Friday, December 18, 2009

Taking a break...

I'm going to suspend posting on this blog for a while.  Obligating myself to reading challenges has sort of taken the fun out of reading because I felt pressured to read as many books as possible in order to complete the challenge.  I wasn't able to just enjoy the pleasure of reading for pleasure's sake.  When things settle down after the holidays, I'll be reading and writing reviews at my own pace and for my own pleasure.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Review: 700 Sundays by Billy Crystal

Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; First Edition edition (October 31, 2005)
ISBN-10: 0446578673
ISBN-13: 978-0446578677

I bought this book because 1)  I love Billy Crystal, and 2) I needed something light and entertaining to read on the plane while traveling to Kansas City to visit my mother.  700 Sundays refers to the number of Sundays Billy got to spend with his father before he died.  Instead of writing about his many successes as a comedian and actor, Billy concentrates on his early years with his marvelous family.  In addition to one line zingers throughout the book, we are introduced to a bunch of colorful characters who never cease to be interesting and downright hilarious.  There is his grandmother who said to gravelly voiced Louis Armstrong (to his delight) "Louis, have you ever tried just coughing it up?"; his Uncle Milt Gabler, who started the Commodore music label and recorded Billie Holiday singing "Strange Fruit" when no one else would; and of course, Billy's father, the man who bought his little boy a tape recorder when he announced he wanted to be a comedian and didn't scold him when he repeated off-color borscht belt routines for family gatherings.

We get a glimpse into the lives of a Jewish family in the 50's in all it's hilarity, frustration and grief, but what is most impressive is the love and support this family felt and provided for each other.


One of America's most beloved entertainers takes us home. Billy Crystal opens the front door to a time in his life when he shared joy, love, music, and laughter with an eccentric family headed by the hardworking father who left them all too soon.

From the story of the Crystal family's proud connection to the New York jazz scene of the '40s and ' the hilarious living room performances that would sow the seeds of Billy's unparalleled the times of tragedy, heartbreak, and his mother's unending courage, 700 Sundays celebrates the memories, the love, and all the other wonderful gifts parents can give a child.

Based on his Tony Award®-winning play, 700 Sundays is not the story of Billy Crystal's great career. It is a tribute to a family and the people who helped make him a man. Personal, poignant, and funny, it will have you laughing out loud — and sometimes crying — with the realization that Billy's family is also yours.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Review: One Door Away From Heaven by Dean Koontz

  • Mass Market Paperback: 704 pages

    • Publisher: Bantam; First Thus edition (October 29, 2002)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 0553582755
    • ISBN-13: 978-0553582758

Part  X-Files, part thriller, this book is unique in more ways than one.  The characters are typical of Koontz in that they are never boring, never ordinary.  Micky Bellsong is at a critical time in her life, staying with her Aunt Geneva while trying to sort out her problems and begin anew.  Micky and Geneva meet their new neighbor Leilani, a young girl living with her drugged out mother, Sinsemilla and stepfather, Preston Maddoc.  Preston believes that the elderly, infirm and handicapped should be killed so they don't become a drain on society.  And since Leilani has physical handicaps, she knows what is in store for her.  She tells Micky and Geneva that Preston is planning to pass off her imminent death as a benevolent alien abduction.

Add to the mix a motherless boy, a strange boy who goes by the alias Curtis Hammond and is the quarry of two cross-country manhunts, one led by the FBI and the other by mass murderers who, like the messianic Curtis, may not be what they seem.

All of the characters eventually come together in rural Idaho in a desperate  attempt to save Leilani and as a result find true wisdom and joy.

Never have I read a book with so many nutty, eccentric characters without it being just plain silly.  However, put all of these nutty characters together and they just seem to work.  Micky is one of the more attractive heroines, but the real star is Leilani, whose spunky nature and sparkling and humorous dialogue easily make her this books most memorable character.  Underneath the tragedy, mystery and adventure lies a story about good vs evil, revelation and friendship. 

If I had to say one negative thing about the book it would be that it was too long.  On occasion the narrative seemed to drawn out and really unnecessary.

Synopsis (from the author's website)

In a dusty trailer park on the far edge of the California dream, Michelina Bellsong contemplates the choices she has made. At twenty-eight, she wants to change the direction of her troubled life but can’t find her way—until a new family settles into the rental trailer next door and she meets the young girl who will lead her on a remarkable quest that will change Micky herself and everything she knows—or thinks she knows—forever.

Despite the brace she must wear on her deformed left leg, and her withered left hand, nine-year-old Leilani Klonk radiates a buoyant and indomitable spirit that inspires Micky. Beneath Leilani’s effervescence, however, Micky comes to sense a quiet desperation that the girl dares not express.

Leilani’s mother is little more than a child herself. And the girl’s stepfather, Preston Maddoc, is educated but threatening. He has moved the family from place to place as he fanatically investigates UFO sightings, striving to make contact, claiming to have had a vision that by Leilani’s tenth birthday aliens will either heal her or take her away to a better life on their world.

Slowly, ever more troubling details emerge in Leilani’s conversations with Micky. Most chilling is Micky’s discovery that Leilani had an older brother, also disabled, who vanished after Maddoc took him into the woods one night and is now “gone to the stars.”

Leilani’s tenth birthday is approaching. Micky is convinced the girl will be dead by that day. While the child-protection bureaucracy gives Micky the runaround, the Maddoc family slips away into the night. Micky sets out across America to track and find them, alone and afraid but for the first time living for something bigger than herself.

She finds herself pitted against an adversary, Preston Maddoc, as fearsome as he is cunning. The passion and disregard for danger with which Micky pursues her quest bring to her side a burned-out detective who joins her on a journey of incredible peril and startling discoveries, a journey through terrible darkness to unexpected light.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Review: Still Life by Joy Fielding

Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Atria (March 24, 2009)
ISBN-10: 1416585273
ISBN-13: 978-1416585275

Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall and listen to what people were saying without their knowledge?  Casey Marshall had that opportunity...just not in the way she wanted.

Casey had everything.  Boatloads of money, a handsome loving husband, a successful interior design business and lots of friends.  Until one day, after having lunch with two girlfriends, she was run down by a hit and run driver and left in a coma.  After a few weeks she begins to come out of it, although the only ability she regains is her hearing.  For weeks, she lies in her bed listening to the conversations around her and gradually, she learns that not everyone in her life is her friend.  She learns who tried to kill her and why, yet she is helpless to do anything about it.

I really had trouble putting this book down.  The plot is intriguing and tension filled and the characters were interesting.  I was literally on the edge of my seat a lot of the time.  Now I remember why I used to read Fielding's's time to get back to reading her more often.

Synopsis (from the author's website)

Globe and Mail bestselling author Joy Fielding delivers a riveting new tale of suspense, told from the vantage point of a comatose woman.

Beautiful, happily married, and the owner of a successful interior design business, Casey Marshall couldn’t be more content with her life until a car slams into her at almost fifty miles an hour, breaking nearly every bone in her body, and plunging her into a coma. Lying in her hospital bed, Casey realizes that although she is unable to see or communicate, she can hear everything. She quickly discovers that her friends aren’t necessarily the people she thought them to be–and that her accident might not have been an accident at all. As she struggles to break free from her living death, she begins to wonder if what lies ahead could be even worse.

Smart, suspenseful, and overwhelmingly addictive, Still Life is a novel Fielding’s fans won’t soon forget.

