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Review: Dark Visions by Jonas Saul

Title: Dark Visions
Author: Jonas Saul
Series: Sarah Roberts # 1
Genre: Thriller
Format: E-book
Source: Amazon
Pub. Year: 2011
Purchase: Amazon/ B&N

Amazon Blurb:
Sarah Roberts has a unique problem. She experiences routine blackouts, but what’s different about her temporary unconsciousness is, she wakes to notes written by her own hand. These notes are prophecies. Dark Visions. Future events with dire circumstances. Circumstances that she can avert, because Sarah is an Automatic Writer.

The novel begins with Sarah responding to one of her messages: Sit under the Elizabeth St. Bridge at 10:18am. Bring hammer.

Her next task is to avert a kidnapping. She’s done it before. Couldn’t be that hard. Things go wrong. The kidnappers recognize her. People are killed. Witnesses place Sarah at the scene. The police find her notebook riddled with prophecies of accidents and crimes. They want answers.

All this happens while the eighteen-year-old star in this first novel of the Sarah Roberts series suffers from trichotillomania, which means she’s a puller.

The story has numerous twists and turns and finally ends with a massive climax and a lead in to The Warning, which is Part Two of this series.

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Dark Visions loves to jerk your chain around. It’s that type of book where if something can go wrong, it will. It’s emotionally exhausting because one moment Sarah Roberts, our protagonist, is going to be free of her kidnapper but it turns out that she just exchange one kidnapper for another. Its’ like “Nooooo.”

Sarah Roberts is an automatic writer meaning she receives messages from the dead and those messages (if she acts on them) can save the lives of people. Only problem is that in order to receive the messages, she has to black out. She also suffers from Trichotillomania; a compulsive hair pulling disorder. It was my first time hearing about it so I ended up looking online for it. It’s not physically that bad but I’m glad I don’t have it.

Like I said, this book is all about jumping through hoops. Sarah gets kidnapped because she foils a kidnapping plot. From there, all hell breaks loose. Her parents are working with the local cops to help find her. A psychic is enlisted to help find her and he is reluctant to do so. There is a tarot card reader and her estranged daughter who is selling art to a mobster. A kidnapping ring is discovered.

Sarah spends about 80% of the book in the stage of “kidnapped victim.” First, it’s by the kidnapping ring, then by an associate of Daphne (the tarot card reader’s daughter) when Sarah manages to escape the first time. A massive shoot out happens where she is taken back by the original kidnapper and the FBI gets involved. Why does the FBI get involved? The shoot out involved members of the mob. Sarah ends up escaping again but she goes back to the original kidnapper when he starts playing a chicken car race with an innocent bystander. She meets the psychic and they both get kidnapped by the ringleader of the kidnapping circle (I wasn’t expecting that particular person to be the ringleader). And more chaos ensues. That is the plot in a nutshell.

Even though the world is constantly placing Sarah in danger, she takes in strides and maintains a strong personality. She never once thought that she needed to be rescue. Instead, Sarah actively tried to rescue herself, either by escaping and fighting back when necessary. She was a strong protagonist that could never escape her bad circumstances.

I’m not particular fond of the epilogue because it leaves so many unanswered questions that from the blurb of the second book may not be answer. Like how did Sarah explained her notebook to the police? Why are her parents flip-flopping personalities? Why did the parents not tell her about her sister and how does she know it is her dead sister providing the messages? (<-This question should be answer in the next book, I hope). It’s been four years since she was first kidnapped and she is still is pretty bad at giving life saving messages to people.

I’m going to give it three black butterflies. It was entertaining but man, does it jerk your chain around. There are unresolved issues and events that are not properly explain. Sarah was interesting but the supporting cast wasn’t really there for me.

3 BB-Pretty to look at

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19th book in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies: 1st in a series, E-book,  Why Buy The Cow? (I got this book free of charge from Amazon)

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Review: Killing Faith by Eric Meyer

Title: Killing Faith
Author: Eric Meyer
Series: Gabriel De Sade # 1
Genre:  Crime Thriller
Source: Amazon
Format: E-book
Pub. Year: Sep. 21, 2011
Purchase:Smashword/ Amazon/ B&N/
I received this book free from Amazon in exchange for an honest review.

