Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017 - Jan. 5, 2018
New Caitlin Strong thriller
has complex plot
Jon Land’s Caitlin
Strong thrillers usually have a “ripped from the headlines” feel, and
the new one, “Strong to the Bone,” features violent neo-Nazis,
industrial robots, a lethal biological weapon, the international opiates
trade and a creep who buys pharmaceutical companies to jack up the price
uninitiated, Strong is a trigger-happy, insubordinate, fifth-generation
Texas Ranger whose exploits always have a direct link to one of her
ancestors’ investigations. In this one, the ninth book in the series,
it’s her grandfather Earl Strong’s pursuit of a Nazi who escaped from a
World War II prison camp in Texas in the 1940s.
The series’ other
regulars, including Caitlin’s long-suffering commander, D.W. Tepper; her
ex-con lover, Cort Wesley Masters; and Masters’ sons Luke and Dylan, all
return. The oldest boy, Luke, who becomes more like his father with
every book, initiates the action when he faces off against neo-Nazis who
harass his Mexican-American friends.
The story also
finds Caitlin coming face-to-face with the darkest moment in her past.
Called to the scene of a nightclub brawl in Austin, she discovers that a
young woman has been drugged and raped. The circumstances are eerily
similar to what happened to Caitlin when she was a college student — an
assault Land reveals here for the first time.
suspects that the girl’s assailant and hers are one and the same. This
makes Caitlin wonder if she’s always been quick to pull the trigger
because she harbors a deep-seated rage against male offenders.
Masters’ struggle against neo-Nazis and Caitlin’s pursuit of the rapist
merge into a single, related criminal case. As always with this
rollicking, entertaining series, the complex plot is resolved in a burst
of righteous violence.
Saturday, Dec. 23 - Dec. 29, 2017
Bickering meets brutality in
David Moody’s dystopian read
Hatred abounds from the first page
in David Moody’s “One of Us Will Be Dead by Morning,” the first in a
dystopian trilogy. After a jolting opening scene in which a murderous
adolescent beats her classmates to death with a chain, readers are
whisked away to Skek, an unforgivingly cold, wet island, home to
Hazleton Adventure Experiences. This week, Hazleton is playing host to
a group of office workers who despise one another. We get to know them
as they grudgingly begin their final team-building exercise of a
corporate excursion. Everyone is itching to leave the bleak landscape
and return to the U.K., but a slip leaves one person dead. What’s more,
the boat to retrieve the group is nowhere to be seen.
People continue to die, proving
something sinister is at work. Soon, the island’s trapped inhabitants
realize they can trust no one, including themselves. Hysteria rises as
those still alive wonder if killing is their only shot at survival.
Most of the characters hold tightly
to assigned roles, like the money-hungry boss who voices his concern
over how an employee’s tragic end will impact his business reputation.
(He later mourns his broken laptop while his underlings bury the dead.)
On top of this, some characters receive physical descriptions while
others are presented with merely a name and job title, producing a
lopsided nature to many interactions, as when Nils, a sinewy,
silver-haired, goatee-sporting man speaks to Rachel, a call center team
Though possessing an intriguing
premise, the book is comprised largely of a feverish loop of arguments
and brutal killings with few detours for character development. In the
author’s quest to convey vitriol among his cast (with dialogue
relentlessly drenched in sarcasm and sneers), he forgoes endearing
readers to any of the lot; thus, we’re left with lots of action
accompanied by puny stakes.
Saturday, Dec. 16 - Dec. 22, 2017
Book ponders appeal, then and now, of ‘The Graduate’
Douglass K. Daniel
The title of
Beverly Gray’s insightful look back at 1967’s “The Graduate,” one of the
most popular comedies of all time, is a bit misleading — Mrs. Robinson
seduced young Benjamin Braddock, not the generation that identified with
his anxieties about the future and dreamed of joining him in rejecting
the path blazed by their parents.
Indeed, one of the
interesting takeaways from “Seduced by Mrs. Robinson” is how little the
character played so memorably by actress Anne Bancroft and immortalized
in music by Simon and Garfunkel actually drives conversation with “The
Graduate” generation, at least in Gray’s telling.
