"Defending Jacob" is a very powerful novel that raises serious questions on criminality and genetics. Is there really a bad gene? How well does a fami...more"Defending Jacob" is a very powerful novel that raises serious questions on criminality and genetics. Is there really a bad gene? How well does a family know those closest to them? How far will a father go to protect his own son? William Landay answers these questions in a phenomenal read and manages to blend a quick pacing with a very real family dynamic. Andy Barber is an assistant DA in a Boston suburb and while investigating a high-profile murder case of a 14-year-old boy, the evidence points more and more towards his son Jacob as the perpetrator. I would highly recommend Landay's novel to those interested in all things legal, or those who just want a change of pace from the run-of-the-mill spy and adventure thrillers out on the market. (less)
Robert Crais's L.A. Requiem is a solid PI novel that delves deep into the underworld of L.A. Crais's hero-PI Elvis Cole is still the wise-cracking jok...moreRobert Crais's L.A. Requiem is a solid PI novel that delves deep into the underworld of L.A. Crais's hero-PI Elvis Cole is still the wise-cracking jokester out to save the day, but Cole's partner Joe Pike gets the spotlight in this story. Readers get a glimpse of the rugged Pike and how he came to be the shade-wearing man of so few words. Crais departs from the typical first-person narrative in L.A. Requiem, effectively interspersing the POV's of the villain, Pike, and Cole.
When a girl is found dead in Griffith Park, Pike and Cole go on the trail. Problem is, it's hard not to get attached. The vic is Pike's former lover, and there's a link to a past secret when Pike was a young cop on the beat. As more physical evidence is established between the vic and other local crimes, Pike is considered the prime suspect. Pike and Cole must serve justice all the while ensuring this mistake, this "fake Pike," doesn't cause more damage.
Crais's suspensful, literary style is one of the main draws in the novel, along with the complex issues tapped into: What does it mean to lose a loved one? What does it mean to carry a lie for so many years? What does it mean to be indebted to a wealthy man's family? Through the hard-to-get Pike and the ever-comedic Cole one learns a bit more about the human condition, and that's never a bad thing. Pike and Cole are two protagonists who undoubtedly "have legs" as they say in the movie business. Crais surely has a lot more stories to spin with these two diverse personas. L.A. Requiem is a great read for the mystery lover and those wishing to learn a little more about the City of Angels.(less)
Sara Shepard's novel Pretty Little Liars brings to mind the hit show Desperate Housewives. Everybody has a secret in a town that is somewhat of a secr...moreSara Shepard's novel Pretty Little Liars brings to mind the hit show Desperate Housewives. Everybody has a secret in a town that is somewhat of a secret itself...somewhat of an anomaly. Amongst all these secrets, amongst all the flaws and achilles heels, people fight their inner demons, desperately trying to make do in a twisted world. In Pretty Little Liars, that world is Rosewood, Pennsylvania. Rich. Snobby. It's a place where Gucci and Prada is the standard, where BMW's are handouts at sixteen. The story follows the lives of Aria, Hannah, Spencer, and Emily, four juniors in high school. The group used to be the best of friends. Sleepovers. Birthdays. The Jenna Thing.
But everything changed when their BFF and team leader Alison DiLaurentis disappeared, never to be seen again. The four girls went their separate ways and that's where the story picks up, years later, Alison still missing, her memory slowly starting to fade from everybody's conscious. But it is short lived. Aria, Hannah, Spencer, and Emily start receiving cryptic text messages about some of their former secrets. Secrets only Alison would know. And these texts are clearly labeled A. Is Alison back? Has she been playing them all this time, or is it some creep who is having a little too much fun? The girls must decide, before things get out of hand...
Pretty Little Liars is a nice addition to the YA scene. The characters are edgy, dark, and for once in a literary world filled with stock characters...real. None of the main players in Shepard's novel seem overly fluffed. The world of the rich is very intriguing, and Shepard sheds more light on the matter. Adding to the excitement perhaps, is the ABC Family series based on the novel. Pretty Little Liars is just as intriguing on screen as it is on the page. Shepard has managed to create a YA adventure that is not filled with vampires, werewolves, and the like. That's worthy of a read by itself. And the Rosewood gals aren't finished keeping secrets. The series has quite a few books. (less)
Vince Flynn brings fear a bit closer to home in Extreme Measures. With Washington immersed in debate on the proper ways to treat prisoners, a third te...moreVince Flynn brings fear a bit closer to home in Extreme Measures. With Washington immersed in debate on the proper ways to treat prisoners, a third terrorist cell belonging to al-Qaeda is preparing an attack on U.S. soil. Counterterrorism operative Mitch Rapp must convince the suits that extreme measures are needed, all the while keeping one step ahead of those who wish to do Americans harm.
