Michael Cavacini

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Archive for the tag “Novel”

Book Review – Laguna Heat by T. Jefferson Parker

Laguna Heat

I just finished reading a book that came out the year I was born: 1985. Entitled Laguna Heat, it’s the debut novel by T. Jefferson Parker. I met the author last July at ThrillerFest and immediately liked him after seeing his hour-long interview with D.P. Lyle. This interview provided me with insight into Parker’s writing style, motivations and interesting behind-the-scenes information about his impressive body of work. I picked up a copy of Iron River while I was there so he could autograph it, but I decided that the first book of his I would read was Laguna Heat, mainly because I think the title sounds great.

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Book Review: Everything To Lose by Andrew Gross

Andrew Gross - Everything to Lose

Late last night I finished Everything to Lose by Andrew Gross. Prior to this, I had read most of the novels Gross co-wrote with James Patterson, my two favorite being Lifeguard and Judge & Jury, as well as three books he wrote on his own. Having completed Everything to Lose, I can say with confidence that it ranks right up there with his work with James Patterson and that it’s superior to his 2013 thriller, No Way Back, which I also enjoyed. The premise of the novel, a woman finding a bag full of money on the side of the road and having to deal with the internal ethical turmoil that ensues, resonated with me. As I read it, I thought to myself, what would I do if I were in her shoes? This is a clear sign of effective writing and Gross had me hooked from the start. While there weren’t any mind-blowing surprises along the way, I found the story compelling from start to finish.

However, like any book, it’s not perfect. I don’t care for stories where the point of view changes so much that it makes me stop reading so I can reorient myself, and the same goes for jumping back and forth through time; I think it’s OK to start off in the past and then let the rest of the story happen in present day. But to jump back and then jump forward is distracting to me. These minor quibbles aside, Everything to Lose is a riveting tale that kept me up way past my bed time, and I highly recommend you pick it up.

Synopsis 

A determined, (down on her luck,) mother caring for her handicapped son becomes entangled in a murderous conspiracy to keep a twenty year old secret buried in this blistering thriller, set during the tragic aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, from Andrew Gross, the New York Times bestselling author of 15 Seconds and No Way Back.

While driving along a suburban back road, Hilary Blum, who’s just lost her job and whose deadbeat husband has left her alone to care for her son with Asperger’s, witnesses a freakish accident. A car ahead of her careens down a hill and slams into a tree. Stopping to help, she discovers the driver dead—and a satchel stuffed with a half a million dollars.

That money could prevent her family’s ruin and keep her special needs son in school. In an instant, this honest, achieving woman who has always done the responsible thing makes a decision that puts her in the center of maelstrom of dark consequences and life-threatening recriminations—a terrifying scheme involving a twenty-year-old murder, an old woman who’s life has been washed out to sea, and a powerful figure bent to keep the secret that can destroy him hidden.

With everything to lose, everything she loves, Hilary connects to a determined cop from Staten Island, reeling from the disaster of Sandy, to bring down an enemy who will stop at nothing to keep what that money was meant to silence, still buried.

Book Review – Missing You by Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben - Missing YouI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Harlan Coben is my favorite author. His novels are replete with well-developed characters, believable dialogue, great humor, and they have more twists and turns than a steep mountain road. Coben’s last thriller, Six Years, was my favorite of 2013 and I just finished his new book, due out this Tuesday, Missing You. So, how does it measure up to last year’s offering? Read on, my curious friend.

My favorite part of Missing You is the inspiration for it’s title – the #1 1984 hit song “Missing You” by John Waite. Being a fan of all things ’80s, this brought a smile to my face and made me want to listen to John Waite, which, by the way, I’m doing right now as I write this review.

But let’s get back to the book. While it’s not quite as spectacular as Six YearsMissing You is a solid thriller that delivers the goods. The story’s protagonist, Kat Donovan, finds her ex-fiance on an online dating site and, as expected, things aren’t what they seem. This is an interesting premise and it pulled me in right from the start. In typical Coben fashion, there are multiple plots that eventually overlap, and he handles them deftly.

But where he really shines is the romantic scenes. For my money, Coben is the best author when it comes to writing a scene that conveys characters’ spoken – and unspoken – feelings toward one another. His books always move me at some point, and Missing You did so on numerous occasions.

The novel features a nice balance of dialogue and action, and the scenes where “business picks up” are edge-of-your-seat fun. If you’re a fan of thrillers or love Coben’s previous work, I think you’ll enjoy Missing You. It’s head and shoulders above the competition and the most fun you’ll have outside of listening to a John Waite song. I highly recommend it.

Below is the official synopsis, as well as the “Missing You” music video by John Waite that inspired the title of this book:

Synopsis 

It’s a profile, like all the others on the online dating site. But as NYPD Detective Kat Donovan focuses on the accompanying picture, she feels her whole world explode, as emotions she’s ignored for decades come crashing down on her. Staring back at her is her ex-fiancé Jeff, the man who shattered her heart—and who she hasn’t seen in 18 years.

Kat feels a spark, wondering if this might be the moment when past tragedies recede and a new world opens up to her. But when she reaches out to the man in the profile, her reawakened hope quickly darkens into suspicion and then terror as an unspeakable conspiracy comes to light, in which monsters prey upon the most vulnerable.

As the body count mounts and Kat’s hope for a second chance with Jeff grows more and more elusive, she is consumed by an investigation that challenges her feelings about everyone she ever loved—her former fiancé, her mother, and even her father, whose cruel murder so long ago has never been fully explained. With lives on the line, including her own, Kat must venture deeper into the darkness than she ever has before, and discover if she has the strength to survive what she finds there.

Book Review: Standup Guy by Stuart Woods

Standup Guy jacketI just returned from Mexico and during my trip I finished reading Stuart Woods’ latest Stone Barrington novel, Standup Guy. As expected, it’s a terrific read that goes down as smoothly as a glass of Knob Creek. In addition to having a wonderfully unpredictable plot, the book references and builds on previous storylines and there’s an interesting political element as well. The Stone Barrington series has been around for 23 years and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down. For those looking to read a high-quality mystery filled with action and intrigue, look no further: Standup Guy delivers.

Synopsis

Stone Barrington’s newest client does not seem the type to bring mayhem in his wake. A polite, well-deported gentleman, he comes to Stone seeking legal expertise on an unusual—and potentially lucrative—dilemma. Stone points him in the right direction and sends him on his way, but it’s soon clear Stone hasn’t seen the end of the case. Several people are keenly interested in this gentleman’s activities and how they may relate to a long-ago crime . . . and some of them will stop at nothing to find the information they desire.

On a hunt that leads from Florida’s tropical beaches to the posh vacation homes of the Northeast, Stone finds himself walking a tightrope between ambitious authorities and seedy lowlifes who all have the same prize in their sights. In this cutthroat contest of wills, it’s winner-takes-all . . . and Stone will need every bit of his cunning and resourcefulness to be the last man standing.

Book Review – Singularity by Steven James

Singularity by Steven JamesI recently finished Steven James’ latest novel, Singularity, the sequel to a book I enjoyed quite a bit, Placebo. So, how does this measure up to the last one in the Jevin Banks series? I’d say it’s just as good, if not a little better, than Placebo.

Having already become acquainted with these characters, I was happy to see them grow and mature in Singularity. As a matter of fact, I’d say character interaction and development is what James does best. While the sometimes-too-long scientific descriptions took me out of the story, the terrific dialogue, humor and dash of romance made up for it. Similar to Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar and his sidekick Win, James has an equally compelling dynamic duo with Jevin and Xavier. And the supporting cast is wonderfully nuanced and intriguing, especially Fiona and her brilliant children.

Other than the copious amount of scientific information, the only other detractor for me from the story was the amount of sub-plots. Several times in every chapter there are breaks and the reader is transported to a different storyline. I understand that this was done because the storylines eventually overlap, but if you don’t plan on finishing the book in a sitting or two, or if you stop in mid-chapter, it might take you several pages to remember what happened last and what’s happening at that given moment. To me, I really only cared about the main cast of characters, not the tertiary ones, so I think keeping only one subplot would have made for a cleaner read.

Regardless of my stylistic quibbles, Singularity is a solid novel that tells a compelling story featuring charming characters whom I’ve grown to like even more than I did after reading Placebo. If you’re not sure what to read next, give this book a shot. It’ll keep you engaged from start to finish and whet your appetite for the next installment in this promising series.

Below is the book’s synopsis, and make sure to check out my interview with Steven James too.

Synopsis

When his friend is murdered, illusionist Jevin Banks is determined to find out what really happened. Drawn into a web of conspiracy and top-secret research on human consciousness, Jevin won’t stop digging until the truth is revealed. Soon he uncovers a dark secret–one that could change the very fabric of human life on the planet.