One of the young
people who watched the movie when it first hit theaters, Gray writes,
“Many moviegoers — reaching adulthood in the sixties — saw ‘The
Graduate’ as capturing their personal struggles with parents who’d come
a long distance, economically speaking, and now had great expectations
for the kids they’d hoped to guide toward their own slice of the
Aside from the
usual trappings of a making-of movie book, Gray is most interested in
the film’s social impact on people like David Harris, a Stanford student
body president from the 1960s who recalls seeing himself in Benjamin’s
shoes while standing on “that cusp where you’re leaving parental
authority and trying to step into the world on your own terms.”
Another point, pushed to the side
too quickly, is the view of Mrs. Robinson by other women. One young
woman tells Gray that she saw the character as “a desperate housewife
coerced by society into an unhappy marriage, reluctant childbearing, and
furtive affairs” and resolved not to emulate her.
Meanwhile, the movie’s most
scandalous aspect is barely touched on, Gray rolling past the film’s
sexiness even while acknowledging its “great attraction” to a number of
That may well be
the answer to its ongoing relevance as “The Graduate” turns 50. What was
shocking in 1967 is ho-hum today, fodder for other films and even TV
shows for many years now. Mrs. Robinson may have made history as the
first “cougar” of post-Production Code filmmaking, but she’s been
surpassed by many like-minded characters, a fond memory nonetheless.
What keeps “The
Graduate” worth watching has always been at its heart: the struggle to
find your own way and not end up a sad sellout, even if a sexy one.
Update Saturday, Dec. 9 - Dec. 15, 2017
Jane Hawk returns in
Koontz’s ‘The Whispering Room’
Jane Hawk, the
compelling heroine of “The Silent Corner,” returns in another terrifying
Dean Koontz conspiracy thriller, “The Whispering Room.”
Jane knows her
husband didn’t commit suicide but proving it has been a challenge. She
uncovered an evil plot to brainwash people to commit horrific acts, but
her attempt to destroy the villain behind everything came with a
horrible cost. She no longer has her job at the FBI and is a wanted
fugitive. She keeps her son stashed away to protect him. Jane now roams
the country to derail the mastermind and his nefarious plans.
schoolteacher on leave due to migraines is the latest to fall under the
vicious mind games. She has dreams of walking through fire, and one
afternoon she sets her vehicle on fire and drives through a hotel lobby.
A sheriff uncovers her journals and sees a woman crying for help. When
Jane learns of the incident, she knows the people she’s trying to
eliminate are responsible. She has already gone rogue, and knowing her
son is safe, she has nothing to lose by going after the culprits.
When one of her
targets tells her, “You’re dead already. They’ll all know about you in
the whispering room,” Jane knows she has to learn what his cryptic
phrase means even though it obviously will be a trap to take her out of
The character of
Jane Hawk is arguably the best character Koontz has created. Knowledge
of “The Silent Corner” helps put some of the narrative in perspective,
but it’s not necessary to fall under the author’s spell. It’s clear that
another story featuring her quest for ultimate justice is on the
horizon, and hopefully there will be even more after that.
Simply put, wow.
Update Saturday, Dec. 2 - Dec. 8, 2017
Author Weir takes readers to the moon in ‘Artemis’
Andy Weir, author of “The Martian,”
takes readers to another desolate world, but instead of the Red Planet it’s
the moon, in his new novel, “Artemis.”
Weir takes readers on an exploration of
the colonization of Earth’s nearest neighbor in outer space, and it’s not
too far into the future. Most everything needed for the modules of the city
of Artemis can be reasonably manufactured on the surface, along with the
occasional supply and tourist runs from home. Each living habitat is named
for a prominent member of the original Apollo programs, but each has
distinct features associated with it, whether it is for the affluent or
those barely able to scrape by and survive.
Living in the poorer end of Artemis is
Jasmine Bashara, aka Jazz. She has talent and is quite intelligent but
chooses to skate by. She works as a porter for the tourists and the citizens
who sometimes want their packages from Earth handled discreetly. She blows a
field test that would have gotten her a job taking tourists in EVA suits to
explore the area around the original landing site of Apollo 11. Upset and
not thinking clearly, Jazz receives an offer that promises more money than
she can imagine if she can successfully pull off a dangerous assignment. She
has the skills and the knowledge, but does she have the luck and equipment
necessary to keep her in the clear when damage control begins?
Jazz is a compelling character, both
clever and sharp. Weir has created a realistic and fascinating future
society on the moon, and every detail feels authentic and scientifically
Weir knows how to make cutting-edge
science sexy and relevant without losing the story.