The Back Road

The Back Road

Review by Travis Starnes The Back Road is a thriller about the secrets that surround Ellie Saunders, her family and her friends.  The tale is punctuated with murder, stalking and a whole lot of lying.  I will start by saying that I did not love this book.  It wasn’t terrible but I found some the book off-putting. Generally the book is well written.  Rachel Abbott is clearly a talented writer and the story does have a decent flow to it.  It should be noted that this is the slow psychological style of thriller and not the heart racing, fast moving story that many thrillers have become.  Abbott is focused on weaving a complex story and trying to keep the reader on edge, and for the most part she is successful. I found the dialog particularly well written.  In so many thrillers the conversations are either weird expositions that sound strangely… Read more »

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Harrowgate

Harrowgate

Review by Travis Starnes A dark and disturbing thriller about a family, life, and loss, Harrowgate  is a suspenseful mystery about a man who finds his new baby and wife slightly different every time he comes back home.  He must fight to keep his family together in the face of a malevolent force. Although this book does dark and disturbing very well I really did not enjoy reading it.  On the positive side Maruyama has a good handle on writing suspense and mystery.  The plot and its various twists definitely have the potential for keeping the reader on the edge of their seats.  If this plot was in the hands of another writer it could possibly be an amazing tale. The big issue however was that it was not written by someone else.  I found the writing to be extremely clunky and heavy handed.  Sentences have a very strange structure… Read more »

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The October List

The October List

Review by Reynold Starnes The October List is the newest thriller from Jeffrey Deaver.  It is a ‘stand-alone’ story.  While I enjoy Deaver’s series, some of his best work has been stand-alone.  The October List is a good effort, but it is not his best. Deaver clearly worked hard on this novel; the structure is very clever.  It moves backwards in time.  Chronologically, the ending scene is at the beginning of the book.  Each subsequent scene is some, varying, time earlier.  The reader learns progressively more the farther back in time he goes over a three day weekend.  Deaver is very skilled and thoughtful; and this almost works. Gabriella McKenzie is the protagonist of the story.  We learn in the first scene her young daughter has been kidnapped, and the truly sinister kidnapper has demanded a $500,000 ransom and the mysterious October List, which was in the possession of her… Read more »

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Halloween Double Feature

Halloween Double Feature

Review by Travis Starnes Halloween Double Feature is exactly as the name implies.  You get two short stories of the spooky variety.  The first is about a man named Sonny and a vicious creature while the other focuses on a man in a dead end job. I will start by saying that I am generally not a fan of either short stories or novellas.  They almost always leave me unfulfilled and wanting more.  That being said in this book it totally worked for me.  The spooky Halloween tale is almost tailor made for this format.  It is the literary version of sitting around the camp fire telling tales. These two stories aren’t particularly scary but that doesn’t detract from the book.  In fact these stories were almost certainly not intended to be scary.  It seems instead the goal was for cleverness and a bit wit, which is fine by me… Read more »

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Stone of Tears

Stone of Tears

Review by Travis Starnes The adventure continues with Richard, Khalan and company.  Richard’s life is turned upside down, again, when he learns what it means to be the True Seeker. This is the second book in the series and it holds up well compared to the first book.  For me it actually scores marginally higher than its predecessor since it maintains what I enjoyed from Wizard’s First Rule, namely the characters, and fixes some of the problems I had with that book, such as the writing. The story and themes this book touches on are generally pretty interesting. Goodkind holds with the love story from the first book, delving into the importance of love and its dangers.  While I had a lot of trouble with the love story in the previous book, here it works well and is one of the better themes.  This is a bit strange when you… Read more »

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1633

1633

Another year has gone by and the residents of Grantville and the new United States are making their way in 17th century Europe.  In 1633 this new country will be reaching further into their world and continuing their conflicts with the Catholic countries that oppose them. 1633 is not only a quality sequel to its predecessors but one of the rare occasions that a sequel beats the original in some ways, although not all.  I would credit a lot of the advances this book makes to the addition of Weber partnering with Flint.  I can feel a lot of his structure and character work behind the Flint façade. As with 1632 the majority of characters are still pretty cliché.  However many of the major character, including previously minor characters who have been moved up to the big leagues, are getting fleshed out a bit more.  Raising the profile of already… Read more »

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Storm Front

Storm Front

Review by Reynold Starnes Storm Front is the seventh, and newest, entry in John Sandford’s Virgil Flowers series.  Sandford, the pseudonym for John Camp, who won a Pulitzer as a journalist, has penned three series:  Kidd, Prey and Flowers.  The characters inhabit the same fictional universe and are interrelated; Flowers works for Lucas Davenport, the protagonist of the Prey books.  I like them all, but Flowers is a current favorite. Sandford writes terrific thrillers, which are often very dark.  Virgil Flowers is not a dark character, but he has confronted massive child abuse cases, organized attacked squads and vicious criminals.  Storm Front is different.  It is lighter and more humorous; and a good read. There are bad guys and good guys in the book, as well as bad good guys and good bad guys.  In this story, Flowers is trying to track down a stolen engraved stone from an archaeological site… Read more »

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Practice to Deceive

Practice to Deceive

Review by Travis Starnes Practice to deceive follows a murder investigation on a small island in the Puget Sound.  A lot of unusually suspicious parties surround the Christmas day murder of Russell Douglass, unfortunately evidence is a lot more sparse. The detectives spend eight years talking to anyone connected to the man and his murder in an effort to solve one of the toughest mysteries they will come across. Ann Rule has been doing true crime for more than 30 years and she is a real master at her craft.  While this book is far from perfect it hits all the notes you would want in a true crime novel and is pretty solid read. This book has everything going for it; greed, sex and scandal. The one big thing that stands out for me in this book is the narrative voice Mrs. Rule uses.  Unlike many of the true… Read more »

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Wizard’s First Rule

Wizard’s First Rule

Review by Travis Starnes Wizards First Rule follows the exploits of Richard, the soon to be seeker, and Kahlen, the confessor, as they embark on an epic journey to save their world from an evil wizard who set on taking over the world.  This is the first book in a series of contemporary fantasy novels in the vein of JR Tolkien. I want to start off by saying I did actually enjoy reading this book, although the following review might make you think otherwise.  Yes, this book does have some things going against it but in spite all of those I enjoyed my time reading it and that is all that really matters.  I rated this book a 4 out of 5 purely on my emotional connection to it, and I do recognize the large number of fantasy readers who feel the structural and technical problems with the book can’t… Read more »

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Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game

Review by Andy Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card is science fiction with a realistic twist. It may not be the absolute best book I have read but nothing in it is terrible and it has few things are great. The big thing I found amazing was the plot. There are lots of surprises and peeks at the “omniscient” point of view that doesn’t make sense until later.  I also found some of the characters pretty enjoyable although others may need some work.  That being said it’s a pretty good book. The supporting characters are mostly fine, but the antagonists needs some work. I found Bonzo, one of Ender’s battle school enemies and ex-commander, interesting with his “Spanish honor” but Stilson and Peter are just strange. Peter even more so because of how he changes through the book and how he acts when he believes nobody is listening. Ender also… Read more »

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