Monday, December 31, 2012

Big Sky Mountain by Linda Lael Miller

Swoon-Worthy Cowboys #2

          First, let me say, don't read this book before reading the first in the series, Big Sky Country. I felt lost during most of this story. That is probably the biggest reason I didn't enjoy it very much. There is a large cast of characters that I had trouble keeping straight in my head. And the book felt too long because so much time was spent setting up back stories for so many other potential pairs.

          That being said, this was a quick, fun read. While I did not feel a great deal of tension between the two main characters, Kendra and Hutch, their interactions with four-year-old Madison were wonderfully written. And, Opal, who appoints herself Hutch's housekeeper for the duration of the story was great.

          Kendra is a real estate agent in the small town of Parable, Montana. Hutch Carmody is a rich area rancher. They have some history, but their relationship fell apart years ago. Kendra married someone else, and they both moved on. Now Kendra is back, with her adopted daughter, and Hutch just left his fiancĂ©e at the altar.

          Kendra has some serious trust issues with Hutch, but the old passion is still sizzling between them. When her four-year-old daughter takes an obvious shine to him, they are thrown together. Eventually, nature takes its course, and they end up creating a family.

          Obviously, there will be other books in this series. If the next one hits the top of the best seller list, I'll read it and hope I like it better than this one.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Where We Belong by Emily Giffin

     This book started out well. A sweet teenaged romance develops between Marian and Conrad. It is a lovely fling during the summer after high school graduation. No one expects it to last, and both kids realize what a special time it is.

          Until Marian comes up pregnant.

          Suddenly it's not so idyllic any more. All Marian's plans for college and career are in jeopardy. She chooses to tell no one except her mother -not her father or her best friend, not even Conrad. One morning after a particularly intense bout of morning sickness, she decides she wants to end the pregnancy. Her mother makes the appointment, and takes her to the clinic. Marian makes it all the way to the table before realizing this is not the answer for her. She walks away determined to have this baby. She soon realizes, however, that while bearing this child is the right answer for her, raising it is not. She makes the decision to give the baby up for adoption.

          I thought at this point Giffin was going to lose me. I had no desire to read about the angst involved with giving up a child. Fortunately for me the story skipped ahead eighteen years at this point.

          Another teenage girl is approaching her high school graduation. Kirby Rose has always known she was adopted. She has listened to her parents tell the story time and again. While she has never had a burning desire to know about her birth parents, as her eighteenth birthday approaches, her curiosity gets the better of her. At eighteen she may, per the adoption agreement, have the contact info for her birth mother. Kirby gets the information from the agency and develops a plan to meet her birth mother. She takes a Greyhound bus from St Louis to New York City, walks up to the woman’s door and knocks.

          Marian opens the door to a perfect stranger with hauntingly familiar eyes.

          Kirby and Marian spend an uncomfortably thrilling weekend together. But Kirby's enthusiasm for her birth mother is tempered by the revelation that Marian never told Conrad about the baby.

          Armed with a small amount of information about Conrad, Kirby returns to St Louis determined to track him down. Her efforts are unsuccessful, however. Marian has better luck. When she and Kirby speak next, Marian announces she has found an address for Conrad. The two women plan a trip to Chicago together to tell him about Kirby.

          Talk about an uncomfortable conversation!

          Conrad is none too pleased about having been kept in the dark about the pregnancy and is obviously angry with Marian. Kirby on the other hand, seems to delight him. They have a great deal in common, primarily that they are both musicians.

          Kirby returns to St Louis happy to have started relationships with both her biological parents.   Her family supports her in this and graciously invites both of them to Kirby's graduation. Both attend, and join the family for lunch after the ceremony. As the evening approaches, Conrad offers to drop Marian at her hotel on his way out of town. They part intending to keep in touch.

          I've got to admit I was a little disappointed in the ending. Everything seemed to be leading up to Marian and Conrad falling in love all over again. But, while the possibility certainly existed, it was left an open question. I found this unsatisfactory - realistic, but unsatisfactory.

          This book had potential all over the place. I wanted it to be great, and at several points thought it was going to be. But the greatness never came to be.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Lover Reborn by JR Ward

Black Dagger Brotherhood #10

            This is the first Black Dagger Brotherhood book I've read, so I am obviously coming into the story line in the middle. Despite that fact, I liked this book well enough that I put the first one in the series (Dark Lover) on the TBR list before I finished this one. While there is a large cast of characters, they are very well defined so I had little difficulty keeping them straight in my head. I am also intrigued by the complexities of their society. That aspect is well thought out and detailed. I'd like to learn more about it. There are also some physical and mental abilities that I'd like to know more about. And, the love story, as always with JR Ward, was spicy indeed.

            This book dealt primarily with the ideas of love lost, and moving past one's grief. There was also a side story featuring the compromises necessary for two strong people in love with each other to build a marriage.

