Michael Cavacini

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Archive for the tag “Harlan Coben”

I Read 54 Books In 2013

GoodReads - Books Read in 2013It’s hard to believe but I read 54 books in 2013. Since I love books in all forms, this includes audiobooks, print books and e-books. You can check out the full list of what I read here. Below are a few of my favorite books, categorized by genre, that I read this year.

Thrillers

Young Adult

  • The Maze Runner – James Dashner
  • The Death Cure – James Dashner
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – J.K. Rowling

Autobiographies

Southern Literature 

Short Stories

  • High Heat – Lee Child
  • Guns – Stephen King

10 Books That Touched Me

open-book-on-top-of-pile-of-booksMy friend Dawnna tagged me in a Facebook post where she listed 10 books that stayed with her for one reason or another. The goal is simply writing down 10 books that touched you without listing them in any particular order or over analyzing what should or shouldn’t be included. Then, you have to tag five friends and ask them to do the same. Since I thought this was a cool idea, I’m turning my list into a blog post. Please feel free to list your “10 Books That Touched You” in the comments section below.

  1. The Mark – Jason Pinter
  2. It – Stephen King
  3. The Pillars of the Earth – Ken Follett
  4. The Innocent – Harlan Coben
  5. Six Years – Harlan Coben
  6. The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous and Broke – Suze Orman
  7. Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and Life – Donald Trump
  8. No Way Back – Andrew Gross
  9. Sex Money KISS – Gene Simmons
  10. Napalm & Silly Putty – George Carlin

Review: I, Michael Bennett by James Patterson

I, Michael BennettLike James Patterson’s books, I’m going to keep this short. I, Michael Bennett isn’t worth your time or money. It’s a shallow, soulless story that fails to captivate on any level. I didn’t care about the plight of the protagonist and the antagonist was a two-dimensional stereotype. The best parts of the book were the family scenes but those alone don’t make for a good thriller. Also worth noting is the cliff-hanger ending that requires you to buy the next novel to find out what happens. Last chapters are supposed to tie up loose ends and satisfy the reader – this failed on both counts. Skip this one and spend your money on an author who still writes his own books, like Harlan Coben.

 

ThrillerFest VIII – Day 3

Meeting Taylor Stevens.

Meeting Taylor Stevens.

The third day of ThrillerFest was filled with great panels, as well as an entertaining Anne Rice interview that was conducted by her son, Christopher Rice. Check out the highlights, photos and videos below.

Fist, Kinfe or Gun?

Fist, Knife or Gun?

Fist, Knife or Gun?

  • “It’s important to add vulnerability to your killer because no hero is all good and no villain is all bad.” – Wendi Corsi Staubb
  • “Guns are usually the easiest way to assure someone is dead.” – Alex Berenson
  • “My character isn’t setting out to kill people. So, for her, it’s about what’s available and what will work.” – Taylor Stevens
  • “You take a lot of darkness into you when you write about people hurting other people. It’s really hard.” – Allison Brennan
  • “You have to kill differently in different countries because of the cultures and the way people operate.” – D.L. Wilson
Keeping a Series Character Fresh.

Keeping a Series Character Fresh.

Keeping a Series Character Fresh

  • “My Davenport character has been around for more than 20 years. The way I handle it is he ages slower than everyone else.” – John Sanford
  • “I loved my Charlie Hood series. But I didn’t want to be beholden to it. So, I decided to end it with my most recent book. I love the blank page, and I had to close one door to open another.” – T. Jefferson Parker
  • “Paul Christopher appeared out of nowhere, and I never expected to see him again.” – Charles McCarry
  • “In 10 books I’ve aged my character only one year because policemen retire at a certain age. But culturally I’ve moved the books along with each iteration.” – Peter James
  • “I wanted to keep my character in an age frame that was believable as a prosecutor, so I aged her very slowly. And I think readers go along with that.” – Linda Fairstein
  • “If Jessica Fletcher aged accurately, she’d be 175 years old. But I haven’t aged her a day.” – Donald Bain
Plotter or Pantser?

