Cheri Reviews Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

While poking around on NetGalley some months ago, I saw Before the Fall and thought it sounded interesting. The fact that the author wrote on the TV show Fargo helped in my decision to request the book since some friends have said good things about it. By the time I got around to reading it, I had forgotten everything the blurb said except there was a plane crash and a man saved a little boy. I also listened to the audio book instead of reading the ebook. One of the benefits of being terribly delinquent in NetGalley reading is that the audio books are sometimes available at my public library.

The blurb on Amazon is pretty long but here it is if you’re interested:

On a foggy summer night, eleven people–ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter–depart Martha’s Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs–the painter–and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul’s family.

With chapters weaving between the aftermath of the crash and the backstories of the passengers and crew members–including a Wall Street titan and his wife, a Texan-born party boy just in from London, a young woman questioning her path in life, and a career pilot–the mystery surrounding the tragedy heightens. As the passengers’ intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy. Was it merely by dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating storm of media outrage and accusations. And while Scott struggles to cope with fame that borders on notoriety, the authorities scramble to salvage the truth from the wreckage.

Amid pulse-quickening suspense, the fragile relationship between Scott and the young boy glows at the heart of this stunning novel, raising questions of fate, human nature, and the inextricable ties that bind us together.

I just read the blurb again and I have to say there really wasn’t any pulse-quickening suspense and I didn’t think the relationship between Scott and the boy was fragile or at the heart of the novel. Scott was certainly at the heart of the novel but after the crash, he didn’t have that much contact with the kid. What was at the heart of the novel, for me, was the way the right-wing, Fox News-like anchor (think Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh had a love child) twisted the facts of the story, and the law, to advance his own agenda. Sensationalism and ego were all that mattered to him and maybe it was just a bit too close to reality for me. I spent a lot of time grinding my teeth or talking out loud during his sections.

Along with finding out about what had been going on with the passengers and crew before the crash and what Scott and a few others were up to after the crash, there was also the mystery of what happened to cause the plane to drop out of the sky. There was really no point in the book prior to the reveal that I had it completely right. So not only were the characters well done, the mystery was well done, too. And while some words and phrases were used a bit too often for my liking and some scenes seemed to drag or made me wonder why they were included at all, in general, the writing and language were enjoyable. The moving back and forth between before the crash and after worked very well. I was never irritated, that I can remember, when a time or POV shift happened and I liked the author’s choice of omniscient POV. I’d definitely read another book by the author. All things considered, I’m a satisfied reader!

You can download a sample or purchase Before the Fall by clicking here.

Cheri Reviews The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

Like many other folks who read The Cuckoo’s Calling, I eagerly awaited the publication of the sequel, The Silkworm. As soon as I could, I pre-ordered it on and checked my account at least hourly on release day to see if it was available yet. It seemed to take forever but, eventually, I was able to download it to my tablet and get to listening.

Before I go any further, here’s the book’s blurb from Amazon:

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days–as he has done before–and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives–meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.

When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before…

A compulsively readable crime novel with twists at every turn, THE SILKWORM is the second in the highly acclaimed series featuring Cormoran Strike and his determined young assistant, Robin Ellacott.

Sounds good, right? I know! And it was good. Very good. I want to say right off that I love Cormoran Strike. In some ways, he’s such a tragic character. With the exception of his now thriving private detective business, his life mostly sucks. He’s alone, living in the attic flat above his office, he has near constant pain and troubles with his leg, which he lost from the knee down while in the Army, and he seems to be noticing his assistant, Robin, in ways that he probably shouldn’t be. But business is good and Strike has taken on a case that he actually cares about when he decides to help Mrs. Quine find her wayward husband.

I’m not going to get into the story itself much because I think the blurb does a great job of letting you know what the book is about. What I will say is that, with few exceptions, all of the characters were interesting and unique. These didn’t feel like cookie-cutter, two-dimensional characters just filling space on the virtual page (I listened to the audio book, remember). They each felt genuine, if sometimes over the top. But knowing a few intensely narcissistic authors personally who would have fit in with those in the book, it still felt within the realm of possibility.

For the most part, I couldn’t stop listening. There were several portions of the book that I listened to more than once because didn’t quite get what was going on. This happened almost solidly during the sections describing Quine’s book, which was bizarre and disturbing, just as his death was bizarre and disturbing. Galbraith (JK Rowling) can write some twisted shit. Seriously. And I loved it. I spent much of the book moving between one character to the next as I thought I had the murderer pegged. Yeah, I was wrong every damn time.

I cannot wait until the next book in the series is published. I hope she’s nearly done with it because I want more of Strike and Robin. But not Strike and Robin together. I don’t want to see Cormoran happily in love. Not with anyone. I’d be fine with having him unrequitedly in love, though. I know that’s very selfish of me but since he’s pretend, I don’t feel too badly about it. I love tragic Cormoran Strike. I can’t even imagine him with a happy home life to go to at the end of the day. Nope, can’t see it.

What I want you to take from this rambling review is this: I enjoyed this book immensely and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a dark thriller with great characters. Great and awful characters.

You can download a sample or purchase The Silkworm by clicking here.

The Newsflesh Series by Mira Grant

Welcome new reviewer, Kate!

The thing about a zombie apocalypse is: I like our chances. I’ve seen Romero movies. I’ve seen Shaun of the Dead. I know what and what not to do, and I think you do too. In this trilogy Grant imagines zombies rising in our near future, and the human race survives. Granted, the human race survives alongside the undead, because zombies are nothing if not pervasive, but we move on.

These books take place about twenty years post-apocalypse, and the world is hardly a wasteland. Feed is a novel about three young reporters following a presidential campaign. If the candidate they happen to be following is targeted for assassination by zombies, it certainly doesn’t make the story less interesting. There is just as much political thriller in these books as science fiction, for all that the explanation of the living dead is a virulently interesting one. Of course, I also loved the way Grant explored the evolution of our technology. We become very good at blood tests and the invasion of privacy twenty years after the zombie apocalypse.

Unfortunately, the interpersonal relationships in this series grossed me out more than the zombie slaying, blood splattering, and needle injections combined. If incest triggers for you give these a miss, but if you were able to make it past the first Game of Thrones novel, you’ll probably be fine.

Overall, these are three great zombie novels, because they aren’t about zombies. They are about integrity, moral leadership, and, above all, telling the truth.

Newsflesh Series on Amazon