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Skin by Ted Dekker

I delayed reading Skin for several months primarily because of the cover. Oh, I’m a Dekker fan and bought the book a)because BJ is also a fan and b)I wanted to read it. But I’m not a big “horror” reader and the cover (pictured below) coupled with the title made me think this was a horror book.

That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, I’ll go on record as to say that I think the book is mis-titled and the cover was horribly chosen; it doesn’t represent the story at all.

And it’s a good one, too…the story, I mean.

So after I purchased it, it sat on my book shelf for a while just looking at me. Truthfully, I was in no hurry to read it. But, I needed something to read last week and knew that I could rely on Dekker to deliver a good story, even if it was in a genre’ that wasn’t really at the top of my list.

As I began to read Skin, I kept looking for the horror aspects of it…but it never showed. 200 pages into the book, I actually got a little agitated because I was thoroughly enjoying the book but could see no relevance to the title or the cover.

In a nutshell, (and I can’t give the story away because BJ has yet to read it) five characters are drawn together in a small town out west. What draws them together is a serial killer who is after each of them with the goal of getting them to commit suicide. Several coincidences get them together, but what seems like story flaws are tied together nicely in the end so that it’s not really coincidence at all.

Dekker has created four very interesting characters (yes, one of them isn’t developed at all) and the pages turn quickly. It’s hard to put down. And that’s a good thing. Several of the minor characters are developed just enough to be interesting and to add flavor.

The ending has an incredibly interesting twist that we do not anticipate and that ties the title to the story. The twist works and is very good, but it’s a poor attempt to tie the title to the story. His editor should have worked with him to change it. J

However, the last 2 pages completely ticked me off. In essence, Dekker gave us a great story…then ended with a “to be continued” or a question mark at the end of “the end?” It is a too blatant attempt to set up book 2.

Those things aside, I do recommend this book on the strength of Dekker’s story and writing alone.


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Riven by Jerry B. Jenkins

Okay, I’ll admit that I had no idea what “Riven” meant when I picked up this book. Why, then, would I buy it? A couple reasons, actually; you already know I’m a sucker for sales. That should say enough. But, I also picked it up because of the author. Prior to this, I was only familiar with Jenkins’ work with Lahaye on the Left Behind series, the fictional account of the tribulation. Depending on how you look at it, that work could almost fall in the science-fiction category.

I’m also a sucker for science-fiction…and Riven sounded odd, so it had to be science-fiction…or thus my thinking went.

It’s not science fiction and I learned through the author’s note that it isn’t the only other work outside of Left Behind he’s done. Since when did books stop listing the “other works” by the author? As a young reader, I used those lists as a checklist for other books I wanted to get when I found a good one; I always figured if I liked that work, I’d like others. Tis a major marketing mistake not to have that list, methinks.

I also learned through the author’s note that Riven is the story he’s been dying to tell for years and years. And only an author with his name recognition could get away with it. At 526 pages, it’s about 250 pages too long. Oh, it’s not that it is a bad story, it’s not. It’s just too long. The first 4/5 of the book is where the reduction should have occurred. In fact, it’s not until the last fifth of the book that you realize the first 4/5’s were connected.

The story is about a Brady, a young man who makes horrible decisions his entire life—and we get to see just about every single horrible decision he makes; and Thomas, a lifelong pastor who’s shuffled unappreciated from one church to the next. Both of these characters, and their supporting crew, are interesting in their own right, but both almost deserve their own book. After the first few chapters back and forth between the characters, there’s never any real suspense that their lives will meet up someway, somehow. The suspense is trying to figure out when and how. That’s aided, of course, by the number of pages left still held in your right hand. The “how” they meet up is also not much of a surprise and we see it coming a long way off. The surprise comes in the end result.

This doesn’t strike me as either an anti or pro death penalty work. Both sides seem to have equal representation in the characters. However, the death penalty will certainly be on your mind once you finish the book.

Do I recommend it? Yeah, I do. It is a good read; the characters are interesting and that propels you forward. Jenkins’ prose also flows well and is easy to both follow and read. Would Jenkins have gotten away with it if he wasn’t Jenkins? No way. It’d be about half the size. That shouldn’t stop us from reading it now.

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When the Cat’s Away

I’ve just finished reading When the Cat’s Away by Gilbert Morris. Even though Morris is well-known in Christian circles, it was the first work I’d read of his and I found myself enjoying the story—even though it was the third book of a trilogy (I didn’t know that when I got it!)

The reason I bought the book to begin with is that I had the opportunity to meet Gilbert in Tuscaloosa, Alabama last year at the Deep South Christian Writers Conference where he was the keynote speaker. I sat up front—as I try to always do—during his presentation on building characters, and then when he was done he popped down and sat at my table. After he signed a few autographs, we began to chat and I discovered he was, if not a fan, certainly knowledgeable about comic books. Well, we hit it off and had a nice conversation even when we should have been listening. J I doubt he’d remember my name, if that’s what you’re wondering…but he might remember “the comic book guy.”

So I came away both impressed by him and by his character building workshop and decided to put his name on my list of “pick up something from this writer.” I found When the Cat’s Away and got started on it last week.

Set in White Sands, Alabama (along the coast), WtCA is a mystery novel of sorts, but it takes a while before the mystery to really kick in. Actually, I didn’t realize it was a mystery until well into the book. Being a reader of Tony Hillerman, I expect the mystery to be presented much earlier and then the entire novel spent solving it. The characters and situations are all interesting, one of the big “events” of the story being a cat show in which one of the main characters is entering a cat for the first time; first time for both her and the cat.

And even though I liked the book, I found one aspect of it very annoying: interjected sporadically we get to hear the thoughts of two of the cats; one of which was the contestant, the other of which is a mean big black cat that claws just about everyone he can get near. Oddly enough, it is the cat which solves the mystery…and this was kind of a let down for me. Obviously, this has worked before as this is the third book, but I didn’t like the cat solving the mystery.

That said, the prose flows smoothly and is both easy to read and interesting enough to hold your interest. The characters are well rounded and not cookie-cutter. In fact, there is such an amalgamation of different characters; one of them is bound to interest you. So, while I might not put this book on the top 10 list, I have no reservations about suggesting it for your reading list.

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