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review 2019-05-28 11:31
Twists, turns, a fascinating backdrop and a new hero
The Never Game (Colter Shaw #1) - Jeffery Deaver

Thanks to NetGalley and to Harper Collins for providing me an early ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

Jeffery Deaver does not need an introduction. He has been writing and publishing crime and mystery novels and thrillers for a very long time, and he has been collecting awards and accolades for almost as long. Despite my interest in those genres, I hadn’t read any of his books yet, partly because I always hesitate to start reading a series halfway through (yes, and I had many other books to get on with). When I saw this novel, the first in a new series, I thought this was a good chance to remedy that.

This novel has all the required elements for those who love the genre: an enticing opening (in fact, we are given a glimpse of an extremely tense scene that will come much later in the book), a hero with pretty amazing abilities, a complex past, and a few secrets (and a curious name too, Colter Shaw), a twisted case that gets more and more complicated as we go along (red herrings, false endings, action scenes, bizarre clues, plenty of suspects), useless and useful members of law enforcement (LaDonna Standish is my favourite character in the whole book, and she ticks all the boxes: African-American, lesbian, married with a child, a woman from the wrong side of the tracks, intelligent, a good professional, dismissed and bullied by her co-workers), some sort of love-interest (I didn’t care too much for that aspect of the story), an intriguing backdrop to the story (Silicon Valley and the gaming industry), another case he is working on as well that is pretty personal for the hero, and a twist/hook at the end.

If you like the description and are seeking for those elements in a story, do not hesitate. I can’t fault Deaver’s writing. He knows his stuff and he delivers in all aspects. He knows how to bait the reader’s interest, and his mastery of plot is evident. He drops hints, and when you think you have worked out who is the guilty party, or what is going on, he pulls the rug from under your feet. He is good at combining a fairly modern writing style, including plenty of action and the latest technologies, with well-tried classical elements; including the final explanation of how he worked out who the guilty party was (it is not quite a Sherlock Holmes or Poirot moment, but not that far from it). Although most of the story is told in the third-person from Shaw’s point of view, we don’t get all the information he does, for very good narrative reasons.

Any negatives? I cannot compare this book to his previous novels, and although I’ve checked the reviews, it seems that some people see this as the beginning of another winning series (it seems that the character of Colter Shaw had already been introduced in one of his short-stories), and others feel that is far from his best work. For me, one of the issues was the main character. If you had told me about this man, who was home-schooled and grew up raised in a survivalist household in the mountains of California, whose parents were both brilliant professors, but whose father (Ash) suffered from paranoia and insisted in educating his children (two boys and a girl) in the art of survival, totally isolated from the world and who ended up dead in somewhat unclear circumstances; whose mother was her husband’s psychiatrist and chose to follow his radical lifestyle and indulge (?) his paranoia, whose brother disappeared, and who now lives by working on a variety of criminal cases and collecting rewards (but seems to have other financial means) while at the same time pursues his own investigation, I would have said we were onto a winner. He is skilled, he seems to be attractive, he has commitment issues (unsurprisingly), he is somewhat obsessive and does things his own way (he loves to keep notebooks and writes his observations by hand), he is clever and witty, calm and collected under pressure, and no danger or risk faces him. Although he is not that bothered about rules and regulations, he has a sense of morality and of right and wrong (and he chooses to do the right thing). Despite all those characteristics and his back story, which should have made the character irresistible and compelling, I didn’t feel a particular connection to him. I wonder if it was the third-person narration (we also get flashbacks of episodes of his childhood, as a way to flesh out the character’s background and to build up interest and offer more clues) or something else, but although he was interesting, I felt as if I was observing the action rather than getting really engaged and worried about what might happen to him (or most of the other characters). Perhaps it read too much like a movie, and I can take or leave action flicks (I enjoy them, but they don’t engage my mind for long). Some reviewers have compared the character (negatively) to Jack Reacher, and I guess other characters will come to mind for those who love the genre. The character himself goes to pains to explain he is neither a private investigator nor a bounty hunter, but I’m not sure that makes him unique or distinctive enough. As I said, most readers love the character, and I am convinced he’ll be further developed in future novels in the series, so this should not put anybody off if the rest interests you.

I saw some readers complaining about the fact that the book was centred around the world of computer games, some because they didn’t enjoy it and found that slowed the novel down, and others because they felt there were inaccuracies (I can’t comment on that), but although I’m not a gamer, I found the descriptions interesting (not too detailed) and enjoyed the main plot line and the mystery behind the kidnappings (it is not unique but it works well). I made some general comments about the ending earlier, and I’m trying to avoid spoilers, so I won’t go into it in more detail, but I agree that there seems to be a sudden and surprising change of direction at one point (some readers have complained of a “rushed” ending), although everything is explained and I guess that is the name of the game.