            Thorment (Did I mention I love the characters’ names?) has lost his life mate, Wellissandra. She died in a previous story, but he is not dealing well with the loss. He is refusing to feed and wasting away both physically and mentally. His refusal to deal with the loss of his wife and unborn son is preventing them from moving into the Fade - roughly equivalent to our heaven - and they will soon be lost to oblivion if something does not change.

            No'One has been sent back to the mortal plain after having committed suicide years before. She too must learn to move beyond her self-involvement and grief to arrive at a full productive life.

            Lassiter is an angel attempting to "earn his wings". It is his task to herd both Thorment and No'One in the right direction and prod them toward each other so all three can be redeemed; a task akin to herding cats in this case. The process is sometimes sad, sometimes funny and always entertaining. And Lassiter does finally succeed.

            Whether everyone lives happily ever after remains to be seen, however, as certain factions within their society are plotting to overthrow their king. We'll have to see what comes of that in the next book, Lover At Last.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Stay Close by Harlan Coben

            Who doesn't love a murder mystery surrounding a stripper turned soccer mom?

            Megan left her past behind a long time ago. For nearly seventeen years she has been living the busy, satisfying life of a suburban homemaker, selling a little real estate on the side. She has a loving husband, two teenagers and no regrets. But sometimes she misses the excitement of the old life just a little.

            While on a business trip to Atlantic City, she gives in to the temptation to drop by one of her old haunts. Suddenly, the past becomes very present in her life.

            A man who had been stalking and abusing her went missing the night she walked away from her old life. The police have had an open missing person case for seventeen years, but rumors have started to surface that he has recently been seen in Atlantic City again. A second man, in love with her, started a long, slow slide into depression and alcoholism the same night. The police have long assumed Megan had something to do with the disappearance, but another recent disappearance on the seventeenth anniversary of the first has them looking at things again.

            Surveillance from the nights of the two disappearances show lots of people wearing beads as they leave the club. And, they finally put the disappearances together with Mardi Gras. They begin to look at Mardi Gras on other years only to discover a disturbing pattern of disappearances. And the hunt for a serial killer begins.

            Megan doesn't know much, but she is the only lead the police have. Her happy home and her very life are put at risk as she struggles to do the right thing for her old life. With her help, the dogged police detective finally runs the killer to ground, a killer he has known for decades.

            This was a pretty good read. I liked it, although there were parts I didn't think needed to be there -like the issues with her mother in law. And I wondered what the title had to do with anything until it became quite clear at the end of the story. If you like who-done-its, definitely pick this one up.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

Chief inspector Armand Gamache #8

          I listened to this one on audiobook. I'm very glad I did. This was a great story. It takes place in Quebec where they speak a lot of French. I do not speak French at all, and I find French words and phrases in books to be very distracting. Same thing with Latin, which makes quite a few appearances here as well since the story takes place In a Catholic monastery. They also played some cool music at the beginning and end of the book.

          At any rate, I really enjoyed this story. This is the first of the Gamache series I've read, and had little trouble jumping right in and keeping up. The inspector and his sidekick arrive at an ancient monastery in the forests of Quebec where someone has murdered the prior inside the abbot's personal garden. Inside, they find twenty-three men living a cloistered and self-sufficient life. They live within a vow of silence except for the Gregorian chants they are famous for. The suspect pool is limited. Even though he is expected, the inspector found it difficult to get through the front gate. No mysterious stranger did this. One of the remaining monks murdered his brother.

          Inspector Gamache soon discovers that beneath the veil of silence, contemplation and cooperation lies a roiling mass of discord and interpersonal turmoil. A case could be made for almost any of the monks to have been the murderer, and the men's natural disinclination to speak can make uncovering information quite challenging.

          Gamache perseveres, and the killer is brought to justice. But not before his own boss arrives bent on making trouble, and a modern day Inquisitor arrives from Rome in search of a hidden treasure held within the monastery.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Third Gate by Lincoln Child

          The Third Gate is a supernatural thriller. Jeremy Logan is a professor who studies paranormal activity. He is asked to join an archeological expedition to lend his expertise. The expedition had been experiencing odd events, and talk of a curse was starting to make the rounds. Dr Logan is supposed to determine if more than the harsh conditions and isolation of the dig are to blame.

            Wildly successful archeologist, Porter Stone, believes he has found the tomb of the first pharaoh of a unified Egypt. It is located in the midst of the nastiest swamp on the planet. The entire expedition is housed on enormous interlocking pontoons floating on the surface of the swampy muck. Divers go down through a hole in the floor called "the Maw" into near zero visibility conditions searching for the tomb.

            The dig is plagued by communications glitches, equipment malfunctions, fires and accidents. One of the scientists on the staff is married to a medium, and together they attempt to channel any lingering spirits that can help them. One of those spirits tells of a particularly nasty curse guarding the tomb. Many of the mishaps seem to echo the phrases of the curse. Dr Logan and the senior staff work keep the dig moving along and the problems to a minimum.

