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downloadI like Robert McCammon’s books, although I wouldn’t call myself a fan. The exception if Boy’s Life. I’ve probably read this book four times now, and I rarely read a book more than once because I have so many of them in my “To Read” pile. There’s something magical about Boy’s Life, though.

When I read it the first time, I thought that it would be a horror novel as most of McCammon’s novels are. However, while there are some scary moments in the book, by and large, it is a coming-of-age story unlike any other.

The story centers around Cory Jay Mackenson who lives in the small Alabama town of Zephyr in the 1960’s. The books is essentially a series of vignettes about his life and the unusual happenings in the town. There’s bootleggers, water monsters unleashed by a flood, a dog that won’t die because it is too loved, and an ancient dinosaur in a carnival sideshow.

All of these stories are held loosely together with a mystery. Cory and his father see a car go off the road and into the town lake, which is said to be bottomless. Cory’s father dives into the lake to help and sees a naked corpse handcuffed to the steering wheel. It’s a sight that haunts him.

The story is beautifully written. If there is one thing wrong with it, it’s that I found the subplots vastly more interesting than what was supposed to be the main story.

Although my childhood was ten years later, I can still see elements of it in McCammon’s storytelling. He tells a beautiful story through the eyes of a young boy. It has the sense of wonder that children experience.

While To Kill a Mockingbird is a wonderful coming-of-age story that is accurate and believable, Boy’s Life captures the magic of a young boy’s life.

I remember building forts and fighting fake monsters and bad guys. I remember my friends and I riding bikes, racing go-karts, and exploring the woods behind where I lived. We had once place where we would play and pretend that it was another world.

When I read Boy’s Life, I think back on my childhood and think that if what I used to imagine had been real, it would have been a lot like Boy’s Life.

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imagesI stumbled on Jackaby at a book signing that I was doing in Winchester, Va. A placard described it as Doctor Who meets Sherlock Holmes. Being a fan of both Doctor Who and the Sherlock, I was intrigued. I thought my youngest son would enjoy it since he is even a bigger Doctor Who than I am. I bought him a copy since I keep trying to get him to read more when all he wants to do is play Five Nights at Freddy’s.

I still don’t think he has read the book, but I bought a ebook novella about R. F. Jackaby called The Map. I really enjoyed that story so I decided not to wait for my son to give me his opinion of the book. I decided to read it.

I loved it. It is definitely a cross between Doctor Who and Sherlock, and you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy it.

The story is told from the viewpoint of Abigail Rook, a young woman who comes to New Fiddleham in New England looking for work in 1892.

She meets R. F. Jackaby, a quirky individual to say the least. He is in need of an assistant. All of his previous assistants have quit on him, except the for the one that was turned into a duck. Yes, a duck.

Jackaby investigates the supernatural, unexplained and unusual. He understands the supernatural and can see mythical creatures that most others can’t. However, sometimes, he’s not so good about the details.

That’s where Abigail comes in. She catches the details at a crime scene. Together, they begin to work together to solve a series of murders that Jackaby believes is leading to something much larger. They are aided by a young detective named Charlie Cane, who has his own secret to hide.

The similarities to Sherlock Holmes are easy to spot. Detective and assistant, who tells the story. Victorian era setting, although this story is in America. Attention to details, although Abigail has this talent.

The Doctor Who similarity comes from Jackaby’s personality. As I read the book, I couldn’t help but picture Matt Smith’s performance as The Doctor. I could even picture Jackaby dressed as The Doctor did in the Christmas special episode “The Snowmen.” The Doctor also has clever assistants who are generally females. Plus, the supernatural monsters are more the style of Doctor Who.

Jackaby is a fun story filled with action and mystery in a very unusual, yet familiar world. I will say, guessing who the killer was, wasn’t that hard, though I had no idea what the killer was.

Besides this book and the short story, there is also a sequel that I haven’t read yet and a third book on the way so Jackaby is turning into a nice series that I will be following.

a7e3a582a5939d56e64ce62c407a426aI like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels. I haven’t seen Tom Cruise playing him in the movies and I don’t think I will since I have a certain picture of Reacher in my mind and Cruise would destroy that. I liked 61 Hours even though I figured most of it out early in the book. It was still a fun adventure, though. I particularly liked how Reacher is definitely a warm-weather person and can’t handle the South Dakota winters.

61 Hours starts with Reacher getting stuck in a small (but growing) town of Bolton, S.D., after the bus he is riding on slides into a ditch. From there, he gets involved with the local police in trying to protect an old woman who witnessed a drug transaction that can bring down a huge gang of bikers. The problem is that the police know that someone has been sent to kill her.

I found myself liking a side story between Reacher and the new commander of his old unit, Susan Turner. He has to call her for a favor in trying to figure out who is after the witness whose name is Janet Salter. This begins a series of calls as the two of them exchange information and get to know each other or at least as well as someone can know Reacher. He even helps Susan catch a killer whom she is after just by her giving him a briefing of the case.

It an action-packed ride with a slightly ambiguous conclusion, though you know Reacher survives, otherwise there wouldn’t be a series anymore. I’ll have to check to see if there have been anymore since this one.

I’m sure I am now reading the books out of order. That’s one of the nice things about the series. Each book is a stand-alone title with little connection to any of the other books in the series.

            No Witnesses is the first Ridley Pearson novel that I’ve read. It’s obviously part of a series and not the first one in the series so it took me a few chapters to get a feel for the characters. I think this would have been easier if I had started with book one.

The story centers around a person who is tampering with food in the Seattle area. People die from his tampering and it seems like he will continue to increase the amount of food that he tampers with.

Lou Boldt, a Seattle homicide detective, and Daphne Matthews, a psychologist who works with the police, are the main characters in the series and they undertake the investigation.

Things get complicated when it becomes apparent that Matthews boyfriend’s food company is the target of the person doing the tampering.

Once I got into the book, it really seemed to move at a nice pace. My problem was that it took me awhile to reach that point. The book is also 11 years old at this point and believe it or not, some of the technology used in it struck me as a little dated. I read historical novels, too, so this wasn’t a big point for me to get past, though it might be for some people.

Other than Boldt and Matthews, I really didn’t feel much of a connection with any of the other characters. Boldt reminds me of Harry Bosch in Michael Connelly’s books.

 

Fever Dream was the first book I’ve read by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. It features FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast who I pictured in my mind a young Col. Sanders. He is a Southern gentleman who comes from a once-wealthy family. Though Fever Dream isn’t the first book featuring Pendergast, this one delves into his discovery that his wife, who has believed was killed accidentally on a safari a dozen years earlier, was actually murdered.

He calls on his friend, NYPD Detective Vincent D’Agosta, to help him try and investigate a case that has long since grown cold. It also appears to be linked to a long-lost painting done by the famous naturalist John James Audubon while he was in a sanitarium.  As the investigation continues, Pendergrast is forced to admit that he did not know his wife as well as he thought he did.

I enjoyed this book a lot. I got into it quickly and was able to get up to speed on the characters, though I still unsure of how some of the relationships were formed. For instance, D’Agosta’s girlfriend seemed very suspicious of Pendergast because of his past actions. I am guessing there is some justification for this if I read some of the earlier books.

The one thing I didn’t like about the book is that it seems to leave you hanging. I hope it is something that is tied up in the book that follows, but it left me a little unsatisified and disappointed.

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