Monday, December 27, 2010

book review: Immanuel's Veins by Ted Dekker

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a huge Dekker fan.   His work in Christian fiction has been ground-breaking to say the least.  But in the last few years I have noticed a shift in Ted that seems to border on self-importance.  From  his web-site, to his yearly gathering, to his physical appearance in photos, it seems to me like he has become somewhat of a literary rock star.  Also, the last two books I have read...BURN and BONE MAN'S DAUGHTERS have been pretty disappointing.
However, with that being said, I still look forward to reading a new Dekker novel as soon as they come out. I think that is one of the hallmarks of a good author...the anticipation of the book before you read it.  Ted has redeemed himself, at least in this readers eyes, with IMMANUEL"S VEINS or IV has members of Ted discussion form "The Circle" call it.  It is really good book from start to finish.
Let me start off with the bad.  There are few complaints that come to mind after reading the book.  My biggest is the time in which the setting takes place.  I'm not talking about the time period either.  I mean from the start of the story to the end doesn't cover but a few days real time.  this is not really a bad thing in itself, because once you read the book and get a feel for what is going on, it obviously doesn't need to be drawn out, but...this leads to the major flaw with the love story.  Basically it isn't fleshed -out enough.  There just aren't enough pages in the book to do it properly and move the plot along and the pace which makes the book so great.  The two main characters just don't have enough time together to make the star-crossed lover thing all that believable.  The only other gripe I have with the book is a minor one.  Sofia, one of the supporting characters isn't given nearly enough story.  Thea reader has no idea at the end why she did the things she did.  Trust me when you finish, that will be on your mind.  Knowing Ted though he may come back to this character in a future story.
Now, I move on to the good.  The setting of the story is a step in a different direction for Ted. It works.  The book makes the 18th century come alive in the readers mind.  Also, true to form Ted throws in just enough morsels of his works in the circle trilogy to tie this book to that series.  If you haven't read any of that series,  do it now.  Not only will you understand some of the back story for IV, but you will be thoroughly entertained.  the ending of the book is very heart felt. It has redemptive quality that the reader will want to soak up.
Overall, this is one of Dekkers best works.  I strongly suggest to anyone to pick it up for a good read.  It will be in my library for years to come, as i am sure to reread it.  Hopefully there will be a sequel to answer some of the questions left with the ending.  Knowing Ted it is already in the works.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

book review: Broken Angel by Sigmund Brouwer

In Broken Angel, Sigmund Brouwer has crossed the genres from Sci-Fi to Religious fiction to Thriller and back again.  What makes this novel special is that he does it so flawlessly.  The story is set somewhere in a non-descript future, in a new world.  A world divided between over the top, extreme, religious zealots and the outsiders they try to keep out of their new country known as Appalachia.  Not only do they try to keep the outsiders out, but they also want to keep the citizens of Appalachia in....and under their control. 
This brings us to Caitlyn.  Caitlyn is not your normal girl. But then again, this ain't your father's America.  Caitlyn is being pursued by not only the outsiders, but also the leaders of Appalachia, who will stop at nothing to gain control of what she possesses. Just what that is, and why she must not fall into their hands dead or alive, as her father told her, is shrouded in secrecy.  Secrets that Caitlyn's father, Jordan, can’t bring himself to tell her. Not what happened before she was born, or why she is the way she is. He says he just wants to save her life, and to give her a chance to live on the Outside and be free. Can she believe him? She has discovered that might not be the case.  So she sets out on a journey against time and man.  It is a race of life and death, and Caitlyn is all alone...or is she? Can she make it safely back Outside before the self-righteous leader of Appalachia has her in his grip?
This book is very well written.  The characters really make you want to learn more about them, and their back story, what makes them tick so to speak.  When it comes right down to it, that is the meat and bones of any good book.  That is exactly what Broken Angel is..a really good book.  It sort of takes a few pages to get into the flow, but after that it is a roller coaster ride.  The story moves at break-neck speed, motivating along to its thrilling conclusion.  Which, by the way, I found to be somewhat being a father and all.
The only other books of Brouwer's that I have read before this one were, Out of the Shadows and The Last Disciple.  Both of those were very enjoyable reads in their own right, but they were also very different kinds of books than this.  Broken Angel is the first book in this saga.  And I can't wait to get my hands on the next one.