            Finally their efforts begin to pay off. A skeleton is found, then a group of them corresponding to the number of the pharaoh’s bodyguard, and then an immense pile of the bones of the workers who built the tomb. Just a bit further on is the entrance to the tomb itself.

            Once inside, it is apparent this is no ordinary Egyptian tomb. But the floating compound will be inflames and the staff fleeing for their very lives before they realize just how different it really is.

            I like Lincoln Child (and his sometime writing partner, Douglas Preston). This was a good example of his work. It is not his creepiest, but was fine entertainment!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Night Pleasures by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Dark-Hunter #2

            This is the second book in Kenyon's Dark-Hunter series. Dark hunters are rather like anti-vampires. They share the physical traits of vampires, but their role is to destroy them and keep mankind safe.

            Amanda has numerous sisters, all of whom have "special" abilities, including a vampire hunting twin. Amanda prefers to keep herself firmly grounded in reality, and avoids the supernatural like the plague. One evening Amanda's sister calls to ask if she'll go over to the house and let the dog out. Amanda grouses about it, but agrees. While there she is kidnapped by a vampire who seems to think Amanda is her twin sister. Amanda wakes later to find herself handcuffed to a very large, "yummy leather man". He turns out to be Kyrian of Thrace, a two thousand year old Greek Dark-Hunter.

            Amanda finds herself inexplicably drawn to Kyrian. His stunning good looks and intriguing accent may be partially to blame, but whatever it is, it is strong enough to get her past her avoidance of the supernatural. Kyrian also finds himself drawn to Amanda. He has not allowed a woman to get close to him since his Greek wife betrayed him, causing the loss of both his life and his soul.

            Kyrian gets himself and Amanda away from the vampire, Desiderius, who kidnapped them. He takes her to his home where he, and his squire Nick, can keep her safe. She must also walk a tight wire with her vampire slaying sister who does not differentiate between vampires and Dark-Hunters, keeping Tabitha away from Kyrian and out of the clutches of Desiderius as well.

            Desiderius is much more difficult to kill than most vampires and causes Kyrian no end of trouble. A prophecy indicates that only a Dark-Hunter with a soul can destroy him. But by definition, Dark-Hunters are soulless. Amanda does some checking around and discovers that if she is willing to sacrifice all, she can return Kyrian's soul allowing him to finish off Desiderius once and for all. She does what she has to do. Kyrian once again becomes mortal. He kills Desiderius, and Amanda and Kyrian are now free to live happily ever after.

            The love story between Amanda and Kyrian is sexy and fun. It’s very much an opposites-attract situation with a twenty something accountant unable to resist a two millennium old supernatural being. I also really enjoyed some of the other characters, including Nick, the squire. I'd love to see him get his own story.

            This was another fun read from Sherrilyn Kenyon. I look forward to reading the next installment in the Dark-Hunter series, Night Embrace.

            You can read my review of the first Dark-Hunter story I encountered, The Guardian, Dark-Hunter #21 here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult

          I assumed, based on the title, that this would be yet another book about werewolves. In that regard I was pleasantly surprised. This is a story about a man who studies wolves. He and his family put the fun in dysfunctional, but they are all one hundred percent human.

          Luke is fascinated with wolves. He spends his time learning everything he can about them, and teaching what he knows to others. He meets a girl; they marry and produce two children: Edward and Cara. Then Luke decides that the best way to really understand wolves is to become accepted as a member of a wolf pack. He starts out by living with the wolves at the shelter where he works. But at some point he decides he needs to go into the Canadian wilderness, leaving his wife and young children behind, and seek out a wild pack. Two years later he comes back out of the woods having succeeded in being accepted into a wolf pack. But he has also (unsurprisingly) succeeded in destroying his marriage and his relationship with his children.

          Fast forward a few years. Luke's ex wife has remarried. His son, Edward, moved out shortly after his eighteenth birthday and headed to Thailand where he has been teaching English. Cara, his seventeen year old daughter is living with him and has inherited his fascination with, if not his need to live with, wolves.

          On an icy winter night, Cara and her father are involved in a single car accident. Cara is badly injured. Luke is brain dead. Edward is called and gets on the first flight back to the states. And a battle erupts over what to do about Luke.

          The doctors hold out little hope that he will ever recover consciousness. Cara, still a minor, wants to keep him on life support in the hope the doctors are wrong. Edward, based on a conversation between his father and himself before the trip into the Canadian wilderness, believes his father would want to be taken off life support and his organs donated. The courts get involved, and no one is happy.

          This book spends most of its time exploring the concept of death. What is it? How should it be approached? Whose opinions matter when a loved one is in limbo between life and death? This is a very angst ridden story, and gets a big zero on the fun scale. But it is very thought provoking.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Fair Game by Patricia Briggs

Alpha & Omega #3

          This is the first book by Patricia Briggs I've read. I really liked it. Normally werewolves are not my thing, and I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about this one. It felt more like a police procedural with some paranormal thrown in even though it really is just the opposite.

