Tag Archives: fiction

Read: We are holding the President hostage by Warren Adler

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Successful marketing can make all the difference. That is certainly true for We are holding the President hostage by Warren Adler. Although published in 1986, I just heard about it this year and so did other people reviewing it on Goodreads. The audiobook was released fairly recently, which created new buzz.

As the title isn’t subtle, the plot itself is giveaway. However, it is well-down and intriguing nonetheless, especially considering this book was written in 1986. In the novel, Egyptians are taking American hostages and the Americans don’t want to negotiate with terrorists. A pretty basic plot but the twist comes when the hostagetaking goes wrong and the mother and the sun are grabbed instead. The main issue with this is that they’re part of a mob boss’ family. In order to get his daughter and grandson back, the padre takes the President of theUnited States hostage during a state dinner. From there, it becomes a cat and mouse game of force versus politics.

At the White House, the main question is whether or not the president is compromised. The NSA director soon joins the hostage party, along with his state of the art computer, and helps the president achieve his goals while staying in power. The political savvy of this book is interesting since the Vice President is an outsider that was just put on the ticket for the win. He believes that he must take over power in order to deal with the situation levelheadedly but the rest of the President’s cabinet does not believe in him. Among all the action, the political intrigue is fascinating. Everyone wants to affect the outcome and pulls different strings to do so.

The story itself takes place in the White House and with the kidnapped daughter and her son hostages in the Middle East. Other than their poor living conditions, there is it really description about how or if they are mistreated further. It’s clear that their main purpose is bargaining chip. Nowadays with all the detailed violence portrayed in various media, it’s nice that it’s not the focus in this book. The point is how, or even can, the President free the kidnapped hostages in the Middle East without being killed or ousted himself. Is it possible for him to remain President and in control?

Alder’s writing is simple and action-driven, making it a very quick read. It reminds be of a Vince Flynn or Dan Brown novel but with much more political intrigue. That was the part that I enjoyed the most–different characters motivations and the justification of how to achieve what they believed to be the correct course of action.

Recommended?: Yes, for anyone who enjoys a politically savvy, action novel that’s a very quick read. Well there’s not much depth, it is fun and not exactly the plot you might expect. Also, I’m sure it’d be a great audiobook.

We are holding the President hostage by Warren Adler title page

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Read: D is for deadbeat: A Kinsey Millhone mystery by Sue Grafton

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Once again, Kinsey Millhone is on the trail of an unknown killer in D is for deadbeat. Sue Grafton’s next is the alphabet mysteries fits right in.

Once again, Grafton has a multitude of characters in this novel. That makes the whodunit aspect of the mystery much more intriguing. For me, it really did end up being a surprise, which was fun. Her characters feel realistic and especially in this one cover a range of emotions due to the plot and everyone’s terrible relations with the deadbeat that everyone is connected to.

As far as the plot goes, it is definitely well written but is by far the saddest so far in the series. The body count is higher and as readers we are invested in a couple of them. Oddly, the plot is a bit of a conundrum, as the deadbeat hires Kinsey first of all to deliver a cashiers check to someone that he can’t locate but then is himself killed towards the beginning of the novel and she sticks on to try to figure out who killed him because she has a sense it wasn’t an accident like the cops claim. So even though we don’t care for the deadbeat we care about the people around him who are connected to him and those who want to get even with him for the terrible things he’s done in the past. That’s what makes this plot most intriguing is because many people have a motivation to get rid of him.

As with Grafton’s other novels, this one is also a quick read, facilitated by her engaging and compelling writing that has a wonderful flow. Other than the sassy, no-nonsense main character Kinsey, her writing style is what keeps me coming back to this series.

Recommended?: Yes, as long as you don’t mind a sad ending (perhaps it’s more tragic than sad). First, of all the books so far, this one stands well on its own. There aren’t that many ties to the previous book and it is more self-contained than any of the other one so far. While the others are fun and do add to the bigger picture of Kinsey Millhone, this one could be picked up out of order or just as a single read of the series and it would be okay. There’s quite a bit of drama, lots of desire for revenge, and slightly more graphic descriptions of injuries. Still, it’s a great mystery novel.

D is for deadbeat book cover

My other reviews of the Kinsey Millhone series:

1 A is for alibi

2 B is for burglar

3 C is for corpse

Read: C is for corpse: a Kinsey Millhone mystery by Sue Grafton

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Finished the third in the series and can’t wait to read the next! C is for corpse: a Kinsey Millhone mystery by Sue Grafton continues to follow the sassy, twice divorced Kinsey Millhone as she takes on yet another perplexing case. This time, her client winds up dead and she even more doggedly tries to solve the case.