Plotter or Pantser?

Plotter or Pantser?

  • “I’m bi – sometimes I outline, sometimes I don’t.” – Michael Stanley
  • “The biggest thing that sets thrillers apart is getting the tone right.” – David Rich
  • “Harlan Coben is an organic writer. He once told me that he writes a story from start to finish and then revises it about 40 times.” – Diane Capri
  • “Outlining is meant to help where you’re going, not mandate how you get there.” – Michael Robertson
  • “43% of people put down thrillers because they run out of gas.” – Rick Anderson
  • “I was a trial lawyer for many years and lived by the outline. Now I’m a loud and proud pantser.” – Joel Goldman
Anne Rice and her son, Christopher Rice.

Anne Rice and her son, Christopher Rice.

 

 

 

Book Review – Unintended Consequences by Stuart Woods

Unintended Consequences JacketStuart Woods is one of my favorite authors for a variety of reasons. He comes up with terrific characters names. For example, Felicity Devonshire, Arrington Calder, and, of course, the best belongs to the star of his ever-popular book series: Stone Barrington. Woods is also a gifted writer; his sentence structure is varied and infused with inspired word usage, and Woods’ ability to vividly describe a romantic scene is unrivaled.

Like many writers who’ve achieved great success, Woods has been accused of becoming lazy, churning out book after book, focusing on quantity instead of quality. While I’ve noticed a distinct dip in his ability to create a novel that keeps me guessing from start to finish, I still find myself enamored by his characters and impressed with the fluidity of his prose. Yes, he may not be writing at the level of Harlan Coben anymore, but spending time with Stone Barrington, Dino Bacchetti and Holly Barker feels like coming home and catching up with old friends. Which brings us to my thoughts on Woods’ latest novel, Unintended Consequences.

Unintended Consequences kept me entertained from cover to cover. Speaking of which, this book’s cover is beautiful – easily the best I’ve seen this year. A good portion of the novel is set in one of my favorite cities, Paris, where Stone Barrington finds himself ensnared by mysterious circumstances. Unlike Dan Brown’s Inferno, where the lead character also had amnesia, Woods deftly handled Barrington’s challenging situation without leaving the reader feeling betrayed. Unintended Consequences moved along at an incredibly brisk pace without resorting to the pedestrian vernacular that is commonly found in similar books. As a writer, I appreciated this, as well as the palpable new characters – my favorite being the sophisticated Marcel duBois.

I blew through Unintended Consequences in less than a week because it was an easy, captivating read. While it wasn’t a convoluted mystery, it didn’t need to be. It told an easy-to-follow story from start to finish and whet my appetite for the next Stone Barrington adventure. Not only did I get to spend time with some of my favorite characters in fiction, I learned a few new words along the way. What more could I ask for? It didn’t blow me away, but after reading the last page, I felt satisfied. And, for me, that’s what’s most important – feeling that my time was well spent. If you like thrillers, give this one a shot. It may not be Stuart Woods’ greatest novel, but it’s a worthy addition to a formidable series.

Stuart Woods Photo Credit Harry BensonSynopsis 

Stone Barrington is no stranger to schemes and deceptions of all stripes—as an attorney for the premier white-shoe law firm Woodman & Weld, he’s seen more than his share. But when he travels to Europe under highly unusual circumstances, Stone finds himself at the center of a mystery that is, even by his standards, most peculiar. Two unexpected invitations may be the first clues in an intricate puzzle Stone must unravel to learn the truth . . . a puzzle that will lead him deep into the rarefied world of European ultrawealth and privilege, where billionaires rub elbows with spooks, insider knowledge is traded at a high premium, and murder is never too high a price to pay for a desired end. It soon becomes clear that beneath the bright lights of Europe lurks a shadowy underworld . . . and its only rule is deadly ambition.

Tears For A Good Father – Harlan Coben

Below is a great article by my favorite author, Harlan Coben, that appeared in Parade in 2010. Happy Father’s Day!

Harlan Coben at 7, with his father, Carl Gerald Coben, 40, in 1969.

Harlan Coben at 7, with his father, Carl Gerald Coben, 40, in 1969.

This may seem like a sad story, but it’s not.

“I found this upstairs.” My 16-year-old daughter Charlotte, the oldest of my four kids, enters the kitchen and hands me the 40-year-old photograph. “Is that you?”

“Yep,” I say. “I had hair once.”

It is a picture of my father and me standing on the front lawn at our house in Livingston, N.J. I look at my father in this photograph. My mom used to say that he was a dead ringer for Victor Mature, Dean Martin (“If only your father would get his teeth fixed”), and, mostly, Jerry Orbach. He was a big man, and in this photograph, with his smile wide, he looks strong and confident. I don’t remember the picture being taken. I wish I did, because I look pretty darned happy snuggled against him.

Then, without warning—still holding the old photograph, Charlotte by my shoulder—I burst into tears. I don’t mean well up or sniffle or feel tears running down my face or even cry. I mean head-down, body-wracking sobs. My daughter backs away for a moment, probably scared. I don’t think she has seen me cry before. Come to think of it, I don’t think I ever saw my father cry either.

I flash to the little things about him. The polyester double-knit shorts that were always too snug, like he was competing at Wimbledon in 1978. The too-big sunglasses that looked like he might have stolen them from Sophia Loren. I remember when he tried a fanny pack (that was a big no), the smell of his Old Spice, the way he steered the car with his wrists and whistled off-key, the AM news station playing in the steamed bathroom when he shaved, the white tube socks pulled up too high, the CB radio he loved for maybe four months. I remember how bad he was with tools and how that still didn’t stop him from taking on home projects best left to professionals or how every Sunday he would walk to Livingston Bagel or take me to Seymour’s Luncheonette for a milkshake and a pack of baseball cards. And I remember the way his cheek felt when I kissed him hello or goodbye, as I always did, no matter who was around, because that’s what we did.

I look at the 40-year-old photograph and see him so young, but of course he would never have a chance to grow old. I remember buying him an oversize Father’s Day card in 1988. For some odd reason, I bought it early. It was sitting near me when my mother called to tell me that my father had just called from his hotel room in Florida. He was there on business, and he felt chest pains. When I get him on the line, he puts on a brave front and tells me not to worry, he is fine.

That would be the last time I ever talked to him.

So what lessons did I learn when he died of a heart attack at 59? Unfortunately, the great insights are often the great clichés: Life goes by fast, don’t waste a moment, tell the ones you love how you feel, show affection every chance you get—because I would give anything to kiss that cheek just one more time.

I am still gripping the photograph and sobbing. I should make myself stop, but this feels, if not good, right. It’s been too long. My daughter, not sure what to do, tentatively approaches. She puts her arms around my shoulders and tries to quiet me.

“I know you miss him,” she says to me.

And I do. Still. Every day.

Wait. Didn’t I say this wasn’t a sad story?

So here’s the uplifting part: It’s okay to feel this pain. In fact, when you’ve been as lucky as I was in the father department, it would be an outrage not to cry. You can’t have an up without a down, a right without a left, a back without a front—or a happy without a sad. This is the price you pay for having a great father. You get the wonder, the joy, the tender moments—and you get the tears at the end, too.

My father, Carl Gerald Coben, is worth the tears. I hope that one day, to my children, I’ll be worth them, too. And if your father is worth them, let him know.

As the old proverb says, “When a father gives to his son, they both laugh. When a son gives to his father, they both cry.”

Happy Father’s Day, everyone.

 

The original version of this story can be found here.