          Charles is the Alpha wolf in this book. Anna is the Omega, the peacemaker and tension calmer of the pack. They are mates and are having relationship problems as the story begins. Charles has become the enforcer for the American werewolves. Since the werewolves have recently "come out" and the general populace is now aware of them, a much tighter rein must be kept on the were population. Errors in judgment by new weres, and infraction of rules by all are being punished more harshly. Charles feels like he has become nothing more than an executioner. His pack leader is trying to help by removing all other duties from him, but that only makes the situation worse because he has no distractions from it. His mate, Anna, finally has enough and confronts both the pack leader and one of the pack elders about the situation.

          At about the same time the pack is asked by the federal government to consult on a case. The pack leader chooses to send Charles and Anna to help. While chasing down a serial killer that is preying on the Fae, Charles begins to be able to let go of the demons he has been wrestling. And just in time too. With the help of the local werewolves and some witches, the Feds are able to rescue the killers' most recent victim before she can be killed. In retaliation for this rescue, Anna is taken. She uses her wits to keep herself alive till Charles can come to her rescue.

          The bad guys are killed or captured. A trial is held. But the verdict is not what the werewolves and other Fae were expecting. In disgust, the Fairie King declares his people no longer affiliated with or subject to the laws of the United States. And the stage is set for the next book in the series.

          I am looking forward to that next book.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Thief by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott

Isaac Bell #5

          The Isaac Bell series celebrates the dramatic changes that were taking place at the turn of the previous century: the telegraph, the airplane, moving pictures. This story revolves around the budding movie industry and the holy grail of "talking" pictures.

          The story starts with Bell foiling the kidnapping or two men off a steamship that is preparing to cross from Europe to America. It is simply a case of Bell being in the right place at the right time. The two men, while grateful for the rescue, are reluctant to share the reason for the kidnapping. Bell, being a Van Dorn detective, determines to keep an eye on them to find out why they are so important.

          As it turns out, they have developed the first effective method for syncing motion and sound on film. They are traveling to America to offer their invention for sale to Thomas Edison. But the German Kaiser wants the invention for himself. He has a plan to use this invention to create propaganda videos aimed at getting America to back them in the approaching hostilities that will lead to WWI.

          The man known as The Acrobat, who masterminded both the kidnapping and the talking picture propaganda scheme, is certainly a worthy opponent for Bell. He is smart, physical, well trained and determined. He nearly succeeds in killing Bell more than once. Of course, Bell nearly succeeds in killing him several times as well.

          The action, the intrigue and the peek into history make this a very enjoyable read. I liked it better than the last installment, The Race [see my review]. Perhaps because I am now familiar with the main and recurring characters, or perhaps because I find these aspects of the history more interesting than the birth of aviation that was the basis of the last story.

          I recommend this book, and for those of you who like turn of the twentieth century history, this series.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Wicked Business by Janet Evanovich

Lizzy and Diesel #2

            Lizzy and Diesel are back. This time they are on the hunt for the Luxuria stone, the Seligia stone of lust. Just like last time, Wolf and Hackitt are hot on their trail. And this time there is someone else looking for the stone as well. Someone even Diesel and Wolf don't know about.

            There is a scavenger hunt for clues in locations all around Massachusetts. And, this time Lizzy and Diesel need a little help from their friends. For instance, Diesel borrows a painting that seems to be the answer to a clue, but neither he nor Lizzy can figure out what it means. When Glo spots the painting, she can see numbered bells that no one else can. Once Lizzy and Diesel track down the bells, they cannot get them to chime, but Carl the monkey can. They persist in the hunt for, and eventually find, both the Luxuria stone and the clay tablet that will point the way to the next stone holder.

            I didn't enjoy this one as much as the first one. I just wasn't feeling the usual level of zaniness. Nor did I feel the levels of nuance surrounding the stone and its powers. Not to suggest this was not a fun book. The entertainment factor was quite high. I just don't think it lived up to the first book, Wicked Appetite.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Criminal by Karin Slaughter

Read by Kathleen Early

Will Trent #7

            It took me a while to get into this book. It is extremely well written, however, so despite feeling a bit leery at first, I kept listening. This is the first book I've read by Slaughter. She did such an amazing job of describing the descent of a typical middle class teenager into drugs and prostitution that I could easily imagine how the same thing could have happened to me. The story was gritty and real and made me very uncomfortable. I wasn't sure I wanted to listen to things like that for the several days it takes me to get through an audio book. But I could not walk away from such a compelling writer's work.

            While this series is about Will Trent, the story is about the first major case solved by his boss, Amanda, decades earlier. Prostitutes and had been disappearing in Atlanta.  But since no one was particularly interested in what happened to streetwalkers, no one realized there was a pattern, until Amanda and her partner are asked to go into the projects and interview a woman about a rape. There, they hear a story about girls gone missing.

            A few days later, the woman they spoke to is found dead on the pavement behind her building, an apparent suicide jump. But the facts of the case do not add up, and Amanda and her partner start looking into the deaths and disappearances.  They get almost as much grief from their fellow cops, at least the male ones, as they do from the criminal element. But they persevere, eventually, putting a serial killer behind bars. That serial killer was also Will Trent’s father.

