Monday, August 26, 2013

Book Review: Billy Straight by Jonathan Kellerman

Billy Straight (Petra Connor #1) 
Author: Jonathan Kellerman
Released Date: 1999
Publisher: Warner Books

Kellerman isn't just an Edgar Award-winning thriller writer, he's a prominent child psychologist, and it shows in Billy Straight. The hero is a 12-year-old runaway whose sharp mind and straitlaced moral sense make him fit to survive the lurid jungles of Hollywood. One night hiding in Griffith Park, Billy witnesses the butchering of Lisa Ramsey, the cokehead ex-wife of Cart Ramsey, a crummy actor-golfer once busted for pummeling Lisa. Did Cart knife Lisa, or was it his pathetic old football sidekick Greg Balch?

When O.J. was on trial, Kellerman said, "This wouldn't make a good novel," but some of Kellerman's toughest critics say this funhouse-mirror version of an O.J.-like case is his best, better than his famous Alex Delaware series. Psychologist Dr. Delaware has a bit part here, but the heroine is Detective Petra Connor, his distaff equivalent. Kellerman's main strength is his vivid invention of secondary characters and his skill at juggling subplots. When Petra's media-whore boss puts Billy's police sketch in the paper with a $25,000 reward, two marvelously sub-simian bounty hunters join the chase: a vicious Russian ex-cop and the vile biker boyfriend of Billy's stoned-out, trailer-park mom.
*Goodreads Blurb*


My fifth Jonathan Kellerman read. As usual, I wasn’t disappointed.

When Billy Straight, a twelve-year-old runaway witnesses a gory murder at a park, he must do everything he can to protect himself from the unknown killer. The deceased is Lisa Boehlinger, a former model and ex-wife of Cart Ramsey, a TV star. Suspicion falls on Ramsey because Lisa had once publicly revealed how he beat her up. Detective Petra Connor and her partner Bishop Stu are called to investigate the case. When the case gets more complicated than they expect, and with Stu’s wife undergoing a mastectomy, Wil Fourrier joins them in the investigation.

A good mystery, fast-paced, and it pulls the emotional strings. Kellerman’s writing is superb. This book has a large cast of characters and the story is told from different point-of-views. The author does a good job of entering his characters’ head and telling the story the way they would tell it, using the kind of diction they’d use. Thus, you won’t encounter a twelve-year-old speaking like a detective, or a street hustler talking like a murderer. The whole California setting paints a solid image in the head. What’s more, Alex Delaware makes an appearance at the end of the book.

This is first book in the Petra Connor series, though I first encountered Petra in Twisted, my favorite Kellerman novel. I got to learn more about her background and her personality. I connected with her because she’s instinctive, caring, and she’s tough.  A good detective, but not a perfect one. Here, she tackles one of her major cases.

As a result of being tormented severally by his mother’s boyfriend, Billy Straight, the titular character leaves home. He moves to Hollywood and lives in the streets and parks for four months before he witnesses the murder. Jonathan Kellerman does well in capturing this kid’s voice. Billy steals book from the library to read, though he says it’s not stealing because he always returns the books he takes from the library.

Billy Straight is just one amazing book. A five Star read.

Check it out if you like mysteries. You won’t be disappointed.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Book Review: Necroscope by Brian Lumley

Author: Brian Lumley
Released Date: September 15th 1986
Publisher: Tor Books

Except to Harry Keogh, Necroscope. And what they tell him is horrifying.

In the Balkan mountains of Rumania, a terrible evil is growing. Long buried in hallowed ground, bound by earth and silver, the master vampire schemes and plots. Trapped in unlife, neither dead nor living, Thibor Ferenczy hungers for freedom and revenge.

The vampire's human tool is Boris Dragosani, part of a super-secret Soviet spy agency. Dragosani is an avid pupil, eager to plumb the depthless evil of the vampire's mind. Ferenczy teaches Dragosani the awful skills of the necromancer, gives him the ability to rip secrets from the mind and bodies of the dead. 

