I’ve just finished reading The Twelve, by Justin Cronin. There are so many reviews of this book around that I’m not going to try and write another one. It’s a great read if you like this kind of story, the invasion of the world by a kind of mutants born out of twelve prisoners who have been injected a virus. In a way the plot is terribly similar to World War Z, the movie featuring Brad Pitt, recently released. The Twelve is the second instalment of a trilogy, after The Passage. I think I preferred The Passage, but The Twelve is good too. What confused me a little was the timing of it all, as one book doesn’t follow the other. The Twelve is both before and after The Passage. Go figure. But it still works. I particularly enjoyed the apocalyptic description of American citizens fleeing their cities invaded by the mutants (the virals). Quite something. One piece of advice though, read The Passage first.
Category Archives: Books
Dan Brown uses the same formula for all his books, and Inferno is no exception: a search for something mysterious or dangerous based on symbolism, a setting in an Italian city, a mad chase, Robert Landgon the academic who is an expert in symbology, short chapters to guarantee a page-turner etc. Inferno features Robert Landgon, who is amnesiac and finds himself chased by dangerous individuals while trying to solve a puzzle. Langdon and a few other characters try to avoid the release of a plague, supposed to kill half of humanity – nothing else! The plot is all right, I suppose, although it’s more than unlikely. The need for certain individuals to use symbols (and complex ones) to hide simple messages is annoying – it feels too much like just a silly plot for the novel. This story is not as good as The Da Vinci Code, or Angels and Demons and the formula needs to change. It’s not new, it gets boring, and you feel like you’ve read it before. I’m not saying the story is painful to read, it’s a page turner after all and it is enjoyable, but you will forget it as soon as you’ve read it. The one thing that really didn’t work for me with this book is that Brown turned it into an Italian art lesson. There’s nothing wrong with that, except the way it’s done is just ridiculous. Picture this: Langdon is chased by a large number of people who want to kill him. They’re shooting at him, he’s seen them kill people, they involve the police, and what does Langdon do? He (constantly) stops in front of pieces of art or architecture to marvel at how beautiful they are, think of the artist who’s created them, tell their story to whoever he is with, and take his time to take it all in. Plain silly if you ask me! I believe Brown’s readers need a little more respect than that.
Mo Hayder has mastered the art of gothic crime novels – my favourite one of hers so far is Tokyo, but Poppet comes next. I was delighted to get it early on the Kindle and I read it fast. Well paced, with a plot split into three parts which eventually all come together, the novel features one of Hayder’s favourite characters, DI Jack Caffery. Police Diver Flea Marley is not far, as usual, but don’t think you need to have read the other books, this works well as a standalone novel. The plot is unnerving and stressful (don’t read it at night when you are alone). The story centres on a high-security mental ward where a number of sinister, surreal events take place, each leading to the unexplained death of a patient. All patients are very nervous and keep talking about a non-human entity which haunts them. AJ, one of the staff, feels something deep and sinister is playing out in front of his very own eyes, and he tries to talk his boss Melanie Arrow into action. When a patient is released – Isaac Handel who killed his parents in a horrific manner at the age of fourteen – all hell breaks loose… Who is the next victim going to be? Isaac stalks the ward’s staff one after the other. Naturally – it’s Mo Hayder after all – there is more than meets the eye, and as one character puts it, “all is not always as it seems”. Fabulous ending, scary plot, even a bit of romance… all the ingredients of a great novel by Mo Hayder.
Kenneth Cook is an Australian writer who was fascinated by the bush and died in 1987. A friend of mine gave me the French edition of The Killer Koala, published one year before Cook’s passing. I searched for the book online, but it seems to be quite a rare find these days. Amazon has got a few copies at an outrageous price. The Killer Koala is a compilation of short stories about animals from the Australian bush. Apparently they are true store which happened to Cook while travelling in the outback. Some of them are quite funny, others incredible, and they all tell something of the true Australia, this remote country at the heart of our continent. It’s an easy read, and for anyone who’s been here and enjoys the outdoor, a breath of fresh air – so to speak.
