Thursday, May 30, 2013

Readers Review - J. R. Rain (Dark Horse & The Mummy Case)

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Self-publishers often suffer from prejudice from the public. I often hear statements like: "If a book can't be released from a publishing house, the quality must be bad" or "Self-Publishers are people who wants to be writers but lack the skills to succeed." But is it correct?

Before I downloaded J. R. Rain's book "Dark Horse" and "The Mummy Case", I had no knowledge of the market for independent releases. Since I did not know what I was getting myself into, I was not prepared to invest too much money in the project. That's why I chose one of the many free copies that were offered from I had, as I said before, no prior knowledge of this kind of publishing, so it was quite by chance that I chose J. R. Rain's book "Knight Horse - Two Novels".

Both stories are about a private detective Jim Knighthorse. In "Dark Horse" he must solve a brutal murder of a young girl, and in "The Mummy Case" he must find the killer of a mummy?!? So much for the action. How was the
literary qualities of the books ?In the 1980s I watched the TV series "Mike Hammer" with Stacy Keach. I loved Mike Hammer and his ironic comments. And I loved that Mike Hammer was allowed to be the narrator in his own story. For this reason, I was immediately excited about Jim Knighthorse. Mike Hammer, Philip Marlowe and now Jim Knighthorse are essentially the same character, described by different authors. Do not misunderstand me. This is meant as a compliment to all the authors. I really, really like stories that are written in first person. In fact, I must say that with Jim Knighthorse, J. R. Rain are pushing all the right buttons to make me listen. For a limited time, the first two books was free to download, but I will have no hesitation to buy the next book in the series. They are well written, humorous and interesting. It is clear that the stories are written with love for the classic narrative style from the 1940's.

So let's go back to the question of whether self-publishing is inferior to books published by a publishing house. The answer must be: Not necessarily. Off cause you will find some writers at that never should have approached a blank sheet of paper, but such types can also be encountered in a 'real' bookstore. Conversely, there are really talented writers who publish their books through and they are, in any way,
comparable to their more established colleagues. And J. R. Rain must definitely be among them.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Readers Review - Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl)

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I have a motto: Everything less than three hundred pages is sloppiness. A story is like a flower. It needs time to unfold, and if this process can be completed in less than three hundred pages, the story is simply too tenuous.

Therefore, i
t was a pleasant surprise to receive a copy of Gillian Flynn's "Gone Girl" in the mail. The package was simply too thick to get into my mailbox and I was therefore forced to pick up the book at the local post office. That was very promisingWhen I finally unpacked the book, it was a pleasure to discover that the story was 493 pages long. The chance for a good reading experience had increased - and I was definitely not disappointed.

After reading the first few chapters of "Gone Girl", I had to go on-line to check if Gillian Flynn really
was a woman. The stylistic change between the female protagonist, Amy's thoughts and her husband, Nick's thoughts are so significant that I could suspect Gillian Flynn to be a pseudonym for two writers of opposite sex. 
The girlish and feminine way Gillian writes when she expresses Amy's thoughts, is in huge contrast to Nick's masculine behavior and thinking. I am really impressed with her personification of the two main characters.  

After I finished the book, there are only few characters that springs to mind, and that's a good thing. Gillian Flynn has made the gallery extremely simple and uncomplicated, without oversimplifying the story. And that 's what makes the plot work so well.

Simply put, the book depicts a power struggle between two spouses and it is their story we want to hear. If the cast was larger and more complex, all the fine details would vanish and the book's eligibility would be lost.

Gillian Flynn's writing style is very straightforward. There are many authors who are able to provide better usage of the words but Gillian. But what she lacking in linguistic finesse is offset in the plot. I love words. I love delicious, linguistic details and unfortunately there were not too many to be found in "Gone Girl". But what the book lacks in linguistic qualities were fully offset by one of the most crafty and cruel plot, I have long been introduced to. I would not at all reveal the book's action - the readers
must be allowed to experience that for themselves - but the finish is so cruel, so vicious, that I, still a few days after finishing the reading of the book, feel quite badly when I think back on its consequences. Talk about a good plot!

"Gone Girl" IS an excellent book. Because Gillian Flynn is an accomplished storyteller. Because she knows how to reveal the dark side of the main characters, in a way that any reader will presumably relate to in a greater or lesser degree. And because the plot is so amazing well worked out. No loose ends - just really good entertainment.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Reader's Review - Thomas Harris (Hannibal Rising)

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Thomas Harris is one of my favorite authors and Hannibal Lecter is definitely one of the most fascinating, frightening - and in a strange way, sympathetic character.