A Review: The Cheater by Nancy Taylor Rosenberg

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Forge Books (June 9, 2009)
ISBN-10: 0765319020
ISBN-13: 978-0765319029

 Lily Forrester is a former prosecutor, now a Ventura, California judge, who literally got away with murder when she killed the man who raped her and her daughter a few years before.  Now her marriage to Bryce Donnelly is falling apart.  Lily has no idea that Bryce is a philanderer until she receives a call from the Las Vegas police informing her that Bryce has been arrested for attempted rape, even though Las Vegas was not on his travel itinerary. 

In the meantime, Lily meets Anne Bradley at the gym and immediately likes her.  Unbeknown to Lily, Anne is the owner of Alibi Connection, an internet referal company that provides alibis to adulterous men.  Through her company, Anne entices, then kills them.  Enter FBI profiler, Mary Stevens, who follows a string of unsolved murders to Anne.  You can see where this is leading...directly to Lily's no-good husband.

Now, as a woman who has dealt with unfaithful men, I kind of got a kick out of Anne's exploits.  It's good to see a woman get her revenge, but Anne's methods are way too gruesome and heavy-handed.  Don't get me wrong...I'm not sympathizing with the victims; they are loathesome, insensitive boors.  I've seen man-haters before but nothing like this.  Anne is a real sociopath.

The plot is rather complicated and far-fetched; nevertheless, it was an enjoyable read and a good way to pass a lazy day.  In fact, I'm looking forward to reading some her earlier works in which she introduced us to Lily Forrester and Mary Stevens.  They are both women I would enjoy knowing in real life. 


Nancy Taylor Rosenberg's newest book The Cheater (Tor Forge) weaves the lives of three women in an intense and taut legal thriller.  Lily Forrester returns from Rosenberg's New York Times bestsellers, Mitigating Circumstances and Buried Evidence.  This time Forrester is a county judge in Ventura, California.  She meets another lawyer, the charming and vivacious Anne Bradley, but their friendship shatters when Bradley accuses Forrester's husband of rape.  Meanwhile, FBI agent and profiler Mary Stevens is on the trail of a black widow serial killer who lures cheating husbands to their deaths and mutilates their bodies.

The story is an intricate, psychological drama.  Rosenberg's intensely psychopathic villain introduces a fascinating weapon into the arsenal of fiction thrillers: the drug Versed to sedate her victims and eliminate them in humiliating and gruesome ways.  Forrester struggles with her personal demons and this plays into the hands of the serial killer.  Stevens finds her professional skills tested to their limits as she pursues a murderer across a web of deceit and misdirection.  The climax is not a simple consolidation of plot lines but a collision--a controlled crash that will leave the reader practically stumbling out of the wreckage, emotionally drained yet very satisfied. (You may want to smoke a cigarette afterwards.)

The inspiration to write The Cheater came from two incidents.  First, Rosenberg was compelled to draw upon the actual story of a girl who was abandoned by her father to die along a deserted winter road.  This experience, when combined with sexual molestation, could drive the victim to rationalize committing acts of chilling violence against others.  Second, Rosenberg learned about alibi clubs and was convinced they'd be great plot devices to add more mystery to already suspenseful plots.

rosenberg-nancy1.jpgThe Cheater is the thirteenth of Rosenberg's highly acclaimed and popular novels.  A prolific author, she uses her considerable research skills and her fourteen years of service as a police officer, investigator, and parole officer to build compelling and true-to-life stories.  As an example of her dedication to accuracy, Rosenberg took and passed the required test to become an FBI agent.

For those interested in the character Mary Stevens, she's back at work in a forthcoming novel, Her Daughter, which also features Lily Forrester.  Steven's previous exploits are available in Sullivan's Law, Sullivan's Justice, Sullivan's Evidence, and Revenge of Innocents.

Rosenberg admits her plots are complex because she is herself a complex person.  She understands the twisting and baffling nature of life and brings this awareness into her story development.  As for her writing style, she hates outlining, as it stifles the fun out of the creative process.  She prefers to sit at her computer and let the story surprise her as she writes.

Her advice to aspiring writers is to write the best book possible and sit on it until the economy improves.  She's been working with young writers in a program called Voices of Tomorrow and has recently started a new offering for more serious writers using the Internet service called Go To Meeting.  Interested writers should contact her through her website.

After living in New York and California, Nancy Taylor Rosenberg currently resides in her hometown of Dallas, Texas.  She is the proud mother of a very creative family, which includes a poet and a novelist.

acevedo-mario-small.jpgContributing editor Mario Acevedo is a member of ITW and the author of the Felix Gomez vampire detective series from Eos HarperCollins.  His most recent Gomez vampire adventure is Jailbait Zombie.  Mario lives and writes in Denver, Colorado.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Review: Your Heart Belongs to Me by Dean Koontz

  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Reprint edition (October 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553591711
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553591712

Ryan Perry is 34, wealthy and in a loving relationship with Samantha.  Ryan made his fortune as an internet entrepreneur with his wildly successful social networking site.  He has the world on a string, until he begins to have frightening symptoms that are diagnosed as cardiomyopathy.  Without a heart transplant, Ryan has no chance of survival.

It seems luck is looking after Ryan because after only a few months, a perfect match is found and he receives the operation.  After a year, Ryan is healthy with no apparent signs of rejection.  His future again looks bright until he begins to experience strange events in his home...a bag of white valentine hearts with the words "Be Mine" found on his pillow, a heart shaped locket found in his bedroom.  There is no explanation because his house is armed with a state of the art security system.  How did someone get in without his knowing it?

Then he encounters a woman who looks exactly like his heart donor who tells him,  "Your heart belongs to me.  I want it back."

Although it's not Koontz's best, it's suspenseful enough to keep us on the edge of our seats with a suspenseful page turner.  

Synopsis (from the author's website)

From the #1 New York Times bestselling master of suspense comes a riveting thriller that probes the deepest terrors of the human psyche–and the ineffable mystery of what truly makes us who we are. Here an innocent man finds himself fighting for his very existence in a battle that starts with the most frightening words of all…

At thirty-four, Internet entrepreneur Ryan Perry seemed to have the world in his pocket–until the first troubling symptoms appeared out of nowhere. Within days, he’s diagnosed with incurable cardiomyopathy and finds himself on the waiting list for a heart transplant; it’s his only hope, and it’s dwindling fast. Ryan is about to lose it all…his health, his girlfriend, Samantha, and his life.

One year later, Ryan has never felt better. Business is good and there’s even a chance of getting Samantha back in his life. Then the unmarked gifts begin to arrive in the mail–a heart pendant, a box of Valentine candy hearts. And, most disturbing of all, a graphic heart surgery video accompanied by a chilling message: Your heart belongs to me.

In a heartbeat, the medical miracle that gave Ryan a second chance at life is about to become a curse worse than death. For Ryan is being stalked by a mysterious woman who feels entitled to everything he has. She’s the spitting image of the twenty-eight-year-old donor of the heart beating steadily in Ryan’s own chest.

