Afraid I Liked It- A Review of Jack Kilborn’s Afraid

 

Afraid

By Jack Kilborn

Grand Central Publishing (March 31, 2009)

Paperback, 384 pages

$6.99

 

Safe Haven, Wisconsin is under siege, and the war on terror has come home to Midwestern America. This sleepy rural Wisconsin town-on-a-lake is the perfect place to live out your quiet retirement, or die trying. There is only one road in, so when a helicopter crashes and that road is blockaded, the evil that has been unleashed is going to go unchecked unless the local talent can somehow prevail.

 

We meet several appealing characters including the town sheriff, a firefighter, the single mom and her son, the son’s dog, and of course a cross-section of local villagers. But there is mayhem loose and death is a welcome alternative to what lies in store: a nemesis that relentlessly stalks and toys with the all too human prey.  The horror seems superhuman, and figuring out what makes the enemy tick is part of the puzzle that needs to be solved for the good guys to prevail.

 

Kilborn has written a masterful horror story, and he has put the “terror” back in terrorist. Filled with so much adrenaline and suspense you will need  to take a time out, this book is in your face with menace and gruesome peril. The book is well over 2/3 through before the reader begins to feel there is a chance this won’t all end very badly. More accurately, by then you have likely come to believe that the menace is unstoppable, or at least un-killable. While you do root for the townsfolk, you soon begin to suspect that your team is going to lose, and lose big.

 

I really enjoyed this first book by Jack Kilborn. Kilborn, is also JA Konrath, who is a very funny, accomplished and talented mystery writer. When you read his Jack Daniels Mystery series, you come to expect an irreverent humor that provides a break from the darker mystery plots. But under the new pen name, Kilborn gives the reader no such relief. Don’t expect any comedy.  Don’t expect any relief. You won’t get any relief until you take a plane out of Safe Haven. If you like your thrillers with more kills than thrills, and you do not have a weak stomach, then you will be consumed by this suspenseful book.

 

4  Stars

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Published in: on March 30, 2009 at 7:26 am  Leave a Comment  
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San Fransisco’s Largest Bookseller Closes

Staceys was the largest independent book store in the city, and it closed Tuesday. The store on Second and Market, had been open for five decades. Staceys is the most recent of several bookstores to close in thes hard finacial times. The story can be read here.

Published in: on March 19, 2009 at 5:07 pm  Comments (1)  

Passing Notes Behind the Teacher’s Back at SXSW

In the South By Southwest Intereactive  festival a watershed event occurred during a panel discussion. While the “experts of publishing” talked at the festival  panel a spontaneous discusssion on twitter emerged in the audience. The panelists did not initiate it, and were not involved or for the most part aware of the conversation.

This panelists, who were discussing “New Think for Old Publishers” had relatively little new to say, and seemed clueless about hashtags, for example. But the twitter discussion was spontaneous and reflected a new type of emerging learning that includes the rest of the experts and not just the calcified and coronated leaders. This revolution seems to this blogger to be a metaphor for the creative learning potential for the new web.

The Book Publicity Blog   Booksqaure and mediabistro all have discussions of the dual events. By the way, credit for the title of this post: it was a line from the discussion at the book publicity blog.

Published in: on March 19, 2009 at 8:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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5 Star Review: Nutcase by Charlotte Hughes

As a psychologist I love the opportunity to read fiction that involves psychology. Nutcase is a romantic suspense by Charlotte Hughes. It features Kate Holly, a clinical psychologist from Atlanta. While it has a plot that centers on a serial arsonist, the book is really an ensemble story with a host of interesting and fun characters, and its central premise, that the life of a psychologist is enough to drive anyone nuts, rings true.

The story begins with Kate and her ex-husband in couples therapy. In the first book in the series (this book stands alone fine) Kate and her husband Jay “accdentally” go through with a divorce that Kate intended to call off. But what with a nitroglycerin explosion of her office and other madness and mahem from the first book, the divorce unfolded without protest. Now they are trying to get back together, but her Jay complains that she is using sex to avoid talking.

And there is a lot that kate is keeping to herself. Like that she is being evicted from her office because of the explosision and may have to move to share an office with a psychiatrist ex-boyfriend, who still wants her back. Her dog gets depressed from an empty nest syndrome. Her aunt (who is her mother’s twin and co-owner of a Junk art business) has run off with a con man who is also her patient. Her eccentric receptionist is dressing like a nurse as a dress rehearsal for nursing school, and one of her patients thinks she is Marie Osmand.

These problems and dozens of other unusual predicaments challenge Kate, who just happens to have a mild obsessive compulsive disorder (Monk light) and serve to entertain while the arson plot unfolds.

