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Category: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Review: The Kill Switch by James Rollins & Grant Blackwood

[ 4 ] July 9, 2014

book-review-the-kill-switch-by-james-rollins--L-6e9jwMReviewed by Marcus Hammond

James Rollins and Grant Blackwood bring their different talents together in The Kill Switch to build a suspenseful, fast paced, and scientifically intriguing novel. Both authors have different backgrounds and that diversity helps make each character, whether major or minor, relatable and the plot highly enjoyable.

The story’s central characters are Tucker Wayne, a former Army Ranger, and his military dog, Kane. After losing one of his team of military training dogs in a firefight, Tucker opts to use his and Kane’s training for private security. As the book opens, the duo is tracking would-be assassins for a wealthy Russian businessman. Tucker and Kane are, however, propositioned by a secret, Black Ops division of the American government known as Sigma to escort a Russian scientist to the United States. Reluctantly, Tucker agrees, thus beginning a treacherous and action-packed adventure that spans Russia, South Africa, and the United States.

The pivotal aspect of the novel is that the scientist Tucker is escorting has uncovered the existence of a primordial plant that could act as both a genetic enhancer to all plant-life as well as a weapon of bio-terrorism. Due to his research, a rogue Russian general who desires to use the plant for its more sinister applications begins hunting Tucker and his charges.

Rollins and Blackwood do an amazing job of balancing each aspect of this story. While the concept of a plant that holds the genetic code of the very first plant-life on the planet and its uses is incredibly complex, the authors explain it in simple terms. This is not to say that they dumb it down, however. Tucker usually prompts the explanations revolving around the uses and dangers of the plant, so Bukolov describes the scientific aspects in terms a layman will grasp.

Another aspect that is very well done is the relationship between Tucker and Kane. For many that don’t know about the realities of military dogs and their trainers the interactions between Tucker and Kane may seem unrealistic. The authors, however, represent the relationship in an intimate and realistic way. At specific points, the authors actually pull the reader into Kane’s mind as he responds to Tucker’s commands. This helps provide perspective and shows that Kane’s relationship to Tucker is one forged in intense training, trust, and animal instinct.

The detailed and emotional relationship constructed around Tucker and Kane alongside the intense action that spans continents makes this a quick, yet unforgettable ride. The relationship that Rollins and Blackwood forge between Tucker and Kane open up the possibilities for more adventures in the future that should be just as exciting and well-written.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

After obtaining a Masters in Liberal Arts and Literature Marcus has dedicated most of his time to teaching English Composition for a community college in the Midwest. In his down time, he spends time avidly reading an eclectic selection of books and doing freelance writing whenever he gets the chance. He lives in Kansas with his wife.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: That Night by Chevy Stevens

[ 5 ] July 7, 2014

18404248That Night by Chevy Stevens is the She Reads July Book Club Selection! Enter to win 1 of 5 copies here.

Reviewed by Meg Massey

Toni Murphy was a typical teenager with every day problems: a boyfriend her parents disliked, a perfect sister she couldn’t relate to, parents who didn’t understand her, and bullies that made high school a living hell. But when her sister Nicole was found murdered after a night out with Toni and her boyfriend Ryan, Toni’s problems were just beginning. She and Ryan were later convicted of killing Nicole, and after a grueling trial, both went to prison for the crime.

Opening in the moments after Toni is released from prison, That Night jumps back and forth through time, revealing a troubled year in Toni’s past that led to her sister’s violent murder, and the horrific treatment that she endured in prison. In the present, after being released, Toni is determined to put the past behind her and does everything that she can not to violate parole. Even speaking with Ryan is a violation, but when he runs in to someone from their past, he believes that they can find the person that really murdered Nicole. And while Toni is desperate to move on, she knows that she can never really do so until she finds out what happened to her sister on that horrible night.

That Night is a suspenseful tale that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final pages. While I found Toni difficult to relate to personally, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her as she lost everything: her relationship with Ryan, her sister, and the trust of her parents. But when Toni becomes resolved to take control and solve her sister’s murder, things become really interesting. Lies told by supposed witnesses begin to unravel, and a shocking truth is revealed in the final pages. I felt this novel might appeal more to a young adult audience, only because of the author’s focus on Toni’s teenage years, but I still very much enjoyed the novel and would recommend it to those who enjoy mysteries or crime novels.

