Thursday, December 29, 2005

Desperate Housewives: Behind Closed Doors by Anonymous

Author: Anonymous (?)
ISBN # 0316732443
Publisher: Time Warner Books
1st Published: 2005
191 pages

Having watched the 1st season from the very start, I quickly became hooked on this TV series without meaning to (I only watched the 1st episode because I wanted to see what this programme, which had knocked CSI – a favourite of mine – off the top spot in the USA, was like). This book continues in the spirit of Wisteria Lane & gives a complete guided tour of the homes & residents of this now famous fictional street.

There are short interviews (where I think I would have enjoyed something a little more in-depth) with the stars of the show, character studies, episode guides & an annotated draft of the pilot script packed into this gorgeous hardback & I read it from cover to cover in much the same manner as I watched the series – I devoured it!

It’s not really a substantial book for the price you pay, but it looks lovely on the coffee table & is bound to get folks talking about the show when they see it there & it’s an enjoyable addition to anyone’s TV companion library, but unless you really enjoyed the show, it’s a bit pointless having it.

Still, as companion books go, this one did pretty much everything that was expected of it & I heartily enjoyed it. Now, with my memory refreshed, I can go back & enjoy watching the 1st season again on DVD whilst I eagerly await the 2nd series to start!

Rating: 7/10

The Dark by James Herbert

Author: James Herbert
ISBN # 0450049701
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
1st Published: 1980
336 pages

It comes like a malignant shadow with seductive promises of power. And somewhere in the night... a small girl smiles as her mother burns... asylum inmates slaughter their attendants... in slimy tunnels once- human creatures gather. Madness rages as the lights begin to fade and humanity is attacked by an ancient, unstoppable evil...

What is it lately with horror books being a major disappointment? Yet again, I finish a book after what seems like an age-long slog only to feel incredibly let down by an author who usually delights me with his mastery of words.

This should have been a better read as it’s quite the most visceral & grotesquely descriptive work I’ve encountered by Mr. Herbert – this really was him unleashing his darkest & most perverse nightmares loose on the page, so it should have been spectacular. Instead, it was just dull & I was left with a slightly sour taste in my mouth & the feeling that my mind could do with a really good scrub.

The imagery was intense, however, & I did enjoy some of the more lurid passages, but still, this didn’t really engage me at any point. In fact, if this had been the first time I’d read any of his books, I would most certainly have been put off by this one. It’s not indicative of his other works & doesn’t display any of the flair you’d expect from him.

Not one to recommend, I’m afraid.

Rating: 4/10

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Dead Zone by Stephen King

Author: Stephen King
ISBN # 0751504327

467 pages

Waking up from a five-year coma after a car accident, former schoolteacher Johnny Smith discovers that he can see people's futures and pasts when he touches them. Many consider his talent a gift; Johnny feels cursed. His fiancée married another man during his coma and people clamour for him to solve their problems. When Johnny has a disturbing vision after he shakes the hand of an ambitious and amoral politician, he must decide if he should take drastic action to change the future.

I didn’t see the movie before reading this, although I’ve seen a couple of episodes of the TV series starring Anthony Michael Hall, & thanks to my buddy, Maureen, I finally got hold of the book & came to it almost completely fresh (I knew the basic premise of the story, but none of the actual events within).

It had kind of a slow start, despite having the lead character in a near-fatal accident within the first 50-or-so pages. It didn’t give me long to get to know the characters very well, but I liked Johnny pretty much from the start, although I’ll confess to not thinking all that much of Sarah (that continued throughout the story, I’m afraid).

The story, though pretty much in chronological order, seemed to jump around a bit between characters, but there were long stretches where the story, from one character’s point of view, was just hanging around doing nothing much while the rest of the story progressed. As a result, I think I either missed or forgot large chunks of the earlier parts of Greg Stillson’s tale as I was more interested in the rapist-murderer story (which, again, was stilted & slotted in between other scenes).

