Book Review – ‘Life Expectancy’ by Dean Koontz

Fun and weird characters, murder, humour and a twist I didn’t see coming.

Life Expectancy Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Thriller, Mystery

No. of pages: 401

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Jimmy Tock comes into the world on the very night his grandfather leaves it. As a violent storm rages outside the hospital, Rudy Tock spends long hours walking the corridors between the expectant fathers’ waiting room and his dying father’s bedside. It’s a strange vigil made all the stranger when, at the very height of the storm’s fury, Josef Tock suddenly sits up in bed and speaks coherently for the first and last time since his stroke.

What he says before he dies is that there will be five dark days in the life of his grandson—five dates whose terrible events Jimmy will have to prepare himself to face. The first is to occur in his twentieth year; the second in his twenty-third year; the third in his twenty-eighth; the fourth in his twenty-ninth; the fifth in his thirtieth.

Rudy is all too ready to discount his father’s last words as a dying man’s delusional rambling. But then he discovers that Josef also predicted the time of his grandson’s birth to the minute, as well as his exact height and weight, and the fact that Jimmy would be born with syndactyly—the unexplained anomal of fused digits—on his left foot. Suddenly the old man’s predictions take on a chilling significance.

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It has been a while since I’ve indulged in a Dean Koontz creation, and ‘Life Expectancy’ reminded me of all the things I love about his writing. Witty banter, fun and weird characters, a good chase, serendipity, and some obtuse cyclical element that you never expect.

Life Expectancy’ is a deliciously weird tale intertwined with prophecy, mad men, fate, and family. We get different sections of the novel centred around the dates Jimmy Tock’s grandfather foretold as days of great importance and sorrow.

Jimmy Tock, born in an electric storm at the same moment as the child of a weird man, who then goes on a killing spree through the country hospital kicks this story off with a bloody mess and dragged me into the narrative with ease. The different parts jump to the dates that Grandad Tock magic-eight-balled for Jimmy to look out for and keep the pace of this novel cranked up to maximum. Even when Jimmy meets love interest Lorrie, we get instant great chemistry, and I became besotted with the pair from the get-go. True to Koontz’s writing style, there is a brilliant mix of comedy (humour) and horror (needless death and destruction) that was cinematic in form.

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We don’t just get one bad guy either… antagonists that are sociopathically driven to enforce their justified point of view, all interwoven together in a crazy plot really threw me for a six. It was such a delicious delight to have these little unexpected twists.

The quaint backdrop of Snow Village – somehow reminding me of the set from ‘The Ghost Whisperer’ television show. A small town with a square, around which all the important buildings orientate. It just goes to show the descriptive abilities of Koontz’s writing style.

Because I’m such a fan of Dean Koontz and read countless of his tomes, I can say with confidence I predicted the ending pretty early one – however, there were a few surprising serendipities to that ending. And they were doozies. A one-two punch that had me making googly eyes at the page.

This hits the sweet spot of all the things I enjoy about Dean Koontz’s writing and happily recommend ‘Life Expectancy’ for your TBR.

Overall feeling: This!

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© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Wrap up – Blackbird Duology by Anna Carey

When there is no-one you can trust, people are trying to kill you, all you can do is rely on yourself… and survive!

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What a dynamic duology! I loved and devoured both of these books in quick succession. I would recommend reading these close together, or marathoning them, as ‘Blackbird’ ends on a cliff-hanger and if you get entranced as I was, you’ll be desperate to find out what happens next.

I will say that the whole memory loss/amnesia trope has been clubbed to death, especially in YA. However the majority of protagonists in this action/thriller genre tend to be male, so it was fantastic to read it from a female perspective. Especially since she is intelligent, resourceful, and follows her instincts. No fading wallflower or damsel in distress here.

One other note of contention that we never really get explained is how the protagonists get some of their spy-like survival skills. It was a bit of a reach for me to completely swallow this aspect.

But on the whole, I loved how quickly the series kicks off isolating the protagonist. The feeling of not being able to trust anyone is visceral and the writing style is punchy. Short chapters, so you can really power through these novels.

Once our protagonist begins to regain some of her memories, especially in ‘Deadfall,’ there were a lot of flashback scenes that pulled me from the narrative. I would have preferred different methods of revealing these memories to the reader though, because after three or four, to became too repetitive.

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There is a love triangle in here, but it does not devolve into an angsty mess. So I did not find myself rolling my eyes at this trope.

I have to say this is a solid four star rating across the board. The brief and punchy descriptive style of Anna Carey keeps the pace going from beginning to end and I was highly entertained and would happily recommend this to lovers of the YA genre. We get a decent amount of character development. The plot twists are pretty great and was completely satisfied with the pay-off upon completing the two novels. A fun cat-and-mouse type thriller.

