The Kind Worth Killing By Peter Swanson – A Book Review

A friend recommended this book to me after I requested a fast, action-packed read. The Kind Worth Killing did not disappoint.

The story is centered around Ted and Lily, two strangers who meet in an airport bar. During conversation, Ted reveals he’d like to kill his cheating wife, and Lily is more than happy to assist.

From there, things get very complex as their pasts become interwoven with the present. The author, Peter Swanson, also alternates perspectives from Ted to Lily with each chapter. As the book progresses, however, new perspectives enter the fray, which offers fresh insights into the overall story.

Swanson absolutely knows how to write a fast-paced story. The chapters are short, the plot races forward, and the dialogue flows smoothly. The twists and turns were very entertaining, and the book as a whole proved quite fun.

My only complaints are that the characters tended to sound the same to me. The men all seemed to have the same voice, as did the women. Their plots and circumstances set them apart, but their voices did not. None of their personalities were unique.

I also found the very last two pages of the book unnecessary. A revelation occurs that is executed in a manner inconsistent with the rest of the style, and this revelation really serves no purpose other than to suggest a sequel. As it stands, those last two pages usurp an otherwise satisfying ending.

This is a slight grievance, however. Overall, the book thrilled me for several days as I truly enjoyed it. If you’re looking for an exciting mystery or thriller, I recommend The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson.

Click the image to view the author’s latest book at Amazon.com.

The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie – A Book Review

A good friend recommended The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd, and though it’s been in publication for almost 100 years, I’ve never read it. In fact, I’ve never read a single Agatha Christie book.

I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it! I’m often not a fan of mysteries because I feel that they usually don’t lay the serious groundwork needed to provide the reader with actual clues, but Christie more than satisfied me in that regard. She gave all of the characters a possible motive for the murder, and had them all in the vicinity of the murder near the time of death. Her details were quite meticulous. Furthermore, finding the answer to the mystery was quite possible. 

On that note, I also appreciated that Christie wrote quite a bit of this book using dialogue. She provided only the most necessary of description, which made for a very quick read. Many of her clues were revealed through characters talking to one another, which proved a pleasant experience. 

My only complaint is that the detective, Hercule Poirot, seemed to be an almost secondary character. Because he was not the narrator, we only got to know Poirot in a limited way. This was necessary due to the structure and narrative style of the book, but I’m curious to know if all of Poirot’s books feature someone else as the narrator.

I’ll find out soon enough! I am absolutely excited to read more Agatha Christie. She writes my kind of mystery books. 

Storm Front by Jim Butcher – A Book Review

A friend recommended this initial book of The Dresden Files. It’s called Storm Front, and it’s the first time we meet Harry Dresden, a Chicago private investigator and practicing wizard. 

Yes, you read that right.

I appreciated that Storm Front is a wonderful blend of genre. It often reads like hard-boiled detective noir, full of all the cliches and tropes you would expect. But then it blends in high fantasy with magical rods, demon trolls, and dark magic. I also liked that it moved at a very fast pace and proved pretty easy to follow.

That being said, I’m not sure I’ll revisit Harry Dresden. I found the dialogue a little too predictable, the writing technique felt a little too familiar, and the detective aspect never quite connected with me.

However, I know a lot of very smart people who love this series, so I may have to give the second book a try and assume that they get better and better as they progress. 

I’m Thinking Of Ending Things by Iain Reid – A Book Review

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I heard Netflix planned to make this novel into a movie, so I thought I’d give it a read first. Interestingly enough, I reviewed another book by Iain Reid, Foe, exactly one year ago today.

I’m Thinking Of Ending Things is Reid’s debut novel. It’s written from the perspective of a young woman who is visiting her boyfriend’s parents for the first time. Most of the book is spent with them conversing in a car as they travel to the boyfriend’s childhood home far into the countryside. The narrator tells us that Jake is incredibly intelligent and generally a nice guy, but she’s thinking of ending things with him. They eventually reach the parents, things become very strange, and then the plot quickens to a frantic pace.

I can’t pretend that I particularly enjoyed this book. It is primarily dialogue and internal monologue, with lots of philosophizing. I found it very slow in the beginning, and while the book ends with quite a bit of suspense, the conclusion dissatisfied.

It’s difficult for me to critically discuss this book without spoiling some major revelations, so I’ll simply have to say that I never found the premise all that engaging, the big twist fell flat for me, and I generally found it far too in love with its own dialogue.

Obviously, I’m in the minority. Netflix and Charlie Kaufman found it worthy of their time, though Kaufman’s interest in the book shouldn’t be surprising considering his other work.

I’m afraid I don’t recommend you read I’m Thinking Of Ending Things, but I found Foe quite interesting if you’d like to give Reid a try.

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes – A Book Review

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Though this book is aimed at young readers in terms of sentence complexity, the plot and themes of Ghost Boys are so important that I believe adults would benefit from reading it as well.

Ghost Boys is about a young black boy named Jerome who is shot and killed by a white police officer. The aftermath of his murder involves Jerome’s family, his best friend, the police officer, the police officer’s family, and the multitude of young black men and boys who previously died under similar circumstances.

However, the book does not progress in a linear fashion. It alternates between when Jerome was alive and when he’s not. By using this method, Jewell Parker Rhodes builds suspense and keeps the reader enthralled.

I think Ghost Boys is an excellent book for introducing young readers to the very real racism that still plagues our country to this day. It offers a glimpse into the racist murders of black children dating back decades, even centuries, and it does not shy away from pointing out that murders motivated by racism have yet to end.

Ghost Boys delves deeply into the fact that real change cannot occur without acknowledging racism and the horrors that it perpetuates. Yet it does so through simple paragraphs and a very fast pace.

Jerome’s death is vividly described, but it does not cross the line. Young readers need to understand the awful implications of gun violence. I think Rhodes does a fine job of respecting young people enough to avoid pulling punches without drifting into the overtly gratuitous.

Ghost Boys is the kind of book that can foster change. I encourage you to read it, allow your middle or high school child to read it, and then discuss it together afterwards.

The Giver Of Stars by Jojo Moyes – A Book Review

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A friend recommended this book and–if I’m honest–I didn’t think it would suit my tastes. However, I’m pleased to announce that I loved it.

I’m not sure why I was initially hesitant. It features a group of librarians–some of my favorite people–delivering books–some of my favorite things–to citizens living in the Kentucky mountains during the Great Depression.

I’ll admit that it starts off a little slowly, but that is purposeful as the author is establishing characters in order to display their tremendous growth throughout the novel. Consequently, by the time this book is over, you’ll feel as though you’ve lived these characters’ lives alongside them. It’s an incredible experience.

The author has a solid grip on providing just enough description, the perfect amount of dialogue, excellent pacing, captivating subplots, and–like I said–enthralling characterization. It’s a pleasure to read.

While it’s true that the book became a little melodramatic in the last third, I was far too invested to find such theatrics off-putting. In fact, The Giver Of Stars touched me so deeply that it managed to entice a tear or two from my old, cynical eyes.

The Giver Of Stars creates characters that will feel as real to you as your best friend enduring numerous hardships all in the service of giving people access to books. How can any book lover resist that premise?

A Drink Before the War by Dennis Lehane – A Book Review

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A friend recommended this book to me, and it marks the first time I’ve ever read Dennis Lehane.

For some reason, I envisioned this book involving some kind of international war and intelligence officers, but that’s not the case at all. The title actually refers to a gang war breaking out in the Boston area. Patrick Kenzie is a PI hired to find a missing woman who has stolen documents from an important politician. Those documents are fueling the gang war, and Kenzie has found himself right in the middle of it all.

The book takes place in the early 1990s, which is very apparent due to  several references to music, TV, and major news events of that era. Kenzie, the PI, narrates the book and at times I found his internal dialogue cliched and trying too hard to be clever. I found the first half of the book a bit of a struggle to read because there isn’t much character development–it just keeps plugging away at the plot. Eventually the suspense of the story gripped me and I finished the last half of the book quickly, but I can’t say I ever connected with Kenzie or his partner, Angela Gennaro, on a personal level.

If you read this–be warned. The book fully embraces the racial tension that existed in Boston in the 1990s. The language is harsh, the characters are harsh, and the depictions are harsh. Some may find this “realistic,” but, in this day and age, it was deeply uncomfortable to read. On the one hand, I have to give Lehane credit for not shying away from his characters’ racism. On the other, some of the characters seemed overtly stereotypical.

