Review: Odd Thomas – Dean Koontz

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Odd Thomas #1

SYNOPSIS: “The dead don’t talk. I don’t know why.” But they do try to communicate, with a short-order cook in a small desert town serving as their reluctant confidant. Odd Thomas thinks of himself as an ordinary guy, if possessed of a certain measure of talent at the Pico Mundo Grill and rapturously in love with the most beautiful girl in the world, Stormy Llewellyn.

Maybe he has a gift, maybe it’s a curse, Odd has never been sure, but he tries to do his best by the silent souls who seek him out. Sometimes they want justice, and Odd’s otherworldly tips to Pico Mundo’s sympathetic police chief, Wyatt Porter, can solve a crime. Occasionally they can prevent one. But this time it’s different.

A mysterious man comes to town with a voracious appetite, a filing cabinet stuffed with information on the world’s worst killers, and a pack of hyena-like shades following him wherever he goes. Who the man is and what he wants, not even Odd’s deceased informants can tell him. His most ominous clue is a page ripped from a day-by-day calendar for August 15.

Today is August 14.

In less than twenty-four hours, Pico Mundo will awaken to a day of catastrophe. As evil coils under the searing desert sun, Odd travels through the shifting prisms of his world, struggling to avert a looming cataclysm with the aid of his soul mate and an unlikely community of allies that includes the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. His account of two shattering days when past and present, fate and destiny converge is the stuff of our worst nightmares, and a testament by which to live: sanely if not safely, with courage, humor, and a full heart that even in the darkness must persevere. – via Goodreads

So for years I have been meaning to get to these books after I watched Odd Thomas and learned that the movie was based on book. I, contrary to what most people felt, really enjoyed the movie. I thought it was fun. I didn’t see the twist coming. I adore Yelchin, so it all worked. So then I finally got myself together and actually got to reading this the other day and, well… yeah. I liked it. I just didn’t love it. I wanted more from it.

Odd Thomas breezes by. Seriously, it is an easy book to read, and the characters are fun, albeit a little thin. There is the Elvis angle, and then there is Odd himself, who is truly just a sweetheart, simple and pure. There is the whole backstory with his mother that could legitimately be way more messed up than was delivered here (who knows, it might be different in later books), but I just felt it was a little flat, like just glossed over? Plus two, what a hideous woman. His dad, too, was no real great shakes.

I enjoyed the story well enough, and as I said, it breezes by. It was an easy read, nothing too hectic to commit to, nothing too major to sink your teeth into, so that means you feel that you have missed a little by the end of it. It leaves you feeling a little wanting. That being said, I had a good time reading Odd Thomas and will read more of the books at some point, though I won’t be rushing for the next in the series anytime soon if I’m being honest. I suppose Odd Thomas prescribed to the typical Dean Koontz recipe of being entertaining and fun and all that, but not really staying long after as it doesn’t pack a major punch.

Review: A Dark Mind – T.R. Ragan

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Lizzy Gardner #3

SYNOPSIS: A serial killer is terrorizing Sacramento, preying on happily married couples and unleashing unspeakable cruelties upon his victims. The ordeal rekindles disturbing memories for private investigator Lizzy Gardner, who barely escaped a serial killer clutches only years ago. But while most Sacramento residents are hiding in the shadows, paralyzed by fear, Lizzy is compelled to go after the Lovebird Killer. So it no surprise that, when a routine workers- compensation case suddenly leads her and her two young assistants onto the killer trail, she welcomes the chase, determined to bring him to justice before he can claim another victim. She never imagines he could be two steps ahead, watching her every move and plotting his bloodiest, most triumphant conquest of all. – via Goodreads

You know what? This is the Lizzy Gardner book I have liked the most. Yes, it still had some hectic issues, but it was so much better than the previous two. For reals. The first two books were pretty bland, nothing special, though still not the worst things I had ever read, but enough to keep me wondering. Okay, I lie, the biggest reason I read this was because I thoroughly enjoyed the start of her new Jessie Cole series, what with Her Last Day. I was like why can’t the Gardner books be better? Well, it seems that they have started to go that way.

The Lizzy Gardner books still require you to suspend a lot of belief, but if you are okay with that, then it is okay. A Dark Mind introduces us to what I feel is the first compelling villain of this series – and he is truly not okay. He is obsessive and creepy and totally delusional, which makes him even harder to nail down. I enjoyed reading chunks of the book from his perspective, to get a look at what made him tick and how it was all put together.

Lizzie and Jared are still kicking it together, and while I like them together, I sometimes feel that the relationship doesn’t feel natural, sort of like it is there because it is expected to be there. Hayley is back in action after chopping off Brian Rosie’s nether regions, and her obsession with breaking rules and just hating the world is also really getting old. I liked her quite a bit in Abducted, I thought she had potential to be more, and instead, Ragan has even managed to alienate me as a reader, so nope, not winning. I enjoyed reading a bit about Tommy, though his character is starting to become (imagine this) a little bit unbelievable (like most parts of it all). Kitally is a new character that Ragan has introduced, and I am interested to see where this goes.

Anyway, A Dark Mind is the most solid read in the Lizzy Gardner series, and has convinced me to keep going with these books. It’s almost as though they get better as time progresses, which is not a bad thing at all. This book is flawed, certainly, but entertaining. The Lovebird Killer is also a character that pushes further than any of the weak (I know how bad that sounds) we have had so far. Alright, that’s all I have to say about that.

