Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lady Killer

Ok, so maybe this particular Chelsea Cain book isn't about her famous lady killer, Gretchen Lowell, but when it comes to writing good killin' spree thrillers, Cain has it down.  If you haven't read Chelsea Cain's previous three Beauty Killer books, I highly recommend them.  Heartsick is the first of the series and introduces us to Archie Sheridan, Susan Ward, and the evil Gretchen Lowell.  Archie tries to balance professional duty with his obsession with Lowell, the serial killer who can get away with almost anything by combining a manipulative personality and stunning good looks.  Susan Ward is the local reporter that becomes a sort of sidekick/pain in the butt for Archie.  Don't get me wrong, this synopsis may seem silly or suggest the book is a bit campy.  It's not.  Cain writes a serial killer that oozes sex appeal and you watch helplessly as it steam rolls everyone in her path. 

One of the reasons I loved Chelsea Cain's previous novels is because she did such a fantastic job of building the character of Archie over each book.  I was angry at him for most of Heartsick and grew to really care about him by Evil At Heart Heartsick, Sweetheart, and Evil At Heart were all smart, gripping, and chilling.  So when The Night Season came out, I was a bit disappointed to see that the story didn't focus on Gretchen's continuing reign of terror.  The Night Season is a standalone novel featuring Archie Sheridan and Susan Ward, as well as a number of other characters we've come to know.  The city of Portland is struggling with a flooding river and mysterious deaths.  Archie and Susan work together to determine the cause of death while dealing with personal blows of their own.  The premise of how the people are being killed off is a bit ridiculous but I was dying (no pun intended) to know how it worked. 

Overall, this was a satisfying story that kept me reading well past my bedtime each night.  I wasn't nearly as grossed out or intruiged as I have been by her previous novels, but I still felt like Archie and Susan held their own.  If you haven't read her other books, you can absolutely read this by itself without missing much.  I think Chelsea Cain is one of the most entertaining female thriller authors of the past couple years.  I will wait patiently for her next book (hurry up!) and recommend the current four to anyone looking for something new and fun!
p.s. if you read The Night Season and it doesn't totally work for you, don't give up on Cain! Go back and read the Gretchen Lowell books.  I promise, they are worth it.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Reading can improve your mood!

I found this interesting blurb in the September issue of Whole Living magazine:

"The benefits of being connected to groups of people--even fictional ones, according to a new study--can give readers a true sense of belonging, satisfaction, and overall positivity. After subjects read passages from Harry Potter or Twilight books for about 30 minutes, they underwent tests to measure how absorbed they were in the story, their connection to specific words, and how much they felt a part of the story....The results...found that the readers derived the same psychological benefits of belonging (like improved mood) when they were immersed in the plot as they did when they were part of a real-world group."

Another reason to keep reading!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Turn of Mind

I usually avoid books about Alzheimer's. I have a family history of Alzheimer's and dementia, and frankly, after watching people I love live through that while also living with the fear that I may have it myself someday, I'd rather read the latest Ann Coulter book than anything about Alzheimer's. Still Alice? Don't care how good it is; not gonna read it. But I went to a talk with Karin Slaughter recently and she named Alice LaPLante's Turn of Mind as one of the best books she had read recently. Alzheimer's patient is accused of murdering her best friend but has no recollection of the event. Hmm. Could be good. Since Karin is a thriller writer, I figured this to be a thriller. I like a good thriller now and then. Ok, I'll give it a chance.

First let me say that I think this is a good novel. It's definitely not a thriller though. The story is told by Dr. Jennifer White. A formerly prominent hand surgeon, she is now retired due to early onset of Alzheimer's. She is still living at home, but with a caregiver. Her best friend and neighbor, Amanda, has recently been murdered and four of her fingers removed. Jennifer is the primary person of interest, but because of her disease, she is unable to recall anything, or even remember that Amanda is dead. Because Jennifer narrates the story, we know next to nothing about the investigation. We live in her head, as she constantly jumps from past to present. We see bits and pieces of her life, her career, her marriage, her children, her friendship with Amanda, until we can almost piece together what her life was like before the disease. You can see how the disease progresses as her thoughts and memories get shorter and more jumbled.

Jennifer doesn't come across as a very likable character and while the question of Amanda's murder looms in the background, it is really secondary to the progression of Jennifer's disease and her future. That the author told the story from Jennifer's point of view is what makes this so unique, fascinating, disturbing, and thought-provoking.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


I just finished reading Never Knowing by Chevy Stevens and I'm feeling a bit underwhelmed.  Chevy Stevens is a relatively new author who released her first book Still Missing about a year ago.  I was drawn to Still Missing by the glowing reviews from Lisa Gardner, who happens to be one of my favorite thriller writers.  Still Missing was an average page-turner--I was fairly interested and continually felt like the book was about to really get good until the last page when I realized the opportunity for greatness was gone.  When Never Knowing was released, it again had a blurb from Lisa Gardner.  I eagerly checked it out thinking "Well, I'm sure she's really got her story together this time!".  Unfortunately, it's the same old, same old.  Stevens has a great premise and fails to really pull it off.  Never Knowing tells the story of Sara Gallagher and her hunt to find her birth parents.  She uncovers her birth mother's identity which leads to the slow realization that her birth father is a infamous serial killer that is still on the loose.  As you can imagine, her serial killer father gets wind of the existance of a daughter and manages to get in contact with her.  While being a fairly preposterous idea, most of my favorite thrillers have a semi-unbelievable storyline anyway (don't they all?) so I wasn't thrown off.  What DID throw me off was the quotes from The Art of War every other page, the lack of real forward momentum, a super bratty kid, and a last minute plot twist I saw from a mile away.  That being said, I somehow don't hate it!?!?!  It took me all of 4 nights to read it, I looked forward to picking it up (to see if this was the point where it was going to get really good), and I'm pretty sure I'd give Chevy Stevens another shot in the future. 

I'm pretty sure I've managed to confuse everyone about my overall feelings on the book.  I guess I'll sum it up this way--If you want a really good thriller, pick up Lisa Gardner.  If you want a book to kill some time (and you've already read all of Lisa Gardner) and you aren't pinning all your hopes and dreams on it, pick up Never Knowing.  It's kinda like watching a soap opera- not a particularly great storyline but can be an entertaining way to spend a couple hours. Glowing review right?