Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz



As only as Koontz can do…   ****


Dean Koontz is a master craftsman with words. In this novel he shows his talent as a wordsmith better than in his last few books. In typical “Koontz” style, the plot is fairly simple and it is his flourish with prose that makes this a good read.

His imagination is at its peak as he weaves ghosts, Navy SEALS, cancer patients, the occult, and paranormal into a page turner.  The story gripped me from the beginning and it was only about two-thirds in that the truth of what was happening was revealed. Even though it was easy to see where he was going with the plot at that point, he writes in a way that kept me reading to see how he would actually finish the story.

The truth of what is happening to the main character, Bibi, reminded me of an old episode of the Twilight Zone. The ending to her story was satisfying, although predictable. The actual ending to this story does leave room for the reader’s imagination to take over.

Koontz is not afraid to stretch himself as a writer, and us as readers. He does both with this novel.

This one gets four stars.



The Girl In The Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz



Kudos to Lagercrantz……  ****

Originally I was not going to read this book. The series by Stieg Larsson was so good, I thought there was no way another author could do justice to it. I was wrong.

David Lagercrantz, with his own style, captures the essence of all the characters Larsson created. This is a well crafted novel with a story line that kept me turning the pages. Lisbeth Salander is portrayed as we all know her, and staying true to form, keeps her distance until she is forced to act.

Lagercrantz tells the story through multiple viewpoints, a multitude of characters, and a detailed account of hackers, autism, and security issues. He masterfully weaves all of these together to give us another good look into the world Larsson created.

My only caveat would be to read the other books first before approaching this one.

This one gets four stars.


The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King



The cover says it all……  *****


The master storyteller does not disappoint in this collection of short stories.  The picture on the cover, showing inside a man’s head, is probably what you would see if you could open Stephen King’s head. King does not make excuses for what he writes nor does he question where he gets his ideas, so you either like him or you don’t. I do.

The stories in this collection range from weird, chilling, and politically incorrect, to humorous. Stories like the Obits and Ur, could have come right out of the Twilight Zone. King shows his humor and insight into human nature in stories like The Little Green God of Agony and Drunken Fireworks. He even reveals his poetic side in The Bone Church. That Bus Is Another World is a story most of us can relate to as who has not seen a bus go by and wondered about the people inside? The final story, Summer Thunder, is a look at a possible end times scenario, that is probably more like what could be than most apocalyptic stories.

My only semi negative comment is in the story The Obits. King is writing a fake obit through the character, Michael Anderson, and lists people who died at 27 of drug abuse.  He lists Robert Johnson, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse. How could he leave out Jim Morrison?

The stories are all excellent, and I enjoyed them even more because of the introduction by King to each story. Giving insight about the background for each story and how he came to write it reveals how King’s mind works.  It was as if we could see inside his head.

This gets five stars and is highly recommended.

Jonathan Franzen: The Comedy of Rage by Philip Weinstein



A high brow book report…  **

In the introduction to this book, Weinstein writes, “persons attempting to find in my book a standard biography of Jonathan Franzen will be … disappointed.”  This would not be an issue had the description in Amazon started with this line.  Instead, it said, “Jonathan Franzen: The Comedy of Rage is the first critical biography of one of today’s most important novelists.”  Unfortunately, Weinstein’s warning was accurate.

This is not a biography of Jonathan Franzen. If readers know anything about Franzen, then they know more than this book will reveal. The Comedy of Rage is simply a book report.  Weinstein writes about the books and stories Franzen has written and gives a detailed critique of each.  Any reference to Franzen’s life is only an attempt to tie the writing to the man, as any novelist knows, a writers work may have a reflection of one’s life but iis not a one to one correlation.

The analysis of the characters in each of Franzen’s novels is somewhat interesting, but why not just read the novels for yourself?  Weinstein writes as if this is a paper being presented to a gathering of English professors and he needs to impress them with his grasp of language. Franzen’s novels are complex, challenging, and literary. A book report does not need to be.

The other warning that should have come with this book is that it is full of spoilers.  If a reader has not read Franzen, especially his newest – Purity, Weinstein reveals way too many plot points that will spoil the enjoyment of discovery.

My advice would be to pass on this book, unless you have read all of Franzen’s work. But if you have, then there is no need to read this unless you need fodder for a book report of your own.

This one gets two stars.