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September 2014

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Never a Day Without a Book... (On My Kindle!)

  • Jonathan Tropper: This Is Where I Leave You: A Novel

    Jonathan Tropper: This Is Where I Leave You: A Novel
    This book runs the gamut of emotions as Judd's family honors his dad's wishes and sits shiva for 7 days after he has died. The family dynamics and the fact that Judd had just caught his wife in bed with his boss (wow, was THAT ever a description!) adds to all the crazy angst. This is a very funny book, but it's also bittersweet, poignant, and at many times...crazy! Very well-written. (****)

  • Dean Koontz: Odd Apocalypse: An Odd Thomas Novel

    Dean Koontz: Odd Apocalypse: An Odd Thomas Novel
    I am always delighted beyond measure whenever Dean Koontz releases an "Odd Thomas" book. I adore this humble and gifted character who is constantly put through hell and back. In this story, he is supposedly resting at a rich man's manor (after his previous harrowing undertaking) -- but the manor turns out to not be quite as "restful" as it appears. Hmm. (He is "Odd" because the typewriter key for "T" didn't hit the ribbon on his birth certificate. Get it?) Heh. Love him! (*****)

  • Michael Connelly: The Black Box (A Harry Bosch Novel)

    Michael Connelly: The Black Box (A Harry Bosch Novel)
    The refreshingly anti-establishment Harry Bosch of the LAPD's "Opened Unsolved Unit" investigates a 20-year-old murder that took place during the LA riots. Turns out not all is at it seems! Definitely a page-turner who-dunnit. (****)

  • John Scalzi: Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas

    John Scalzi: Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas
    I believe I've read all of Scalzi's novels (not all of his novellas, though, but that's gonna change soon). Check out his blog at Whatever.com. I really like him -- he's bright and funny and down-to-earth. This book was kind of a campy take on Star Trek -- the guys in the "red shirts" typically didn't have much time to live. (If you know ST, you'll know what I mean). It was a very fun and entertaining read! (****)

  • Gillian Flynn: Gone Girl: A Novel

    Gillian Flynn: Gone Girl: A Novel
    This story smacks you upside the head, swallows you, and spits you out; when it ends, you know you've been PUT THROUGH IT. It's a psychological thriller like none other. Can't say much more without giving away spoilers, but it's not 5 stars because of one particular element, in my opinion. (****)

  • Justin Cronin: The Twelve (Book Two of The Passage Trilogy): A Novel

    Justin Cronin: The Twelve (Book Two of The Passage Trilogy): A Novel
    I read Cronin's "The Passage" a couple of years ago and loved it. I didn't realize that it was Part 1 of a trilogy! "The Twelve" is the 2nd part and it was outstanding. The premise sounds strange -- it's a post-apocalyptic world after a military experiment went terribly wrong. It's kind of a combination of "The Hunger Games" and "The Stand" -- but also neither of those. It's just riveting. And now I have to wait a couple more years for Part 3. (*****)

  • Stephen King: 11/22/63: A Novel

    Stephen King: 11/22/63: A Novel
    This was sooooo gooooood! Oh yes, it has some of King's typical elements (I mean, it involves time travel), but it's all believable. Really! Jake is a high school English teacher in a small town in Maine, and he's unexpectedly introduced to this "portal" that takes him back to 1958. Believe me, you go with him and you are THERE. Once again, I just love SK's glorious characterization. (*****)

  • Amor Towles: Rules of Civility: A Novel

    Amor Towles: Rules of Civility: A Novel
    I believe this is a popular Book Club read, and I did enjoy it, but it wasn't a page-turner. It takes place in pre-World War II New York City from the point of view of a young woman making her way in the world with a "regular" life that unexpectedly intersects with the lives of a group of young and wealthy friends. Much of it was fascinating and intriguing, but it meandered. It was rather "noir" and I suspect NYC natives would genuinely love it -- like viewing intimate and iconic city elements through a lens of time. (***)

  • Robert Crais: Suspect

    Robert Crais: Suspect
    Enjoyable police procedural read with all new characters -- and the best one is Maggie the Afghanistan war vet. She's a dog with PTSD who is matched up with a cop (also with PTSD after a terribly gone-wrong incident) for K-9 training. And ultimately the investigation of the terribly gone-wrong incident. The humans aren't painted quite as sublimely as Maggie the dog, but a good, escapist read anyway. (****)

  • Kate Morton: The House at Riverton: A Novel

    Kate Morton: The House at Riverton: A Novel
    Once Season 3 of Downton Abbey ended (so sadly!), I was still hungry for more (in spite of it all!) and so I read this book! Same era, same "upstairs/downstairs" setup, with different characters, of course. The narrator was a 99-year-old woman who had been a maid at Riverton House back in the 19-teens into the early '20s. She had lots of secrets to tell! It was entertaining, compelling, and left me realizing that the era was ultimately tragic, no matter how much money you had. (****)

