Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Unfinished Business by Nora Roberts

          Vanessa is a concert pianist.  Her father took her away from her mother and the small town in which she grew up immediately after her high school graduation, and helped her launch a successful, international career. 

          Brady is a reformed rebel, now a physician, in the same small town in which he grew up; the same small town Vanessa left at eighteen.

          Van and Brady were more than just high school sweethearts.  They were madly, passionately and innocently in love with one another. Through a series of ill-timed events and the interference of Van’s father, the two were separated after graduation and had no contact for the next twelve years. 

          Now Van’s father has died and she returns home to find that Brady is still there – and still in love with her. But too many questions linger about her own life for her to make the kind of commitment he wants.

          I really liked this story.  I got a kick out of the setting being the next town over from Boonsboro – the setting of Roberts’ current romantic trilogy.  There is also a blast from the past with the appearance of Princess Gabriella of Cordina.  (My copy of Gabriella’s story, Affaire Royale, is copyrighted 1986.)

          I highly recommend Unfinished Business to all Nora Roberts’ fans and anyone else who enjoys a fairy tale romance.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Next Always by Nora Roberts

          This is the start of Nora Roberts’ latest romantic trilogy. It features three brothers. Brother number one, Beckett, finally hooks up with his high school sweetheart, Clare. She’s been married before, is now widowed and comes with a ready-made family of three boys. (Do I scent the beginnings of yet another series of stories???) 

          The story plays out against the backdrop of a building rehab project being done by the brothers – the restoration of a centuries-old inn.  And, of course, this inn is haunted.  No self-respecting centuries-old inn could possibly be without its resident spirit!  And, naturally, in the climactic scene, Clare is saved only through the intervention of Lizzy, the ghost.

          As always, the small town and its residents are vividly portrayed.  Clare and Beckett with their boys and dogs feel like close family friends. I can’t wait to visit Boonsboro again when the next installment comes out in May 2012.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

One Day by David Nicholls

          I still don’t know quite how I feel about this one.  I can tell you I have a bittersweet feeling at the base of my throat. This is a sweet story of two lives, how they came together one St. Swithin’s day. The story checks back in on its characters on that same day in various years in the future. The story tells of these two lives, how they bumped along, how they twined together at times, how they went their separate ways at others.

          One Day makes me feel like some people really are meant to be together. But it also reinforces my belief that destiny isn’t written in stone. It is also an example of how the tiny decisions we make day to day, like where to stop for a drink, can have dramatic effects decades later. 

          I’ll recommend this one, with the caveat that it is a chick book – a British chick book.  There are probably too many feelings floating around for a lot of guys. 

          I think I’ve decided I like it.  It’s not what I’d usually choose, but I’m glad I read it.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Affair by Lee Child

    This is a Jack Reacher novel. Jack Reacher is an army MP sent on an undercover mission to a small Mississippi town whose sole support is the nearby military base. There has been a murder, and personnel from the base could be involved. The army sends Reacher to keep an eye on local law enforcement. If they get too close, Reacher is to let the army know immediately.  However, the local sheriff, a retired marine, makes Reacher the moment he hits town. They quickly begin to work together to investigate.

          Reacher soon discovers that there have in fact been three murders with similar MO’s in town. The first two were poor black women and did not make the media splash that the third, a white woman, did. Through careful investigation and a thorough knowledge of human nature, Reacher determines that [SPOILER] not only is a man from the army base responsible for the murders, but his Senator father knows about them and has gone to great lengths to cover them up. He has used his political power to manipulate the Marine Corps to frame the local sheriff. 

          Jack Reacher develops a plan to solve the case permanently, taking out both parties like the mad animals they are. 

          I liked this book. And, at the end Jack resigns from the army.  I wonder if this means the end of the Reacher novels or if it merely means they are taking a new direction. I hope it’s the latter.

          This book raised the question in my mind of what I would do if I knew my child had murdered someone.  Would I cover for her, try to stay out of it, turn her in, testify against her?  I feel quite certain that I would not attempt to blame someone else for her actions.  And I believe that my actions would depend on the reason for hers.  If I believed the killing was done in defense of another or herself, I would probably avoid assisting the police in their investigation.  If, however, it turned out that she was killing for profit or pleasure, I’d like to think I’d turn her in so fast her head would spin.

