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2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 25 books toward her goal of 175 books.
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Book Review: Killer Space Clown by Eli Taff, Jr.

Happy Halloween! In honor of the creepiest day of the year, I’m delighted to share with you a creepy collection of very short stories that offer the perfect tidbit of eerie hair-raising to get you in the holiday spirit (pun intended)…

As you know if you read my blog/reviews regularly, I have a love-hate thing with short stories: love the concept (quick reads), hate the usual reality (the character development that I think is so central to my enjoyment of a story is usually MIA because of the format). I’ve found some exceptions, most notably in collections that are tied to series books because the characterization and backstory already exist in the author’s universe, so the quick and singularly-focused format allows the author to focus on a discrete perspective or event without needing to take the time to explain the who and why behind it all. Well today, I’m pleased to tell you that I’ve discovered another way to enjoy shorts without sacrificing the enjoyment of the unfolding character/world building, and that is through interconnected shorts. I don’t know why more authors don’t do this, by the way – it seems like such a brilliant way to build a world and then focus on the action and allow for a LOT of cool stuff to come out without the hundreds of pages of connectors necessary to tie them into one cohesive tale. That is, in fact, why the author said he wrote the book as he did. I’ll say it again: Brilliant! Continue reading Book Review: Killer Space Clown by Eli Taff, Jr.

Book Review Blurb: Safe Houses by Dan Fesperman

Sometimes a book is just SO GOOD that I want to tell you about it, even though my book review is short and not really a full review but more of a blurb… This is one of those.

I LOVE old school spy books, and this latest Fesperman offered that plus a fun back-and-forth blending a contemporary tale in with the old. It’s a format that I’ve seen more and more lately, and it doesn’t always work. Fortunately, Fesperman is a strong enough writer/plotter to figure out how to keep the pacing and drama in balance with the multiple narrators/narrative streams – and he does so in a way that teases with just enough detail to keep you guessing, even when some of what you are guessing at in the contemporary timeline has already been alluded to if not indirectly covered in the historical… It’s a great tale, populated by characters for whom lying is an art form, and the dance between the lines of what everyone says and what they mean is a tango sure to keep you not only engaged but immersed!

Thanks to the Penguin First to Read Program for my review copy!

Book Review: The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre

This was an absolutely astonishing story and such a well-written book! I am a long-time fan of non-fiction, particularly because so much truth is, quite often, stranger (and more entertaining) than fiction… This is a marvelous example of that. What Gordievsky went through is nearly unbelievable in scale and scope. That he did so for ZERO monetary gain is even more so. When he is contrasted with Aldrich Ames (who doesn’t feature in the story until it is well along the way) who did what he did EXCLUSIVELY for money, the tale takes on an even more surreal slant – in the best possible way. Continue reading Book Review: The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre

Interview: Quinton Skinner, Author of Amnesia Nights

You’re going to like this one… Today I’m pleased to introduce you to the dark mind of author Quinton Skinner, whose new book Amnesia Nights promises to take readers on a seriously twisty journey. I’m reading it now and will have a review for you at some point soon… Enjoy!

About Amnesia Nights
SOMETHING IS TERRIBLY WRONG WITH JOHN WRIGHT.

His mind is playing tricks on him. He sees people he thinks he knows, but they’re only strangers. His memory flickers in and out of focus. What he does know is this: He hasn’t seen his fiancée, Iris, in over three years. He fled their Los Angeles apartment one night after a fit of rage that may or may not have left her dead. He’s been living off a small fortune he stole from Iris’s wealthy, manipulative father. He keeps it hidden behind the wall of his Minneapolis bedroom. He bides his time and waits for the police to find him and charge him with his lover’s murder—though he isn’t sure if he killed her, or if she’s really dead. Continue reading Interview: Quinton Skinner, Author of Amnesia Nights

Book Review: The Forbidden Door by Dean Koontz

I’ve really loved this series so far, and have been impressed with the originality and strength of the characters and the complexity and interconnectedness of the plot sub-lines. But I’m starting to think enough may just be enough… If you want to see my earlier reviews they are here, here, and here.

In this latest installment, Jane once again kicks ass and takes names. Her ability to foil the multi-faceted, multi-pronged, technologically advanced, nearly omniscient in its ability to access data, uber-machine that is the Techno Arcadians continues to entertain even when it’s seems so far beyond possible that it should be ridiculous. I love Jane. I admire the hell out of her. She’s a great character. And she’s surrounded by a team of equally great characters, from all walks of life and all sides of the law. That’s the part of the book I love. What I struggled with in this book was the overwhelming focus on her opponents in this war, and the insanity and viciousness that underpin their actions. I don’t mind reading dark, but when 85% of the book seems to be describing horrors inflicted on people for little to no reason beyond the accretion of power, I find the reading to be a bit of a slog… In the earlier books there was a lot more focus on Jane herself and the good people she found to ally herself with, often in unlikely places, and that gave the earlier books a very different tone and tenor than this one. It’s starting to get repetitive – if one can ever call the escalation of evil repetitive – to read about the horrible things that are committed in the name of the Techno Arcadians goals. And I noticed that the preview of the upcoming book that was included at the end of this one calls it the next title, not the last. I’m starting to think that, as much as I’ve loved the series, it’s time for it to end. Book after book describing Horrors and placing Jane and increasing peril are not going to do the series any service. This is a great series with a great idea underpinning it, but all great ideas have a lifespan, and I fear this one is rapidly approaching the end of its own.

I have no idea how Koontz is going to pull it all together, but do hope that he does so in short order, because the pacing is starting to slow as things feel like they are escalating but not actually moving forward… One of the greatest things about the early books was the rapid introduction of a lot of uniquely horrifying ideas. The zombie bit in this book was new and interesting, but a lot of the other “action” felt like it was a caffeinated version of things that happened to Jane in her quest to keep Travis safe in the earlier books.

Thanks to NetGalley for my review copy.

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