Dragosani works not for Ferenczy's freedom but world domination. he will rule the world with knowledge raped from the dead.

His only opponent: Harry Koegh, champion of the dead and the living.

To protect Harry, the dead will do anything--even rise from their graves!
*Goodreads Blurb*

I read Necroscope a long time ago (2003 or 2004, I think) I loved it. Recently, I stumbled across the novel and decided to read it again.

I still loved it.

Necroscope is one of the earliest paranormal/horror novels I read. It’s set during the Cold War era. It introduces a secret branch of a British espionage agency simply called E-branch. The Russians, too, have their own equivalent of the E-branch. These agencies, unlike other espionage agencies, use psychic investigators and spies to achieve their aims. And their agents are referred to as ESPers.

Harry Keogh is the Necroscope, a term he uses in describing his gift. He communicates with the dead; they freely tell him their secrets. They’re lonely, they need someone to talk to, so they enjoy talking with him. We follow Harry through his teenage years until he’s grown and learns of his mother’s death. Before then, his ambition had been to avenge her death but he soon discovers another bigger threat, a threat to the whole world.

Boris Dragosani.

Boris Dragosani is the Necromancer. He’s entirely different from Harry Keogh. Whereas the dead freely tell Harry their secret, Dragosani rips it from them, tears it from their guts and bones. The dead don’t feel pain, but when Dragosani works on them, they feel it. This gift had been passed to him from an undead vampire, Thibor Ferenzcy, also referred to as “The Thing in the ground” because for he’d for years been buried under the earth with his head intact.

Although Thibor Ferenzcy lies in the ground throughout most of the book, he remains a terrifying presence. He plans to use Dragosani to raise himself up. But unknown to him, Dragosani has different plans—world domination.

Can he dominate the world with Harry Keogh, champion of the dead, standing on his way?

You have to find out by reading this cool book.

I loved the book for its originality. It felt good seeing the vampires in a different light again. Here, the vampire is an evil creature. He’s not cool at all. He has no mercy on the humans. He doesn’t go to high school. He isn’t sexy, so you won’t even consider falling in love with him.

While I’ve read many books in which the story is told from the point of view of the protagonist only, Nescroscope is one of those few where we get the see the antagonist as much as we see the protagonist. And because I felt both characters had enough depth, I could connect with them.

In Nescrospe, there are other cool stuffs such as time travel. Using a technique called the Möbius Strip, Harry learns that he can use supernatural doors to move between time and space. He also learns how to summon a dead army. The last part of the book reminded me so much of Evil Dead and Army of Darkness, where we get to see the dead rise from their graves and march on to battle.

The book has a large cast of characters, but I didn’t get lost at all. Most of them were gifted people, and I was reminded of X-Men. I liked Harry Keogh and his cool gifts. I even liked some of the bad guys like Boris Dragosani, Gregor Borowitz. I liked “The Thing in the ground” because of his cunning nature, and I always enjoyed his conversation with Dragosani.

The first part of the book is slow-paced. It covers Harry’s early years and gives details about the Russian E-Branch. Thus making it different from the fast-paced books one reads nowadays. But it serves as a good background for the rest of the book, as well as the series. I hope to read the next book in the series soon.

You might enjoy this book if you don’t mind the wordiness. Just remember it was published during the late eighties; I think some readers didn’t mind wordiness or slow-pacing then, as much as they do now.

Necroscope is a five star read! (*****)

WARNING: Not for the light-hearted. There’s too much BLOOD, GORE and some GRAPHIC SEX here.

Monday, July 29, 2013

On Writing and...On The Beach Man

When I started writing The Beach Man, I had in mind to write a short story of 100 Words. I’d seen the 100 Word Stories Series in Uzoma’s Blog. I liked it, wanted to do something like that, and so I started with the first sentence that jumped in my head: The killer doesn't lift his eyes off me as he grabs the dagger on the table. And this first sentence began a horror/suspense series that would span 13 weekly episodes. The Beach Man was a fun, and sometimes difficult story to write, but the comments the wonderful readers always dropped kept on pushing me to finish the project.

I’ve always been scared about sharing my work for people to see. Waiting for Dami’s Whistle was the first story I ever shared on this blog, and somehow I love that it didn’t get any comments. That story needs some fixing, but then I’ve decided to leave it as it is. I want to have something I can look back on someday and say, “Oh, this was when I was an amateur writer.” No, I’m not saying I’ve become a professional. English isn’t even my native language, but I keep striving every day to see that I get better in my writing and in my life as a whole.

And then it makes me happy to know I have friends who’ve encouraged me in one way or the other to better my writing.

So, I want to say thanks again to everyone who followed The Beach Man: Robyn, Athina, Uzoma, the honorable Doc. Christopher, Omolara, Jennifer, Ezike Nwadiuto, Neso, E-face, Felix, Florentine, Bella, Chinyere. To Saka, for providing the picture of the beach man—the one you see in the cover.

I might have missed some people but I appreciate everyone who has ever stopped by this blog. By visiting this place, you’ve all being an encouragement to me. So a big “THANK YOU” to you! :)

Ps: I want to use this medium to request for critiques on The Beach Man if you have some time to spare. Robyn and Uzoma have suggested that I turn it into an e-book, so I’d love to brush it up. I’ll appreciate any and all comments. Thank you!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Book Review: The Associate by John Grisham

The Associate
Author: John Grisham 
Released Date:  January 1st 1999
Publisher: Century

It's a deadly game of blackmail. And they're making him play.

Kyle McAvoy is one of the outstanding legal students of his generation: he's good looking, has a brilliant mind and a glittering future ahead of him. But he has a secret from his past, a secret that threatens to destroy his entire life.

One night that secret catches up with him in the form of a deeply compromising video of the incident that haunts him. Kyle realises that he no longer owns his own future - that he must do as his blackmailers tell him, or the video will be made public, with all the unpleasant consequences.

What price do they demand for Kyle's secret? It is for Kyle to take a job in New York as an associate at the largest law firm in the world. Kyle won't be working for this company, but against it - passing on the secrets of it's biggest trial to date, a dispute worth billions of dollars to the victor.

Full of twists and turns and reminiscent of The Firm, The Associate is vintage John Grisham.
*Goodreads Blurb*


The Associate is my first John Grisham read, but I did not wholly enjoy it like I thought I would.

It tells the story of Kyle McAvoy, a twenty-five year old about to graduate from Law School and plans to work for a public-interest firm. One night a man appears with an incriminating video, secretly taken by a cell phone, which reveals the details of a drunken party few years earlier. The video contains evidence that some of Kyle’s friends may have slept with a girl who may have been unconscious at the time. There’s actually nothing to incriminate Kyle except that he was in the video, drunken and nude. And that’s embarrassing. Thus begins the blackmail: in order not to release the video to the public and to stop a potential rape allegation, Kyle has to work in one of the biggest law firms in the world and steal documents related to a lawsuit between two defence contractors.

Well, the blurb says the book is reminiscent of The Firm, but I haven’t read The Firm, so I can’t compare both books. The story spans a period of ten months. The beginning and middle of the books sets up the story in a fairly slow pace, showing what the life of a first year associate is like at a big Wall Street firm. Then the ending moves in a very fast, non-stop pace. I like John Grisham’s style of writing; there wasn’t too much legal jargon, but I was pleased to learn a few. The book is mainly set in New York, but we are transported back and forth to Pittsburg and York, Pennsylvania.

I liked the main character, Kyle McAvoy, felt some sympathy for him and the grave circumstance hanging over him. Although contemplative at times, I thought he was brave to match the blackmailer’s schemes. I think he’s the only character with enough depth in the story. I liked other characters like the beautiful Dale, who wears fine dresses; Joey Bernardo, Kyle’s friend from Yale University. But I didn’t connect with them. 

My put off with this book, however, was the ending. The last pages seemed rushed and there were lots of unanswered questions. It left me with a feeling like I’d eaten a good meal, but without any water to wash it down my throat. In other words, the meal got stuck in my throat and I couldn’t digest it.

Well, because I couldn’t digest this meal, I’m giving it 3 (***) Stars.

I’ll still check out other meals in the Grisham Restaurant. I think I’ll go for the ones prepared in the early nineties.

Ps: This is my 100th post! :) Thanks to everyone who's every stopped by this blog. You rock!

Monday, July 22, 2013

The 400-Word Story: The Beach Man #13


“You’re so naïve, Ifeoma,” the killer says when I stand before him. “You created me. Now you want to destroy me?  Why not think about what we could achieve together?”

I grip the handle of the basket harder. “I did not create you!”

“Your potion turned me into this. You’re to blame for everything I’ve ever done.”

“No,” I say, shaking my head. “My potion was for a peaceful transition to life after death. You should have walked away and be reincarnated like me. Yet you stayed back.”

“To avenge your death.”

“You killed everyone involved. Why didn’t you leave?” I spit on his face. “Because you’re evil!”

He scowls. “I’ll hunt you—”

I don’t wait for him to finish. I reach inside the basket, scoop a handful of salt, and hurl it at him. He shrieks, swings his hand towards me, but the entrapment chalk stops him. I reach for the salt again, toss another handful at him.

His body drops to the ground. He curls ups, shivering and whining. Like a dog.

I empty the remaining salt on him. He stiffens. Then, from his mouth, a cloud rises, forming a vague human form above the dead body. I take out the bowl of garlic, set it on the floor. I strike a match. Light the garlic. Then retreat backwards and stand beside Shola.

She reaches for my hand, and together we watch the killer.

He floats about in his true form, seeking for an exit. But soon the smoke from the garlic wears him down; he drops to the ground and begins to fade, until he is no more. Banished from Earth forever.

Shola hugs me with a sigh, and I put my hand around her as she sobs against my back. Tears roll down my face, dropping to the sand.

Finally, this torment is over.

In silence, we hold hands and walk towards the village, alone in the dark night.

The villagers would relax now. People would come to the beach on Sundays, without the fear of being killed. My bag is packed already. I know where to go next.

The hospital.

Because he didn’t want me devastated, Uchenna lied to me about our parents—they had actually sustained some burns in the fire and were in the intensive care unit now.

They need my comfort in this difficult time.

And my healing hands, as well.


Footnote: This is the final episode of The Beach Man, a 400-Word Blog Series. I hope you enjoyed it. For the first episode, click HERE.

Thanks for reading! Thanks again to everyone who’s followed the series. Can I say another thanks? Well, thanks.

Okay, a special post comes up next Monday.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The 400-Word Story: The Beach Man #12


A cold wind blows against me as the killer closes the gap between us. Staring at his new borrowed body, I steady myself, careful not to reveal any trace of the entrapment chalk underneath my bare feet.

“Look who’s here.” He grins, brushing my cheek with the back of his palms. “My sweet Ifeoma.”

“These people wronged you and…” I swallow hard. “They also wronged me, but please stop the killing.”

He shakes his head. “You should try it.”


“I mean, try piercing a dagger through someone. Watch their lifeblood seep away.” He smiles. “And then that fearful look in their eyes…oh, it gives me this feeling of pure ecstasy. You really should try it.”

“I’m tired of…I’m just…” I break into a sob.

He puts his arms around me, patting my back gently. I lean against his chest, and an overwhelming feeling of familiarity settles upon me—there used to be a time when he’d return from hunting, and I’d prepare his kill for dinner. He cared so much for me then, even resisted pressures from his family to marry a new wife because I couldn’t bear him a child. He was a good husband.

Now he's…a killer.

A demon!

Suddenly I remember. Under my feet. Chalk.