          What would you do if you discovered a loved one was a serial killer? 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Survivors by James Wesley, Rawles

          Survivors by James Wesley, Rawles was an uncomfortable story to read.  It tells a tale of several groups of people who managed to survive the collapse of the American economy and way of life.  This is not a story of a double dip recession or even another great depression, but a complete and utter melt down.  It is uncomfortable because all too often lately, I believe that is what is going on around me. 

          Could I survive the collapse of our economy, our power grid, our food distribution systems? Probably not.  I’ve survived being unemployed the last 19 months.  But I’ve had lots of help.  I have collected unemployment insurance checks, we had savings to use, and we had the generous loans from my family to keep us above water. 

          I have some advantages that others may not.  My husband was a boy scout, has made an in depth study of cooking over open flame, and has experience growing his own veggies and herbs.  My brother is an avid hunter and fisherman with enough firearms to keep us safe for a while, and is a carpenter to boot.  My parents are both still alive and remember how day to day living was accomplished before we came to rely so heavily on technology. By banding together, we might survive for a while. 

          But long term?  I doubt I could come out the other side alive and well. I don’t really have that much to contribute in a live and die situation.  I’m a city girl, roughing it is not my style. My arthritic joints are not up to a long day’s physical labor, and would be even less so without regular medication. My allergies and asthma would make the simple act of breathing a struggle. In a post-apocalyptic world, my physical frailties would quickly be my downfall.  I’m smart enough to understand that in such a world, only the strong survive. And, only those that have value to the group can be allowed to remain within it.  Only by jettisoning the weak and useless will the remainder survive and possible thrive. I have to admit I believe I fall into the weak and useless group.  I could not jeopardize the survival of the rest of my family group by remaining a part of it. The question that arises is whether or not I’d have the strength of will to walk away knowing only death waited over the horizon.

          So, yes, Survivors was an uncomfortable book to read for the reasons outlined above. It also left an awful lot of loose ends hanging out there.  Enough that I can only assume the story will pick up again in a future book by the author. I’m just not sure I’ll have the strength to read it when it comes out.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Canyons of Night by Jayne Castle

          Canyons of Night by Jayne Castle is the third book in a trilogy.  I have not read the previous two.  However, I am impressed enough with this one, that I’ve added them to my list of books to request from the library. 

          The story takes place on an island that would seem quite normal if it existed just off either cost of the U.S.  There are a number of differences though. The primary one being that many folks have psychic, or psi, abilities, and we’re not talking telepathy or precognition.  Those abilities can be focused and used by the possessor through the use of amber crystals.  And some, especially talented individuals can use their psi energy merely by focusing their minds. 

          We begin with a new sheriff in town, a man who has been in a severe psychic accident and is apparently losing his very strong powers. He is paired with the owner of the local antique shop, whose talent, while strong, is considered virtually useless.  The first thing that happens is the shop owner finding a dead man in her shop. 

          As the sheriff’s investigation into the man’s murder progresses it becomes increasingly evident that something is very wrong on the island.  It also becomes increasingly evident that the sheriff and the shop owner were meant for each other. 

          This book is billed as the third of a trilogy, but at the end, it becomes clear that not all the mysteries have been solved.  Perhaps the tale will continue.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Feast Day of Fools by James Lee Burke

          This book was like slogging through knee deep peanut butter. I kept waiting for a coherent plot to develop, but it never did. While the characters were multi-faceted, they were almost all sad examples of humanity: killers, psychos, religious fanatics, addicts, pedophiles. On the bright side, they were almost all dead or dying by the end of the story.

          Needless to say, I didn’t like this book, and I don’t recommend it. I wonder how on earth it made the best seller list.  Perhaps its message is too deep for me to comprehend, or I’m too lazy to dig it out. But, I read fiction for entertainment, and Feast Day of Fools failed to amuse me.