Monday, December 12, 2011

Can You Keep a Secret by Sophie Kinsella


          I borrowed Can You Keep a Secret by Sophie Kinsella from the library and downloaded it to my Kindle.  This was the first time I tried the Kindle method.  I love my Kindle and one of the most frustrating parts of being unemployed is having no extra money to buy Kindle books.  I love being able to get library books on it. 

          Can You Keep a Secret reminded me a bit of Bridget Jones’ Dairy.  A very normal, slightly overweight, not very confident young woman with big dreams is the main character.  She has a long history of going along to get along, not standing up for herself and allowing others to believe her likes and dislikes conform to theirs in an effort to be liked. 

          I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book, but I ended up deciding it was okay, not fantastic, but good enough to keep me interested.  Near the beginning of the story, our heroine, in the midst of a prolonged, and alcohol enhanced, panic attack, spills all her little secrets to a total stranger on a plane, naturally assuming she’d never see him again.  Fate, with her wicked sense of humor, strikes hard at the poor girl.  It turns out the man on the plane is the owner of the company for which she works and is headed into town to visit the local facility.  The ensuing scenes are both funny and uncomfortable.  Fortunately, our girl learns to stand up for herself, finds the man of her dreams and apparently lives happily ever after. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner


          I finished reading Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner.  It took me a while because I never really got into it. I can’t say there is anything wrong with it. It just explores a topic that I’ve never really “gotten”. 

          The story revolves around four women:  A lovely, ivy-league student with an addict father, a military wife and mother of two struggling to make ends meet, a trophy wife with excess baggage and the daughter of the TW’s husband who harbors fantasies of her divorced parents reunion. 

          The student is approached one day by a representative of a fertility clinic.  He asks her to donate some of her eggs.  In return, she will be paid enough money to put her father into an excellent rehab center.

          The army wife discovers a means of improving her family’s financial situation.  She can become a surrogate.  In return for carrying another couple’s baby, she will be paid enough money to give them some security.

          The TW and her husband desire a child, but she is older than he believes and she is unable to conceive.  They choose to go the surrogate route to create their family. 

          The daughter, who still believes her parents can get back together, hires a PI to find out about the TW.  What they discover is disturbing.  The TW has totally recreated herself, from her face to her name.  But once the daughter acquires the information, she cannot disrupt her father’s happiness by telling him.

          As the first three women play their parts, a child is conceived using the student’s egg and being implanted in the army wife’s uterus, and the TW excitedly prepares for the arrival. 

          Due to an interesting twist in the story, which leaves both prospective parents unavailable when the baby is born, the daughter is shocked to find herself the legal guardian of her newborn half sister.  In her attempts to properly discharge her duty to the child, she makes contact with both the egg donor and the surrogate.  They, and their families, become active parts of the baby girl’s life.  Eventually, the TW returns to the fold, and the “village” of women raising baby is complete.

          As I mentioned earlier, I’ve never really “gotten” the need to have a baby.  Perhaps because my own daughter was born when I was twenty-two, I never heard my biological clock ticking. But I never had any desire to get pregnant again either, not even as my childbearing possibilities started to wane. So I fail to comprehend why anyone would jump through hoops in order to have a baby.  While I fully comprehend the primal need of all animals to propagate the species, it seems like humans should be smart enough to simply take over the care of orphaned and unwanted children as opposed to attempting fertility treatments.

         


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Kingdom by Clive Cussler


          I just finished listening to The Kingdom by Clive Cussler on audio book.  I really enjoyed this one.  Mr. Cussler’s imagination continues to amaze me.  How does he think this stuff up?

          The story starts with an ancient soldier, one of an elite group trained from birth to protect their kingdom’s most prized possession, as he runs away from an invasion force with his treasure in tow.  The scene ends as the invaders trap him at the lip of a waterfall.

          The next scene opens centuries later with an Italian man (no, not Leonardo) building a flying machine for an Asiatic despot.  With his brother being held as hostage to ensure the return of the machine, the inventor takes off on the flying machine’s maiden voyage.

          Then the story moves to present day. A pair of treasure hunters, Sam and Remi Fargo, is asked to look for a friend who disappeared while working for a Texas oil man.  They travel to exotic locales, have dangerous adventures, outsmart scary folks, and display a MacGyver-like ability to create life-saving apparatus out of detritus. 

          While the story requires some suspension of disbelief, it stays well away from the edges of fantasy.  Guys will appreciate the car chases and gun battles.  Girls will like the loving relationship between the main characters. I recommend The Kingdom for anyone who enjoys thrillers.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Thousand Tomorrows by Karen Kingsbury

          A Thousand Tomorrows by Karen Kingsbury is the story of two rodeo riders. Cody is a champion bull rider, an angry man not looking past his next eight second bull ride.  Ali is a champion barrel racer with a secret; she suffers from cystic fibrosis, a terminal lung disease. 