Friday, December 24, 2010

book review: The Walk by Richard Paul Evans

I must admit that Richard Paul Evans is one of my favorite authors.  I have read many of his books before and found at least some level of enjoyment in all of them.  The latest book, The Walk, however has sort of left me with a bad taste in my mouth.  I want to start off by admitting that I didn't read the book in the traditional sense.  I listened to it on CD at work.  I think that it is the best way to enjoy one of his books, because as talented as Richard Paul Evans may be as an author, he is just that much better at bringing his stories to life through narration.  If you come across one of his books where he is the one reading it, I suggest you give it a try.
OK, lets start off with the book.  The first third of the story is a heart wrenching tale of love and loss.  I imagine there will be a lot of misty eyes, when tragedy strikes Allan.  I have a few qualms with this part of the book.  Although it is a truly touching love story, somethings kinda require the reader to suspend belief and worse fill in the missing details for oneself.  First off, Michal, Allan's wife, asks him in one scene for some money to be transferred into her account.  To which Allan confirms that she hasn't been keeping up with the bills.  This leads the reader to wonder if there may be some deep rooted meaning behind her lack of financial responsibility or what she has been doing with all the money.  Almost as if there could be the possibility of some dark undercurrent to the relationship of which the protagonist is unawares.  But, this topic is never fully broached.  It is not really discussed until, just days mind you, after his wife's untimely death that Allan's home is foreclosed on.  Can you say huh?  Foreclosed on and he didn't see it coming?  How did that happen you ask?  Well, your guess is as good as mine, because the book doesn't give you a clue.  Another Hollywood moment is in the book where Michal just happens to be in her accident while Allan is in the middle of the biggest sales-pitch of his career.  Of course he has to run out and leave the meeting in his, supposed best friend and business partner's hands.  And that moves us on to that partner, Kyle.  How exactly did Kyle steal the company in the short time Allan was out of work with his wife?  How does he expect to run an ad agency when he is the business guy and Allan is the ad guy?  Again the book gives you no clue on these sort of important details.  To suspend belief even further, the only friend Allan has left is Faline, a super-gorgeous model with a heart of gold that Kyle hired to be office manager.  At one point in the book she tells Allan she is going on a photo shoot, even though she is a full time employee of Allan's company.  On top of that she handles all of his financial affairs, of which he is either too grief-stricken, naive, or just plain in too much of a hurry to get out on the open road, to do himself.  One of which is to check and see if he even has any money in the bank before using in debit card.  All of this, of course, after Allan tells her he is basically closing down the company and she won't have a job anymore.  Can you say far-fetched?
The last two-thirds of the book reads like an old Franklin W. Dixon Hardy Boys novel.  All the main character does is eat with every waking breath.  Evans goes into painstaking detail to describe every little detail of this walk....monotonous detail.  One of the characters that Allan meets on the road is a waitress with a name tag that reads Flo.  I won't delve into this too much for those who haven't read the book, but her story is stole directly from Evan's novel Finding Noel...almost word for word.
With all these flaws I have mentioned, I haven't got to the most egregious yet.  I had to check my copy to see if I hadn't gotten the unabridged version.  On Amazon is the first time I saw that this was just part one of four.  No where did I see this mentioned.  I must say that it was a big letdown.  Almost feels as if the publisher is taking advantage of the reader.  The next book in the series will not come out until April 2011.  My question is six months from now will anyone even care?

