Tag Archives: well-developed characters

Indiana Wants Me

13 Million Dollar Pop: A Frank Behr Novel by David Levien (Doubleday; $24.95; 304 pages)

“I know these streets/ I’ve been here before/ I nearly got killed here…/ Something always/ Keeps me coming back for more.”   Bob Dylan (If You Go to Houston)

David Levien’s 13 Million Dollar Pop is, in many ways, a typical crime/mystery/thiller-type tale.   Short chapters move the reader along at a brisk pace, action scenes are piled upon action scenes, and a number of engaging plot twists and turns make for intrigue along the way.   However, what separates this book from others of its kind is that it is more than an action tale.   The main characters are developed at a deeper level than most books of this genre, and the reader actually gets close to and begins to care about what happens to them.

Ex-Marine Frank Behr works for a security guard agency in Indianapolis, and when he’s asked by a co-worker to switch detail, he nearly takes a bullet.   Behr is unable to let the wheels of justice turn on their own terms and takes matters into his own hands.   While in pursuit of the facts behind the attempted hit, Behr encounters a multitude of shady characters, including politicians, assassins, real estate agents, lobbyists, hookers, and porn pushers.

Throughout his quest for the truth, and the killer (who turns his attention to Behr in an attempt to clean up a job gone wrong) Behr must balance a delicate personal life that includes a pregnant girlfriend.   Few are left standing when the dust settles.

To author Levien – “Job well done.”

Well recommended.

Dave Moyer

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   “Levien is the new must-read thriller writer.”   Lee Child, author of The Affair: A Reacher Novel.

Dave Moyer is the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.

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The Finer Things

Real Life & Liars: A Novel by Kristina Riggle (William Morrow Paperbacks; $13.99; 327 pages)

It seems to me that growing older means a growing collection of paths not taken.   More and more “what-ifs” left behind.

With the onset of Mirabelle (Mira) Zielinski’s thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, and the anticipation of reuniting with her family, Mira has a great deal to be proud of:  a loving husband, three healthy children and three loving grandchildren.   But the reality of life and disappointments have settled in as Mira contemplates the past sixty years.

Katya, Mira’s oldest daughter, appears to have the perfect life.   A wealthy husband, a spotless home, a thriving business and three children who have everything they have ever wanted.   Yet Mira speculates that her daughter’s desire to always want to fit in and have the best of everything may have resulted in a mundane marriage to a husband addicted to his job and three spoiled, disrespectful children.

Ivan, Mira’s talented son, writes songs and works in a school inspiring children.   However, he has never been recognized as an artist and his abysmal taste in women has left him lonely and desolate.

Irina, the baby, is beautiful and spontaneous.   Yet when she comes for the weekend announcing that she is pregnant and introduces her husband, who is twice her age, Mira suspects she has hit her all-time low.

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”   Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Mira clings to her hippie past as she rebels against conforming and endures her loving, yet distracted, husband who is engaged in writing a major novel.   Her ideals of life and self-worth are challenged with the recent tragedy she is refusing to deal with.

As the family reunites for a long celebratory weekend, each will have to face their own fears and realities as secrets are revealed and truths uncovered.   They will be challenged to redefine their understanding of one another and their own destinies.   Mira may experience the greatest surprise as she is forced to contemplate how blessed she truly is and how happiness and peace are found in even the most surprising of circumstances.

Kristina Riggle presents her story with sincere family dynamics that anyone with siblings or children can relate to.   Her characters are well-developed and so clearly defined that you will become attached to their story as if you’re part of the family.   Riggle writes with the ease and grace of a veteran writer.   It is hard to believe that this was her debut novel.   I look forward to reading more from Kristina Riggle!

Well recommended.

Kelly Monson

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   “Funny, sad and utterly believable.”   Elizabeth Letts, author of Family Planning.

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Running On Empty

She’s Gone Country: A Novel by Jane Porter (5 Spot; $13.99; 384 pages)

Coping with imposed life changes is the main theme for Jane Porter’s new novel, She’s Gone Country.   The central character, Shey Darcy, is an almost-forty-year-old former fashion model whose image appeared in Vogue and in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.   Shey’s glamorous life in New York City is cut short when her husband declares that he’s gay and wants a divorce.  

What follows is a sprint back to Shey’s roots in Texas.   She takes her two sons to live in her mom’s house on a sprawling family-owned ranch in a bid to feel more secure.   This is a tale of growing up to reality and grasping a sense of how to navigate life when the veneer of New York life’s distractions is peeling away.

Author Jane Porter presents the story in a stream of consciousness first person narrative in the present tense.   Shey is stuck in her feelings about the life she has been forced to leave behind.   She dwells on her husband’s betrayal, the trials of motherhood and her very shaky self-image.   Shey’s monologue is often repetitive, and it is a perfect example of self-talk by the mind vs. being in the now, as detailed in Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.   Shey loses her way, her sense of now and she’s stuck trying to cope with her brain chatter.

An odd combination of contrasts crop up throughout the story.   Men are generally described as hunky or highly attractive, and comfortable with old cars and the peeling paint on the Texas ranch house where Shey lives.   Women are depicted less charitably.   Porter describes their actions and fashion choices in a way that is just shy of brutal.

The notion of raising boys is foreign to this reviewer, but Jane Porter is the mother of three boys.   She makes it seem like a lot more work than having girls.   Even though the story is told in the first person, the feelings and actions of the other characters are well-developed.   This is especially true for Shey’s two sons.   Each has his own personality and needs as together they struggle with having been uprooted from post private school city life and plopped down onto a small country setting.

Since this book is clearly of the chic lit genre, it was amazing to this reviewer that the most sympathy and tears were brought out by someone other than the main character – who knew?

This is a most enjoyable read for women of a certain age.   Recommended.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A review copy was provided by Hachette Book Group U.S.A.   She’s Gone Country was released by 5 Spot on August 23, 2010.

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