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The Narrow Road to the Deep North: A novel (Vintage International)
The Narrow Road to the Deep North: A novel (Vintage International)
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $7.93

5.0 out of 5 stars one finds a love story on four levels, November 24, 2014
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In this stupefyingly marvelous work, one finds a love story on four levels. First is a paean to the author's POW father; second is a star-crossed Shakespearean take on unfulfilled love between a man and a woman; next is a father's deep, heroic devotion to family; and finally -- and most importantly -- is a captured soldier's profound, unwavering allegiance to his mates. Flanagan's jaw-dropping tale succeeds at every level. He is a master wordsmith whose ability to turn a well-crafted phrase is reminiscent of Nabokov. Like a scent hound, the author's prose meanders at times but is ultimately on point. This is a must-read, a dark but truly breathtaking novel.

Fourth of July Creek
Fourth of July Creek
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers
Price: $11.85

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The book's dialogue is as crisp and realistic as the best of Elmore Leonard, July 8, 2014
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Henderson is an extraordinary addition to the stable of gifted young literary authors. Fourth of July Creek is a paradigm of character development, and novelists of all genres can draw from this writer's fresh, adroit prose. This is fiction-lite, with story and commercial plot pale seconds to characterization. All the players are fully fleshed-out, and the strengths, shortcomings, and back stories of both protagonist and villain are skillfully portrayed. Henderson's crisp, pungent writing is hardly standard English. Intentional violations of syntax are abundant: he is master of the cropped phrase, tony dependent clause, and polished run-on sentence. Henderson is a gifted wordsmith, and his prose has its own melodic rhythms. The book's dialogue is as crisp and realistic as the best of Elmore Leonard. My humble criticism of Henderson's style is that he's succumbed to a young writer's tendency to use unnecessarily highfalutin vocabulary words. An author of his considerable talent should put the thesaurus away.

The Light Between Oceans
The Light Between Oceans
by M. L. Stedman
Edition: Paperback
10 used & new from $10.92

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Prozac Prose, November 13, 2012
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Talented newcomer M.L. Stedman pens an extremely well-crafted tale of love, life, loss, and redemption. As other reviewers have summarized the plot elsewhere, I won't belabor that but rather point out the author's greatest strength: characterization. Both her protagonists and minor players are thoroughly dissected in autopsy-like detail, revealing their inner guts, motives, strengths, and foibles. It is this emphasis on individual sturm und drang that drives the story: the players' roller-coaster emotional ups and downs are so dramatic that the reader is often left drained and breathless. The characters are relentlessly beaten down and then lifted up, only to fall again in dizzying fashion. This is heart-wrenching story-telling, but it is redeemed in the end in a tear-jerking denouement. If this was Stedman's intent, she skillfully accomplished her goal.

It's hard to fit this work into a genre, but I think of it as Prozac Prose. The book is the most depressing of its kind since the excellent works of Anita Shreve. My only quibble with this tome is its extraordinary bleakness. None of the wounded characters is ever made completely whole again. If this kind of dark, maudlin story is your cup of tea, the work is a must-read. As for me, each time I picked up my Kindle, I had to take an anti-depressant. At one point I was so down that I considered electroshock therapy, but I couldn't fit my finger into the wall socket. So I kept a loaded gun at my side in case I decided to put a bullet through my brain.

Would I buy M.L. Stedman's next work? Probably. Once I get out of the mental hospital.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 3, 2013 10:10 PM PST

One Rough Man: A Pike Logan Thriller
One Rough Man: A Pike Logan Thriller
by Brad Taylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.41
126 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars much better than its premise, June 28, 2012
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First, take a fatuous premise -- the construction, by the Mayans centuries ago, of a highly lethal armament still capable of deployment today. Then add the ludicrous contemporary sub-plot of its discovery by hell-bent Islamic fundamentalists intent on using this arm as a weapon of mass destruction against Israel and Western powers, plunging the earth into a religious World War Three. Shake, mix well, and you have the elements of a preposterous yarn the reader will discard after the first ten ten pages, no?

