Friday, March 30, 2012

Dark Predator (Carpathian) by Christine Feehan

          Book #22 of the Dark Series

          I knew Dark Predator was part of a series when I started the book, but didn’t realize it was number twenty-two.  The book does an excellent job of standing alone. At no point did I feel lost or left out of the story.  And, it’s a good one.

          The main character , Zacarias De La Cruz, is over one thousand years old.  For centuries he has fought evil and it has taken its toll on his spirit. Carpathians, like the more commonly known vampires, cannot abide sunlight. And, Zacarias decides to go into that great good night by giving himself to the sun.

          Zacarias heads to one of his family’s many ranchos in the Amazon rainforest, this one in Peru. As he lays down in preparation for sunrise and death, he is spotted by a young woman, Marguarita.  Marguarita and her entire family have served the De La Cruz family for generations.  She understands instantly what he means to do. And she cannot bear it.  She saves him despite his orders to let him die.

          Zacarias pays her back for her disobedience by marrying her in the ancient Carpathian tradition. But, as is usual in these cases, he is the one suffering within the confines of the relationship. 

          As the story unfolds, Marguarita and Zacarias learn to be with each other while ridding the world of great evil.

          As I mentioned earlier, this is a good book.  I now intend to try reading some of the earlier ones.  If they are as satisfying as this one, I may have just added another twenty-one items to my reading list.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bring Me Home for Christmas by Robyn Carr

          This is a sweet story of finding your love and your place.

          It starts with Becca (love the name, by the way) crashing a hunting/fishing trip taken by her brother and a group of his friends.  One of the guys in the group is Denny, a boy she fell in love with long ago, and with whom she could not build a relationship at the time.

          Becca’s intent was to see Denny again, clear up the lingering feelings she still had for him and move on to an engagement with her current boyfriend. Things do not work out according to plan.

          When Becca breaks her ankle and cannot travel home for several weeks she has the time to realize she still loves Denny. During the same period of time, she also comes to love the people of Virgin River, and she and Denny decide to make their lives there.

          I really felt these characters.  Everyone in Denny’s circle of friends has stuck in my mind.  I remember their names.  That’s one of the signs of a well written story in my book.

          Take a trip to Virgin River with Becca. You may just find you love it as much as she does.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Envy by J R Ward

                    Fallen Angels series #3

          J R Ward writes “erotic, paranormal, romance”. That’s not only a mouthful, but quite an amalgamation of genres as well.  And, I must say, she delivered on all three in Envy.

          The Fallen Angels series, of which this is book three, is the tale of a contest between good and evil.  The premise is the very common concept of whichever side collects the most souls, wins.

          We have angels, demons, and humans who interact with them which covers the paranormal aspect of Ward’s writing description. We have some folks finding “the one”, and others working on their long term relationships, which covers the romance aspect. And, we have some well written soft-porn which covers the erotica.  This book has it all, apparently.

          I liked this book and now plan to read both the previous stories in the series as well as the subsequent ones.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hotel Vendome by Danielle Steel

          Hotel Vendome is the story of a girl, Heloise, who grows up in a hotel. Her father buys the place when she is two years old, renovates it and makes it into one of the premiere places to stay in New York.

          Heloise’s mother leaves them for another man shortly after the hotel opens for business.  Heloise and her father live happily on the premises until she graduates high school and goes to Switzerland to study hotel management.

          While Heloise is away at school, her father falls in love with a woman named Natalie. It has always been just Hugues and Heloise, and Daddy fears his daughter’s reaction when she finds out he has broadened their little circle. He hems and haws and fails to tell his child about Natalie for an entire year.  When Heloise returns from college and is finally informed, we see exactly why her father hesitated. The girl is snarky and rude to her father and totally ignores Natalie. This goes on for months.

          Finally, on the eve of Natalie and Hugues’ wedding, Heloise begins to behave more like an adult and less like a spoiled brat. This happy state of affairs lasts until she is told of Natalie’s pregnancy. Heloise goes through another, albeit shorter and less nasty, rampage. It comes to an abrupt end as she rushed Natalie to the hospital during a miscarriage scare.

