Tyson Adams

Putting the 'ill' back in thriller

Archive for the tag “Thriller”

Who Reads?

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Us readers know how awesome we are. And if we ever socially interacted with people everyone would realise that. We also want to know that we’re not alone. In a holistic sense. Obviously alone in the physical sense because otherwise someone would try to interrupt our reading.

Sensing our need for connection to a nationwide community of book nerds, The Australian Arts Council commissioned a report to figure out who was reading books. The report surveyed 2,944 people to see who read, how much, how they found books, and whether they preferred waiting for the movie adaptation. Let’s see what they found.

Firstly they wanted to establish how often people read and how that compared to other leisure activities. Reading was obviously less popular than dicking around on the internet and watching TV, but apparently beat out exercise. Although they excluded sport, and Aussies have a funny definition of sport. But this finding is similar to 2006 ABS figures that suggest Aussies spend 23 minutes per day reading, versus 21 minutes for sport and outdoor activities, and 138 minutes for Audio/Visual Media (Table 3.3).

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Next are the reader categories. Non-readers were actually a small group, mostly male and more likely to have less education (although I wouldn’t read too much into that last detail). Occasional readers made up half the population, and were defined as reading 1 to 10 books in the last 12 months. Frequent readers were a surprisingly large segment, were defined as reading more than 10 books in a year, and were mostly female, older, better educated, and clearly better looking with tonnes of charisma.

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Reading is to intellectuals what the bench press is to lifters. On the surface they might appear to be a good representation, but most exaggerate how much to appear better than they really are. Oh, and they generally aren’t fooling anyone… So I’m a little suspicious of the popularity of reading suggested by the above figures.

For one, only 34% of Aussies have visited a library in the last 12 months (2009-2010 ABS data) and 70% of them attended at least 5 times. Yet this new survey suggests 39% of people borrowed one or more books from a library in the last month. That’s roughly comparative figures of 24% from the ABS and 39% from this survey.

I’m suspicious. This survey might not be as representative as claimed. Or reading may have suddenly risen in popularity since 2010…. Doubtful given that both the ABS and this survey suggest otherwise. ABS suggested the the amount of time spent reading had decreased by 2 hours between 1997 and 2006, whilst this survey suggested the book reading times were roughly the same as 5 years ago (Figure 8 – not presented).

The next figure of average reading rates either suggests Aussies are reading quite a bit, or inflating their numbers like an “all you” bench press. The average Aussie is reading 7 hours a week (5 of those for pleasure) and getting through 3 books a month (36 a year: not bad). Occasional readers are reading one book a month from 5 hours a week, compared to the Frequent readers who are reading 6 books a month from 11 hours per week (72 books a year: nice).

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But I’m not sure how accurate these claims are. I cited ABS figures above that suggested Aussies spend 23 minutes per day reading, or 2hrs 41mins (161 minutes) per week. So either one of these two samples is unrepresentative, or some people just love to inflate how much they read. I’m leaning toward the latter.* But you can trust me on my bench press numbers. Totally accurate and “all me”.

The final figure I found interesting was of favourite reading genre. When you included non-fiction and fiction genres there were two clear winners: Crime/Mystery/Thrillers; and Science Fiction/Fantasy.

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These are our favourites yet our bookstores would suggest that Sci-fi and Fantasy are niche and only deserving of a shelf at the back of the store. Cookbooks, memoirs, literature, and the latest contemporary thing that isn’t quite literature but isn’t exciting enough to be genre, are typically dominating shelves in stores. This would annoy me more if I wasn’t already suspicious of how representative this survey was, or how honest the respondents were being.

It could well be that people enjoy reading Thrillers and Fantasy but feel compelled to read other things. Maybe people are brow-beaten by the literary snobs to read only the worthy stuff and not the guilty pleasures. Maybe the snobs in Fort Literature have successfully turned favour against the invading Lesser Works. This might not be the case though, as 51% in this survey say they are interested in literary fiction but only 15% actually read it.

It could be that people are borrowing books from libraries or friends. Borrowing books is popular with 41% borrowing one or more books per month, mostly from friends (43%) and libraries (39%). But 39.5% bought at least one book in the last month (92% of 43% buying for themselves). So the tiny niche sections in bookstores for the most enjoyed genres still doesn’t make much sense.

I’m not sure what to make of all this. I mean, aside from Yay, Reading!