Rapp shares the spotlight in Extreme Measures with fellow operative and trainee Mike Nash. Together the two remain steadfast in their conviction to bring justice. Flynn's military details are once again spot-on, and motivations are not solely relegated to the bad guys. Flynn delves into the mindset of the suits and slowly paints a picture of infighting and getting away from real issues--ones seemingly paramount when it comes to waging the war on terror. While Rapp doesn't figure into this one as much as other novels (when it comes to fighting), he very much remains a presence and refuses to give in to the politics of Washington. Flynn delivers and leaves the reader for a bit of a loop at the end. Rapp has yet another mission to follow through on, and chances are he will find a way.(less)
CIA counterterrorism agent Mitch Rapp is back in Protect and Defend, this time investigating the destruction of a nuclear facility in Iran. Rapp suspe...moreCIA counterterrorism agent Mitch Rapp is back in Protect and Defend, this time investigating the destruction of a nuclear facility in Iran. Rapp suspects it's an inside job courtesy of the Israelis. The Iranians blame the United States. When Rapp and CIA director Irene Keneddy fly to Iraq to have a sit-down and discuss the hatrid spewing from both sides, Kennedy is abducted. Rapp must beat the clock and find Kennedy before she breaks and reveals intel that could set the U.S. back in the war on terror. Meanwhile, the Iranians haven't finished with the Americans yet...
Protect and Defend is a fast-paced thriller, and Rapp is at the top of his game. Rapp will stop at nothing to defend his country. Flynn's novel is once again laden with attention to detail, and one feels the plausibility element becoming more and more real. One feels that a Flynn novel is by no means a stretch of the imagination. Rapp is the perfect hero for a post 9/11 world. Hero gets bad guy after numerous trials and tribulations. Hero skirts death and lives to fight another day. Hero saves the world by refusing to give in to conventional wisdom. If one can get past the fact that Flynn's novels are reincarnations of this sort of formula, with settings swapped, one will enjoy Protect and Defend. Rapp, after all, will always have America's back. (less)
Vince Flynn's political thrillers are known for their timeliness and their penchant for giving justice in a terror-laden world. Consent to Kill follow...moreVince Flynn's political thrillers are known for their timeliness and their penchant for giving justice in a terror-laden world. Consent to Kill follows Mitch Rapp, elite counterterrorism operative for the CIA. But things are never rosy for an assassin. A Saudi billionaire puts a price on Rapp's head--$20 million to be exact. And back home things aren't going so well. Rapp's knee is acting up, and his wife is pregnant. A reality check is needed...
Flynn's novel explores the relationship between duty and love, the fine line that is often difficult to gauge. Rapp's job is to hunt terrorists. Plain and simple. Is there room for love in his world? Is there room for guilt, ambition, or greed? As Rapp's hunters bear down on him, the whole political landscape is put on edge. Rapp is a ticking time bomb. Can the government control their best man, or will circumstance necessitate harsh action and consequences?
Consent to Kill is solid espionage. Reading a Flynn novel is akin to being in on the secret--in this case one that involves the inner workings of government and policy. Flynn has done his homework in Consent to Kill...everything from weaponry to code names to seating positions in the Oval Office. One feels as though they are with the "good guys" every step of the way.
Consent to Kill makes for a nice dose of heroism. Rapp has a specific code of justice and follows through on it to the letter. That is intriguing, and in a world where fear often wreaks havoc with the human psyche, people like Rapp make the day a little brighter. If one can look past the length and attention to detail, Consent to Kill will be an enlightening read, one that serves as yet another reminder of the sacrifices some make in the name of country.(less)
Garth Stein gets into the mind of a dog, and the ride is simply amazing. Enzo is the protagonist of "The Art of Racing in the Rain," on his last day o...moreGarth Stein gets into the mind of a dog, and the ride is simply amazing. Enzo is the protagonist of "The Art of Racing in the Rain," on his last day on Earth. Enzo reminisces on life, and on all the trials and tribulations of living with humans. Denny is his owner, a struggling race car driver. Zoe is one sweet child. Eve is Denny's wife, stricken with cancer.
The problems pile on in this very touching read, as Enzo tries to make sense of the world around him. Enzo believes he will be reincarnated as a human, in order to right all the wrongs he has witnessed. After reading, one senses that Enzo will put things right. Enzo's humor and wit carry him a long way.
"The Art of Racing in the Rain" is phenomenal, and really gets to the core of humanity--the soul inside each person that is seemingly always misunderstand.
Enzo might be a dog, but he has a lot to teach us. (less)
Nicholas Sparks continues his letter-writing theme...this time with "Message in a Bottle." When columnist Theresa Osborne disovers a message in a bott...moreNicholas Sparks continues his letter-writing theme...this time with "Message in a Bottle." When columnist Theresa Osborne disovers a message in a bottle on Cape Cod, she is too intrigued to let it be. The letter inside is no ordinary letter...it is a love letter from a man named Garrett Blake to his diseased wife Catherine, filled with such emotion that Theresa cannot fathom such feeling coming from the world. In a move that will forever alter her life, Theresa sets out to find Garrett, and reclaim the love that has been dormant thus far in her Boston home.
"Message in a Bottle" follows Sparks formula: man and woman fighting past tragedies, a pure-chance moment of unity, and a love that builds to an even more tragic conclusion. "Message in a Bottle" isn't a bad read, however Sparks has been down this road many times before, and so have his readers. At one point or other, it all seems to blend into a cohesive whole, where one inputs character names interchangeably, and settings, all the while preserving the basic love plot at its center. Sparks once again features North Carolina, and stakes do raise as the love reaches greater heights.
An overall solid novel coupled with a rather interesting premise, "Message in a Bottle" should provide something of note for Sparks devotees. For others it may be a bit of a slog to get through. Coincidence and big-time foreshadowing often don't go over well with such readers.(less)
Writing-books are chided as being nothing but rehashes of old material--nothing but little excerpts copied and pasted from magazines, online venues, a...moreWriting-books are chided as being nothing but rehashes of old material--nothing but little excerpts copied and pasted from magazines, online venues, and the like, then put in longer form (e.g. a book). Along with that notion is the persistence that one needs to have written and written considerably well in order to be an authority on the subject matter at hand. While this may have some merit, conventional wisdom says that there's something to be learned from a diverse range of individuals...from those from all walks of life.
"The Screenwriter's Survival Guide" doesn't have to deal with such long-held notions, effectively making it a double-whammy: great insight on screenwriting and the business...all from someone who has actually done this for a living and continues to do so. Max Adams won the prestigious Nicholl Fellowship in screenwriting and the Austin Heart of Film Screenwriting Award--in the same week no less. Adams's experience is a jolt of inspiration to the aspiring screenwriter. It can be done. And giving even more of an inspirational vibe, Adams did all this from Utah. She was not in L.A. when she first broke into the business, nor did she have an agent or any sort of clout.
"The Screenwriter's Survival Guide" covers everything from what to wear to a writer's meeting, how much change to bring when finding studio lots, and of course the nitty gritty of pitching to a room full of suits that can make or break one's career in Hollywood. Adams does all this with a very humorous tone, and one truly feels the voice on the page that broke down doors to Hollywood so many years ago. The only knock on the book is in the presentation department. Adams asserts early that the book is essentially a collecton of old web posts. However, somewhere in that translation editing was not made a high priority. Run-on sentences are common, along with a mispelled word or two. It very much seems that Adams was letting the words flow spontaneously. Regardless, content is king, as the saying goes, and if one can bypass superfluities, one will enjoy having learned a bit more about Hollywood and the appeal of becoming a writer for the screen.(less)
Nicholas Sparks brings yet another tale of love and life deferred in A Bend in the Road. When Missy Ryan passed away from a hit-and-run accident, her...moreNicholas Sparks brings yet another tale of love and life deferred in A Bend in the Road. When Missy Ryan passed away from a hit-and-run accident, her husband Miles vowed to find the person responsible...as deputy sheriff of New Bern, N.C., doing anything less is not an option. But the years go by and the harkening reality sets in: justice has not been served. He still wakes out there, having committed a crime. He still lives, while others do not.
Miles begins losing focus, and his Jonah needs extra tutoring, having fallen behind all these years without a constant parental figure. Enter Sarah Andrews, Jonah's new teacher. She is willing to help Jonah work through his troubles. Miles accepts the gracious offer, and it isn't long before sparks fly between the two. For the first time in ages Miles loves again. For the first time in ages Jonah has a mother-figure in the house. Problem is, Missy's family possesses a secret that may very well ruin this seemingly everlasting love--a secret so strong that one could say life or death is at stake...
A Bend in the Road follows the usual Sparks formula: hero/heroine on the rocks--riddled with conflict--meeting somebody that changes their world forever. A process of discovery ensues and a large plot turn threatens the love that binds them. None of this is necessarily bad. Sparks is a master at eliciting emotion from readers. However, sometimes variety is best. Perhaps it is in the form of a different novel, a breather from Sparks if you will. Perhaps it is just another Sparks novel. Regardless, A Bend in the Road just doesn't seem to live up to its predecessors, powerful stories that were intertwined with letter writing and deep-seated primal emotion.
