Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What the Night Knows by Dean Koontz

About the book :In the late summer of a long ago year, a killer arrived in a small city. His name was Alton Turner Blackwood, and in the space of a few months he brutally murdered four families. His savage spree ended only when he himself was killed by the last survivor of the last family, a fourteen-year-old boy.

Half a continent away and two decades later, someone is murdering families again, recreating in detail Blackwood’s crimes. Homicide detective John Calvino is certain that his own family—his wife and three children—will be targets in the fourth crime, just as his parents and sisters were victims on that distant night when he was fourteen and killed their slayer.

As a detective, John is a man of reason who deals in cold facts. But an extraordinary experience convinces him that sometimes death is not a one-way journey, that sometimes the dead return.

Here is a ghost story like no other you have read. In the Calvinos, Dean Koontz brings to life a family that might be your own, in a war for their survival against an adversary more malevolent than any he has yet created, with their own home the battleground. Of all his acclaimed novels, none exceeds What the Night Knows in power, in chilling suspense, and in sheer mesmerizing storytelling.

First Lines: What year these events transpired is of no consequence. where they occurred is not important. The time is always and the place is everywhere.

My Thoughts: As usual when I read Koontz the story gabbed me at the start and had me staying up late reading to find out what would happen next. Koontz really knows how to tell a story that will not let go until the book ends. This was a chilling read that had me caring for and rooting for the the ordinary people he plopped down in the middle of this nightmare. While it won't be on the top of my favorite DK books list it was definitely a scary fun read.

Rating: B

Dean Koontz (video trailer)

Catalyst by McCaffrey & Scarborough

About the book: Pilot, engineer, doctor—ship’s cat? Since the early days of interstellar travel, the so-called Barque Cats have become essential to the well-staffed space vessel. Assisted by humans—Cat Persons—with whom they share a deep and loving bond, the Barque Cats are responsible for keeping spacecraft free of vermin, for alerting crews to environmental hazards, and for acting as morale officers.

But a widespread epidemic affecting livestock on numerous planets throws the felines’ future into doubt. Suddenly the galactic government announces a plan to impound and possibly destroy all exposed animals, including the Barque Cats. With the clock racing against them, a handful of very special kittens and their humans will join forces to save the Barque Cats, and quite possibly the universe as they know it, from total destruction.

Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Del Rey (December 7, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0345513770

First line: "How much for that pretty kittycat you got there, young lady?"

My Thoughts: McCaffrey is one of my favorite sci/fi writers so I figured I couldn't go wrong with this book. I also enjoy several cat mystery series, which added to the appeal of this book for me. I didn't expect it to sound so juvenile and simplistic, which was a disappointment. It would have helped if the target age group had been listed in the descriptions I checked before deciding to read this one. Had I known, I wouldn't have been disappointed. Youngsters would surely love this one. While I didn't like it as much as books in some of her other series, I found it to be a nice light fun read but not one that really grabbed me.

Rating: C

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Against Medical Advice by Friedman & Patterson

About the book: One terrible March morning in 1989, Cory Friedman woke up and began to shake himself into a terror that would last for 15 years. Before long, his physical tics and convulsing would take over his life, almost tearing him apart, reducing a gifted five-year-old into a helpless victim. Physicians diagnosed Tourette syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety disorder, and other neurological disabilities, but as time passed, it became impossible to distinguish his sicknesses from the effects of the 60 potent medicines that his doctors had prescribed. Cory and, by extension, his family suffered in this volatile inferno before he found solace and release in an unexpected place. Bestselling author James Patterson and Cory's father, Hal Friedman, tell a medical story of calming force.

First line:I'm seventeen years old and laying in the backseat of our family car, being transported to a place that treats crazy people.

My Thoughts: This true story really touched my heart. Just to think about the torment this child and his family endured is a nightmare. I think his family was incredibly loving, supportive, and pro-active in searching out new treatments and programs to help Cory with his multiple afflictions. I applaud Cory, who through his own sheer determination conquered his troubles against great odds.

One thing I did not realize about Tourettes is that it can be painful, actually causing the person to harm themselves. In the end it was not drugs that helped Corey but behavioral therapy techniques paired with meditation and physical activity. I can't help but wonder if his parents had tried to teach him from the beginning that things weren't ok and encouraged him to learn to control himself if things would have gotten so out of hand with his meds.

I just couldn't understand how his parents, as involved as they were, could let a 13 year old child become dependent on cigarettes and alcohol. It was mentioned, numerous times, that the only thing that gave him relief was alcohol. However that didn't explain why his parents let him have drunken parties in his basement with other underage teens in attendance. The story was told of one child that was so drunk he passed out, in the freezing cold, on the lawn in his own vomit. The father came out to see about a fight he had heard and helped Corey drag the child to another teens car and got that teen to take the kid home. (?????) That is not the only part I have questions about.

So, I have mixed feelings about this book. While it was a great learning experience, inspiring even, parts of the story bothered me.