For comparison the USA Pew Research’s 2016 annual survey of readers data is presented below. This suggests that Aussies read more than Americans. Assuming people are being honest.

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“Key” insights from the Aussie research:

•  We value and enjoy reading and would like to do it more – 95% of Australians enjoy reading books for pleasure or interest; 68% would like to read more, with relaxation and stress release the most common reason for reading; and almost three-quarters believe books make a contribution to their life that goes beyond their cost. Over 80% of Australians with children encourage them to read.

• Most of us still turn pages but many are swiping too –  While print books still dominate our reading, over half of all readers in-clude e-books in the mix, and 12% audio books. Most Australians (71%) continue to buy books from bricks-and-mortar shops, while half (52%) are purchasing online. Word of mouth recommendations and browsing in a bricks and mortar bookshop are our preferred ways to find out what to read next. At the same time, nearly a third of us interact with books and reading through social media and online platforms.

•  We are reading more than book sales data alone suggests – each month almost as many people borrow books (41%) as those who buy them (43%) and second-hand outlets are the third most popular source for buying books (39%), after major book chains (47%) and overseas websites (40%). Those who borrow books acquire them almost as frequently from public libraries as they do by sharing among friends.

•  We value Australian stories and our book industry – 71% believe it is important for Australia children to read books set in Australia and written by Australian authors; and 60% believe it is important that books written by Australian authors be published in Australia. While there is a common perception among Australians that books are too expensive, more than half believe Australian literary fiction is important. Almost two-thirds of Australians believe books by Indigenous Australian writers are important for Australian culture.

•  We like mysteries and thrillers best – the crime/mystery/thriller genre is the most widely read and takes top spot as our favourite reading category. We also love an autobiography, biography or memoir. (Source)

* I’m biased toward the ABS survey results over the Australian Arts Council for a few reasons. The first is that the ABS data is part of a larger Time Use Survey (How Australians Use Their Time, 2006, cat. no. 4153.0), so this removes a few biases in how people would answer questions (i.e. ask people specifically about how awesome books are, you’re going to talk up your reading more). It is also the larger survey covering 3,900 households. The methodology was also more likely to produce better data, since respondents were filling in a daily dairy and being interviewed. The Arts Council methodology wasn’t bad, but the survey was developed by interest groups, so the questions were presuming some things.

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Book review: Gridlock by Sean Black

Gridlock (Ryan Lock, #3)Gridlock by Sean Black

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

That moment when you recognise an actor/actress but can’t admit it.

Adult film star Raven Lane has a stalker. Not the leave flowers kind of stalker, the kind that leaves bodies in the back of your car. The police are only mildly interested in catching someone killing people in the adult industry, so Raven hires Lock and Ty. Ryan Lock reluctantly takes the job, sensing that something is off about it all. There is. In the worst way possible.

It has been a while since I’ve read anything from Sean Black. His first Lock thriller novel was recommended to me by thriller author Matt Hilton, and I loved it. Sean has since branched out into writing a mystery-comedy series – Malibu Mystery – that I’ve got on my TBR (at some point I’m going to have to admit I have a book buying problem). Reading another Ryan Lock novel was like putting on a comfy pair of shoes. Sean keeps the narrative interesting, keeps the pacing fast, and isn’t afraid to land plot punches most authors would avoid.

Although, when Sean says he loves to do hands on research, I kinda wonder what he did for Gridlock.

Highly recommend this novel for thriller and crime-thriller fans.

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More Books You Haven’t Read

I have written previously (here, here) about how people like to pretend they have read something they haven’t. To summarise my take on this phenomenon: Stop it!

People claim to have read books (1, 2, 3, 4) and watched movies they haven’t in order to appear more intelligent. From the new list that I will discuss below, you have to question who they are trying to impress by claiming to have read Dan Brown and Stieg Larsson.

Impressing people is what this is all about. We all have an inability to admit we like (or dislike) stuff because others may have a subjectively different taste and ridicule us. We even come up with the fake term “guilty pleasure” to describe something we like but are ashamed of for some reason. There shouldn’t be guilty pleasures, only pleasures… unless that pleasure is illegal or immoral or both – such as the movies of Uwe Bole.