          I didn’t want to like this book. From the moment Ali’s disease is revealed, I knew how this was going to end, and I just didn’t want to go there. I like happily ever after and it wasn’t going to happen. 

          As Ali’s career reaches its height, so does the progression of her disease. Her dream of becoming national champion is dashed, just as it seems to be coming true.  But she finds something even better, the love of a good man. 

          Cody is a good man, albeit an angry one.  His beloved father walked out on his family one day leaving a prepubescent Cody literally standing on the corner watching him as he moved out of sight.  The anger he felt at his father for leaving and his mother for “letting” it happen fuels his talent for bull riding.  He too is at the top of his career when Ali’s disease leaves her unable to compete.  He also discovers that he is a compatible match to help give her the lung transplant she needs to survive for a while longer. 

          Cody loves Ali enough to walk away from bull riding to help ensure neither injury or death can prevent him from giving her a lung.  And, that love helps him let go of his anger and reunite with his family.   

          The title, A Thousand Tomorrows, refers to the three years of additional life that a lung transplant will give Ali, and the three years of additional love she and Cody can share.  When the inevitable end does come, it is sad, but sweet. 

          I’m glad I hung in there to the end.  While I didn’t get a happily ever after, I did get a love conquers all.  And, that’s almost as good.




Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cross Fire by James Patterson

          Cross Fire by James Patterson is the latest in a series about detective/psychiatrist, Alex Cross.  This edition has multiple bad guys: a pair of snipers killing business and political elites, a serial killer preying on homeless young men and etching mathematical formulas into their bodies with a knife, and an escaped killer that Alex has put away once before looking for revenge. 

          In a way it’s a shame this wasn’t set up as three novels. Each of these criminals could support a story on their own.  The main bad guy, Kyle Craig, the escaped killer has the most well developed story line here.  He even goes so far as to kill the serial math murderer so Alex will have more time to spend on dueling with him. And the sniper team story line leaves a lot of unanswered questions hanging out there even though both perpetrators end up dead.

          A lot goes on in this novel. In between closing three high profile cases, Alex manages to get married.  He may be a better organizer than me!  As usual, this is a fast paced, exciting episode in the Alex Cross lexicon.  I highly recommend it to fans of James Patterson, Alex Cross, police thrillers and murder mysteries. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

1225 Christmas Tree Lane by Debbie Macomber


          The people of Cedar Cove know how to celebrate Christmas…Beth Morehouse expects this Christmas to be one of her best…But…someone recently left a basket filled with puppies on her doorstep…And…her daughters Bailey and Sophie have invited their dad, Beth's ex-husband, Kent, to Cedar Cove for Christmas. The girls have visions of a mom-and-dad reunion dancing in their heads. “

          The excerpt above from the Amazon.com review sets the scene well.  And, of course, since this is a Harlequin Romance offering, everything ends happily. 

          According to the note from Debbie Macomber at the beginning of the book, this is the last in the Cedar Cove series.  While it is not an especially novel story, you do get to see most of the area’s inhabitants one last time as the neighbors do their Christmas visiting. 

          And, most importantly, by the end of the story, all the puppies have loving forever homes. 



          Speaking of puppies finding forever homes, I’d like to mention the Animal Rescue Site, a part of www.thehungersite.com. By going this site and clicking, you can authorize the site’s sponsors to make donations to a number of good causes including helping animals in shelters.  This site is a quick and easy way to help others.  If you are looking for a way to do more good in the world this holiday season, consider stopping by each day and clicking on to raise funds.

          The Animal Rescue Site helps animal shelters keep their residents warm and fed.  They also sponsor a Shelter Challenge wherein the shelter that garners the most votes gets a sizeable cash reward.  You can vote for your local animal shelter, or if you wish, you may vote for my favorite – The Humane Society of Monroe County, Waterloo, IL.  They have plans to expand their no kill shelter to hold more dogs and cats while they wait for their forever homes.  You can find out more about the shelter and the animals they have available for adoption and fostering at http://www.hsofmcil.org.  Thank you.






Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Only His by Susan Mallery


          Only His by Susan Mallery is a cute little romance featuring one of a set of identical triplets.  It is set in a small mountain town called Fools Gold with a population heavily weighted with females. 

          This couple, Nevada and Tucker have a past - one drunken night a decade earlier – a serious debacle.

          When Tucker’s construction company arrives in Fools Gold to build a casino complex, Nevada applies for the job of construction foreman.  As she is the best candidate for the job, the pair agrees to forget the past and work together.

          Passion ensues as the two realize the past might not have been as big a mistake as they’d thought.