            Now, daddy has been paroled and more girls come up missing mere weeks after he is back on the streets. Will is being blocked from investigating by his boss, Amanda. He is confused, angry and filled with mounting frustration. Amanda, too, is not happy about the situation. Not all her questions had been answered by the man’s arrest so long ago, and as she once again begins to investigate, she finds she did not completely clean up the mess she found as a green detective. This time around, though, there are no loose ends left hanging.

            I really liked this book. Yes, it made me very uncomfortable at times. But I was riveted. I regularly listen to an audio book for half an hour or so after I get off work at midnight, before I go to bed. I had several very late nights during this story, because I had trouble turning it off. I just had to hear a little more!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris

Sookie Stackhouse #12

            I have not read all the Sookie Stackhouse novels, but I have read several of the earlier ones. I'm not sure exactly ones which since they were before I starting blogging and keeping track of such things. They must have been pretty good, though, because I remembered all the main characters, and, of course, who could forget Bubba?

            In this installment, the vampire king comes to visit. Sookie's boyfriend, Eric, is in his crosshairs. But he is unsure whether it is for punishment or praise, so everyone is tense. While the king is visiting Eric's home, a murder is committed in the front yard. No one knows how the young woman got into the house, or how she might have been killed. Eric's daytime guy, Mustapha, apparently helped her sneak in, but he has disappeared, so no one can ask him how or why.

            Eric is also being encouraged to dump Sookie and marry a vampire princess in a political move to consolidate power. Sookie expects Eric to declare his love for her and refuse the alliance. Eric expects Sookie to make use of the fairy charm her grandmother left her to magic him out of the marriage. They are at an uncomfortable impasse.

            In the mean time, Sookie's fairy godfather returns through the portal in the woods, spiriting one of her roommates away. While he is gone, Sookie starts to realize the roommate was not such a nice guy. And, the fae that reside at his business begin to run wild through town.

            And then there is the pack of werewolves with all their drama.

            Sookie keeps very busy, and is quite entertaining in this latest episode. I have enjoyed reading the last few books and will look forward to the thirteenth book in the series

Saturday, November 24, 2012

All Summer Long by Susan Mallory

Fools Gold #9

            This installment in the Fools Gold series is yet another quick fun read. This romance is between a firefighter and an underwear model. I know that sounds more like something that would appeal to the men folk, but in this instance, the firefighter is the girl and the underwear model is the boy. Isn't that a clever little twist?

            Charlie Dixon, firefighter, has decided she would like to become a mother, but she is concerned that her fear and distrust of men will have a bad effect on any children she has. She decides that the best way to overcome this shortcoming in herself is to ask a man to help her get past her fear of intimacy.

            Clay Stryker is the new man around Fools Gold. He is stepping away from a successful career as a model and "butt double". His extraordinary good looks have brought him fame and the adoration of women the world over. And the death of his wife has left him largely uninterested in the women who continue to throw themselves at him. He has moved to Fools Gold to be close to his family and to start up a new business in town. His plans to become an active member of the community include volunteering as a firefighter.

            When Charlie decides to ask the new guy to help her overcome her fears, she doesn't really think he will agree. When he does, they are both a little surprised. They are even more surprised to find how compatible they are. Once Charlie feels Clay has completely fulfilled his part of the bargain she is absolutely shocked when he tells he is glad their business arrangement has come to an end. Now they can start dating!

            Neither of them expects to fall in love, but it happens. They have their ups and downs, but ultimately join the ranks of the happy-ever-after in Fools Gold. If you’d like to see my other Fool’s Gold review, just click! Only Us

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich

          Lizzie and Diesal #1

            Wicked Appetite is the first book in the Lizzie and Diesel series. I assume there will be seven books in the series as Evanovich is using the seven deadly sins device. This book is her usual fun and quirky style. Roll your eyes goofy and laugh out loud funny in places. The situation comedy aspect is very strong. How can an overly human monkey or a one-eyed ninja cat not be entertaining?

            Lizzie is a pastry chef with a particular talent for cupcakes. She works at a bakery in Salem, MA, home of the Salem Witch Trials. Considering where she works, the odd is not unusual. But when a tall, cadaverously pale man enters the bakery looking for her things get more than odd.

            After Wolf scares Lizzy half to death and leaves, his gorgeous cousin, Diesel, rolls in looking for her. He explains that he and Wolf are both looking for a special stone controlling gluttony. He says Lizzy has special abilities, not only with cupcakes, but also to feel the energy given off by this stone. He insists she help him find it. Since she finds herself unable to get rid of him, and he promises to protect her from Wolf, she assists.

            The hunt for the keys to the stones location becomes increasingly difficult and dangerous as the story progresses. Of course, the goofiness surrounding Lizzy increases apace, balancing tension and release nicely. And, while I have always associated gluttony with food, Evanovich uses a much broader definition to great effect.

            Lizzy and Diesel eventually find the stone, but find themselves at an impasse with Wolf at the same time. Wolf and Diesel agree to split the loot with him, and meet again another day - presumably in Wicked Business, Lizzy and Diesel #2.

            This is not the great American novel, but it doesn't seem to expect to be. It is seriously fun, and I recommend it. I am looking forward to the next installment in the series.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Monkey’s Raincoat by Robert Crais

Elvis Cole #1

            This is not the kind of book I generally like Elvis Cole is not the kind of character that usually appeals to me. So what is it about this series that delights me?

            I like Elvis Cole. His sense of humor is a lot like mine. He's quirky and proud of it. He'll sleep with any woman he runs into, but mostly because he's trying to make both of them feel better. And he has great taste in friends. His business partner, friend and muscle, Joe Pike is great. A genuinely tough guy with a sense of other people's psyches, an OCD-like compulsion about clean cars, and not a lot to say. Elvis describes him as thinking that "Clint Eastwood talks too much."

            This is the first book in this series, published in 1987. I added it to my TBR list after reading Taken, the 13th in the series [
Taken], and I'll be adding Stalking the Angel, the third in the series.

            Elvis Cole is a private investigator in Hollywood. This story starts with two women arriving in his office to hire him, a quiet doormat of a wife and her pushy, overbearing best friend. Mrs. Doormat's husband has disappeared with their son. She fears he has left her and their daughters. Elvis agrees to look into the situation for her. He agrees to meet her at her house to collect his retainer and look through her husband’s papers. When Elvis arrives he finds the place has been systematically and thoroughly tossed. His client refuses to call the police, not wanting to embarrass her husband when he returns as she believes he did the tossing.

            Elvis starts his investigation, first uncovering evidence of an affair. Further investigation reveals that hubby and side piece attended a party at the home of a wealthy drug dealer. As it turns out, two kilos of nearly pure cocaine were stolen during the party. Drug dealer assumes hubby took it.

            Elvis finally insists that the police be called in, and they quickly find hubby shot dead in his car. The boy is missing. The drug dealer has snatched him to use as an exchange for the drugs. There's just one problem. Hubby didn't take the dope. Now Elvis must find out who did take it, and be prepared to swap it for the boy without everyone getting killed.

            I really enjoyed this book. Although I'm still not sure why it is titled the way it is. Apparently it has to do with a haiku quoted at the beginning of the book. I recommend both the book and the series highly.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Voyager by Diana Gabaldon

          Outlander #3

          Another great book by Diana Gabaldon!  I am so pleased I found this series. I’ve enjoyed every moment of these very long books. Gabaldon has made her way onto my list of favorite authors.

          Voyager is the third book in the Outlander series. After thoroughly enjoying the first two, Outlander and Dragonfly In Amber, [Outlander, Dragonfly In Amber] I was looking forward to this one. In the first book, Claire travels two hundred years back through time and finds herself in Scotland just prior to the Jacobite uprising. While there, she meets, marries and falls in love with Jamie Frasier, a large, handsome charismatic Scot. She tells him that the Scottish forces will be massacred at Culloden Field, and as the battle approaches, she discovers she is pregnant. Jamie sends her back through time on the eve of the battle, intending to go back and die on the field. Claire returns to her own time and bears Jamie’s child.

          In the second book, Claire takes her daughter, Brianna, on a trip to Scotland with the intent of telling her who her biological father is, and attempting to explain the time travel. Claire tells the tale of her love affair with Jamie and of their adventures together. While there, Brianna discovers Jamie Frasier’s grave and Claire realizes for the first time that Jamie did not die at Culloden.

          Now, Claire works to discover where she might find Jamie Frasier twenty years after the battle of Culloden. Through the exhaustive efforts of Brianna and her historian boyfriend, they track down clues that indicate Jamie is working as a printer in Edinburgh.

          Claire gathers what she can and prepares to travel back through the stones to find her one true love. It is wrenching to leave Brianna, but she cannot stay away. She goes back through the stone and begins the trek to the city.

          Upon arriving in Edinburgh, Claire gets directions to the printing house she believes is now owned by Jamie. She sees him and knows she was right to return to him, but is nervous about his reaction.  When he turns around and sees her, he faints dead away! 

          Jamie and Claire then embark on the journey of relearning each other – neither is really the same person they were when they parted twenty years earlier. Their personal journey is paralleled in the book by their physical journey from Scotland to the New World.  It is fun and exciting with twists and turns in both treks that kept me on the edge of my seat. 

          I highly recommend this book.  I would also suggest reading the first two before picking this one up though.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Innocent by David Baldacci

            The Innocent is yet another "boy book" about a CIA assassin. Not my usual cup of tea, but this shooter seems to have a heart and a moral compass.

            The book starts with us watching a couple of bad guys being taken out by Will Robie at the behest of his CIA handler. Robie is patient, efficient and organized. But something goes wrong on his next assignment.

            Robie is told to kill a US government employee in Washington DC. He arrives in the woman's apartment to find her asleep with a toddler in the bed with her. Robbie's handler tells him via his earwig to shoot the boy as well as his mother. While Robie might buy that the woman is a traitor, he has trouble believing a toddler is. He refuses to shoot. However, a sniper round comes through the window killing both of mother and child with a single round. Robie takes off knowing the next round will be aimed at him. On his way out of the apartment, he finds an infant asleep in a carrier. He grabs the child, drops him in front of a neighbor's door, rings the bell and runs.

            At the same time another violent scenario is playing out in another part of DC. A teenage girl, Julie, has skipped out of her foster home and gone back to her parents place. They all intend to leave DC together and start a new life elsewhere. She arrives to find a stranger in the act of murdering her father. Her mother's dying act is to throw herself on the attacker to allow her daughter to escape. Julie runs for her life as directed.

            Both Robie and Julie choose to escape DC by catching the next bus to New York. Robie takes the back seat. Julie chooses one a couple of rows in front of him. The last guy on the bus seems very interested in Julie, but she is prepared to defend herself with a can of pepper spray. Robie also observes the guy's interest in Julie and after she uses the spray, Robie grabs her and hustles her off the bus. As they reach the ground, the entire bus explodes killing all the passengers. Robie doesn't know if the explosion was meant to kill him or Julie, but he takes no chances. He brings her on the run with him till he can find out what's going on.

            What he finds is a circle of traitors in very high places and a plot to assassinate the president. A plot that could have been foiled by Julie's father and the men and women he had served with in the army during the first Gulf war. As twisted and confusing as the circumstances are, Robie and Julie figure it out and keep the president alive.

            This was a pretty good book. My biggest problem with it was that I knew who the assassin was going to be before I figured out there was going to be an assassination. That character and Robie’s response just did not ring true.

            Boys are probably going to like this one, and if my husband hasn't read it yet, he is going to want to.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Samurai Game by Christine Feehan

Ghostwalkers #10

            This is another series that I'm arriving in the middle of. This one is about people who have natural psychic abilities and have been "enhanced". For instance, one guy has venom sacs on his wrists and can poison people with a touch. Both of the main characters in this story can teleport, or instantly transfer their molecules from one place to another without passing through the intervening space.

            All the enhanced characters in the story are Ghostwalkers, a clandestine military group that does special missions for the US government. All of them are former experiments of the mad doctor, Peter Whitney. So they have common ground, but very different individual experiences.

            Sam Johnson was raised by a US military father. Azami was raised in the Samurai tradition by a Japanese father. They meet when The Ghostwalkers become interested in the satellite technology offered by Azami's technology company. Azami and her brothers come to visit the Ghostwalkers well-fortified compound and it comes under attack. Sam and Azami find themselves engaged in combat with an unknown enemy. Sam is not only impressed with her abilities as a warrior, he is positively aroused. He never believed he could find a woman who would understand his way of life, but a warrior woman is perfect for him. And Azami finds in Sam a man who will accept, love and desire her despite the physical and mental scars left on her by her time with the mad doctor.

            I like Christine Feehan's stories, although she has a nasty violent streak! I don't think I'll be adding the first nine Ghostwalkers stories to my to-be-read list, but I will happily read others as they come along. And come along they must as the evil Dr. Whitney has not yet been eliminated.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Fifty Shades Freed by EL James

Fifty Shades #3

            This is the third book in this series. While I enjoyed the first two books [
Fifty Shades Darker, Fifty Shades of Grey], I didn't think they lived up to the hype. And, I've got to say I don't think any of them deserve a months-long rid e on the New York Times Best Seller list. However they are definitely fun reads. Once again the email correspondence between Ana and Christian is very entertaining.

            The story picks up as they are getting married and honeymooning in various European hot spots. They have an exhausting amount of sex, but they are young and honeymooning, so I guess that is to be expected. Once they return home it's time to get back to work.

            The pressures of Ana's publishing job increase, her schedule becomes increasingly hectic and birth control slips her mind. She discovers, much to her horror, that she is pregnant. An ultrasound shows her a tiny blip that her Ob/gyn indicates is the fetus. She immediately feels protective and loving toward her Little Blip, but dreads telling Christian. Much drama ensues.

            Unsettling things continue to happen and security around the entire Grey family is tightened. At one point, an attempt is made to abduct Ana, but is foiled. The bad guy goes to jail but is bailed out by an unknown benefactor. While out, he manages to successfully abduct Christian's sister. Ana saves the day and gets to shoot the bad guy in the knee. What fun!

            The bad guy is arrested again, and all slides back into a normal routine. The book ends with Ana and Christian at their newly renovated home, living happily ever after. The last several chapters are almost like outtakes at the end of a movie, but reveal some rather interesting aspects to Christian's story. My favorite is the first encounter between the two at the interview in Christian's office. It is told entirely from Christian's point of view and is both enlightening and entertaining.