          Heloise eventually grows up both mentally and emotionally.  She takes over the management of the hotel when her father retires.

          There was a large section in the middle of this story where Hugues is being a total coward and refusing to tell his college-age daughter he has a girlfriend. By not including her in the development of the relationship, the information was doubly shocking to Heloise. Not only had her father been involved with “another woman”, but they had been deceiving her the whole time. If Daddy had casually mentioned he was dating someone, Heloise would have dealt with the changes a bite at a time instead of trying to swallow the whole elephant at once.

          Then again, I kept thinking Heloise was behaving like an impossibly spoiled princess, and I was appalled that her father let her get away with it. It is inconceivable to me that a nineteen-year-old seriously thinks her single father should not date. Give me a break!

          However, late as it may have been, Heloise does grow up to be a gracious, self-sufficient woman in the end.  I only hope, for the sake of Heloise’s younger siblings, Hugues learned from his mistakes.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Happy Birthday

     This is a reprint of a post from last October. Today would have been Jennifer's 42nd birthday.  Happy Birthday, 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.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Mill River Recluse by Darcy Chan

          This story made me think about family. What constitutes family? The typical definition includes those to whom we are related by blood or bound by law. But, family is a much slipperier concept than that.  It involves feelings and beliefs and is not easy to define. 

          In The Mill River Recluse, Mary McCallister grows up on a horse farm with only her father. Her mother died birthing her and she has no siblings or other family. An attack suffered when she was sixteen leaves her with what would now be called a social anxiety disorder. She finds she is comfortable only in the company of her father and the horses, and rarely leaves the farm.

          In time her horizons do start to expand, slowly but surely. A young man who comes to buy a horse from her father takes a shine to her and manages over the course of many weeks to earn her trust.  She becomes familiar with his immediate family and eventually the two marry, at which time she finds herself with certain social obligations.

          While she hates the social aspects of being the wife of a prominent businessman, she manages to tolerate it for her husband’s sake.  Added to the stress of these obligations is coping with the disapproval of her mother-in-law. The woman feels her only son, the scion of a wealthy family, has married beneath him and encourages the rest of the family to avoid her. Only her husband’s “Grandpop” truly accepts her and they become friends.

          Mary seems to be settling into her life and is managing to control her social anxiety even though she cannot overcome it. Then tragedy strikes at her again. Her father, the single constant in her life, dies and she is thrown into the depths of a debilitating depression.  This illness controls her for many months. 

          Mary’s husband is confused and irritated by his wife’s condition, but tries to be understanding. However, after months of trying to cope with his wife’s illness, the slow collapse of the family business, and the looming possibility of being drafted into the army during WWII, he snaps.  He hits Mary in the head with a marble figurine during an argument, and drives off in a drunken rage, only to wrap his car around a tree, killing himself.

          Hours later, Grandpop and Father O’Brien, the local priest, arrive at the house to inform Mary of her husband’s death.  They find her, bloody and broken, on the bedroom floor. 

          Her husband’s attack leaves her disfigured and blind in one eye.  It also intensifies her social anxiety to uncontrollable levels. Mary becomes the recluse of the title, having contact with no one but Grandpop and Father O’Brien.

          The rest of the McCallister family shuns Mary. Her mother-in-law is convinced that Mary is the reason her only son is dead, and ensures the rest of the family avoids contact with her. Only Grandpop defies the woman.

          Mary’s world has dwindled again. And, with Grandpop’s eventual death, Mary’s only human relationship is with Father O’Brien.  For sixty years the good priest watches over her.

          But the good Father does more than quietly keep Mary company.  He tells her everything he can about the community outside her doors. He brings the people of Mill River alive for her. He helps her feel their joys and sorrows. And, in time, she begins to think of them as her family. She begins sending anonymous gifts to her Mill River family – birthday cards, help with utility bills, a new four wheel drive Jeep for the police department. And, at the end of her life, she entrusts her carefully invested fortune to the people of Mill River. 

