Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “suspense”

loopyker’s #CBR4 Review #19-21: Various mysteries by Elizabeth Peters

thejackalshead400rabbitsdevilmaycare

See my review comparing three Elizabeth Peters mysteries, The Jackal’s Head, The Night of Four Hundred Rabbits and Devil-May-Care at Loopy Ker’s Life.

Goddess of Apathy’s #CBR4 Review #9: Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

gone girl

Some sunny day baby
When everything seems okay, baby
You’ll wake up and find out youre alone
Cause Ill be gone
Gone, gone, gone really gone

Gone, gone, gone really gone
Gone, ga-gone, cause you done me wrong

—”Gone, Gone, Gone,” Alison Krauss & Robert Plant

Once upon a time, there was a married couple, named Nick and Amy Dunne. They seemed so perfect, so fabulous, so wonderful. It was their fifth wedding anniversary. This day of planned romance is immediately forgotten when Amy is is suddenly gone—missing. There’s no body, but there are signs of a struggle. Of course, Nick is the prime suspect in her disappearance.

I wasn’t expecting a lot from this novel when it was given to me. I heard the book was good and I wouldn’t be able to put it down. I pshawed that notion, but I was taken aback when I found myself totally enthralled by the first person narrative of reading Amy’s diary. I felt like I knew Amy, she was written so well. She told me things about her relationship with Nick, how it began, how he made her feel, how things changed when their fortunes changed and they had to move from their hip digs in New York to the Midwestern commonness of North Carthage, Mississippi.  Amy was someone I was rooting for and I was so concerned that her amazing husband had done something terrible to her. Isn’t it always the husband in cases like these?

There are always two sides to every story and author Gillian Flynn deftly swapped narrative voices in the novel and allowed us to experience Nick’s side. He was just as honest and engaging as Amy. He’s just a good-hearted Midwestern boy who loved this fantastic girl. Now, whose side am I on? Nick was a good husband, not perfect but Lord, he tried. Amy was such a perfectionist. She was so spoiled. He did the things he did to survive and try to find some happiness.

I was very pleased with how the book played out and was taken by surprise the entire time. I could not put the book down. I highly recommend it for the suspense, mystery, and the warped psychology of the plot. It is an entertaining quick read.

ElCicco #CBR4 Review#48: Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles

Care of Wooden Floors is a sometimes amusing, sometimes unsettling novel, with several tips of the hat to Edgar Allan Poe. The story’s narrator, an Englishman who is never given a name and whom I shall hereafter refer to as “N,” has just arrived in an East European country to stay at his friend Oskar’s flat while he’s in California. Oskar is a successful composer, fastidious and demanding, with high standards for everything — music, food, drink, living space. The man loves and craves order. His best known composition is based on the theme of tram schedules and he is working on a piece that will be an homage to the Dewey decimal system. His apartment is a newly renovated masterpiece with fine wooden floors. When it comes to things, Oskar demands and gets the best. When it comest to people, he is often disappointed. His wife has left him and returned to California to divorce him (the reason for his absence) and his friend, the narrator, is watching the apartment and cats while Oskar is away.

Why Oskar is friends with N is puzzling to both reader and narrator. N is not particularly successful at anything in his life. He wants to be a writer but is employed as a pamphleteer for his local council. His girlfriend has left him, his apartment is a dump. Oskar and N met in college and maintained a friendship, it seems, because N was the only person willing to put up with Oskar’s persnickety ways and Oskar has worked at maintaining the friendship over time despite his seeming disdain for N’s slovenliness and overall mediocrity. Their personalities are quite opposite. In telling N about his divorce, Oskar says, “People say, this is difficult, that is difficult. It is an excuse for failing, for doing something wrong. It is not difficult — it should not be difficult. As long as there are some rules, some agreements, people should know how to do things, then everything should be easy.” For N on the other hand, “Perfection is aggressive. It is a rebuke.”

When N arrives, Oskar has already gone to California and has left written instructions for N throughout the apartment, often in unexpected places, as if he knows in advance what N  is going to do. Oskar is especially concerned about his floors and has left explicit instructions to call him if anything happens. Naturally, something does happen and N does not call. N seems afraid of Oskar’s reaction but also welcomes the opportunity to put one over on Oskar by somehow hiding what he has done. N thinks he can fix the problems, but as he bumbles about, trying to salvage an increasingly degenerating situation, it is as if Oskar has anticipated every fumble that N would make and has a note waiting. This contributes to N’s frustration and makes him more adamant that he will not give in, he will not call Oskar.

In some ways, this story is like one of those contemporary Hollywood comedies wherein the “hero” is a drunken lout who, through carelessness and bad luck, has to deal with problems that get worse as he tries to fix them. N actually compares his situation to that of Wile E Coyote at one point. Since the narrator is indeed a drunken lout, and he is presenting from his point of view alone, the reader is not always sure if N’s version of events is accurate and truthful. And as story progresses, the reader knows something truly awful will happen. In fact a couple of really awful things happen, and the reader might start to wonder about the reliability and mental stability of the narrator.

Care of Wooden Floors is quite suspenseful and drives the reader forward to see what is going to happen. I was not wholly satisfied with the ending of the novel. I had hoped for something unexpected, even macabre, but the author gives us something worthy of a Hollywood comedy (and not a terribly funny one). Overall, it was an okay book and I feel bad saying that because I feel like I should have loved it. Just didn’t.

Malin’s #CBR4 Reviews #66-69: Magic Lost, Trouble Found by Lisa Shearin, Becoming Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and Scandal Wears Satin by Loretta Chase

So I did a fair bit of reading over the summer, even though I actually spent 15 days while in Iowa not so much as thinking about opening a book (which may be the first time in my adult life I can remember that happening). I did fall dreadfully behind on my reviews, and I’m not even blogging everything I read anymore. You can therefore expect several bulk posts from me in the coming weeks.

Book 66: Magic Lost, Trouble Found by Lisa Shearin.  Beginning of a very enjoyable paranormal fantasy series. The covers are particularly awful, even by the standards of the genre. Please don’t let that put you off if you like light-hearted adventure fantasy. 4 stars.

Book 67: Becoming Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty. Extremely well-written young adult novel with a protagonist it’s difficult to like at first. More teenagers should discover these books, they’re an absolute delight to read, and a million times better than most YA fiction out there. 4 stars

Book 68: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I break my own rules for the first time in three years of reviewing for CBR. I’ve read this book four times now, but it’s one of my absolute favourites, and when Mrs. Julien and a bunch of others were reading it, I had to revisit it as well. 5 stars

Book 69: Scandal Wears Satin by Loretta Chase. One of her weakest efforts, but still quite entertaining. Worth checking out if you like this sort of thing. 3 stars.

Funkyfacecat’s #CBR4 Review #13: A Goose on Your Grave by Joan Aiken

I have grown increasingly appreciative of the layers, tensions and humour of Joan Aiken’s YA and children’s books through the 25-odd years that I have been reading them. The couple of adult books of hers I’ve read have by contrast seemed pretty standard psychological thrillers – as if the landscapes of childhood and adolescence offered more scope for her wild, dark and lilting imagination. Her most famous series are probably the “Arabel and Mortimer” books for young readers (Mortimer is a raven who only says “nevermore” and Arabel is a spritely six-year-old) and the Wolves of Willoughby Chase sequence (also referred to as the “Dido” books), starring the intrepid urchin Dido Twite in an alternative-history-somewhat-steampunk Regency-ish era. Dido’s adventures span the globe as she outwits various sinister governesses and kidnappers and Hanoverian plotters (in this world England is ruled by good Stuart kings) and deserve whole reviews of their awesomeness, but here I will review my rereading of A Goose on Your Grave: Stories of Horror, Suspense and Fantasy.

The collection as a whole feels cohesive; there are recurring themes such as time travel, the capabilities of the human mind to create and accept the extraordinary, a love of animals, particularly cats, and odd things in science and nature. Motifs from Aiken’s entire YA and children’s oeuvre are touched upon, such as the problems and inadequacies of well-meaning bureaucrats when it comes to children’s welfare and different ways of escaping from and revenge on oppressive guardians (of all ages) and systems (from schools to societies). Within Goose on Your Grave, an image from one story occasionally resurfaces in another; in “The Old Poet” our suspicions as to why the rowan tree was significant for the one-eyed stranger in “Snow Horse” are confirmed. (“The Old Poet,” by the way, about a young college student encountering an unexpected element of his great-grandfather’s legacy, satirises the literary establishment with sardonic glee and contains one of the most surprising pieces of poetry criticism I’ve come across: “I did read the lyrics, on the plane going to Heathrow. They were very lyrical but quite dry–half Coke, half lemon. (71)) Mythology and modernity mingle with the Gothic and the traditionally ghostly to occasionally surreal effect. Few of the stories end happily; some end on a note of ambiguity and some downright sadly. Aiken has a bleak vision and an icy pen at times; she skewers the pretensions of the type of boys who casually torment their fellows, leaving no visible marks, in the name of good clean boyish hi-jinks in “The Blades,” for example, and excessive psychological jargon without actual insight in “Aunt Susan” (a startlingly grownup tale in the vein of Roald Dahl’s cruellest). “Potter’s Grey” subverts the idea of “rose-coloured glasses” in an extreme way, and “The Last Specimen” is delightfully English and gently sorrowful – but I can’t say why without spoilers.

I would perhaps have to say that Bundle of Nerves (which I would recommend to any fans of Neil Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors) is my favourite from her “supernatural” story collections, but Goose on Your Grave is still very good. While the sequence shows occasional flashes of the homeliness and comfort that pervade her work for slightly younger readers (although even into these the eerie and tragic are occasionally allowed to enter), the overall sense of Goose on Your Grave is decidedly and deliciously unheimlich.
“But I hadn’t enough money to pay for the return ride, so I thanked the boatman, hoisted my pack, and set off through trees to the dimly glimpsed mansion.

As I drew near I could hear the sound of the chain saw: a malevolent, high-pitched shriek. The sound was ominous in those terribly silent woods. The trees were enormous. Under them grew a little grass, thin and moss-infested, like the sparse dandruffy hairs on an old man’s head. There was a kind of path, and then a smallish open space. Beyond it I could see a side of the house, with a terrace and a row of windows; opposite the house lay the shore of the loch, which curved round here in a small bay. On the rocky shoreline grew a huge tree: it spread out like a hand, not a single trunk but about six of them, grey and smooth fingers reaching upwards. ” (“The Old Poet,” 73).

Joan Aiken. A Goose on Your Grave. London: Lions Teen Tracks, 1987.

Note: Aiken was very prolific, and wrote for all ages. The website for her books gives some idea of which series are suitable for which age group.

DragonDreamsJen’s #CBR4 Review #55 High Noon by Nora Roberts

Romance is the last thing that Police Lieutenant  and Hostage Negotiator Phoebe MacNamara has on her mind when she talks a man off a rooftop one Saint Patrick’s Day, but the man’s former boss, Duncan Swift soon holds a bigger place in her life than she is willing to admit.  Will he understand the unique demands of her career and complicated family life  or is she more haunted by the events of her own past that she is willing to admit?

Revealing anything more than a teaser about the complex plot of High Noon would deny another reader the fun summer escape this novel provided for me.  As usual, Roberts’ captivating characters are what make the book so enjoyable.  This story leaned slightly more towards the suspense and violence that she became so famous for as J.D.Robb, but it was a fun, quick read with a likable ending. This was not as memorable as some of her other books or series, but when I saw it on the shelf at the library, it quickly found its way into my summer reading pile.  It made a nice interruption to the seesaw of Dark-Hunter and Darkover novels.  One of the things that I enjoy most about my favourite authors is that they seldom fail to deliver the entertainment, diversion and enjoyment I am expecting. I’m not sure how I missed reading High Noon before now, but I am glad it was part of my Cannonball IV challenge!

Hardcover format, 467 pages, published in 2007 by DAW Books.

rdoak03′s #CBR4 Review 20: Three Days to Die by John Avery

This thriller concerns a 13 year old boy who is kidnapped and forced to commit crimes. It’s not often that I disagree with the majority of book reviews on Goodreads. This is an exception- largely positive feedback gets 2 stars from me. Read why here.

Fofo’s #CBR4 Review #21: REAMDE by Neal Stephenson

Target: Neal Stephenson’s REAMDE

Profile: Fiction, Political Thriller, Suspense?

My level of dislike for this book borders on irrational.  My first pass at the review had nothing good to say about it at all.  That wasn’t exactly fair, so here’s Version 2.  REAMDE is a fantastic idea that has been tossed into a river with the lead weights of Stephenson’s writing style, 600 extra pages and a dozen extraneous plot lines.  Now, if you happen to be irrationally fond of exposition, you might really enjoy this book.  I didn’t.

Part of this is my fault.  Stephenson and I have had a rocky relationship at best.  I slogged through the Baroque Cycle a few years ago on a friend’s recommendation, and while I didn’t hate those books, I definitely didn’t love them either.  Snow Crash was great.  And Cryptonomicon was solid too, but all of his books suffer from a similar pathology of being overwritten and heavy on the exposition.  REAMDE goes a little beyond that and ponderously drags around extraneous PoV characters, plot lines, and MacGuffins galore for no tangible payoff.

The setup is pretty clever.  A nasty virus targeting players of the MMORPG T’Rain inadvertently hits a money manager for the Russian mob, whose boss then kidnaps Zula Forthrast, niece of T’Rain’s founder, Richard Forthrast, and her hacker boyfriend to try and track down the virus makers in China.  Hijinks ensue.  The problems start coming as Stephenson adds increasingly complicated and unlikely plot twists.  The Chinese hackers have holed up underneath an Islamic terror cell, and when the bust goes bad all hell breaks loose.

Read the rest of the review… (WARNING: Light spoilers follow)

Petalfrog’s #CBR4 Review #27: Pushed Too Far by Ann Voss Peterson

Can a Harlequin Intrigue author step away from the long flowing hair (his and hers), sweaty buff bodies, and simultaneous orgasms, to successfully pen an exciting, mainstream thriller featuring a strong female lead?

Read my full review to find out! (Link open in new page)

rdoak03′s #CBR4 Review 19: Jaden Baker by Courtney Kirchoff

I’m not really into reading about paranormal stuff, but this book (and title character) latched on to my heart. Jaden exemplifies the will to survive and holding on to your innermost self. Highly recommended. My full review (without spoilers- very difficult!) can be found here.

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