Book Review – Gone Girl

Gone GirlI’ve been wanting to read Gone Girl for quite sometime. It was one of the best-selling books of 2012 and several people I know read it and loved it. Being a fan of thrillers, I expected this novel to be fantastic. Boy, was I disappointed. It took 140 pages for anything vaguely unpredictable or interesting to happen in Gone GirlAnd the first 140 pages made me happy the girl was gone. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a ton of free time. I’m used to excellent thrillers by authors like Harlan Coben that grab me from the first page and never let go. I’m also used to reading about characters I can relate to and therefore care about. This book failed miserably on both counts. While the last third of it was mildly compelling, it didn’t make up for the first two thirds being mediocre. And as many people have pointed out, the ending was unsatisfactory and lacked closure. While I’m glad I finished Gone Girl, I don’t plan on reading anymore novels by this author. This book, just like the girl, are better off gone.

Synopsis

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick Dunne’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick Dunne isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but hearing from Amy through flashbacks in her diary reveal the perky perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister Margo at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was left in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

 

Author Interview: Andrew Gross

Andrew GrossI recently interviewed Andrew Gross, the author of the captivating new thriller No Way Back. I hope you enjoy the following Q&A, and make sure to check out my book review too.

Harlan Coben once said that every now and then he spends time with Lee Child, Nelson DeMille and Mary Higgins Clark. Do you have similar get-togethers with any of your fellow writers, and if so, what do you talk about?

Well, I have a few authors I knock around with every once in a while: Michael Palmer, Lorenzo Carcaterra, Dottie Benton Frank – not a mystery/thriller writer but a bestseller. Mostly we just grumble how the business has changed. I gotta tell you, if there’s one  thing I hate to talk about out of the office it’s books! I’d rather talk about politics and hockey. I actually know more investment bankers than authors. But I can’t talk politics with any of them.

Do you still keep in touch with James Patterson and do you plan on working with him again in the future?

I can’t say we’re on the same circuit these days. I actually run into him every once in a while in Florida. We both have homes in Palm Beach, his is just slightly grander than mine – by a factor of ten! He goes to the movies a lot and we might bump into each other and have a bite after.

No, not sure it will work out on the collaborative front. Though I’d probably find it fun to do so once more. I mean, if the Eagles could get back together… But it’s usually not a good career sign if you have to go back to co-writing…

Your new book, No Way Back, is focused on the lives of two women in dire straits and how their lives intersect. What was your inspiration for this story?

I had three inspirations when it came to No Way Back. And for most books, for me, it’s more like a triangulation than an epiphany. First, the idea of a woman who gets into a situation way over her head by foolishly sleeping with someone who turns out to be a different guy than she anticipated, and then she gets caught in his hotel room where a murder takes place, and she’s the only witness. I loved the dilemma: Does she turn herself in, but then have to explain where she was to her husband and kids and maybe have her life fall apart. Of course, in No Way Back the choice is made for Wendy and she’s on the hook for two murders. The other two were things I read–one an editorial about a criminal who turned state’s evidence but the guy he was informing on one-by-one killed his children in retribution, and the U.S. government refused to take them into protective custody. Totally heartbreaking. The last was a very compelling article on the border drug wars between El Paso, Texas and Juarez. Each of these stories led to one of my main characters.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

The hardest part is coming up with great initial ideas. It’s all in the set-up for me – drawing a sympathetic, everyday character into a disastrous situation they cannot get out of. Those things are hard for me; executing is easy. I come up with hopefully one per year–that’s all I need. Patterson might come up with one a month!

Are you already working on your next book, and will it feature Ty Hauck?

Well, sure, I’m midway through my next book and still behind. It’s a similarly structured book to No Way Back: A mom with a handicapped kid who’s just lost her job accidentally comes on a cache of money. And like a lot of my books–one bad or foolish act begets a ton of unforeseeable consequences. Sadly, Ty is on a beach somewhere working on his tan. Or on Naomi. My publisher likes these standalones for the moment, so Ty has had to wait. At least one more book.