This new list of lied about books comes from a poll of 2,000 UK adults. In it 41% of respondents admitted they fibbed about what, and how much, they read. This was part of The Reading Agency‘s look at reading habits. It found that 67% of respondents would like to read more, but 48% claimed they were too busy to read… but caught the game on the TV and did you see those new cat videos? Another interesting point was that 35% said they struggle to find a book they really like, and 26% want recommendations from someone they know. I.e. reviews are important.

As you will see from the list, most of these books have been turned into movies. That was probably why people lied. They wanted to impress people in a discussion but couldn’t just admit that they had only watched the movie. Hint: us readers can tell you haven’t read the book.

 Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

1. James Bond novels by Ian Fleming

I can’t claim to have read many of the James Bond novels – one, I’m pretty sure I’ve only read one. But I have watched most of the movies at least once. For my own part, the reason I haven’t read more of the books is partly lack of interest, and partly making time to catch up on older novels. There are a lot of influential authors and novels I’m yet to have a chance to read. Plus I’ve heard that the books have far fewer explosions.

 The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

2. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Admittedly I read the novel after the first movie came out – or possibly only finished it after the first movie came out. I’ve covered this book recently as part of my Book vs Movie discussions (1, 2, 3). I don’t think you can blame people for watching the movies instead of reading the book. The book is long, waffly, and at times difficult to parse. The movies are only long and awesome.

 

3. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

I’ve only read six of the seven Narnia novels. I read this series when I was young and pretty much lost interest before reading The Last Battle. The first two novels (chronological, not published) are well worth reading, but I can understand people not bothering to read the rest. I can also understand people having watched the movies and decided not to read the books. The movies are only okay, which is generally not enough to encourage most people to read books.

4. The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown

Apparently The DaVinci Code is one of the most read books of all time…. if you just go by book sales. I have a love-hate relationship with Dan Brown’s Artefact McGuffin Adventures. While I have read two of Brown’s novels, I actually prefer other authors who write superior Artefact McGuffin Adventures. Can’t really blame people for watching Tom Hanks run around historical places instead of reading about Robert Langdon.

 The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I can honestly say I haven’t read this book, nor been interested in doing so, despite the paperback being on our shelves. The movies didn’t exactly inspire me either. The main reason I haven’t tackled it is that my wife only thought it was okay and similar to Divergent by Veronica Roth.

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

6. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

I didn’t even realise the movie was based on a book until relatively recently. I’m sure most people will have seen the movie and assumed the book is pretty similar.

The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

7. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Another book I haven’t read and one I’m not really interested in reading – nor the rest of the series for that matter. I’m not sure why anyone would claim to have read this book when they haven’t, unless they want to say “Oh, the books are so much darker” when the movie is being discussed.

Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

8. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

Another novel that is on our shelves thanks to my wife. The impression I have of the main character is that I would probably not enjoy this, especially since I try to be out of the room when people are watching the movies.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson

9. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Ugh. I read part of this book before shredding it and using the remains to create a nest for a family of rats. Even the Wikipedia synopsis of the novel bores me to tears. Any “thriller” that starts with ten pages of descriptions of flowers, followed by a few more pages discussing home renovations had better make them giant mutated flowers with Uzis that are renovating the home with explosives. If only people would stop talking about this book so that people would stop talking about it as though it was good.

The Godfather by Mario Puzo

10. The Godfather by Mario Puzo

I bought The Godfather from a bargain bin next to a pile of remaindered books. The only reason I decided to buy and read it was that the movie was/is a classic. It is probably fair to say that most people only ever considered reading this because of the movie, so it is no surprise that people inflate that from considering to have read.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

11. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

I have neither read this book nor watched the film. My entire understanding of this book comes from Thug Notes. That’s enough for me.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

12. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

This book certainly isn’t for everyone. When I reviewed it I called it literary crime fiction, which puts it between genre fiction that people like reading, and award-winning stuff people only pretend to like reading.* That means it could attract people from both audiences, or annoy both audiences – yes, I am assuming that those two audiences are disparate entities that share nothing in common. So I could see why some people would claim to have read this novel, what with the awards, and praise, and movie forcing them to either admit something about their reading habits or to make some facile excuse for not having read it yet.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

13. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

This book has the dubious honour of being a novel I was only aware existed as a result of it appearing on these lists of books people claim to have read but haven’t. Maybe this book doesn’t actually exist but is inserted into these reading lists as an internal check for the survey of readers. Let’s see who notices that this book is fictional fiction.

