Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Book Review: The White Mountain

I'm not sure how The White Mountain ended up on my Kindle. I was downloading a mystery when this one popped-up like a parasite. So I read it. I don't know why, but it felt like it took forever to finish this short novel, and when I got to the end, I must admit, it didn't satisfy completely. The ending felt like a lead in to the author's next novel without fully wrapping up this one. The two main characters were well drawn (kudos), but I never understand how Randall ended up with Alice, and some of the timelines didn't seem to jive. It was twisty, but with only one really big surprise moment in the middle. The main plot line took some hard swallows to accept, and I did guess way early on, who the "third" one was, even before I knew there was a third one. Perhaps I read too much? With all the preparation, cloak and dagger surprises, and organizational advantages, I was under-awed by the climatic situation the bad guys put the good guys into to satisfy their 'what?'.

This is one of the few self-pubs that has minimal grammatical issues (kudos). Occasionally I read a book, and think, "This would be better as a movie." This is such a book (kudos). I know this is odd, but many good action sequences seemed to slow down the novel. I liked the details and explanations, but they seemed too much at times while reading but would translate better on the screen. The author missed opportunities to give the characters more dimension with the unexpected. When Mein Kampf picks up the cactus to throw at Randall, I was ready for something more than continued unrelenting fighting. I wanted Randall to stop the action: ["No that's Alice's favorite," Randall pleaded. Mein Kampf shrugged, put the potted Christmas cactus down, and picked up a bowling trophy to hurl at Randall.] The bad guys were just too much from central casting.

If you are into adventure thrillers, super killers, or spy vs. spy vs. spy stories, this is for you. Go forth and read, you will enjoy it. Though there were places for improvement, this was, overall, a decent book. It keeps moving, has some nice chapter endings to keep us hooked, and as mentioned, plenty of lies and twists, all essential for a thriller. It's better than average, but it's not great. It's a "4".

Monday, March 25, 2013

MMWUC: The Long Cold Winter

I, for one, am enjoying the long winter of 2012-2013. It's the winter without end despite Punxatawny Phil's prognostication. At least Sir Walter Raleigh, Raleigh's own large rat, predicted the long winter correctly. I was sick with the adult croup, a bad cold, and then the neurovirus from the Tuesday after Thanksgiving until about January 20th. That was tree cutting time, garden rehabilitation time, and landscaping project time. Now it is all squeezed between now and whenever winter ends, because when it ends, the ticks will burst from hiding, the green pine tree pollen will be as thick as volcanic ash, day time highs will go from the 50s to the upper 80s immediately, and plants will grow while you watch them. I've been splitting time outside and inside. I'm a hot weather writer because I can't handle the heat and sun, so when this winter breaks, writing will begin in earnest. So, the production of the poetry book, POEMS FOR A PLATYPUS, continues heading for a deadline a week away, the short story that I'm writing has exceeded the 5,000 work maximum by 6,000 words, so now it is something else, and the pull of the next Detective Stark novel is getting too strong to resist. I'll get to it, I tell my subconscious, the moment winter ends.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Book Review: Firstborn

Firstborn by Bob Stewart has a villain that's as creepy bad as you can make him. No Mercy Percy lives up to his name throughout the story as he pursues those who he perceives have done him wrong or the offspring of those who have done him wrong. I'm not sure I'm going to invite Bob to any sleepovers on the off-chance that he has more of Percy to excise from his subconscious, where all scary stories evolve, but I enjoyed the story, and it was nice to read one that appeared to have been edited with loving care.

This is a suspense thriller not for the faint of heart. Which means if you like your villains on the order of Hannibel Lecter, Max Cady, or the Zodiac Killer, then this book is for you--a slam-dunk "5". The lawyer, well, for such a well-renowned, inquisitive defense attorney, he was a bit slow on the uptake. Bob did a wonderful job of planting clues that lead up to helping discover what was going on, but the 'bright' lawyer seemed a bit on the dull side to me. I kept shouting, "Connect the dots. Connect the dots." The reason for No Mercy Percy's transition from country bumpkin to super villain was remarkably believable, but his ability to disguise himself at times proved a bit tough to swallow.