Tom Cruise Returns As Jack Reacher

20120722-205502.jpgI woke up to great news this morning – the 2012 film, Jack Reacher, which was based on Lee Child’s bestselling novel, One Shot, and starred Tom Cruise in the title role, is getting a sequel. It was just announced that Child’s newest international bestseller, Never Go Back, will be adapted for the film and Tom Cruise is returning as Jack Reacher. As of right now, Cruise and company are trying to get the original film’s Director, Christopher McQuarrie, back at the helm for the sequel, but he has yet to confirm whether or not he’ll be part of the project.

To me, this is excellent news. I know many obstinate fans of the novels will continue to lambaste Cruise for being Jack Reacher because he physically doesn’t “measure up.” But people need to get over this fact because Tom Cruise was excellent in the first film and, whether they like it or not, a sequel is being made. If it’s anything like its predecessor, we’re in for a real treat.

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.

 

Book Review: Doing Hard Time by Stuart Woods

Doing Hard Time - Stuart WoodsI just finished Stuart Woods’ latest Stone Barrington novel, Doing Hard Time, and I have to say it was a great read. Similar to previous books in the series, it moved at a brisk pace, featured edge-of-your-seat action and had compelling characters. Speaking of which, my favorite character in the book was Teddy Fay, a mysterious and formidable figure who has made guest appearances in previous Barrington novels, as well as other series penned by Woods. While Stone takes a back seat this time out, his supporting role made for a refreshing change of pace. Also worth noting is the wonderfully descriptive romantic scenes Woods has become known for are nowhere to be found. While some may prefer the abridged intimate encounters present in this book, I sincerely hope the full-length descriptions return the next time around. Doing Hard Time is a fun, fast-paced novel that Stone Barrington and thriller fans will enjoy. If you’re looking for a good read, I highly recommend you check it out. You can buy it herehttp://tinyurl.com/k2ta223.

Synopsis

When Stone Barrington embarks on a trip to Bel-Air to check in on some business and personal concerns, he expects a relaxing break from the fast pace and mean streets of New York. But trouble never takes a vacation, and it has a way of finding Stone. A case that had seemingly been resolved has returned in full force—with lethal results. And this deadly situation makes for strange bedfellows when Stone finds himself teamed with the least likely ally . . . a gentleman of unique abilities, who can fly below the radar and above the law.

From the high-stakes poker tables of Las Vegas to California’s lush beachside resorts, the trail of disguise, subterfuge, and murder leads to a shocking conclusion.

Book Review: One Shot by Lee Child

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One Shot by Lee Child is the ninth Jack Reacher novel and the inspiration for the 2012 film, Jack Reacher, starring Tom Cruise. Like the movie, One Shot focuses on a violent crime and whether or not the man being accused of it is actually the perpetrator. As with the previous books in the series, Child does a fantastic job with developing the protagonist and having him intelligently overcome the odds. And, as always, I opted for the audiobook version of the book because of Dick Hill’s spectacular narration – he is the voice of Reacher. If you’re a fan of the series or a newcomer, this is a great thriller and, quite possibly, the best Jack Reacher novel up to this point. I highly recommend it.

Synopsis

Six shots. Five dead. One heartland city thrown into a state of terror. But within hours the cops have it solved: a slam-dunk case. Except for one thing. The accused man says: You got the wrong guy. Then he says: Get Reacher for me.

And sure enough, ex–military investigator Jack Reacher is coming. He knows this shooter—a trained military sniper who never should have missed a shot. Reacher is certain something is not right—and soon the slam-dunk case explodes.

Now Reacher is teamed with a beautiful young defense lawyer, moving closer to the unseen enemy who is pulling the strings. Reacher knows that no two opponents are created equal. This one has come to the heartland from his own kind of hell. And Reacher knows that the only way to take him down is to match his ruthlessness and cunning—and then beat him shot for shot.

Book Review – The Blue Zone by Andrew Gross

The Blue ZoneToday, I finished listening to the audiobook version of Andrew Gross’ first solo novel, The Blue Zone. I’m a big fan of the books he co-wrote with James Patterson, especially Lifeguard and Judge and Jury, and I really enjoyed Gross’ latest book, No Way Back. Now I’m working my way through his solo work and decided to start with his bestselling debut thriller, The Blue Zone. I’m happy to report that it’s a gripping tale that surprised me with its biggest twist and kept me on the edge of my seat, wondering how the story would play out.

