Monthly Archives: January 2016

Book Review: Try Not to Breathe

This is an astonishing debut novel. The promotional blurbs and editorial reviews are comparing it with The Girl on the Train, but honestly … it’s better, at least in the quality of the writing.

Holly Seddon has created an incredibly flawed protagonist in Alex Dale, a female reporter who has lost her marriage and career to alcoholism, but continues to drink even though it’s killing her.

But Alex finds one thing that might save her—a fifteen-year-old story that quickly becomes an obsession.

Seddon effortlessly spins two tales—one of Amy Stevenson, who has been in a coma for fifteen years; and the other of Alex Dale, who has been just as lost as Amy, but in her pursuit of Amy’s attacker might just find her own salvation.

The writing is fast-paced and sharp, and the dialogue is insanely good. The setting and tone and female protagonist are definitely similar to The Girl on the Train, but the writing in Try Not to Breathe is so much better.

If you enjoy mystery and suspense novels, then read this book: 5/5 stars.

I received a free digital edition courtesy NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest/unbiased review. Use this affiliate link to read more about Try Not to Breathe on Amazon.


Book Review: Ashley Bell

This is the best non-Odd Thomas novel that Dean Koontz has written in years. It’s billed as psychological, suspenseful and mysterious—and it delivers on all accounts.

It’s an incredibly imaginative and original ride, and the evil forces that must be faced by Bibi Blair, the young protagonist, in her attempt to rescue the mysterious Ashley Bell, are perhaps the most horrific to be given life on the printed page by Koontz or any of his contemporaries.

And because it’s Dean Koontz, it’s also beautifully written.

He’s created a fictional world filled with overwhelming madness, and then turned loose an unforgettable character in Bibi Blair who, in the midst of everything, learns that: “Home is where you struggle, in a world of endless struggle, to become the best you can be, and it becomes home in your heart only if one day you can look back and say that, in spite of all your faults and failures, it was in this special place where you began to see, however dimly, the shape of your soul.”

If you enjoy literary fiction, this is a must-read: 5/5 stars.

I received a free digital edition courtesy NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest/unbiased review. You can use this affiliate link to read more about Ashley Bell on Amazon.

“just another routine day at war”

A few weeks ago I loaded my iPad with episodes of Bosch and The Amazing Race in preparation for a long international flight . . . and with the world being ridiculously small and all that, I actually ended up in a Delta Sky Lounge at the exact moment Titus Welliver walked in. It was very cool to chat with him about the iconic character he plays in Amazon’s hit series.

titus welliver

I also had a second chance encounter on a different leg of that same trip, and because of it I spent the rest of my flying time immersed in a book instead of watching videos.

Coleman Mitchell is the author of The Ho Bo Woods—and though I did not recognize him as an author when I saw him in the airport, I immediately knew he was a Vietnam veteran. You see he was commiserating with a fellow veteran, and it was impossible to mistake their heartfelt compassion for each other as anything other than having survived a shared nightmare.

I’m rarely social, and definitely don’t make a habit of talking to strangers in airports—but I’m thankful I had a chance to meet Mr. Mitchell and learn about his wartime experience. It was only as we were parting ways that I found out he’d written a novel that has its origins in Vietnam.

I downloaded The Ho Bo Woods on the way to my gate and read it cover to cover on the flight.

It’s a gritty book, and that’s putting it mildly.

This particular scene is reminiscent of The Things They Carried and it is just as powerful: “The jungle was serene for the moment. Soon the thirty-one men of the third platoon started to stir. They appeared as if haphazardly scattered across the jungle floor. They woke from behind twisted tree trunks or in shallow foxholes of their night defense position. Some began to shave while others brushed their teeth. Some dug small holes in the ground to conceal the scent of their human waste. Others began to clean weapons. Some started to heat their instant coffee over a C-4 tab and eat their breakfast from their C-ration box. Those who just came off the last shift of night watch tried for five more minutes of sleep. There was nothing unique in their actions. It was just another routine day at war.”

It shook me pretty hard, and definitely kept me turning pages.

You can visit Coleman Mitchell’s website or Amazon to learn more about the actual storyline—but if you are interested in fiction that explores issues such as the continuous toll of wartime experiences on the human psyche, then I highly recommend The Ho Bo Woods.

And Mr. Mitchell, thank you for your service and for the kind words you shared with my parents, who survived that same nightmare.

A sign for locals

You can tell when previously closed societies begin to open up to the West and tourism in general by the number of western-style toilets you can find in hotels and public places … though sometimes it can be confusing to locals.

I wrote about this a few months ago in a post titled Ten Things I Learned on the Other Side of the World.

In response to my post, I got an email from someone who asked if there are really signs that say things like “please do not stand on the toilet” or if I was making it up for my blog.

Well, here is the answer …


Yes, I took a pic in the men’s room. No, I’m not proud. Yes, it’s a real sign in a public restroom at a shopping center in Asia …