Tuesday, April 28, 2015

My musings and reviews have moved

I've moved all my new postings to my website: www.susanmaywriter.com

For three years I created content for four different blogs. Yes, four! 

Call me crazy. No, lets make that call me naive to think I could run that many blogs and keep up the fiction writing.

All my book and film reviews and musings on writing are now over at my blog/website An Adventure in Words. So there is nothing new here, but a lot of good old posts reviewing books and interviewing authors if you would like to hang around here for a bit.

Join me at www.susanmaywriter.com and see what's happening in the world of storytelling.

Monday, September 29, 2014

YOU by Caroline Kepnes

Rating: ✪✪✪✪out of 5 Stars

Release Date:                  UK, Australia, US September 2014
Author’s Website:           Caroline Kepnes on Facebook
Publisher’s Website:      Simon & Schuster  (purchase information)  
AMAZON:                              CLICK HERE

My thoughts:
     I’ve a new obsession that I need to share. I read a lot, but so few books go beyond "pretty good." Maybe once or twice a year I find a book that is a real thrill to discover. Discovering a debut author who has also written the best book I’ve read all year is very exciting. You know the type of book I’m talking about, where you pick it up and flip to the first few pages, thinking: Yeah, what’s so good about you that everyone is talking? Then out of curiosity you unsuspectingly read the first few pages just before you think you’re going to turn out the light. Two hours later you’re thinking: I need to go to sleep—but I can’t. I’m sucked in. Then the next day, the thought of getting back inside that world sends a little tingle up your spine. That’s Caroline Kepnes’ YOU.

     Stephen King’s 1987 Misery was one of those novels, too, that had everyone talking. The insanity and obsession of Annie Wilkes was both mesmerizing and horrifying in equal quantity. In the same year, the film Fatal Attraction gave us the iconic portrayal of obsession with Glen Close aiming her crazy desire at Michael Douglas. They were visceral experiences. Misery and Fatal Attraction spawned a myriad of copycat plots, but I personally don’t think anything has come close to creating their claustrophobic feeling of obsession. That is, until I recently read YOU, debut novel from talented (very talented) U.S. author, Caroline Kepnes.

    YOU is simply brilliant. From the first chapter, you’re sucked into the world of bookstore manager Joe Goldberg, whose instant attraction to a random customer, Guinevere Beck, takes obsession and love to a whole new level. She has a boyfriend, but that’s no problem for Joe. She has a demanding girlfriend who keeps getting in the way. No problem either for Joe. These problems have a way of working themselves out when Joe is around. He tracks the love of his life via social media. (Note, this is, also, a cautionary tale on not revealing too much on your Facebook and Twitter accounts.) Things head down a very dark and dangerous rabbit hole and some people are not coming out alive. That’s love, and Joe will do anything for love.

   Guinevere is a fabulous character, too. She’s not a perfect girl. In fact, she’s self-indulgent, obsessive, and insecure, but Joe still loves her and it’s his hilarious commentary on her and her friend’s failings that make this book so special. Written in second person, we are right inside Joe’s head as he speaks directly in his thoughts to Guinevere, her boyfriend, and anyone else he encounters. This style of writing is unusual, yet it works perfectly in creating the feel for a story that is all about head games. Now you might think being inside the head of an obsessive narcissist with murderous tendencies wouldn’t be the most pleasant of visits, but thanks to Kepnes's witty prose, you actually come to like Joe—he’s kind of cool. Each time you open the pages you are both excited and terrified to discover what he will do next.  I don’t ever want to meet someone like Joe, but boy I sure do love him.

    YOU is one of the most exciting and thrilling reads released this year. A book about obsession will obsess you. When they talk about guilty obsessions this book is it! Great news is that a sequel is on its way.

Thank you to the awesome people at Simon & Schuster Australia for my review copy.

     When aspiring writer Guinevere Beck strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe works, he’s instantly smitten. Beck is everything Joe has ever wanted: She’s gorgeous, tough, razor-smart, and as sexy as his wildest dreams.
     Beck doesn’t know it yet, but she’s perfect for him, and soon she can’t resist her feelings for a guy who seems custom made for her. But there’s more to Joe than Beck realizes, and much more to Beck than her oh-so-perfect façade. Their mutual obsession quickly spirals into a whirlwind of deadly consequences...

