Review: The House of Thunder – Dean Koontz

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the house of thunder dean koontz cover

SYNOPSIS: Susan Thorton awakens in a hospital, after a near-fatal car crash, to see four men lurking outside her door–men who exactly resemble those who killed her boyfriend years before. Can these be the same men? As she tries to uncover the identities of those stalking her, Susan enters a terrifying nightmare–one from which she may never escape. – via Goodreads

GRADE 6I picked this up at the secondhand book sale downstairs from my work while popping out for lunch the other day. I have been in such a reading slump lately, and unable to drag myself out of it with what I had, so I decided to grab something at random, something I knew would be a quick read. Dean Koontz fits that bill: entertaining, quick, and easy. The House of Thunder was no exception. The book seems to meander on, telling us about Susan, her accident, and being in a hospital after awakening from a coma. We deal with her thoughts, her fears, her recover, and the way she falls in love with her doctor. We also follow her through her abject terror when some horrendous men from her past seem to be popping up in her present, men that killed her college boyfriend, men who are dead. This is essentially the guts of the book, the back and forth about Susan’s sanity, the thinking about how things are possible, what the hell could actually be happening. The era that the book was set in, too, is something I liked. SPOILER: The Cold War spin on things is actually something I quite liked, though I can see that it is going to be annoying for some. I was always fascinated by the Cold War, and how insane things were back then. The premise for this is preposterous, but if you let your conspiracy mind take over, you might just have some fun. The House of Thunder definitely has its flaws, the main perpetrator being that it was too long, and wasted a lot of time just going over the motions, never really going anywhere, but even with that managed to barrel along. Not a bad read, though not the greatest, either. It lacks depth, even while it entertains. Definitely helped me with my reading slump, though I am still not totally recovered. Let’s see how it goes.

Review: The Passenger – Lisa Lutz

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the passenger lisa lutz cover

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: In case you were wondering, I didn’t do it. I didn’t have anything to do with Frank’s death. I don’t have an alibi, so you’ll have to take my word for it…

Forty-eight hours after leaving her husband’s body at the base of the stairs, Tanya Dubois cashes in her credit cards, dyes her hair brown, demands a new name from a shadowy voice over the phone, and flees town. It’s not the first time.

She meets Blue, a female bartender who recognizes the hunted look in a fugitive’s eyes and offers her a place to stay. With dwindling choices, Tanya-now-Amelia accepts. An uneasy―and dangerous―alliance is born.

It’s almost impossible to live off the grid today, but Amelia-now-Debra and Blue have the courage, the ingenuity, and the desperation, to try. Hopscotching from city to city, Debra especially is chased by a very dark secret…can she outrun her past? – via Goodreads

GRADE 6Well, this looked like it would be an interesting read, a decent thriller. It was a decent read, but it was flawed. I had a few qualms with it. My biggest one was that the entire book felt slightly incomplete, like there were a bunch of events, and they were all loosely tied together, but it felt somehow as though Lutz was supposed to have gone back and fleshed things out a little better and never did. The story was interesting, and I really wanted to know what was in Tanya/Amelia/Debra’s history, because it must have been something major for her to go on the run and live a life of pain and suffering, and be hunted for something that has happened a decade before. Sadly, the payoff at the end is quite a let down. This major event was alluded to for so long that it actually got a little annoying, so when we finally got to it, all the air went out of me. Like a “really, that’s it?” kind of moment. Which is a pity, because there was so much potential. There were so many opportunities to explore the psychological recesses of our lead character’s mind, but they never really got looked into very closely, which meant the most important character of the book lacked depth, meaning I could not identify with her at all and I found her to be a tad melodramatic, too. No, that didn’t help matters. Blue was a really interesting character that I wished had been explored a bit more, she was just a dash cuckoo, and to uncover more of her secrets would have been fascinating. Maybe not overly believable and her placing was slightly too convenient, but I liked her a lot. Then there is the relationship between our main character and Domenic, which I enjoyed quite a  bit. It was insane, it was strange, but it worked for the whirlwind of a story that we got. The pacing was alright, albeit a little bit confusing initially, it starts to make sense and the book flows from there. I would definitely say that The Passenger is a quick read, engaging although not brilliant, with some interesting characters and events that certainly held more potential than they were eventually granted. A lot of these events I feel were set up and rushed through, and they were given such a big hype up beforehand (looking specifically at the family home that the lead character had stayed at) and nothing came from it ultimately. I enjoyed the book without loving it, wishing for some more thrills, and I was not so enamoured with the way that a lot of the book felt like rinse and repeat, reading the same thing, just slightly different – new name, new hair, new town. Repeat. Repeat. I was hoping for a faster, darker thriller, and this story trundled along, some interesting times, others not so much. What I can say is that if you are looking for a fast, decent read between books, this would be it. I liked the author’s work and would probably try out some of her other stuff should I come across it.