I asked my friend for a quick, action-packed read, and A Drink Before the War definitely fits the bill. I was surprised to discover several other titles by Lehane that I recognized such as Shutter Island, Live By Night, Mystic River, and Gone, Baby, Gone.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – A Book Review

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Where the Crawdads Sing is a fast-paced, potent, concise book that has a little bit of everything which will likely satisfy any reader.

The story centers around Kya, a young girl growing up alone in the marshes of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. When I say alone–I mean alone. Everyone has abandoned her–her mother, father, brothers, sisters, people in the nearby town–everyone. This forces her to fend for herself in a primitive shack that has neither indoor plumbing nor electricity. Though initially a child, and despite lacking any formal education, she learns to observe nature’s lessons, and that becomes the key to her survival into adulthood. Unfortunately, though the town completely shuns her, its sins will not leave her alone and she is eventually accused of murder.

Where the Crawdads Sing accomplishes so much in such a short amount of time. It delves deeply into issues of domestic abuse, abandonment, discrimination, elitism, and hypocrisy.

However, it is also a love letter to nature as it beautifully describes the vibrant activities occurring in areas most people deem uncivilized. Owens’ writing is compressed, but extremely effective. She will make you feel like you’re living in the marsh, coexisting with nature, right by Kya’s side.

Furthermore, there is a captivating murder mystery present in this book as well. Though it may sound out of place, it’s not. Owens weaves the murder mystery into the overall plot perfectly. It never feels forced nor contrived. Between Kya’s story, the murder mystery, and the convergence of the two, I couldn’t put this book down.

No matter what your taste, I highly recommend Where the Crawdad’s Sing. I believe anyone who enjoys fiction will like this book.

Pretty Deadly: The Rat – A Book Review

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This is the third book in the Pretty Deadly series. It’s written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, drawn and inked by Emma Rios, and colored by Jordie Bellaire.

If you’re unfamiliar with this series, it’s a little … hard to describe.

It’s narrated to us by a skeletal rabbit and a butterfly, and it’s generally about a young girl who is also partially a bird and has taken over “the Garden” from Death, thus becoming Death herself. She is trying to revitalizing “the Garden,” and in doing so must recollect the Reapers, former tools of Death.

This particular volume focuses upon a man whose niece has died in 1930s Hollywood. He takes it upon himself to solve the mystery of her death, and in doing so runs across Ginny, the Reaper of Vengeance and friend to the new Death. Ginny helps the man, and the two of them realize that the niece led a complicated life intertwined with several other Reapers.

Pretty Deadly has never followed narrative convention, and The Rat is no different. It has a plot, but the plot doesn’t unfold or conclude as you might expect. This is what I admire so much about Pretty Deadly. It tells stories, but it does so in a unique fashion that really is unlike anything else out there. Some will find it too convoluted, or maybe even too nonsensical. I can’t argue with those who have that opinion. For me, though, it’s a breath of fresh air.

If you’re looking for an innovative read, Pretty Deadly: The Rat might just satisfy. This particular volume is a little bit horror, a little bit mystery, a little bit noir, and a whole lot of inventive mythology.

Rios’ art is captivating; Bellaire’s colors are mesmerizing; DeConnick’s stories and dialogue are cutting-edge. What more could you want?

Click the image to view the author’s latest book at Amazon.com.

East Of West (Volume 9) – A Book Review

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Author Jonathan Hickman continues to captivate with his East of West series from Image Comics. In this word, our idea of the United States has been divided up into many factions, and they all await the end of the world. The Four Horseman roam freely, and it’s only a matter of time.

East of West is a wonderful blend. It’s got strong roots in the Western, Science Fiction, and World Mythology genres. Death, our main character, is a stark white cowboy with a chip on his shoulder and everything to lose.

In this particular volume, Death and his fellow Horseman, War, air their grievances and near a climatic battle. We also discover relationships that we didn’t know existed, as well as important events from the past that most definitely influence the near future.

And that future is very near, for this is the second to last volume of the series.

As always, Hickman delivers a sparse, quick script that explains much with very few unnecessary words. Nick Dragotta, the artist, keeps getting better and better with his clean, dynamic lines. I think the real star of the series is Frank Martin, though. His colors really make everything pop off the page. Who knew characters comprised of almost a single color could look so amazing?

If you’re searching for a graphic novel series to read, East Of West is among the highest of my recommendations.