I particularly enjoyed the descent into religious madness by Johnny’s mother – it was vividly painted, the anguish of Johnny’s father as he struggled to keep things together while his son lay comatose & his wide grew increasingly manic was incredibly moving – he’s the character with whom I most closely identified & felt the most compassion for.

The ending was, ironically, something I sensed early on – the outcome was not unexpected in the least & therefore I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more of a twist in the tale. However, the pace did quicken over the last 75 pages & I enjoyed that section most, despite the fact that I saw it all coming a mile off.

Overall, The Dead Zone is an enjoyable read, though not one of King’s most consistent works. I’ve read better, but I’ve also read a hell of a lot worse.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Firm by John Grisham

Author: John Grisham
ISBN # 0099830000
490 pages

Mitch is fresh out of Harvard Law after qualifying 3rd in his class & is snapped up by a small but well respected firm who offer him the deal of his dreams – a huge wage, a new BMW, a low-cost mortgage. All his hard work seems to be paying off as he submerses himself in his new career. But Mitch has forgotten one important thing - if something seems too good to be true, chances are it is...

This is only the 2nd Grisham I’ve read & I was not disappointed – the same intelligence I found in The Runaway Jury is displayed in this story & leads me to believe that pretty much all of his work will be this good. Yes, again I saw the film first (the reason I was attracted to the book in the first place) and the book outdoes itself!

The plot is gripping, the characters are sympathetic & engaging, the writing is superb. There’s not much else you could ask for in a book – this delivers on every level & left me feeling intensely satisfied when I was done (almost like finishing a good meal with a fine bottle of wine). It’s a well-thought-out page-turner & has helped hook me, well & truly, on courtroom dramas.

I’ll most definitely be getting my mitts on more of Grisham’s work.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Shadowfires by Dean R Koontz

Author: Dean R Koontz


1st Published:
558 pages

Rachel Leben's violently possessive ex-husband, Eric, hideously mangled in a freak accident, is dead. But his body has disappeared from the city morgue. Now someone, or something, is watching Rachel. Calling her. Stalking her. And though no one will believe her, she knows who it is.

Before I even start the review, I have to get a few things on the page & be upfront: I’m a fan of Mr. Koontz & expect great things – he usually delivers. I am also a huge horror fan: Give me vampires & werewolves & I’m in seventh heaven; aliens & demons from the deepest, darkest pits of Hell & I’m in my element; but zombies, well, lets just say I’ve never found the zombie the most plausible of the monsters that populate the world of horror (or mummies, which are, essentially, gift-wrapped zombies anyway).

Shadowfires is, basically, a zombie book & I’m sad to say it’s not the best one I’ve read. In fact, it’s pretty dire. It’s also waaaay too long at just shy of 600 pages. It could easily have lost between 150 & 200 pages (& I really do believe this should have been done, as its murder to slog through this hefty tome & there’s very little return on your investment). It felt like it took an age to get to the end.

Not much ever seems to happen (I say “seems” because plenty happens, it just feels like its spread pretty thin, hence my desire to take a red pen to the text & just cut, cut, cut!). There was too much description, little actual character development (although character histories were perhaps just a little too in-depth), & the dialogue had no natural flow. I just couldn’t get into it & I found I was forcing myself to resist skipping entire pages just to get to the next plot point (I was determined to persevere).

This is one of Koontz’ earlier books (you can tell because the “R” hasn’t yet been dropped from his name) & shows very little of his immense talent. You’d almost be forgiven for believing someone else wrote this as there’s no element of mystery & none of his usual flare for drawing the reader into the story. The description is repetitive; the messages, trite & not even thinly veiled; the ending, abrupt & a bit of a cop-out.

Disappointing in the extreme, I’d recommend newcomers to avoid this one in case it puts them off, as they’d be missing gems such as Lightning, The Taking, The Bad Place & Cold Fire - all far better advertisements for Koontz than this.

Rating: 3/10