Blackbird’ was optioned by Lionsgate back in March 2015, but there has been no news since the announcement. I can see how this would have appeal to the public as an action/thriller, especially since there have not been a lot of releases in this genre of late, so I guess we will have to wait and see if it comes to fruition, and what type of Hollywood treatment it gets. But it is certainly a film I’d be interested in seeing. But in digging further into the screenwriter attached to the project, Daniel Mackey (of ‘Aim High’ fame,) he hasn’t been involved in anything listed on the regular movie production sites since 2015. Plus ‘Blackbird’ is no longer listed on Lionsgate’s website as movies in development, so while it is optioned, at this point in time it is not being actively worked on. But I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

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For individual reviews click on the links below:

Blackbird’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2018/01/16/book-review-blackbird-1-blackbird-by-anna-carey/

Deadfall’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2018/05/29/book-review-deadfall-2-blackbird-by-anna-carey/

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Till Death’ by Jennifer L. Armentrout

This one blew my sock off!

Till Death Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 400

From Goodreads:

It’s been ten years since Sasha Keaton left her West Virginia hometown . . . since she escaped the twisted serial killer known as the Groom. Returning to help run her family inn means being whole again, except for one missing piece. The piece that falls into place when Sasha’s threatened—and FBI agent Cole Landis vows to protect her the way he couldn’t a decade ago.

First one woman disappears; then another, and all the while, disturbing calling cards are left for the sole survivor of the Groom’s reign of terror. Cole’s never forgiven himself for not being there when Sasha was taken, but he intends to make up for it now . . . because under the quirky sexiness Cole first fell for is a steely strength that only makes him love Sasha more.

But someone is watching. Waiting. And Sasha’s first mistake could be her last.

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I wasn’t expecting the book I read. Although I didn’t know anything going into the novel, I expected it to be about some sort of abusive relationship, given the cover art and title… but it was a completely different creature. A psychopathic serial killer stalking our protagonist has re-appeared from her past. I absolutely loved it. It was such a fast read. Compelling.

I think I’ve enjoyed this the most out of all the JLA novels I’ve read to date.

I had developed two theories about who the killer was, and how it was all connected early on in the novel, and don’t mind bragging that one of those theories was spot on. However, I was kept guessing right to the last couple of chapters. Armentrout wrote this so expertly that I had no definitive idea of who it was until the reveal.

Sasha was a cool protagonist to read – she reacted to situations like a human being. It felt realistic. Though there were some moments that I felt she wasn’t being careful or paranoid enough. I like how she was battling with anxiety and PTSD, but it didn’t impact her ability to function or take over the plot. And it wasn’t a story where she was the only one who could discover all the answers, leaving the law enforcement to look like bumbling idiots. It was very organic.

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Cole, the love interest from both the past and in the present wasn’t really my cup of tea. Yes he was drop dead gorgeous, patient, and kind. But he was also just a bit pushy for my liking. And horror of all horrors, he kept calling Sasha ‘babe.’ Gag me! That is the one enormous turn off for me. Additionally, he kept calling her that even after she asked him to stop… grrr! The other thing, is that he was almost like a barnacle – latched to her side, never leaving her alone. Again, possessiveness anyone? So he has good and bad points as a character, and while he was perfect for Sasha, there were too many traits that gave me the willies.

I liked the inclusion of Sasha’s mum and friends in the story, and how they were present throughout, and not just superfluous characters so that Sasha didn’t look like some kind of shut-in lonesome nerd. They were equally sassy and caring and helped give Sasha a support system and courage to reclaim her life after running away from a difficult past.

The Bed and Breakfast was a great backdrop for the novel – it was large with sufficient spooky crooks and corners, old creaky floorboard and doors. It really added to the ambience of the book. I was a little keyed up from the suspense of it all.

And speaking of keyed up – there are a few sexy scenes. They are written pretty well, and are on the right side of graphic. Though I wasn’t quite comfortable with them. But that comes down to a matter of what I like personally, and the whole not entirely liking Cole thing.

A very easy read!! The pacing was excellent, I barely put the book down and consumed it in large chunks. I must say I like JLA’s writing here where it’s not overrun by teen angst or damaged adults having wild trysts. It was a solid story, great tension, and a mystery to solve.

Highly recommend this one!

Overall feeling: Bravo!

Till Death Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘The Girl I Used To Be’ by April Henry

A solid tween mystery novel.

the-girl-i-used-to-be-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: YA, Mystery

No. of pages: 240

From Goodreads:

When Olivia’s mother was killed, everyone suspected her father of murder. But his whereabouts remained a mystery. Fast forward fourteen years. New evidence now proves Olivia’s father was actually murdered on the same fateful day her mother died. That means there’s a killer still at large. It’s up to Olivia to uncover who that may be. But can she do that before the killer tracks her down first?

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It was a nice break away from my usual genre reads. A YA mystery of a girl uncovering her past and murder of her parents.

I did fall asleep at two points during this novel – and its short- so that had me questioning why. It’s by no means boring or had me wanting to abandon it. I think it might be the frank and dry style of the narrative. Characters aren’t painted colourfully with quirks and foibles. It’s all very realistic, and as such, wasn’t as engaging as it should be.

Ariel/Olivia is a great protagonist. She’s independent and an intelligent thinker. I liked how she took the initiative to sleuth out facts and piece together a story. It felt very organic.

Ariel/Olivia also had a few moments of damsel in distress, like screen sirens of old, toppling over uneven ground and turning an ankle – hasn’t that been done to death by now?

the-girl-i-used-to-be-book-review-pic-03-by-casey-carlisleSome problems I had revolve around her amnesia, recovering memories through hypnotism is such over-used tool in this genre I wasn’t at all impressed. ‘The Girl I Used To Be’ also suffers what many in this genre do – how characters are mysteriously compelled to over-share to let the reader garner facts of the case. It’s a bit of a cop out. A clever author will find much more imaginative and fantastic ways to uncover truths.

Duncan, (Ariel/Olivia’s love interest) does not really get developed. He kind of appears, there’s instant attraction… and that’s about it. I feel a missed opportunity to add more to the plot, or in the least an attention grabbing arc would have added a lot to this book.

It wasn’t until very close to the reveal that I pieced together the story, so it is definitely not predictable. We are given many characters as possible suspects, and logical scenarios to show their guilt/innocence. The mystery part of this novel is well done, even if it lacks some sophistication.

I was grabbed in the last quarter as the action and tension heated up, though I’ve read better, so I can’t give it more than an average rating.

April Henry can construct a great landscape and doesn’t let much through to spoil the ending, and while I recommend this book, it’s definitely aimed for a younger crowd. A seasoned reader, especially in a mystery genre, may not get much from ‘The Girl I Used To Be.’

It’s short and easy enough to complete in a day if so inclined. I liked it, a nice break from my usual reads.

Overall feeling: A mystery reader’s first book

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Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Chase’ by Dean Koontz

Psychological Stalker from the ‘70’s – still has good bones.

Chase Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Horror, Thriller

No. of pages: 244

From Goodreads:

Ben Chase is a war hero with bitter memories. Vietnam left him with a hard drinking habit, a mental breakdown–and massive guilt.

So who will believe him when he swears a psychopath is out to get him? When society is sick, the mad are sane–and persecution is a killer’s game…   

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Chase’ has a slight air of misogyny and sexism, popular for its time – written in 1972 – and felt like it was influenced by detective novels and early Stephen King. Many characters felt stereotyped and had a level of stupidity. Nowadays, Koontz’s characters are much more complex, and objectification handled intelligently. But in revisiting Koontz’s early works, it still stood up to giving me the hee-bee-gee-bees.

Chase’ was published under another name (K.R. Dwyer) when it was initially released.

Ben Chase is a medically discharged soldier tackling PTSD who happened across, and intervened in a murder at a local make-out/lookout point. Consequently, the killer gets away, and his attentions are turned onto Chase himself. The murderer, calling himself ‘The Judge’ chooses his victims who he deems worthy of being judged and executed… now ‘The Judge’ has found Chase worthy of death from his past discretions.

There is play on whether Chase is imagining much of this predicament due to his mental condition, but I think it wasn’t utilised enough in the story line and could have been executed better.

Introduction of Glenda, a love interest for Chase, humanised our protagonist and made the book immensely more enjoyable. I was beginning to dislike Chase somewhat and found him difficult to relate to (though I am not the demographic for this novel) and wish she’d been introduced earlier to soften the rough edges, bringing some emotion in earlier to the plot line.

Maybe because I’ve read widely in this genre for the past 30 years, and a considerable number of Koontz’s later books, the plot was very predictable. It also failed to give me that shiver that I get from many of his titles. But for its lack in scare tactics, it makes up for in pacing – things amped up after the half way mark and I really started to enjoy ‘Chase.

I can see precursors of elements that appear in his later novels, many of which are favourites (and have been turned into films) and how much Koontz has grown as a storyteller.

I’d only recommend this for hard core Dean Koontz fans – the story is a little dated and generic. There are far more enjoyable titles in his current catalogue. But I have to admit I revelled in the nostalgia, it reminded me of the television and movies of the early 80’s

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Spoilers:

A couple of points that I found distasteful, was the message that homosexuals are evil and paedophiles – a trend of the time before realising its discriminatory nature. And I’m not sure about the justified homicide angle, it was dark and trite. But that’s just me and my opinion…

Overall feeling: Rotary Telephone, Cathode ray tube, records, old and obsolete but still enjoyable.

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© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.