Review: Pressure by Jeff Strand (audiobook)



My original Pressure audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.

Pressure can be defined as the exertion of force upon something by something else, as well mental or physical distress. Either definition is appropriate for Jeff Strand’s aptly titled suspense thriller, Pressure. At its core, this a story of two forces impacting one another, forcefully and violently, and the result is a hefty dose of distress.

Alex and Darren are two boarding school brats, their friendship cemented by a late-night excursion into the woods behind a strip club, where they hide out and hope to catch sight of the action inside. Darren, though, has a secret, and once Alex and their schoolmates discover Darren’s morbid fascinations nothing is the same. What follows is a decades-long story of friendship, adversarial rivalry, and gruesome deeds that can only leave one of them alive.

Strand does a terrific job building his characters, giving them enough dimension and subtle shadings to make them relateable, even if you don’t particularly want to relate to them. And although Darren’s actions are often outside the din of understanding, you at least get what motivates him, even if the results are terribly aberrant. Alex is a solid every-man character caught up in a situation beyond his control and struggling to cope, struggling to make sense, and, mostly, struggling to find a solution to the problem that is Darren. The first-person viewpoint Strand uses allows us to see the world from Alex’s point of view, and while the story itself is pretty pitch-black, Strand, via Alex, is able to interject enough levity and enduring positivity to keep Pressure from collapsing under its own misery.

Pressure is narrated by Scott Thomas, whose voice talents I greatly enjoyed in a prior Strand title, Wolf Hunt. Here, Thomas exhibits a nice a range and listeners are unlikely to confuse characters during stretches of dialogue. While the story belongs to Alex, Thomas injects plenty of different voices and speech styles to mark the other characters that inhabit Pressure. Soundwise, this is a cleanly narrated book, with terrific production quality and no technical issues to speak of.

Clocking in at seven hours, Pressure is a solid psychological suspense thriller with dashes of Strand’s typical wry humor, and packed with plenty of history between the central antagonist and his nemesis. It’s entertaining, occasionally bleak, but highly worthy of attention. Between the two works I’ve listened to that Strand and Thomas have collaborated on, I think it’s fair to say they make quite a good team. As long as Strand keeps writing, and Thomas keeps giving a voice to those words, I’ll be listening.

[Audiobook provided for review by the]


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Review: Pressure by Jeff Strand (audiobook)

Review: Order to Kill by Kyle Mills





When Mitch Rapp returned last year with the help of a new author following the death of his creator, Vince Flynn, I was initially skeptical. Kyle Mills proved to be an adept writer fully capable of handling Flynn’s characters though, and The Survivor won me over pretty quickly. Order to Kill proves that Mill’s prior effort was hardly a fluke or one-off. Mills is not only capable of taking on Flynn’s rough-and-ready CIA assassin, but shows he’s the natural heir apparent to continue this series for the foreseeable future.

This fifteenth installment, which picks up mere weeks after the finale of The Survivor, finds Mitch Rapp squaring off against a Russian assassin who is not only Rapp’s equal, but may be even better. This is framed within a story of rogue Pakistani nukes and ISIS idiots, and a particularly violent, and personal, attack that strikes close to Rapp’s heart when a mission goes awry.

The most important element here for me, and one that I think Mills did a superb job with, was making Rapp a bit more three dimensional and human. In his latter books, Flynn was turning Rapp into very nearly a caricature of his former self, with his with-me-or-against-me attitude and desire to kill anybody who dared to disagree with him. Mills, thankfully, has dialed that way back and we see a Mitch Rapp who may finally be emerging from the darkness brought on by his wife’s death and who isn’t afraid to feel. While this certainly is not a guy who will soon be crying into his cup o’ tea anytime soon, there are certain events that occur here to remind Rapp that he is at least human and we see a man now seeking to reconnect with the people around him after so many devastating losses.

It’s these losses that I feel also highlight Mills work over these last two books. The operators and assassins of these novels are certainly men and women who fit into the Hero Worship mold pretty easily, and there’s a lot of extrajudicial fantasy stuff that goes into them (somebody says something about the Constitution you don’t like? Well, just snap their neck and grab a can of Coke afterward! And while we’re on the fantasy aspect, the next time one of these jihadist morons refers to our Christian Constitution, could we please have Rapp correct that erroneous, much too-widespread misunderstanding of this secular document before cracking their skull apart?), but too often they feel like larger-than-life superheroes. Mills has been working hard to make these people human, and while the characters are unquestionably adept and skilled at their jobs, they can still be hurt (and quite badly, at that) and killed. The Survivor presented a big shake-up to the status quo, and Order to Kill packs a certain punch of its own kind with a long-time series regular in serious danger.