          The thing I liked best about this book was the side stories.  There are lots of colorful characters with lives and loves of their own.  It made what could have been a pretty run-of-the-mill romance into a more complex, layered and interesting tale. 

          If you’re a fan of the romance genre, you’ll like this one.  Curl up and enjoy!


Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Ideal Man by Julie Garwood

          The Ideal Man is the latest fun and exciting romance/thriller from Julie Garwood.  This one is set in St. Louis, near where I grew up. It is always great fun to read about locales with which I am familiar.

          Julie loves setting her heroines up with FBI agents.  This FBI agent arrives in a St. Louis public park from Honolulu chasing international arms dealers.  The lovely lady is an award-winning trauma surgeon jogging through that park where the gun runners are planning to make a deal.  The ensuing gun battle between agents and smugglers leaves one of the good guys in need of surgery, and the game is afoot. 

          Keeping Ellie away from a hit man hired by the gun runners and a violent stalker from her past while she is in her home town for her sister’s wedding, keeps Max busy, but not too busy to notice how attractive she is. And, what girl can resist a knight in shining armor (or agent with shiny badge) who is not only keeping her safe and alive, but falling in love with her at the same time?

          If you are a Garwood fan, you will be well pleased with this book. It has similarities with her recent thrillers, and retains the fun of her earliest romances.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

One Summer by David Baldacci

               This ain’t your daddy’s Baldacci novel.

               Yes, there’s a lovely, driven young woman. Yes, there’s masculine yet vulnerable man.  Yes, there’s a courtroom scene.  But One Summer by David Baldacci is different than any other of his works I’ve encountered. And, as talented as he is, this is, without question, my favorite.

               At first I didn’t think I was going to be able to read it.  The book begins detailing the slow, agonizing death by cancer of the main character.  Having watched my sister be slowly eaten alive by brain cancer last year, I spent most of the beginning of the book in tears.  I started to put it aside, but after a day or so, picked it back up.  Baldacci did such a good job of relating the emotion and stress of both the patient and his family; I realized the writing was excellent.  I decided I didn’t want to pass up what could be a wonderful story by letting my grief over Jennifer get in the way. 

               I am very glad I went back to it.  If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you know that some of my criteria for an excellent book are that it makes me cry, laugh out loud, and stay in my mind after the cover is closed for the final time.  One Summer did all those things for me.  I really cared about the characters and would love to spend some time at the Palace and Lizzie’s Lighthouse.   

               I recommend this highly, although it will be some time before I read it again.  The emotions hit me very strongly.  And, that is one of this book’s greatest strengths.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Listen to Your Heart by Fern Michaels


          Listen to Your Heart by Fern Michaels is a sweet little romance set in New Orleans. 

          One of a pair of twin sisters who run a catering business finds true love when a man arrives to hire them to cater a mother’s day celebration.  The man’s large dog runs amok devastating her office and totally charming the caterer’s own puppy.  The two canines become inseparable and eventually their humans do too.  

          The story ends happily with a family reunited and a double wedding for the twin sisters.

          It’s slightly too fluffy for my taste, and a little too sweet as well.  There is also not enough detail to bring the characters fully to life.  This was a very short novel, though.  And, maybe at some point in the future Ms. Michaels will be able to fill the story out and make a full-length, full-strength story.  I’d love to see it then!


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Son of Stone by Stuart Wood


          Another Stuart Wood title made it onto the New York Times best seller list.  I mustered the patience to get through this one.  I didn’t get too far into Bel Air Dead before I threw in the towel.  I read Son of Stone in print rather than listening to an audio book. I think a part of my dislike for Bel Air Dead was the voice of the reader.  But Stuart Wood will likely never make my list of favorite authors.

          Son of Stone is another installment in the Stone Barrington saga.  In this one he marries his long time love Arrington Carter and acknowledges their teenage son, Peter. 

In theory, I should like the Stone Barrington stories.  They are tales of rich jet setters and their dramas and deaths.  The stories can concentrate on the action because there is no need to worry about money and influence can get them where they need to be in the action.  But I just cannot connect with these folks.  Perhaps it is the very short chapters.  They make the books seem more like bare bones journal entries than storytelling.  I don’t connect to the characters; I don’t “see” the scenes; there is very little emotion anywhere.  Perhaps Wood writes to a more masculine audience.  I just don’t “get” him.
         


Sunday, October 30, 2011

New York To Dallas by JD Robb


           New York To Dallas by JD Robb is my latest dip into the futuristic police procedural world populated by Lt. Eve Dallas, her husband, friends, coworkers and, as always, crazy killers. 

          If a quick count of volumes on my bookshelf is correct, there are over thirty editions in the In Death series by JD Robb (aka Nora Roberts).  I’ve read them all, including the short stories, and am still completely enthralled.  

