Category Archives: head

Erica Ferencik — Into the Jungle

I just returned from an awesome trip into the Amazon rainforest without leaving my home. All my senses are on overload. Erica Ferencik not only excites sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch, she introduces you to a variety of alien cultures and characters, pulls at your emotions, plucks your heart strings, and teaches you about the unique environment of the jungle. She is an extraordinary storyteller.

Into the Jungle is my favorite read this year.

Dan Brown — Origin

I haven’t read a Dan Brown novel in years. I gave up after The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons. As you can read in many of the reviews, he’s not the best writer. But a friend gave me a copy of Origin recently, so I read it.

Where do we come from? Where are we going?
These are the two questions to be answered by the “big reveal” that is the central plot of the novel. There is lots of philosophical discussion about the questions and the differences between religion and science—some interesting, some repetitive. But in my opinion (and maybe the author’s), the big reveal doesn’t truly answer either question. And I guessed the villain of the story early on, so the ending fell flat for me.

I enjoyed Spain. Brown’s description of the art, architecture, landscape, and culture made me want to visit. But even some of this was repetitive.

Overall, it was an interesting read, but it could have been much shorter.

Robert McCaw — Off the Grid

Off the Grid is a murder mystery/police procedural/international thriller set on the big island of Hawai’i.

The story starts with “bang” when a woman’s car is crushed by a dump truck. As the police and firemen close in, there is a massive explosion, which turns out to be a bomb. Chief Detective Koa Kãne leaves the scene to investigate a body found in the volcano Pele’s lava flow. The two victims are a man and woman who have been living off the grid on the island for twenty years with little interaction with other people. Who are they, who murdered them, and why?

Koa meticulously tracks the complicated answers, with his instincts helping to point him in the right direction. His chief, CIA, MIA, and island politics all try to block and interfere with his investigation. He continues to uncover secrets about the two victims, the military, the CIA, the Chinese, and the locals.

Koa Kãne has secrets of his own that he shares with no one, not even his girlfriend. The author paints a picture of Hawaii and its people that is fascinating. You can feel the heat and smell the sulfur of the volcano, sense the lush rainforest, connect with the variety of people who inhabit the island. All of McCaw’s characters are interesting.

A great read by a talented author. Thanks to Oceanview Publishing for sending an advanced reader’s copy of this book.

Tim Johnston — The Current

The Current is a strange story written in a strange style, and it leaves unanswered questions at the end. It’s closer to real life where everything doesn’t get neatly tied up. There is mystery here, but not your typical “whodunit” mystery, maybe a literary mystery.

I enjoyed the story, but it took a little while to understand the flow. At times Johnston writes stream of consciousness, sometimes he uses second person POV, head-hopping from one character to another, and he skips back and forth between timelines. But he digs deep into the psyches of his characters—love, hate, grief, curiosity, need-to-know, vengeance—and tells all that is going on around them—sights, smells, heat and cold, sounds, skin sensations.

I enjoyed the book but only gave it four stars. It grabbed my attention, my heart, and my mind. But the author could have made it a little easier to follow without losing the grip of the story.

Louise Penny — Kingdom of the Blind

I have not read any of the previous books in this series, which may be a disadvantage in reading Kingdom of the Blind, but it reads well as a stand-alone.

The cozy comfort of the small town of Three Pines stands in stark contrast to the back streets of Montreal. Some of the gatherings of Gamache’s family or friends in the village, discussing the murder or just babbling about life, at times seemed confusing or unnecessary, possibly due to my unfamiliarity with the characters. But these gatherings were comfortable, friendly, and humorous. The story is filled with family connections (both relational and families of friends or coworkers), some full of love and understanding and some underlined with distrust.

One unusual thing about Penny’s writing is her use of omniscient point of view. You might even call it “head-hopping.” She often jumps POV from one character to another and back. I found it distracting at times, but overall, she did a reasonable job of making it feel seamless.

The setting in Canadian winter made me feel the chill and the crunch of the snow underfoot. The plot was interesting. Occasionally I was ahead of the story and guessed what would happen, other times I was surprised.

I may go back in time and read other novels in Ms. Penny’s Gamache series.

Peter Swanson — Before She Knew Him

We know who the killer is from the beginning of this book, but that doesn’t spoil the story. Hen and her husband Lloyd have moved into a new neighborhood in a small Massachusetts town. She reluctantly attends a party and sees a trophy in neighbor Matthew’s office that she believes is connected to a murder she obsessively researched a few years earlier.

She tells the police, but due to a history of mental problems, they distrust her credibility. Lloyd even doubts her. Hen and Matthew have conversations where he admits he has murdered people.

The novel is a suspenseful psychological thriller. Swanson held my interest throughout, even though I suspected the ending twist.

James Rollins — Crucible

I enjoyed the read, but there was far too much action and technology packed into two or three days in the story. I found myself speed reading through or even skipping sections of the book describing weapons, battles, and physics lessons, also some of the repetitive descriptions.

I like the concept of a super-intelligent AI trained in two different ways—one to be helpful and the other to be destructive. The science behind bringing Kat back from a coma was interesting. Rollins notes on the read history and technology at the beginning and end of the book were thought-provoking.

Some of the characters seemed thin to me, probably because I haven’t read any previous books in the series. But the story works as a stand-alone.

Lisa Gardner — Look for Me

Lisa Gardner creates interesting characters and manages to keep them entertaining through multiple books. I can read them out of order, which I did, and still enjoy each book.

The plot of Look for Me is twisted, with multiple suspects for the murder of a family. One daughter, Roxy Baez, survives because she is walking the dogs. Then she disappears. Boston police detective D.D. Warren looks for her with the help of survivor turned vigilante, Flora Dane. Is Roxy running from fear, or is she the shooter?

Another excellent tale by Ms. Gardner.

Stieg Larsson — The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I intended to read this book years ago and finally got to it. I won’t go into great detail. There are plenty of reviews available with so much detail you almost don’t need to read the book.

There are two plots. The story begins with Mikael Blomkvist’s conviction for libel for an article he wrote about billionaire businessman Wennerström. This plot line stays in the background until late in the book. Mikael is then hired by Vander, another rich man, to write a family history as a cover to find out what happened to his granddaughter, Harriet, who disappeared almost forty years earlier. This is the plot that consumes most of the book.

The book covers many subjects including business greed and crime, abuse of women, twisted family relationships, journalism ethics, Swedish Nazism, computer hacking, and more.

There are also two main characters: Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander, (the girl with the dragon tattoo). Lisbeth doesn’t get involved with the investigation until about halfway through the story, but we follow what she is doing before that. Larsson gives us great detail about both of these very different characters.

I enjoyed the book from the beginning, even though the first half was rather slow with too much detail about clothes, meals, and day-to-day minutia. Mikael spends a lot of time on the family history and very little on the missing girl until way into the book.

The climax of the story occurs about three-quarters of the way through. The rest of the book ties up all the loose ends, including the first plot.

Larsson’s writing kept me interested from beginning to end.

James Lee Burke — The New Iberia Blues

Burke writes vivid settings. He brings you into the bayous of Louisiana and activates all your senses—sight, sound, smell, taste, touch—and more. He laments what greed and politics is doing to his beloved land.

His characters (good guys and bad guys) have depth. But protagonist, Dave Robicheaux, has to be in his eighties and is still playing cop and lusting after women in their twenties. Dream on, Burke. A bit less of Robicheaux’s anger and feeling sorry for himself would make him more likable and move the story along.

The plot keeps you guessing about the villain, who is ritualistically killing members of the community using a tarot theme. But I did suspect the killer early on.