Book Briefs

Arts and Copy Editor of The Winnsboro News

Book Briefs - Ashley Bell - 1-21-16
Ashley Bell – Four out of five stars

With more than 450 million books in print, Dean Koontz doesn’t have to worry about sales figures.

Along with 14 New York Times hardcover and 14 paperback best sellers, he’s most always on Forbes Magazine’s top 20 highest paid authors list.

His latest book, “Ashley Bell,” has garnered a lot of positive press. In it, Koontz tells the story of Bibi Blair, a successful young writer who lives alone in Newport Beach, CA, near her parents, Murphy, a hippie who owns a surfboard shop and Nancy, a successful real estate agent.

Bibi’s engaged to a Navy SEAL on assignment overseas.

Life is pretty rosy until one morning when her coffee tastes peculiar, her chocolate croissant reminds her of spoiled milk and her left hand fails her at the keyboard.

After checking into the local hospital and enduring numerous tests, Bibi’s doctors tell her she has “gliomatosis cerebri,”a rare form of brain cancer that will give her a year, at most, to live.

She tells her doctor she plans to fight the disease.

On page 56, Bibi says, “One year to live, huh? Really just one year? We’ll see.”

That’s when things begin to twist and turn, and the story gets interesting.

Bibi wakes up from a dream and she’s cured. The doctors are flabbergasted, to say the least.

Her parents hire a psychic to explain why she’s been spared.

During the appointment, Bibi and the mysterious Calida Butterfly practice the art of “Scrabblemancy,” coming up with tiles that spell out the name “Ashley Bell,” a girl Bibi decides to save as payback for beating cancer.

Bad guys start following her, intent on doing her in.

Former teachers show up in her life on the run, chastising her for things she cannot remember.

As she searches for answers, her fiance, Paxton Thorpe, dreams about Bibi’s troubles and is determined to help her.

It’s best to read Koontz, who like David Mitchell (“Cloud Atlas,” “The Bone Clocks,” “Slade House”) slips in and out of time and space, with an open mind and no attachment to reality.

Just let the story flow over you because there’s little chance of figuring out where he’s headed. I’m not sure I “got” the ending, but he does pose an interesting premise.

I’m not a huge Koontz fan, but Bibi’s quest to save Ashley Bell and to find answers to her miracle cure kept me intrigued for a couple of nights.


Book Briefs - The First Order - 1-21-16
Ashley Bell – Four out of five stars

Former CIA operative Sam Capra is trying to settle down into a normal life in New Orleans with his son, but the unsettling news that his brother Danny might still be alive puts him back on the job.

In “The First Order,” the latest in Jeff Abbott’s fast-paced series, Capra heads to Pakistan to track down the truth.

Was his brother executed by “Brothers of the Mountain,” or is he still alive, working under deep cover as a hit man?

The chase takes Capra, a single father, all over the globe, seemingly one or two steps behind the ever-elusive Danny.

As he puts the pieces together, Capra discovers that a high-ranking official in the Russian government has hired Danny to assassinate the Russian President, and Capra is determined to stop him.

Abbott, a graduate of Rice University who lives in Austin, must have some pretty good connections because he writes with confidence about the inner workings of government, computers and security details. He must travel a great deal, too, because his descriptions of the many locations Capra and his brother visit are detailed and vivid.

He’s got to have insiders in the hospitality industry, too, because Capra’s cover, the way he travels so freely without causing a stir, is that he owns bars all over the planet. Not just any dive, but nice places you’d want to visit if you were in Manhattan, London or Moscow.

If you’re a fan of Baldacci or early Ludlum, you might enjoy Abbott’s flawed heroes and their world-wide adventures

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