18 Seconds

Author: George D. Shuman
Publisher: Pocket Star (March 27, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0743277171
ISBN-13: 978-0743277174
My
Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦

I enjoyed 18 SECONDS immensely. I liked the way Shuman took a plot element that has been done before and relayed it in a fresh way. I dislike how this book is portrayed as a psychic thriller, psychological thriller, yes, but to call it a psychic thriller degrades it, because it’s not really, which is a better angle in my opinion. A blind character in the novel possesses the ability to “see” the last 18 seconds of the person’s life, when she makes physical contact. This character is not psychic. She does not communicate with the dead person. She is just able to make an energy-to-energy connection with the short term memory of a corpse. For eighteen seconds, she experiences what the person thought and lived through in the last moments of life. I felt the author did a great job at making that element believable in the story’s context.

I also enjoyed the character details, punchy verbs and grittiness. I didn’t find anything that dragged momentum.

The only aspect I didn’t like was that the two main female characters didn’t meet until near the end. I think it would have been great to see them interacting earlier somehow.

The climax of 18 SECONDS was especially gripping. Excellently written fight scenes and final confrontations. I liked that the author didn’t hold back any punches and allowed the female characters to experience pain and turmoil.

Fun read for me.

Forsaken

Author: James David Jordan
Publisher: B&H Fiction (October 1, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0805447490
ISBN-13:
978-0805447491
My
Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦

When Simon Mason, a widowed, world-famous televangelist gets death threats from Muslim extremists, he hires former Secret Services agent, Taylor Swift, who runs her own security business, for protection. Simon’s twenty-year-old daughter is soon kidnapped and he’s forced to choose between honoring his faith or saving his daughter.

Told in first person through the eyes of Taylor, we get this tale of pressure, danger, finding love in unexpected places and counting the cost of being a Christian.

Although some parts of this suspense novel were gripping, the abundance of foreshadowing killed some of the tension for me, but that’s a personal feeling. Some readers are hooked by it and like it, but I’ve always had a disdain for it because I don’t like to be told what’s going to happen before it does. A little bit is fine, but every other chapter or so is too much for my liking. I almost wanted to skip the last few paragraphs of each chapter so I’d avoid those thrill robbers. The last third of the book alludes to how things will end, so when it unfolded exactly the way I assumed it would, the potential, heart-wrenching ride for me was somewhat constrained. I liked that the author saved one shocker for the end and how the final threads wrapped up.

That said, I did get misty in a few spots, and I felt James David Jordan did an excellent job of delving into Taylor’s inner demons and agony over being single and alone. This work is also a strong testament of true faith and courage. Any Christian would be blessed and encouraged by its message of redemption and sacrifice.

Dark Rivers of the Heart

Author: Dean Koontz
Publisher: Bantom Books (August 1, 2000)
ISBN: 9780553582895
My
Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦

When Spencer Grant, an ex-law enforcement officer, who’s living off the grid, tries to reacquaint with Valerie Keene, a waitress who dazzled him in a bar, he discovers she’s being hunted by government officials on a mission to kill her. From what he knows of her, they can’t possibly have good reason for wanting her dead. His quest to find her makes him the target of an assassin, who works for the shadow agency hunting Valerie and kills emotionally wounded or physically hindered individuals to show them mercy.

While tracking down Valerie with his trusty, skittish dog, Rocky, by his side, the internally and externally scarred Spencer must not only uncover a buried memory that haunts his dreams and is just a breath away but also avoid the most efficient eyes and ears on the planet. Finally reuntied, he and Valerie embark on the run of their lives in a nail-biting chase.

Frustrated and peeved, the assassin pulls out all the stops and drudges up Spencer’s worst nightmare to use as a snare, jerking various characters into a stomach-churning climax, leaving readers cringing and unsure as to who if any of them will survive.

I enjoyed the researched details, from the Eucalyptus Red Gum problem in L.A. to the high-tech surveillance to the computer hacking to the too-kind Mormon police. And I also appreciated Koontz’s skill in weaving the past and present and using dream sequences in a non-clumsy way. Any inserted backstory was gripping rather than weighty. And I love conspiracies so the shadow government thing worked for me. He made it believable and chilling.