Hannibal Lecter appeared for the first time in the books 'The Red Dragon' and 'Silence Of The Lamb' and he was expertly brought to life in the movies of the same name by Anthony Hopkins. So this was our position: We had a unique fictional character, without past and an open ended conclusion which only gave an indication of his future. 'Silence Of The Lamb' screamed for a sequel and fans of Hannibal Lecter demanded a story, describing the reason for the protagonist's deviant behavior.

Thomas Harris must have felt the same way, for he published 'Hannibal' and 'Hannibal Rising'. The last in the series, 'Hannibal Rising' which funnily enough, is chronological the first book in the series about Hannibal Lecter.

In 'Hannibal Rising', we follow Hannibal Lecter from the time when he was eight years until he is about twenty years old. Hannibal is the child of a noble family which for generations had lived in the castle Lecterborg in Lithuania. Their secure lives are broken by the Germans campaign through Eastern Europe. The Lecter family must escape from Lecterborg and hide in a three hundred year old hunting lodge. Here Hannibal
lives in relative safety with his little sister Mischa and the rest of the family along with their attendants. But nothing lasts forever. The German army lost its footing in Russia and was forced to make a desperate retreat. At this time, civilians were left without any protection whatsoever. Both the advancing Russian army and the disillusioned German soldiers plundered and robbed the locals, and one day the bliss was broken around the small hunting lodge ...

I will not reveal the further action, but just mention that the seeds of Hannibal Lecter's deviant personality traumatically were laid in this period ...

'Hannibal Rising' does not contain the same sophistication in individual descriptions and in the environment. It may seem disappointing to the reader, but I will choose to regard it as a stroke of genius from Thomas Harris. Although the book is written in third person, it is obvious that the author has chosen to write the book with the same amount of details, that Hannibal has been able to conceive at the present time. I will also be fair to remember that while the action of the other three books unfolds within a relatively short period of time, 'Hannibal Rising' evolves over a period of twelve years. So we are talking about a fast moving story
with little time to delve into refinements.

Personally, I prefer the style of the other three books about Hannibal Lecter, but 'Hannibal Rising' is definitely a necessary piece of the complex puzzle that ultimately paints a complete picture of the art lover, gourmet and cannibal, Hannibal Lecter. Allow me also to mention that when Thomas Harris writes mediocre by his own standard, he is still outstanding compared to most authors.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Reader's review - Charles Cumming (The Trinity Six)

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I do not like books without action and excitement. When I read a book, I expect to experience something that leads me into another world or unknown dimension, to experience something that is not going to happen in my own life. That's the way it is. Some will say that I am negative and I do not give new writers a fair chance, but that is not true. But I feel the same way about books that a gourmet must feel about food. If the story I am presented to don't live up to my expectations, I am disappointed and annoyed and I get the terrible feeling that I have wasted precious time. Conversely, I am also easy to excite ...

And right now I'm thrilled. Charles Cumming's 'The Trinity Six' is brilliant. Briefly, the book is about the author Sam Gaddis who accidentally trips over some old documents, referring to an old spy ring from Cambridge. But although the information is old, they are certainly not outdated. And without being aware of it, Sam Gaddis have both hands deep into a nest of angry wasps. And as he digs deeper into his research of the ancient spy ring, and without being aware of it, he endangers his own and others' lives... and soon people around him starts to die ...

Charles Cumming knows what he writes about. He has worked for the SIS (Special Intelligence Service) for a few years before he began as an author. And maybe it was just the authenticity of the book, that was about to knock me out. This book really brought my patience to the absolute limit, and if it was not because I had a principle about never quit a book before it is read, I would probably have given up halfway.

But patience is rewarded. One should certainly halfway through the book before the action starts and the story gets interesting. The first part describes mostly conversations between Sam Geddis and various stakeholders and these dialogues are deadly boring. There are high demands on the reader. Not only do you have to keep track of a quite bulky cast of characters, but you have to check for aliases, of which the same person may have several. In my view, this part is really boring. But suddenly the situation changes and things start to take off and it is here the patient reader will be rewarded.

'The Trinity Six' is nothing less than a stroke of genius. The plot is coherent and - in time - really exciting. And the ending... the ending concludes the story without tension seep out. Too often I find endings to be an anticlimax. The bag is empty. There is nothing left. That is really unsatisfying. But that is not going to happen in 'The Trinity Six'. The voltage remains to the last page. To the last sentence. To the last word.