Blurb from Smashword:

When dismembered bodies turn up in New York City, the search for a serial killer begins. Leading the hunt is Afghanistan vet Gabriel de Sade, a Manhattan detective. What should be a simple murder investigation escalates as more bodies are found. The nightmare is just beginning for the Delta Force trained cop. The pursuit takes him to Moscow with his FBI partner, Special Agent Faith Ward.

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What I will remember: The novel asks for the reader to suspend rationality

It was a fun read but not what I expected. This book promise me a serial killer instead I got a Russian mafiya lord who did ritualistic kill females but he also killed people who got in his way of controlling nuclear weapons. Basically, he’s a terrorist so it’s a little unfair to say he is just a serial killer. I don’t classify the Russian man as such.

There is no red herring in this book. Within 20 pages or so (It is an estimate since it is an e-book), the identity of the serial killer is revealed and he’s the only suspect that the FBI places major emphasis on. I’m not a fan of that but let’s move on.  Can an FBI agent really be on a mission in a foreign country? I know a CIA agent can but an FBI agent, I’m not so sure.

Gabriel de Sade is a very tough detective and likes to work outside the law. He has definitely committed some illegal acts that should land him in prison. Faith Ward is the FBI agent  assigned to Russia because there are no CIA operatives in Russia. Plus, Russian priests are badass; they are so tough and apparently wield a lot of power in Russia. Interesting.

I thought Faith was going to be a strong female character but instead, she ended up being bait most of the time. Faith had moments where she was a strong character and quite useful but she was captured twice by the enemy, raped, and later had a near hanging. While I don’t like what happen to her character, I thought Meyer did a decent job handling her rape. No details were given but she was still traumatized by the incident, she didn’t ignore that she was raped but she didn’t wallow in misery. She was actively trying to work through her emotions. Plus, Gabriel did acknowledged her situation and was actually respectful in not trying to push her to “talk” about it. Am I wrong here in saying that it was a good thing that Gabriel didn’t push Faith to talk about her rape? When bad situations happen to me, I know I don’t like talking about it until I’m ready to so I think the situation was handled right. Either way, Killing Faith is highly misogynistic.

There is a lot of action in the book so it was highly entertaining but it’s also highly unrealistic (in my opinion) that any of those events could happen under the radar. Or maybe they could and I have no idea. There is also grammar issues and typos so be forewarn in that department. It annoyed me to no end. It’s very misogynistic so it’s not about female empowerment. Just be aware that there is no strong females in this book. The final verdict on this book is 2.5 butterflies.

2.5 BB- Look for in the library

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12th in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies for: First in a series, Self-Published, Ebook, Why buy the cow? and Where are you reading?-Russia.

Review: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King

Title: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
Author:  Stephen King
Series: Standalone
Genre:  Thriller, Suspense
Source: Personal Purchase
Format: Paperback
Pub. Year: February 1, 2000
Purchase: Amazon/ B&N

Blurb from Amazon:
On a six-mile hike on the Maine-New Hampshire branch of the Appalachian Trail, nine-year-old Trisha McFarland quickly tires of the constant bickering between her older brother, Pete, and her recently divorced mother. But when she wanders off by herself, and then tries to catch up by attempting a shortcut, she becomes lost in a wilderness maze full of peril and terror.

As night falls, Trisha has only her ingenuity as a defense against the elements, and only her courage and faith to withstand her mounting fears. For solace she tunes her Walkman to broadcast of Boston Red Sox baseball games and follows the gritty performances of her hero, relief pitcher Tom Gordon. And when her radio’s reception begins to fade, Trisha imagines that Tom Gordon is with her–protecting her from an all-to-real enemy who has left a trail of slaughtered animals and mangled trees in the dense, dark woods…

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Thoughts to ponder on: Is it really possible to survive that many bee stings?