          In this tale, one of Eve’s first arrests as a rookie, a violent pedophile, escapes prison.  He is bent on revenge against Eve personally.  He gets her attention in New York and then quickly moves on to Dallas, the city that gave Eve her name.  While there, Eve, the Dallas PD and the FBI race to find the killer and his accomplice before they can inflict any more harm.  And, Eve discovers yet another piece to her clouded background. 

          This is a fast paced thrill ride, a kaleidoscope of emotions, a swirling storm of events that come to a boil in a Dallas hotel penthouse as Galahad, Eve’s bicolor-eyed cat, hisses out a warning just in time. 

          I give this one 9.5 – practically perfect, just like Disney’s Mary Poppins!


Friday, October 28, 2011

Sweet Sister


          Hello, my sister.  It’s been one year since I said goodbye to you for the last time.  I still miss you every day.  I miss you so badly it hurts.  Don’t get me wrong; the pain has gotten better over the last three hundred sixty-five days.  At first it even hurt to breathe.  The simple acts of inhaling and exhaling rubbed against the raw wound that tore open somewhere inside me as I watched you labor for your last breaths.  I hated it.  I hated it! I HATED IT!! I hated watching you die. But there was no way I was going to let you spend your last moments alone. I was greedy for every precious second with you. As I realized you weren’t going to take another breath, my heart shattered. Its slivers impaled every organ and muscle even as I was swamped with waves of relief because your suffering had come to an end. For days afterward my jaws ached with the effort of holding back the agonized screams that were viciously trying to batter their way out of me.  But I held it together until the control became second nature. 

          Most of the time breathing doesn’t hurt now; only when I am with someone who is missing you.  Maybe I’ve gone round the bend, but when I’m alone you’re always somewhere inside my head. So I don’t miss you quite as much.  You’re always with me in a way.  Sometimes, though, I want your physical presence with a desperation that borders on panic.  That’s when I realize the terrible wound inside me is still there, even if the edges have calloused over; that’s when breathing becomes agony and the tears cannot be held back. 

          The night you died, I wondered, as I wonder sometimes now, how I am supposed to deal with everything without you.  You were the one who knew everybody.  You were the one who liked organizing people and parties.  You were the one with the boundless energy and good cheer.  At first it felt like everyone was looking to me to be those things in your absence.  Fortunately, everybody figured out pretty quick that those things are not me.  I don’t feel so pressured now to keep the happy chatter going and keep the troops entertained. I still try, but I don’t beat myself up so much when I cannot maintain the pace you set. 

          The family still gets together on a regular basis.  Not every week any more, but once a month or so. I think we all learned how important it is to make memories while we can.  And, I think it has become a little easier for all of us to bear you absence when we are together.  The first couple of times I didn’t think we were going to make it through, but we held on by our fingernails and managed.  Each time has gotten a little easier.  And, while you are always a part of our gatherings, I no longer expect you to bop into the room, sprawl on the couch and dominate the conversation. It’s become normal for you not to be there in person.  In a way that makes me sad. But I also think that is progress and something to be proud of.  We are adjusting to our new reality without you. 

          Boy, reality sucks.

          Love you, Baby Sister.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Retribution by Sherilyn Kenyon

          Retribution is the first book of Sherilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter series that I’ve read.  It is not, however, the first book in the series.  I must say, she does a pretty good job of creating a stand-alone story in the midst of an ongoing saga. 

          There are lots of different types of creatures from lots of different areas of folklore – vampires, demons, shape shifters, a Greek goddess, a Celtic warrior,several North American Indians, and others I don’t even recognize. And, having read a number of reviews since finishing the book, I have learned there are even more sorts of creatures/characters in the rest of the series. 

          Another thing I learned from reading reviews of this book by readers of the rest of the  series is that this may not the best example of Sherilyn Kenyon’s work.  If that is the case, the rest of the series must be pretty spectacular. 

          I’d recommend Retribution to readers of fantasy.  If you are not adept at suspension of disbelief, this one is not for you.  But those of you who can immerse yourselves comfortably in other worlds should enjoy this one.

Monday, October 24, 2011

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett


          State of Wonder by Ann Patchett was a very, very slow moving book.  It wasn’t until the last 50 pages or so of the 353 pages that I was really drawn into the story.  It is probably twice as long as it really needs to be.

          The story revolves around research being done in the Amazon backed by a pharmaceutical company.  While I am not a huge fan of medical thrillers, nor of tales of those who trek beyond civilization, (My idea of roughing it is staying someplace without room service.) the concepts of a potential fertility drug that would allow post-menopausal women to become pregnant as well as an inoculation against malaria are interesting.  It is ultimately the characters and their various deceptions that are the backbone of the story.  

