Well-written but uninspired sci-fi dystopia in which a heart-broken young widower unthinkingly fulfills his dead wife's dream and gives up his life onWell-written but uninspired sci-fi dystopia in which a heart-broken young widower unthinkingly fulfills his dead wife's dream and gives up his life on earth to live on a experimental space colony. It is only upon arrival, where of course there is no option of returning (of course), that he finds the predictable draconian dystopian rules implemented on the colony. It's very well-written in terms of readability but so full of plot holes that it makes it difficult to enjoy the author's talent with words. I'll keep reading his work, though, searching for something that is better thought-out in terms of plot. He's clearly talented....more
3.5 Stars. McCreight's newest novel is centered around a small university town where the body of a newborn infant has been found in the river. Molly,3.5 Stars. McCreight's newest novel is centered around a small university town where the body of a newborn infant has been found in the river. Molly, local small-town community reporter, finds herself in the unenviable position of reporting on the crime when the town's regular investigative reporter is conveniently out sick that day. Even worse, the death hits hard for Molly since she is only just recovering from a late-term miscarriage herself.
It probably goes without saying that Molly uncovers far more than just the death of an infant here. Instead, she begins to discover town secrets that go back decades....secrets people in this small town do not want revealed.
That's pretty much it in a nutshell.
I really enjoyed McCreight's previous novel, Reconstructing Amelia, which won an Edgar Award for Best First Novel. This one? Not as much. Perhaps my expectations were set far too high. I found the plot a bit too contrived: the good guys-disguised-as-bad-guys but it was obvious they'd be revealed as good guys in the end (and vice versa) was fairly obvious. There was your stock bitchy mother who got what was coming to her in the end -- no depth to her whatsoever. Our protagonist, Molly, was such a Pollyanna that it became difficult to like her, either, as she martyred herself chapter after chapter. Maybe this wouldn't have stood out so much if any of the characters had had more depth to them...they felt quite cardboard throughout the story.
All this said, I think the novel will still have commercial appeal. It's an easy read - I zipped through it in less than 8 hours of reading time - that requires little concentration. There's enough of a thriller element that will please a lot of readers and I can see it selling well in airports, etc. As mentioned, I liked the author's previous work so I hope this one does well for her even if I didn't particularly warm to it....more
3.5 Stars. After reading Edgar-nominated Sandrine's Case last year, I became a huge fan of Thomas H. Cook and was thrilled to discover his extensive b3.5 Stars. After reading Edgar-nominated Sandrine's Case last year, I became a huge fan of Thomas H. Cook and was thrilled to discover his extensive back list which I immediately bought up and filled my shelves and audiobook player with. Places in the Dark is the first one of those backlist titles I've gotten around to (I feel somehow comforted knowing they are all there waiting for me).
The story was, as evidenced by my rating, somewhat less than compelling than Sandrine's Case, yet still a solid mystery. Set in the small town of Port Alma, Maine in the 1950s, this is the story of two bachelor brothers whose lives are upended - and one will end up dead - by the arrival of a mysterious woman named Dora. Exactly who Dora is and where she comes from is slowly discovered and revealed as the surviving brother chases her across the country following his brother's murder. There are, of course, plenty of red herrings and a lot of transitions between past and present allowing the reader to try to piece it all together.
It's nicely done, really. And the narrator is a perfect fit. If you like mystery crime novels, Cook is like a warm blanket in front of the fire on a cold winters day. Not a happy, cozy mystery for him, but not violent and bloody either. Just a nice, dark mix. Perfect. No wonder he's been nominated/won so many awards....more
Layers. When you can write in layers like this you know you've reached the pinnacle of your game. This short story by Steinhauer (heir apparent to JohLayers. When you can write in layers like this you know you've reached the pinnacle of your game. This short story by Steinhauer (heir apparent to John le Carre in the espionage fiction genre) is a foray into a covert CIA action taking place in Rome and Kenya as an agent tries exact personal revenge under Agency auspices. It takes five layers of amazing story-telling to reveal how it happens - from five different POVs - and why it happens at all. All in all, the story is nothing short of amazing. If you've never read Steinhauer before this will hook you. You'll want to read his entire backlist (and I encourage you to read some of his series books). ...more
Book #1 of a new series for middle readers. Pretty scary, actually. Plot synopsis: Alex has always suffered from a mysterious, undiagnosed illness thaBook #1 of a new series for middle readers. Pretty scary, actually. Plot synopsis: Alex has always suffered from a mysterious, undiagnosed illness that kept him from being like normal kids. Homeschooled by his single mom, an Egyptologist at the Met in NYC, his illness may finally be killing him. Until his mother invokes the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead. Now Alex is alive and well, but his mother has gone missing and all hell has broken loose in NYC and around the world as the veil between the living and the dead is lifted.
It's up to Alex, his best friend and his mother's trusted companion to try to put things to right again while they also search for his mother.
Non-stop action, good character development, excellent Egyptian history, etc make this perfect for the 8-10 year old range. It was good and scary (scorpions everywhere, mummies coming back to life) and while the story was wrapped up nicely it still left the perfect opening for the next in the series due out in March 2015 (I believe).
Highly recommended to motivate that 2nd-4th grade reader....more
4.5 Stars. Steinhauer's new standalone novel is the incredibly tense tale of two CIA agents, former lovers, one now retired and one still an active ag4.5 Stars. Steinhauer's new standalone novel is the incredibly tense tale of two CIA agents, former lovers, one now retired and one still an active agent. Henry and Celia haven't seen each other in years. Celia has left the Agency life behind and is now a married mother of two living in Carmel, California. Henry never got over her or how she inexplicably up and left both him and the Agency.
It is now years later and Henry is re-investigating the Austrian Air hijacking tragedy case that destroyed he and Celia's relationship and very nearly the CIA station in Austria where they both worked. Celia and Henry meet in a quiet restaurant in Carmel. They both have very different agendas and the night will play out explosively.....
While the book takes place over this dinner in Carmel, the narrative takes us back and forth to Austria and events leading up to the hijacking both from Henry and Celia's points of view. Steinhauer has been lauded as le Carre's successor in espionage fiction and I'm inclined very much to agree. I've enjoyed all of this previous novels but because this is a standalone, I'm disinclined to compare All the Old Knives with those series and just say that this is a marvelous introduction for anyone who hasn't yet read his work. Highly recommended....more
4.5 Stars. Everyone seems to be chattering about Tim Johnston's new thriller DESCENT and for good reason, this is some damn fine writing that doesn't4.5 Stars. Everyone seems to be chattering about Tim Johnston's new thriller DESCENT and for good reason, this is some damn fine writing that doesn't sacrifice either the literary side of things or the thriller side, proving that there are indeed novels that are both gorgeously written while keeping the reader on the edge of their seat for nearly 400 straight pages. Bravo.
Caitlin Courtland is in the full bloom of youth. Eighteen years old, just graduated high school, and getting ready to leave for college in the fall. A track star who lives for running, her graduation gift is a family trip to the Rocky Mountains to train her already honed body to meet even greater competition in college. But Caitlin's golden life is about to change forever.
When she goes up in the mountains for a training run with her younger brother Sean, only Sean is later found. The Courtland family is torn apart at the seams --- what happened to Caitlin?
This may sound like your standard thriller/mystery and all I can do is assure you that it is most assuredly *not.* Because Caitlin is not dead. And the Courtland family is each about to go through their own personal hell, a journey Johnston chronicles meticulously as he builds the tension with each chapter.
Ultimately, there is not one loose end here that isn't tied up and done so admirably - not an easy task in a novel such as this. Each character remains true to their own plot line throughout and this is key, because it builds a novel of such intense believability that the reader has a difficult time putting the book down even for basic tasks like sleeping or eating (gah!).
It's not hard to find good literary fiction out there. It *is* hard to find good lit fic that is also a fine thriller. Seek this one out. ...more
This standalone mystery by Val McDermid features several main characters, first and foremost Scottish DCI Karen Pirie, who as detective in charge of cThis standalone mystery by Val McDermid features several main characters, first and foremost Scottish DCI Karen Pirie, who as detective in charge of cold cases in Edinburgh, finds herself with a years-old murder victim on her hands found on the roof of an abandoned school. Dove-tailing Pirie's investigative narrative is the story of Oxford Professor Maggie Blake who we discover is an expert in the 1990s Balkan's Wars and, via flashbacks, learn her personal history with a Croatian general she fell in love with, married, and who later disappeared. It isn't a spoiler if you can figure out where this is going.
Woven in with all of this are two intrepid (and at times hysterically funny) detectives from the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague who are trying to track down a suspected assassin who has been killing suspected war criminals from the Balkans before they can be brought to a proper trial.
Sound convoluted? It really isn't. But I will say there were far too many characters and narratives competing for prominent attention throughout the novel which was a major distraction. Be that as it may, it was a good story line and I appreciated what the author was trying to do. The mystery wasn't difficult to figure out, but the ending was fantastic which led me to forgive a lot and give the novel four stars.
I listened to the audio version which was narrated by Davina Porter. For those of you familiar with Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, you'll recognize the narrator right away, which was another distraction for me. Porter is competent but far too emotional sometimes (even saying someone is going to grab a sandwich sounds like a major life altering event when Porter narrates it...ugh). Even so. Recommended....more
A short story that serves as a prologue to the novel The Cairo Affair. Not absolutely necessary to read it, but a very good story nonetheless that intA short story that serves as a prologue to the novel The Cairo Affair. Not absolutely necessary to read it, but a very good story nonetheless that introduces The Cairo Affair's protagonist....more
The secrets women carry and the lengths they will go to in order to preserve those secrets are hot in genre fiction right now. Done well, these novelsThe secrets women carry and the lengths they will go to in order to preserve those secrets are hot in genre fiction right now. Done well, these novels can be utterly compelling and difficult to put down as our inner voyeur rushes to discover the big reveal and pass judgement on the protagonist. Done poorly and the novel is an exercise in frustration and one giant eye-roll.
After reading an unfortunate spate of less than stellar novels in this genre lately, I found Seskis’ effort a refreshing change: One Step Too Far was well plotted, the scenario plausible, and the characters quite empathetic all around. This is how a well-done book in the genre *should* read.
Seskis’ story caught my attention from the first chapter with her introduction of a wife and mother running away from her family. We don’t know why she is running, but I was immediately interested. The story shifts with each chapter. One chapter might fall back to her childhood, revealing something relevant. The next chapter might bounce back to present day as she creates her new identity. The next shifts back to her wedding day. And so on. Something is revealed each time, but not enough to figure out the big picture. The tension just increases until everything explodes and, of course, we finally find out why she ran away. And the fall-out in everyone’s lives that comes after.
The entire novel had a tightly-plotted feel to it and I couldn’t find any loose ends lying about, something I’ve developed an appreciation for. This is an author to watch. She originally published this novel and another herself before Harper saw the sales potential and grabbed them. I expect to see more from her and suspect as her style matures, the novels will get even better. Recommended. ...more
I have to preface this review by saying right off the bat that Golden Son is the second book in the Red Rising Trilogy. If you haven't read(4.5 stars)
I have to preface this review by saying right off the bat that Golden Son is the second book in the Red Rising Trilogy. If you haven't read the first book, Red Rising, do not attempt to jump into the series with this one. It may work for some series, but it won't work for this one. I can't emphasize this enough. Don't waste your time and energy...if you think you might be interested in this sci-fi, action-based thriller thing going on, just go read the first one because there is no back-story with this sequel. It's as if you are simply turning the next page of the last book. Are we clear? Okay. I'll assume that everyone who reads further has read the first book. No spoilers.
Golden Son picks up almost directly where Red Rising left off. Darrow under Augustus at the Academy and bam....we're off to the proverbial races. Action from the very start, much like the first book: double crosses, treachery, alliances, betrayals, skirmishes and wars. As you're already familiar with, Brown has a tendency to make his action scenes, well, BIG. And then each following action scene has to get bigger, right? Whew. It starts to become difficult to top each one without becoming a parody (remember the last book when Pax picked up a fellow student by the leg and was using them as a stick? *Maybe* a little over the top?). Still...as you know, if you're invested in Darrow you just can't stop reading. Despite school being over, our favorite characters are all still present and accounted for.
There's no way I'm giving away the plot of this baby. It's enough to say it's incredibly tense and you'd be smart to set aside a couple of days with a do-not-disturb sign on your door. There are, of course, more plot twists than you can shake a stick at (this entire series was written for the big screen, I'm convinced) and a few new characters introduced -- all of which will contribute to the big finale, I'm sure.
And just prepare yourself right now for the cliffhanger of the year. Not sure how well you do with those....I myself am *not* a fan. I felt Red Rising was ended quite well. Just enough closure for a novel, but enough to keep me wanting to read the sequel. This one was deliberately written to manipulate the reader into purchasing the third and I dislike it when authors do that. I've always felt either the books have merit on their own to make you want to keep reading or not, they shouldn't have to rely on cheap tricks. I knocked off a star for that, as well as one plot hole that was rather glaring (not a huge deal, but still it shouldn't have been there...but if you're like me, I'm willing to forgive a lot if I like the rest of a book).
Bottom line, if you liked the first one there's no way you're going to miss this one. Is it over the top? Yeah, but that's part of it's charm. If they do it right, it's going to make one helluva movie. Prepare yourself for the cliffhanger and gather with like-minded reading friends to discuss. Enjoy the ride.