Monday, November 29, 2010

book review: Inside Out by Barry Eisler

I have always been able to enjoy Barry Eisler's Rain books even though I don't agree with his political views.  In the Rain books the Japanese Liberal Democratic party is viewed with more than just sympathy.  They are viewed as out and out good guys, with the Conservative party being shown as under-handed immoral gangsters.  However, the quality writing of the books was able to shine through.  As a matter of fact, the Rain series has always been one of, if not my very favorite.  With that being said, lets move on to his latest work, Inside Out.
I have to say, first off, that unlike most of Eisler's other books and most other thrillers, there are no glowing reviews on the jacket from other authors or industry types.  The reviews on the cover are all from left wing cooks who work for such liberal sites such as the Huffington Post.  I really don't understand how anyone on that side of the fence or who are so-called experts at the terrorist torture game could actually give this book a glowing review.
This is one of the worst books ever written....period.  There is no story, the characters are not developed properly, all of the action in the book is pointless, and does nothing to help move the plot along.  The entire second half of the book is nothing more than a political rant.  on top of that there is no conclusion.  The reader is treated with some lame ending teasing with another story to come.  I firmly believe had the book been written by some lesser known author with no name recognition, it would have trashed and never published. 
Inside Out is the continuation of the book Faultline.  The only thing it has in common with it's predecessor however is the characters of Hort and Ben.  Unlike Inside Out, Faultline was action packed and told a nice story to boot.  All of it's action was well paced and served a purpose throughout the book.  Inside Out is obviously just Eisler's political view on the torture and treatment of detainees that he felt he needed to get out there.  That is fine, but the overall feeling of the book is rushed and amateurish.  If the next book in the series starts out like the series starts out like this one ended, I may be weened off of Barry Eisler for good.

Friday, November 12, 2010

book review: Vanished by Joseph Finder

I have read several of Joseph Finder’s books.  They have always perplexed me.  It seems they are hit or miss.  Paranoia was an excellent novel.  It was highly original and worthy of a movie deal.  Whereas, Company Man was a pretty decent read, but it was at the very least, a little far fetched.  The last Finder book I tried, however, I couldn’t make it all the way through.   Killer Instinct just seemed like it should have been better than it turned out to be.  I thought the overall sense of dread and foreboding really took the enjoyment out of the reading process.  However, this didn’t deter me from wanting to try another Finder book.
When I saw his latest work Vanished on a library shelf, I didn’t hesitate to snatch it up.  I was looking forward to seeing what Mr. Finder had in store for his readers this go-round.  Joseph Finder has always been known for his extensive research.  Let me tell ya, it shows in his writings.  Whether you enjoy the overall plot of the story or not, no one can ever say that the have read a more detailed work of fiction than any of his previous books when it comes to the corporate world.
Vanished is at it’s heart the story of the Heller family.  The family has flaws and skeletons, many of which come to light throughout the book.  The basic premise is that Roger Heller takes his wife Laura out to dinner where she is attacked in an apparent mugging.  She wakes up in the hospital and Roger has disappeared.  Roger’s step-son Gabe calls in his uncle---and Roger’s brother--- Nick to investigate.  Nick is an ex-Green Beret, who works for a high–priced Washington investigator.  He soon digs deeper than anyone wants and turns up a lot of dirt on not only the baddies, but the people who the reader doesn’t yet know are baddies, and the family itself.  Throw in Roger and Nick’s former Billionaire crook father who is in prison and you have ground work for a fantastic book.
I enjoyed this novel even better than Paranoia.  Vanished is the very definition of a page turner that just can’t be put down.  I found myself devouring this book and, I must say, I can’t wait for the next in this series.  That is right, the will be a four book series featuring Nick Heller, with the second book coming out next year.  From beginning to end this is one of the finest mystery/thriller works of fiction to come down the pike in a long time.  Read and enjoy.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

