Tagged: action

Before They Find Us by Michelle A. Hansen

Before They Find Us by Michelle A. Hansen(Cover picture courtesy of Nicole Sobon.)

I’m going to make you wish you were dead.

Just a text. Seventeen-year-old Rebecca Hales tries not to worry. Probably a wrong number. Not really meant for her, and definitely not related to the crime she witnessed six years ago. Right?

Then two states away, a bomb goes off in her best friend’s locker. Soon Ryan is labeled a terrorist and runs to the safest place he knows—Rebecca’s house in small-town Wyoming. It doesn’t take long for the FBI to show up asking questions. Rebecca lies, of course, and says she hasn’t seen him.

Now she’s neck-deep in it with him, whatever “it” is. The only way out is to return to Vegas, where Ryan is a wanted man. The city of lies and illusion tests Rebecca’s wits as she struggles to find the person who framed Ryan and why.

Is Rebecca’s text linked to the bombing? And what does it have to do with a six year old murder? Rebecca needs to find out before she loses Ryan—and her own life.

[Full disclosure: This was a free gift to me from Michelle A. Hansen as a token of her appreciation and a review was not expected so of course, as always, this review is honest.]

There were more than a fair amount of clichés in Before They Find Us that any action movie fan will recognize, but overall I actually enjoyed this book.

The main strength of Michelle A. Hansen’s writing is her characters.  Rebecca is definitely well-rounded and you really feel that she has some psychological problems as a result of her witnessing a murder at the age of 11.  I like how her backstory is slowly revealed because it adds more depth to her character and it’s revealed at a more natural rate than if there was a huge info-dump at the beginning.  At first I was a little confused about her relationship to Ryan but then things sorted themselves out and I felt like I knew each character intimately.

I definitely liked the plot twists in this one.  There’s just twist after twist and the plot is so fast-paced that I couldn’t stop reading even for a moment.  Just when you think it’s all over and the plot is going to wind down for the conclusion Michelle Hansen springs another surprise on you.  Yes, there were some twists I could predict because I watch a lot of action movies, but for the main part I was pleasantly surprised at the plot twists.  They felt more organic than forced.

The only thing I’m sort of ambivalent about is the premise/clichés.  There wasn’t really anything completely unique in the novel and there was a heavy reliance on action/thriller clichés.  I would have liked to see some new twists on old tropes but there wasn’t really any of that within the story.  It was a good book, but with a few modifications it could have been a great book.

Still, if it sounds interesting to you I’d recommend giving it a try.  It’s a heart-stopping read!

I give this book 4/5 stars.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Goodreads

Point Blank by Anthony Horowitz

Point Blank by Anthony Horowitz

(Cover picture courtesy of Infinitas Bookshop.)

When an investigation into a series of mysterious deaths leads agents to an elite prep school for rebellious kids, MI6 assigns Alex Rider, fourteen-year-old reluctant spy, to the case.  Before he knows it, Alex is stuck in a remote boarding school high atop the Swiss Alps with the sons of the rich and powerful, and something feels wrong.  Very wrong.  These former juvenile delinquents have turned well-behaved, studious—and identical—overnight.  It’s up to Alex to find out who is masterminding this evil plot, before they find him.  The clock is ticking—is Alex’s luck about to run out?

You honestly can’t accuse Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series of being completely original.  In fact, it has a few allusions to James Bond, which anyone who has watched Octopussy can tell you.  Smithers, the man who supplies all of Alex’s gadgets, was named after the man in Q’s makeshift office in India during that movie.  The plots of the books take elements from James Bond movies, but Horowitz never strays anywhere near plagiarism.  In fact, he puts his own spin on the familiar franchise.

Alex Rider is not a great character by any stretch of the mind, but he is not a complete cardboard cutout either.  He really doesn’t want to put his life on the line again after the events of Stormbreaker, but is once again manipulated into spying for MI6.  This time, the stakes are even higher and Alex is in more danger than ever before.  Anthony Horowitz keeps his descriptions at just the right length to convey this concept and creates an aura of suspense throughout the novel.  Really, this is a book that deserves its place at the top of YA literature for boys.  It’s basically a less violent, less sexual James Bond series for young male readers.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble

Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz

(Cover picture courtesy of Book County.)

They told him his uncle Ian died in a car accident.  But fourteen-year-old Alex Rider knows that’s a lie, and the bullet holes in his uncle’s windshield confirm his suspicions.  But nothing prepares him for the news that the uncle he always thought he knew was really a spy for MI6—Britain’s top-secret intelligence agency.  Recruited to find his uncle’s killers and complete Ian’s final mission, Alex suddenly finds himself caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse, with no way out.

The first thing you need to know is that the Alex Rider series is basically a James Bond series for teenage boys.  And you know, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  There are very few YA novels aimed at young boys, but Anthony Horowitz is a good writer that has tried to tap into this market.  The James Bond movies depict a cold, calculating, womanizing super-spy while the Alex Rider series depicts a young boy who wants nothing more than to have a normal life.  What stops Alex from becoming a true Gary Stu despite all of his talents is that he really, really does not want to be a spy.

Alex is a decent enough character, but he seems a little too perfect for my liking.  He accomplishes a lot of amazing things because his uncle trained him all his life to be a spy, but he is still a bit perfect for a fourteen-year-old boy.  He is admittedly a bit of a cardboard cutout, although Alex does improve as the novel progresses.  The other characters like Herod Sayle, Alex Blunt and Mrs. Jones are very obviously cardboard cutouts, but what do you expect from an action book?

The plot is fast-paced and exciting, Anthony Horowitz’s writing is excellent and Alex Rider is an interesting character.  I think Stormbreaker is a bit clichéd and predictable, but it was written to appeal to a completely different audience.  It can be a bit violent, so I would recommend it for ages 12+.

I give this book 3/5 stars.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble