Foe by Iain Reid – A Book Review

I found Foe at the Normal Public Library as I wondered the new books section. The title initially caught my attention, plus the fact that it’s pretty thin. I read the inside of the jacket and was sold.

This book absolutely riveted me. I read it in three days, which, for me, is very fast. I really don’t want to tell you too much about the book for fear of spoiling it. However, I will say that it is sparsely written, quickly paced, and a real page-turner.

I thought I had this book figured out about half way through it, but Reid introduces so many possibilities, I couldn’t be sure I was right until the very end. And even though I had it right, Reid managed to throw in an unexpected twist that I didn’t see coming.

If you’re looking for a fast, captivating read with a plot that will enthrall you, I recommend Foe by Iain Reid.

foe by iain reid

Are you in need of a new epic series? Try Dr. Nekros, a trilogy that I like to describe as Moonlighting meets The X-FilesKindle: https://amzn.to/2JUqte2 or NOOK: http://bit.ly/2JTFXm1

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Codename Villanelle by Luke Jennings – A Book Review

You may remember that my wife and I very much enjoyed Killing Eve, which aired on BBC America.  As is my habit, I had to go check out the source material, which turned out to be a novel entitled Codename Villanelle.

Written by Luke Jennings, this fast-paced, brisk thriller served as the basis for the television show.  However, as you read the book, you’ll notice the show greatly enriched virtually every character.

Villanelle is still present–obviously.  So is Eve.  Konstantin and Niko, too.  Several other characters were adapted into new characters for the show, or outright jettisoned.

The show also used the same general plot.  Villanelle is an international assassin who comes from less than nothing.  Konstantin is her handler.  Eve is a UK agent obsessed with apprehending Villanelle.  Niko is still her husband.  However, Jennings keeps them fairly bare-bones.  Yes, he introduces some of their little idiosyncrasies.  Eve is still something of a social train-wreck.  Villanelle is still a sociopath.  Niko is still incredibly patient and helpful.  But, we seem to just skim the surface of these interesting attributes.  None of them have the charm nor the depth of their televised counterparts.

The novel is very plot driven.  Jennings is incredibly specific with locations, weaponry, procedures, and technology.  There is ample action that moves at a whiplash pace, but, again, the characters are somewhat flat.

I have to wonder if I’m being unfair to the book.  Killing Eve is clearly such a special show, is it unfair to judge the source material too harshly in this case?  Could Killing Eve’s charming, odd, wonderful characters have existed without Jennings groundwork?

Honestly, I don’t think I’m being unfair.  The book was an entertaining read, but it didn’t strike me as monumental.  Without the show, I don’t think it would have made much of an impression on me.  Keep in mind, though, I don’t read much suspense or espionage spy stories.

Frankly, there were times when I thought the book was a little sexually gratuitous.  Jennings makes a point to depict Villanelle as a sexual predator.  He absolutely objectifies her and her prey.  It largely felt unnecessary to me, because it is–again–dealt with at a very shallow level that makes it seem like it’s there only to shock the reader.

If you like quick reads full of detail, action, violence, and suspense, this is the book for you.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)

Dr. Nekros’ First Review Is In!

Thanks so much to Jen Weaver! She not only wrote a very flattering review regarding Dr. Nekros: Book One, but she also managed to be the first ever to do so!  I am so appreciative that she took the time and effort to say a few words about my book.

If you want to read what she said, click HERE!

DR NEKROS BOOK ONE E EDITION COVER

 

Annihilation – A Movie Review

I happen to really enjoy Alex Garland’s work, particularly Ex MachinaAnnihilation hit the theaters and disappeared almost immediately, so I didn’t get a chance to see it until last night.

In preparation for the film, back when I thought I’d catch it in the theaters, I read the source material.  (My review for the book can be found HERE.)  This action proved totally unnecessary.  You can watch Annihilation without reading a single page of the book and be just fine.  This is the case for two reasons.  Firstly, Garland stripped the book’s sci-fi elements down to the barest essentials, which made a murky plot in the book very easy to digest on film.  Secondly, Garland radically changed almost every personality aspect of Lena, Natalie Portman’s character.  She is far more balanced, warm, and sociable in the movie than in the book.  Garland also created a mainstream background for Lena compared to what existed in the book.

In fact, Garland altered a great deal of the movie from the book.  The general premise is the same, but the circumstances, environments, and characters are all very different.  This is not a bad thing at all.  Garland delivered a tight, suspenseful movie that kept me guessing throughout.  At times it struck me as almost horror because the scenes were so intense.  But, I wouldn’t call it a horror movie — not by a long shot.  I wouldn’t even call it a science fiction movie, though it exists firmly within that world.  I would rather label this movie as a thrilling character study.

Portman plays a complex person.  Her husband in the film, played by Oscar Isaac, is equally complicated.  And while I found Portman’s supporting characters a little flat, everyone must agree that Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Gina Rodriguez gave it their all.  Again, it has much in common with a horror movie in that we get snippets of who these characters are amidst the suspense, but we get to know none of them deeply.

I keep mentioning horror, yet the movie is actually very quiet in many ways, which certainly builds the suspense.  It doesn’t feel obligated to tell you everything going on, though much is revealed by story’s end.  However, stay loose and enjoy the ride.  The movie demands a certain level of interpretation from the viewer.

Finally, the special effects are beautiful.  The premise is that a meteorite hits a remote area in Florida.  It begins to change the life within an ever-expanding zone.  This is a mutation occurring at the cellular level, so the results are pretty astounding.  Garland definitely succeeds at providing lifeforms that are both exotic but also within the realm of reality.  It’s quite a sight to behold.

All in all, I feel that this is a severely underappreciated movie.  It’s strange and demands a certain level of intellectual engagement by the audience, but it’s also well-made, well-acted, thrilling, and unique.  I highly recommend you give it a try.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Tony and Susan by Austin Wright – A Book Review

A checked this book out because I read in Entertainment Weekly about a film adaptation coming soon called Nocturnal Animals.  Tony and Susan originally published in 1993.  The author died ten years later.

The EW article made the premise sound fascinating, so I couldn’t wait to read the book.  The plot is that Susan Morrow unexpectedly receives a manuscript from her ex-husband, Edward Sheffield.  They’ve been divorced nearly two decades and Susan is quite established in her new life with her new husband and new family.  The manuscript unnerves her because Edward’s writing is noted right away as a catalyst for their divorce all those years ago.

Tony and Susan quickly becomes a book within a book, and that inner book is entitled Nocturnal Animals. Susan’s ex-husband, Edward, has written a story in which his main character, Tony, gets involved with the wrong group of guys during a highway grudge match.  Unfortunately, his wife and college-aged daughter are in the car with him, and his actions have consequences for them as well.

As Susan reads about Tony’s horrific event, she is drawn in and can’t help but wonder why Edward has sent this manuscript to her after so many years of silence.  Is she meant to read something into it?  Should she take it at face value, or try to decipher some sort of message?

I’m torn about this book.  It starts off incredibly strong.  Tony’s plight with a gang of toughs made my heart race and I literally lost track of time as I read that part of the book – it flew by!

But when that initial thrill ended, Tony’s story lost a certain amount of urgency for me.  Furthermore, the book shifts in tone and begins to become very much about Susan as she reads Nocturnal Animals.  We learn more and more about she and Edward’s past, their marriage, and certain things that led to that marriage’s demise.

The first forty pages were absolutely riveting as Tony gambled with his family’s life while trying to stick it to a bunch of punks.  But when that primary conflict reached its immediate conclusion, I felt a little cheated.  I expected the vast majority of the book to be about Tony struggling to save his wife and child, but that wasn’t the case.  It instead turned very much into a character study of Tony, as well as Susan.  Hence, Tony and Susan, I suppose.

I still plan to see the movie, but more on the strength of the actors involved than the story itself.  Tony and Susan isn’t a bad read, but it certainly does not maintain its opening appeal.

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Childhood Demons – A Halloween Short Story

I’m pleased to announce that I have an original short story available for your Amazon Kindle or Kindle App.  Never before published, “Childhood Demons” is a disturbing tale to help you get in the Halloween mood.

Here is what you can expect …

“Henry Mansell must return to his boyhood home to handle some unfortunate business. Henry brings his wife and four year old son along, and when Henry reads his child a bedtime story in the bedroom from his youth, old demons arise.”

You can download your copy now by visiting the link:

http://www.amazon.com/Childhood-Demons-ebook/dp/B00FS1Z57E/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1381524178&sr=8-2&keywords=childhood+demons

Misery Bay by Steve Hamilton – A Book Review

I recently discovered Steve Hamilton and read his work entitled The Lock Artist, a book I thoroughly enjoyed.  So when the opportunity arose to procure an advance copy of his latest, a thriller called Misery Bay, I jumped at the chance.

Misery Bay stars a character called Alex McKnight.  McKnight has, apparently, appeared before in previous Hamilton works, but my unfamiliarity with McKnight proved inconsequential.  Hamilton eased me into McKnight’s world by utilizing an organic, smooth narrative style that subtly revealed the character’s history.  In fact, so seamless was Hamilton’s introduction of McKnight that I wouldn’t have been surprised at all if this was the character’s first appearance!

McKnight is a former Detroit cop who now resides in Paradise, a frigid little town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  McKnight has a long history of tragedy, one I won’t spoil here, but the man keeps a good sense of sardonic humor about him and is, by all accounts, a capable protagonist.  He doesn’t particularly want to be a hero, however, and is very much at ease hanging out at his favorite bar and drinking his favorite beer.

Through a series of gruesome events, though, McKnight finds himself ensnared in a case involving multiple suicides and murders, all involving state police officers and their children.  Honor and duty binds him to the case, and while he doesn’t necessarily want to take on the role of “detective,” he can’t turn his back on those in need of help.  In the end, it’s a grisly affair, one that will shock you and keep you on the edge of your seat.

Hamilton’s writing style is fluid and conversational with a special emphasis on realistic, dynamic dialogue.  Though there’s a mystery in Misery Bay, I’m not sure I would classify it as such.  I would be more comfortable calling it a thriller.  There’s plenty of action, humor, gore, and even a touch of drama which all come together to form a true page-turner.  Michael Connelly and James Patterson offer favorable quotes in regards to Hamilton and his McKnight, and after reading Misery Bay I can understand why!