  A chilling account of unrelenting passion, Caroline Kepnes’s You is a perversely romantic thriller that’s more dangerously clever than any you’ve read before.
About the author:

Caroline Kepnes is a native of Cape Cod and the author of many published short stories. She has covered pop culture for Entertainment Weekly, Tiger Beat, E! Online and Yahoo. She wrote episodes of 7th Heaven and The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Her directorial debut short film Miles Away premiered at the Woods Hole Film Festival and took third place in the Audience Award for Comedy Short. Caroline is a Brown University graduate who splits her time between Los Angeles and Cape Cod. Her favorite beverages are vanilla latte and root beer flavored vodka. She doesn't do well with flies, needles or freeways.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Dick Wolf & Two Fantastic Thriller Reads

Rating: ✪✪✪✪ out of 5 Stars

My thoughts:

Who hasn’t seen at least one episode of Law and Order, the longest running scripted show on television? It’s been around, would you believe, since 1990. Dick Wolf, the creator of the show, is an award winning director, and producer. Now he's turned his hand to writing books, and he's proved that he can tell gripping stories no matter the medium.
In 2013, he released his first book THE INTERCEPT, and it took me a while to get around to reading it. (If you saw my to-be-read review pile, you would be afraid.) Once I did get to it, I read it in a few sittings. It was brilliant, and a masterful thriller debut.

Its not surprising that Wolf can write a page turning thriller/drama. He does wonders with a 40-minute television slot. Through that discipline, it’s clear he’s learned the craft of grabbing hold of a reader and not letting them go until the last page.

This year he’s released the second in the series THE EXECUTION—although you can read either of these books as a stand-alone. Both stories are a cross between a police procedural and a political thriller set in New York.
His protagonist, Jeremy Fisk, is an investigating officer from the department's Intelligence Division in New York, and he is the perfect, intelligent character on the wrong side of authority to take us on a thill ride.

The story setups are very good. In THE INTERCEPT a plane hijacking is foiled and the passengers who prevent it become instant celebrities. Fisk suspects there is more to this attempt than meets the eye, and that there is an even greater terrorist threat connected to it.

In THE EXECUTION, we follow on directly from the first book, and in the opening scenes, there are some grizzly, nasty chapters à la Breaking Bad involving a Mexican drug lord. Wolf introduces us to Detective Cecilia Garza of the Mexican intelligence agency, and she is a great foil for Jeremy Fisk.

Dick Wolf has become one of my favorite authors. I never miss an episode of Law and Order; in 24 years I’ve only ever missed a couple of episodes of any of the series. I won’t be missing any of his books either. He is an accomplished author and knows how to entertain in any format.

Thank you to Hachette Australia who supplied both these books to me in return for my honest opinion.

Four days before the dedication of the new Freedom Tower at ground zero in New York City, five passengers and a flight attendant bravely foil the hijacking of a commercial jet en route to the city. Thrust into the national spotlight, 'The Six' become instant celebrities, hailed for their bravery. But iconoclastic New York Police investigator Jeremy Fisk believes there's more to this than a simple open-and-shut terrorism case. Fisk -from the department's Intelligence Division - suspects that in reality this is an early warning signal that another potentially more devastating attack is imminent. Fisk and his team spring into action, but as each promising new lead fizzles to nothing they realise that their opponents are smarter and more dangerous than anyone they've faced before. The seemingly invisible enemy is able to exploit every security weakness, anticipating Fisk's every move. And time is running out until ground zero day...

Soon after the Mexican presidential election, twenty-three bodies are discovered beheaded on the United States border, each marked with a unique symbol - a carving of a hummingbird. Detective Cecilia Garza of the Mexican intelligence agency recognizes it as the signature of Chuparosa - an assassin feared for his cunning and brutality. The fierce and intense detective has been pursuing the killer for years, yet knows little about him, except that he's heading to New York - with the rest of the world. It's United Nations Week in Manhattan and Jeremy Fisk can't let grief over a devastating loss keep him from his duty to safeguard the city. Complicating matters is news of a mass murder nearby - and the arrival of the disturbingly beautiful and assertive Cecilia Garza, determined to do things her way.In the race to catch Chuparosa, these uneasy allies must learn to work together, and fast. As they soon discover, there's more to this threat than meets the eye - and Fisk will have to learn the hard way that justice is not always blind.