Rating: C

Quote:It's obvious that whatever was controlling me before has only been worsened by the medicine. For some reason, though, the urge to twist my head is gone. For now, anyway.

Find more videos like this on The James Patterson Community

Friday, April 22, 2011

Jewel by Bret Lott

About the book: In the backwoods of Mississippi, a land of honeysuckle and grapevine, Jewel and her husband, Leston, are truly blessed; they have five fine children. When Brenda Kay is born in 1943, Jewel gives thanks for a healthy baby, last-born and most welcome. Jewel is the story of how quickly a life can change; how, like lightning, an unforeseen event can set us on a course without reason or compass. In this story of a woman's devotion to the child who is both her burden and God's singular way of smiling on her, Bret Lott has created a mother-daughter relationship of matchless intensity and beauty, and one of the finest, most indomitable heroines in contemporary American fiction.

First line: I was born in 1904, so that when I was pregnant in 1943 I was near enough to be past the rightful age to bear children.

My thoughts: This one has been in my TBR pile for a while. It was the story of an ordinary family facing hardships together. Though it was a heart touching story with lovely prose it was a slow read. There were a few high points of course but between them it was a long haul. I got to know Jewel, from whose POV the story was told, and her husband Leston. Even though Brenda Kay, Jewel's child with Down Syndrome, was the focus of their lives we never got to know her too well, other than as a burden. I wish there had been more moments that showed ways that she added to the family.

Jewel is realistic - it accurately reflects the attitudes towards minorities at the time as well as the lack of services available for people with disabilities.

Rating: B

Quote: One day they'd do the bolts, another day the nuts, then the bolts, then the nuts. Certainly there'd been joy in her accomplishing that much; she even brought home a paycheck once a month, always for some odd small amount, $7.31, or $6.96. On those afternoons, she came home waving the check, we'd go right down to the bank, cash it, then go to dinner at a Denny's or Sizzler, where I'd let her pay for her meal herself, though money still meant nothing to her, only pieces of paper, chunks of metal handed over to a smiling waitress.

The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory

About the book: Two women competing for a man’s heart…
Two queens fighting to the death for dominance…
The untold story of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Fleeing rebels in Scotland on Queen Elizabeth’s false promise of sanctuary, Mary, Queen of Scots, finds herself imprisoned as the “guest” of George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, and his indomitable wife, Bess of Hardwick. Soon the newly married couple’s home becomes the center of intrigue and rebellion against Elizabeth, and their loyalty to each other and to their sovereign comes into question. If Mary succeeds in seducing the earl into her own web of treason, or if the great spymaster William Cecil links them to the growing conspiracy to free Mary from her illegal imprisonment, they will all face the headsman. Using new research and her passion for historical accuracy, Gregory places the doomed queen into a completely new tale of suspense, passion, and political intrigue.

First Line: "Every woman should marry for her own advantage since her husband will represent her, as visible as her front door, for the rest of his life. "

My Thoughts: This, the third of this author's books I have read lately, covered the years Mary was held captive in England. Though it wasn't quite as fast moving as the others for me, I found it interesting since I'm not very well versed in this time period. It is told in turn by three of the characters: Mary herself, the man placed in charge of her, George Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury, and his wife Bess of Hardwick. By far the most interesting and sympathetic character was Bess. I could feel for her as she bore the financial burden of hosting a Queen, the worry of the danger to her household if any of Mary's plots could be traced there, and the drawing away of her husband as he fell in love with Mary. I enjoyed getting to know a little more about these people, maybe get a peek into the way they thought.

It is interesting but it drags. If you are knowledgeable about this time period it might not be for you. If you are a fan of Gregory's work you might like this one.

Rating: B-

Quote: "I can hardly believe that this nightmare goes on, goes on and on, and we never achieve victory and we never achieve peace."

When the Monkeys Came Back by Kristine L. Franklin

About the book: Always remembering how the monkeys in her Costa Rican valley disappeared when all the trees were cut down, Marta grows up, persuades her husband to give her a piece of land on which she plants trees and cares for until they grow into a forest, and sees the monkeys come back.

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Atheneum (September 1, 1994)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0689318073

My thoughts: This is a wonderful little book that will get the kiddos thinking. It follows Marta in her life long quest to re-grow the jungle near her home and entice the monkeys to come back. The lovely illustrations help give this story a sense of place. I had thought it would be nice to pair this with Dr. Suess' The Lorax for a realistic look at conservation.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Secrets to the Grave by Tami Hoag

About the book: Marissa Fordham had a past full of secrets, a present full of lies. Everyone knew of her, but no one knew her. When Marissa is found brutally murdered, with her young daughter, Haley, resting her head on her mother's bloody breast, she sends the idyllic California town of Oak Knoll into a tailspin. Already on edge with the upcoming trial of the See- No-Evil killer, residents are shocked by reports of the crime scene, which might not have been discovered for days had it not been for a chilling 911 call: a small child's voice saying, "My daddy hurt my mommy." Sheriff's detective Tony Mendez faces a puzzle with nothing but pieces that won't fit. To assist with his witness, Haley, he calls teacher-turned-child advocate Anne Leone. Anne's life is hectic enough-she's a newlywed and a part- time student in child psychology, and she's the star witness in the See-No-Evil trial. But one look at Haley, alone and terrified, and Anne's heart is stolen. As Tony and Anne begin to peel back the layers of Marissa Fordham's life, they find a clue fragment here, another there. And just when it seems Marissa has taken her secrets to the grave, they uncover a fact that puts Anne and Haley directly in the sights of a killer: Marissa Fordham never existed.