Not so. Former Special Forces officer Brad Taylor uses his considerable talents to meld the elements into a fast-moving, compelling, military-style thriller that keeps the pages turning faster than the countless bullets that continuously fly through the air. In addition to non-stop action, Taylor gives us sympathetic protagonists whose depressing back-stories set them up for redemption. His military background gives considerable authenticity to the tale. Finally, the initially prickly relationship between the male and female main characters slowly morphs into a budding romance.

Taylor is a good, but not great, writer, with repeated and annoying punctuation gaffes. But his talent lies in the finely-tuned storytelling that ultimately turns the incredible into a highly believable, rapid-fire thriller in this genre. Can't wait to read the sequel.

Job well done, sir.

by J. A. Konrath
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.56
51 used & new from $4.96

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Like, I know this creature . . ., June 25, 2012
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This review is from: Origin (Paperback)
Something about this book was disturbingly familiar.

The tale involves the awakening, a century after its discovery, of a seemingly-comatose, government-caged, Satan-like demon. I instinctively knew what it looked and acted like without even reading the first page, because I've been married to its sister for thirty-seven years. As the story progresses, it turns out that the creature isn't a theological player at all, but something even weirder. Suffice it to say that it's a carnivore with an equal preference for humans or whole sheep. And it's, well, really hungry.

Once "Bub," as the thing is nicknamed, escapes its confines, it displays rather unrefined eating habits. Utensils? Never heard of 'em. It bites off huge food hunks, only masticating superficially before spitting out unchewed, fleshy morsels and then burping, reminiscent of my children's inelegant table manners.

While I give author Konrath credit for genre juggling, this schizophrenic story can't decide whether it's primarily thriller, horror, theology, comedy, or romance. In his afterword, Konrath says that in a re-write, he removed many comedic elements. I think this was a mistake, because much of the retained humor was hilarious. And I found the premise behind this book just a little too incredible for my taste. That said, the author is a good writer who establishes empathy with his human characters and keeps the pages turning, which is all I can ever ask from those penning commercial fiction.

Everything considered, well worth the $2.99 Kindle price.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 9, 2013 7:14 AM PST

Stars Fall
Stars Fall
by Stephen Terrell
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.99
21 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars home run for the new guy, May 9, 2012
This review is from: Stars Fall (Paperback)
In this compelling legal thriller, newcomer Stephen Terrell, a practicing attorney, uses his courtroom knowledge to add authenticity to the plot. We are barely into the book when recent law school graduate Matt Demaree, finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, becomes the fall guy in a bungled double murder based on fraud, greed, and Old Boy Southern corruption. The story rockets along at a lightning clip with Matt always just managing to stay one step ahead of his pursuers. The protagonists are sympathetic and the action non-stop.

Move over, John Grisham: there's a new gun in town, and his name is Stephen Terrell.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 11, 2012 5:47 AM PDT

One Blood: A Sergeant Kella and Sister Conchita Mystery (Sister Conchita and Sergeant Kella)
One Blood: A Sergeant Kella and Sister Conchita Mystery (Sister Conchita and Sergeant Kella)
by Graeme Kent
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.74
81 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars South Pacific meets Columbo, April 22, 2012
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For me, successful fiction is either character-driven or plot-driven. Truly great fiction writers (think John Irving) combine the best elements of both. In this first book I've read in the Sergeant Kella/Sister Conchita series, Author Graeme Kent skillfully concentrates on the character factor, sometimes at the expense of the story line. His protagonists are muscular, sympathetic, and sufficiently fleshed-out to create maximum likability. Solomon Islander Kella is a former rugby player not loathe to use his fists, while Sister Conchita is an outspoken young nun with an eye toward police procedural matters. The two work well together and there is a soupcon of romantic chemistry, but author Kent prefers not to tread in that direction.

