The first book I want to talk about, and a new addition to my 1001 Books And Authors To Read Before You Die List, is Man Of Wax written by the same author who wrote The Dishonoured Dead; an alternative Zombie novel that itself was a recent addition to The List. Here is what I said about it on Dooyoo...
"Man Of Wax is the first E-book in a new trilogy from the author of The Dishonoured Dead; an alternative Zombie tale that some may recall I raved about a few weeks ago on here. The story takes an ordinary everyman and puts him in a series of dangerous scenarios as he fights to try and discover who is behind the kidnapping of his wife and daughter.
The novel begins with Ben Anderson waking in a Motel room with no idea how he got there. On the back of the bathroom door, presumably written in blood, are the words "Let the game begin...". A few minutes later, he recieves delivery of a Cell Phone, car keys and 500 Dollars in cash in a wallet. A voice on the other end of the phone tells him his name is Simon and that they are about to start a sinister game of Simon Says. Failure to comply will result in his wife and daughter being tortured and maybe even killed. Ben's first task is to steal a Snickers bar from a garage but from then on the stakes get higher and higher as Simon attempts to push Ben closer and closer to the edge......
But someone else is watching Ben with his own private agenda and when they intervene, suddenly Ben's life starts getting very complicated indeed!
This is a great thriller that takes its influence from films like Phonebooth or The Hitcher and novels like Dean Koontz's The Husband but gives them all its own unique twist. It is written paticularly well, is much better written than The Dishonoured Dead, and quickly pulls you in and keeps you gripped throughout. At times it is quite grim and very dark in nature and the tension and suspense it fills you with lasts long after you have turned the final page. This novel though is just part of a much bigger story and reading this leaves you in no uncertain terms that you are going to want to pick up the next installment when it is published sometime in the next couple of months!"
Next up is another addition to my 1001 List ~ Agent 6 by Tom Rob Smith. Agent 6 is the final part in Smith's trilogy of novels that began with the highly acclaimed Child 44 (itself an entry on my List) and continued with the slightly inferior Secret Speech. Set both before and after these novels, the story that is the main focus for Agent 6 spans several decades and looks heavily at the relations between America and Russia during the period of The Cold War with a large interlude dealing with Russia's occupation of Afghanistan in between.
This time around, Leo Demidov has left the Secret Police and is trying to likewise leave his old life behind him and start anew. But the past has an awful way of catching up with you and when Leo's wife, Raisa, and his two adopted daughters are allowed passage to America to take part in a peace concert that is supposed to support the ongoing relations between Russia and America, things go horribly wrong and personal tragedy strikes.
Obsessed with finding a killer, Leo goes ever so slightly off the rails and, finding it difficult to cope, takes up an Opium addiction and re-enlists in the Soviet Army stationed in Afghanistan. A cycle of events that will end up seeing Leo's life go full circle in Tom Rob Smith's most compelling and addictive novel to date!
This is like A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini all over again at times with its really horrific scenes set in an Afghanistan dominated by Russian Forces but told from a different viewpoint and perspective. Certainly there are parts of this novel that have a similar affect on your senses! I cannot stress enough that this is a real return to form for Tom Rob Smith and that this latest book is a vast improvement on The Secret Speech and easily as gripping as Child 44!
Very rarely am I as moved as I was by this book and it is one that will stay with me for much time to come. It is great to travel back into the main character, Leo's life once more just as it is equally great to see the conclusion to his story that began so long ago in Child 44. This is my recommendation for the month and a book I really think everyone should read ~ what's more, you don't have to have read the previous books as this is one of those novels strong enough to stand on its own merits though, obviously, if you have read Child 44 or Secret Seech then you will be more familiar with the characters who appear here!
Agent 6 is one of those books that you sincerely wish you could just give 6 stars out of 5, it is THAT good!
