Has Coben Formula Gone Stale? I think it has. This book is still enjoyable, but all too familiar.
I fell in love with Harlan Coben after reading NO SEC...moreHas Coben Formula Gone Stale? I think it has. This book is still enjoyable, but all too familiar.
I fell in love with Harlan Coben after reading NO SECOND CHANCE, GONE FOR GOOD, and THE INNOCENT in the span of a couple of weeks. I loved his characters, his originality, his plot twists, his humor, his villains. Basically, I couldn't get enough of Coben. I still enjoy his novels, still make them a priority, but his latest, STAY CLOSE, seems a little stale. He's gone to the well once too often. The characters are almost always the same. A suburban housewife with a secret past. A stripper with a heart of gold. A Jewish alpha-male lead.
This time, Ray Levine's life is in shambles, and it has been ever since that one day 17 years ago where something horrible happened at that abandoned ore factory. Megan Pierce was at the ore factory that night, but escaped, and now lives in bliss in suburbia with two kids and a doting husband. But, Megan hides a dark past, and that past is calling to her. Detective Broome can't let go of the disappearance of Stewart Green. Every year, on the anniversary of his disappearance, Broome visits his wife. Broome hears that someone recently spotted Stewart Green. What could Ray Levine and Megan Pierce have to do with it.
What happened that night that would change the lives of so many people? That's the question of this novel. All twists and surprises revolve around what happened that night, so while the plot twists and turns throughout, all events point toward that night 17 years ago.
With this novel, Coben seemed to be tackling the theme of regret and holding onto the past, which is what both Ray and Megan are doing. The past destroyed Ray, and Megan wonders if she'd be better off as she was rather than with the husband and kids. I admire Coben going that direction with the novel.
I'm still going to read all of Coben's novels, but STAY CLOSE is just so unoriginal. Plot points and characters seem ripped from earlier novels. I know it is easier to write what you know, but maybe its time Coben set a novel outside of New Jersey and did some research into creating some original characters. (less)
Follett's second book in the series is a fascinating look at the 20th century as the world faces the rise of the Nazis and World War II. The action mo...moreFollett's second book in the series is a fascinating look at the 20th century as the world faces the rise of the Nazis and World War II. The action moves quickly from England, to Russia, to Germany to America as Follett's large cast of characters navigate love, war, and politics.
Writing about history on such a large scale means the characters get left behind a little. Follett excels at writing about characters from different social classes or backgrounds, but after a while, his characters and predicaments feel all to familiar. This lack of originality doesn't mean the novel isn't enjoyable.
His simplistic, romantic writing makes a reader feel right at home with the characters. Follett also isn't afraid to portray the harsh realities of the Nazis and Communisits, or to kill a few major characters.
SOFT TARGET, by Stephen Hunter, is the first novel in years to not feature a Swagger sniping and killing a bunch of bad guys. While his daughter does...moreSOFT TARGET, by Stephen Hunter, is the first novel in years to not feature a Swagger sniping and killing a bunch of bad guys. While his daughter does make an appearance as a journalist, this novel stars Marine Ray Cruz. Ray is shopping with his girlfriend on the day after thanksgiving and America, the Mall, which is basically the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. At the heigth of Black Friday, a terrorist shoots the mall Santa right between the eyes. Then a group of terrorists rounds as many civilians as possible into the center of the mall beneath the log ride and roller coaster.
Ray is shopping in a store on the upper level when he hears the gunfire. Ray isn't going to sit back and let things happen, so he immediately takes action. Meanwhile, the authorities respond outside the mall, led by Douglas Obobo, a by the book, politcal star, policeman who has his eyes set on higher offices.
This is a short, violent burst of a novel, happening in real time and covering only about 250 pages. Hunter covers all the bases in a novel like this, nailing the panick of the citizens, the incompetence of the bureacracy, the blind madness and devotion of the terrorists, and the bravery of those trying to stop them.
I read where Hunter really wanted to compare and contrast the bravery of those in actual combat with the ignorance and naivete of the politcally motivated supervisor, and Hunter really gets this right with the cowardly Douglas Obobo. Hunter fans should enjoy this novel. I felt like it could have been longer, but at the same time can't see anything Hunter left out. My only complaint would be the foolishness of the ultimate motives of the bad guy. Seemed pretty stupid and unrealistic to me, but it didn't detract from this novel. (less)
Sigmund Brouwer has been writing novels for years, but THE CANARY LIST is the first novel of his I've read. The novel opens with a bang, and as I read...moreSigmund Brouwer has been writing novels for years, but THE CANARY LIST is the first novel of his I've read. The novel opens with a bang, and as I read, I just knew I'd be adding Brouwer to my list of "can't miss" authors. Unfortunately, the last third of the book gets bogged down in complicated plot details that really don't make any sense, and abandon what made the novel so strong in the beginning.