The plot, delineated by other reviewers above, is rather thin. Though hardly compelling, there is enough of a story line to just barely hold the pages together. This lack of page-turning quality made me put the work down numerous times, but I kept returning for Kent's strength: how the characters played out. Kent is a superb writer with superior auctorial skills, and this prompted my 4-star rating. For readers who value good writing over mediocre plotting, this book is worth picking up.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 22, 2012 11:30 AM PDT

The Walk
The Walk
by Lee Goldberg
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.69
51 used & new from $0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars disaster with a twist, March 24, 2012
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This review is from: The Walk (Paperback)
In this clever work, Lee Goldberg creates an interesting twist to the typical post-apocalyptic novel. The story plays out in and around Los Angeles immediately after "The Big One ," an earthquake that destroys much of the city. But rather than dwelling on fictitious superheroes, the plot revolves around an all-too-ordinary dweeb named Martin Slack, a screenplay reviewer and failed writer trying to walk home through the ruins of L.A. The story is a bildungsroman in which the insecure, ego-inferior Martin, through his struggles, ultimately discovers who he really is and what he stands for, constantly challenged by a picaresque -- if imaginary -- tough-guy alter ego named Buck. (Psychologically, the book reveals a great deal about how Goldberg views himself.) Along the way, the author throws barbs at his contemporaries, pungently lampooning the human foibles of those in the entertainment industry. This short novel is part satire, part action drama, but always absorbing. A fast, entirely enjoyable read.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 4, 2012 10:48 PM PDT

Eyes of the Hammer
Eyes of the Hammer
by Bob Mayer
Edition: Paperback
59 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a credible military thriller, March 16, 2012
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This review is from: Eyes of the Hammer (Paperback)
How I negotiate Amazon's star trek:

5 stars -- one of the best books I've ever read.
4 stars -- a good/very good book of its kind.
3 stars -- not good, not bad: just meh. Lukewarm. A coin toss.
2 stars -- while the work may have some redeeming qualities in writing or plot, it's generally trash bin filler.
1 star -- before I request a refund, pass the emesis basin.

Mayer is a prodigious writer, having produced over 45 works. These days, most military thrillers touch upon Middle Eastern terrorism; but "Eyes Of The Hammer" was penned a decade before 9/11, thus narrowing the author's potential subject matter. He chose Special Forces vs. Columbian drug carters -- done by others, true, but Mayer imbues the topic with distinctive flair. His characters are well-drawn and sympathetic, albeit endowed with a dollop of superhero. There's even a tasteful element of budding romance. My only quibble is that the first third of the book, like many girls I dated in my callow youth, all talk and no action. But the author quickly remedies this and soon keeps the elbows and projectiles flying. Everything considered, for military thriller devotees, a worthy read.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 14, 2012 8:04 PM PDT

Fifty Shades of Grey
Fifty Shades of Grey
by E. L. James
Edition: Paperback
84 used & new from $0.01

10,928 of 11,725 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An older man on truckling, March 7, 2012
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This review is from: Fifty Shades of Grey (Paperback)
First, a disclaimer. I am a male senior citizen, a semi-retired gynecologist whose customary literary fare is spy novels and military techno-thrillers. I have never read a romance before, except perhaps for junior high's "A Tale of Two Cities" (or was that a classic?) But after the recent hullabaloo over James' "Fifty Shades," I opted to give the genre a glance.

The book's protagonist is college student Anastasia, who has never had sex or even "touched herself." I had to suspend disbelief at the social and sexual naivete of this twenty-one year-old, but I guess this implied vulnerability makes her more attractive as a romantic heroine. Yet it doesn't take her long to rectify this situation, and soon she is having orgasm after orgasm at the behest of her "dominant" partner, Mr. Grey. At my age, my arthritis flared up just reading about Ana's sexual gymnastics. And for some reason, I kept thinking about her contracting genital warts. Soon, however, Ana's endless pyrotechnic climaxes resembled repetitively watching porn: after a while, it leaves me bored and yawning. That said, there was a definite infectiousness to the plot; and taking Viagra to stiffen my resolve, I persevered.

James' strong suit is her ability to elicit sympathy in the protagonist. I wanted to find out what happened to Anastasia, and that lent the story a compelling, page-turning quality. James is a polished novelist. Her dialogue is crisp, her prose poised, and her paragraphs well-parsed. The author's considerable skills notwithstanding, would I pick up an erotic romance like this again? Probably not.

But that's just me.
Comment Comments (759) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 6, 2015 11:35 AM PDT

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