I adore Stephen King, I have a lot of fears to blame on him. Fear of clowns, fear of big dogs, and fear of creepy houses. He is a fantastic writer; The Stand and IT are amazing. This is why it is so hard to rate this book properly because I’m completely biased towards him but that being said, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is not his greatest work. It is good, really good but not great.

King’s writing is flawless (I tend to perceive his writing right on the mark most of the time). The story is well-detailed, great imagery of the forests and Trisha’s emotion are captured on paper beautifully. So, why does this book leave me semi-disappointed? For starters, it wasn’t really scary. Trisha’s was definitely afraid of being in the forest alone (and who wouldn’t be) but her situation is more of a lone stranded survivor where the danger lies on what she is going to eat and her cleanest source of water.

The enemy that is hunting her is something I should have seen coming. When the stalker was revealed, it was a “Duh” moment. She is in the forest, what could possibly be hunting her? It is moments like these where I realize I probably have read too many serial killer books. It was a little disappointing because I was expecting a little supernatural involvement with the whole “subterranean” speeches. At the same time, it is a great twist because it misleads the reader. Urgh, so hard to decide whether I love this because it is a great twist or hate it because it makes me feel stupid for not seeing it sooner. That’s how brilliant Stephen King is.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is definitely a book about the journey of Trisha through the forests, that is the main focus. The stalking, the searching of Trisha, her parent’s reaction are really secondary features to the book. I found the journey to be tedious because I’m much more used to intense moments happening at a faster pace than they were happening in this book. It was a good journey, very descriptive but not for me. It is just one long journey of a little girl lost.

The final rating of this book is 4 black butterflies. It is a great journey told. It has its cringe-worthy moments (not many but they are there), and while it may not be the horror or thriller I’ve come to associate with King, it is a good suspense book.

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4 BB-Ready for capture

Review: The Surgeon by Tess Gerristen

Author: Tess Gerristen
Title: The Surgeon
Series: Rizzoli & Isles # 1
Genre: Crime thriller
Source: PaperbackSwap
Format: Paperback
Pub. Year: 2001
Purchase: Amazon/ B&N

Goodreads blurb:
A serial killer is on the loose in Boston. The victims are killed in a particularly nasty way: cut with a scalpel on the stomach, the intestines and uterus removed, and then the throat slashed. The killer obviously has medical knowledge and has been dubbed “the Surgeon” by the media. Detective Thomas Moore and his partner Rizzoli of the Boston Homicide Unit have discovered something that makes this case even more chilling.

Years ago in Savannah a serial killer murdered in exactly the same way. He was finally stopped by his last victim, who shot him as he tried to cut her. That last victim is Dr. Catherine Cordell, who now works as a cardiac surgeon at one of Boston’s prestigious hospitals. As the murders continue, it becomes obvious that the killer is drawing closer and closer to Dr. Cordell, who is becoming so frightened that she is virtually unable to function.

But she is the only person who can help the police catch this copycat killer. Or is it a copycat? To complicate matters even further, Detective Moore, often referred to as Saint Thomas as he continues to mourn the loss of his wife, is getting emotionally involved with the doctor.

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What I will remember: Women’s insecurity in a male dominated world

I’m a fan of the TV show, Rizzoli and Isles, so I decided to pick up the first book in the series. I was concerned at first because the blurb let me to believe that Detective Moore was the main character and Rizzoli would be a minor character. Turns out, this is not the case and like Dexter, it doesn’t disappoint much.

I really enjoyed the duality in the book. Throughout this book, we switched perspectives from Detective Moore and Detective Rizzoli while maintaining the third perspective without confusion. We can see the internal battles that they have. Moore dealing with the fact that he is crossing the line with Dr. Catherine Cordell (witness) and Rizzoli struggling being the only woman in a male profession where the men don’t care for her opinion. I liked her perspective more than Moore’s because I can relate to her  and see where her insecurities come from.