In sum, personally I enjoyed the story and the plot, but at this point I am not sure I’m interested enough to keep reading the series. On the other hand, I am convinced Deaver’s reputation is well deserved, and I intend to read more of his novels in the future. (I read a very early ARC copy of the novel, so it might well be that not all I say applies to the finished product).

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review 2019-05-23 19:06
"Bowie"
The Survivalist (Anarchy Rising) - Arthur Bradley

Right up front let me say my favorite character is the wolfhound "Bowie".The owner/friend Mason travels an apocalyptic USA.He is a US marshall or more precisely a former marshall.He is headed south from the northern Georgia area.On his way he finds people that need help,offers it and teaches how to help themselves.And he loves Bowie and Bowie loves him.

 Also there is a man heading north to DC.He was a convict but got let out early because the world was going to shit.A lot of convicts were released early due to the fact no one was going to be around to take care of them.And they only released the criminals that were not on hard time.Tanner is his name and he is a good guy.he has a reason for going to DC.I just can't divulge without giving spoilers.

 

P.S.I'm gonna keep reading the series.

 

  

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review 2018-10-30 17:36
Trackers by Nicholas Sansbury Smith
Trackers - Nicholas Sansbury Smith

My addiction to Smith’s works continues. I tore through his Hell Divers series (which I totally loved) and then jumped into this series. Finally, I’m writing reviews.

This post-apocalyptic series is set in modern times, mostly set in Estes Park, Colorado (which is an easy day’s drive north of me). In this scenario, EMPs are set off in key points of the USA, shutting down our electric grid and wreaking havoc. The North Koreans have nearly paralyzed the US government! Even as people start to grasp what has happened, the hits keep coming for Washington DC.

I became attached the Estes Park characters much quicker than I did with the Washington DC characters. I did like the alternating view points. Sam ‘Raven’ Spears (retired Marine) and his dog Creek are my favorite characters hands down. Sam has been a bit of a loaf in Estes Park but now with this nationwide emergency he has a chance to really make a difference. Also, this is a murder mystery story and Raven gets caught up in that too since he and Creek are excellent trackers. Raven’s sister Sandra, who works as a nurse at the hospital, and her daughter (Allie) become caught up in this mystery too.

The reaction of the average citizen was very realistic. Sure, a lot of stuff has stopped working, there looks to have been a bomb off on the horizon (maybe a nuclear bomb), but some things still work and surely the government will be by any time to set things right, right? Some people were more skeptical, some caught on quicker, some didn’t wait to find out one way or another, etc. It was a great mix of believable responses.

I was a little surprised by the ladies. I’m coming to this series from Hell Divers where the ladies do everything the men do; gender equality is a given not a ‘check the box’ thing. So here we have several well made female characters that are competent in their given jobs and yet none of them are in the thick of it. They generally don’t handle weapons and they certainly don’t go out on missions to scout, track, or rescue. I was left wanting more from the ladies.

While Raven works with police chief Colton on tracking down a killer, Nathan Sardetti goes on a rescue mission near Estes Park. His handicapped nephew, Ty, was at a special camp when all hell broke lose. Nathan’s sister, Senator Charlize Montgomery (who’s a retired fighter pilot), was in DC when things headed south. She’s recovering from serious injuries and can’t join in the search herself. Her body guard, Big Al Randall, do their best to rejoin the remnants of the US government.

Unfortunately, there’s a group of white supremacists (Sons of Liberty) in the area near Estes Park and they would be quite happy to have some important captives. I loved hating on their leader, Fenix. He was so hate worthy but also calm, collected, smart. He makes a worthy foe for both Nathan and Raven.

The murder mystery, the believability of the EMP attack and response, and the bits of Sioux & Cherokee believes all worked well for me. The tame ladies left me wanting a bit more. 4/5 stars.

The Narration: Bronson Pinchot gave a pretty good performance. There was this side character that was written as very loud and a bit rude and Pinchot did that voice well but sometimes I had to turn the volume down a little. I liked his voice for Raven and he also made a great Colton. His voice for Charlize Montgomery was feminine and carried her strength as well. His voice for President Diego was a little too much Texas politician for me, but that also made it distinct. 4.5/5 stars.

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review 2018-10-30 17:29
The Hunted, Trackers 2 by Nicholas Sansbury Smith
Trackers 2: The Hunted (Trackers series, Book 2) - Nicholas Sansbury Smith

In this sequel, Ty really stood out for me. He’s a kid in a wheelchair being held captive by the leader of white supremacist group lead by General Fenix. His mom, who is somewhere on the east coast, is a Senator and Fenix wants to use Ty to get much needed supplies plus weapons. Ty shows great courage in this book and he’s the character that stands out to me.

Of course Raven Spears and his dog Creek still steal the show. In Book 1, there was a serial killer to hunt down. Having helped out with that, Nathan Sardetti can now rely on Raven to help him rescue Ty and possibly kill Fenix. They make a really good team.

Martha is one of the many refugees that end up in Estes Park. She’s a doctor but she’s also pretty banged up herself. I really liked this minor story line because it brought up a lot of great points about such a calamity. Can Estes Park afford to take in refugees? They have very limited medical supplies and food. Winter is coming. If the refugees don’t bring valuable skills or supplies, should Estes Park take them in? Very realistic to have these tough questions come up.

Meanwhile, over on the east coast, President Diego and what’s left of the government have come to terms with the fact that much of the chain of command is gone. Now Senator Charlize Montgomery, Ty’s mom, has been made Secretary of Defense. Her body guard, Big Al, continues to be a pillar of strength as she gets further along in recovering from her severe injuries sustained in Book 1.

The ladies still have rather limited roles in this series and that surprises me. Having enjoyed the Hell Divers series, I really hoped the ladies would break out of their shells here in Book 2 of this series. Charlize can be excused because of her injuries. I did hope that Raven’s sister Sandra, who is a competent nurse at the Estes Park hospital, would have something bigger to do. Mayor Andrews of Estes Park doesn’t seem to fully grasp how tough their situation is. Police chief Colton has one female officer on staff, Lindsey Plymouth, but she doesn’t get much page time in this story.

Once again, I loved hating on Fenix. He’s crafty and has the luck of the devil himself! He poses a big threat to Estes Park but he’s not going to be taken down easy!

I was pretty sad to have to say goodbye to one of my favorite characters. The action was well mixed with quieter moments. I love seeing how Raven’s character is growing, becoming more confident and trusted by the people of Estes Park. 4.5/5 stars.

The Narration: Bronson Pinchot continues to do well for this series. His female voices are feminine and he has pretty good little kid voices. I really liked his voice for Ty. His voice for President Diego is still a touch over done for me but I can live with it. Pinchot’s pacing is good and there’s no technical issues with this recording. 4.75/5 stars.

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review 2018-10-30 17:18
The Storm, Trackers 3 by Nicholas Sansbury Smith
The Storm - Nicholas Sansbury Smith

I have just flown through these first 3 books in this series. For the characters, these events all take place in the space of a few weeks. Ty is now safely with his mom, Secretary of Defense Charlize Montgomery, in a secure facility in Florida where there’s still electricity and communications with the outside world. Raven Spears continues to work with police chief Colton in Estes Park, Colorado. The white supremacist leader, Fenix, is still out there and still a threat.

One of my favorite story lines in this book is where Big Al, Charlize’s body guard, is given the chance to go find and rescue his sister. She’s his twin and his last remaining family. Al lost his wife and kids in the initial strikes and he can’t let his sister go. Turns out she’s got a drug problem and that opens a little can of worms; how to justify the man power & supplies & risk to locate her and bring her back to the secure facility? All sorts of great questions came up as we followed Big Al on his personal mission. They go through gang-controlled streets, bump into an abandoned kid with a LotR complex, and then have to see about a drugged out sister. Who is worthy of the very limited help available? People like Charlize and President Diego have to the make those calls on a big picture level. Big Al has to make those decisions in the moment on the ground on a smaller scale.

Meanwhile, in Estes Park, roving bands of violent looters become an issue. Some of these looters are drug addicted. Redford’s gang is the most troublesome of these looters because they are organized. The body count rises and police chief Marcus Colton is pulling his hair out trying to keep Estes Park safe. Mayor Andrews and her lackeys aren’t helping matters. A schism has developed between these two groups, but both want the best for Estes Park. I was very pleased to see that police detective Lindsey Plymouth had a bigger role in this book. Raven’s attempts at flirtation were a secondary thing but provided some much needed humor for the story.

Colton knows that Estes Park needs allies. Between Niles Redford’s gang, General Dan Felix (leader of the white supremacist group Sons of Liberty), and the influx of refugees, Estes Park could easily be over run. Lindsey and Raven are sent to Storm Mountain to meet with the local preppers group led by John Kirkus. Colton believes he can make a good alliance with Sheriff Thompson of Fort Collins. There is more than one betrayal and I was shocked and a little distraught over how things turned out for some of my favorite characters. Estes Park is in so much trouble!

I’ve really gotten attached to this story despite the ladies having a backseat to the men. Charlize, a retired fighter pilot, hasn’t gotten into the pilot’s seat yet. Lindsey shows promise but hasn’t gone out hunting or scouting or tracking solo like the men do. Raven’s sister Sandra is still a competent nurse at the hospital but doesn’t do much other than patch Raven up. Martha, a minor character from Book 2, is a doctor but hasn’t done much other than bleed a lot. I just need a bit more from the ladies to make this series rock. After all, Colorado is known for it’s hardy, independent, capable women. 4.75/5 stars.

The Narration: Bronson Pinchot continues to give a great voice for Raven and for Colton. His voice for President Diego continues to grate a bit. Pinchot’s female voices are feminine and his kid voices work well too. His calm creepy voices also work really well for our multiple bad guys. 4.75/5 stars.

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