 And she’s come to take it back.
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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Completed: Summer Reading Challenge 2009: Books Read June 21 - September 21

  • Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill
  • Shallow Graves by Jeffery Deaver
  • The Savage Garden by Mark Mills
  • I Heard That Song Before by Mary Higgins Clark
  • Phantom Prey by John Sandford
  • The Bone Collector by Jeffery Deaver
  • The Front by Patricia Cornwell
  • A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
  • Act of Betrayal by Edna Buchanan
  • Dead Watch by John Sandford
  • Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
  • Sail by James Patterson and Howard Roughan
  • 7th Heaven by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
  • Whispers by Dean Koontz
  • B is for Burglar by Sue Grafton
  • Hornet's Nest Patricia Cornwell
  • Halloween Party by Agatha Christie
  • Relentless by Dean Koontz
  • Saving Faith by David Baldacci
  • C is for Corpse by Sue Grafton
  • New Moon by Stephanie Meyer
  • Your Heart Belongs to Me by Dean Koontz
  • The Cheater by Nancy Taylor Rosenberg

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Review: New Moon by Stephanie Meyer

Hardcover: 608 pages

Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers; 21st edition (August 21, 2006)
ISBN-10: 0316160199
ISBN-13: 978-0316160193

Meyer's Twilight series was written for young adults but it seems to have a certain appeal for a few of the older crowd also.  I guess it could be the perennial 12 year old inside us that screams for unconditional, true love...even if it is with a vampire.

Recovered from the vampire attack that hospitalized her in Twilight, 18 year old Bella Swan is still in love with the seriously gorgeous vampire, Edward Cullen.  When there is a mishap involving Bella cutting herself and bleeding in front of Edward's vampire family, he decides that Bella is safer without him and his family around.  He leaves her in despair, almost catatonic with grief.  She can't eat, has nightmares, pushes her friends away and stops enjoying anything that reminds her of Edward, which is basically everything.  I can understand Bella's depression but her co-dependent personality is just wrong on every level for any impressionable girl who may be reading the story and believing that this is what love is all about. 

After months of grieving, Bella begins to come out of her depression with the help of her friend, Jacob Black, who is in love with her...and by participating in dangerous activities such as riding motorcycles and cliff diving.  Their dare-devil fun takes a dangerous turn when Bella learns the true identities of Jacob and his friends. 

When Bella is seen diving off a cliff, word gets back to Edwin that she has committed suicide.  Let's not think that Bella is the only co-dependent personality in this relationship... Edward goes to Italy to convince the Volturi (sort of the rulers of the vampires) to kill him as he doesn't want to be on earth if Bella isn't there.  This story line is frenzied and overly dramatic and completely unnecessary.  The frantic race to Italy to save him was really over the top.

I guess I'll read the 3rd installment of the series, hoping that Meyer gives Bella a backbone and some self-respect, therefore providing a better example for her young, female readers.  She really does need to give this some serious thought.  Anyway, I have to find out if Edward ever gives in to Bella's desire to become a vampire so she can spend eternity with him.  Sigh........

   Synopsis (from the author's website)

"Shoot," I muttered when the paper sliced my finger; I pulled it out to examine the damage. A single drop of blood oozed from the tiny cut. It all happened very quickly then.

Edward threw himself at me, flinging me back across the table...
I tumbled down to the floor by the piano, with my arms thrown out instinctively to catch my fall, into the jagged shards of glass. I felt the searing, stinging pain that ran from my wrist to the crease inside my elbow.

Dazed and disoriented, I looked up from the bright red blood pulsing out of my arm—into the fevered eyes of the six suddenly ravenous vampires.

For Bella Swan, there is one thing more important than life itself: Edward Cullen. But being in love with a vampire is even more dangerous than Bella could ever have imagined. Edward has already rescued Bella from the clutches of one evil vampire, but now, as their daring relationship threatens all that is near and dear to them, they realize their troubles may be just beginning...

Legions of readers entranced by the New York Times bestseller Twilight are hungry for the continuing story of star-crossed lovers, Bella and Edward. In New Moon, Stephenie Meyer delivers another irresistible combination of romance and suspense with a supernatural twist. Passionate, riveting, and full of surprising twists and turns, this vampire love saga is well on its way to literary immortality.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Review: C is for Corpse by Sue Grafton

  • Hardcover:  389 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt & Co; Book Club edition (May 1, 1986)
  • ASIN: B001I1JYPC

I just love Kinsey Milhone...she always keeps me turning the pages.  Grafton's character in her alphabet series is hired by wealthy Bobby Callahan to find out who tried to kill him months earlier by running his car off the road.  She met Bobby at the gym where they are both doing physical therapy, he because of the accident and she to rehab her arm after being shot during her previous case.  You can read about that one in B is for Burglar. 

As a result of the accident, Bobby can't remember many details in his life and needs Kinsey to put the pieces together for him.  Kinsey likes Bobby a lot and is really disappointed when he is eventually killed in a second car accident.  She doubts it was an accident and continues with her investigation. 

Along with her professional investigation, she takes on a more personal case when her beloved landlord Henry becomes involved with a woman whom everyone except Henry is suspicious of.  It's fun to read how Kinsey gets the best of this schemer and saves Henry from being swindled.

You won't be disappointed by this story, I promise.  You don't have to read the series in order.  Although Grafton sometimes refers to a previous story, the references really don't confuse.

Synopsis (from the author's website)

He was young -- maybe twenty or so -- and he must once have been a good-looking kid. Kinsey could see that. But now his body was covered in scars, his face half-collapsed. It saddened Kinsey and made her curious. She could see he was in a lot of pain. But for three weeks, as Kinsey'd watched him doggedly working out at the local gym, putting himself through a grueling exercise routine, he never spoke. 

Then one Monday morning when there was no one else in the gym, Bobby Callahan approached her. His story was hard to credit: a murderous assault by a tailgating car on a lonely rural road, a roadside smash into a canyon 400 feet below, his Porsche a bare ruin, his best friend dead. The doctors had managed to put his body back together again -- sort of. His mother's money had seen to that. What they couldn't fix was his mind, couldn't restore the huge chunks of memory wiped out by the crash. Bobby knew someone had tried to kill him, but he didn't know why. He knew he had the key to something that made him dangerous to the killer, but he didn't know what it was. And he sensed that someone was still out there, ready to pounce at the first sign his memory was coming back. He'd been to the cops, but they 'd shrugged off his story. His family thought he had a screw loose. But he was scared -- scared to death. He wanted to hire Kinsey.

His case didn't have a whole lot going for it, but he was hard to resist: young, brave, hurt. She took him on. And three days later, Bobby Callahan was dead.
Kinsey Millhone never welshed on a deal. She'd been hired to stop a killing. Now she'd find the killer.

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Review: Saving Faith by David Baldacci

Paperback: 528 pages
Publisher: Vision (September 1, 2000)
ISBN-10: 0446608890
ISBN-13: 978-0446608893

 The characters in this book are pretty typical for a Baldacci novel...
  • Smart beautiful heroine
  • Strong handsome hero
  • Evil political bad guy
  • Hired assassin
Although not his best, Saving Faith is enjoyable, but not riveting.  Faith Lockhart works for Danny Buchanan, a highly successful Washington, D.C. lobbyist, and together they bribe politicians to gain support for their humanitarian causes.  Evil done in order to do good.  CIA super-patriot Robert Thornhill knows about their activities and begins blackmailing Buchanan.  Thornhill is obsessed with regaining primacy over the FBI and will stop at nothing to attain his goal.  He is not above hiring an assassin to get rid of Faith after she goes to the FBI.  In the meantine, Buchanan hires our hero, private investigator Lee Adams to follow Faith and report back to him. 