As you can see, it is easy to admit which books you have and haven’t read. Some books you may not want to read. Some you may not have had a chance to read yet. Some you might only be aware of due to the movie adaptation. The main thing is to acknowledge the truth so that entertaining books are promoted (review books, but do it the right way), rather than dreck that people haven’t read but assume is entertaining. And if you want to continue to lie about books you’ve read, here is a summary of some classic novels:

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*Yes, that is me being snobby. Yes, I am meant to be against that judgmental stuff. Yes, I am a hypocrite at times.

Book review: The Devil’s Country by Harry Hunsicker

The Devil's CountryThe Devil’s Country by Harry Hunsicker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Has there ever been a religious cult started for something other than allowing the leaders to have sex with the congregation?

Arlo Baines is wandering the state of Texas in an effort to forget the murder of his family. The former Texas Ranger sees a couple of guys up to no good, and starts making trouble in the neighbourhood. He gets in one little fight and has the local sheriff and a religious cult wanting to see him leave (for Bel Air).

It was refreshing to dive into a different take on the itinerant vigilante genre. Obviously there are similarities between any of the novels in this genre, the most prominent being Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series (of which I’m a fan). But Harry Hunsicker has brought a more haunted and reluctant hero to the page, one who feels a little more vulnerable, but no less unstoppable.

This is a fast-moving novel which hits all the right beats. While it doesn’t stray from the itinerant vigilante genre path, nor offer up any surprising twists, The Devil’s Country was an enjoyable read. Recommended for any fans of Lee Child, Matt Hilton, Zoe Sharp, et al.

NB: I received an advance review copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.

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Book review: Make Me by Lee Child

Make Me (Jack Reacher, #20)Make Me by Lee Child
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Does Reacher leave enough people alive to have criminals warning one another on the Deep Web about not messing with him?

Jack Reacher decided to catch a train to a small town for a change and by walking around as per usual he managed to piss off the local criminals. This will end well for the criminals.

Lee Child is a master of not wasting words. If there is exposition then it is important to the plot. Make Me is no exception. The twist for this thriller is revealed in little details throughout the story. It comes through as no less shocking.

While I have grown a little tired of the formula for the Reacher novels, they still remain entertaining reads.

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Book review: Killfile by Christopher Farnsworth

KillfileKillfile by Christopher Farnsworth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are times that I’m glad people can’t read my mind: I’d hate to have someone else humming The Proclaimers.

John Smith is a specialist who helps wealthy clients with tricky problems. He has a talent for hostage negotiations, corporate espionage, and gleaning people’s deepest secrets thanks to his ability to read minds. Who’d have thought that reading people’s minds would turn his latest job into a death sentence.

Killfile is the first novel I’ve read from Christopher Farnsworth since his excellent Nathaniel Cade series went on hiatus four years ago. I read the Nathaniel Cade series back to back and loved every second of those supernatural thrillers. Killfile was similarly enjoyable with the paranormal thriller element pitched nicely into the realms of corporate espionage and CIA interrogation programs.

Also, as a scientific skeptic (i.e. scientist who hears all the kooky claims and demands evidence) it is always fun to read the conspiracy claims in a more rational format. Dusting off MKUltra and utilising it as a plot point in fiction rather than an outlandish conspiracy tickles me in all the right ways.

Chris’ novels continue to be highly enjoyable reads.

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Book Review: Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

Summer Knight (The Dresden Files, #4)Summer Knight by Jim Butcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If blasting rods and staffs are standard wizard fare, what do they use for euphemisms?

Harry Dresden is having a bad day, or is that week, month, and year? His girlfriend has been semi-turned into a vampire, it’s raining frogs in the park, a ghoul is trying to assassinate him, the vampire Red Court want to torture him to death, the Wizarding White Council are tempted to let the vampires have Harry, the Winter Court of faeries want him to investigate a murder, he has no money, and his house is a mess. Oh, and a war is about to start if Harry can’t find the killer; so there’s that as well.

This is my first foray into Jim Butcher’s much vaunted Dresden Files series. Summer Knight indicates that there is a lot to like about this Harry’s world. The story could be described as an urban fantasy thriller: with thriller being a selling point for me. Butcher doesn’t shy away from piling on the hardships for Harry to overcome, and keeps the action coming thick and fast. I’m honestly wondering why I took so long to dive into this series that has been repeatedly recommended to me.

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Book review: Tier One by Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson

Tier One (Tier One #1)Tier One by Brian Andrews
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If an operator isn’t wearing 5.11 Tactical clothing are they really an operator?

Tier One are the elite SEAL Team on the black side of ops. They are too good for their own good, as they manage to piss off the wrong terrorists: the kind that hold an explosive grudge. Now former Tier One SEAL, Jack Kemper, must become intelligence operative John Dempsey and take out the terrorists before they strike again.

Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson have created a taught and realistic military thriller in Tier One. Much like other ex-military authors (Chris Ryan and Andy McNab being two of my favourites) they pepper the novel with details and perspectives you just don’t get from other authors. This is both the strength and weakness of the novel.

As much as I found this novel to be an enjoyable and fast paced read, it also overused expository military details, and presented clichéd terrorist characters. For me this held the novel back from being a great novel to merely good. Other readers may find the details interesting, or think that terrorists really can be simply defined as “shitheads” à la Fox News, and enjoy this novel more, but it is still an entertaining read.

NB: Thomas and Mercer provided a review copy for my reading pleasure.

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Book reviews: No Safe Place by Matt Hilton

No Safe Place (Joe Hunter, #11)No Safe Place by Matt Hilton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This review wasn’t able to be submitted as it was stolen by a guard dog. I swear, it really happened.

Joe Hunter is back in the game and ready to be bashed and shot, and possibly paid. This time Joe is hired to protect a young boy whose mother has just been killed during a home invasion. But the boy’s father knows there is more to the death than that – hint: revenge, it’s always revenge – and Joe suspects so as well. Of course, Joe decides to dig into what is really going on, even if his police friend Bryony would prefer he wouldn’t.

In the interests of full disclosure, I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. You know it will be an honest review because it was only a book and not accompanied with whiskey.

No Safe Place is Matt Hilton’s eleventh Joe Hunter novel and it did not disappoint. I’ve been a long time fan of the Joe Hunter series, and of Matt’s other works. His writing is well paced, packed with vivid fight scenes, and has compelling plots. This instalment particularly interested me because I noted that there was more of the Northern England language flavourings to the writing than I’d previously noticed. This could be because after ten novels in a series editors concede you are allowed to write whatever the hell you want. They can’t make all of their writers sound like they come from the same place forever.

Looking back through my reviews for the rest of the series I note that I frequently used the term “gritty thriller” and rated them 4 stars. Not much has changed. This is another very reliable, entertaining, crime thriller; add it to your To Be Read pile.

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Book Review: The Promise by Robert Crais

The Promise (Elvis Cole, #16; Joe Pike, #5; Scott James & Maggie #2)The Promise by Robert Crais
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If a professional thief pretends to be a terrorist does that mean they blow all of their money in a public place?

Well, Elvis Cole would have found that funny. Bite me.

Elvis Cole and Joe Pike are back and this time they have been hired to investigate a missing person. Somehow that missing person leads to black market arms deals, murder investigations, Homeland Security mole hunts, thieves and terrorists. We also get to see some more of Scott James and his dog Maggie. Narration from the POV of the dog: go on, buy the book right now.

It has been a while since I’ve picked up a Robert Crais novel. I loved his early Elvis Cole novels but when he moved away from the humorous tone later in the series I lost interest. Fortunately I decided to check back in to see what was happening with Cole and Pike. This was a terrific read, with plenty of twists and turns, and is crammed full of interesting characters. The only negative I have is that the humour of the early novels is still taking a back seat. There are some Cole moments, but that aspect has been dialled right back, something I continue to miss with Crais’ writing.

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Book review: The Forgotten Room by Lincoln Child

The Forgotten Room (Jeremy Logan #4)The Forgotten Room by Lincoln Child
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

One day I’m going to start a think tank and name it after a bodywash – possibly a shampoo – just like Lincoln Child did with his fictional institution, Lux.

There’s a problem in the west wing of the think tank Lux. No, it isn’t that their research is funded by special interest groups. No, it isn’t that they are neo-cons intent on bending governments to their policy wills. Lux has a slight problem with residents going crazy. So they contact Dr Jeremy Logan, a former resident and investigator who specialises in the extraordinary, to figure out what is causing the problems. That’s when they find The Forgotten Room and its contents.

Without realising it, I’ve actually read one of the other Jeremy Logan mysteries. The reason I didn’t realise I had read the first in the series (this being #4) was that Jeremy wasn’t the main character in Deep Storm. But much like Deep Storm, The Forgotten Room is a compelling mystery that hits all the right beats. Where Deep Storm was more techno/sci-fi based, The Forgotten Room has allusions to the supernatural whilst being more conventional. Where Deep Storm had a mysterious illness, The Forgotten Room has a mysterious illness. Where Deep Storm tried to kill off as many characters as possible, The Forgotten Room keeps the fatalities to a minimum. I don’t know why I’m comparing the two books in the series this much, probably because they seem to have the same general plot and feel to them. Although I do prefer the character of Logan to Crane.

As with all Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston books, you can be assured of an entertaining read. Whilst Logan is no Pendergast, he does make for an interesting character to follow as he unravels the mystery. But as with my review of Deep Storm, I did feel this book to be a little too “by the numbers”.

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Book reviews: The King’s Deception by Steve Berry

The King's Deception (Cotton Malone, #8)The King’s Deception by Steve Berry
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Have you ever wanted a thriller to star not one, but two book store owners? Well, this is the novel for you!

That’s right, our favourite book seller is back in action. This time Cotton Malone is caught up in a CIA operation called King’s Deception. See what Steve Berry did there? Cotton and his son Gary get caught up with the CIA, SIS – better known as MI6 – and The Dedalus Society’s deadly spy games. King’s Deception is their game and Cotton has to blah blah the McGuffin surrounding Elizabeth the First before the blah blah.

I’m a big fan of Steve Berry’s novels. They are always entertaining and well thought out thrillers. Berry is the writer Dan Brown wishes he was, but then takes a swim in his pool of money to console himself. As is typical with this genre, Berry seamlessly mixes the modern day with the historical McGuffin in a plausible and interesting manner. But for me, I found this to be one of Berry’s weaker novels.

My main fault with the book was that it was a story being recounted between the narrator and reader analogues, with the first and last chapters book ending the actual story. I hate this sort of story telling. It always feels hackneyed, even in films. At least flashbacks only last a short time, this is like having 95% of the story be a flashback. In this case you could cut the first and last chapters out and it would be a perfectly reasonable novel, so the additions of these parts feels superfluous.

Despite that criticism, the book was entertaining and would rank 4 stars, but I’m giving it 3.5 stars. I’m taking half a star off for the book-ends on the actual story.

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Book vs Movie: Psycho – What’s the difference

Another great instalment of CineFix’s What’s the Difference? series. This time it is the famous Hitchcock film Psycho and the novel it was based upon.

Some interesting differences in the storytelling, aren’t there! The most interesting was the way Hitchcock sets up his viewers to empathise with the victim, Mary/Marion, as much as possible, whilst also moving away from the cliché of Norman being a chubby-loser. My highlight from the video is the revelation that the book, and obviously the subsequent movie, were based upon a real murderer. I suppose skin is pretty durable stuff, it would be a shame to just throw it away.

Book Review: The Valhalla Prophecy by Andy McDermott

The Valhalla Prophecy
The Valhalla Prophecy by Andy McDermott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At the rate Andy McDermott is going there aren’t going to be any ancient historical mysteries left to blow up. In this one, Nina and Eddie destroy Valhalla.

This is the ninth Nina and Eddie adventure, so at this stage there isn’t much need to describe the plot…. Oh okay. Ancient myth turns out to be real, there is a race to get to the archeological site first, things get blown up, people get shot at, world crisis averted. Or as my friend Iain summed it up: “Stupid, overblown, ridiculous, unbelievable, and utterly fucking brilliant.”

I always enjoy Andy’s adventure series, and his Persona Protocol was also good fun. You can’t help but enjoy his stories.

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Book Review: The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

The Great Zoo of China
The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My mother bought me The Great Zoo of China for Christmas, which makes her the best mother in the world. Well, unless your mother bought you a copy as well, in which case the title of best mother in the world would have to be shared.

CJ is a herpetologist specialising in large animals like crocodiles, and being a Matthew Reilly novel, she also specialises in avoiding dying every page or two. She is recruited by National Geographic to take a press junket trip to a new zoo in China. The Chinese government have developed an amazing new zoo that is set to wow the world, assuming their main attractions don’t try to escape and eat everyone. What could go wrong during the promotion junket for a zoo filled with dragons?