            I think this series is a pretty good one. It gets points in my book for being fun and entertaining. 


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Summerland: A Novel by Elin Hilderbrand

Read by Erin Bennett

            Summerland is kind of a sad story. It is well written. I liked and cared about the characters, but is does not get big points for entertainment.

            Most of the story takes place on Nantucket Island among the permanent population. On graduation night, four high school juniors are involved in a car accident. The driver, Penny, is killed, her twin brother, Hobby, is left in a coma. Her boyfriend, Jake, and her friend Demeter, walk away from the accident. But the ramifications of the crash are felt among a large portion of the island's population.  

            Demeter has serious self esteem issues and at the time of the crash is learning to drink away her pain. Her parents are oblivious to her blooming alcoholism. While sneaking around trying to find booze, Demeter sees something she shouldn’t have. And, immediately prior to the accident, she shares her knowledge with Penny

            Jake has been in love with Penny for his whole life. While they have only recently become lovers, they have been inseparable since they were small children. He believes they share everything about themselves, but in the aftermath of the crash, he discovers she has been harboring a secret.

            Hobby is the big man on campus, the popular football star and natural athlete. He appears to have the world by the tail, but he has a distressing secret, too.  And the crash leaves him with multiple broken bones, effectively destroying any chance he might have had to become a professional athlete.

            Penny, Hobby’s twin sister, is a sweet popular girl with the voice of an angel. She is driving Jake’s Jeep the night of the crash because she is the only one of the group not drinking. She does not indulge in alcohol because her first priority is caring for her voice. She feels things deeply, her love for Jake, the loss of the father who died before she was born, the weight of responsibility her vocal gift requires. But her sunny appearance belies a dark side to her psyche. It is her reaction to Demeter’s secret that causes the crash that changes everyone’s lives.

                        The story deals somewhat with the kids dealing with the aftermath of the crash, the loss of a sister, a lover, a friend. But largely, the story is about how the adults deal with the crash and their discovering the secrets being held by their children. It's not pretty. It could never be pretty, but the adults also hold secrets that just make the story sad.

            Things do work out in the end. And while I wouldn't go so far as to call it a happy ending, it is satisfying. No loose ends are left hanging out there, and life goes on.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language by Melvyn Bragg

            I don't often read nonfiction. However, I really enjoy history (except wars) and I love knowing about words - where they came from, how their usage has changed over time - so this book was right up my alley. It describes how the English language went from a local dialect of a few thousand words to the world wide form of communication it is today.

            Admittedly, some of the earlier chapters went over information I was already familiar with. But it was very interesting to read about how the language spread beyond the island of England to become the basis of communication on other continents. Naturally, I found the language's arrival in and progression through the US fascinating. I was unaware of how influential the Lewis and Clark expedition through the Louisiana Purchase was in the increase of American English vocabulary. I liked how the chapter on the American expansion opened:

If you can imagine a language having a life of its own...that language after a certain take-off stage becomes a living entity, like water...the reach of English has been oceanic. It had already by this stage in its history, the middle of the eighteenth century, gone from a splinter dialect of a subdivision of a branch of an Indo-European tongue to the language of Shakespeare and the King James Bible, the language that sailed in the mouths and minds of zealous and dedicated men and women to plant itself in a new world.

            Obviously, this book is not for everyone. I enjoyed it immensely.

Monday, October 29, 2012

11th Hour by James Patterson and Maxine Peatro

Women's Murder Club #11

Read by January LaVoy

            This installment of the Women's Murder Club has a pregnant Lindsay Boxer faced with a series of bizarre murders. She is called to a scene at a compound built by a man who liked his privacy. The new owners are not there much, but there is a small staff residing at the location. Upon arriving in the garden of the compound, Lindsay is shown two decapitated heads, one old, and one still relatively fresh. They are displayed on the patio surrounded by freshly picked flowers. As if this is not weird enough, further investigation turns up more skulls of varying ages buried on the grounds.

            Suspicion naturally turns first to the owner of the property who years earlier was acquitted of murdering his wife whose body has never been found. Try as she might, Lindsay cannot make a case against him for any of the dead women. In looking farther afield, Lindsay finds an odd and reclusive woman squatting in the servants' quarters at the compound. She does not seem quite sane, and does admit to displaying the heads in the garden. Unfortunately, a case cannot be made against her for the murders. But Lindsay does not give up and eventually discovers her murderer.

            While trying to identify the skulls and solve their murders, Lindsay is having problems at home. An old flame of Joe's calls and leads Lindsay to believe that Joe is having an affair with her. Lindsay, apparently suffering from a bad case of hormones and pregnancy brain, throws him out without letting him tell his side of the story. It turns out she is wrong and she has to deal with her marriage woes while trying to do her, always difficult, job.

            This is pretty typical James Patterson fare, although the squatter in the servants' quarters is particularly odd, and Lindsay's lack of perspective with Joe is a bit out of character. It was a good way to spend some time, and it was nice to catch up with the girls in the Club.