Review: The Funhouse – Dean Koontz

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dean koontz the funhouse coer

SYNOPSIS: Once there was a girl who ran away and joined a traveling carnival. She married a man she grew to hate–and gave birth to a child so monstrous that she killed it with her own hands. Twenty-five years later, she has a new life and two normal children. But her past still haunts her–and now the carnival is coming back to town… – via Goodreads

GRADE 6.5So this was one of the novels I picked up on sale the other day, and started it one quiet afternoon at work, and breezed through it and was done that evening. It was a fast read. I understand that this was initially released under a pseudonym (Owen West). I haven’t actually really read any Koontz novel aside from The Bad Place, and I thought this was not the worst place to pick up after that (though I am gearing up to get to the Odd Thomas books). Reading The Funhouse, the novel never really gives too much meat to anything, which is alright. This doesn’t come across as a heavy read. It is entertaining, and keeps you engaged, and flows well, and when I read the afterword the style totally made sense to me (seeing how it was a novel adapted from a script for a movie). I cannot say that I was a fan of Liz’s character at all, she grated on me, and there weren’t any characters you really rooted for. It’s like you feel sorry for Amy, but she made her choices. I think the one character that does stick with you is Joey, and that is due to the immense amounts of pity I felt for that kid. Shame. I loved reading about the carnival, I always find it fascinating, and wish there was more of that. However, as I understand it, there is another novel from Koontz that focuses more on that, so I will have to get my hands on it. There was nothing revolutionary about the characters, and I liked how the whole story wasn’t really revealed, just enough, though I really would have appreciated more of a wrap up at the end of it all. I see the book gets a lot of flak, which I don’t get, because it is just a breezy, fun, quick novel to take in. I suppose if people went in expecting more bang for their buck, they would be disappointed. But really. I must say, that while the book barreled along and it was unbelievable yet entertaining, I was really disappointed by the rush job ending that was tacked in here. I mean really, things had been alluded to and this epic conclusion was building, and it was handled in a few pages. I knew it couldn’t bode well when all the dramatics were in full swing and there were only a few pages left. Oh well. There were plenty little things that I could quickly and easily refer back to other horrors, but like I say, this isn’t a read that needs to be taken too seriously or thought on too much. It feels like a long short story, if you catch my meaning, so not everything is as fleshed out as it could be. Just go with the flow, and you will have a quick filler read.

Review: Sandcastle and Other Stories – Justin Bog

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sandcastle and other stories cover

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: These twelve literary, psychological, and suspense tales are nothing short of an adventure through a roiling sea of emotion. Meet: an old man twisted by fate and a lost love . . . a young girl playing on the ocean shore who becomes entangled in nets of a mercurial god . . . a divorced man mired in troubles who’s coerced into taking a singles cruise . . . a Hollywood actor in a television drama who’s always typecast as the bad boy . . . a child kept awake by night terrors, and a woman who hides her secretive personality from everyone on the beach one sunny day. Genuine voices of the characters, mixed with a clear-eyed tonal directness, make this a series with mesmerizing psychological interaction. Stories span a broad depth of human understanding and build a bridge between deepest chasms of pain and high portals of joy. Read these dark tales and stand witness to unspeakable hate sitting with cozy wile, right beside unconditional love — a provocative and compelling mirror on the human condition. – via Goodreads

GRADE 7.5I was pleasantly surprised by this. I picked it up, was interested to see the short stories that featured, and there were some solid reviews about it. I had no real idea what to expect from the author, who is someone I had not heard of before, or his style of writing or the type of content. Something I am going to draw attention to from the off is the fact that Justin Bog can write. I mean it, really well. It flows quite well, each story brought something different to the table, even though a lot of them had repeating themes (such as oceans, twins, waves, paranoia, trees, psychological issues, names, etc). Bog’s writing style is engaging and creepy, and all his stories featured here are quite unsettling and psychologically creepy, crawling in under your skin. This might not appeal to the average reader, or someone who does not like some twisted tales, and it will upset those thinking they are getting a light, happy-go-lucky read. However, it totally ticked all my boxes for a short story. Doesn’t give away too much, but just enough to make you think, to wonder, and the way that Bog concludes the stories is also quite good, leaving a world of possibilities open to explore. Sandcastle and Other Stories is a really fast read, so it won’t demand an overkill of your time, and offers a great alternative to the average lot of short stories, something I am not usually a fan of. I looked forward to every story, and even when my mind went wandering, it never strayed too far, and always whipped back to the moment. Each story contains a darkness that is executed very well, and some of these stories linger long after you have  moved on. I am so glad that I took a chance on this, as I am certainly looking forward to reading more of Bog’s work, I would love to see how a full fledged novel from him would play out. If you are into short stories, or would like something that is quick but different, I would highly recommend Sandcastle and Other Stories.