          The part I liked best was the way the end of the story curved around to end where it began.  A child taken for dead is returned to its parents, a parent taken for dead is returned to his children. That was well done. The tale feels finished despite leaving lots of loose ends.

          I’d only rate this one a 6.  While I agree it is a pretty good book – it made the bestseller list, for heaven’s sake – the topic and setting were not to my taste and the pace was too slow keep my interest up. 

         

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Smokin' Seventeen (again) by Janet Evanovich



          I’ve finished listening to Smokin’ Seventeen.  It was the jolly romp I expected.  Some of the antics that Stephanie and Lula got themselves into were laugh-out-loud funny.  Some of the situations were quite comedic. And I will never look at chickens quite the same again.

          However, overall I was just a little disappointed.  The story was a bit formulaic and no sooner did it become apparent there were multiple deaths to be solved, I determined who the killer must have been.  It was a little like the red shirted crew member on Star Trek.  The unknown actor in the big scene is gonna bite it. 

          The other thing that I discovered, or perhaps rediscovered, is that Stephanie having sex with Ranger is not nearly as titillating as Stephanie not having sex with Ranger.  It was just a tad anticlimactic – for me, not for Stephanie…

          So, while I recommend this one, it will not go on my list of favorites, not even Evanovich favorites.  But it is still quite entertaining and worth the read.



 Silver Girl:

          And as a side note, I’ve run into a book that I had to reject after the requisite three chapters: Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand.  Its premise was based on fictionalizing the Madoff scandal.  The main character being the wife of the bad guy trying to cope with life after the Ponzi scheme collapsed.  I could not get into it, and while I felt badly for the woman, I wasn’t even remotely interested in hearing the rest of the story. 


Monday, October 3, 2011

Smokin’ Seventeen by Janet Evanovich


         Next up in my list of audio books is Smokin’ Seventeen, the new Stephanie Plum novel.  I love the Stephanie Plum stories.  I enjoy Stephanie, her parents, her coworkers, and her ongoing car issues.  I am amused by her on-and-off again love affair with Joe Morelli, the cop, as well as her ravening lust for Ranger, the security expert/bounty hunter.  And, if I had to choose a favorite character, it would be a tough choice.  Grandma Mazur and Lula are both just hysterical. 

          Lula is Stephanie’s bounty hunting sidekick and friend with an unending appetite for fried chicken and her own unique and slightly scary sense of fashion.  Not to mention a strong belief in being armed.  The ridiculous situations she finds herself in and her responses to them leave me rolling in the aisles. 

          Grandma Mazur is old, feisty, says and does exactly as she pleases and, like Lula, believes in being armed.  When I grow up I want to be just like her.  She totally cracks me up. 

          I started listening to this one a couple of nights ago as part of the bedtime unwind/relax routine.  Boy, was that a mistake.  Twenty minutes into the story, I was belly laughing, falling out of my chair, rolling on the floor, nearly peeing my pants as I listened.  While I was neither relaxed nor unwound at the end of an hour, I was exhausted from all the hilarity. 

          I certainly hope the rest of the book stands up to the early scenes and the previous books in the series.  In the mean time, I think I’ll reserve listening to the daylight hours and find something quieter to listen to at bedtime!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Kill Me If You Can by James Patterson and Marshall Karp


          I finished listening to Kill Me If You Can last night.  It’s another good one.  James Patterson and company put out fun, easy reads.  And, as usual there was a point when I thought to myself, ”I didn’t see that coming”.  Thing is, I think I might have this time. 

          Why am I not sure? Well, I listened to the first half of this book as part of my bedtime ritual.  I tend to struggle with sleeping at night.  (I do fine during the daylight hours, who knows why...)  However, since the rest of the world, including my husband, are daytime people, I do my best to adjust.  One of the things I do convince my brain and body to shut down is lay back in the recliner in my jammies in the dark and listen to audiobooks at low volume for a bit before going to bed.  There are occasions on which I doze off during the story.  I assumed that was what happened when the main character appeared in a place during a rather chaotic scene and I couldn’t figure out how he’d gotten there.  Nor could I find the passage in the story that explained his arrival.  It was a bit vexing, but not vital to the flow of the story.  So I accepted that I’d missed something minor and moved on. 

          But then the twist came.  My first thought was indeed, “I didn’t see that coming”.  However, my second thought was, “Well that certainly explains how he got into the middle of that earlier scene.”  In a way, I was pleased that I’d noticed the earlier disconnect that foreshadowed the twist.  But I was also a bit disappointed that the twist had been telegraphed.  Oh, well, I guess I’m not easy to please. 

          That particular twist – it was one of several in the story- was rather delightful and turned a very average story into one that was much more interesting. 

          As usual with James Patterson, I’d recommend this book, especially if you are looking for something lighter and more fun to read.  I don’t know that I’d read it again, but I’m very glad I read it the first time!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Catching Up

          Several months ago, when I began this blogging adventure, I started requesting the current bestselling fiction titles from my local library system.  I have fairly consistently checked the list in the New York Times once a week and added any titles I had not yet read to the library holds.  Well, in the last several weeks, my requests have started rolling in like an avalanche.  I’ve waited four and five months for some of these titles, and, of course, I seem to be waiting shorter amounts of time for things requested more recently.  The result of this is that I have been spending every spare moment reading as fast as I can to keep the library fines to a minimum! 

          All this reading has been wonderful, but I’ve been doing it to the exclusion of any writing.  I find that I miss it.  The thought runs through my little brain at odd moments – in the shower or sitting at a stop light – “I’ve really got to get back to writing.”  My head feels more organized when I write.  (If you’ve read any of my prior posts, you can only wonder at how disorganized my brain usually is!)  And so, here I sit at the desk in the dining room wondering what on earth I should write about today. 

          I took another armload of books back to the library this morning, and only brought one new one home; although, I did download an audiobook off the library website this morning too.  The stack on the “reading material table” in the living room is down to a manageable stack – five “hand” books and one audiobook on MP3 that I’ll load onto my Ipod later this week.  I also have four audiobooks on the Ipod that I haven’t listened to yet. 

          Since my husband and I haven’t been going in to work on our investment property every day (it’s complete and on the market), I spend less time with the ear buds in listening.  I tend to forget to put them in when I’m doing “normal” work around the house and yard in which I live.  I’ll try to remember to do that more often.  The more time I spend reading and listening, the more stuff I’ll have to blog about. 

          I’m currently reading A Dance With Dragons by George R R Martin.  It is book five of seven of his Song of Ice and Fire saga.  I read the first book back in 1998 or 1999 and have been waiting impatiently for each subsequent release.  When I read the first book, A Game of Thrones, the tale was to be a trilogy.  An author’s note in the third book, A Storm of Swords, explained that the story was a bit too long for just three books and had become four. Apparently, four was not quite enough, either.  And at last count the saga was to encompass seven books.  At this time, only five have been published, so only time will tell if seven will be enough.  These are huge books, so it may be a while before I finish this one. 

          I am currently listening to Kill Me If You Can by James Patterson and Marshall Karp.  It is keeping my interest well, unlike some others I’ve tried to listen to recently.  I’ll likely write about it in more detail soon. 

          I also just finished The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritson.  It was one of those returned this morning to the library, and I’ve got to tell you about it.  It has been a few years since I sat up all night to finish a book because it was too good to put down.  I liked it a lot.  It really grabbed my fancy and ran. While it did not make me cry, it did make me laugh out loud and made my heart race and the hair on my arms stand up at times. It is a Rizzoli and Isles story, and I noticed as I read that I could “hear” the voices of Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander from the TV show in the dialog.  It was kind of freaky, but fun.  I’d recommend this book.  I may even read it again some time!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Now You See Her, by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge




            I recently finished listening to the audio book version of Now You See Her by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge.  It was a pretty good read, filled with suspense and plot twists.  I’d give it an 8, although I doubt I’ll read it again. 

          It begins in Key West with a group of college students on spring break.  You can’t pick a much better setting than that.  Through a series of unfortunate choices the main character finds herself facing drunk driving, car theft and vehicular manslaughter charges.  She is “saved” however by a young police officer who chooses not to arrest her, but instead helps her cover up the crime.  She ends up married to him. 

          After a couple of years of blissful marriage in paradise, our poor, na├»ve heroine discovers her husband is a really bad guy who kills people who cross him.  She also discovers she is pregnant, a situation her husband is not going to be happy about. She decides the only way out for her and her child is to fake her own death, and start a new life far from Florida. 

          She lays her plans carefully, intending to make it look like she has become the next victim of a serial killer who has been plaguing south Florida for some time – the Jump Killer.  While making her escape, however, she runs into the killer himself; a friendly fellow with a British accent and a Jack Russell terrier. As bad as that luck is, she luckily manages to escape his clutches, and, makes her way out of the Keys and into a new life.           

          She gives birth to a daughter, finds a job, goes to law school and becomes a successful lawyer in New York using the new identity she created. 

It is now 17 years later.

          Her law firm requests that she help a group of lawyers with a pro bono innocence project designed to ensure that inmates on death row are truly guilty of their crimes.   The case she ends up with is that of the Jump Killer on death row in Florida.  One look at the case files tells her that the wrong man has been convicted – the convict is black, the man she escaped from is white. 