Review: Bonfire – Krysten Ritter

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I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: Should you ever go back?

It has been ten years since Abby Williams left home and scrubbed away all visible evidence of her small town roots. Now working as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has a thriving career, a modern apartment, and her pick of meaningless one-night stands.

But when a new case takes her back home to Barrens, Indiana, the life Abby painstakingly created begins to crack. Tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town’s most high-profile company and economic heart, Abby begins to find strange connections to Barrens’ biggest scandal from more than a decade ago involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her closest friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.

Abby knows the key to solving any case lies in the weak spots, the unanswered questions. But as Abby tries to find out what really happened to Kaycee, she unearths an even more disturbing secret—a ritual called “The Game,” which will threaten the reputations, and lives, of the community and risk exposing a darkness that may consume her. – via Goodreads

Well, this one was unexpected. When I saw Krysten Ritter’s name attached to this I requested it purely to see how it was. I was interested to see whether I would prefer her writing to her acting. I honestly didn’t have high hopes – it can’t be easy getting involved with multiple arts. Well, I am here to tell you that Ritter indeed writes rather well, surprisingly!

The book opens and hits the ground running, but in fragmented pieces, so it takes quite some time to get the flow of things and work things out, and it works really well here. The lead character, Abby Williams, is not necessarily a character you like too much, but she grows on you. You can understand parts of her logic, too, even if you don’t always agree. Most of the characters are rather flat, but this book is Abby’s internal show, and you definitely get some of that. To see her return to her hometown and to see how a decade has made a difference is quite cool.

The story is quite a heavy one, told in  bits and pieces, and the primary water investigation becomes a totally secondary thing in Abby’s hunt to find out what, exactly, happened to Kaycee, who sounds like a right piece of work. Misha, too, is a nasty character. Bonfire does fall prey to some debut mistakes in some parts of predictability in characters, but it is a pretty good ride all the same.

Abby’s investigation yields results piecemeal, and it ties in rather neatly with what Abby originally went to Barrens for. I liked Condor as a character, and Brent just seemed odd. I was relieved that a love triangle was not jammed into this, as it is not the time, story, or place for it. The reveals are spaced just right, giving you what you need, when you need it. I do feel that the relationship between Joe and Abby was glossed over, and yet it is described as more important in the book.

Bonfire might not be perfect, but it is engaging, has a pretty good story, hooks you while barrelling along. Well worth checking out I reckon, and I will certainly check out any other work from Ritter in future.

Review: The Villa – Nora Roberts

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the villa cover

SYNOPSIS: Sophia Giambelli has never worried about competition. For three generations, the Giambelli wines have been renowned for their quality– from Napa Valley to Italy, and throughout the world. The pride of the Giambelli family and a top PR executive, Sophia loves her job– and excels at it. But things are about to change at Villa Giambelli. Tereza, the matriarch, has announced a merger with the MacMillan family’s winery– and Sophia will be assuming a new role. As a savvy businesswoman, she knows she must be prepared for anything . . . but she isn’t prepared for Tyler MacMillan. They’ve been ordered to work together very closely, to facilitate the merger. Sophia must teach Ty the finer points of marketing– and Ty, in turn, shows her how to get down and dirty, to use the sun, rain, and earth to coax the sweetest grapes from the vineyard.

As they toil together, both in and out of the fields, Sophia is torn between a powerful attraction and a professional rivalry. At the end of the season, the course of the company’s future– and the legacy of the villa– may take an entirely new direction. And when acts of sabotage threaten both the family business and the family itself, Sophia’s quest will be not only for dominance, but also for survival. – via Goodreads

Well, I know that this isn’t the way I usually write a book review, but there was an awful lot going on in here and an abundance of characters, so I figured I would just take the synopsis of it and then add my opinion. The Villa is just one of those things I got roped into. Once I was told to read some ludicrous vampire trilogy by Nora Roberts as it was her “best work”. Seeing as Natasha is such a huge fan of the woman, I figured why not? Then it was all about the milky mounds of some woman’s breasts and all sorts of paperback porn and I immediately abandoned that outing. I was not impressed.

Recently Natasha and I traded some book suggestions, and she gave me grief for allowing what she perceives to be some of Roberts’ worst work define the writer for me. I started The Villa very warily (Natasha’s review for more details), sure that I was going to get a whole lot of other crap. Then there were so many characters, and Italians galore, I was wondering if there was any way I was going to be able to remember everything. The characters were initially introduced, shallow and hurriedly, but as the book progresses, the characters grow immensely, and it is a lovely journey to undertake.

I was rather irritated reading about the business and marketing side of things that she brought in from time to time (it annoys the hell out of me), but I cannot fault Roberts for the sheer amount of research that went into the novel. I learned quite a bit about vineyards and wine-making and all, but I am never going to be a vintner. The book has a strange feel to it, but it was a good one.

I was engrossed and I enjoyed the read, though I must say some of those bedroom scenes leaned a little towards milky mounds and all sorts. It was certainly a well laid out book, though the villain was easy to spot, and something else niggles at you and makes perfect sense at the end exactly how that slotted in. The emphasis on family and business was great. Pilar’s growth was lovely, and the Cutter family opening up and taking her in was also quite charming. I liked reading about Sophia and Tyler, though it was evident from the off how that would come together, it was still rather fun to go with.

While this is a romance novel, it is not necessarily dominated by that factor, which is probably why I appreciated this more than most. At least The Villa has shown me that Roberts isn’t as dreadful a writer as I initially suspected.