This novel does contain language, sex, drug references, and violence.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Meg lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Ryan. Library professional by day, freelance writer by night, Meg writes about life, entertainment and everything in between.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by St. Martin’s Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Gulf Boulevard by Dennis Hart

[ 2 ] July 6, 2014

gulf-boulevard-by-dennis-hartReviewed by Melanie Kline

Gulf Boulevard is by far one of the most fun and entertaining books I have read in quite some time. Jason Najarian is at work when he reaches his hand into his sweet stash, a 56-ounce XXL bag of M&Ms and finds he only has green ones. Jason decides that this must be a premonition of some kind. What are the odds of getting only green M&Ms out of a bag, let alone a 56-ounce XXL bag? So he finds himself the proud owner of a lottery ticket. Everyone he tells about the freak M&M experience thinks he’s crazy and it was just a coincidence or dumb luck.

In the middle of the night, Jason wakes up on the couch and as he’s turning off the TV to go to bed, the lottery drawing is on and he – in great disbelief – finds himself the winner of $63 million. He immediately purchases a house for his mother and a house for his father and makes plans to live his dream on the Gulf Coast of Florida.

He locates a real estate agent, Phyllis Hammerstein, whom he nicknames The Hammer behind her back and pays $1.2 million dollars cash for a home. He moves in all by himself on the side of a Gulf Coast island and frames his green M&Ms. He also winds up purchasing a parrot named Montana that only quotes the movie Scarface and knows every word of it by heart.

Since finding out about his windfall, Jason’s ex-wife, Megan decides that they are still in love and continually attempts to hunt him down while he sends her on wild goose chases. His plan is to become a hermit in his home except when he needs to go to the mainland for groceries or supplies.

Jason very soon realizes that this is not going to happen as the people from the other side of the island begin coming by to visit. They then decide that they will all come to Jason’s side of the island to watch the sunset every night which is where the serious roller coaster ride begins. Jason finds out that Sal is in the mafia and hiding out on the island. He falls in love with Fiona who has her own secrets to keep. “Toast” and Amber are just there for vacation, but wind up getting drawn into the issues that ensue.

Gulf Boulevard was absolutely one of the best books I have read and I recommend it to everyone. Hysterically funny, dramatic, ironic–it has it all and is well worth the read.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Doubleday. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Last Time I Saw You by Eleanor Moran

[ 3 ] June 28, 2014

The-Last-Time-I-Saw-You-by-Eleanor-Moran1Reviewed by Holly Madison

The Last Time I Saw You was a bit slow at first, and there wasn’t a whole lot of excitement throughout the entire book. Still, something about the characters drew me in. I have had a lot of friends who have suffered from mental illnesses, and my own mother is severely bi-polar. I guess it’s for that reason that I really identify with Olivia, the main character of this story.

This book is about two friends and is set as a series of flashbacks after Olivia finds out that her former best friend Sally has been killed in a car accident. Sally suffers from bi-polar disorder and is either very “up” or very “down”. Unfortunately she also drags Olivia down with her. Sally is not a likable character at all–she is very controlling of her best friend and I found myself wondering why Olivia didn’t walk away sooner. It reminded me almost of two lovers in an abusive relationship. Olivia isn’t much better because she lets Sally walk all over her and manipulate her. It’s hard to fully blame Sally due to her mental illness, but it was still difficult to read about at times.

I have personally had friendships in my life that ended unexpectedly, and sometimes I look back on them and wonder exactly what went wrong and when. This book was a reminder of that and made me seriously take a look at my current friends and try to show them that I appreciate them more. I found the ending to be perfect for this book and it made the whole thing worth the read.

All in all, I would give this 3 out of 5 stars. It didn’t blow me away, but it was a good exploration of a relationship between two people. It went one step further by also exploring the relationship between people who were affected by Sally when she was alive, and how her absence somehow found a way to bring them together.