When Kinsey meets Bobby Callahan, he’s already been purposefully run off the road and is disfigured from his injuries. There is no evidence of a crime, however, and it appears that he just had an accident but his best friend died in the crash and Bobby is determined to figure out who is trying to kill him even if he can’t remember a thing before the accident. As Kinsey and Bobby become close, when he dies in a fatal car accident, she digs into the case even harder, wanting to figure it out not only for herself but for him.

Compared to the other two in the series, this is my least favorite so far. While Kinsey is still her same sassy and sometimes rude self, the plot just didn’t grab me. Bobby is killed about halfway through (which is spoiled on the back cover so it’s not really a spoiler) and the. It drags for a bit but picks back up at the end for a thriller. Also, the side story abut her landlord sly new girlfriend didn’t interest me even though it’s its own mini mystery inside the novel. It just felt in the way of the main plot.

Grafton includes many more characters as well, starting to include more of a cast than just a handful which is good. It may allow her to do more complex mysteries in future books in the series. In this novel, they are all well-used, even if briefly. The world felt more full and complete, though the simplicity and tightly-bound stories of the first two worked as well. It’s just a different approach. Since it is a large series, it’s nice to see variety this early on. Cookie cutter books are never much fun for me.

Recommended?: Yes, if you want to read all in the series. If you are new, better to start at the beginning and then work up to this one especially as there are only two before it. If you don’t care about reading them all, you could skip. While it stands alone better, I wouldn’t recommend beginning with or only reading this one, though. Next up: D is for deadbeat!

C is for corpse: a Kinsey Millhone mystery by Sue Grafton book cover

My other reviews of the Kinsey Millhone series:

  1. A is for alibi
  2. B is for burglar

Read: China rich girlfriend: a novel by Kevin Kwan

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Crazy rich Asians have nothing on a China rich girlfriend. This sequel by Kevin Kwan is even more over-the-top, a feat that doesn’t seem possible, making it another fabulous time in Singapore, Hong Kong, and of course mainland China.

Rachel and Nick are back with another whirlwind adventure trip to the East. This time, they go to China but Nick’s family features fairly prominently as well in Singapore and Hong Kong. Drama seems to follow them despite their low-key attitudes, making this another fun and enjoyable read.

While the first novel focused on Nick’s family dynamics and their desire to remain private and frugally spend their wealth (or not), China rich girlfriend is all about the publicity-seeking, gigantic-spending, wealth-inheriting Chinese mainlanders of Nick and Rachel’s generation. The more bling the better! No price is too much.

Again, Kwan plots an extravagant story that has believable characters despite the grandiose setting and spending sprees. He is very deft at walking the fine line between ridiculously unbelievable and just crazy enough. Rachel and Nick head to China once again on a trip that has likely found her actual birthday father but his family is less than thrilled that she found them. As she tries to enjoy China, drama ensues with her stepmom and they try to make the best of the trip anyway.

Recommended?: Yes, especially if you’re a fan of the first novel or want a peak into how the opulent young mainlander Chinese unload their money without so much as blinking an eye. While not required to enjoy this sequel, it certainly makes more sense since you will know right away who everyone is and what their relationships are to each other. I can’t wait to read the third in the trilogy!

China rich girlfriend by Kevin Kwan book cover

Read: B is for burglar by Sue Grafton

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Having recently finished A is for alibi, I just had get Sue Grafton’s next in the “alphabet mystery” series. B is for burglar does not disappoint and if anything, is more enjoyable than the first. Good thing there are many, many more. I’m going to try to intersperse other books in with the Grafton mysteries but clearly this is going to be a major part of my book list for the rest of the year.

The novel opens again with Kinsey Millhone once again tucking into a new case. This one begins as a missing person but soon becomes a murder mystery with lots of unknowns and questions, along with a whole slew of characters it could be just as guilty as next. Kinsey’s character development is phenomenal in this novel. The first one gave just a taste but this one really digs into who she is and her brazen, savvy personality. She is a strong woman who takes no gruff from anyone and takes particular pleasure in when she reverses gender roles and catches men of guard, such as ordering for them at a restaurant. Fun to think that this was written in the mid ’80s with all the talk about stereotypes and pushback that is going on currently in society.

The storyline in B is for burglar, is more complex and intricate than the first novel as well, which is a very good sign for the books to come. Rather than being over the top, the plot begins to unfold as the pieces slowly come into place. The drama is low-key although there are some surprises along the way. Grafton has a good blend of keeping the story progressing while making it realistic at the same time.

One thing that did jump out at me in this novel, Grafton uses a lot of metaphors and similes. Usually they just enhance the scene or emphasize something but there are some that are harsh and brash. Very funny stuff, since it furthers Kinsey’s personality with her inside commentary that the readers also get to enjoy.

Recommended?: Yes! For mystery fans, Sue Grafton fans, and anyone who wants a good crime-fighting drama with a strong woman protagonist. It’s possible to start with this book or read it on its own. But the first book does lay more groundwork although the basics are covered in this one too.

B is for burglar by Sue Grafton book cover

Read: A is for alibi by Sue Grafton

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Perhaps it is fitting to end the year with a final book review by an author who suddenly passed away recently. I decided to start reading mystery novels to broaden my reading diet and who better to start with than Sue Grafton, who published her 25 of 26 “alphabet mystery novels” this summer. I figured I should get reading in time to be caught up for Z, but sadly that’s no longer an option. Grafton’s daughter has already said “As far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y.” The final novel in the series was planned to be called Z is for zero, but without a draft or even an idea, it will never be written.

A is for alibi (1982) is the first novel in Grafton’s series that focuses on PI Kinsey Millhone, a twice-divorced longer who used to be a cop but prefers to work for herself. The main plot is trying to figure out who actually killed Laurence Fife, whose wife at the time was found guilty of his murder and served 8 years in prison, and being recently released wants to know who actually killed him. As Millhone digs deeper into the past to figure out was actually responsible, she finds herself in difficult spots with hard decisions to make. Trust is not easy to give or receive, although she already understood that from her life experience already.

The writing style makes for an easy, quick read. Though simple writing, it is highly enjoyable and well detailed. The plot slowly unfolds, becoming more complex and intriguing. Although not a twist or surprise ending, I found the resolution satisfying. The novel neither tried to be too tricky or over-the-top, which I appreciate. It read as a realistic and plausible story, and I appreciate that. Some stories are unbelievable, with too much action and drama for the sake of drama. Grafton did a great job of writing a mystery that’s compelling yet realistic. Even before I read the sad news about her passing, I had already decided to continue the series; now, though, I’ll prioritize them over trying out other mystery authors at this time.

 

Recommended?: For mystery lovers and those who want to become one. While a crime drama to some extent, there’s no blood or gore; maybe due to the time in which it was written, unlike today. There is a sexual relationship but nothing too graphic described and the main focus, as far as the relationship goes, is rather Millhone dealing with how to have another person in her life, and if she can.

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Read: Stranger and stranger (an Emily the Strange novel) by Rob Reger and Jessica Gruner

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The second of four in the series, Stranger and stranger by Rob Reger and Jessica Gruner continues to document the life of goth teenager Emily the Strange. While it chronologically follows The lost days, this novel can be read also as a standalone since the most important details from the first are incorporated.

The overall themes remain the same between the two novels: exploring a new town, enjoying her hobbies (sewer and late-night exploring, skateboarding, experimenting), and emoting her gothic laissez faire attitude. More emphasis is given to her artistic and scientific sides in this novel, which brings out elements of her personality that were subdued in the first one.

The novel itself has the same format as a somewhat graphic novel written in a loose diary-style journaling with hand-drawn doodles and many 13 point lists. Considering her age, it works really well and makes the book more approachable. There’s also a consistency for the readers, if they have read the first one.

In Stranger and stranger, the main plot is Emily the Strange wanting to pull off the ultimate prank on the new town. Although still unknown, her mom periodically moves them to a new place for a fresh start. While the prank originally starts off as an ambitious duplication of everyone in town, she ends up replicating herself first by accident and must learn to live with a second Emily the Strange. At first, she’s not sure what to think but then it gradually becomes clear that the duplication also split certain parts into each Emily, so that their personalities and motivations are not identical like she originally thought. At one point, the girls accidentally swap journals and the Other Emily begins writing the story, sharing her side of things. Part of what’s interesting is the idea of what makes you, well, you. Emily the Strange and the Other Emily both are obsessed with who the “real” one is but in the end, it’s a matter of needing both of them to make up Emily the Strange.

Recommended?: Yes, for Emily the Strange fans and those who enjoy YA graphic novels/journal format. The novel is simpler than the first, since there isn’t a complex mystery; the story itself if more straight-forward even if it gets a little more complicated when they swap journals. If you’ve ever wondered what “typical” life is like for Emily the Strange, this is the one to read.

Stranger and stranger book cover