Review of Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (1990) (Jurassic Park Series)

Bottom line: A classic, both in paper and on the screen, that is worth the hype.

Rating: Recommended

Blurb:

An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Now humankind’s most thrilling fantasies have come true. Creatures extinct for eons roam Jurassic Park with their awesome presence and profound mystery, and all the world can visit them—for a price.

Until something goes wrong. . . .

Review:

I had not read Jurassic Park, nor seen the movie, until a few weeks ago. I’d read maybe one or two other of Michael Crichton’s work, so I was looking forward to getting into this classic – and not just so I could then watch the movie, which I’d been hearing about for years.

Jurassic Park did not disappoint. It’s certainly a Crichton: full of action, a sense of impending doom, slightly flat characters, and very engrossing. As the proud holder of a math degree, I especially enjoyed his portrayal of the jerk-mathematician-academic-rockstar. I thought it started out a little slow in the beginning, building up to the “hey, look, we made dinosaurs!” part, but the beginning pieces did help add to the tension and mystery surrounding the park.

The movie was a fairly stressful for me. I realized about halfway into it that it’s really a horror movie: things jumping out at you from the darkness to rip you apart. Knowing who was going to die and approximately when just made it more tense for me as I waited for the bad things to happen. I don’t think I could watch it again.

I will say that I was completely astonished by how well the twenty year old special effects have held up. Because they used a mixture of puppets/animatronics and CGI (according to my movie consultant/husband), it doesn’t feel as dated as say, the Lord of the Rings movies which are about ten years old and rely much more heavily on CGI, which were perhaps not quite up to the challenge.

The kids in the movie were much more realistic and less annoying than they were in the book, although I thought the lone female academic was wimpier in the movie version. I also enjoyed the book’s more detailed exposition of both the science being discussed and the steps that led to the massive failures of the park. In the movie it was easier to keep track of the different characters – at least for me, since I had a hard time keeping Crichton’s more supporting characters straight in the book.

In all, I’m glad I finally got around to watching such an iconic movie, even though (as usual) the book was better. It was a fun and engaging read, but I don’t feel drawn to the world enough to explore other books in the series.

Get it (Book): Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Get it (Movie): Amazon, Barnes & Noble

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Review of Inferno by Dan Brown (2013) (Robert Langdon Series)

Bottom line: Take all the negative aspects of Dan Brown’s writing, leave out the good stuff, and add in a very thorough self-guided walking tour of Florence.

Rating: Not Recommended

Blurb:

In the heart of Italy, Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon is drawn into a harrowing world centered on one of history’s most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces . . . Dante’s Inferno.

Against this backdrop, Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle that pulls him into a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science. Drawing from Dante’s dark epic poem, Langdon races to find answers and decide whom to trust . . . before the world is irrevocably altered.

Review:

I have been on the waitlist for Dan Brown’s Inferno since its release in May, and finally picked it up from the library last week. I was really disappointed. Dan Brown’s books at their best are like an action movie – completely unbelievable, non-stop roller coasters with twists and turns and lots of suspense – combined with a fun puzzle to solve. This book was not that. There was so much detail given about settings, names of artists, museums, writers, works of art, etc. that my eyes glazed over frequently. There were so many twists and turns that it just felt tedious – oh, wait, now we’re trusting that person. Ok, now we’re not? Wait, are we again? Am I done yet? Nope, only a couple hundred pages left. The scavenger hunt from clue to clue that characterizes a Dan Brown novel felt entirely forced – there was absolutely no reason for the bad guy to leave the trail of clues in the first place. I had a really hard time caring about any of the characters, they were exceptionally wooden, uninteresting, and unrelatable. In addition, a great author will provide misdirection and red herrings while still providing the clues the reader needs to solve the mystery. In that type of book, you get to the final reveal and you’re saying, “OH! I get it! That makes complete sense and is why X, Y, and Z happened earlier!” Brown has to rely on essentially lying to the reader or using code names so he can shock them later on with the truth. Although he often uses such tactics, it felt particularly bad in this book. Also, there were a lot of heavy handed rants about overpopulation and utilization of resources. Lastly, though I won’t critique Brown’s actual writing style, I will say that if you read this book, watch out for all the whispering that happens in odd places. If I were to wake up in a hospital and the doctors were whispering to me I would be supremely annoyed.

As you may have gathered from the previous paragraph, I wasn’t a huge fan of the book. It was an ok read, but there are so many better books out there. In general, I enjoy Dan Brown’s books, but this one just felt tedious and forced. There were some fun moments – for me the best part was that the final destination ended up being a place I’ve been, so I was able to picture that scene very vividly. If you’re going to read a Dan Brown, I’d recommend The Da Vinci Code or Deception Point. Both are ridiculous yet fun, while Inferno was simply ridiculous.

Available: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

The Da Vinci Code: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Deception Point: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Review of Whiskey Sour: A Jack Daniels Mystery (2004) by J.A. Konrath (Jack Daniels Mysteries #1)

Bottom line: Definitely worth a read for hard boiled fans who don’t mind a little cliché and dose of humor in their gruesome detective stories.

Rating: Recommended

Blurb:

Lieutenant Jacqueline ‘Jack’ Daniels is having a bad week. Her live-in boyfriend has left her for his personal trainer, chronic insomnia has caused her to max out her credit cards with late-night home shopping purchases, and a frightening killer who calls himself ‘The Gingerbread Man’ is dumping mutilated bodies in her district. Between avoiding the FBI and its moronic profiling computer, joining a dating service, mixing it up with street thugs, and parrying the advances of an uncouth PI, Jack and her binge-eating partner, Herb, must catch the maniac before he kills again….and Jack is next on his murder list. Whiskey Sour is full of laugh-out-loud humor and edge-of-your-seat suspense, and it introduces a fun, fully drawn heroine in the grand tradition of Kinsey Millhone, Stephanie Plum, and Kay Scarpetta.

Review:

This book was recommended to me years ago, but I put off reading it because I was afraid it would be too gory for me. Make no mistake, this book certainly has its disgusting and violent moments, but for me the light tone interspersed throughout the book (it works better than it sounds like it would) helped me stomach the bad moments. It was suspenseful, interesting, and well written. There were several clichés throughout, but I genuinely liked the main character. It is difficult to create a tough-as-nails female cop/detective that is also feminine (in the “feels like a woman” sense, not necessarily the “pink high heels” sense) and realistic, not to mention likeable, but Konrath has managed that with Jack Daniels.

Two things that annoyed me the were the way over the top incompetent and cardboard FBI agents and the bad guy’s giggling. Other than that it was a very strong read – I will certainly be reading more of the series when I have the time.

 Get it! Amazon, Barnes & Noble

What did you think? I know the series has been around for almost a decade now – have any of you read it?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Review of JET by Russell Blake (2012) (Jet Series)

Bottom line: JET is a free, full length novel introducing the JET series. If you’re a fan of thrillers, give it a try!

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Blurb:

Code name: Jet 

Twenty-eight-year-old Jet was once the Mossad’s most lethal operative before faking her own death and burying that identity forever. But the past doesn’t give up on its secrets easily.

When her new life on a tranquil island is shattered by a brutal attack, Jet must return to a clandestine existence of savagery and deception to save herself and those she loves. A gritty, unflinching roller-coaster of high-stakes twists and shocking turns, JET features a new breed of protagonist that breaks the mold.

Fans of Lisbeth Salander, SALT, and the Bourne trilogy will find themselves carried along at Lamborghini speed to a conclusion as surprising as the story’s heroine is unconventional.

Review:

I recommend reading this book when you can devote a few hours to it and finish it all in one gulp – otherwise, you’ll still end up finishing it all in one gulp, but there will be babies crying, dogs barking, chores neglected, and food uneaten as you frantically race through the pages. The style reminded me the most of the Bourne trilogy (as suggested in the blurb). We have an extremely competent assassin: a female character far more strongly developed than one would normally expect to see in this genre. We have international shenanigans, scary bad guys, cool weapons, and clandestine government agencies. The writing was very tight, and as I said earlier, I was very impressed with the lifelikeness of the main character. Blake managed to create a ruthless assassin who still feels realistically human and also manages to be a sympathetic character. Descriptions were evocative without being tedious, and there are enough logistics and details (e.g. what kinds of weapons they used, how they get from point A to point B) to give the reader a good flavour of setting but not so much that your eyes start to glaze over. The only thing I know about guns is that they fire bullets, and the only thing I know about cars is that they come in different colours. (Yes, I’m a girl. Yes, I know that’s a stereotype, but seriously, I look at a car and I can generally tell if it’s an SUV, truck, or car, but that’s it. I’m a mess trying to find my car in parking lots. Do you know how many gray cars there are?!? Anyways…)The only aspect I wasn’t crazy about was how the story jumped around in time and place, but I recognize that these were all important for the plot and/or backstory. My brain is very linear and I just have a hard time coming into and out of the main story line.

So basically, we have an intriguing premise, lots of action, an interesting main character, and last but not least, very good writing. Oh, and it’s free. What’s not to like? I’ll definitely be reading more in the series as time (and budget) allows, and will be checking out some of Blake’s other works.

Side note: This is a violent story, and while the writing certainly conveys that, it never felt overly graphic to me (and I am a total wimp).

Get it! Amazon, Barnes & Noble

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