  • John Scalzi: Zoe's Tale

    John Scalzi: Zoe's Tale
    After the Old Man's War trilogy, this book was released and I thought maybe Scalzi had decided to write a 4th installment to the series (since Zoe was a pretty major-but-secondary character in two of them). Turns out this is actually the same story of the third book (The Lost Colony) only from Zoe's point of view (she's 15 or 16). At first I was disappointed, but once I got into it, I just loved it. She's a smart mouth (plus very smart!), and it was a very fresh take on a very good story. It's sci-fi, just a heads up, and very readable, humorous, and entertaining sci-fi at that. I also think it would be a great stand-alone book for teenage girls/young adults. (****)

  • Patricia Cornwell: The Scarpetta Factor

    Patricia Cornwell: The Scarpetta Factor
    Because I've been disappointed in the Scarpetta books lately, this is the first one I've read in a while, which meant there were holes in my understanding of the backstory throughout it. I got the gist OK, but overall I found it to be whiney and full of angst. Or at least the characters are, and I mean ALL of them. They just take themselves way too seriously and I'm weary of that. Cornwell needs to lighten up and inject a little humor in her writing. (**)

  • Bill Loehfelm: Fresh Kills

    Bill Loehfelm: Fresh Kills
    This felt similar to another book I read fairly recently, Charlie Huston's "Caught Stealing." Angry protaganist, heavy drinker, pissed off at the world. It's not a mystery novel by any means — more of a psychological journey of self-discovery (and maybe redemption) that takes place over just a couple of days. I really didn't like this guy. And some of the good stuff that ended up coming his way seemed undeserved. (***)

  • Stieg Larsson: The Girl Who Played with Fire

    Stieg Larsson: The Girl Who Played with Fire
    I have very much enjoyed this series with Lisbeth Salander as the tough-as-nails, tattooed, pierced computer hacker with a horrific childhood. She has a chip on her shoulder, but her savvy and survival skills, as well as a certain vulnerability, have you always rooting for her. This is the 2nd book of the trilogy and you become more privy to much of what she had to endure in her youth. It's a great mystery, full of lots of tense moments, and quite the cliffhanger of an ending. The 3rd book will be released next year and I can hardly wait. (*****)

  • Dan Brown: The Lost Symbol

    Dan Brown: The Lost Symbol
    I know. His writing sucks. (Much like Clive Cussler). But he can spin a yarn and it made me think of a computer adventure game. I did enjoy Googling certain art and architecture along the way. Over-the-top, for sure, but still rather compelling. (***)

  • Dean Koontz: Relentless: A Novel

    Dean Koontz: Relentless: A Novel
    I love Dean Koontz and will read anything he writes. And because he's so prolific, there will sometimes be books of his that don't quite compare to others. This is one of them. It was good, it was entertaining (and it WAS relentless!), but it wasn't super. I've read a few more novels since reading this one and I had to go back to Amazon to refresh my memory what it was all about! So you see, it didn't stick with me like so many of his stories. That doesn't bode well. But...if you like Koontz, it's still worth reading. (***)

  • John Scalzi: Old Man's War

    John Scalzi: Old Man's War
    This was the first book of a science fiction trilogy (I read them all; #2 is "The Ghost Brigades" and #3 is "The Last Colony"). John Scalzi twitters and I was intrigued with him on a personal level so I decided to give his books a try. They're good! I'm often hesitant about SF because so much of it is cheesy, but these are well-written, very interesting, and full of great humor. There is now a 4th book in the series called "Zoe's Tale" which I've downloaded to my Kindle but haven't read yet. (****)

  • Pat Conroy: South of Broad

    Pat Conroy: South of Broad
    No, it wasn't "Prince of Tides." Definitely worth reading, though, with Conroy's astounding and beautiful command of the language. As I usually do with his books, I have to read some of his passages out loud to whomever is within earshot. Some of the characters were a little over-the-top, but you love them anyway (or not...) (****)

  • P.D. James: The Private Patient (Adam Dalgliesh Mysteries)

    P.D. James: The Private Patient (Adam Dalgliesh Mysteries)
    P.D. James is such an excellent writer—this series is a true mesh of mystery and literature. Very British and quite formal, this story did remind me of a classic Agatha Christie "who-dunnit." (****)

  • Lee Child: Gone Tomorrow (Jack Reacher, No. 13)

    Lee Child: Gone Tomorrow (Jack Reacher, No. 13)
    I was rather disappointed with Jack Reacher No. 12, but this is totally back to excellent form! I'm not sure why I'm so enamored with this violent modern-day gunslinger, but there's something about him! The bad guys are (as usual) hair-raising bad, and so whatever comes to them is well-deserved. I think I'll read the Dexter series next! (****)

  • Markus Zusak: The Book Thief

    Markus Zusak: The Book Thief
    "Death" certainly does have a way with words! This book was amazing. Yes, it has depressing undertones as it takes place in Nazi Germany, and it IS narrated by "Death." But there is a lot of dark humor, humanity, and love throughout and it ultimately left me feeling uplifted....and amazed. (*****)

  • Harlan Coben: Long Lost

    Harlan Coben: Long Lost
    I love the Myron Bolitar character (and his psychotic friend, Win) and I was thrilled when this came out on Kindle! Myron has matured in the past ten years, but he's still a caustic hoot. Coben puts poor Myron through hell, though, especially in the second half of the book. The story is ultimately a little over-the-top, (OK, maybe a LOT) but I still enjoyed it. We read to be entertained, after all! (****)

  • Earl Emerson: Cape Disappointment

    Earl Emerson: Cape Disappointment
    After nearly a decade, Thomas Black is back! I've enjoyed these because they take place in and around Seattle, so the locale is very familiar, and Earl Emerson is an excellent writer. This was a complex, dark, and at times disturbing story. It was a little "Pulp Fiction-y" as it switched between the present and flashbacks, and at times you couldn't be sure what was "real." A lot of interesting conspiracy theories and a scary look at the corrupt power of politics and corporate-run journalism. (****)

  • Olen Steinhauer: The Tourist

    Olen Steinhauer: The Tourist
    As a classic espionage story, this made me remember watching the Mission Impossible TV shows with my dad when I was little, constantly asking him: "Why did he do that?" "What did that mean?" "Was that the same guy who...?" I was mesmerized, but had some difficulty following the complexities of the storyline. Characters with multiple aliases (and keeping them straight), and twists & turns that resulted in lots of head-scratching. It was also rather a depressing story. It has great reviews, and it was well-written, but, hmm. (***)

  • Ivan Doig: The Whistling Season

    Ivan Doig: The Whistling Season
    Boy. (I almost said "Boy Howdy!" because this book does make me think of "Cold Sassy Tree," one of my most favorite books of all time). It takes place in the early 1900s in Montana, and the heart of the story is the one-room school house. But it's so much more than that. It's family, it's intelligence, it's creativity, it's loving people (and unintelligent angry people), it's Halley's Comet. And it's written by one helluva craftsman. Wow. (*****)

  • Wally Lamb: The Hour I First Believed

    Wally Lamb: The Hour I First Believed
    It took Wally Lamb 9 years to write this novel, and it seems to me that it took him that long to figure out where to go with it. This isn't BAD—it's just all over the place. There are multiple stories happening here, and they just don't seem to mesh together all that well. And maybe I'm getting more "simple" in my middle-age, but I'm tired of unlikable, un-relatable characters in many of the books I've read lately. (***)

  • Chelsea Cain: Heartsick

    Chelsea Cain: Heartsick
    A little clunky in places, but overall a riveting read — much along the same lines as "Silence of the Lambs." So, yes, there were a number of scenes that made me rather squirmy! A few leaps of faith here, but good. (Just not great). (***)

  • John Sandford: Heat Lightning (Virgil Flowers)

    John Sandford: Heat Lightning (Virgil Flowers)
    This is a Virgil Flowers whodunnit, with cameo appearances by Lucas Davenport. Flowers is an interesting character, and this was a fairly absorbing mystery/thriller, but I figured most things out long before the ending. (***)

  • Stephen King: Just After Sunset: Stories

    Stephen King: Just After Sunset: Stories
    It was fun for a change to read a collection of short stories, and of course SK is always "fun!" There wasn't a bad one in the bunch. Enjoyed these very much! (*****)

  • Charlie Huston: Caught Stealing

    Charlie Huston: Caught Stealing
    A high octane thriller isn't always such a good thing. This wasn't "terrible" (decently written/crafted), but it has so many horrible people, and the main character isn't a gem, either. The best character was the cat, who didn't behave much like any cat I've known. It read like a, well, high octane movie script. (***)

  • Jonathan Kellerman: Bones (Alex Delaware, No. 23)

    Jonathan Kellerman: Bones (Alex Delaware, No. 23)
    Better than several of the recent Kellerman books, whereas Alex Delaware is very integral to the story (often he's such a bystander). Pretty good, but the storyline is already fading... (***)

  • Stieg Larsson: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

    Stieg Larsson: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
    I liked this a lot; it was riveting to me. That said, I can understand why some folks may not agree with me, as it's true that it does bog down a bit with a lot of family members to keep track of and some complex Swedish politics. But I loved the straight-forward writing (and/or excellent translation), and I especially enjoyed the dimensional characters. Intriguing all the way around, and I look forward to reading the next book in the trilogy. (****)

  • Nelson DeMille: The Gate House

    Nelson DeMille: The Gate House
    This is actually a sequel to "Gold Coast", an excellent story written back in the early 90s. I LOVE DeMille's smart-assed characters, and John Sutter is most definitely that! Oh, the sarcasm! Oh, the laugh-out-louds. It took me a while to read this book, and I suppose it's because it wasn't a major page-turner. I did enjoy the caustic humor, but a leeetle bit more action would have made it a five-star book. (****)

  • Chuck Klosterman: Downtown Owl

    Chuck Klosterman: Downtown Owl
    I will readily say that this book was marvelously written with a dry quiet wit. It was somewhat "Richard Russo-y" with the small-town setting and quirky characters and no bowl-you-over plot, but it also lacked LIKABLE characters. They were all pretty depressing and basically losers. But again, the writing was very creative and the climax was certainly "climatic" with the 1984 North Dakota blizzard. (***)

  • Mary Ann Shaffer: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

    Mary Ann Shaffer: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
    What a unique story (written in letters/telegrams) and a unique setting (yes, I've Googled everything I can about Guernsey and I want to go there!) and what quirky and lovable characters. I loved the light-heartedness paired with the underlying tragedy of post-World War II and German occupation. It was educational, but mostly it was incredibly entertaining. Equal parts Jane Austen and Fannie Flagg! This is an excellent read and I highly recommend it. You won't be sorry. (*****)

  • James Lee Burke: Swan Peak: A Dave Robicheaux Novel

    James Lee Burke: Swan Peak: A Dave Robicheaux Novel
    James Lee Burke is a true poet, and his writing skills are right up there with Richard Russo and Pat Conroy with his ability to make you believe you are THERE. But...his characters are so full of angst and demons, and this book was so dark and heavy (as many of his are), that I never even opened my Kindle to read it during vacation. I finished it this week and it's a relief to be unburdened by it. (Even though my mind goes back to many painfully beautiful passages...) (***)

  • Robert Crais: Chasing Darkness: An Elvis Cole Novel

    Robert Crais: Chasing Darkness: An Elvis Cole Novel
    Not the best Elvis Cole/Joe Pike story (in fact, Pike was pretty scarce which was such a bummer), and Elvis wasn't his typical hilariously flippant self and I missed that, too. The plot was pretty good, and it wasn't a bad book by any means, just not as sharp as usual. (***)

  • Lisa Unger: Black Out: A Novel

    Lisa Unger: Black Out: A Novel
    The tone of this novel was impending doom and gloom throughout, and the main character (the narrator) was sketchy and untrustworthy which all made this an uncomfortable read. It was definitely intense, but ultimately convoluted and contrived. Shame, because the premise was very intriguing. (***)

  • John Sandford: Phantom Prey (Lucas Davenport Mysteries)

    John Sandford: Phantom Prey (Lucas Davenport Mysteries)
    John Sandford's writing style sort of annoys me — clipped and hurried and Dragnetty — but this was a pretty interesting glimpse into the Goth subculture. The "whodunnit" was made clear about mid-way through the story, so it was mostly an observation of how Lucas was able to fit the pieces together. Overall, it came down to dumb luck. (***)

  • Lee Child: Nothing to Lose (Jack Reacher Novels)

    Lee Child: Nothing to Lose (Jack Reacher Novels)
    Wow, the right wingers are having a hissy fit over this book (the story dares to question our involvement in the Iraq war and brings to light the scary fringes of fanatical Christianity — fodder for right wing hissy fits). I love the Jack Reacher series and I enjoyed this book, but it's definitely not my favorite. The plot was rather far-fetched and also rather slow to get to the point. And that ultimate point was a bit of an eyebrow-raiser. Still, it's Jack Reacher! (***)

  • Michael Connelly: The Poet

    Michael Connelly: The Poet
    This was a non-Harry Bosch story, written in 1995. That's surprisingly a long time ago based on the technology between then and now, so it felt extremely dated. "High-tech" phone modems! Ha! It was a good story, though, about a serial killer and the efforts to hunt him down. It also confirmed my reasons years ago for not pursuing a career in print journalism — the dog-eat-dog environment. (***)

  • Dean Koontz: Odd Hours

    Dean Koontz: Odd Hours
    I LOVE this character, Odd Thomas, and I thoroughly enjoy his quirky sense of humor. But this 4th story of the Odd series was a blatant setup for the next installment(s), and with so much left dangling, I can't help but feel cheated about that. (***)

  • Elizabeth George: Careless in Red

    Elizabeth George: Careless in Red
    I enjoyed this book in the midst of reading it; the eloquent British style of writing, the well-drawn if dysfunctional characters. But there were far too many characters (lots of plants of red-herrings), the story was overly long for what it needed to be, and the revelation of the mystery was totally anticlimatic. (***)

  • Stephenie Meyer: The Host: A Novel

    Stephenie Meyer: The Host: A Novel
    Sometimes I enjoy a sci-fi book, but not very often because they tend to be extremely cheesy. Good ones are Dune and Ender's Game, but they are rare. The premise of this book intrigued me, as did all the positive Amazon reviews, so I gave it a whirl. What a juvenile, idiotic soap opera. Gag me! It was like Danielle Steel goes pseudo-Sci-Fi. Cheesy would be a compliment. (*)

  • Alexander Mccall Smith: The Miracle at Speedy Motors: The New Novel in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency)