I found this ride suspenseful and enjoyed it very much. The ending had some sweet justice, kind of, but left things a little messy. I wish Koontz had turned the tables and allowed the monster to kill the creator so to speak. If you’ve read the book, you know what I mean. A twist of irony would have been delicious and I was disappointed he didn’t pull the trigger. Also, Valerie makes a point to say she’ll have to kill the one who’s after her, but the story never had that confrontation. I was teased into believing it would enter into the novel at the end and was annoyed it didn’t.

All in all though, I enjoyed the story but just wish the ending had been a bit more tidy and satisfying. It could have been with better choices by Koontz.

If you want to read a well-researched book with round characters, a suspenseful plot with expertly interwoven threads of past and present, and a cool dog who finally gets his day to be a hero, check it out.

Sinner ~ A Novel

Author: Sharon Carter Rogers
Publisher: River Oak (December 20, 2006)
ISBN-10: 1589190971 ISBN-13: 978-1589190979
My
Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

I have mixed feelings about this book. First I’d like to say the opening scene is one of the best I’ve read in recent times. Awesome! And while I found the plotline and mystery at the core of the book to be very enthralling, I also experienced a strange detachment throughout the ride.

I’m used to multi-viewpoint novels, but this one I found jarring. It quickly skips from one view to another, and I knew all these threads would tie together–so it didn’t bother me, but with most of the POVs having strange names and very little physical description given, it’s difficult to remember who’s who. I had to keep flipping back, which is annoying. If you set the book down, forget it. You have to remember who’s who, who’s where and what predicament they’re in. Regarding the strange names, Lincoln, CK, Junebug, Keena, Cyril, Maria Eliza Garces, Rebel, Chance or maybe it’s Chase–not sure without the book in front of me, Galway, James Dandy, it seemed as though the author thought using her list of favorite baby names would be cool, along with her favorite letters: k, j, c, l, and r, which causes a lot of confusion. I cringed every time a new character came on the scene with their clunky, funky name. The overuse of last names also, seems like a tiny detail, a preference thing really, but CK Ivors, CK Ivors, CK Ivors ushers formality throughout the book.

The author did a FABULOUS job at revealing little idiosyncrasies of the main characters, which were cute and fascinating, but there wasn’t much beyond that. The dialogue, which could have been used to reveal more character depth was pretty blah and generic, with the exception of a few key scenes. I hoped to feel CK’s passions, hurt, anger, frustration or something somewhere along the line, and I never got that satisfaction. I don’t mean the author’s characters weren’t interesting or that they came across flat. It’s just that I didn’t experience the book, feel like I lived in that world, which I expect to happen when I read a book. While the intriguing story-question in this novel kept me riveted, there was so much about it that held me at arms-length and jerked me out of the story. With so many POVs, the protagonist in the story is not showcased enough. I don’t feel like I know her well. Only the Sinner feels well-developed. If that was her point, than she was successful.

Also, I’m not one who needs a lot of character description to enjoy a story, but the author withholds facts about some of her characters until the end. Galway, for instance, is said to be old. So I adopted a certain mental image of him, thinking that’s where the description ends. But three-quarters of the way through readers learn he’s a chubby, Irish-looking guy with reddish wisps of hair around his balding head. And the MC’s description isn’t given until almost the very end. Also, journal entries from a Beverly Scott Thomas, who I assumed was a woman, were written by a guy. Beverly? Another weird name. Maybe it’s a nineteenth century thing.

While the story served to answer the questions, SINNER didn’t really have a converging climax like you’d expect from a book in the thriller genre. All the forces didn’t come together, although the threads did, it just kind of ended after a violent episode, a story and a nap.

The story of SINNER is good, in spite of my negative comments. I enjoyed how the mystery unfolded. The piecemeal effect would have been more enjoyable for me with a wilder ending, more identifiable and pronounced characters–minus some of the crazy names. This book differs a great deal from most Christian fiction, which usually highlights at least one strong Christian main character. SINNER simply carries the message of God’s grace, which I believe speaks louder than a sermonized chapter would. I do give the author applause for that, as it gives the book a broad-spectrum appeal in both secular and Christian markets. I’m just a reader who values character development and story pull as much as plot.

I do anticipate spectacular works from Rogers in the future. She has an entertaining narrative voice, a creative mind and a heart for God.