Lee saves Faith from the assassin and together they go on the run.  The CIA follow Lee and Faith, and the FBI follow the CIA on an exciting chase from Washington to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  The novel is a bit overdone with too many heroes and too many sub-plots, making it a bit cumbersome to get through at times.  However, it moves fast and is full of suspense and action.

Synopsis (from the author's website)

Not far from Washington, D.C., in a wooded area of Northern Virginia, a small house at the end of a gravel road serves a secret purpose. With its sophisticated security apparatus and hidden miniaturized cameras, it is being used by the FBI to interview one of the most important witnesses the agency has ever had, a young woman with an incredible story to tell. But a few people know about the secret meeting. And for them, a violent drama is about to begin.
One man -- a local private investigator named Lee Adams -- has come to the house on the orders of his client. Another man, a hired killer, stakes out the house on orders from his powerful paymasters. And the witness, Faith Lockhart, is coming to tell the FBI everything she knows about the powerful lobbyist with whom she has worked, a man who manipulates U.S. government policy and who, in the process, made some very dangerous enemies.
Then, before Faith can tell her story, the hit man pulls the trigger and the wrong victim falls. Now Faith Lockhart is on the run -- from the most dangerous people in America -- with Lee Adams, a man she doesn't know, yet must trust. A relentless chase novel that unfolds as both the FBI and a killer search for Faith and Lee, this is also a searing and utterly suspenseful tale of power gone mad in Washington, and of one woman's desperate attempt to break out of a web of corruption and terror that reaches much further than even she can know. Saving Faith elevates the thriller to a new level and poses stunning questions about the rules we live by, the rules we are governed by -- and what happens when some people make rules of their own.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Review: Relentless by Dean Koontz

Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Bantam; First Edition first Printing edition (June 9, 2009)
ISBN-10: 0553807145
ISBN-13: 978-0553807141

We are introduced to the sweet but goofy Cubby who is a best-selling author. His wife, Penny is the daughter of survivalists and also an author, but of of children's books. They are the parents of six year old Milo who is a genius and currently working on a project he is unable to even begin to explain to his dad. They have a very interesting dog who, although not a collie, is named Lassie. Lassie is indeed, a very special dog.

Cubby and his family are plunged into a nightmare when book reviewer Shearman Waxx reviews Cubby's recently released book and skewers it. Despite Penny's warnings to "let it go", Cubby just can't. When he finds out that the reviewer frequents a restaurant where he and his family dine, he takes Milo to lunch in order to check the guy out. A brief encounter in the restaurant bathroom soon has Cubby wishing he'd followed his wife's advice.

Koontz has done a great job developing the characters and plot. The good guys were thoroughly likable...the bad guys thoroughly evil. At times funny, always terrifying, this book has it all. If you're a Koontz fan, you will enjoy this book. I know I did...I read it in a matter of hours.


Bestselling novelist Cullen 'Cubby' Greenwich's book is an across-the-board triumph - except for the vicious, inaccurate remarks by the much-feared, seldom-seen critic, Shearman Waxx, in the nation's premier newspaper. Cubby knows he should ignore the review. His wife, Penny, a children's book author and illustrator, knows it. Their brilliant six-year-old, Milo, affectionately dubbed 'Spooky,' knows it. Even their non-collie, Lassie, seems to know it.
Cubby only wants to get a look at the mysterious recluse whose mere opinion can make or break a career - or a life. But Shearman Waxx isn't what Cubby expects; and neither is the escalating terror that follows what seemed to be an innocent encounter. For Waxx has ways of dealing with those who cross him that Cubby is only beginning to fathom. Soon the likeable family man finds himself in a desperate struggle with a relentless sociopath. And just when things can't seem to get any worse, he and those he loves are introduced to the mother of all evil in a character only Dean Koontz could invent: Shearman's mom.

A Review: Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie

Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd; First Edition edition (November 1969)
ISBN-10: 0002311178
ISBN-13: 978-0002311175

Although I enjoy reading mysteries, I'd never read anything by Agatha Christie. I really didn't care for it and I found myself becoming rather bored at the drawn out pace of the narrative.

During preparations for a Halloween party, 13 year old Joyce Reynolds announces she had witnessed a murder. Since she was known for not telling the truth, no one paid much attention. After the party she was found dead, drowned in an apple bobbing tub. Present at the party is Ariadne Oliver, a famous mystery writer, who turns to her old friend Hercule Poirot to solve the crime.

During Poirot's investigation he discovers that it is entirely possible that Joyce really did witness a murder. It is rather interesting to observe Poirot making his rounds of all the characters, asking what appear to be pointless questions, then drawing the past and the present together to solve the mystery.

I will admit, the book got more interesting once I got past the pointless narrative in the beginning. The plot was interesting but other than Poirot and Oliver, the characters were not really well developed. Over all I found this book to be merely mediocre. However, after reading some reader reviews referencing some of her other books, I'm going to give it another try and read another one.


At a Hallowe’en party, Joyce – a hostile thirteen-year-old – boasts she once witnessed a murder. When no-one believes her, she storms off home. Within hours her body is found, still in the house, drowned in an apple-bobbing tub.

That night, Hercule Poirot is called in to find the ‘evil presence’. But first he must establish whether he is looking for a murderer or a double-murderer …

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Completed: 2009 1st in a Series Challenge

Finished! Click on the titles to read my reviews.

1. Rules of Prey by John Sandford (Prey series)
2. Along Came a Spider by James Patterson (Alex Cross series)
3. 1st to Die by James Patterson (Women's Murder Club)
4. Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell (Scarpetta series)
5. Hornet's Nest by Patricia Cornwell (Andy Brazil series)
6. The Bone Collector by Jeffery Deaver (Lincoln Rhyme series)
7. The Cold Moon by Jeffery Deaver (Kathryn Dance series)
8. "A" Is For Alibi by Sue Grafton (Alphabet series)
9. Split Second by David Baldacci (King and Maxwell series)
10. At Risk by Patricia Cornwell (Win Garano series)
11. Shallow Graves by Jeffery Deaver (John Pellam series)
12. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (Twilight series)

A Review: Hornet's Nest by Patricia Cornwell

Hardcover: 377 pages
Publisher: G.P. Putnam & Sons 1996
ISBN-10: 0399142282
ASIN: B0002Z0HW4

Finishing this books means I've finished the 2009 1st in a Series Challenge on J. Kaye's Book Blog. This means I've read 12 books that are the first in any series by any author.

This is the story-about two women top cops and a young male newspaper reporter in Charlotte, N.C. A series of murders of men from out of town who are pulled from their rental cars, sexually mutilated, marked with orange spray paint and shot, creates tension in Charlotte. And there the credibility ends.

Reporter Andy Brazil is assigned to ride along with Deputy Chief Virginia West in order to report on police activity. West is not too happy about having to go back on the streets, especially with this naive young man. Andy is just too perfect...gorgeous, well-built, gifted tennis player, outstanding reporter, has a photographic memory, and still a virgin at's just too much. Add that to his goody-two-shoes personality and he's just a bit too precious.

Police Chief Judy Hammer, who wears kick-ass suits and is loved by everyone except the local politicians and her husband, has to deal not only with the growing number of serial killings, but also her selfish, self-destructive husband. I really like Chief Hammer and don't believe she deserves to be immortalized in this mediocre writing.

And then there's West's cat Niles. I don't know what Cornwell was thinking when she put this character in the story. Not only does Niles think human thoughts, he knows he is descended from the Egyptians and believes that the USBank tower, which he can see from a window, is his King. By staring at the tower, he percieved that crime was going to be committed and even gave West a clue about it. Puh..leese!

It amazes me that Cornwell could create such a strong, credible characters in the Scarpetta series, yet fail so miserably with a new series. The addition of animals who think and plan is just so silly. I appreciate that maybe she was trying to write something not so serious and more light-hearted but it just doesn't work.

Synopsis (from the author's website)

The creator of Kay Scarpetta, the most fascinating character in contemporary crime fiction, now cunningly reveals the heart and soul of a metropolitan police department. With Charlotte as her simmering background, she propels us into the core of the force through the lives of a dynamic trio of heroes: Andy Brazil, an ambitious younger reporter for The Charlotte Observer and an eager - sometimes too eager-volunteer cop; Police Chief Judy Hammer, the professionally strong yet personally troubled guardian of Charlotte's law and order; and her deputy chief, Virginia West, a genuine head-turner who is married to her job. To walk the beat with Hammer, West, and Brazil is to learn the inner secrets of police work - the tension and the tedium, the hilarity and the heartbreak, the unexpected pump of adrenaline and the rush of courage that can lead to heroics ... or death.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Review: B is for Burglar by Sue Grafton

Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks (November 29, 2005)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0312939000
ISBN-13: 978-0312939007

I really like Grafton's Alphabet series. Her heroine, Kinsey Milhone is easy to, tough and resourceful.

Kinsey is hired by Beverly Danzinger to find her sister Elaine Boldt, a wealthy widow who was last seen leaving her California condo and boarding a plane to Florida. It seemed like a pretty straightforward case until Kinsey discovers that just before Elaine's disappearance, a woman was murdered next door to Elaine's condo and the house was torched with the body inside.

Kinsey travels between California and Florida in her quest to solve the mystery. While in Boca Raton where Elaine has a condo, she meets Julia Ochsner who is an absolute hoot and is delighted to help Kinsey. She's 88 years old with arthritis, a dowager's hump the size of a backpack and hair that looks like dandelion fuzz. She claims that all her dear friends have died and now she's stuck with the crabby ones. When Beverly tells Kinsey to stop searching, Julia is so excited about the case that she hires Kinsey to keep looking.

I've read several of Grafton's other alphabet books and so far this one is my favorite. Kinsey is just a delight and the plot is complex but no so much that you can't follow it.

Synopsis (from the author's website)

Beverly Danziger looked like an expensive, carefully wrapped package from a good but conservative shop. Only her compulsive chatter hinted at the nervousness beneath her cool surface. It was a nervousness out of all proportion to the problem she placed before Kinsey Millhone. There was an absent sister. A will to be settled -- a matter of only a few thousand dollars. Mrs. Danziger did not look as if she needed a few thousand dollars. And she didn't seem like someone longing for a family reunion. Still, business was slow, and even a private investigator has bills to pay. Millhone took the job. It looked routine.

Elaine Boldt's wrappings were a good deal flashier than her sisters, but they signaled the same thing: The lady had money. A rich widow in her early forties, she owned a condo in Boca Raton and another in Santa Teresa. According to the manager of the California building, she was last seen draped in her $12,000 lynx coat heading for Boca Raton. According to the manager of the Florida building, she never got there. But someone else had and she was camping out illegally in Mrs. Boldt's apartment. The job was beginning to seem a bit less routine. It turned tricky when Beverly Danziger ordered Millhone to drop the case and it took on an ominous quality when Aubrey Danziger surfaced, making all kinds of wild accusations about his wife. But it only became sinister when Millhone learned that just days before Elaine Boldt went missing, her next-door neighbor and bridge partner had been murdered and the killer was still at large.

A house destroyed by arson. A brutally murdered woman. A missing lynx coat. An apartment burgled of valueless papers, another ransacked in a melee of mindless destruction. And more murder. As Millhone digs deeper into the case, she finds herself in a nightmarish hall of mirrors in which reality is distorted by illusion and nothing -- except danger -- is quite what it seems.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Review: Whispers by Dean Koontz

Publisher: Putnam (January 1, 1980)
ASIN: B001O5N39A

The story begins with a fairly simple plot. Successful screenwriter Hilary Thomas does not know she is being stalked by Bruno Frye, a winery owner she met while doing research for one of her movies. That is until he confronts her in her home and attempts to rape and murder her. She scares him off by shooting at him but when she reports the incident to the police, they do not believe her. Detective Tony Clemenza is the only police officer who gives her the benefit of the doubt. However, when Frye returns to kill her, she stabs him to death and after finding his body, the attitudes of the police change.

Here's where it begins to get complicated. Frye believes that his dead mother, who abused him terribly as a child, is returning from the dead in the bodies of women who resemble her. But when Frye returns even after he has been found dead, autopsied and embalmed the terror returns for Hilary and Detective Clemenza.

If you read the author's words you will learn that writing this book took a physical and emotional toll. At first he didn't realize why. A decade later, he could look back on the book and understand that he was writing out of painful personal experience. The main characters in Whispers suffer terrible, violent childhoods. Some overcome those traumas, and some do not; indeed, one of them becomes a serial killer. Koontz had lived through a childhood marked by physical and psychological violence and although his experience was not like that of Hillary, and certainly not like that of Bruno, he was nevertheless drawing upon his own life for the emotional content of the novel.

This book is a definite page turner, absorbing and full of suspense.


Hilary Thomas is still struggling to cope with the nightmarish memories of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her parents. Tony Clemenza is a police detective who dreams of earning a living as an artist. But he lacks faith in his talent and takes refuge in the fact that he is, at least, a good cop. Bruno Frye is rich but unhappy, insecure. Frye is a killer, compelled to slaughter beautiful women. But there's a special dark place, filled with menacing whispers, where something hideous waits to kill Frye. Some people think Hilary/s report of Frye/s first attack on her is a lie or the work of a fevered imagination. But Tony believes and tries to help her. Tony and Hilary fall in love, but their chances of living to enjoy each other are slim. Frye is a persistent, efficient killing machine. Nothing will stop him; not even death.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Review: 7th Heaven by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Hardcover: 376 pages
Language: English
Women's Murder Club
Publisher: Little Brown & Co Feb 2008
ISBN-10: 0316017701
ISBN-13: 9780316017701

I've always been a fan of Patterson's Women's Murder Club series and this novel is no exception. It was gripping and suspenseful with characters you can relate to. Someone is setting fires to homes of the wealthy in and around San Francisco, leaving the residents dead, burned alive. We know who is committing the murders, but we don't know why. Detective Lindsay Boxer and her partner, Rich Conklin, are trying to find the arsonists while already working on another prominent case, the disappearance of Michael Campion, the son of a former governor. This is one of Patterson's strengths as a writer...the ability to weave together two separate mysteries and tie them together at the end, delivering a satisfying conclusion.

The other members of the Women's Murder Club, DA Yuki Castellano, news reporter Cindy Thomas and medical examiner Claire Washburn, don't play as prominent a role as in past novels. The focus, as it pertains to the characters' personal lives, is on Lindsay, her devotion to her work and her partner and how that relationship affects her relationship with her boyfriend, Joe.

