Books I've Reviewed

I will read and review books that have had an influence on my writing style or that fall into genres that shadow my own. I may even throw in a few different genres if I like the book enough. 

 

Feel free to scroll down this page to see the books I've read and reviewed.

Stop back often. I'll update this page regularly.

  

Shadow Divers

By

Robert Kurson

Synopsis

In the tradition of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air and Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm comes a true tale of riveting adventure in which two weekend scuba divers risk everything to solve a great historical mystery–and make history themselves.

For John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, deep wreck diving was more than a sport. Testing themselves against treacherous currents, braving depths that induced hallucinatory effects, navigating through wreckage as perilous as a minefield, they pushed themselves to their limits and beyond, brushing against death more than once in the rusting hulks of sunken ships.
But in the fall of 1991, not even these courageous divers were prepared for what they found 230 feet below the surface, in the frigid Atlantic waters sixty miles off the coast of New Jersey: a World War II German U-boat, its ruined interior a macabre wasteland of twisted metal, tangled wires, and human bones–all buried under decades of accumulated sediment.
No identifying marks were visible on the submarine or the few artifacts brought to the surface. No historian, expert, or government had a clue as to which U-boat the men had found. In fact, the official records all agreed that there simply could not be a sunken U-boat and crew at that location.

Over the next six years, an elite team of divers embarked on a quest to solve the mystery. Some of them would not live to see its end. Chatterton and Kohler, at first bitter rivals, would be drawn into a friendship that deepened to an almost mystical sense of brotherhood with each other and with the drowned U-boat sailors–former enemies of their country. As the men’s marriages frayed under the pressure of a shared obsession, their dives grew more daring, and each realized that he was hunting more than the identities of a lost U-boat and its nameless crew.

Author Robert Kurson’s account of this quest is at once thrilling and emotionally complex, and it is written with a vivid sense of what divers actually experience when they meet the dangers of the ocean’s underworld. The story of Shadow Divers often seems too amazing to be true, but it all happened, two hundred thirty feet down, in the deep blue sea.

My Thoughts

I wanted to keep most of my book reviews in the genres my writing lives in: Psychological thriller, Horror, suspense, mystery, and fictional crime. Shadow Divers is non-fiction, but it reads like an unbelievable suspenseful thriller fornicated with a historical mystery and this was born as a result. The honest reason I decided to review it: it is just too damn good for you not to read. I remember when it was recommended to me and I thought: Great, a text book about deep sea diving. thrilling! Needless to say I had reservations, but decided to give it a shot. I couldn't have been more wrong about my hesitation, It just blew me away. Shadow divers is on my list of the ten best books I've ever read and the final chapter may very well be my favorite chapter ever.
Shadow Divers is culturally astute and terrifyingly suspenseful, a tremendous story of discovery that comes as close as any book could to providing the reader with approximate sensations of deep sea diving. But this book unravels so much more than just a diving experience, for in exploring this historical moment, the author reveals the cost of membership in an obsessed culture of immensely brave men and the philosophical questions about ourselves that we all, at some point in our lives, must answer.
Get it and read it, without hesitation. I give you my word that you will love it and I do not make those proclamations often or without hesitation.

My rating:

5  out of 5 stars

  

Since We Fell

By

Dennis Lehane

Synopsis

After a very public mental breakdown, Rachel Childs, once a tenacious, globe- trotting journalist, now lives as a virtual shut-in. In all other respects, however, she enjoys an ideal life with an ideal husband. Until a chance encounter on a rainy afternoon causes that ideal life to fray. As does Rachel’s marriage. As does Rachel herself. Sucked into a conspiracy thick with deception, violence, and possibly madness, Rachel must find the strength within herself to conquer unimaginable fears and mind-altering truths.

My Thoughts

This story felt like it was three stories sewn together by a very thin, weak, contrasting thread. What started as a unique mystery about a young woman desperately searching for the true identity of her ghost-like father, turned into a cheesy action packed thriller with car chases, cliché detectives and your typical shady, mob-like bad guys. I was actually really enjoying the first third which was dominated by the protagonists search for her dad, her unhealthy relationship with her mother and her psychological issues which stemmed from these family problems. Then it abruptly ends and turns into her dealings with her con-man, phony husbands and his cohorts. Are we supposed to believe that the same woman who was so socially stunted and riddled with psychological disorders who couldn’t even leave the comfort and security of her own apartment, all of a sudden is diving off boats in the middle of the ocean in search of dead bodies, involved in a high speed car chase and shooting people left and right like the female version of Dirty Harry? It’s as if there are two novellas and protagonists here stitched up the middle like Frankenstein, or Frankenbook in this case. What could have been if only the author had made this a full novel on his first idea, instead of the second half which read as a sub-par made-for-TV movie script.

As it is, the writing itself wasn’t terrible and kept me interested with some deeper thought processes and ideas, but that wasn’t enough to save the total package.   

My rating:

2 1/2  out of 5 stars

  

The Girl Next Door

By

Jack Ketchum

Synopsis

Suburbia. Shady, tree-lined streets, well-tended lawns and cozy homes. A nice, quiet place to grow up. Unless you are teenage Meg or her crippled sister, Susan. On a dead-end street, in the dark, damp basement of the Chandler house, Meg and Susan are left captive to the savage whims and rages of a distant aunt who is rapidly descending into madness. It is a madness that infects all three of her sons and finally the entire neighborhood. Only one troubled boy stands hesitantly between Meg and Susan and their cruel, torturous deaths. A boy with a very adult decision to make.

 

My Thoughts

I am pretty much unaffected by horror stories. This book is labeled horror, but it’s horror of a different, veritable kind. There are no bumps in the night, ghosts, beasts, or monsters. Based on actual events, this is psychological horror at its best. It is a glance into the dark corners of the human psyche.

While reading this book, I was reminded of how people can’t turn away from an accident when driving by. As soon as you see those visions of someone hurt or worse yet, dead, they are with you forever. This book gave me that feeling. I knew what was coming but I couldn’t look away. I felt like by continuing to read I was allowing it to happen myself. It was a very disturbing feeling. Reading this novel is like being sucked into a black hole: dark, unnerving, irresistible but also irreversible.

This story is not for the faint of heart and I don't know that I would recommend it to everyone, you have to know your strengths and weaknesses before you read a book like this. It will leave you baffled and angry, and even more confused. Why was this lady so evil? Why were these kids, ALL of these kids, alright with everything that was happening?

‘The Girl Next Door’ is not a pleasant read, but it is a memorable and powerful one.

My rating:

4  out of 5 stars

  

A Thin Difference

By

Frank Turner Hollon

Synopsis

Jack Skinner is a down-on-his-luck defense attorney on the Alabama gulf coast, months behind in paying salary to his devoted secretary, Rose, and dodging creditors at each street corner. Jack's finances aren't his only mess; his younger daughter, Kelly, is a drug addict, and his older daughter, Becky, blames Jack for Kelly's troubled life. When Brad Caine offers Jack a $5,000 retainer to arrange a liquor license for the sports bar he plans to open, Jack figures he's found an easy way to keep himself in whiskey for a few months. Days after meeting Jack, Brad is arrested for the robbery and murder of an elderly homeowner; Jack welcomes the ensuing high-profile case as a way to rescue his professional life and, along the way, find something to believe in. Jack's type is a staple of courtroom dramas and police noir, but Hollon gives his man a straight-shooting voice and convincing world-weariness: "My first wife took the children. My second wife took the money." Though the murder trial is obviously contrived to force Jack into a confrontation with his demons, even veteran readers of legal dramas will be surprised by how it all plays out.

 

My Thoughts

Although short, this book will totally occupy your time once you get through a few pages. At first it seems just like another legal story but...don't believe it....there's a BIG surprise waiting that will take your breath away.

This is one of the best legal thrillers I have read. The writing is clean, concise and cuts to the bone in a laconic kind of style, making every word count. I never saw the ending coming until it hit me like a truck. It reads like an edgier, less commercial Grisham, with morality being brought into question.  

 Hollon draws on his experience as a lawyer, delving into the darker side of human nature and the legal system, telling how sometimes the grinding cogs of the law can accidentally reach the correct result. 'A Thin Difference' is a legal thriller with a twist, where we learn that maybe everyone has to pay for their sins eventually.

 

My rating:

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

 

The Road

By Cormac McCarthy

Synopsis

Cormac McCarthy sets his novel, The Road, in a post-apocalyptic blight of gray skies that drizzle ash, a world in which all matter of wildlife is extinct, starvation is not only prevalent but nearly all-encompassing, and marauding bands of cannibals roam the environment with pieces of human flesh stuck between their teeth. In this landscape, an unnamed man and his young son journey down a road to get to the sea. (The man's wife, who gave birth to the boy after calamity struck, has killed herself.) They carry blankets and scavenged food in a shopping cart, and the man is armed with a revolver loaded with his last two bullets. Beyond the ever-present possibility of starvation lies the threat of roving bands of cannibalistic thugs. The man assures the boy that the two of them are "good guys," but from the way his father treats other stray survivors the boy sees that his father has turned into an amoral survivalist, tenuously attached to the morality of the past by his fierce love for his son.

My Thoughts

This novel is not a simple, plot-driven, action-packed adventure in a post-apocalyptic world. Instead, it is a dark, depressing, morbid grind through the ash, death and sorrow left behind. If you have read my book, Dark musings, you know that I enjoy psychologically challenging stories that reflect on the horrors and barbarity of real life situations. This novel fits that mold. As haunting a story that a parent can read, The Road is as gloomy and tragic as any novel I have read.

The prose is written in a simple, short, incomplete style that some may find irritating if you are a stickler for rules and structures of the language. I, However, found the style to create an atmosphere that fits the plot and environment. I believe all art is a complete structure, meaning that every aspect has to shadow every other to create one complete balanced entity.

Overall, though far from perfect, I found The Road to be delightfully dark and somber, creating a chilling atmosphere and existence where there is no hope and no easy decisions…

My rating:

4 out of 5 stars

 

The Alienist by Caleb Carr

Synopsis

Set in 1896, Carr's novel about a serial killer lose in New York City was a 25-week PW bestseller.

A society-born police reporter and an enigmatic abnormal psychologist--the "alienist" of the title--are recruited in 1896 by New York's reform police commissioner Teddy Roosevelt to track down a serial killer who is slaughtering boy prostitutes. The investigators are opposed at every step by crime bosses and the city's hidden rulers (including J. Pierpont Morgan); they distrust the alienist's novel methods and would rather conceal evidence of the murders than court publicity. Tension builds as the detectives race to prevent more deaths. From this improbable brew, historian-novelist Carr ( The Devil Soldier , Random, 1991) has fashioned a knockout period mystery, infused with intelligence, vitality, and humor. This novel is a highly unorthodox variant of the Holmes-Watson theme and the best since Julian Symons's delightful A Three-Pipe Solution . It should entice new fans to the genre.

My thoughts

I am a fan of historical fiction as well as thrillers that include serial killers and the people who attempt to apprehend them. This novel blends those two aspects beautifully. Although this story is pure fiction, the setting, characters and vivid description of New York, 1896, are amazing and fit beautifully into the time frame chosen by the author. Caleb Carr does a fantastic job with individual character development, and you also feel like the characters care about each other. This is all accomplished while still keeping the characters true to the time period. I found the descriptions were just enough to keep you embedded in the story without becoming distracting. I thought all of the text contributed either directly to the story, or to mood and/or character development. The pace was relentless and the build up from scene to scene kept me on the edge of my seat right up until the explosive conclusion.

My Rating:

5 / 5 stars