Yep. Dinosaurs, sorry, Dragons.

I’ve seen some reviews that suggest Matt’s novel is just a rip off of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. I agree completely. I also like to ignore that Jurassic Park is a rip off of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, which is in turn a rip off of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, or possibly Off On A Comet – if you want to count dragons as dinosaurs. Because every idea is 100% original and comments complaining about rip-offs don’t primarily show the complainer’s ignorance.

Ignoring that point – because who cares? – Matt’s latest novel is all of the elements we’ve come to love from him. The story is fast paced, life and death, adventurous fun. I really enjoyed The Great Zoo of China: enough said.

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Book Review: Deep Storm by Lincoln Child

Deep StormDeep Storm by Lincoln Child
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

It isn’t often that scientists are the good guys. Usually they are the bad guys, or at least facilitate things going horribly wrong, or they are socially inept losers. This time it is the military trying to ruin the planet…. I suppose you can’t do away with every cliché.

Lincoln Child of the widely successful Preston and Child writing duo, wrote this stand-alone novel, Deep Storm. Dr Peter Crane is a medical scientist recruited to help discover what is ailing a military and scientific team operating in a top secret deep water facility. The team have discovered something deep in the North Atlantic and are trying to uncover what it is, where it came from, and what scientific marvels it will unveil. If only people would stop going crazy and if they had left the saboteur behind.

I’m a huge fan of Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston’s work. I’ve previously read Preston’s stand-alone novels Impact and Blasphemy, the latter being one of my 5 star reviews, but until now I hadn’t read a stand-alone from Child. Deep Storm is definitely not as strong as either of Preston’s stand-alones, nor as good as most of their joint novels I’ve read. This novel had a lot of elements I liked about it, including the fairly well thought out plot. Normally techno-thrillers get bogged down in details (e.g. Crichton’s Timeline) or get the science wrong (e.g. Crichton’s State of Fear), but Child managed to balance accuracy with pacing.

The main reason I think this isn’t as strong a novel as the others in the Preston and Child oeuvre is that Deep Storm feels like a “by the numbers” thriller. Blasphemy had some interesting things to say about humans and beliefs. The Pendergast novels are underpinned by one of the more interesting central characters in the thriller genre. Which is why this book, whilst entertaining, felt lacking in comparison. This was still a tense, fast paced, engaging read and definitely one for Preston and Child or techno-thriller fans.

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Book Review: Sign of the Cross by Chris Kuzneski

Sign Of The Cross (Jonathon Payne & David Jones, #2)Sign Of The Cross by Chris Kuzneski

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Sometimes when I’m reading a book I’m not sure if I’m meant to be excited, enrapt, or cringing. It’s taken me a few days to arrive at a decision and I’ve decided to cringe.

Sign of the Cross is a fast paced action adventure novel in the vein of Steve Berry, James Rollins, or that guy who wrote the book that annoyed the Pope; what was his name? In the second instalment of Payne and Jones’ adventures, the mercenaries are hired to hunt down two archaeologists who have uncovered a secret that could bring down the Catholic Church. Meanwhile a team of killers are reenacting the crucifixion, because, you know, that’s what Jesus would have wanted. With everyone hunting for Payne, Jones and their pet archaeologists, and a few murderers running around, who at the Vatican knows and who wants the secret, and do they want it for power or payback?

This is the first Chris Kuzneski book I’ve read, and it will be my last. Now that I’ve had time to reflect upon the story and writing, I’m actually surprised I finished the novel. Kuzneski came up in my recommendations because he writes fast paced adventure novels like two of my favourite authors, the previously mentioned Berry and Rollins. Unlike those two, however, Kuzneski takes all of the same ingredients for a novel, mixes them in an overly large bowl (the book is over 400 pages), and manages to make gruel.

The novel started well, but I noticed myself cringing at the end of the chapters with the ham-fisted foreshadowing. This continued until I would start preemptively cringing as I reached the end of each chapter. Seriously, it felt like the end of every scene or chapter Kuzneski would have a line like “Little did they know that only two of them would return.” But wait, there is more. There is an underlying casual sexism and racism to the novel that is unintentional, but jarring. An early scene has one of the characters, Nick Dial, surprised to see a woman Interpol agent. Not that Nick was sexist, women could be just as good as men……. No, Nick explained that he wasn’t sexist, but some of his bosses weren’t as open minded. Yeah. I’m not sexist, but….