          While terrified that her whole new existence will blow apart, she cannot in good conscience allow an innocent man to die just to keep her secret.  So she goes to Florida determined to find justice for the man.  I

In doing that, she is recognized by her husband.  And the chase is on. 

With the help of the innocent man’s lawyer, she finds a way to clear the death row inmate’s name without blowing her own cover. But she ends up telling the other lawyer her whole story to gain his help in keeping her alive, and bringing her husband to justice. 

The story ends well with everyone living happily ever after. 

I enjoyed listening to this one.  There were a couple of spots where I had to stop and think “I didn’t see that one coming” as the twists occur.  There was one point where the innocent man’s execution is drawing uncomfortably close and I feared it would proceed.  I couldn’t listen to another description of an innocent person being executed in error like I had in John Grisham’s The Confession.  I almost turned it off there, but I stuck with it, and was rewarded with a stay of execution. 

         

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Death Penalty Dilemma

John Grisham was apparently successful in his desire to bring attention to the death penalty –at least in my case. After finishing The Confession, I must admit I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit. And, I find myself torn. Part of me thinks that the death penalty is cruel and arrogant and leaves no room for human error. Another part of me has a problem with caging people like animals and having my tax dollars spent on room, board and recreation for individuals who are unsafe to society. Is there some sort of compromise? Is there a rational, humane answer to this dilemma?

My gut reaction to the idea of state run executions is that killing is wrong. In the ten basic rules for civilized living this is stated clearly – Thou shalt not kill. Seems pretty simple. On the other hand, my gut reaction to evil is that it must be eradicated. Not tolerated or condoned, not shut away in some sort of Pandora’s Box; it must be destroyed. And there is little doubt in my mind that there are evil people out there. Whether the result of nature or nurture, some people are twisted and cruel and do not belong in society. The safest and, in a way, kindest thing that can be done for these folks is to execute them. We don’t hesitate to put down a rabid animal, and evil people have a kind of rabies of the soul. Is it really wrong to put them out of their misery? And ours?

The problem here is to diagnose the evil. Who can do this? Humans cannot know the souls of others. How does one tell the difference between a sickness of the soul and a sickness of the psyche? And how does the act of levying judgment on another person affect the one doing the judging. This seems like a very dangerous thing for the psyche and soul of the judge. And, if passing judgment can have an adverse effect on one, how much more adverse the effects of carrying out the execution. It seems to me that allowing for the death penalty perpetuates the evil it is meant to eradicate.

However, does keeping evil doers as indefinite wards of the state solve the problem? I think not. The evil still exists and has the opportunity to perpetuate itself, both among the incarcerated community and, more frighteningly, among the warders. In addition, there is the heavy burden placed upon the rest of society for their keep. From my point of view, we all lose this way too.

I don’t have a good solution for this dilemma. I’ve never encountered anyone else who does either.

Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts

Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts
I’m reading Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts. As I may have mentioned before, Nora is my favorite author. Thus far I have enjoyed all her books, including this one.

This one involves a group of folks who fight forest fires. And, they don’t just hike up blazing mountainsides; they actually parachute into the middle of the conflagrations out of perfectly good airplanes. I had a little trouble getting into the story at first due to this. I can’t really imagine wanting to be a firefighter of any sort, and there’s no chance at all I’d go skydiving unless the only other choice was certain death. But the story moved beyond those concepts and the characters came to life and I was sucked in as always.

I finished the book a little while ago and ran it back to the library because I know there are a lot of folks waiting to read it after me.

I got to watch, not only the main characters fall in love, but the heroine’s father as well. That was kind of cool. It was great when Daddy explained what being in love was like using fire metaphors. I enjoyed the comparisons.

There was also the accompanying murder mystery to be solved. I was a bit disappointed since I guessed (correctly) who the culprit was going to be almost as soon as he appeared in the story line. I guess I really shouldn’t complain. I’ve never believed that Nora Roberts didn’t write to a formula. It is one of the things I like. I know going in what to expect, and she always delivers. But normally, it is tougher to figure out who the bad guy is. Perhaps because it took a little longer for me to become emotionally invested in people who jump out of fully functional planes into raging infernos, I saw through the veil more easily.

While this is not my all-time favorite of Nora Robert’s novels, it is still a great read and I recommend it to anyone.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Confession by John Grisham


I’ve just finished listening to The Confession by John Grisham on audiobook. If you’ve ever listened to a book, you are probably aware that at the end of the reading there is a recitation of credits that nearly always starts with “We hope you have enjoyed this recording of…”I usually turn book off before I reach this point, but today I was painting the porch while listening and was standing on a ladder with a paint cup in one hand and a brush in the other, so I wasn’t really in a position to turn this one off right away.