I did generally like almost everything about this book but what I didn’t like was Dr. Catherine Cordell. She was the one the unsub wanted all along as she is vital to the book. I dislike her character, she was just really cold to me. I do understand it has to do with her past, I’m sympathetic to her and I admired her because her because she is a survivor. I just can’t relate to her. That being said, Gerristen, did an excellent job portraying Catherine’s inner turmoil.

Rizzoli was not what I expected. In the show, she is more likeable and has more respect from the men. In the book, she was cold at times and constantly complained about being a woman in a male profession. It almost felt like she did not like being a woman because it was affecting her job. I hate that because she is falling into the belief that being a woman is a hindrance to her job and as a woman, she should strive to break those misconceptions (or at least not accept it). There will always be gender inequality in the work force but we shouldn’t promote it. Rizzoli has image-problems as well as acceptance problems which make her a complicated character.

Gerristen really let the unsub/serial killer evolve and it shows. She showed how he became more confident with each kill and inventive as well. The parts of the unsub speaking are creepy but well done. It does bother me that there is no background history on how came to be. Gerristen implies through the book that he was simply born to be a serial killer and I disagree. No one is born to be a serial killer, they are created. Still, her serial killer was fleshed out.

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4 BB-Ready for capture

Review: Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

Author: Jeff Lindsay
Title: Darkly Dreaming Dexter
Series: Dexter # 1
Genre: Crime thriller
Source:Paperback Swap
Format:Mass papeback
Pub. Year: 2004
Purchase: Amazon/B&N

Book blurb:
Meet Dexter Morgan, a polite wolf in sheep’s clothing. He’s handsome and charming, but something in his past has made him abide by a different set of rules. He’s a serial killer whose one golden rule makes him immensely likeable: he only kills bad people. And his job as a blood splatter expert for the Miami police department puts him in the perfect position to identify his victims. But when a series of brutal murders bearing a striking similarity to his own style start turning up, Dexter is caught between being flattered and being frightened — of himself or some other fiend.

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What I will remember: Dark humor that hits the mark.

I am a huge fan of the TV show, Dexter, so I really wanted to read the book that started it all. And I have not been disappointed. It is a great book that just needed a tighter finale. Nonetheless, a great sarcastic, dark humor infused book. We all know Dexter is a sociopath and he is a serial killer that is very charming with his quick wit that hides his true nature.

I find this book really interesting because it is entirely from the perspective of a serial killer instead of the (insert any government agency name here) agent that is trying to catch him. I say “him” because most serial killers tend to be men and most authors write serial killers as men. A woman is quite capable of being a serial killer as well. Since it’s from Dexter’s point of view, we are invested in him not being captured because he is the main character and without him, there is no book. Technically, as readers, we are on the wrong side of the law because we don’t want him to get caught. His sarcastic thoughts are very entertaining which make him charming. I love that we are the wrong side of the law because it’s refreshing for me and it’s reality. The fact is not all serial killers are caught and there is no reason why we shouldn’t read about it.

As the blurb says, someone is copying Dexter’s method of killing and Dexter is very interested in finding out who he is. The dilemma comes when he doesn’t know whether to turn the serial killer into the police or help him which is one of the main conflicts of the book. Dexter is fighting what he is, a serial killer, and what he portrays himself to be, a regular man. Lindsay does a great job of portraying the inner turmoil Dexter feels especially when his adopted family comes into play. For a serial killer who is not supposed to feel as much, he feels a lot because he is confined by the laws of Henry, who helped him control his Dark Passenger. The laws of Henry have helped keep Dexter under the police radar but he has a moment of doubt that is really thrilling.

The one problem I have with this book is the ending. It is tied up in three pages and it’s confusing at first plus it doesn’t help that details are left out. The details that are left out are implied in a way by what happened in the previous chapter. It still leaves a sense of confusion because it is up to the readers to figure out what truly happen. It ends with a funeral, I will tell you that. I’m pretty sure I understand what happened after reading it a few times. So, that’s my advice on the ending.

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4.5 BB-Ready for capture