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Ashley Bell: latest thriller from Dean Koontz

24 Oct

I found this book to be intriguing until – SPOILER ALERT – it becomes clear that everything that is happening to Bibi is in her own mind. Once I knew that she was “writing” her fantasy in her mind, as she lay in a coma, then it lost all suspense. The threat became irrelevant, the ticking clock made no sense, and the whole notion that she has the power to make her imaginary thoughts real is left unexplored until the very end.
Clearly, Dean Koontz is a great writer but this didn’t work for me.
ashleybell

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Falling for The Scam

23 Sep

I quite like the Fox and O’Hare novels by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg. Witty characters, sexy plots and nimble pacing – these are the definition of a delicious romp. Wanted criminal Nick Fox and his keeper, FBI agent Kate O’Hare, attempt to pull off a complicated casino heist that takes Ocean’s Eleven and turns it up to a hundred. Populated by the usual crew of sidekicks, including Kate’s gun-thirsty dad, an out of work character actor, and a Somali pirate – the gang travels from Hawaii to Vegas to Macau and does it in style and with panache. Treat yourself.

Margaret Atwood: The Heart Goes Last

3 Aug

Spun off from a series of digital short stories, this “speculative fiction” set in a plausible near term future is quintessential Margaret Atwood – darkly humorous, troubled characters, and a dystopian vision of what might await us when we trade freedom for security.

Stan and Charmaine are living in their car when the story begins, without preamble as to what has caused the near Walking Dead atmosphere of peril. When offered a chance to live safely in exchange for participating in a social experiment, they leap at it.One month out in the community, and one month inside prison – alternating with people who share their house. Charmaine’s job inside the prison is administering The Procedure – inserting a needle of poison into condemned prisoners.

Atwood takes us inside their heads – neither character is especially loveable – describing their thoughts in her inimitable style. As Charmaine inserts the needle: “He smiles. She times the procedure: five minutes of ecstasy. It’s more than a lot of people get in their whole lifetimes. Then he’s unconscious. Then he stops breathing. The heart goes last.” I love her style of writing – crisp and clear yet evocative. “Don’t cry anymore, she tells herself. Just do one thing at a time. Get from hour to hour and day to day like a frog jumping on lily pads. Not that she has ever seen a frog doing that except on TV.”

The tone of the book is uneven, with the last section in Vegas turning more into an action/sci fi adventure. The characters themselves don’t especially develop as people. The good guys win in the end – in a Blue Velvet kind of way.

As a fan of Margaret Atwood, I liked the book. I wouldn’t say it’s a classic in the same way as the Handmaiden’s Tale, but for fans, worth the read.

atwood

The Cross and the Crown Series – Women in Tudor England

17 Jul

Sarah Kennedy’s series featuring Catherine Haven in the time of King Henry takes the reader into a richly detailed and creatively imagined world, much like The Other Bolyen Girl and Wolf Hall do. Once there, you are swept up in the march of history. The third book, The King’s Sisters, finds Catherine in the household of Henry’s ex-wife, Anne of Cleves. The overwhelming sense of apprehension and danger that people lived under was palpable.The lives of women in this time period are richly fleshed out. I haven’t read the first two books, and while each book is described as being stand-alone, I found myself wishing I had read the prior ones first – so now I’ll backtrack! Great writing, interesting POV into this much described historical period.

Kingssisters

Gritty Mysteries in Texas – the Jon Cantrell series

17 Jul

The Contractors, Shadow Boys and The Grid by Harry Hunsicker feature ex-cop Jon Cantrell and his on again/off again partner, Piper. Set in the gritty streets of Dallas and small towns across Texas, these books are action-packed and human at the same time. These characters are flawed but determined. The landscapes, both urban and rural, portray the reality of Texas.
In the first book, Jon and Piper are DEA contractors, trying to keep a witness and themselves alive in a world where the narco-terrorists AND the cops are hunting them. In Shadow Boys, the seamy underbelly of Dallas haunts people on both sides of the law. The third book, The Grid, again reveals secrets even within the pillars of society.
Fast-paced energy, great writing, complex characters and new stories. I hope there will be more!

contractors

Tibetan Cross by the Master of the Existential Thriller

3 Oct

Initially, I struggled with the flow of this book but finally surrendered to the style and wound up really enjoying the book. Tibetan Cross is less about Tibet and certainly not about any object – more about how the CIA functions in the world. Tense thriller, enormous attention to detail and place, hugely evocative POV from the protagonist. Some parts of the book were so intense that I could not read every word but skimmed along, like the literary equivalent of peeking at the film thru your hand…

I’m going to seek out and read other books by Mike Bond. Would definitely recommend this to fans of thrillers.

Unbreakable: The Legion Book 1

3 Oct

The first in a new series by the author of Beautiful Creatures, Unbreakable is a great YA book – filled with atmosphere, magic, demons and teen angst. Fast paced, gripping, interesting details. The only part I didn’t like was her internal dialogue about whether she belongs…a little like the Twilight breast beating and wailing…Would be interested to hear how folks actually in the YA demo feel about that. Definitely engaging.

Unbreakable