I loved the peppering of the smaller details both in Texas and New Orleans. Made you feel right at home. While I love the fight in the expectant parents, balanced with the sense of betrayal, for none thriller lovers this is a fence-sitter, but it kept me up past my bedtime two nights in a row, so I'm going to nudge it ever so gently into the "5" rating side of the fence. Read in a well lit room.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Book Reviews: Two for the price of one

The opening of Tokyo Smoke & Mirrors sucks you right into the story. The ABNA Quarterfinalist richly deserves to be in the running for the finals. What can be better for a mystery than to find several dead bodies off the bat, and then two of what promises to be three main characters, struggling with their new situations that aren't quite what they were supposed to be. The smoke and mirrors action starts us out of the gate. Can't wait to see where it goes. It's a 5-star start.

The PHOENIX PROJECT is a slim sci-fi novel about a possible future born from a deep recession in the United States. While the author's knowledge of neonatal care is obvious, the story takes too long to get to the main plot line. I do, however, like that we return to this knowledge later (kudos). A vague similarity to THE ROAD exists in that why things happened is not necessarily as important to the story line other than that they did happen. Unlike THE ROAD, however, the specific reasons for the manipulation of the populous, encompassing the terror of big brother, denial of freedoms, loss of family, forced eugenics, intrude and prevent a smoother read. Constant reminders of the outside world render what is happening in this enclave less believable based on what the heroine knows. And we know what she knows because this is written in the first person.

What was important was the heroine's attempts to manage her future and save her daughter. On some level, she does an admirable, logical job of trying to maintain family. On other levels, she flails. As revelations tumble out at the end of the novel, my reasons for being unable to embrace her are born out: no man seems able to resist her innate charms (black street youth, the old squeeze, the improbable new squeeze, the evil bad guy, her savior from the second banana bad guy); she's smart and talented beyond her years, yet barely uses that intellect to understand then undermine the ramifications of what she is doing; she can take beatings beyond reason and still keep on ticking. Sadly, the other major characters lack depth. Also, read fast. You may not fall into some of the plot holes that exist whenever a megalomaniac tightens his grip on people and place. I do like the rise of the bad guy's power represented through the conference room changes (kudos - Shades of the breakfast scene montage in CITIZEN KANE.)

Grammatical hiccups occur too often, though none are killers. However, the sequel-setting epilogue is an unnecessary information dump, wrapping up some things to make the ending palatable. The author missed a huge opportunity to make a moral, political, ethical statement by not providing enough information throughout the story to allow the ambiguity at the end to led to fevered discourse. Phoenix is a slightly better than average story that missed an opportunity to be a seminal work of fiction, a solid "3". This author does bear watching for future books. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

MMWUC: Responsibility to Dream

I took off last week from blogging. I was told, "Don't do that again?" I didn't know that my simple little reminder for everyone to start writing was influencing anyone. So, let's get back to basics. The worst words written are better than the best words stuck in your head. So write. Open the file now. Just write.

There was a man from Nantucket. No. The man from Nantucket wore his windbreaker like a shield against the latest Nor'easter. Ineffective. Wind pelted him like small stones; daggers of cold sliced threw the smallest opening; rain oozed through the same openings like evil creeping out of a cemetery towards unsuspecting young lovers. He sidled up to the oak tree, broad from two hundred years growth and stubby from long winters, short summers, and a constant on-shore breeze. The barren branches hung heavy to one side like a bad Trump over comb, but at least the near hurricane-force wind gusts didn't slap debris against him. The rain still came; the cold still bit. Soon,  however, the electricity went out and the small houses disappeared into the dark forming ill-defined shadows. King smiled. Another story blossomed in his head.