On the night Crocket Grey plans to get drunk and honor the anniversary of his daughter's death, 12-year old Jamie Piper shows up at his house asking to stay the night. She's on the run and thinks her teacher can help. Before the night is over, Jamie's foster parents' house will be burned down, Grey's friendly neighbor will be missing, Jamie will be in the custody of a child psychiatrist, and Grey will be in jail on charges of pedophilia.
Grey is a great character as a teacher of troubled children who lost his daughter to cancer. He's trying to hang on to the relationship with his younger son while holding out hope of reconciling with his ex-wife. Jamie is a troubled youth who can sense when she's in the presence of evil. Throw in a few early scenes of Satan worship and scheming at the Vatican, and you get some sort of sense where the novel is going.
This is a novel ultimately about spiritual warfare and demons. There's no surprise there. Unfortunately, the plot really gets bogged down in the Vatican/Pope angle. There's really nothing there for the reader to care about. Jamie and Grey's relationship started the novel, but it is dropped midway through, as is Grey's relationship with his ex-wife.
Brouwer is obviously a good writer, but this book just didn't hold my interest. The explanations of Jamie's ability and the depths of the conspiracy were quite confusing at times. Also, I was never really sold on why Grey, a simple teacher, had to become involved in the conspiracy to the extent that he was. THE CANARY LIST starts out strong, but stumbles at the end as the strong characterization is dropped in favor of a too-clever of a plot. (less)
John Grisham is a great storyteller, I think everyone can agree to that. The problem becomes the story he tells: Is it interesting enough to hold the...moreJohn Grisham is a great storyteller, I think everyone can agree to that. The problem becomes the story he tells: Is it interesting enough to hold the reader's interest. When some of his early legal thrillers failed to offer the bang or excitement as THE FIRM or THE CLIENT, I realized it was because the plot he'd chosen didn't offer the same excitement or stakes.
CALICO JOE is like that. Grisham tells a great story, but it isn't for everybody. There's a lot of baseball, and if you don't like, or at least understand the game. However, the story has some great characters. In 1973, Warren Tracey pitched for the New York Mets, but was a horrible father. Paul Tracey, his son, longed to be a part of his father's life, but instead fell in love with rookie sensation Joe Castle.
Tragedy strikes when the lives of Calico Joe and Warren Tracey intersect. Jump 30 years forward and Paul is trying to make sense of whatever happened to Calico Joe and also come to terms with his father's looming death.
What happens between all the characters is a great story of friendship and forgiveness and is what makes the book easy to enjoy for non baseball fans.
But, keep in mind, this is a short book. It isn't really worthy of being called a novel. So beware how much you pay for a book that can be read in two hours.(less)
MERRY CHRISTMAS, ALEX CROSS is easily the one of the worst books I've ever read. Patterson has written some great books, and also some horrible ones,...moreMERRY CHRISTMAS, ALEX CROSS is easily the one of the worst books I've ever read. Patterson has written some great books, and also some horrible ones, like this year's ZOO. But, his Alex Cross books are usually pretty good. Not this one. Patterson starts off with a gimmick. Let's set the book over Christmas and play on the theme of Alex being pulled away from his family. This theme has been beaten to death in previous books, but now it is the entire basis for a novel.
Alex is first called away on Christmas eve when a drugged up crazy lawyer has taken his entire family hostage. It seems like every villain in every Cross book has heard of Alex Cross. He's so famous. Cross is the hostage negotiator and he works his magic by page 140 of the novel. Alex is home for a few hours, when he gets the call that he has another problem to deal with.
This is when I knew the book was a disaster. Patterson has done this with a few Women's Murder Club books. He puts together several short stories that aren't related, and calls it a novel. I call it a sham. Patterson's novels already lack depth, even more so when they contain several short stories.
The second story in this book features the terrorist Hala, who was in a previous Cross book. She's back, this time with a plan to kill millions. Cross and the FBI race against time to try and stop her. The action is pointless and the stakes are meaningless. With the compressed time frame of the novel, there is no time to addlayers to the story, so there is no suspense. You know the plot will be resolved by the end of the day.
Even diehard Cross fans should skip this one and wait for ALEX CROSS, RUN. It has already been written and there is an excerpt at the end of this novel. (less)
The debut novel of Shawn Grady, THROUGH THE FIRE, is an adventurous chronicle of Reno firefighter Aiden O'Neil and his struggle to overcome the loss o...moreThe debut novel of Shawn Grady, THROUGH THE FIRE, is an adventurous chronicle of Reno firefighter Aiden O'Neil and his struggle to overcome the loss of his firefighter father several years ago. Grady shines when writing about the daily fears and dangers faced by firefighters while on the job, and the numerous accounts of Aiden and friends fighting the fires are the best part of the novel.
Aiden is also a really good character. When his actions cause a rookie firefighter to almost lose his life, Aiden takes a sabbatical from work and begins to question everything about his life. Because he is unable to deal with his father's death, he faces losing his fiancé, his career and maybe even his life.
While Aiden is a strong character, there are many characters that make fleeting appearances, but fail to make a strong impression. The co-workers at the fire station make a strong supporting cast, but none stand out individually. Christine and Blake, his fiancé and friend, kind of disappear the last half of the novel. Julianne, an investigator with similar issues as Aiden, is the only other strong character in the novel.
Grady has created a strong inner conflict for Aiden. Can he finally come to terms with his father's death? Can he accept that sometimes bad things happen? But, there isn't really an external conflict in place, especially for the first part of the novel. It seems like Aiden goes from one fire to another, fighting his internal demons. When an external conflict finally emerges in the form of a serial arsonist, it doesn't quite jibe. It seems the actions of the serial arsonist only exist on the pages, but not in the lives of the characters or in the fabric of the city of Reno.
Grady is a good writer and I enjoyed his lyrical use of language to speak to the power of the fires. (less)
THE SNOWMAN by Jo Nesbo is a novel originally published in Norway in 2007 and translated into English in 2011. It's the forth in the seriess, so we ju...moreTHE SNOWMAN by Jo Nesbo is a novel originally published in Norway in 2007 and translated into English in 2011. It's the forth in the seriess, so we jump right in the middle of the life of Detective Harry Hole as he investigates the disappearance of several women.
Hole drinks too much and the woman he loved has just left him, although there is still sparks between them. His methods are unorthodox, but successful, and he is called upon to lead a task force to catch the Snowman, a possible serial killer linked to the disappearance of several women over the years. Katrine Bratt is new in the department and assigned to work with Hole. Hole forms his own group of four to dive into the Snowman case, and soon they have a suspect. But, from there, there are many twists and turns as the possibility of who the killer is changes several times.
Nesbo, as a writer, kept me interested. He wrote from several points of view, includiing the victims, and jumped around in time. At times I was confused, but in the end, everything came together.
This is a novel in which I really feel you'll get your money's worth. It isn't some mindless pulp, it is a novel that will engage you and entertain you and then stay with you after you read it. (less)
Bestselling author Jeffrey Deaver has taken over Ian Fleming's James Bond franchise in the novel CARTE BLANCHE. Deaver has a lot to live up to and I t...moreBestselling author Jeffrey Deaver has taken over Ian Fleming's James Bond franchise in the novel CARTE BLANCHE. Deaver has a lot to live up to and I think he more than lives up to the expectations of the Bond fandom. Bond and Deaver fans should both enjoy this novel, although it might fall short of expectations on both counts. I've read a few Deaver novels, and almost all Bond novels (except the ones by Fleming). I knew what to expect in a Bond novel, and Deaver delivers it.
Deaver sort of reboots Bond, making him a young man in the present day fresh of battles in Afghanistan. Based on some intelligence, he quickly focuses on a plan by Severan Hydt and his partner Niall Dunne to kill many British citizens by the end of the week. Bond is quickly on Hydt's tail, and begins investigating Hydt's international recycling company. Along the way, Rene Mathis, Felix Lieter, Mary Goodnight, Moneypenny, M, and Q-Branch all appear.
As I read and pictured the novel as a Bond film, I came away thinking this book was low key, the villian quirky but unglamorous, and the settings more tame than usual. I think Deaver took that route on purpose. He didn't try and outdo his predecessors, he just wrote a good spy story as well as a reboot for James Bond in 2011. (less)
In TAKEN, Robert Crais has delivered another great thriller featuring the world's greatest detective, Elvis Cole, and his silent but deadly partner, J...moreIn TAKEN, Robert Crais has delivered another great thriller featuring the world's greatest detective, Elvis Cole, and his silent but deadly partner, Joe Pike. This novel is shorter than most, but still packs a powerful punch as Crais leaves no line wasted. Every page has a purpose, every character plays a part.
The plot is really quite simple. Krista Morales and Jack Bergan are kidnapped and Elvis Cole is hired to find Krista by her mother, who questions her daughter's choice in boyfriends. Cole quickly discovers a link to "coyotes" bringing illegals into America, and "bajadores", or thieves that steal the immigrants from the coyotes and hold them for ransom.
In the beginning, the novel jumps back and forth in time and between characters as we follow Jack and Krista after being kidnapped, and Cole leading up to the day he is taken. Pike and Cole are apart most of the novel, but their friendship really comes through as Pike dedicates everything to saving his friend.
Crais has written a lot of novels featuring these two great characters, and thankfully he isn't taking his success for granted. Crais really brings the Los Angeles area to life, and focuses on an immigration problem that most Americans probably aren't aware of. This is what makes the novel pop with life. This novel is just as good as any in the series. (less)