I would easily recommend all of the Women's Murder Club books to anyone who enjoys suspense and mystery. It is not really necessary to read them in order although they occasionally refer to something in a previous book. But even so, these references don't confuse.

Synopsis (from the author's website)

The beloved son of California's former governor disappears into the ether. The angel-faced prostitute Junie Moon admits to the crime and Yuki Castellano is faced with the media circus surrounding her prosecution. But is Junie Moon really to blame? At the same time, a serial arsonist is torching some of San Franciso's most beautiful homes and leaving it's occupants to suffer terrible deaths in the flames. It doesn't add up, but Lindsay Boxer is charged with finding the truth.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Review: Sail by James Patterson and Howard Roughan

Hardcover: 388 pages
Language: English
Publisher: Little Brown & Co Jun 2008
ISBN-10: 0316018708
ISBN-13: 9780316018708

I guess an author can run out of ideas for a believable plot and multi-dimensional characters after he or she has written dozens of books. The last two Patterson novels I've read have been disappointing, including this one (although not as disappointing as Cross Country). There was really nothing new here. Unusual for Patterson though, he reveals the villain early in the book.

Katherine Dunne is a cardiac surgeon who inherited 100 million dollars and a large sail boat when her husband died at sea. She has three bratty kids, although the youngest is pretty likable, and a second husband, Peter Carlyle, a fancy schmancy defense attorney. Unbelievably, Katherine decides that two months at sea with her children and ex-brother-in-law Jake will bring the family together. First, Peter isn't going (although her supports her decision), and second, her brother-in-law is in love with her. Not a good combination for building a stronger family.

As soon as they are out to sea everything falls apart. The oldest son is caught smoking pot, the daughter jumps overboard in a suicide attempt and the boat begins taking on water. It only gets worse from there. I won't spoil it for anyone who wants to read it, but let's just say they escape sure death time after time, and in ways that just made me shake my head. It seems that the author fell back on sensationalism and exclamation points instead of substance to keep you reading.

Still, it wasn't a bad book if you don't expect it to be up to the quality of Patterson's Women's Murder Club and Alex Cross series.

Synopsis (from the author's website)

A perfect family vacation turns into a life-or-death nightmare.

Only an hour out of port, the Dunne family's summer getaway to paradise is already turning into the trip from hell. Carrie, the eldest, has thrown herself off the side of the boat in a bid for attention. Sixteen-year-old Mark is getting high belowdecks. And Ernie, their ten-year-old brother, is nearly catatonic. It's shaping up to be the worst vacation ever.

Katherine Dunne had hoped this trip would bring back the togetherness they'd lost when her husband died four years earlier. Maybe if her new husband, a high-powered Manhattan attorney, had been able to postpone his trial and join them it would all have been okay....

Suddenly, a disaster hits–and it's perfect. Faced with real danger, the Dunnes rediscover the meaning of family and pull together in a way they haven't in a long time. But this catastrophe is just a tiny taste of the danger that lurks ahead: someone wants to make sure that the Dunne family never makes it out of paradise alive.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Review: Dead Watch by John Sandford

Hardcover: 373 pages
Language: English
Publisher: Putnam Pub Group May 2006
ISBN-10: 0399153543
ISBN-13: 9780399153549

I'm an avid John Sandford fan, especially of his "Prey" series and its main character, Lucas Davenport. In Dead Watch Sandford has created another interesting, though not as complex, main character, Jake Winter. While Winter is smart and diligent, he doesn't have the edge that Davenport has. Still, he is interesting enough to keep you reading. Actually, the most interesting and challenging character in the book is Jake's love interest and estranged wife of a kidnapped politician, Madison Bowe.

Ex-Senator Lincoln Bowe disappears and the White House asks Jake to investigate. Madison is very vocal about her belief that Virginia Governor Arlo Goodman is behind the disappearance. When Bowe's headless corpse is discovered, Jake is under even more pressure to find out what happened. Aided by Madison (and wondering if she may be involved), Jake follows a trail of deception that suggests that the disappearance and murder may be a plot to derail Governor Goodman's ascent to the presidency.

I think Jake has a lot of potential as a main character and hope that Sandford writes another novel featuring him. However, the plot in Dead Watch was rather convoluted, with too many suspects to keep track of. The nature of the murder plot was just too unbelievable and sensational. That said, it still was an interesting read.

Synopsis (from the author's website)

Late afternoon, Virginia, and a woman is on the run. Her husband, a former U.S. Senator named Lincoln Bowe, has been missing for days. Kidnapped? Murdered? She doesn't know, but she thinks she knows who's involved, and why. And that she may be next.

Hours later, a phone rings in the pocket of Jacob Winter. An Army Intelligence veteran, Winter specializes in what he thinks of as forensic bureaucracy. Congress, the Pentagon, the FBI, CIA, Homeland Security – when something goes wrong, Winter kicks over rocks until he finds out what really happened. The White House is his main client, and the chief of staff is on the phone now.

If Bowe isn't located soon, he is told, all hell will break loose.

What Winter doesn't realize is – all hell will break loose anyway. And he will be right in the middle of it. Large forces are at work, men determined to do whatever it takes to achieve unprecedented ends. Before the next few days are out, Winter will discover he has to use every one of his resources not only to prevail... but just to survive.

And so will the nation....

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Review: Act of Betrayal by Edna Buchanan

Hardcover: 292 pages
Language: English
Publisher: Hyperion Books Feb 1996
ISBN-10: 0786860987
ISBN-13: 9780786860982

Edna Buchanan is a Pulitzer Prize winning crime reporter. In this novel, she writes of Britt Montero, a half Cuban crime reporter in Miami. Plagued as usual by boyfriend problems, Britt reports about the disappearance of a teen-age boy whose investigation by the police has been almost non-existent. During her investigation, Britt finds that there are many more missing boys who share identical physical traits. They are all white, all blond, all blue-eyed, all unsolved.

Interspersed with the investigation is a personal mystery involving Britt's long dead Cuban father; a diary he kept that could expose a man professing to be a Cuban patriot.

This book has it all; kidnapping, murder, political intrigue, a mother/daughter conflict and a massive hurricane. Britt is tough, smart and likable.


A fatal bomb blast propels Mimi News police reporter Britt Montero into the story of her life, as deadly secrets and betrayals from the past sweep into Miami on the winds of a killer storm.

More than one evil prowls the sweltering city. When Britt reports the story of a missing teenager, she uncovers a frightening pattern of identical cases. The lost boys could be brother. All look alike: slender, fair-haired, and blue-eyed. All vanished without a trace.

As Britt probes the baffling case, an old mystery reopens personal wounds. Britt has always felt simpatico with the father she never knew--who was executed by a Castro firing squad when she was only three--and bewildered by her mother's bitter silence about the man who allowed the dream of a free Cuba to become a fatal obsession. Now, as the Castro regime weakens and falters at last, as intrigue and politicking build to a fever pitch throughout Miami's exile community, Britt meets two men who knew her father well. One aims to become the first president of a free Cuba; the other, an aging freedom fighter, still wars against Castro with hit-and-run guerrilla raids. Both know the shocking secret history of her parents' past. Through them, Britt learns that her father left an explosive prison diary naming the traitor who betrayed him. Rumor says the long-sought diary has now arrived in Miami, in the possession of a rafter, a balsero, one of the thousands who risked their lives braving the shark-infested waters of the Florida straits to reach freedom.

Suddenly everyone wants the diary, and everyone who acquires it is marked for murder. As the cold trail of the missing boys heats up and Britt seeks her father's diary in order to find the man responsible for his death, the most destructive hurricane in fifty years bears down on Miami. People flee the Keys, and storm panic spreads as Britt confronts her mother, demanding the long-kept secrets of the past.

Miamians jam the streets and highways to evacuate. Tension mounts as the barometric pressure drips. Just as her father was caught up in the whirlwind of revolution and freedom fighting thirty years earlier, Britt and those around her are caught up by the storm that shatters their lives and changes the face of South Florida forever.

At the height of the storm, as it seems that doomsday has arrived, Britt learns the horrifying truth about the missing boys, her own past and, after more than thirty years, faces the man responsible for her father's death as a betrayal even more devastating is revealed.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Review: Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Paperback: 498 pages
Language: English
Publisher: Little Brown & Co Sep 2006
ISBN-10: 0316015849
ISBN-13: 9780316015844

I was prepared not to like this book...what with teenage vampires and that it targets young adults. But I was pleasantly surprised as it was a good way to escape the everyday hum drum reality we all live in. You can just curl up in a comfy chair and let yourself be mindlessly entertained for a while.

High school senior, Bella Swan moves to Forks, Washington to live with her father while her mother travels with her new husband. She finds herself sitting next to the seriously gorgeous Edward Cullen in her biology class and promptly falls in love. She spurns the attentions of all the other boys who are attracted to her, even though Edward acts as if he hates her. What she doesn't know, is that Edward lusts after her. He really wants to suck her blood but is trying to resist temptation. He doesn't want her to find out he is a vampire, even though he (and his equally gorgeous vampire family) only feed on animals, not humans. Silly? Adolescent? Yes and yes. But still I enjoyed the escape.

Bella is a little bit of a martyr and supremely clumsy, but very likable. A good kid who does well in school and always tries to do the right thing. And Edward, if a vampire can be a good guy is I guess, a good guy. He tries to do the right thing by Bella but fails because of his intense attraction to her.

It's not classic literature but most books aren't anyway. It's just silly fun.


Bella Swan’s move to Forks could have been the most boring move she ever made. But when she meets the mysterious and alluring Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. Up until now, Edward has managed to keep his vampire identity a secret in the small community he lives in, but now nobody is safe, especially Bella.


I’d never given much thought to how I would die — though I’d had reason enough in the last few months — but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.

I stared without breathing across the long room, into the dark eyes of the hunter, and he looked pleasantly back at me.

Surely it was a good way to die, in the place of someone else, someone I loved. Noble, even. That ought to count for something.

I knew that if I’d never gone to Forks, I wouldn’t be facing death now. But, terrified as I was, I couldn’t bring myself to regret the decision. When life offers you a dream so far beyond any of your expectations, it’s not reasonable to grieve when it comes to an end.

The hunter smiled in a friendly way as he sauntered forward to kill me…

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Review: A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton

Hardcover: 274 pages
Language: English
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston Jan 1982
ISBN-10: 0030590485
ISBN-13: 9780030590481

In the first of Grafton's alphabet series, Kinsey Millhone is an ex-cop turned private investigator who prefers to be alone and will stop at nothing to solve her case. There's nothing soft about her.

Kinsey is hired by Nikki Fife to find out who murdered her thoroughly unlikeable husband, Laurence. Nikki was just released from prison after being found guilty of murdering Laurence. Now she wants her name cleared. Along the way, Kinsey finds love and that there is another murder that is certainly connected. But does her new love interest have something to hide also about the murders? As she struggles to put all the pieces together, she comes to realize that someone out there is trying to stop her from learning the truth.

The plot and characters are well formed and there is enough suspense to keep you guessing and turning the pages. You may be a little bored with the lack of modern technology such as cell phones and laptops, but just remember; this book was written in 1982. I had to keep reminding myself of that every time Kinsey had to use a motel phone or drag out her typewriter.

Synopsis (from the author's website)

When Laurence Fife was murdered, few mourned his passing. A prominent divorce attorney with a reputation for single-minded ruthlessness on behalf of his clients, Fife was also rumored to be a dedicated philanderer. Plenty of people in the picturesque Southern California town of Santa Teresa had a reason to want him dead. Including, thought the cops, his young and beautiful wife, Nikki. With motive, access, and opportunity, Nikki was their number one suspect. The jury thought so too.

Eight years later and out on parole, Nikki Fife hires Kinsey Millhone to find out who really killed her late husband.

A trail that is eight years cold. A trail that reaches out to enfold a bitter, wealthy, and foul-mouthed old woman and a young boy, born deaf, whose memory cannot be trusted. A trail that leads to a lawyer defensively loyal to a dead partner -- and disarmingly attractive to Millhone; to an ex-wife, brave, lucid, lovely -- and still angry over Fife's betrayal of her; to a not-so-young secretary with too high a salary for too few skills -- and too many debts left owing: The trail twists to include every turn until it finally twists back on itself with a killer cunning enough to get away with murder.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Review: The Front by Patricia Cornwell

Hardcover: 180 pages
Language: English
Publisher: Putnam Pub Group May 2008
ISBN-10: 0399154183
ISBN-13: 9780399154188

This is one of those short, superficial books you can zip right through and not have to think about. The plot wasn't complicated and the characters weren't too deep and complex. It's a weak sequel to At Risk which wasn't all that thought provoking either. I got the impression that Cornwell must have been required to publish a book so she just called this one in. In fact, I think all of her books outside the Kay Scarpetta series just don't measure up. It makes me wonder how she can create such colorful and believable characters for Scarpetta, but fail so miserably with her others. This one isn't as bad as Isle of Dogs (nothing could be worse than that ridiculous novel) but it certainly is near the bottom of the list.

Win Garano is a drop dead gorgeous, half Italian/half black investigator for the Boston District Attorney, Monique LaMont. Monique is selfish, ambitious and ruthless and treats her employees as if she owns them. She assigns Win to investigate a cold case from 1962 in which a young blind woman was raped and murdered in Watertown. She's convinced the murder was committed by the Boston Strangler and sees this as a chance to advance her career. Watertown is also the home base for a loose association of municipal police departments called the FRONT, hence the title.

And then there's Win's grandmother...a tarot card reading, curse wielding, superstitious old woman who has been in trouble more than once for putting curses on a couple of politicians. Another character who is little more than a caricature.

Synopsis (from the author's website)

At Risk featured Massachusetts state investigator Win Garano, a shrewd man of mixed-race background and a notinconsiderable chip on his shoulder; District Attorney Monique Lamont, a hard-charging woman with powerful ambitions and a troubling willingness to cut corners; and Garano's grandmother, who has certain unpredictable talents that you ignore at your peril.

And in The Front, peril is what comes to them all. D.A. Lamont has a special job for Garano. As part of a new public relations campaign about the dangers of declining neighborhoods, she's sending him to Watertown to “come up with a drama,” and she thinks she knows just the case that will serve. Garano is very skeptical, because he knows that Watertown is also the home base for a loose association of municipal police departments called the FRONT, set up in order that they don't have to be so dependent on the state—much to Lamont's anger. He senses a much deeper agenda here—but he has no idea just how deep it goes. In the days that follow, he'll find that Lamont's task, and the places it leads him, will resemble a house of mirrors—everywhere he turns, he's not quite sure if what he's seeing is true.

“Falsehoods rule,” warns his grandmother. And they can also kill.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Review: The Bone Collector by Jeffery Deaver

Hardcover: 421 pages
Language: English
Publisher: Penguin Group USA Mar 1997
ISBN-10: 067086871X
ISBN-13: 9780670868711

The first in the Lincoln Rhyme series, The Bone Collector is about a forensic scientist, known to his peers as "the world's foremost criminalist". Injured during a crime scene search, Rhyme is a quadriplegic, confined to a bed in his Manhattan apartment, and cared for by his aide, Thom. He has limited use of the ring finger of his left hand, which he uses to operate some state of the art equipment that enables him to view evidence and assists him in solving crimes.

New York City is experiencing a series of gruesome kidnappings and murders, the first of which is a man buried alive on a train track with his forearm sticking out of the ground. He is discovered by NYPD cop, Amelia Sachs, who stops a train and closes a busy NYC street in order to preserve the crime scene. When Rhyme is asked to assist in the solving the case, he wants Sachs to act as his legs at the crime scenes.

The villain, a serial killer who models his crimes on ones he finds in a book on criminal life in old New York, dispenses of his victims in ways guaranteed to make you cringe. All this takes place in the course of one weekend as the killer leaves clues as to where he's going to strike next.

There is drama and suspense on every page, up to and including the climactic battle to the death at the end.

Synopsis (from the author's website)

Lincoln Rhyme, ex-head of NYPD forensics, was the nation's foremost criminalist, the man who could work a crime scene and come away with a perfect profile of the killer, frozen in time. Now, Lincoln is frozen in place — permanently. An accident on the job left him a quadriplegic who can move just one finger, a great mind strapped to his bed, mulish and sarcastic, hiding from a life he no longer wants to live.

Until he sees the crime-scene report about a corpse found buried on a deserted West Side railroad track, its bloody hand rising from the dirt. It belonged to a man who got into a cab at the airport and never got out. Reluctantly, Lincoln Rhyme abandons retirement to track down a killer whose ingenious clues hold the secret to saving his victims — if Rhyme can decipher them in time. The search leads him to the Bone Collector, whose obsession with old New York colors every scrap of evidence he leaves for Rhyme and his new partner, Amelia Sachs, whom he drafts as his arms and legs. But she's never worked a crime scene in her life — and he can only whisper in her ear as she does the exacting work he loved more than anything else.

A Review: Phantom Prey by John Sandford

Hardcover: 373 pages
Language: English
Publisher: Putnam Pub Group May 2008
ISBN-10: 0399155007
ISBN-13: 9780399155000

In the 18th book of the "Prey" series, Frances Austin, a wealthy young woman who is into the Goth scene, goes missing. Already working on an important case, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent Lucas Davenport becomes involved in this one when his surgeon wife, Weather, asks him to. Weather just happens to be a friend of Frances' mother, Alyssa. Traces of Frances' blood are found on a wall in her mother's home, but with no body, Lucas can't be positive she is dead. When several other members of the Goth community are found murdered, it becomes less likely that Frances will be found alive.

You've heard the term "follow the money"...that is what Lucas does when he discovers that $50,000 was missing from one of Frances' investment accounts. The trail leads him to Frances' killer, but he believes there is a second person who killed the others. We find out who that killer is before Lucas does, and it's quite disturbing.

No one writes a crime thriller better than John Sandford and he doesn't disappoint with Phantom. This 18th entry in the Prey series still shows plenty of the suspense and originality that has made this series last so long. In my opinion, there's no such thing as a bad Lucas Davenport story.

Synopsis (from the author's website)

Lucas Davenport has had disturbing cases before – but never one quite like this, in the shocking new Prey novel from the #1 New York Times-bestselling author.

John Sandford's most recent Davenport novel, Invisible Prey, was hailed as "one of his best books in recent memory" (Washington Post); "as fresh and entertaining as ever" (Chicago Sun-Times); "rivetingly readable" (Richmond Times-Dispatch). But this time, he's got something quite special in store.
A widow comes home to her large house in a wealthy, exclusive suburb to find blood on the walls, no body – and her college-age daughter missing. She's always known that her daughter ran with a bad bunch. What did she call them – Goths? Freaks is more like it, running around with all that makeup and black clothing, listening to that awful music, so attracted to death. And now this.
But the police can't find the girl, alive or dead, and the widow truly panics. There's someone she knows, a surgeon named Weather Davenport, whose husband is a big deal with the police, and she implores Weather to get her husband directly involved. Lucas gets in only reluctantly – but then when a second Goth is slashed to death in Minneapolis, he starts working it hard. The clues don't seem to add up, though. And then there's the young Goth who keeps appearing and disappearing: Who is she? Where does she come from and, more important, where does she vanish to? And why does Lucas keep getting the sneaking suspicion that there is something else going on here... something very, very bad indeed?
Filled with his brilliant trademark suspense and some of the most interesting characters in thriller fiction, Phantom Prey is further proof that "Sandford is in a class of his own" (Orlando Sentinel).

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Review: I Heard That Song Before by Mary Higgins Clark

Hardcover: 318 pages
Language: English
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Apr 2007
ISBN-10: 0743264916
ISBN-13: 9780743264914

When Kay Lansing was six years old, she sneaked into the mansion where her father worked as the landscaper to see the hidden chapel. While there, she overheard a mysterious conversation between an unknown man and woman. Twenty-two years later she returned to the mansion to ask the owner, Peter Carrington, if he would host a library fundraiser. A month later they were married, even though Peter was under a cloud of suspicion for two murders.

Peter has been a "person of interest" in the murder twenty-two years ago of his neighbor, Susan Althorp, and for the more recent drowning death of his wife, Grace. When the District Attorney finally has enough evidence to arrest Peter, Kay begins to realize how important that conversation was to Peter's defense.

Written in her usual style, short chapters with cliff hanger endings, this novel doesn't disappoint. The characters are well-defined, with the exception of Peter, who I felt was rather one-dimensional. Although there are quite a few characters, they are easy to follow. The plot is fast paced and suspenseful, keeping me interested and not wanting to put the book down. Any Higgins Clark fan will like this book.

Synopsis (from the author's website)

Mary Higgins Clark takes you deep into the mysteries of the human mind, where memories may be the most dangerous things of all.

Kay Lansing grew up in Englewood, New Jersey, daughter of the landscaper to the wealthy and powerful Carrington family. One day, accompanying her father to work, six-year-old Kay overhears a quarrel between a man and a woman that ends with the man's caustic response: "I heard that song before." That same evening, young Peter Carrington drives the nineteen-year-old daughter of neighbors home from a formal dinner dance at the Carrington estate, but she is not in her room the next morning and is never seen or heard from again.

Decades later, a cloud of suspicion hangs over Peter, not only for his neighbor's disappearance but also for the subsequent drowning death of his own pregnant wife in their swimming pool. But when Kay Lansing, now a librarian in Englewood, asks Peter's permission to hold a literary benefit cocktail party on his estate, she comes to see Peter as misunderstood? and when he begins to court her, she falls in love -- and marries him. However, she soon makes a discovery that leads her to question her husband's innocence. She believes that the key to the truth lies in the identities of the man and woman whose quarrel she witnessed as a child. What she does not realize is that uncovering what lies behind these memories may cost Kay her life.