Thanks to Kyle Mills, Order to Kill is one of the best, and certainly most satisfying, Mitch Rapp novels in quite some time. With high-stakes action and some much-needed emotional development, and perhaps even a hint of romance to come, for our series hero, fans of Vince Flynn can rest easy with Mills at the helm.

[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title for review from the publisher, as part of their #MitchRappAmbassador Program.]



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Review: Order to Kill by Kyle Mills

Sept. 2016 Read and Reviewed Roundup

Happy October! It’s hard to believe we’re closing in on the end of another year. Halloween is coming up soon, and it’ll be a short jaunt from there to Thanksgiving, and Christmas will rear up fast after that. Yowza.

In hindsight, September was pretty busy and hectic. On a personal note, it was my son’s very first birthday. My baby has grown into a little boy, and he’s hitting all the right milestones pretty much on target. He is also thoroughly a mama’s boy, big-time, but I on occasion he’s willing to tolerate me and I can get to make him laugh, which always feels amazing. His birthday required a good deal of preparation as we gathered the family at a park for kiddo’s cake smash, which he enjoyed quite a lot. By the end of that, he was pretty covered in frosting and smiling exhaustedly. I think I was even more tired than him by the end of it all, though.

Book-wise, I read, mostly, a lot of good stuff and some very, very good stuff. Chills hit some sweet spots for me, but Barry Eisler’s upcoming release, Livia Lone, was easily the best book of the month for me.

  1. Red Right Hand by Chris Holm
  2. The X-Files: The Truth Is Out There (audiobook), edited by Jonathan Maberry
  3. Devils In Dark Houses by B.E. Scully
  4. Out by Natsuo Kirino (audiobook)
  5. Chills by Mary SanGiovanni
  6. The Warren by Brian Evenson
  7. Livia Lone by Barry Eisler
  8. Stranded by Bracken MacLeod
  9. Corpse Rider by Tim Curran
  10. Ship the Kids on Ahead by Bill Stokes (audiobook)

Looking ahead a bit, expect a review on the latest Vince Flynn novel, Order to Kill, by Kyle Mills soonish. I’m reading a paperback ARC of it, which the publishers were kind enough to send my way after selecting me to be a Mitch Rapp Ambassador. I was pretty geeked about that! And I just bought the latest Alastair Reynolds title, Revenger, which is sitting pretty on my Kindle. Hopefully I can get to that one next!

Sept. 2016 Read and Reviewed Roundup

Review: Livia Lone by Barry Eisler



Livia Lone may be the darkest, and most accomplished, book from Barry Eisler yet. I’ve been a long-time reader of Eisler’s work, and a big fan of his series character, John Rain, but early on into his latest I found myself already needing more Livia Lone books. It may be heretical, but as much as I love Eisler’s mournful assassin, if, for whatever reason, we never hear from John Rain again, I’ll be OK as long as there’s plenty more of Livia Lone to fill the gap.

Livia is a tragic, tortured, and psychologically fascinating character. She’s also incredibly strong and capable, both mentally and physically, and is a protector at heart. Sold into slavery alongside her sister by her parents, Livia and Nason are shipped across the ocean from Thaliand to the USA, and separated along the way. Although Livia was rescued and adopted, the whereabouts of her sister are a mystery that has driven her for more than a decade, and she now works a police detective in the sex crimes division of Seattle PD. She also has some less than legal extracurricular activities targeting rapists.

Right from the get-go, Eisler tackles rape culture and male privilege with an appropriately seedy and disturbing examination of a would-be rapists mindset, and had me instantly rooting for Livia.

Although Lone metes out some incredibly satisfying vigilante justice, Eisler never fails to shy away from the grotesqueness of the world she inhabits. This is not a feel good read, and much of the book made me downright uncomfortable and disgusted. Livia Lone is absolutely brutal, and oftentimes quite graphic, in its depictions of human trafficking, violence, child abuse, and rape. The streaks of hope that do sparingly exist herein are fueled by revenge, and Livia’s willingness to overcome whatever obstacles are put in her way. While she may get beaten down, she refuses to be defeated, even at a young age. A dragon resides within her, and when she lets it loose, woe be to anyone stupid enough to get in her way.

Livia Lone is stark and uncompromising, bleak but rewarding. Like his titular heroine, Eisler does not pull any punches here, and although it often left me despairing for humanity I think it’s a better book for it. And Livia, herself, is a heroine that I need much more of.

[Note: I received an advanced copy of this for review from the publisher via NetGalley.]


