Adult, Fiction, Science Fiction, Suspense/Thriller

Review: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Jurassic Park book cover
Image from Michael Crichton

Title: Jurassic Park

Author: Michael Crichton

Genre: Science Fiction/Thriller

An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Creatures once extinct now roam Jurassic Park, soon-to-be opened as a theme park. Until something goes wrong…and science proves a dangerous toy….

I lost interest in dinosaurs in second grade, I’m not a big fan of adult books, and I wasn’t a huge fan of the Jurassic Park movie. So until it was a book club book, I had no intention of ever reading this book.

So, I want to mention characters, but I’m not sure which ones to mention. There’s Grant and Ellie the archeologists, Ian Malcom the mathematician (and my favorite character for reasons I’m not sure of), John Hammond who created the island, Hammond’s grandkids Tim and Lex, and various employees. All of them played an important part at some point or another, and I liked (or in some cases, hated) them all in varying levels. But none of them stood out as “I really liked him” or “she’s the main character.”

I was surprised that I enjoyed the plot. The movie missed a lot of details, which was sometimes a good thing but most of the time managed to keep me interested. And the rampaging dinos managed to keep my attention. Sometimes it wasn’t as thriller-y as I think it was supposed to be, probably because I didn’t care about the characters as much as I should have, but I still occasionally found myself hoping certain characters would survive (and sometimes that others would get eaten). There was a lot of gore at times, sure, but I’m not sure a book about carnivorous dinosaurs could have got away without it. Overall, I was happily interested.

My biggest problem with the book was that it got bogged down in scientific details every once in a while. I don’t care which isotopes they extracted to piece together the dinosaurs’ DNA. All I need to know is that it can be done. And as not a huge fan of chemistry or biology, I found most of the sciency stuff boring.

I didn’t exactly enjoy Jurassic Park, but I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t hate it. Do I plan on reading any more of Crichton’s books? No. But I don’t regret this read.

Adult, Fiction, Suspense/Thriller

Review: So Say the Waiters Episodes 6-9 by Justin Sirois

 

So Say the Waiters Episodes 6-9 book cover
Image from Justin Sirois; used by permission

Title: So Say the Waiters Episodes 6-9 (So Say the Waiters #2)

Author: Justin Sirois

Genre: Thriller

WARNING: This book is second in a series, so this review will probably contain spoilers of the first book. I recommend not reading this review if you haven’t read the first book, So Say the Waiters Episodes 1-5.

While Henry and Dani become accomplished kidnAppers, it’s Glen Haymaker, one of the company’s co-founders, who is stealing the show—and maybe more. He is more concerned about the public spectacle and becoming a celebrity within the network than sticking to the company’s ethics. If So Say the Waiters Book 1 made you question what you might do with the power of kidnApp, book 2 will scare you into realizing the creators and administrators of these apps live in a world between worlds. Haymaker, through his dazzling manipulation, will push that power to its very limits.

After the awesomeness of So Say the Waiters Episodes 1-5 (and the general awesomeness of the kidnApp idea in general), when Justin Sirois offered me a copy of this book, I said “heck yeah!”

Henry is getting better as the series goes on. He’s mostly gotten over that breakup he was struggling with last book (thankfully). And while he’s not confident by any stretch of the imagination, he’s not reticent and unsure like he was last book. I’m looking forward to the day when he’s a confident Taker.

Dani is Henry’s exact opposite, which is probably why they’re so fun together. Dani is not cautious, not shy, not hesitant and probably not exactly sane (or maybe just not sober, depending on how you look at it). She has a wild, crazy, just-want-to-have-fun-and-heck-with-the-consequences attitude that contrasts strongly with Henry. It’ll be fun when she becomes a Taker on her own – I’m curious to see how her popularity will stack up.

So, there’s a lot of characters in this book. Some barely-mentioned ones from the first book show up with a vengeance (not literally). And Haymaker and Barnstormer, two Takers, also featured pretty big at the end – I think they may be important in future books.

At the beginning of the book, there was a lot of sexual innuendo. A lot. Up to the point where I thought, “Is this going to be the first review book ever that I couldn’t finish?” But thankfully, once I powered through the first chapter, it was no more than I’ve come to expect from the So Say the Waiters series – some, but not enough to make me want to stop reading.

Once again, this was a different kind of plot. There were no “disasters” or climaxes or everything you hear about in story structure class. There isn’t even really an identifiable bad guy. But somehow, Henry and Dani’s exciting (and slightly strange) adventures kept me interested. Or maybe it was the epicness of the idea of kidnApp – I so wish it was a real thing.

Whatever it was that kept me interested, I enjoyed this book. I’m curious to see where the plot goes from here – and I’d like to see how Henry and Dani grow. So whenever the next installment comes out, count me in.

I received a free review copy of So Say the Waiters Episodes 6-9 from the author. His generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.

The So Say the Waiters series:

  1. So Say the Waiters Episodes 1-5
  2. So Say the Waiters Episodes 6-9
Adult, Fiction, Suspense/Thriller

Review: So Say the Waiters episodes 1-5 by Justin Sirois

So Say the Waiters Eupsides 41-5 book cover
Image from Justin Sirois; used by permission

Title: So Say the Waiters Episodes 1-5 (So Say the Waiters #1)

Author: Justin Sirois

Genre: Thriller

White-collar everyman Henry, is hired by a successful software developer and college friend who has created kidnApp, an app and social network that allows people to kidnap each other for fun. His friend wants to groom Henry as the Mid-Atlantic regional manager with part ownership of the company, but he will need to become a seasoned kidnApper first. The problem is, Henry is stuck in his conservative job, suffering from post-fiancée breakup depression, and he definitely sucks at kidnApping. But this is an opportunity he cannot refuse.

Danielle (Dani) Hardly is an aimless bartender at a rundown nightclub. She is barely scraping by, but she is one of the first users of kidnApp in Baltimore. During a botched kidnApping, she is rescued by newly recruited Henry – someone she has nothing in common with until Henry opens up to her about his less than mediocre kidnapping skills.

This is one of those books that I picked up on idea alone. The characters sounded okay, the plot seemed pretty meh, but a KidnApp that lets people get kidnapped for fun? Fantastic! Even before I started the book, it got my imagination running.

Henry was a different kind of character than I usually read. He wasn’t kick-butt or even mentally resilient. He was a computer programmer dealing with the emotional (and financial) aftermath of a bad breakup. I didn’t really enjoy him, but I found him interesting, at least.

Dani was the exact opposite of Henry – a tattooed twenty-something bartender living on tips and playing keyboard in a little local band. She was exactly the kind of character I would expect to find in this book, only I would have expected her to be a kidnapper.

This book did not read like a traditional novel. There was no easily-identified climax or major disasters, and the ending felt more like the end of a chapter than the end of a novel. (It might have been more structured within the individual “episodes” – I wasn’t paying attention to where one stopped and the next began.) But I enjoyed the story, figuring out the details of kidnApp, and trying to understand how Henry and Dani’s plots fit together. Justin Sirois was brilliant at bringing together random plotlines into a great story.

The very, very best part about So Say the Waiters was the idea. An app for people who want to be kidnapped for fun – awesome! “Waiters” who want to be kidnapped can specify how long they want to be taken, how rough their “Taker” can be, even little stuff like if they want a bag over their head or just a blindfold. I want to be kidnapped. And then I want to kidnap people. I don’t even know if this would be legal, but it would be fun!

My only problem with this book was that it was an adult book. There was language (most of it mild) and sexual references – nothing explicit, but enough that I could suspect what’s going on. It wasn’t over-the-top or enough to make me stop reading, but I didn’t like it.

This is a different sort of book than I usually read. Very different. But I enjoyed it. I would definitely be interested in the next…book? Installment? Episodes? Whatever it’s called, I want to read it. Because after Dani’s and Henry’s plots intersected in the end of this book, I seriously need to know what happens next.

I received a free review copy of So Say the Waiters Episodes 1-5 from the author. His generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.

Adult, Did Not Finish, Fiction, Suspense/Thriller

House

House book cover
Image from The Random Reads of a Brown Girl

Title: House

Author: Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti

Genre: Thriller

When a strange accident leaves Jack and Stephanie stranded on a back road in Alabama, they seek shelter in the eerie Wayside Inn.  Also at the Wayside Inn are Stewart and Betty and their son, Pete, who run the place, and Randy and Leslie, victims of a similar accident and also stranded.  The four of them are victims of some backwoods pranksters, but they’re safe.  Or so they think.  They are in the middle of a killer’s game, and it becomes dreadfully clear when a tin can is tossed in with rules scratched on it.  Rule number two: He will kill everyone who comes to his house.  Rule number three: One dead body might persuade him to let rule number two slide.  One house, seven players, three rules.  Game ends at dawn.

This is one of those books I had the intention of picking up…sometime.  I’d enjoyed Frank Peretti’s Veritas Project books, and also Ted Dekker’s Skin and Blink, so I figured a book by them together would be good.  I finally ended up reading it when my mom wanted to know if she would like it.

And I didn’t even end up finishing House.

My absolute one and only problem was with the characters.  I hated them all.  Randy was a reckless hothead.  Leslie was a wimp.  Stephanie was a selfish brat.  Jack couldn’t take responsibility for his actions.  And the other three were certifiably insane.  Jack was the only character I even mildly didn’t mind, but I didn’t like him enough to finish the book.

House‘s main bad guy, I guess you would call him, was a very Dekker-esque psycho with delusions that he killed God, and he can kill anyone else who comes to this house.  The house itself was disturbing and had a mind of its own, and would rearrange itself to prevent escape.  The whole story had a creepy atmosphere – in my opinion, it’s more horror than anything.  Which automatically makes it something that I’m not going to be a huge fan of.

Honestly, even though I’m not a huge fan of horror and psychos aren’t really up my alley, but the house itself would have been enough to keep me reading – if I had liked any of the characters.  But, like I mentioned before, there wasn’t a one of them I wanted to spend a whole book with, let alone a book whose plot isn’t exactly the kind of thing I go for.

My main problem with House was me, not the book.  It strikes me as something that people who like horror/thriller books would enjoy.  It just wasn’t my thing.

Adult, Fiction, Suspense/Thriller

Ulterior Motives

Ulterior Motives book cover
Image from Christian Novels

Title:  Ulterior Motives

Author:  Mark Andrew Olsen

Genre:  Thriller

An intercepted email leads to the capture of Al-Qaeda’s leader, Omar Nirubi, but it also threatens an attack on America.  Nirubi is interrogated, but he holds to his beliefs and refuses to talk.  Desperate, the army resorts to a controversial protocol that requires an outside party, someone unaware of the protocol’s aims.  That someone is Greg Cahill, a disgraced soldier who now serves in a prison ministry.  Lured by the chance to restore his reputation, Greg befriends a man the country despises.  And the result proves combustible.  The two men flee for their lives and set out to prevent a major catastrophe…

I saw this book in my church library a while ago, and thought it sounded vaguely interesting.  But it wasn’t until I was running low on books to read that I finally picked it up.

Greg wasn’t a bad character.  I couldn’t really relate to a lot of his feelings about his son, but that’s because I’m sixteen and don’t have any kids.  In fact, I felt like a lot of the time, I couldn’t relate to him.  (Of course, that could just be me.)

In the beginning of the story, Greg didn’t feature as prominently as I expected.  It was about equally split between his story and the story of Delia Kilgore, the person in charge of Nirubi’s interrogation.  In fact, for most of the book, it jumped back and forth between him and Delia.

I stuck with the book mainly because of the plot.  And the main reason I stuck with that is because I knew what the threat was (although not all the specifics), and the characters didn’t.  That, and I also wanted to see if the protocol would break Nirubi’s resistance.  I enjoyed the story, and I thought it wrapped up very well, but I didn’t love it.

Ulterior Motives seemed a lot like a Bourne or Die Hard movie, but in book form.  And even though I liked the movies, this kind of book isn’t really my thing.  That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, because I did, but it wouldn’t be my first choice when it comes to reading material.

If you like terrorist plots, Christian suspense novels, or the Bourne novels, chances are you’ll like Ulterior Motives.  But personally, this genre isn’t my favorite.

Adult, Fiction, Suspense/Thriller

Blink

Blink book cover
Image from fantasticfiction.co.uk

Title:  Blink

Author:  Ted Dekker

Genre:  Thriller

Miriam, a Muslim woman in Saudi Arabia, is going to be married off to a hateful man.  Terrified, she flees to America.  Seth, a certifiable genius with a knack for ticking off professors, can suddenly see bits and pieces of the future.  When he sees Miriam get attacked in a bathroom and rescues her, they’re suddenly both on the run – from people who want to see Miriam married, and from people who want to see her dead.

I read Ted Dekker’s Skin and loved it, so when I found this book, I snatched it right up.

And I absolutely loved it.

Seth had an IQ thirty points higher than Einstein, but his extremely high mental capacity wasn’t a problem. There’s always a risk that genius characters will be unrelatable or that his brains will bail him out too easily, but that wasn’t the case with Seth. He was frequently nervous or unsure, and in this case, I loved him more for his flaws than for his strengths.

Miriam, on the other hand, I loved for her strengths and her courage. She was brave enough to go on the run from an arranged marriage, even though she didn’t know how it would work out, and her mixture of courage and unsurity (if that’s a word) made me love her as a character.

The basic plot was Miriam running from an arranged marriage that would upset Saudi Arabian politics, Seth helping her, two different groups of Saudis after Miriam and the American government after them both. That would have been interesting enough on its own, with plenty of car chases and narrow escapes. But the absolute best part of the plot was Seth’s future-seeing abilities.

The idea that there’s multiple possible futures based on the different choices people can make makes logical sense. So, kind of, does the way Seth can see all the possible futures. But the fact that a single different word can lead to a totally different future leaves me with a headache for Seth, who needs all his brainpower to keep them straight. And the sheer infinite number of possibilities gives me a headache.

Another great thing about Seth seeing the future was the way his confidence shook people up. That was awesome, and occasionally funny.

I only had two problems with Blink. One was the number of characters. In the beginning, the book introduces Seth, Miriam, Omar (Miriam’s prospective husband) and his father, and Miriam’s adopted father – all of which have their own various plotlines which the story follows. For a while, I had a hard time keeping all the different Saudi people straight. It got easier in the end, though, once a couple of them died.

The other problem I had was with the romance between Miriam and Samir. Maybe it was because I knew hardly anything about Samir and how the romance came about, but the whole thing felt fake to me. And though I didn’t guess the specifics, I was right about how it ended up.

Overall, I loved Blink – even more than I loved Skin, which wowed me. The mixture of running-from-the-government action, seeing-the-future concept, and Seth’s peculiar (but awesome) brand of wit made this book absolutely fantastic. A totally epic adventure story.

Adult, Fiction, Suspense/Thriller

Skin

Skin book cover
Image from 4dills.wordpress.com

Title:  Skin

Author:  Ted Dekker

Genre:  Thriller

A freak storm has spawned three tornadoes, and the town of Summerville is directly in their path.  But under the cover of the storm is a much more dangerous threat – a vindictive killer known as Red, bent on extracting revenge.  Wendy Davidson is a recovering cult survivor taking refuge in Summerville.  With her are four strangers, any one of whom could be Red’s next target.  Or Red himself.  Something is terribly wrong under the skin of Summerville…something that will destroy far more than one small town…

Wow.

That’s my one-word reaction to Skin.  Wow.

I’d never read a Ted Dekker book before this.  My mother, however, is a big Ted Dekker fan (so much so that she’s been bugging me to finish this so she can read it).  Also, I was having an unsuccessful library visit, attempting to find something good in the adult section, and I knew Ted Dekker was a Christian author, so at the very least, I wouldn’t have to worry about any erotic moments.  I decided to try it.

I’d never read a book like this before – at least not one that I didn’t give up on because of too much gore.  Skin surprised me, shocked me, startled me, scared me…practically the only thing it didn’t do was bore me.

Funny thing…I didn’t notice while I was reading, but I didn’t really get a feel for any of the characters.  Sure, I wanted everybody to survive and beat the killer, but I didn’t really love any of the characters.  I would call this a plot-driven novel, because none of the characters really stood out – but the plot was spectacular.

One thing that really stood out was Wendy grew up in a cult.  This was stated early on and repeated throughout the book.  Besides the fact that it made her afraid of touching men, I’m not sure what other point this fact served.  I’m also not sure if the repetition was a good thing or a bad thing – it was just a thing.

About the only thing I had a problem with was description.  There really wasn’t much – at least not with the characters.  That wasn’t a big deal for most of the characters.  I just imagined them whatever way seemed to fit them.  But I wish Ted Dekker had described Colt a little more.  He was supposedly ugly, and I wanted to know how exactly he was ugly.  Deformed?  Scarred?  Just not handsome?

Despite that one little detail, I loved the book.  And I certainly did not expect the ending.  It was one of the best adult books I’ve read since…okay, make it the best adult book I’ve read so far.  Totally amazing.

I wonder what else Ted Dekker wrote…