Next up, here's my review of Chelea Cain's latest thriller, THE NIGHT SEASON:
"The Night Season is Chelsea Cain's fourth thriller in her best-selling series and the first not to feature serial killer, Gretchen Lowell in a starring role. Fear ye not though because Archie Sheridan and his team, including intrepid reporter Susan Ward, are all back for another outing in this, her most ambitious novel yet, which deviates away from her normal, established pattern to bring something fresh and new to the table.
It is the rainy season and the streets of Portland are in panic as floods threaten to wash away much of the older regions of the town. But the floods have brought out not just the Emergency Services but also the remains of a skeleton who died sometime around the last time Portland flooded. Susan thinks she has story. Her Editor not so much. And then it becomes apparent that a spate of recent drownings were in fact actually murdered! How are these two stories related, if at all? Susan becomes determined as always to find out but at what cost to her and her friends?
This is another great thriller from awesome author, Chelsea Cain! I love the alternative murder weapon used in this story (which I will not reveal but suffice to say, it is a doozy!) and the fact that Chelsea has added a unique and innovative touch to what so could easily have become just your average-run-of-the-mill crime thriller without the usual guest apperance of Beauty Killer, Gretchen.
As always, Chelsea keeps you on your toes throughout and, despite this getting some negative reviews from fans on Amazon, I actually like this more BECAUSE it concentrates on something other than Gretchen Lowell, whom we have come to expect in every Archie Sheridan thriller so far. It is good to see that Archie can, in fact, survive on his own merits without Gretchen and does not need her to carry a plot and this is easily one of the best thrillers I have read in months and definitely right up there with her previous novels to date!
Comes highly recommended!"
In brief, other books that I have read in recent months include ALICE IN DEADLAND BY MAINAK DHAR ~ not a parody as the title might suggest but a serious post-apocalyptic Zombie novel based in India where the only blonde-haired white girl left in the country (her father was based at The American Embassy when the outbreak occurred) is mistaken as the fullfillment of a prophecy held by a half-Zombie/ half-Human Queen. A prophecy that fortells of a girl who will help bring about a peaceful resolution between Zombie and Human and see the two living alongside each other. Of course, the Queen is quite mad and her prophecy is no more than an old, faded copy of Alice In Wonderland but there are some okay moments in this book and it is a good attempt to try and do something diferent with the Genre; it just doesn't quite work.
AND THE UGLY.....
AN APPLE FOR ZOE BY THOMAS AMO comes next and this is another one of those books that starts off well then disintegrates into a confused and convoluted mess! It begins with a murder mystery whose clues lead a pair of Homicide Detectives to the infamous hotel where Fats Domino once allegedly raped a girl with a Coke bottle and where Al Johnson died. From there, everything gets a bit messy as we end up in a tale of Demonic posession with Dark forces trying to break through into our world. Could've been better but it is just so badly written that, towards the half-way point, you start to realise you haven't a clue what is going on....
Next up is PHOBIA BY ELIZABETH PARKER; a dull psychological thriller about a man with an affliction that leaves him panicked both in the dark and small places who falls for a kindred spirit whose ex kills people by exploiting their phobias. This was okay but took too long to get going and when it did, it was predictable....A big no-no from me!
Oh and finally, MESSAGES BY J.MICHAEL HILEMAN. Here is what I wrote about it on Dooyoo again.....
"David Chance is a lowly back-room boy working in a News Studio whose job is less than enthralling. One day whilst working on edits, he lets his attention wander and picks random words from objects around him in a vague attempt to construct a sentence. A few minutes later, his Boss tells him he needs to head out to his Office to retrieve a file just as Chance's randomly constructed sentence predicted a few seconds before. Thinking it was all just a coincidence, Chance plays the same game on the drive home and gets the message "Stop Now!" Chance hits the brakes as a car behind him overtakes angrily and a few seconds later watches as that car is totalled by a truck that had jumped the lights! Suddenly Chance is scared. Is somebody trying to send him messages?
Chance's brother-in-law thinks it is all just hokum. His wife has more than enough on her plate to deal with. His neighbour thinks it is God working in his own infamously mysterious way and that there is a purpose behind the messages that Chance should definitely pay heed to. When Chance's eyes are next drawn to a message that seems to suggest an attempt on the President's life, he finds himself pulled into a dangerous web of conspiracy and betrayal. And when Chance learns that someone is also aiming to plant a dirty bomb somewhere in the city, it quickly becomes apparent that someone or something, some divine force or entity, wants Chance to stop not just the President's asassination but also the bomb from going off and killing thousands of innocent bystanders in the process. Is it God or something else that is working through him?
This is an okay thriller with lots of potential. Unfortunately it never quite lives up to that potential. There seems to be a heavily religious theme running all through this book and yet that theme is contradicted at the end by the author suggesting that in fact, anyone believing themselves to be recieving prophetic messages like the main character in his book should probably be best seeking psychiatric help. This would be okay if the book didn't seem to ram home the idea that God speaks to us each and everyday if only we would open our eyes to what he is saying. But the fact that it does, coupled with the authors notes at the end, seems to give off very mixed signals.
I didn't like the way either that, around the half-way point of this story, the whole thing gets a little cliched in its take on the War On Terror. The bad guys are predictably Middle-Eastern and there is this whole post-911 feel to it that just comes across as clumsy and unnessecary! I'm not saying this is a BAD novel because it isn't, it just has a few too many flaws and seems to take itself, at times, far too seriously for my liking!
I really thought I was going to enjoy this as it had lots of glowing recommendations both at the beginning of the book and on Amazon. But instead what could have been a great idea and a totally interesting concept simply feels wasted on a very sub-standard plot.
For trying very hard to be innovative and original, I give this 3 stars. Unfortunately, I don't feel able to give it any more. Not even if God himself asks me too!"
Finally there's PATIENT ZERO BY JONATHAN MABERRY, a book that started well, showed promise but ultimately disappointed. Again, here's my Dooyoo review....
"Patient Zero is a brave attempt to try and do something different with the Zombie novel. And why not? The market is flooded right now, with many of the stories on offer consisting of the usual pulp post-apocalyptic fare that is tall on action, short on originality but still seems to sell. A few stand-out exceptions in recent times include offerings from horror writer, Brian Keene, which depict Zombies as vessels for a demonic infestation and Robert Swartwood's Dishonoured Dead which attempts to reverse the usual perspective and look at things from a Zombie viewpoint.
In Jonathan Maberry's fast-paced techno-thriller, our hero is Joe Ledger; a Cop involved in an Anti-Terorist swoop on a warehouse, accompanied by Homeland Security. Things all go a bit pear-shaped, some of the terrorists get away in a couple of trucks, only one of which the Task Force manage to track, and Ledger is deemed at least part-way responsible by some of those involved. Called in for a meeting with a secret Goverment Department, he instead finds himself being interviewed for a potential vacancy and quickly learns exactly what the Terrorists were up to in that warehouse when he is made to face one of them he thought he had killed......
It seems the Terrorists have created a new Bio-Weapon that turns men into psychotic animals that are extremely hard to kill and keep going even after their bodily functions have long begun to shut down. They are planning to utilise it in a strike against the West.....the only question is where and when......
This is not a bad thriller that certainly kept me entertained for about two-thirds of the book before it all began to get a bit repetitive and kind of just ran out of steam towards the end. It does get to a point in this book where you begin to wonder if Joe Ledger isn't some kind of super-human himself, the amount of Zombie ass he is able to kick, and the climax of this book just feels a bit too familiar and tired as the First Lady is put into jeopardy and has to be saved.
This novel is okay but I am not sure I would read any more from this author if I had to pay for subsequent volumes and there are several others written in this same universe that carry on from here. It all just felt a bit too gung-ho and though it was okay, it never really progressed beyond that to awesome though I applaud the author's efforts to try something new and original!"