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Review: Livia Lone by Barry Eisler

Review: Red Right Hand by Chris Holm



The premise of Chis Holm’s latest series is simple – Michael Hendricks is a hitman who kills other hitmen – and, with Red Right Hand, the second entry after last year’s The Killing Kind, Holm is already showing there’s enough elasticity in this concept to make Hendricks a welcome new anti-hero for thriller buffs.

After a terror attack in San Francisco, Hendricks is put on the tail of a retired killer, one thought long-dead by the FBI, in the hopes of moving one step closer to bringing down the global criminal enterprise known as The Council. Along the way, his path toward revenge against The Council gets a bit bumpier than anticipated, which is bad for Hendricks but good for readers since it gives Holm plenty of chances to write nifty action sequences as his characters stomp around SanFran and engage in some long, twisty games of cat and mouse. (Movie Geek note: action film fans will likely recognize some of the tertiary character’s names as being lovingly borrowed from a few Hollywood directors, and you can feel the cinematic influences seeping into the pages here. Seriously fun stuff!)

In terms of characterization, Holm is free to allow Hendricks to run wild, having already previously established this dude’s background and place in society. Some additional details to Hendricks’s personality are shaded in, giving him a welcome touch of humanity even as his overall mission plan maintains an appropriate level of gray. His relationship with tech-savvy Cameron is fun, and she’s a new character here that I hope gets additional time to shine in future volumes. And although Hendricks is, by and large, a “good guy,” he’s still a pretty far cry from being a saint despite having a strong moral compass. His job as a hitter of hitmen is largely dependent on the targeted victim being able to pay an exorbitant fee and determine just how much his or her life is actually worth in order to properly motivate and secure Michael’s assistance. The lack of pure altruism is what makes this guy so interesting to me, and I’m hoping we’ve got a good number of Hendricks titles ahead of us as the years go on.

Lesser authors, I suspect, would be tempted to take the premise of ‘killer of killers’ and merely cut-and-paste their prior efforts and slap a new title on it. Red Right Hand avoids this, and while the series premise remains strongly intact, Holm puts enough wrinkles into the story to twist expectations enough to keep things feeling fresh. Setting his story against the backdrop of a terror investigation raises the stakes, while also putting a bit more meat on the bones of the story’s framework without dulling the thrills. Holm manages an easy, breezy pacing and keeps things chugging along seemingly effortlessly.

[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title for review from the publisher via NetGalley/Edelweiss.]


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Review: Red Right Hand by Chris Holm

eBook Sale – But Buy Quick!

To celebrate the release of my latest story, Let Go, I’m running a limited-time sale on my other works. My two novel length sci-fi works are on sale for only 99c as part of a Kindle Countdown Deal, and my short stories, Revolver and Consumption, are freeLet Go is available for only 99c, as well. These deals will be in effect for two days only – today and tomorrow – so act fast.

Click the links below to buy!


Let Go99c



Convergence (A DRMR Novel Book 1) – 99c

Emergence (A DRMR Novel Book 2)99c

eBook Sale – But Buy Quick!

Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch


Dark Matter

As a new parent, it’s rare that I’ll trade anything, let alone some extra time at night, for some precious, much coveted sleep. Yet, as I closed in on the last handful of chapters of Blake Crouch’s latest, I found myself laying in bed, eyes barely open, promising myself, “Just a few more pages. I’ll finish this chapter and then go to bed.” And then ultimately deciding last night, no, I will finish this tonight. I must finish this tonight – not because I had other books to read (there’s lots and lots of those!), but because I had to freaking know how this damn thing ended!

Earlier this month, I gave up on a book less than halfway through. I had been bored and struggling with that previous title, and was finding myself in a bit of a reading slump. A few cyber book buddies who knew I had an ARC of Dark Matter, and who had already read and raved about this one, suggested-slash-demanded that I read this book immediately. I took their advice and…

Holy. Crap.

This book kept me on my toes nearly the whole way through. Every time I thought I had a grip on things and thought I knew where Crouch was going with the story, he veered off into a whole other thrilling direction. This book is tense and has a number of shocks throughout. Right when you start to feel safe, Crouch lobs another crazy curve ball to bean you upside the head.

I found myself consistently awed at how Crouch is able to constantly raise the stakes without making the story feel bloated and bogged down, or, even worse, tiresome. The only thing this book is thick with is suspense! There were a number of times that I was caught off guard, and Crouch makes some bold decisions in his storytelling here that I flat out loved.

I don’t want to give out any spoilers, and Crouch puts so many twists and turns into his narrative that even talking about the basic premise seems like a risky gambit that would reveal too much about this book’s Big Ideas. Dark Matter is one of those books that I want to talk about, but can’t. So just do me a favor and go pre-order the damn thing. It comes out in July. You can thank me later.

[Note: I received an advanced review copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.]

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Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch