Michael Cavacini

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Archive for the tag “Novel”

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.

Andrew Gross’ No Way Back Coming To ABC

No Way BackThis week it was announced that ABC is working on a television adaptation of Andrew Gross’ latest thriller, No Way Back. The pilot has been scheduled and is being produced by Jessica Sharzer, one of the co-executive producers of FX’s American Horror Story, and Francie Calfo. As you know from my review of No Way Back, I thought it was a very good read, so I’m eager to see how it translates to the small screen. I’ll keep you posted on additional details as they become available.

 

Book Review – The Doll by Taylor Stevens

Taylor Stevens - The DollTaylor Stevens is a gifted writer and I enjoyed her first two books, The Informationist and The Innocent, but I was disappointed by her latest novel, The Doll. For some reason, it failed to grab me from the start and unlike her first two books, I wasn’t emotionally invested in the protagonist’s plight. That said, the action scenes in The Doll were well done and Stevens’ creative metaphors continue to impress me. While it’s my least favorite installment in the series, you should check out The Doll if you’ve read Stevens’ other novels. If you’re new to this author, start with her debut novel and then work your way up to this one. Just don’t expect to be blown away.

Synopsis

Haunted by a life of violence and as proficient with languages as she is with knives, Vanessa Michael Munroe, chameleon and hunter, has built her life on a reputation for getting things done—dangerous and often not-quite-legal things. Born to missionary parents in lawless Africa, taken under the tutelage of gunrunners, and tortured by one of the jungle’s most brutal men, Munroe was forced to do whatever it took to stay alive.

The ability to survive, fight, adapt, and blend has since taken her across the globe on behalf of corporations, heads of state, and the few private clients who can afford her unique brand of expertise, and these abilities have made her enemies.

On a busy Dallas street, Munroe is kidnapped by an unseen opponent and thrust into an underground world where women and girls are merchandise and a shadowy figure known as The Doll Maker controls her every move. While trusted friends race to unravel where she is and why she was taken, everything pivots on one simple choice: Munroe must use her unique set of skills to deliver a high-profile young woman into the same nightmare that she once endured, or condemn to torture and certain death the one person she loves above all else.

Driven by the violence that has made her what she is, cut off from help, and with attempts to escape predicted and prevented, Munroe will hunt for openings, for solutions, and a way to strike back at a man who holds all the cards. Because only one thing is certain: she cannot save everyone.

Jack Reacher Returns In Never Go Back

Lee Child and I at ThrillerFest VIII.

Lee Child and I at ThrillerFest VIII.

Lee Child’s 18th Jack Reacher novel, Never Go Back, is coming out next week in the U.S. For those interested in learning more about the book, below is the trailer and background on the novel from the man himself, Lee Child.

 

Book Review – Placebo by Steven James

Steven James PlaceboPlacebo by Steven James is a very good thriller that’s worth your attention. I recently completed the book and was impressed by many elements of the story. I found Jevin Banks to be an extremely likable protagonist who matured as the story progressed, and the supporting cast was equally memorable. James’ ability to jump between characters, even those who aren’t in the same room during a scene, impressed me. Character hopping can be a hard thing to pull off without disorienting the reader, but James handled it extremely well; and by doing so, he ratcheted up the suspense during tense moments and sustained a brisk pace throughout the novel. The plot itself was an interesting one that despite being sometimes bogged down by moments of expository scientific dialogue, made me think critically about the pros and cons of the pharmaceutical industry. And being from Philadelphia, I loved that a good portion of the novel was set in the City of Brotherly Love. It seems every book and movie takes place in New York City, so whenever someone wants to shake things up and pick a different locale, I’m all for it. Overall, Placebo was a highly enjoyable read that I blew through in just a few days, and I highly recommend it.

Stay tuned for my interview with Steven James, as well as my review of his upcoming novel Singularity, the second book in the Jevin Banks series.

Synopsis

While covertly investigating a controversial neurological research program, exposé filmmaker Jevin Banks is drawn into a far-reaching conspiracy involving one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical firms. After giving up his career as an escape artist and illusionist in the wake of his wife and sons’ tragic death, Jevin is seeking not only answers about the questionable mind-to-mind communication program, but also answers to why his family suffered as they did. 

Book Review – Seduction by M.J. Rose

SeductionI recently read my first book by M.J. Rose, Seduction, and its compelling, suspenseful narrative kept me turning pages from start to finish. Rose’s ability to effortlessly switch between two storylines, filled with rich dialogue and palpable characters, kept me coming back for more. I was completely invested in Jac L’Etoile’s story arch, and I love how it intersected with Victor Hugo’s. Seduction was bursting with historical detail that kept me engrossed in the characters’ world, and the conclusion left me completely satisfied. If you’re trying to decide what to read next, I highly recommend you check out Seduction.

Below is the book’s synopsis, and make sure to read my interview with M.J. Rose to learn more about the author.

Synopsis

A gothic tale about Victor Hugo’s long-buried secrets and the power of a love that never dies . . . In 1843, novelist Victor Hugo’s beloved nineteen-year-old daughter drowned. Ten years later, still grieving, Hugo initiated hundreds of séances from his home on the Isle of Jersey in order to reestablish contact with her. In the process, he claimed to have communed with Plato, Galileo, Shakespeare, Dante, Jesus—and even the devil himself. Hugo’s transcriptions of these conversations have all been published.

Or so it has been believed . . .

Recovering from a great loss, mythologist Jac L’Etoile thinks that throwing herself into work will distract her from her grief. In the hopes of uncovering a secret about the island’s mysterious Celtic roots, she arrives on Jersey and is greeted by ghostly Neolithic monuments, medieval castles and hidden caves. But the man who has invited her there, a troubled soul named Theo Gaspard, hopes she’ll help him discover something quite different— transcripts of Hugo’s lost conversations with someone he called the Shadow of the Sepulcher. Central to his heritage, these are the papers his grandfather died trying to find. Neither Jac nor Theo anticipate that the mystery surrounding Victor Hugo will threaten their sanity and put their very lives at stake.

Seduction is a historically evocative and atmospheric tale of suspense with a spellbinding ghost story at its heart, written by one of America’s most gifted and imaginative novelists. Awakening a mystery that spans centuries, this multilayered gothic tale brings a time, a place and a cast of desperate characters brilliantly to life.

Book Review – Second Honeymoon by James Patterson

Second Honeymoon

For those of you that read my review of Honeymoon, you may be surprised. I thought Second Honeymoon, the sequel to the aforementioned book, was excellent. Both of the story’s plotlines were engaging, filled with interesting twists, and unlike a multitude of thrillers, believable. The character development was handled well, and I felt as if I was in John O’Hara’s shoes a few times in the novel. My only complaint is the way point-of-view was handled. As I learned at ThrillerFest, novels where the point-of-view of the narrator changes a lot can be jarring to the reader. From time to time, I found myself wondering who was narrating the beginning of a chapter. A few sentences in I figured it out, but this could have been avoided with less jumping around. Nevertheless, Second Honeymoon is a tightly-woven tale that will keep your attention from cover to cover and leave you satisfied. I highly recommend you give it a go.

Synopsis

A walk down the aisle, a resort hotel, a drink on the beach…for these unlucky couples, the honeymoon’s over.

A newlywed couple steps into the sauna in their deluxe honeymoon suite—and never steps out again. When another couple is killed while boarding their honeymoon flight to Rome, it becomes clear that someone is targeting honeymooners, and it’s anyone’s guess which happy couple is next on the list.

FBI Agent John O’Hara is deep into solving the case, while Special Agent Sarah Brubaker is hunting another ingenious serial killer, whose victims all have one chilling thing in common.

As wedding hysteria rises to a frightening new level, John and Sarah work ever more closely together in a frantic attempt to decipher the logic behind two rampages.

Book Review – The Innocent by Taylor Stevens

The Innocent - Taylor StevensThe Innocent is Taylor Stevens’ second novel, and I enjoyed it more than her first, The Informationist. To me, the premise of this novel was more interesting than the first, and since the author grew up in a religious cult, it was partially autobiographical. The Innocent featured plenty of reflective thought and internal narrative by the main character, Vanessa Michael Munroe; while this sometimes slowed down the pace of the story, it provided me with a greater understanding of the character and her motives. Some people have complained that this book didn’t have enough action, but I care more about a compelling story than a high body count, so this wasn’t an issue for me. If you liked The Informationist, you’ll enjoy The Innocent; it’s a worthy addition to a promising series.

Below is the synopsis for The Innocent. Stay tuned for my review of Stevens’ newest novel, The Doll, as well as my interview with the author.

Synopsis

Eight years ago, a man walked five-year-old Hannah out the front doors of her school and spirited her over the Mexican border, taking her into the world of a cult known as The Chosen. For eight years, followers of The Prophet have hidden the child, moving her from country to country, shielding the man who stole her. Now, those who’ve searched the longest know where to find her. They are childhood survivors of The Chosen, thirty-somethings born and raised inside the cult who’ve managed to make lives for themselves on the outside. They understand the mindset, the culture within that world, and turn to Vanessa Michael Munroe for help, knowing that the only possibility of stealing Hannah back and getting her safely out of Argentina is to trust someone who doesn’t trust them, and get Munroe on the inside.

Pandora’s Temple Wins International Book Award

Pandora's TempleJon Land, the bestselling author of over 25 novels, just won an International Book Award for his latest Blaine McCracken thriller: Pandora’s Temple. His acclaimed novel, which is on my list of books to read, won for being the best Thriller/Adventure novel. To learn more about this book, check out the the BookTrib Live Chat below that Jon did late last year.

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