          Family is something other than a simple biological or legal status.  It is a feeling, an emotion, an intrinsic part of our psyche. With your family around you, it is not possible to be alone or lonely.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Second Son by Lee Child

          Second Son by Lee Child is a Jack Reacher story.  This one gives us a glimpse into Jack’s childhood. Jack is 13, recently transferred to Okinawa with his Marine father, mother and older brother. After only a couple of days on The island, Jack solves a theft in which his brother is implicated, locates a misplaced confidential military code book, and hospitalizes the neighborhood bully.

          This brief glimpse into Jack’s early development clearly foreshadows his abilities as an MP in adulthood.

          I’d recommend this e-book to all jack Reacher fans.

Friday, March 9, 2012

1105 Yakima Street by Debbie Macomber

          This is the 11th installment of the Cedar Cove series by Debbie Macomber.  She continues the tales of the lives and loves of the denizens of Cedar Cove.  And while she deals with the concepts of divorce, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, encroaching dementia and family rifts, the stories remain sweet and end in her predictably happily-ever-after style. 

          My favorite story line, by far, was that of Beau.  He is a newborn puppy whose mother died while birthing her litter. He needs constant care, and feeding every two hours at first. The tale of him finding his forever home brought tears to my eyes.  I’m a real sucker for a rescued animal.

          I don’t know if it is the story lines themselves, or the voice of the woman who reads them, that makes the Cedar Cove stories seem simple and a little juvenile. There is nothing wrong with them at all, they just don’t engage me the way the concepts seem like they should.

          1105 Yakima Street is yet another episode in this serial soap opera by Debbie Macomber.  If you enjoyed any or all of the first ten, you’ll be pleased with this one, too.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Abbey by Chris Culver

          The Abbey was apparently a debut effort on the part of Chris Culver.  It wasn’t bad.  I think he could have left the Abbey Bar for which the book is named, and the vampire wannabes out of the story altogether without any problem.

          The story was fast paced and the details held together well. However, this is not the polished, tightly woven work of a veteran writer.  While no loose ends were left hanging, there were times when it felt like Culver was taking three lefts instead of a single right turn to get where he wanted to go.

          I did like Ash, the main character, and hope to see him in future stories.  He’s a regular guy with lofty goals, a strong sense of loyalty and family, enough brains to be a very good detective and the personality and temper to be a lousy human being if he’s not careful. He’s perfect enough to anchor a series of stories, and flawed enough to be relatable. 

          I recommend this book to fans of cop novels.  Just remember not to set the bar too high.  The Abbey is a very good first effort, and I believe Culver has some real potential.  With practice and stronger editing, we should be seeing quite a lot of him in the future.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Zero Day by David Baldacci

          Zero Day is not going to be one of my favorite Baldacci books.  There is really nothing wrong with it except it is a little more slowly paced than I prefer, and it seems to be closely imitating other authors of military police mysteries.  In fact, at times, I was surprised to hear the main character referred to as “Puller” instead of “Reacher” since the character the seemed like it was practically lifted from Lee Child’s stories. And, considering the similarity of the character names, this may have been deliberate.  It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. 

          Puller, who works for CID, the Army’s criminal investigative arm, is sent to a small coal mining town in the middle of West Virginia to investigate the murder of an Army Colonel and his family. In conjunction with local law enforcement, more murders are uncovered, embezzlement at the coal company discovered, and treason within the highest ranks of the Army unearthed. 

          All mysteries are resolved, medals received and promotions refused by the end of the book.  Loose ends are neatly tied up.  And, the hero rides off into the sunset with a general. 

          On a scale of ten, I’d give this about an 8.  It’s probably one hundred pages longer than it really needs to be and is not terribly original in character, setting or theme.  But as a means to kill some time and be entertained, it is not half bad.