movie video review: Dear John

The movie Dear John is loosely based off of the best selling book written by Nichloaus Sparks.  It stars Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried.  The story is basically this:  a local guy named John Tyree meets a girl on spring break named Savannah Curtis and they fall inlove.  He is in the Army and has to go back, she also returns to school, but they stay in touch with a series of letters.  The last letter, of course, tells John that not only is she breaking up with him, but also is marrying someone else.  As with most of Spark's movies there are other circumstances and a reunion is in the works.
In all, the movie is bad.  It does have some very emotional scenes that surley will have the ladies breaking out the hankies.  The problem lies in the cast.  Amanda Seyfried, although, beautiful, just doesn't stand out in this role.  Her character comes off as almost to good to be true.  That is until the end where the viewer really would feel for the character of John, if he was not played by the stone faced Tatum.  Channing Tatum surely got this role on his physical appearance, he looks like what the part of John should.  But lets face it, the kid can't act at all.  He played the lug head in Step Up pretty well, but this is the second role in a row that he has just butchered (Duke in Gijoe was the other).  He was just awful in this movie.  There is one scene in which he is supposed to cry and it just comes off as comical.
I just can not get past his performance in this movie.  The delivery of his lines sound more like he is getting ready to rap battle in Eight Mile rather than win a southern belle's heart.  There is nothing good I can say about the video because his wooden performance ruins it for me.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

movie review: The Karate Kid (Remake)

First off, could someone tell me why they remade the Karate Kid in China...and with Kung Fu?

Makes one wonder if the Chinese government didn't produce the movie as some sort of travel brochure, showing off the country to the west.  Anyone remember the Olympics...and yes they have a cameo.
It has been 26 years since the original was made, so I guess it was way over due for a remake.  The original movie is looked back on by my generation fondly more out of nostalgia than on the merit of the actual film itself.  If you don't believe that then go rent the video and try to sit through two hours of Daniel-San getting his wussy butt kicked.
The new film centers around young Dre ( Jaden Smith) and his mother (Taraji P. Henson).  They leave Detroit and move to Beijing for a better job opportunity at the car factory (I guess the film producers thought a communist country was preferable to the "red" states.)  From there it is pretty much color by the numbers film.  Dre has conflict with said bully Cheng (Zhenwei Wang), and falls for pretty chinese girl Meiyang (Wenwen Han).  In steps maintenance man and secret Kung Fu master Mr Han ( Jackie Chan) to teach the boy and mold him into a warrior.  The main problem with he film is it takes over an hour for it to finally get to any training scenes at all.  The characters aren't believable especially Dre's mom, who appears to be no more than a prop for the storyline.  Too much of the movie seems to be displaying the wonders and sites of the Chinese countryside rather than to actually progress the story.
But fear not, Jackie Chan saves the day and the film.  His performance alone makes this movie worth the price of rental.  Mr Han has one of the most heart felt scenes you will ever catch in a martial arts movie.  Jaden Smith also plays his role surprisingly well, and his fight  scenes at the end are far and away better than the original.  I must also say that the ending rivals the original film's flying crane scene. 
Although no one yells, "Sweep the leg!!!"  The Karate Kid is an entertaining (if sometimes drawn-out) remake of an 80's classic.

Monday, October 18, 2010

book review: Obedience by Will Lavender

"A devilishly inventive debut that reads like a house of mirrors." 

"A taut, clever puzzle, so artfully crafted and tightly wound that it springs open it trap door when you least expect it."

"Taut, twisty, and highly original: the pages turned themselves."

These are three of the the reviews printed on the book jacket of Will Lavender's debut novel.  I have to tell you...I was completely blown away by this book.  These three reviews are dead on.  This book leaves you guessing right up until the very end.

I just happened across this older novel the other day.  It perked my interest as I read the cover and so I took it home with me.  I sure am glad I did.  This is one of the very best surprises I have come across in a while.  Words really can't do this book justice.  Have you ever read a novel and just knew that it should be made into a movie?  This is one of those.

The whole idea behind the plot is just so original, nothing else has come close to giving me that, "wholly crap" feeling at the end of a book in a long time.  My hats off to the author.   I just hope Lavender's next offering will be able to live up to this original work.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