Release Date:                   The Intercept January 2013
          The Execution January 2014
Author’s Website:            Jeremy Fisk on Facebook
                                                                     No author website but the character Jeremy Fisk has his own Facebook page.
Purchase in Australia:    QBD Bookstore & other good book stores
Publisher’s Website:       Hachette Australia

About the author:
Dick Wolf, an award-winning writer, director, producer, and creator, is the architect of one of the most successful brands in the history of television - Law & Order, the longest running scripted show in television history. He has won numerous awards, including two Emmys, a Grammy, and an Edgar.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Mr Mercedes by Stephen King

Rating: ✪✪✪✪ ½ out of 5 Stars

Release Date:                 June 2014
Author’s Website:         http://stephenking.com/ 
Purchase in Australia:   QBD Bookstore & other good book stores
Publisher’s Website:       Hachette

My thoughts:

Stephen King has been talking about this book for ages. He came up with the idea after hearing about the true story of a woman who accidentally crashed her car into a crowd of people waiting outside a store.

In his story, of course, it’s a psychopath that crashes the car, and he’s not a bit sorry. In fact, he planned it. He’s so proud of it, and so surprised that he gets away with it, that he writes a letter to retired cop, Bill Hodges, outlining what a thrill it was to kill all those people.  Retirement hasn’t treated Hodges so well, and he’s playing should I-shouldn’t I with his revolver.

This case, which he calls Mr. Mercedes, after the stolen car used in the crime, is one of his unsolved cases and still weighs heavily on him. Receiving the letter, reignites his will to live and thus begins a cat and mouse game between the detective and Mr. Mercedes, who despite his protestations, isn’t done yet with his killing spree.

If you enjoy Stephen King’s style, then you will enjoy this book. There are no supernatural nasty creatures in this one. It’s just a plain old homicidal maniac. Stephen King calls it “his first hard-boiled detective book,” but he certainly brings his flourish for creating the insane, evil mind to the party. Mr. Mercedes is filled with King’s neat way with words and a story that will keep you travelling along way past the speed limit until the very end.

Here's a link to Stephen King talking about the book. CLICK HERE

About the author:

Seriously if you don’t know who Stephen King is, where have you been living for forty years, but just on the remotest chance that you have never heard of him… Stephen King is an American author of contemporary horror, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy. His books have sold more than 350 million copies and many of them have been adapted into feature films, television movies and comic books.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Swimmer by Joakim Zander

Rating: ✪✪✪✪✪ out of 5 Stars

Release Date:                        July 2014
Purchase in Australia:         QBD Bookstore & other good book stores
More Information:                 More Information
Publisher’s Website:            Harper Collins

My thoughts:

When you discover a new author it’s such a thrill, isn't it? I remember, in my twenties, reading Robert Ludlum’s The Matarese Circle, Ken Follett’s Eye of the Needle, Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal and being blown away. How did these guys write like this? I was hooked on them and, subsequently, read everything they wrote after that. Somehow over the years I drifted away from spy thrillers. They became cliché, mostly derivative of these master’s genre work.

So when I was handed The Swimmer by Joakim Zander, I wasn’t expecting to become excited about the genre again. But Zander’s book has everything that Ludlum, Follett, and Forsyth's books did. His skill with words, the imminent feeling of  suspense, and a layered, intriguing story combine perfectly for an exciting read. What makes it even more amazing is that this is a translation from Zander’s native Swedish.

Klara Waldeen was orphaned as a child and raised by her grandparents in an isolated area of Sweden. As an adult, she now lives in Brussels and works as a political aide.

A million miles away, in another life and another country, an old spy who had prioritized his job over his family now ponders his choices in life; his only solace, swimming. Then, on Christmas Eve, Klara is dragged into a race against time and unseen enemies via an ex-lover Mahmoud Shammosh when he, inadvertently, comes across sensitive information. Thus begins a wild chase across Europe against pursuers who will kill to maintain their secret. Elsewhere, Swedish lobbyist, George Lööw, is assigned a client with a suspicious agenda. He suddenly finds his life threatened and involved in the pursuit against his will. 

When the retired spy realizes who Clara is, he, too, becomes embroiled in the chase. Little does Klara know that a man she doesn’t know, but has always wondered about, may be the only person who can save her.

After setting up the characters, this book ramps up and doesn’t let you go. The Swimmer has an unassuming cover, but within that cover is an explosive read that will have any spy-thriller fan rejoicing. This is the perfect thriller.

About the author:
Joakim Zander was born in 1975 in Stockholm, Sweden. He was raised in the small town of Söderköping but, growing up, he also lived in Syria and Israel and was a high-school exchange student in the USA. After completing his military service in the Swedish Navy, he studied law at Uppsala University and later earned a PhD in Law from Maastricht University. Cambridge University Press published his dissertation, The Application of the Precautionary Principle in Practice, which was awarded the Rabobank Prize. Zander has worked for the European Parliament and the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium. He currently lives in Helsinki, Finland where he serves as a lawyer for the EU during the day and writes at night. The Swimmer is his first novel.