Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler

Apologies for this post being a week late, I was watching one of my best friends walk down the aisle this past weekend (CONGRATS JEN AND STEVE!). Better late than never though! The Hypnotist was an interesting Swedish crime thriller, albeit a bit long for my taste. And that's coming from someone who's read A Game of Thrones and several other long stories. While there were parts of this book I wasn't fond of, I still had a great time reading it and give it 4 out of 5 stars for keeping my interest for the better part of a month.

From the publisher:
In the frigid clime of Tumba, Sweden, a gruesome triple homicide attracts the interest of Detective Inspector Joona Linna, who demands to investigate the murders. The killer is still at large, and there's only one surviving witness- the boy whose family was killed before his eyes. Whoever committed the crimes wanted this boy to die: he's suffered more than one hundred knife wounds and lapsed into a state of shock. Desperate for information, Linna sees only one option: hypnotism. He enlists Dr. Erik Maria Bark to mesmerize the boy, hoping to discover the killer through his eyes.

It's the sort of work that Bark has sworn he would never do again- ethically dubious and psychically scarring. When he breaks his promise and hypnotizes the victim, a long and terrifying chain of events begins to unfurl.

My opinion:
I got incredibly confused about halfway through the book, right about where there's a 50 page flashback to Erik's decade-ago hypnotism group. I couldn't understand the relevance of this, and lost the present plot for a while as well. Of course, everything got tied up by the end of the book thankfully, and it was done in a superb manner.

One of the biggest things I look for and love about books is the ability to identify with and relate to the characters. Can these people actually exist? Do I feel any empathy for their situations throughout the story? Some authors fall short on that. Kepler, however, did a phenomenal job making all of his characters likable, or at least pitiable. I can't say I like all the characters (especially not the killer and other parties involved), but you just can't help getting emotionally attached to the story.

Like I said, this was a very long novel. I feel like parts of it could have been shortened, but at the same time everything in this story added up to one epic thriller that I could not for the life of me put down. Well played, Sweden. Well played.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Black Echo by Michael Connelly

Okay, after a couple days putting off my review, it's time. Michael Connelly's The Black Echo is the first in his bestselling series about Detective Harry Bosch. I've heard mixed reviews about the series, and I think I can see why. This book was so-so. Not particularly good, but not the worst book and still mostly enjoyable. This is probably the most neutral I've felt about a book in a while, so it gets an average 3 out of 5 stars in my book.

From the publisher:
For LAPD homicide cop harry Bosch -- hero, maverick, nighthawk -- the body in the drainpipe at Mulholland Dam is more than another anonymous statistic. This one is personal.
The dead man, Billy Meadows, was a fellow Vietnam "tunnel rat" who fought side by side with him in a nightmare underground war that brought them to the depths of hell. Now, Bosch, is about to relive the horror of Nam. From a dangerous maze of blind alleys to a daring criminal heist beneath the city to the tortuous link that must be uncovered, his survival instincts will once again be tested to their limit. Joining with an enigmatic and seductive female FBI agent, pitted against enemies inside his own department, Bosch must make the agonizing choice between justice and vengeance, as he tracks down a killer whose true face will shock him.

My thoughts:
There are a lot of big fun-sounding words in that description, and I think it oversells The Black Echo a little bit too much (granted, that's what publishers want to do in the first place). Bosch is an immensely likable character, mostly because he embodies what many US police officers do not- a strong moral fiber with a lack of regard for what anyone, even his superiors, have to say about his methods of succeeding in his cases. He is fun to read about, and I almost wish this story was told from his perspective rather than from a third person perspective. Or, maybe I'm just biased because of the narrative used in Patterson's Alex Cross and Michael Bennett stories.

The plot itself was alright, nothing fancy or special. The beginning seemed to drag on, the middle got interesting, and the end was somehow both more abrupt and more slow-paced than it needed to be. And I have no idea how I managed to feel it was both of those two contradicting points. The story's loose ends were tied up almost carelessly in my opinion, but it was done well enough that it worked anyway.

I think one big issue I had didn't even have to do with the book at all. I've heard such rave reviews for The Lincoln Lawyer, and while I had only received mixed reviews for this book, I somehow was still under the impression that this book was going to be much more... 'oomph'y. I got my hopes up, obviously. This was fun, and interesting, and I think I was just jaded by my preconceptions that I would be more blown away by this book. On the bright side, the next Connelly book I read will be my recently purchased copy of The Lincoln Lawyer, which I've been assured will not disappoint me (by several people, so we'll see if they're right).

- Justin :)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

I honestly have no idea why it took me so long to start reading autobiographies. Each one I've read lately is more and more fun to get through, and Running with Scissors was no exception. This memoir gets 4 out of 5 stars for being just plain fun. Burroughs really is one of the funniest authors I've read lately.

From the publisher:
Running with Scissors is the true story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of Anne Sexton) gave him away to be raised by her unorthodox psychiatrist who bore a striking resemblance to Santa Claus. So, at the age of twelve, Burroughs found himself amidst Victorian squalor living with the doctor's bizarre family, and befriending a pedophile who resided in the backyard shed. The story of an outlaw childhood where rules were unheard of, and the Christmas tree stayed up all year round, where Valium was consumed like candy, and if things got dull an electroshock therapy machine could provide entertainment. The funny, harrowing and bestselling account of an ordinary boy's survival under the most extraordinary circumstances.

My thoughts:
Truly one of the funnier stories I've read, especially considering this is a true story. I have to give Burroughs credit, growing up in such a crazy, mixed up household after being given away by his psychotic mother. Sometimes I couldn't even believe that this stuff actually happened, but he tells it in such a manner that I can't help but believe him. When I first started hearing about Augusten Burroughs, I was kind of shocked that he had so many autobiographies published. Who could honestly have that many books written about his life?? Clearly, this man can, and I'm likely going to pick up at least one or two more of his books. This was well written and very moving; hardly a page went by where I wasn't laughing along with him, or feeling sad or sorry for something that happened in the story. I would have liked a little more chronology or an easier to follow story, but at the same time I think it just adds perspective to the story.. Burroughs's life was helter-skelter, why shouldn't his biography be the same?

- Justin