book review: The Thieves of Darkness by Richard Doetsch

The Thieves of Darkness is the third book in a series about retired thief, Micheal St Pierre.  I must admit that after reading the first two, The Thieves of Heaven, and The Thieves of Faith, that this, newest work from Doetsch, is the weakest of the three.  That is not to say, however, that it is not a thoroughly enjoyable read.  First time readers of the series will, find the novel an action-packed page turner. 
As with other books in the series, The Thieves of Darkness is chock-full of exotic locales.  The story moves from a desert torture prison to the streets of Istanbul, and even to the Himalayas.  Those familiar with the series will already note that the books are filled with religious references and artifacts.  Doetsch always does plenty of research for his novels, and it shows.  His technical jargon is always spot-on, and the fictitious historical relics are brought to life well making the situations very believable.
Where this book comes up a little short of the first two, is in the character development department.  One of the main protagonists in the series is a priest-for-hire, so to speak, named Simon.  Without giving too much away, I will say that he is taken out of the book about a third of the way through.  The story continues on without him, instead replacing his character, basically with Micheal's new gal pal, KC. While this doesn't take away from the story too bad, what doesn't sit well with me is the totally unbelievable way in which Simon is injured.  The reader may find it a little far fetched.  Speaking of far fetched is the antagonist, Iblis.  He is presented as an emotionless robot, who is all at once a scrawny dork and an unstoppable killing machine.  More than once in the book, Iblis narrowly escapes his demise.  However, for a terminator-esque thief-assassin, he is inexplicably scared too death of the other main antagonist, Venue.
Why this killing machine is so afraid of a sixty year old man is anyone's guess.  After reading the book I still am not quite sure.  Although a good portion of the story was entirely devoted to the development of the back story of these two characters, it was not even close to the amount needed for the reader to make an attachment to either one of these guys.  They need their own book.  The problem is that Doestch creates such intrigue with both of the baddies here that he can't seem to fit them neatly into this story.  What the reader is left with is alot of questions. Venue, in particular, was all at once explained and a total mystery. 
In the end what the reader doesn't do is fear him, the way the author would like, as the story unfolds.  And if the reader has no feeling toward the main bad guy, he starts to ask himself..."Why would the other characters?"  That is what I found myself doing by the end of the book.  I asked, "Why is Iblis afraid of this old fart?"  or "Why doesn't Micheal just shoot him in the head as he rambles on and on?"
Well, even though in the end, the book doesn't wrap up all of these questions nice and neat as I would like, it is still a fun ride and a thoroughly enjoyable read.  First time Doestch readers will, no doubt, be enthralled from the first page, and want to come back and read his previous works.

Monday, October 11, 2010

book review: The Shimmer by David Morrell

David Morrell is widely known as the father of the modern action thriller.  He has penned such best sellers as: Rambo, First Blood, Brotherhood of the Rose, and Creepers.  His latest work, however, doesn't seem to live up to some of his previous works.  With The Shimmer, Morrell seems to have almost veered over into SyFy territory.
Morrell can't be faulted for his commitment to this book.  He puts his own spin on what is known as the Marfa Lights, an odd occurance outside of the town of Marfa in Southwest Texas.  After reading about the even in a newspaper article back in 2004, Morrell learned that James Dean had been fascinated by these so called lights back when he as filming a movie called Giant nearby.  Morrell expertly incorporates that bit of info into the story.  What results is an superb mix of fact and fiction.
The story starts out with a lightning pace.  There is plenty of action right from the opening sequence.  Dan Page, a cop, witnesses, from his plane in the air, the fatal end to a police car chase.  Upon arriving home, he finds his wife Tori missing.  All she left behind was a cryptic letter.  This is the beginning of Page's quest to find his wife, which leads him to the Texas town of Rostov and, ultimately, to the lights.
Unfortunately, what starts out with such promise of action and adventure, fizzles out into just a hodgepodge of excessive violence.  Not that I am opposed to violence in books, just the opposite in fact.  However the killing and mayhem in The Shimmer do little to add to the overall story, and don't help move the plot along at all.  Lacking are the thought provoking explanations of the origin of the lights, or heartfelt histories of each character.  I often found myself not connecting with many of the main characters in the book, and more often than not, not really caring one way or the other if they made it through to the end.  Some of the questions with the protagonists and for that matter the overall antagonists, are answered in the end.  But there is still confusion, and the answers seemed to be a little predictable by that point in the book.
While maybe not the most shining example of the author's considerable talents for fiction, The Shimmer is overall an enjoyable and worthwhile read, especially to fans of David Morrell.