Nonetheless, A Bend in the Road is a nice read for Sparks fans and those wanting a heartfelt story about love and living life to the fullest. Even when Sparks is sub-par he is quite good.(less)
James Patterson is one of the most prolific authors of all time, generating a bevy of titles--individually and with multiple collaborators--and consta...moreJames Patterson is one of the most prolific authors of all time, generating a bevy of titles--individually and with multiple collaborators--and constantly extending the boundaries of his brand. Along Came a Spider is Patterson's first novel, and his first in the Detective Alex Cross series.
When a multi-personality killer kidnaps two children from a prestigious day school, the race is on to find them. Enter Alex Cross, part-detective, part-psychologist. Cross must use his wits and at times his physical prowess to find the children before it's too late. And one of them is the daughter of a famous actress...so the stakes just got higher.
Along Came a Spider is a solid thriller, with a bunch of detail. This novel is not for the squeamish. However, for those that would like to learn a little more about multi-personality disorder, or for those who would like to follow the threads of a major investigation, seeing how law enforcement operates, Patterson's novel will fit the ball. As with any thriller, it wouldn't be complete without a budding romance, and Cross has his in the form of Jezzie Flanagan, Secret Service Director. With the media tightening its vice around our heroes for failing to enact swift justice, what will happen to the world? What will happen if good succumbs to evil, or passion blurs with reality? Patterson broaches these sort of topics with an in-your-face flair, and one can easily see how he has scaled the ranks to become one of the biggest sellers of all time (a recent Forbes report said he earned $70 million last year, tops for authors). (less)
Nicholas Sparks continues tugging at human emotions in The Guardian, this time adding a new element to the mix: suspense. When Julie Barenson's husban...moreNicholas Sparks continues tugging at human emotions in The Guardian, this time adding a new element to the mix: suspense. When Julie Barenson's husband Jim passes away from a brain tumor, he leaves her with a gift (a Great Dane pup named Singer) and a message to love once again--opening up her heart and living life to the fullest. At first, Julie is hesitant to follow her husband's wishes. Years later, however, she is ready to open up again. But that doesn't mean things are going to be easy. Mike Harris, Jim's best friend, likes her, and Julie doesn't quite know how she feels about that. And then there's Richard Franklin, the charming guy who has it all...
In a departure from his earlier novels, Sparks's heartwarming tale of love and life in Southern America turns into a fast-paced thriller as Richard Franklin isn't who he says he is. Julie finds herself in danger, and she finds all those around her apt to suffer a similar fate if action is not taken...quickly. What will become of Julie's fate, and will she fulfull her husband's wishes? The Guardian is well-executed, and still bears trademark Sparks: vivid characterizations and a strong love that is threatened through and through. Readers will find themselves rooting for Julie each step of the way as she struggles to survive and find love once more. And one cannot forget Singer, the Great Dane who isn't really a pup anymore. Readers will find themselves rooting for him too.
The Guardian is a solid novel, and one that would undoubtedly make for any primer on writing a romantic-suspense novel. Sparks bears his mark in this genre just as easily as his others.(less)
The Last Song affirms the power of love and the power of music, as only a Nicholas Sparks novel can. When Ronnie Miller is sent to her Dad's for the s...moreThe Last Song affirms the power of love and the power of music, as only a Nicholas Sparks novel can. When Ronnie Miller is sent to her Dad's for the summer, she considers it her death sentence: no more parties, no more friends, and New York compared to Wrightsville? Please. Her Dad made the stupid decision to move out here, and her Dad ruined everything with the divorce, leaving her brother Jonah and her mom fending for themselves...But everything changes when Ronnie meets Will Blakelee, whose family probably owns most of Wrightsville. Suddenly summer isn't so bad after all. Or is it? Will has a secret that directly affects Ronnie, Jonah, Dad, and perhaps many more. Summer will certainly never be the same.
Sparks brings rich characterizatons to this novel, complete with multiple viewpoints of the story unfolding, not just from Ronnie and Will's perspective, but of other locals as well. The secrets keep adding up, making for a tense, emotionally raw read. Once more Sparks details the beauty of North Carolina and all those who come across it, leaving the reader wishing they could be apart of the magic that takes place there.
The Last Song is one of those novels that should grace any "to-read" list, and should be more towards the top than anything else. Of course there was a film recently released, and Sparks did co-write the screenplay, but one should experience the story in novel form if they can. They will be glad they did.
As I find myself always saying after reading a Sparks novel: I will be reading another one. And as a guy, I do not hesitate in proclaiming that in front of family and friends. Sparks is a phenomenal storyteller, and thankfully I have quite a list of his to keep working at.(less)