These two points are just the major problems I had with the writing of this novel. And it is mainly the writing that lets this book down. In the example I just mentioned, there are many ways authors could discuss Nick’s surprise at seeing a woman on the job. But the way the scene was written it sounded like the author was desperately trying to sound progressive and PC. This poor writing happened throughout the book, which actually has a reasonable plot, a bit of humour, and great pacing. Some readers may not notice these issues, although I note many reviews complain about the foreshadowing, and it was entertaining enough for me to finish reading, so others may find this enjoyable. But I would recommend reading anything by Steve Berry or James Rollins instead.

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Book Review: Personal by Lee Child

Personal (Jack Reacher, #19)Personal by Lee Child
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jack Reacher fought a little person in 61 Hours, so definitely time he fought a giant in Personal. Oh, and some other stuff happens… like beating up a giant!

Lee Child’s continued adventures of Sherlock Homeless – Jack Reacher – have reached (boom tish) their nineteenth installment. Reacher is manipulated into searching for a former army sniper he had put away 16 years ago, a sniper who has taken a shot at the French President and is threatening to shoot some other world leaders at the G8 summit. This is the first Reacher novel that isn’t set in the US, seeing him travel to Paris and London, for his manhunt. Of course, it is never as simple as a manhunt, especially when the sniper bears a 16 year old grudge.

What I love about picking up a Lee Child novel is starting the novel and finding I’m already 50 pages into the action before I realise it. Lee effortlessly steers you through the story and keeps you entertained. He makes you appreciate just how good an author he is compared to his contemporaries. It was also refreshing to have Reacher leave behind his small town problem solving in favour of an international, high stakes, manhunt. Not that this stops Reacher beating up people and solving problems: wouldn’t be a Reacher novel without that.

Hard to find fault with the latest Reacher adventure. The only criticism would be that it feels like a “standard” Reacher adventure, despite the break in location tradition. My own observation is that since 61 Hours Lee’s writing has become taut and that he skilfully plays with the reader, making him my favourite author.

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Book Review: The Fifth Profession by David Morrell

The Fifth ProfessionThe Fifth Profession by David Morrell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How do you tell if a book has samurai in it? Don’t worry, they’ll put a katana on the cover. A book about ninjas is a little harder, since they are invisible to anyone that hasn’t just been killed by a ninja. How do you tell if a book is a thriller? Don’t worry, they’ll put a gun on the cover.

Professional protectors – the fifth profession…. get it! – Savage and Akira are teamed up to protect a travelling businessman. Things go horribly wrong and Savage is beaten to a pulp after seeing the businessman and Akira killed. Akira is also beaten to a pulp and sees the businessman and Savage killed. And so begins the twist in this David Morrell thriller.

A lot of thrillers take you from point A to point B very efficiently to the point of cliche. Some authors even churn out the same book dozens of times in this manner. The thing that keeps you coming back is the the taut writing, thrills and cool escapism. The strength of The Fifth Profession is that it starts with the standard thriller plot setup and then eschews that for a different plot entirely. It makes the entire story novel. See what I did there?

There are some annoying aspects to Morrell’s novel. David has a habit of hammering certain points and descriptions at the reader, to the point I started assuming everyone had “karate” calloused hands. To some people this could be annoying and enough to throw the book against a wall – which I wouldn’t be doing this since I read this on my iPad. To others the plotting and pacing will keep you entertained, as it did with me.

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Book Review: The Protector by David Morrell

The ProtectorThe Protector by David Morrell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It surprises me just a little that I only just discovered David Morrell’s books. He writes thrillers, he’s been doing so since before I was born, yet I’d never heard of him, let alone realised he was the brains behind the Rambo franchise…. Okay, that latter point is not a huge selling point, unless you like seeing people sawn in half with a machine gun for the final act of a movie (Hint: my answer is yes).

In The Protector we have a protective services operator, Cavanaugh, protecting a client, Prescott, from two groups who want Prescott dead… Guess where the idea for the novel’s title came from. Of course there is more to Prescott than it first appears, the groups after him are highly resourced, and the straight forward protection assignment goes sideways. Car chases, gun fights, black helicopters, several fires and a knife fight for good measure: you know, thriller.

This book moves at a cracking pace and was very entertaining. I’m definitely checking out more of David’s novels.

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