    Alexander Mccall Smith: The Miracle at Speedy Motors: The New Novel in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency)
    This wasn't my all-time favorite book of the series, but I enjoyed it because it was so nice to be back among these lovable characters. These stories are so uplifting and often there is a gentle lesson to be learned. (****)

  • Lee Child: Killing Floor

    Lee Child: Killing Floor
    This is Lee Child's first Jack Reacher novel, and it's definitely one of the best (if not THE best) of all of them I've read so far (the 12th is coming out June 2008). It may (?) be the only one that is written in first-person. I absolutely could not put this down. This series is awesome! (*****)

  • Jesse Kellerman: The Genius

    Jesse Kellerman: The Genius
    I almost didn't buy this book because I didn't care for Jesse Kellerman's previous novel, "Trouble". But reading a couple of sample chapters on my Kindle sucked me in, and I hit the "One-Click" button to purchase it! I'm glad I did. It's a complex and suspenseful story, and while I wouldn't call it a "thriller", it definitely has a mysterious element and it's also a riveting family saga. It was hard to have to put this down, you know, to go to work and cook dinner and stuff! It's amazing that someone this young (under 30) can write so well. (****)

  • Lee Child: The Hard Way (Jack Reacher Novels)

    Lee Child: The Hard Way (Jack Reacher Novels)
    Surprisingly, I figured out a lot of the "twists" in this book beforehand, but I still really enjoyed it. Once again the ending had me squirming in anxiety — Lee Child is sure good at that! (****)

  • Philip Pullman: His Dark Materials Trilogy (The Golden Compass; The Subtle Knife; The Amber Spyglass)

    Philip Pullman: His Dark Materials Trilogy (The Golden Compass; The Subtle Knife; The Amber Spyglass)
    This amazing trilogy reminded me at times of "Dune" with its imaginative worlds and complex politics. It truly was an epic and treacherous journey, and at its core were children and animals to tug at your heart strings. Zealots call this series anti-religious, but I saw it as a tribute to humanity's passion for free will and the quest for knowledge — and overcoming the narrow-minded who stand in the way. (*****)

  • Joseph Finder: Paranoia

    Joseph Finder: Paranoia
    This was a gripping corporate espionage thriller, and the promise of a dynamite shocking ending kept me enthralled. Throughout, I kept thinking that the movie "Michael Clayton" would have been better based on this book with all its intensity and excellent characterization. But the ending was a major thunk for me. Until then, it was riding on a solid five stars. That "thunk" was bitterly disappointing. So much for promised dynamite endings. (***)

  • Nevada Barr: Winter Study (Anna Pigeon Mysteries)

    Nevada Barr: Winter Study (Anna Pigeon Mysteries)
    My feet felt cold throughout this entire book! Ms. Barr does a good job painting a frigid January on Isle Royale in Lake Superior. Anna Pigeon makes me feel inadequate with her amazing survival skills and her ability to solve complex crimes committed in the extreme elements, but I keep coming back to them. A little over-written but very good! (****)

  • Alison Larkin: The English American

    Alison Larkin: The English American
    Excellent! I hated for this book to end! The story and the characters are so well drawn and so unique! I loved this book! I highly recommend it! (*****)

  • Jonathan Kellerman: Compulsion: An Alex Delaware Novel

    Jonathan Kellerman: Compulsion: An Alex Delaware Novel
    This was better than some of the recent Jonathan Kellerman books, but I still felt that he was making things up as he wrote along and didn't have much of a plan from the beginning. (***)

  • Joshilyn Jackson: The Girl Who Stopped Swimming

    Joshilyn Jackson: The Girl Who Stopped Swimming
    This was really good, although I gave it four stars inestead of five because it was terribly melodramatic in places. I would definitely recommend it, though. (****)

  • David Baldacci: The Collectors
    Not so sure what all the hoopla is about with David Baldacci (nor why the book's cover art doesn't show up). This is the 2nd of the three Camel Club novels, and his writing is off-putting enough (all those damned adverbs and cardboard characters), that I'm not all that interested in reading his new one, "Stone Cold." (***)
  • John Connolly: The Unquiet: A Thriller

    John Connolly: The Unquiet: A Thriller
    I enjoyed this Charlie Parker novel, although the poor guy is SO chalk-full of angst that it can sort of bring you down. There's a bit of a paranormal aspect that is truly haunting. (****)

  • Lee Child: One Shot (Jack Reacher)

    Lee Child: One Shot (Jack Reacher)
    I love this modern-day gunslinger series about Jack Reacher, and this one does not disappoint. This has the most thrilling ending that I've read in a long time. If ever! (*****)

  • Cathy Lamb: Julia's Chocolates

    Cathy Lamb: Julia's Chocolates
    While this was pretty entertaining, the characters were extremely over-drawn and a fair amount of melodrama ruled the day. In spite of that, the story worked quite well. (***)

  • Sue Grafton: T is for Trespass (Kinsey Millhone Mysteries)

    Sue Grafton: T is for Trespass (Kinsey Millhone Mysteries)
    This, too, was a heavy read — but well worth it. Kinsey Malone is one of my favorite characters. (****)

  • James Lee Burke: The Tin Roof Blowdown: A Dave Robicheaux Novel

    James Lee Burke: The Tin Roof Blowdown: A Dave Robicheaux Novel
    The devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita come to heartwrenching life by Burke's incredible pen in this superb thriller. Nobody does it better. It was excellent, although a heavy read. (*****)

  • Douglas Preston: Blasphemy

    Douglas Preston: Blasphemy
    While I really enjoy the collaboration of Preston/Child's Special Agent Pendergrast series, this Preston stand-alone was just awful. Cardboard characters, ridiculous plot-line with holes as big as an abyss, and eye-rolling dialogue that read as horrible acting. This was BAD BAD BAD. I won't give it a single star.

  • Stephen King: Duma Key

    Stephen King: Duma Key
    I've always loved SK's characterization skills, and this is his best in a long time. The PEOPLE are so real and so likable, and the story is riveting. (Yes, also quite scary! SK, after all...) I loved being able to escape into this in the midst of crazy-bad work days. (Side note: Remember Wilson in Tim Allen's "Home Improvement"? The neighbor you never saw on the other side of the fence? The character, Wireman, in this book totally has his voice!) (*****)

  • Alexander McCall Smith: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (Book 1)

    Alexander McCall Smith: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (Book 1)
    I'm just listing the first of the series of 8 books (soon to be 9!) -- but I've read them all and I absolutely loved them! Full of wit and wisdom and a very unique setting -- Botswana, Africa. A very special series of lovable characters. (*****)

  • Sarah Addison Allen: Garden Spells

    Sarah Addison Allen: Garden Spells
    This story is a cure for dreary days; it's a simple but eloquent reminder to appreciate who you love (and who loves you). And you can chuckle at the matter-of-fact antics of a mischievous apple tree that is as three-dimensional as all the human characters. It has the quirk-factor of a southern "Northern Exposure," or "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe". It's light and airy and fragrant and mystical, and I absolutely loved it. (*****)

  • Richard Russo: Bridge of Sighs

    Richard Russo: Bridge of Sighs
    Unfortunately, this is my least favorite Russo book which makes me sad because I'd looked so forward to it. As usual, it was beautifully written and his characters stepped out of the pages as real people, but people who weren't particularly likable. Mostly I missed the wonderful sense of humor that was so prevalent in his previous books. I would have given this 3-1/2 stars if that was an option. (****)

  • Anne Rivers Siddons: Sweetwater Creek

    Anne Rivers Siddons: Sweetwater Creek
    This lyrical coming-of-age story was an interesting character study. Set in the Lowcountry, it wasn't quite as well depicted as James Lee Burke's ability to make you feel the Southern summer sweat dripping from every pore, but it was very pleasurable, tense in places, sad in places, and ultimately uplifting. You'll love the soulful "Elvis"! (****)

  • Sue Grafton: S is for Silence (Kinsey Millhone Mysteries)

    Sue Grafton: S is for Silence (Kinsey Millhone Mysteries)
    It's been a while since I've read one from this series (need to go back to "P" or "Q" and get caught up!), and I was delighted at how good it was. I've always liked them, but either this one was exceptionally well-written, or else I've read so many poorly-written books lately, that this one really stood out. (****)

  • Tess Gerritsen: The Mephisto Club

    Tess Gerritsen: The Mephisto Club
    Cardboardy, stereotypical characters: The hard-nosed Italian female cop with an attitude who prefers blue-collar beer; the uptight lonesome female M.E. in love with a priest and who prefers good wine. And then a writing style like so many others that basically tells a lame story without any finesse. What's up with these supposed "bestselling" novelists? Or their editors? I NEED A GOOD BOOK! (I hear Russo is coming out with a new one soon!) (**)

  • Joe Hill: Heart-Shaped Box

    Joe Hill: Heart-Shaped Box
    I really love Stephen King and I really love Dean Koontz, but this was the type of "horror" novel that Dean or Steve would NEVER write. It was horror on top of horror on top of such mind-numbing bloody violence that it was simply a major turn-off. The characters were well-drawn but not particularly lovable or easy to relate to, and I just simply couldn't wait for this book to end. (Notice that I DID finish it, though). (**)

  • J. K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)

    J. K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)
    I laughed...I cried...and was ultimately satisfied. The end. (*****)

  • Stephen White: Dry Ice (Dr. Alan Gregory Novels)

    Stephen White: Dry Ice (Dr. Alan Gregory Novels)
    "Morose" best describes this story, with Alan Gregory in a major unlikable funk, his D.A. wife cold and unlikable, and Sam-the-cop, well, nasty and unlikable! All of their professions require secrecy and I guess I got pretty fed up with having that take precedence over caring about each other and COMMUNICATING in their relationships. I have liked this series, but this one left me feeling....morose. (**)

  • Janet Evanovich: Lean Mean Thirteen (Stephanie Plum Novels)

    Janet Evanovich: Lean Mean Thirteen (Stephanie Plum Novels)
    These books are so fun -- and so funny. There were a number of lines that brought on a fit of giggles. (****)

  • Peter Abrahams: End of Story

    Peter Abrahams: End of Story
    I read this book with trepidation throughout, and not because of any masterful suspense qualities. Once again it featured a protagonist who you helplessly watch go off the deep end. I thought you were supposed to relate to the protagonist! Feel an affinity toward her, champion her actions. And while it wasn’t poorly written, I was constantly annoyed with the dialogue: “So what’s the story about?” “Story?” “Yeah, the one you’re writing.” “Writing?” (*)

  • Dean Koontz: The Good Guy

    Dean Koontz: The Good Guy
    I liked this a bunch, and absolutely COULD NOT put it down! It was a frantic nail-biter with intriguing and very likable characters. Koontz sometimes gets pretty eye-roley with his descriptive prose and I could have done without the over-writing. He doesn't always do that and I don't know why he doesn't learn to leave well enough alone. But it was a very good story with a bad guy that beats all bad guys. (****)

  • John Sandford: Invisible Prey

    John Sandford: Invisible Prey
    I guess if you like the hard-boiled, almost "Dragnet" police procedural style, you'll like this. I've read several of his "Prey" books some time ago and I don't recall them being this cold and, well, Dragnetty. It wasn't bad, I just felt that I'd dropped in on people and jargon and dialogue that I just couldn't wrap my arms (or head) around. (***)

  • Greg Iles: True Evil: A Novel

    Greg Iles: True Evil: A Novel
    I'll give this a star for being a "yarn", but similar to Clive Cusler, Iris Johansen, and Ken Follet -- THE WRITING SUCKS. Idiotic dialogue, cliche-riddled, over-the-top B-movie action, cardboard/cartoon characters. In a word? Yuk. (Why did I even finish it? I just typically always do, but I've certainly been questioning my wisdom about that philosophy). (*)

  • Chris Bohjalian: The Double Bind: A Novel

    Chris Bohjalian: The Double Bind: A Novel
    This book had to be a bitch to write. For it to all come together and be plausible and truly work, it had to be a yeoman's effort. That said, I really enjoyed it,and the writing was excellent, but I did figure out the "mystery" about half-way through. I guess I read too many mysteries. (****)

  • Richard Russo: Nobody's Fool

    Richard Russo: Nobody's Fool
    It's true that "nothing much happens", but as in real life, it really does. This was a marvelous read with characters that you walked with, they were that dimensional. And as usual with Mr. Russo's work, I often laughed out loud. (I love it when a book makes me laugh!) (*****)

  • Jesse Kellerman: Trouble

    Jesse Kellerman: Trouble
    While I thought this was well-written, it was definitely over-the-top, and I squirmed my way through it without enjoyment. And while the main character was likable enough, his weakness and idiotic decisions that got him into so much TROUBLE were exasperating! (**)

  • Diane Setterfield: The Thirteenth Tale

    Diane Setterfield: The Thirteenth Tale
    Comparing this novel to the works of the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens is somewhat in order, but not entirely because it's a story that stands alone, with writing talent unique to this author. There's an old (and very British) style that feels familiar, but the novel is very unique. It'll take you in, mystify you, scare you in places, and may even bring you to tears. l liked it very much, even if it's not my usual reading style of choice. (*****)

  • Robert B. Parker: Hundred-Dollar Baby

    Robert B. Parker: Hundred-Dollar Baby
    This felt like lazy writing to me. The storyline was dull and not well thought out, and it seemed very unrealistic for Spenser and Hawk to spend so much time on a non-paying, who-cares case. (**)

  • Nelson DeMille: Wild Fire

    Nelson DeMille: Wild Fire
    This was excellent. DeMille's John Corey character has balls of steel but he's also a hoot! Oh, to be as snarky as he is and get away with it. I'd recommend reading Lion's Game and Plum Island first, although this does stand alone. (****)

  • Stephen King: Lisey's Story

    Stephen King: Lisey's Story
    This was an extraordinary love story. It's definitely Stephen King with its horrifying aspects, but mostly it's a story about the kind of love that is epitomized as "cherished". Smuck you very much. (****)

  • Richard Russo: Straight Man

    Richard Russo: Straight Man
    Such a wonderful writer! A very intelligent, incredibly funny, and ultimately touching read. (*****)

  • Anna Quindlen: Rise and Shine

    Anna Quindlen: Rise and Shine
    Not an easy read because of the sequencing of dialogue and events without smooth transitions between them. I was often confused! Overall a good story, although the middle was pretty dry. (***)

  • Janet Evanovich: Twelve Sharp (Stephanie Plum Novel)

    Janet Evanovich: Twelve Sharp (Stephanie Plum Novel)
    God I love witty writing! And fall-down-on-the-floor giggles as a result! If you love Stephanie Plum, you will love this -- and thankfully her car doesn't blow up in this one! (****)

