old but surprisingly doesn't act like it. She doesn't have a mobile phone that takes images and is entirely unfamiliar with such technology. Throughout the book, I often felt that she was over 50 not just 25, even when she compares her age to the slightly younger police officer Sean Murphy, making him look like a kid, while she deems herself more mature as if she were his mother.

It took a long while for the death and mystery to take place, a little over 100 pages in fact. The bit at the beginning isn't boring but I picked An Early Wake for the mystery not just the background information, so I was disappointed that the "mystery" was delayed.

The characters are down to earth and likeable. They are a close community that Maura is surprised to discover she's become part of. A family she's never had. One of the things I liked was the touch of romance but that comes towards the end. I'd love to learn what happens in that area.

The mystery could use more suspects and more action. The setting, characters, background are great, but the mystery, which should be the focus of the novel, isn't. I felt it was kind of stuck in the novel.

The dialogue was shabby and often didn't reveal much. There was a TONNE of repetition, with Maura having to repeat conversations to various characters. This could have been skipped or just mentioned as "Maura repeated what Sean had told her to Mick and Jimmy" or "Maura described the situation to Mick but decided to keep the...information to herself." This over-repetition bothered me (so I'm docking 1 star because of it). Imagery was minimal, if any.

The way the music event takes off is repeated so many times in almost the same way, it was over the top annoying. Sadly this book isn't an e-book, otherwise I would have pointed out the number of time that was repeated.

An Early Wake does contain a lot of history and background on Irish music, which I found interesting. Maura has no idea about it and neither did I. But I liked seeing a few band names I recognised and had no idea were Irish.

Overall, I think An Early Wake could have been a lot stronger and more memorable. I liked the characters and the way they take care of each other, and the romance bits.

Overall rating for An Early Wake by Sheila Connelly: 2.5-3 stars. It needs more work.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Takhayyal Writing Prompt 87- July: TIME

Summer here is going head strong, which means we're melting or hiding next to the air conditioner. I'm taking 38 Celsius/100+Fahrenheit almost all week. 

For June, I thought the mighty Mediterranean would be a good inspiration and writing prompt. For July, I'm thinking it's all about TIME. 

How you spend it - or waste it, plans and deadlines, all of that. Feel free to mix the June and July writing prompts.


Get set...


Arabic for Imagine, Takhayyal is a challenge for writers of all ages and genres; a place to spark creativity and explore new genres. Your post can be in English or Arabic, prose, poetry, short story, flash fiction; you name it and write it.

General rules:
·        No nudity, violence, and/or abuse.
·        Leave the link to your post in comments below OR post your piece as REPLY to this post
·        Your piece MUST be inspired in some way or other by the above picture
·        Multiple entries allowed
·        It is not required but it is a nice and encouraging gesture to comment on others' pieces.
·        Feel free to add your Twitter handle (@....) so I can tag you in my tweets!