Book Review – Lucid Intervals by Stuart Woods

Lucid IntervalsStuart Woods is one of my favorite fiction writers. I’ve read many of his Stone Barrington and Holly Barker books, as well as a handful of his standalone novels. Most recently I read Lucid Intervals, a Stone Barrington novel, and it was very good. Unlike other thriller writers, Woods’ books don’t move at a break-neck pace. The chapters are longer and the convolution is kept to a minimum. This book highlights an area in which Woods excels: character development. His ability to craft memorable characters throughout this series of books is marvelous. Whether it’s Stone’s many – and I mean many – sexual encounters or Herbie Fisher’s moronically endearing personality, I found myself looking forward to all the encounters between the key and tertiary characters in the novel. The plot was fascinating and the conclusion was satisfying. While it didn’t feature all the twists and turns of Harlan Coben novel, that’s not the way Stuart Woods writes. If you’re a fan of the series or looking to try a different author in the mystery and thriller genre, you can’t go wrong with Lucid Intervals. It’s a compelling story that is well worth your time.

Official Synopsis 

It seems like just another quiet night at Elaine’s. Stone Barrington and his former cop partner Dino are enjoying their drinks when in walks former client and all-around sad sack Herbie Fisher… with a briefcase full of cash and in need of a lawyer.

But while he’s trying to fend off Herbie, Stone is propositioned by another potential client, this one a bit more welcome. A beautiful MI6 agent, Felicity Devonshire has a missing persons case she needs solved—and she knows from experience how very useful Stone can be.

Stone’s investigation takes him into the posh world of embassy soirees and titled privilege, where high society meets government intrigue. And when trouble follows him from his luxurious Manhattan brownstone to his tranquil summer home in Maine, Stone has to decide what to do with the explosive information he’s uncovered.

Book Review: Six Years by Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben - Six YearsI recently finished reading Harlan Coben’s new novel, Six Years. I had high expectations because of its excellent early reviews, as well as what I learned during Coben’s recent book signing. I’ve read almost all of the author’s novels, and Six Years is easily one of his best.

As you’ll read in the official synopsis below, this book is focused on the relationship between Jake Fisher and his true love, Natalie. For my money, no author has the ability to create vivid characters and palpable relationships the way Coben does. This story was told in the first person and done so effectively. As I was going through it, I felt just as confused as Jake, wondering what was true and what was false. I also felt his love for Natalie and his anguish over losing her, not to mention the roller-coaster-ride of emotions Jake experienced throughout the rest of the story.

The first Harlan Coben book I read was The Innocent, and it’s my favorite, quickly followed by Tell No One. Six Years is one of Coben’s best novels. It grabbed me from the first page and never let go. Filled with compelling characters and mysterious circumstances, this twisting tale of suspense is a must read.

Synopsis 

Six years have passed since Jake Fisher watched Natalie, the love of his life, marry another man. Six years of hiding a broken heart by throwing himself into his career as a college professor. Six years of keeping his promise to leave Natalie alone, and six years of tortured dreams of her life with her new husband, Todd.

But six years haven’t come close to extinguishing his feelings, and when Jake comes across Todd’s obituary, he can’t keep himself away from the funeral. There he gets the glimpse of Todd’s wife he’s hoping for . . . but she is not Natalie. Whoever the mourning widow is, she’s been married to Todd for more than a decade, and with that fact everything Jake thought he knew about the best time of his life—a time he has never gotten over—is turned completely inside out.

As Jake searches for the truth, his picture-perfect memories of Natalie begin to unravel. Mutual friends of the couple either can’t be found or don’t remember Jake. No one has seen Natalie in years. Jake’s search for the woman who broke his heart—and who lied to him—soon puts his very life at risk as it dawns on him that the man he has become may be based on carefully constructed fiction.

Harlan Coben once again delivers a shocking page-turner that deftly explores the power of past love and the secrets and lies that such love can hide.

Free Preview 

You can read the first chapter of Six Years for free here, and below is an excerpt from the audiobook.

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