Tag Archives: books

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.

Chris Hammer — Scrublands

Excellent writing.

The author takes us into Riversend, a small dying settlement in Australia’s interior, in the middle of a summer drought. The river running through the town has dried into cracked earth. You can feel the heat and see it rising off the baked land.

A priest shot five men in front of the church and was killed by the local policeman. Martin Scarsden’s editor at the newspaper sends him to visit Riversend a year after the shooting to write a piece about how the locals are coping with the tragedy. At first, Martin is a typical newsman interviewing residents—outside looking in. The town is full of secrets and rumors, which cause Martin to write articles for his paper with incorrect facts, gaining enemies. As he gets to know them, people ask why a priest that many admired and loved did such a terrible act. Martin’s curiosity and desire to find the truth have him looking for the answer. This is the central question in the story.

Hammer’s characters are varied and complicated, not always who or what they appear to be at first meeting. He even gives us insight into the dead priest.

The plot is complicated, with many twists and turns. It kept my interest from beginning to end.

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.

Tami Hoag — The Boy

Nick Fourcade and wife Annie Broussard, detectives with a sheriff’s department in Louisiana, have two major cases to solve–the rape of a young autistic girl who doesn’t speak and therefore can’t identify her attacker, and the murder of a seven-year-old boy in bed in his home.

The plot is good with many suspects for the murder and twists, turns, and surprises throughout the book. But the characters (the author jumps through numerous POVs) are all warped and living twisted lives. Characters are evil, mean, power hungry, psychologically twisted, or cops so set on finding the perpetrator that they browbeat the victims. Hero Nick is always angry at everyone except his wife and son. None of the characters appear to grow.

There doesn’t seem to be a premise to the story, but maybe a theme of child abuse, spousal abuse, bullying, and the effects on the abused.

I’ve read other novels by Tami Hoag, and this one doesn’t compare favorably. The book kept me reading to the end, because of a good plot. Certainly not because of the characters.

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.

Barry Eisler — The Killer Collective

Barry Eisler is one of my favorite authors. It feels strange to me that I like his writing, because many violent thrillers completely turn me off. But Eisler gets into his characters’ heads, and we get to know them. He also does a great job with settings.

I won’t go into the storyline here, since it’s readily available in other reviews. I will say that having read other books with these characters was an advantage, but you could probably enjoy it as a stand-alone. The author brought together a large group of characters from previous novels.

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.