Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Dangerous Summer

cover of Dangerous Summer by Carolyn G. Hart
When I was a tween, I read a book that had a huge impact on me. I loved it, and I read it every summer. The paperback book had a picture of a modish, 60s girl on the cover. The girl found herself involved in a kidnap plot with the CIA and Russian agents involved. I loved it because there was an Atlantic cruise and a European tour with a bunch of teens. Whenever I read the book, I would imagine myself on a ship crossing the Atlantic. I can remember the heat of a summer night while I was engrossed in the book. The problem is that as I got older, the book got packed away, and I could not remember the name of the book or the author. Well, imagine my surprise when I heard that Carolyn Hart, one of my favorite mystery writers, who wrote the Annie Darling and Henry O. books was releasing some of her early books in electronic format. As I looked at the descriptions of the books, I found the beloved book of my childhood: Dangerous Summer. Yep! I quickly purchased the book and started to read.

I had some trepidations. When you like a book as a kid, you find that your tastes change as an adult. Books that were real page-turners turn into poorly written pieces of trash. Boy, Dangerous Summer and Carolyn Hart did not let me down. The story was just as gripping and thrilling as I remembered. Nan Russell's parents are going to South Africa to do some geological work for an energy company. While they are gone, they plan on sending Nan to spend the upcoming school term with her grandmother in Scotland. Instead of sending Nan directly to Scotland, they plan an Atlantic cruise and European tour with other teens. Nan travels to New York meet up with the tour. Of course, she goes to a museum to pass a few hours, and notices a woman and a man behaving strangely. The woman acts like she doesn't know the man, but then picks up a brochure the man leaves behind. Imagine Nan's shock when one of the tour guides mysteriously drops out, and the woman from the museum takes her place. Nan is suspicious and keeps an eye on the woman. When Nan hears the woman talking with the other tour guide, Dr. Yates, and telling him that there is a kidnap plot, Nan, and her friends Leslie and Jack decide to keep an eye on the situation. There is a kidnapping, and not what was expected, an escape, and a plot to unveil the hidden agent.

All in all, I loved the book. I am so glad that I found the it, and that it turned out as good, if not better, than I remembered. I know plan on reading more of the early Hart books because I am sure there are some other real gems hidden there.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mount Dragon by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

cover of Mount Dragon by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
I don't know how I missed it, but when I was reading through the Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child thrillers, both individual and as a team, I somehow missed an early offering of theirs, Mount Dragon. The book was the second book the team wrote, and it is definitely in the manner of Michael Crichton. Mount Dragon is a biological thriller with the title referencing the location of GeneDyne's desert facility for genetic testing. The scientists there are doing advanced work, but Frank Burt, Nobel winner, turns out to have some weird medical problem that has left him on the verge of insanity. Burt's hospitalization leads to the transfer of Guy Carson to the facility. Once there, Carson learns that he will be working on something called X-FLU. X_FLU is a mutation of a chimp gene that prevents chimps from catching the flu. Brent Scopes, the owner of GeneDyne, wants to create a vaccine of X-FLU that will genetically change people to never catch the flu. Of course, Scopes and GeneDyne have success with PurBlood, a soon to be released artificial blood product. However, there are problems. Charles Levine, Harvard professor who opposes genetic engineering, is a constant antagonist of Scopes. Also, Burt and Carson are having issues making a version of X-FLU that isn't an even worse version of the flu. Imagine exploding cranial cavities, and you get one of the side effects of X-FLU. In addition, it is deadly in a short time. The person exposed to X-FLU may die within hours! Carson eventually figures out what the problem is, but that doesn't mean that he and lab assistant, Susanna de Vaca, are lauded. Instead, they are under physical threat from others at Mount Dragon.

The book is a real page turner, and the twists and turns were unexpected and well-done. I found myself wanted to read ahead to see how things were going to end. The book is a great addition to the biological/scientific thrillers that I love to read. I just wish that Preston and Child would write more in this vein both together and individually. They don't churn out enough books in my opinion. If you haven't tried Preston and Child, what area you waiting for? Go to the library or Amazon right now, and start with a copy of Mount Dragon. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Easy Go by John Lange (aka Michael Crichton)

cover of Easy Go by John Lange
As I've mentioned before, I love Michael Crichton. It's such a shame that there will be no more new books by Crichton, and that means that I've been looking for authors with a similar style to get a good thriller fix. So, as you might have imagined, i was happy to find out about the John Lange books, which are being re-released in e-book format. That's the pseudonym that Crichton wrote under while he was in medical school. Recently, I read Easy Go, which has a hunt for ancient Egyptian treasure as a theme. The gist of the plot has a group lead by an Harold Barnaby, an Egyptologist who translated hieroglyphics that show where an undiscovered tomb can be found. He enlists the help of writer Robert Pierce, who comes up with an ingenious plan to fund the search for the tomb, AND to make money off the deal. The plan is to find the treasure, then send pictures of the trove to the Egyptian authorities to extract a generous ransom before turning over the items. The book covers the build up to the search and then the search itself.

The story is thrilling. I found myself really liking Pierce, who was the hero of the story, and wishing that things would work out so he could win out in the end. Things look bleak, and then ending has a very interesting twist. So far, I think that it is my favorite of the John Lange books that I have read in recent months. The characters are well drawn, and the plot moves along at a fairly good pace.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Groosham Grange

cover of Groosham Grange by Anthony Horowitz
I'm always looking for new books, even when they aren't necessarily newly published. That's how I happened to come across Groosham Grange by Anthony Horowitz. I know Horowitz as the creator and screenwriter of Foyle's War. He's also written episodes for other television series, such as Midsomer Murders. I know that Horowitz also did the Alex Rider series of spy books for kids that I have on my TBR pile. So when I saw Groosham Grange on the shelves at the local library, I picked it up.

As I started to read the book, I was overwhelmed with the feeling that the book was eerily similar to the Harry Potter stories. Instead of being an orphan, David Eliot is the seventh son of a seventh son. HIs parents make the Dursleys look like ideal parents. As David is expelled from his most recent boarding school, his parents receive an offer from Groosham Grange to take on David. David is quickly bundled off to the school, which is reached by a train ride, and the school itself is on a secluded island. The students and teachers at the school are strange, and as David nears his thirteenth birthday, he feels the tension pick up.

Notice any similarities yet? Yep, it was very like the Potter books in spirit. It turns out that Groosham Grange is a school for wizards and witches. The teachers include a werewolf (named Leloup, French for wolf, like Lupin) and a ghost. Hold on a minute! I went to look at the publication date, and (strong>Groosham Grange came out in 1988. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone came out in 1997. Horowitz didn't go to the lawyers and sue. Instead, he just thanked J.K. Rowling for contributing to young adult fiction in the UK. How do you like them grapes?

Groosham Grange is a good read. It's much shorter than any of the Potter books and much darker in tone. Read the book yourself, and see what you think. All the Potter readers should give Groosham Grange a try. You will not be disappointed.