Saturday, June 21, 2014

'One Kick'

There's a fine line between a mystery story and a thriller.

A mystery is just that:  A mystery.  A puzzle.  

A thriller, however, is a whole different kettle of killing.  More blood; more gore.  More darkness.  More tension.  More use of the last name of one of the main protagonists. Sometimes, the use of only the last name bothers me, but in this instance, it couldn't be more fitting.

I speak, of course, about Bishop, an incredibly memorable character in Chelsea Cain's new novel, 'One Kick'.  Sure, he's very mysterious, secretive,, but he isn't the center of this fast-paced, jaw-dropping story.

That right belongs to Kick Lannigan, a former missing child who was rescued after five years spent in captivity. Trained as a marksman, a lock picker extraordinaire, and a bomb maker by her abductor, Kick could not return to the life of a normal young girl after she was rescued. Immersing herself in the martial arts, knife throwing, and survival techniques, she becomes obsessed with finding other lost children and rescuing them from the life and lies she once endured.

When two local children go missing, Kick is approached by a former arms dealer.  Bishop is determined to use his wealth and contacts to find the missing children, and he is certain that with Kick's knowledge, they can be located.  But as she reluctantly teams up with him, she finds that she cannot escape her past...and it soon comes calling.

While I found a particular dark humor in Cain's 'Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell' thrillers ('Heartsick', 'Sweetheart', etc.), I found very little of it in her newest story.  Although the horror conveyed in this newest story is less gritty than in her previous novels, I found the subject matter shocking.  While it left a bitter taste in my mouth, my anger only grew stronger the deeper I fell into the story.

But it was a particularly sad passage that made me howl in rage (I actually threw the book across the room, almost interrupting my husband's golf game on t.v.) and left me in tears. "Thanks for that, Chelsea," Book Hog says, sarcastically.

Portland author Chelsea Cain

That's the sign of good writing.  And that's why I love her stories so much.  Aside from the fact that they are set in Portland, Cain has the skill in setting a pace that doesn't come up short.  No lapses, here.  And her characters are so finally drawn that you will remember them for years to come, like her previous characters:  Stoic Archie, brave Susan, and crazy/cool Gretchen. And I can't forget to mention Cain's famously impeccable research; it goes deep, lifting 'One Kick' well above 'the norm'.    

I tried to set this book down, time and again.  I tried to read it only before I went to sleep.  I failed miserably.

But I was thrilled.

'One Kick', the first in a new series published by Simon & Schuster, will be released in August 2014.  You'll be able to find it at your local library and favorite independent bookstore.  Book Hog thanks S&S for the opportunity to preview this new book!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

'Little Demon in the City of Light'

After immersing myself in so many mystery/thriller novels lately, I thought that a non-fiction crime story would pale in comparison to a fiction writer's sordid imagination.

Boy, was I wrong...

Real life crime is more horrible than any fictional creation, of course.  You read it and realize that a real person has died.  You read and watch news broadcasts of the reaction of the victim's family and friends. You read about rumors, vicious and otherwise, and you find so much more about it online. Photos, testimonies, trial records.  On and on and on...

But when you read about a murder that was committed so many years ago, the impact is still chilling.

'Little Demon in the City of Light' by Steven Levingston, is just that type of read. Taking place in 1889 France, the book follows the 'adventures' of con-man Michel Eyraud and his mistress, Gabrielle Bompard.  Together, they tricked a wealthy bailiff with promises of sex, and then murdered him.  They put the corpse into a trunk and dumped it on a riverbank near Lyon.  

And then they escaped to the United States, where, in San Francisco, Eyraud found another potential victim.  But Gabrielle, victimized by Eyraud, escaped his clutches and returned to France, where she turned herself in.  

The news made almost every paper in the world, and although the trial lasted a long time, it made for interesting reading.  That particular era in France was full of people hungry for sensationalism (much like today, I'm sad to say). They bought tickets to the trial, they made plans to meet at the dreaded guillotine.  I wanted to shake my head and sigh because nothing has really changed, has it? 

But the claim that Gabrielle was under the hypnotic influence of Eyraud made the whole story all the more interesting.

Levingston's impeccable research shines throughout, but it was his medical exploration that really had me turning the pages.  Of course, it could have turned out to be a very 'dry' read, but his explanation and back story of the pioneers of brain research truly enhanced the whole story.  

Not only was the medical aspect so appealing, but I also appreciated his research into the policemen who stayed the course and kept dogging the criminals, despite the setbacks and naysayers.  
Author Steven Levingston

However the main question is this:  Could hypnosis force people to commit crimes against their will?  Now we know that a hypnotic subject will not do something which goes against their free will, thanks to the pioneers of brain research.

But in 1889 France, it made for a good defense.

'Little Demon in the City of Light' is available at your local library and independent bookstore.  ISBN 978-0-385-53603-5.  

Sunday, June 8, 2014

'Mr. Mercedes'

I have a great affection for Mr. Stephen King.  I love him so much that I call him 'Little Stevie King' because he's just that cool.

A few years ago, I watched him being interviewed on television.  When the interviewer asked him where he gets his story ideas, King thought about it for a minute, and then said that, for example, when he's waiting for one of his kids to get home before curfew, and they're late, horrible thoughts worm their way into his brain and he imagines the worst.  Car accident, 'stranger danger', jail.  Although the child returns home, safe-and-sound, that little worm remains, digging it's way into his psyche.  I think a lot of writers experience the same thing: That nagging idea that just won't go away until you pound the keyboard or pick up the pen.  I get a few pages written and once I have a hold on it, I step away.

I don't think Little Stevie is that nonchalant. This man is dedicated to his craft and it really shows. And I thank the Universe for that.

Mainly known for his classic works of supernatural mayhem and malice, with a touch of his signature tenderness, I've had the pleasure of reading a few of his more 'normal' stories and non-fiction pieces.  And I wasn't disappointed.  I didn't sit there, expecting to read about a wacko clown or a smooth vampire.  I was enchanted.  

It's the reality that stayed in my mind. 

And so it is with his newest novel, 'Mr. Mercedes'.  This time, Little Stevie's been letting the news stories worm their way into his brain.  This one is scary and all-too-real.  The stuff of nightmares. At least with his paranormal horror we know that it's not gonna happen.  No how, no way.

But this happens more often than we care to admit.  And it's truly scary.  He gets into the mind of his antagonist with an almost alarming intimacy.  As for his primary protagonist, you want to surrender to his steadfast protection.

Stephen King
In the predawn hours during the economic collapse in the U.S., hundreds of cold, desperate men and women are lined up for the opening of a job fair.  Emerging from the fog is a Mercedes driven by a man with one thing on his mind:  Death.  He plows through the crowd, driving over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed and fifteen are wounded, and the killer escapes.

Months later, Bill Hodges, a retired cop who is still haunted by the crime, is depressed and considering suicide when he receives a letter from the killer. Instantly awakening from his depression, Bill is bound-and-determined to find him and prevent his next attack. Together with some mismatched allies, Bill sets a course to discover who the killer is.  But Mr. Mercedes is closer than they think.

King's newest, can't-put-down novel hits close to home, and it will leave a nasty taste in your mouth.  Not because it isn't well-written.  And not because you can't identify with it.

It's because it's all too real.  And that's frightening enough for all of us.

Who needs the paranormal to scare us when all we have to do is pick up a newspaper?

Little Stevie has hit it out of the park, once again.

'Mr. Mercedes', by Stephen King, is now available at libraries and your local independent bookstores.  Hardcover ISBN 9781476754451; e-book 9781476754468

Thursday, June 5, 2014

'My Thought for the Day...'

I think this about says it all....

Do the right thing and visit an independent bookstore for your next book purchase!


  • create jobs!
  • pay taxes!
  • host exciting events!
  • will order your book (if it's not in stock) and call you when it's in!
  • have REAL, LIVE booksellers to help you navigate the wondrous world of books!
  • recommend titles!
  • support established authors, and promote new authors!
  • need your support!
  • don't use drones!

Plus, books smell good...

This old world needs stories, so support your local bookstore!

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