That sentence, “We hope you have enjoyed this recording of The Confession by John Grisham…”got me to thinking. Had I, in fact, enjoyed the story? While it engendered many reactions from me, enjoyment would probably not make the list. This book saddened me, horrified me, frightened me, angered me and disgusted me. It also made me hope that I could be as honest, gallant, brave and principled as some of the characters. It kept me up late several nights as I listened impatiently to hear whether righteousness and justice had prevailed.

A high school cheerleader in Texas disappears without a trace. Through teenage pique and shoddy police work, an innocent young black man is sent to death row. Now, years later, on the eve of the execution, in another part of the country, a parolee comes to visit a minister and confesses to the murder of the cheerleader.

The minister is now faced with the moral imperative to attempt to stop the execution. But how? The real murderer refuses to assist in any way, including admitting where the body is buried. The innocent convict’s lawyer thinks the minister is just one of the whack jobs that come out of the wood work on the cusp of an execution, and is not taking him seriously. Which way should he turn now?

The minister ultimately does the right, albeit illegal, thing, convincing the real killer to break parole in Kansas and accompany him to Texas to confess and stop the execution. He convinces the defense lawyer that he cannot only produce the real killer, but lead authorities to the body of the cheerleader which had heretofore not been found. But due to circumstances beyond his control and the callous disregard for life and justice of members of the state judicial system, the execution proceeds. He is too late.

Eventually, all is put right – with two exceptions. The innocent man executed for a crime he did not commit, while exonerated, is still dead. And for all the committees and commissions and special legislative sessions, nothing about the death penalty process that went so horrible astray changed.

I did not “enjoy” The Confession by John Grisham. But I think it is worth reading. It made me think. And the author did a very good job at pointing out that right does not equal legal and legal does not equal right.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly


A woman, in the midst of foreclosure, is accused of murdering an executive of the bank that has called in her mortgage. Set in California in the midst of the recent real estate crash, a former criminal defense attorney turned civil attorney specializing in foreclosures, moves back into his comfort zone defending his client who proclaims her innocence in no uncertain terms.

The trial takes up the majority of the book with both the prosecution and defense pulling fast ones and taxing the patience of the judge. The defense manages to poke enough holes in the prosecution’s case to raise reasonable doubt. And, the defendant is acquitted by the jury in a matter of minutes.

And then the fun begins. It is rare for me to be totally taken by surprise by the final twist in a tale. It is even more unusual for me to be completely delighted by the outcome of that twist. Michael Connelly managed to do both. I felt a physical jolt of surprise that left my fingertips tingling as I read, and laughed out loud as the plot wound its way to the end.

I highly recommend this one – it’s a 10. Pick it up and enjoy!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts


I’m reading Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts. As I may have mentioned before, Nora is my favorite author. Thus far I have enjoyed all her books, including this one.

This one involves a group of folks who fight forest fires. And, they don’t just hike up blazing mountainsides; they actually parachute into the middle of the conflagrations out of perfectly good airplanes. I had a little trouble getting into the story at first due to this. I can’t really imagine wanting to be a firefighter of any sort, and there’s no chance at all I’d go skydiving unless the only other choice was certain death. But the story moved beyond those concepts and the characters came to life and I was sucked in as always.

I finished the book a little while ago and ran it back to the library because I know there are a lot of folks waiting to read it after me.

I got to watch, not only the main characters fall in love, but the heroine’s father as well. That was kind of cool. It was great when Daddy explained what being in love was like using fire metaphors. I enjoyed the comparisons.

There was also the accompanying murder mystery to be solved. I was a bit disappointed since I guessed (correctly) who the culprit was going to be almost as soon as he appeared in the story line. I guess I really shouldn’t complain. I’ve never believed that Nora Roberts didn’t write to a formula. It is one of the things I like. I know going in what to expect, and she always delivers. But normally, it is tougher to figure out who the bad guy is. Perhaps because it took a little longer for me to become emotionally invested in people who jump out of fully functional planes into raging infernos, I saw through the veil more easily.

While this is not my all-time favorite of Nora Robert’s novels, it is still a great read and I recommend it to anyone.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Black Echo by Michael Connelly



I just finished reading The Black Echo by Michael Connelly. I assume it is going to be made into a movie soon since it was published in 1992, and recently appeared on the New York Times Best Seller list.

It is a well done version of the classic who-done-it genre, and the first of a series of novels featuring Detective Harry Bosch. The clues and police process move forward logically, with the twists mounting as the story moves along. And the final twist, while not a total surprise, is very good.

The best part of the whole book, however, is the first page. The opening scene is described without any visual cues. Connelly uses only sound and touch and smell. But I could “see” the scene in crisp, bold detail. It was fascinating and wonderful. Only rarely do I find a book whose opening line sucks me in and delights me. This one did it.

Superb work, Michael Connelly.