  • Fannie Flagg: Can't Wait to Get to Heaven

    Fannie Flagg: Can't Wait to Get to Heaven
    I just loved this. It was funny, poignant, and ultimately uplifting. Next to "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe", it's her best. (*****)

  • Richard Russo: Empire Falls

    Richard Russo: Empire Falls
    This was an excellent book, with exceptional characterization. I especially enjoyed the humor, as a result of these flawed but real people who populated the pages. A truly rich read. (*****)

  • Debra Galant: Rattled

    Debra Galant: Rattled
    Fellow blogger makes good! This was an enjoyable and entertaining satire, easily finished in a weekend. I swear some of the obnoxious characters were based on people I know! (****)

  • Carol Goodman: Seduction of Water

    Carol Goodman: Seduction of Water
    I remember back when I was a teenager, loving Mary Stewart and Phyllis A. Whitney gothic romances. I'd say this rates as a "modern day" gothic, and it was an intresting read. This is the 2nd book I've read by this author and she's definitely a good writer. (****)

  • Stephen King: Cell

    Stephen King: Cell
    If you were on your cell phone at 3:00 when the "Pulse" hit, you went insane. BLOODY insane. Yes, a pretty gory story, but very intriguing, and even matter-of-factly humorous. You tend to peer at your cell phone in a totally different light. Mr. King claims not to own one. (****)

  • Jim Lynch: The Highest Tide

    Jim Lynch: The Highest Tide
    This book was a delight, not only for the fresh coming-of-age storyline about a smallish young kid, but also because of the familiar South Puget Sound vicinity where it takes place -- right near Harstine Island! But most of all, it was superbly written. (*****)

  • Robert B. Parker: School Days (Spenser)

    Robert B. Parker: School Days (Spenser)
    This was All Spenser All The Time, and I really enjoyed it. No Hawk (whom I missed somewhat, but not totally -- he doesn't have to be involved in EVERYTHING), and Susan was away at a conference. It was a good and intriguing story, but mostly I enjoyed Spenser's smart ass nature. (****)

  • Elizabeth Kostova: The Historian

    Elizabeth Kostova: The Historian
    A very unique read -- and about so much more than just "Dracula". I was enlightened by the history/geography lessons! Characters were a bit stiff, but I really enjoyed this (hefty) book. (****)

  • Janet Evanovich: Eleven on Top (A Stephanie Plum Novel)

    Janet Evanovich: Eleven on Top (A Stephanie Plum Novel)
    I thoroughly enjoyed this! I've read all of the Stephanie Plum books and I love every one of them, but I think I enjoyed this one the best. It was a little different, and so damned funny -- even more so than usual! And Ranger and Morelli are so HOT, I must go fan the flames! (*****)

  • Dean Koontz: Velocity

    Dean Koontz: Velocity
    Wow, talk about on the edge of your seat! This was pretty much in the same vein as "Intensity" only with "Velocity!" Definitely recommend. (****)

  • Jonathan Kellerman: Rage (Alex Delaware)

    Jonathan Kellerman: Rage (Alex Delaware)
    I wasn't jazzed. I kept getting the characters confused, and the outcome of the mystery was pretty unbelievable. (**)

  • Audrey Niffenegger: The Time Traveler's Wife (Harvest Book)

    Audrey Niffenegger: The Time Traveler's Wife (Harvest Book)
    Such a unique story! Rather mind-bending, but excellent. I marvel at this author's ability. (****)

  • JOHN KATZENBACH: The Madman's Tale

    JOHN KATZENBACH: The Madman's Tale
    A combination of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and an intriguing murder mystery. The characterizations were superb. The murder "investigation" drug a bit, but overall a great read. (****)

  • JUSTIN CRONIN: Mary and O'Neil

    JUSTIN CRONIN: Mary and O'Neil
    This was the first book written by the author of the Best Book Ever ("The Summer Guest"), and while it was very nicely written, this melancholy story(told in "stories") just didn't jazz me as much. (***)

  • Lincoln Child: Still Life With Crows

    Lincoln Child: Still Life With Crows
    I've really enjoyed all the "Special Agent Pendegrast" novels. They're very escapist and intriguing, and often educational. And definitely a wild romp. (****)

  • Dean Koontz: Life Expectancy

    Dean Koontz: Life Expectancy
    If you are a Koontz fan, believe me when I say "Prepare to Be Enchanted". If you aren't a Koontz fan, this will make you one. Guaranteed. (*****)

  • Nelson DeMille: Night Fall

    Nelson DeMille: Night Fall
    Very intriguing premise about TWA Flight 800 and whether or not it might have been a missile that brought it down. But this fictional account of a 5-year-later investigation ends very predictably. (***)

  • Justin Cronin: The Summer Guest

    Justin Cronin: The Summer Guest
    What can I say? This was the best book ever. (*****)

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Sunday, March 04, 2012

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