I found the story to be a little bit sad for the most part, but all in all it was a good read.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Holly has a Bachelors degree in Environmental Science and owns a small business with her husband selling fleece and hand-spun yarn. When she is not spinning yarn, she does freelance work as a graphic design artist and is highly involved in animal rescue.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Wunderkind PR. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: FaceOff

[ 4 ] June 27, 2014

187752781Reviewed by Caleb Shadis

FaceOff is an anthology of 11 different short stories, by 23 famous authors. I was very interested in this book because I recognized quite a few of the authors and heard of a bunch more. I expected it to be a great way to sample new characters that I haven’t had a chance to “meet” yet. I wasn’t disappointed. I will say that the name seemed to be a bit of a misnomer–it kind of implies that characters will be pitted against each other, when most of them they paired up against some foe.

My favorite character in the book (Lucas Davenport) got one of the longest stories in the set which made me very happy. I also found his temporary partner Lincoln Rhyme to be an interesting enough character that I plan on looking up his stories as well.

I have never read a story by Heather Graham or F. Paul Wilson but I was intrigued by both of their characters (Michael Quinn and Repairman Jack). So that is two more series I plan to add to my list of ‘To Read’ books. Apparently, they both tend to have dealing with the supernatural and they have an interesting way of handling situations.

The only story where I knew both of the characters was with Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone and James Rollin’s Gray Pierce. It was interesting seeing them both in a story. However it was pretty obvious that both authors were used to 400+ page stories because it felt extremely rushed (and for these two that is saying something!).

While I found almost every single character worth reading about, the only other two new ones that floated to the top (IMO) was Nick Heller (who was paired with Jack Reacher, another excellent character) and Aloysius Pendergast.

So while I felt this book was a little ‘gimmicky’ and the name for it was misleading, I still enjoyed reading it. It gave me an excellent chance to sample more authors and their leading protagonists. I personally found four new author series I will be actively on the lookout for and a bunch more that won’t pass up if the opportunity presents itself. Excellent sampler for thriller readers!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Meryl L. Moss Media Relations. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Transcriptionist by Amy Rowland

[ 2 ] June 25, 2014

Rowland_Transcriptionist_NEW LION.inddReviewed by Jax Kepple

Lena is a transcriptionist for The Record, a New York Times stand-in newspaper, and leads a very solitary life. She sits in a room by herself all day and transcribes stories that reporters either drop off on tapes or call in and dictate over the phone. She lives in a single room in a women-only boardinghouse that has access to a key to Gramercy Park, where she takes sad, one-hour walks. She appears to have no friends or acquaintances beyond the homeless woman who is always outside her office and a pigeon who is always outside her office window. Both the pigeon and the homeless woman are always there, and Lena has weird, cryptic conversations with both. She also is constantly running quotes from the stories she transcribes and from books she read through her mind, so much that she feels as if she’s losing her mind and having no original thoughts.

A random story brings her on a strange journey all over New York state, including Hart’s Island and the Bronx Zoo, in order to find out what happened to the body of this mysterious blind woman who she met briefly on the bus. She meets a mysterious (of course) man who also works alone in an office a few floors below her own lonely office. It’s hard to believe a newspaper in New York City would have all this empty space for these two to work in.

Author Amy Rowland works at the New York Times, so all the interesting newsroom details are appropriately taken care of, and all the reporters sound realistic. It was hard to have Lena be relatable since she has chosen to both work in an office by herself and live by herself and eschews all interpersonal contact, for the most part. Yes she does go on a date, but that implodes rather quickly.

The degree to which the loneliness was presiding over her life, with little to no backstory, made Lena’s journey a bit too disjointed. There is mention of her mother dying, and a wildcat that was loose in her hometown that “terrorized” her (only in her mind, not in real life), there is a theme of death and dying animals, but it was lost in the noise of her quoting over and over again and the frustration of her choice to remain isolated. Without spoiling the end, there is some resolution, but it is not confirmed so ambiguity remains and the book was a bit unsatisfying.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Jax is in an accountant at a hedge fund. She resides in NYC with her husband.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Algonquin Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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