My only gripe is that in the first few chapters Benjamin Raab is referred to as “Mr. Raab” for what seemed like 100 times. Every time someone addressed this character, especially law enforcement, Gross felt the need to end each sentence of dialogue with the character saying “Mr. Raab.” For example, here are some sentences I made up to illustrate how “Mr. Raab” was used to death in the opening chapters’ dialogue:

“Where were you last night, Mr. Raab?”

“Oh, how interesting, Mr. Raab”

“Why don’t you just tell us the truth, Mr. Raab?”

“How many times do you think I can say ‘Mr. Raab,’ Mr. Raab?”

It drove me out of mind because it was obscenely redundant. When there are two people talking in a scene, it’s OK to mention each character’s name once, but that’s it. Anything more makes for an irritating read. Why not have the characters refer to him as “Ben” once in a while, or, better yet, not address him at all? What made it worse was the audiobook narrator, who was atrocious. Her shrill voice saying “Mr. Raab” made me want to throw my iPhone out the window. Needless to say, don’t listen to the audiobook version of The Blue Zone – go for the print or e-book version instead.

Now that I got that out of my system, let’s get to the good stuff. After getting past the redundant and sometimes superficial dialogue in the beginning of the book, Gross did a terrific job of developing the lead character, Kate. I liked the periodic breaks in the action where she went swimming and reflected on the chaos around her; these scenes, as well as the ones at her job and with her boyfriend, gave the character emotional depth and maturity.

The big twist that took place toward the end of the book was satisfying because I didn’t see it coming and it was believable. It also tested the characters’ limits and, in some cases, revealed true motives. I don’t want to go into further detail because it would spoil it for you.

Take my advice: Despite its initial flaws, The Blue Zone is a taut thriller by a talented author that’s worth the price of admission.

One of the nice features of the audiobook is it included an interview with the author at the end. Below are some highlights from the interview, as well as a synopsis of the book and a couple videos.

Andrew Gross on The Blue Zone

  • “At some point, I was waiting for another project from Jim [Patterson]. All of the books originated with his outline. And while I was waiting for maybe a week or two longer than I was comfortable with, I starting noodling an idea out that became the foundation of The Blue Zone. And it was also a very fast process where I worked a fairly extensive outline to it, submitted it to my agent and within, literally, four or five days we had a series of publishers looking at it and bidding on it. So, it was very difficult to turn that down.”
  • “It actually had its origins with a dinner party I went to up in West Chester where I met someone who, like the main character, Benjamin Raab, was a jewelry dealer, he was a gold dealer, and absolutely one of the more obnoxious people I ever met. Highly successful. Houses everywhere. His and her Ferraris. Ya know, over the top. And, I guess, about a month later I found out that it had all been a sham and that he was arrested for money laundering, which, at the time, I wasn’t particularly uncomfortable with hearing. But what it struck in me was the chord of how fragile our lives are and how easily not only is it brought down for an individual but for an entire family as well. So, it wasn’t a stretch after that to sort of think of what it would be like if that situation happened in our lives, and, so, that’s basically how The Blue Zone started.”
  • “The Witness Protection Program is interesting, but what I found more interesting was the terror of someone who is left behind, in this case, Kate, our protagonist. And, two, I guess the sense of betrayal one feels when you discover that your family, or your father in particular, isn’t the man you’ve always idolized and trusted your whole life, and I think that that is a terror that almost everyone can identify with. And when you have that stripped away, you strip away your entire emotional protection as well, and this is how Kate has to approach things in the book.”

Synopsis

Everything in Kate Raab’s life seems perfect. She has an amazing family, an invigorating job straight out of college, and a boyfriend she adores. Then a phone call changes everything. Her father, a successful businessman, a man she has always trusted and admired, is in trouble with the law. He’s innocent, he insists to his family, but the only way out, is this: his testimony against his accomplices and the immediate placement of his family deep inside the Witness Protection Program. He accepts, and everyone prepares to go into hiding—until one of them suddenly gets cold feet. In a flash, Kate’s perfect life is gone.

Now, a year later, her worst fears have happened. Kate’s father suddenly disappears—into what the WITSEC agency calls the Blue Zone—and someone very important to him is found brutally murdered. As Kate digs into her father’s life, the shocking truth she finds sets in motion a decades-old vendetta. With her family under watch, with the FBI untrustworthy, and her father’s menacing “friends” circling her with increasing intensity, Kate alone must set off on the life and death journey to find her father, and uncover the secrets someone will kill to keep buried.

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