Those who have been reading my blog for a while know I love S.J. Bolton‘s work. So when her latest novel became available in Kindle Format before the paperback release, I just had to get it. I took it with me on a flight from Australia to Hawaii, and that’s all it took to read it. Bolton’s previous novel, Dead Scared, didn’t engage me as much as her other ones had, so I was wondering what this one would do to me. Loved it! Absolutely loved it. It’s excellent, riveting, nail-biting, one-sitting-read, pure Bolton material! This book features Lacey Flint (for the third time I think) as well as a number of other characters who have appeared in her novels previously. Of course, it’s also a beautiful standalone novel. I was a little surprised – and quite pleased with myself I have to confess – when at about 75% of the book I knew whodunnit. It did surprise me, and I thought that Bolton had on purpose left enough hints for us to guess who the murderer was (it can be a great device in crime novels to know who the murderer is when the main characters don’t have a clue). I should have known better, of course. I was way off the mark, and Bolton delivered a massive blow to my self-esteem when it was revealed I was plainly wrong. Great plot, unexpected findings, great pace (you just can’t put it down), beautiful characters… everything you need to spend your afternoon engrossed in a book. In this one, I found that Bolton’s treatment of her characters reached an intensity and sensibility that she hadn’t reached yet. Beautiful, yet gripping. Like This, For Ever is more than highly recommended. It’s a must read.
“The three mistakes of my life” is a book by Chetan Bhagat, an author from India. Bhagat is quite successful and has written many good books. In this one he tells the story of Govind and his two friends Ish and Omi, who live in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Govind wants to become a businessman, Ish loves nothing else but cricket and Omi is just happy being with his friends. Together they open a cricket shop and become somewhat successful in their business endeavours. This is the background to the story of how they discover a young Muslim boy called Ali, who has a gift for cricket. Ish trains him hard and tries to make him an elite cricket player. But things don’t come easy to any of the three friends. Govind’s business dreams are shattered by a powerful earthquake, Ali does not want to relocate to Australia to become a successful cricket player, and Omi has to face the political ambitions of some family members. The politics and religious clashes between Hindus and Muslims are part of the story, and in fact, will contribute to its tragic ending. This novel reminded me of the tensions I myself felt between Hindus and Muslims when travelling through Rajasthan. The story is okay, although a bit superficial at times – and the cricket thing can be a little tedious. It’s a nice story of love, passion, money, politics, and hate. Well written with fun characters, but it would benefit from more depth in its character depiction. A good read, and one in a different setting for once.
Long silence from me… Many things have happened during the last few weeks. First we’ve moved and are still unpacking things. We only moved around the corner, but it does not make it any easier. We love our new place, though. This is a penthouse style and has a huge outdoor terrace, perfect for plants and entertaining! Work has been hectic, and family stuff have added to the stress. Anyway, I am taking the opportunity of some down time to write this post.
I came across Rubbernecker, the latest book by Belinda Bauer, when reading Nikki-Ann’s blog – I trust her reviews and I immediately knew I had to read this book. It sounded just like the type of story I like. I’ve read Blacklands by Bauer and found it very good (I wrote a review of it here a while ago.) Bauer’s new book gets 5 stars from me. I like the fact that it is a standalone book for a start. Many crime novels and thrillers these days tend to be series – once an author finds a good formula, they stick to it. In Rubbernecker, three parallel stories take place and eventually all link together. You can sort of see the link from the start, but it’s hard to tell how it is really going to develop, and I loved that. The first story is about Patrick, a teen-ager with Asperger’s syndrome who wants to study anatomy to understand what happens when you die – an interesting premise. Bauer depicts the way Patrick feels, reacts and thinks in a most credible way, and she manages to skilfully develop the plot at the same time, not an easy task when your protagonist does not do the things “normal” people do (please note the quotes here, by normal I don’t mean people living with Asperger’s syndrome aren’t normal, I just mean they do things differently). Patrick is a very loveable character. The stress that his mother goes through feels very real. The second story is Tracy’s, a nurse who works in the coma ward of a hospital. And the third story is about Samuel Galen, a coma patient. Now, what Bauer does here is a real tour-de-force – Imagine telling the story from a coma patient’s perspective without being boring or flat… Loved it! The way Bauer describes Samuel coming out of his coma (opening his eyes) is fantastic. There are a few great moments in the book, like the initial depiction of an accident, line by line, and from the eyes of the person in the car. There’s also someone’s death (I’m not saying who it is not to spoil the fun) seen through his own eyes: this was very powerful. The beauty about the story is that although there is a clear conclusion, some of it is left to the imagination, but with just about enough information to make your mind about a number of things… I read the book in one sitting, of course, and now I find myself wishing I hadn’t read it so that I could read it again.
I have written quite a few reviews of Gerritsen’s novels, especially the Rizzoli & Isles series. I like Gerritsen’s simple writing style and excellent plots. I particularly liked this one, The Mephisto Club, which is the one in which Isles’ parents split up. The story revolves around satanist cults and the search for fallen angels, the infamous Nephilins. This is a good story and I read it in a flash. Probably one of the best Gerritsen crime novels I have read.
Boyer has chosen a great setting for her first Liz Talbot mystery novel, the Island of Stella Maris on the East Coast of the US, in South Carolina. The atmosphere of the place is portrayed vividly, as well as a variety of characters inhabiting the island. It doesn’t sound like a place where a murder could happen, but one does occur – a simple blow to the head. The victim is none other than Liz’s grandmother, and Liz is a private investigator. Following the death of her grandma and after inheriting her estate, Liz moves back to Stella Maris and starts leading her own enquiry, in spite of her elder brother, the local law enforcer. Nearly everyone is family or acquaintance on the island, so it is hard to make sense of why someone would want to kill Liz’s grandmother. Liz will of course uncover what it’s all about, a piece of land with a great potential for development, and it’s something most inhabitants, Liz included, strongly oppose. This was for me the first weak point in the novel: the reason for the murders (there’s going to be several) is not very compelling – not that’s it’s never happened – but it doesn’t get you too excited or put you on edge. The other thing that didn’t gel with me was the high number of characters to remember and differentiate, and they’re almost all introduced at the same time. To be honest, it took me forever to know who was who, and after a while I just stopped bothering; it doesn’t prevent you from enjoying the story but it did annoy me a little. Boyer’s writing is straight to the point. A lot of action and not too much thinking or feeling. I found her style a little too direct and cold; with a little more warmth, it’d be fantastic. The story is good though, well paced and well brought to life. I also loved the role played by Colleen the ghost, one of Liz’s old school friends, who comes and goes in the story as if there was nothing unusual about it. This is a great device and one that gives the story an edge.
A few weeks ago I picked up a book in one of those shops that sell unsold items at very low prices. The book was only worth a few dollars, but the title attracted my attention and it had been published by Harper Collins, so I thought it couldn’t be that bad. The title of the book was created and written in a way to deceive people and make them believe they were buying a book from Sidney Sheldon, the well-known writer. If you went below the title however (Sidney Sheldon’s Angel of the Dark) you could see another name, Tilly Bagshawe, the real author. Everything about that method is cheap. Never mind, I started reading the book, supposed to be based on notes left by Sheldon when he died in 2007. The plot is good and the story starts well enough. In a nutshell, this is about a series of weird murders in which en elderly man is savagely murdered while his young wife is raped and left alive by his side. The murders take place around the world, and a number of individuals, one from Interpol and a useless comedy writer, set on a search for the killer. As I said, the plot is okay, until the end that is. The last part of the book is boring – a trial – and the ending so preposterous it made me cringe. You very quickly can’t stand the main character, the comedy writer. As for the writing, it’s all right most of the time, but sometimes you come across repetitions and gems such as (p. 222) “He was as Indian as the Taj Mahal.” Such trite similes should simply be banned from literature.
The worst, for me, started with Chapter Thirteen, which takes place in Hong Kong. This is a fine example of how easily you can lose credibility with your readers, something all writers learn very early on in their careers. If what you write is false or simply wrong, your credibility is gone – and it doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or not. With me having lived in Hong Kong, Bagshawe didn’t stand a chance, but had she done basic research, she would have been fine. The underground system in Hong Kong (probably the best in the world in terms of efficiency, network and cleanliness) is called the MTR (Mass Transit Railway)… and it becomes the DLR in the novel. But the worst is to come. I will only give two examples. The first one reads, “Lan Kwai Fong, the nightlife quarter and red-light district, glittered and screamed and stank, its narrow streets packed with some of the weirdest specimens humankind has to offer: juggling midgets, armless dancers, blind transvestite hookers and the ubiquitous, wide-eyed U.S. servicemen on shore leave, drinking it all.” Anyone who knows Hong Kong would scream with laughter when reading these words. Lan Kwai Fong is vile, I agree, but it is a modern street with bars like those you can find anywhere in the world – like Los Angeles or London where the author lives – and, on Saturday nights when it becomes rowdy and full of drunk people, mostly expats. None of the weird specimens described here. It is as normal as it gets. One paragraph further down and you find, “In New York and London, shopping streets were crowded. Here they were overrun, infested, alive with humanity like a rotting corpse riddled with maggots.” I had to read this several times to make sure I had read well. Is Bagshawe really comparing Hong Kongese with maggots? This has to be the most racist, wrong and offensive thing I have read in a long time. She should be banned from writing and Harper Collins should change editors. Honestly!