Holding him closer, I slide my left foot around him in a curving motion, making sure it doesn’t lift from the sand. I do the same with my right foot, until it connects with the arc from the left.

The killer looks at me, sober expression in his eyes. “I missed holding you like this.”

I swing a punch at his jaw and jump backwards.

He tries moving towards me but stops in mid-action. He looks down, sees the chalk circling him. Then he looks at me, his eyes wide with fear.

I smile. “Tricked you fool.”

Just then Shola emerges from the cluster of coconut trees in the right, clutching a small basket. “I thought I’d totally lost you to the past.”

“Let me do the rites.”

She hands the basket to me. I look inside: a bowl of salt, another bowl of dried, sliced garlic, and a box of matches.

Salt ejects a demon from its host body. Smoke from burning garlic weakens the demon and banishes it from Earth forever.

The killer begins to tremble as I walk towards him; he knows I’ve done this so many times.

Footnote: This is the twelfth episode of The Beach Man, a 400-Word Blog Series.
Click HERE for the next episode.

Thanks for reading! And stay tuned for the thirteenth episode next Monday.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Book Review: The Cobra Event by Richard Preston

The Cobra Event
Author: Richard Preston
Released Date: August 29th 1998
Publisher: Ballantine Books

Five days ago. a homeless man on a subway platform died in agony as startled commuters looked on. Yesterday, a teenager started having violent, uncontrollable spasms in art class. Within minutes, she too was dead.

Dr. Alice Austen is a medical pathologist at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. What she knows is that the two deaths are connected. What she fears is that they are only the beginning…

*Goodreads Blurb*


It begins with a common cold. You find yourself blowing your nose every moment. You sneeze occasionally. You take some cold syrup. The syrup doesn’t help. You feel even worse. You're drifting apart. Someone’s talking to you, but you aren’t paying any attention. You feel weak and weary and disoriented. And then you suddenly drop to the floor, thrashing around violently. You feel strange blisters in your mouth. Next you begin to chew your lips and the insides of your mouth in relish. You know you’re hurting yourself but you just can’t help it. Then your spine begins to curve backward and backward, until you…

Sounds creepy, right?

Well, I’ve just described how the Cobra virus works.

The Cobra Event is a realistic science fiction. It’s about a virus, Cobra, which affects the brain and turns one into a monster, killing oneself from inside.

A homeless man dies on a subway platform. Days later, a teenager dies under strange circumstances. Dr. Alice Austen of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta is sent to New York to examine what seems like an outbreak of a disease. Along with her fellow scientists, she discovers this disease is actually a virus, released by an unknown terrorist, with strong indications of a bigger release to come soon. What follows is a flurry of scientific activities as they battle to discover the properties of this new virus, because doing that would help identify the terrorist.

This is one of those kinds of books I refer to as edutainment. I learnt much scientific stuff while reading. I was entertained by the chilling story as well. There were lots of biological and medical stuffs I liked in the book. I was distracted, though, by some of the expositions. The author seemed to explain everything, and with too many details, the reading experience felt like science lecture sometimes. I was detached a bit, but I kept on reading because I wanted to see how everything ends, though I predicted rightly who would and who wouldn’t survive.

About the characters, I didn’t really connect with any of them. I felt they didn’t have much depth. The bad guy, a scientist-turned-terrorist, however, was a real bad guy.

Overall, I’d say The Cobra Event is a wonderful read. I loved the chills it gave me—sometimes I stopped to wonder what if the air I were breathing was filled with virus particles. That’s what this book does to you. It shows you what a bioterrorist attack could look like today. I’d have given it more stars if the first part of the book didn’t drag out. The last fifty pages, with its fired shots and explosions, were the best parts.

I recommend this book to anyone who loves a good medical thriller and who doesn’t mind lectures while reading fiction. The author has some really great nonfiction books.

You’ll love this book if you’re a Michael Crichton fan.

So, here goes my three (***) stars to The Cobra Event.