This is the second book in this series by Ms. Hughes, and in this series, one can see that she perfected the art of writing a series when she co-authored the FULL series with Janet Evanovich. This book is most like her ensemble romantic comedy A NEW ATTITUDE in that it’s also about the support and love you get from friends and family, when the going gets tough; it is also just as uplifting. There are several therapy scenes in the book, and as a psychologist I thought that they often (while obviously magnified for fictional effect)
not only true to form but also often potentially helpful to the casual reader who has not had the benefit of therapy. I especially enjoyed the vignette where she helps a young gang member sort things out.

I give this book my top rating, despite its relatively striaghtforward suspense plot. It still a novel you cant put down, and what it lacks in dramatic tension it more than makes up for in humor and inspiration. This is a book you will keep on your shelves, so your friends will just have to get their own copy. Charlotte Hughes writes incredibly realistic dialogue, makes her characters always 3 dimensional, and most important makes them so likable and interesting that you are sorry the book ends. The perfect setup for a series that will be a great success.

Book Review- Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Twighlight by Stephenie Meyer
Paperback: 544 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers (September 6, 2006)
ISBN-10: 0316015849

The first book in the Twighlight Series by Stephanie Meyer is really two different books. As a book about teen vampires, it is essentially a comelling romance. The first 2/3 of the book deals with a forbidden love between an endearing mortal teen girl and the alluring teen male vampire she finds at her new school. Since vampires and humans dont mix well, this chasm between thier worlds serves to keep them apart, despite the fatal attraction they feel for each other. As thier feelings emerge and unfold, thier dangerous dalliance is heightened by the simple fact that Bella, the 17 year old girl, smells so delicious to Edward, her vampire suitor, that he can barely resist eating her. Therefore, because he loves her they cannot be too close. But he brings other virtues that make him the perfect (if unattainable) suitor. For one thing he is (excuse the pun) drop dead gorgeous. Also he has this habit of saving her life repeatedly. The early book is nonetheless a classic romance with very slow movement towards a requited love in which each is more than willing to sacrifice their own needs, for the other.

The last third of the book is a suspense/action/fantasy book in which two warring clans of vampires fight over Bella. Edward and his family are on her side, and a wily nemesis proves a worthy adversary. This part of the book feels so different from the first 2/3 that this evaluator got the sense it might have been better if it had been expanded and included as the second book in the series. It comes out of nowhere and detracts as much as it adds, although the plot is well enough written and a page turner while it is happening. It does not seem organically related to the romance, however.

Meyer has had great success with this series, and this, the first book of the Twilight series has a number of features that help explain her success. Foremost is how likable and believable Bella is, as a teenage heroine. The self-conscious intelligent clutz, who does not know how beautiful she is, is just enough of an outsider to be a compelling target of identification for the many women and girls who cherish the book. The interplay with other teens is often set in the lunchroom, and the rivalries, prom dates, and cars all ring about as true as any teen story ever penned by an adult; who hasn’t experienced these universal problems of finding a date, or a tablemate at the lunchroom? These scenes will make every reader that attended a public high school feel at home. But it is the juxtaposition of this homey, familiar angst with the dark dangerous vampire drama that makes both apsects of this novel special.

Meyer has written a memorable romance and uses the vampire angle to make the forbiden love theme especially compelling, and as a result she is able to keep her hero and heroine apart in a believable way, and consequently she sets up a series in a manner that will allow the relationship chasm to be crossed on a slow and believable way across several later books. As a first book in a series, the story works very well, but that means this single book loses something, since she can not have much closure in this one stand alone book. It’s designed to keep you reading.

Rated 3 1/2 stars

Book Review: Swan Peak by James Lee Burke

Swan Peak by James Lee Burke
• Hardcover: 416 pages
• Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Hardcover Ed edition (July 8, 2008)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 1416548521
• ISBN-13: 978-1416548522

Detective Dave Robicheaux normally hanging around New Orleans and surrounding arrears like New Iberia, is spending the summer in Montana with his wife Molly, and archetypal best friend Clete Purcell. As usual a Dave and Clete have no trouble finding more trouble than fish. Four murders and then Clete is almost torched, raise the question who has the nerve and connections to get away with such a spree. As in many of Burke’s novels, we suspect the wealthy and connected, but just can’t always figure out who. In addition to some mafia and oilman suspects, there is a phony libidinous evangelical preacher, and a gunball who has a sadistic side tracking one of his prey. and 2 singers who seemed to lose their way.

Purcell and Robicheaux have to do all the work as usual for the FBI and local authorities, while stifling as best they can their instincts for mayhem, and the nightmares and flashbacks from their Vietnam days. One of the characters, the gunball is haunted by a waterboarding incident he was part of in the middle east.

Burke has written another remarkable novel. He is more of a novelist/author than a mystery writer, and fans of his will find once again compelling characters, prose and metaphors that will impress, and a tone and flavor that makes his work perennially delicious. While the nostalgia theme is getting a little tiresome, one never finds a novel by Burke tedious and he always delivers. I look forward each year to a new novel by him. One day I will be able to wait for the paperback, but with this novel he once again has my waiting for his next release this summer.

Rating 4 and 1/2 stars

Jobs Lost in the First Two Months of 2009

Caterpillar 20,000 jobs
Sprint Nextel 8,000 jobs
Home Depot 7,000 jobs
Phizer 19,000 jobs
GM 47,000 jobs
ING 7, 000 jobs
Phillips 6, 000 jobs
Chase 12, 000 jobs announced today
Macy’s 7, 000 jobs
Corning 3 ,500 jobs
Intel 6, 000 jobs
Microsoft 5, 000 jobs
Circuit City 34,000 jobs
Bose 1, 000 jobs
Clear Channel 1, 850 jobs
Ericsson 5, 000 jobs
Motorola 4, 000 jobs
Yahoo 2, 000 jobs
PNC Bank 5, 800 jobs
Wamu 9, 200 jobs
Estee Lauder 2, 000 jobs
Eaton 8, 600 jobs (here in Cleveland)
Pepsi 3, 300 jobs
NYC Gov’t 23, 000 jobs
Cisco 2, 000 jobs
Sony 16, 000 jobs
Ford 4, 500 jobs another 5, 000 expected
Chrysler 3, 000 jobs
Honda 3, 100 jobs by March 1st 2009
Mitsubishi 1, 800 jobs by March 1st 2009
Hewlett Packrd 25, 000 jobs
Time Warner 1, 000 jobs
Disney 1, 000 jobs
Huntsman Chem 1, 665 jobs
Harley Davidson 1, 100 jobs
United Air 1, 500 jobs
Boeing 10, 000 jobs
Starbucks 6, 700 jobs
Kodak 4, 500 jobs
Textron 4, 600 jobs
Blk & Decker 1, 200 jobs
Target 1, 000 jobs
TX Instrumnts 3, 400 jobs
IBM 2, 800 jobs
Hertz 4, 000 jobs
General Electric 1, 000 jobs
Delta Air 2, 000 jobs
Walgreens 1, 000 jobs
Cigna 1, 100 jobs
Alcoa 13, 500 jobs

Abercrombie & Fitch 50 jobs

Published in: on March 1, 2009 at 12:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Some Observations From a Book Tour

Since I only work in promotions part time (I am a psychologist by trade, and an author, book promoter, and online poker player all tied for second) I get only snapshots of the ever changing book market. There are many new trends since I last managed a book tour in 2002. First and foremost is the internet, but I will save that for another post. I will also save my thoughts on the Kindle, and on the chaos in the publishing industry.

But I wanted to ask if anyone else has noticed a couple of trends in the chains, especially Waldenbooks, but to a lesser extent other chains like Borders and Books-A-Million. The big things I notice are:
1. The centralization of power away from the bookstores.
2. A Just-in-time inventory management approach.

The first issue, centralization has been happening for a while. There was a time when a book seller with some clout, such as Kathy Baker (who has won bookseller of the year and other such awards), could get her store to stock what she wanted to push. It seems now that most if not all of the say has moved up to at least the district manager level, and of course these people already have plenty of clout because they do the hiring and firing. If much of the ordering and inventory control lies now at the district level, (what does not fall squarely to the computers and bean counters) one of the main reasons for touring is now subsiding. Namely, if you develop a good relationship with the local store owner they will push your books, and of course that helps with everything from sell through to making a list. But if they can’t get your book in, it doesnt really matter so much how much they love it.

Of course centralization will not be an issue with the typical small to medium size independent book store. If I manage another tour soon, however, I for one may be inclined to do fewer of the Waldenstores and such and quite a few more independent stores. That would be a philosophical preference of mine anyhow that was always trumped by the practical consequences; but realistic considerations now seem to be pointing away from the chains.

The other issue is the inventory management. It seems that more and more they are ordering only a small number of each book when they first come out, keeping the inventory low. This makes financial sense to them, but can have severe impact on how you promote. I have tended to have much of the promotion I do front loaded, which in the  good old days was great for bumping you up the list and assuring that your initial sell through looked good. But if you spend a lot of money or creative genius targetted at the first few weeks, and instead of ordering 48 they order 12 and then reorder as they sell, you will only sell about 12 initially, then need to wait for reorder and shipping. It speaks for the need to spread your efforts flat like the inventory over the first 8 or so weeks.

Any body else notice this?