First Line: The house stood by itself off the road in a field of dried-golden grass, half hidden by spreading oaks.

My thoughts: This is the second book in Hoag's Deeper than the Dead series. This one continues to explore the early days of forensic investigation. It was interesting going along with Leone and Mendez as they used old fashioned investigation methods while dreaming of the future. Since this story takes place in 1986, Hoag wrote in historical facts and pop culture references common to the day. The fact that there were virtually no cell phones added to the danger for some of the characters as they were placed in situations where they couldn't just whip out the phone and call for help. I enjoyed this look into the recent past, it really set the feel of the setting!

It takes up a year after the events in Deeper Than the Dead and I liked catching up with the main characters Ann, Vince, Mendez, Franny and others. Some of the minor were revisited as well, in a sub plot that I think is leading into another book in this series.

The first scene is fairly graphic and heartbreaking so like the first book I'll tell you to beware. This was a page turner for me and would do quite well as a stand alone, but I'm glad I got to know the back story. This one kept me guessing till the end as well as keeping me on the edge of my seat.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dex: The Heart of a Hero by Caralyn Buehner

About the book: Dexter is a little dog. So little, in fact, that the neighborhood cats are bigger than he is. But being little doesn’t stop Dex from have big dreams – he wants to be a superhero. So he studies, builds his muscles, and even orders a special suit. His hard work pays off in unexpected ways, as Dex finds out that even if you are very little, you really can be a hero.

Reading Level:Ages 4-8 Hardcover:32 pages
ISBN-10: 0066236207 ISBN-13:978-0066236209
Publisher: HarperCollins (February 3, 2004)

First line: Dexter was a little dog. His legs were little, his tail was little, his body was little. He looked like a plump sausage sitting on four little meatballs.

My thoughts: This little book was just wonderful. I loved following Dexter as he followed and worked for his dream which was to become a hero. His plan of action was to study and learn as much as he could about heroes. The next part of the plan was to exercise his body so as to be strong. He continues through the heard work and the teasing from his friends. Without being preachy and with lots of fun and laugh out loud moments, it shows how anyone can be a hero. The illustrations, by the author's husbane Mark, were perfect, colorful and engaging. They contained a playful bonus,hidden images of animals. The captions with the pictures followed Dex's thoughts throughout the story. The kids loved this one as much as I did!


Quote:"But WANTING and BEING are two different things. Dex lived on dreams until one day, after crawling out from under Cleevis yet again, he decided there had to be more to life than gazing at the underside of a cat. There had to be more to him. If he could be a hero, he would!"

Buehner Books
Author Interview

Friday, April 8, 2011

Deeper Than the Dead by Tami Hoag

About the book: California, 1985-Four children and young teacher Anne Navarre make a gruesome discovery: a partially buried female body, her eyes and mouth glued shut. A serial killer is at large, and the very bonds that hold their idyllic town together are about to be tested. Tasked with finding the killer, FBI investigator Vince Leone employs a new and controversial FBI technique called "profiling", which plunges him into the lives of the four children-and the young teacher whose need to uncover the truth is as intense as his own. But as new victims are found, Vince and Anne find themselves circling the same small group of local suspects, blissfully unaware that someone very near to them is a murderous psychopath...

Pub. Date: October 2010
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Format: Paperback , 560pp
Sales Rank: 5,966
ISBN-13: 9780451230539
ISBN: 0451230531

First Line: My hero is my dad.

My thoughts: For an over 500 page book this one sure went fast! To begin with I thought it was interesting that the action takes place in the mid-eighties. That means that the law enforcement community did not have the databases, DNA profiling, or other modern forensic techniques that we have today. The details and wishes of the police for these things at times may have felt a little awkward or contrived but for me it just added to the atmosphere, reminded me of where the story was. The title, Deeper Than the Dead, refers to the location of the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit in its early days. It is in the basement so it is "deeper than the dead." That was an interesting little tidbit.

This was a pretty dark story with vivid descriptions of the murder victims, so beware. There was the occasional bit of dry humor but not much. I felt sorry for the kids in this one was traumatized in some way. If not for the treatment of the children, my rating would be higher. With that said, I still couldn't put it down. I've already got the next one, Secrets to the Grave, ready to go.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

From the flap: Heiress to the red rose of Lancaster, Margaret Beaufort never surrenders her belief that her house is the true ruler of England and that she has a great destiny before her. Her ambitions are disappointed when her sainted cousin Henry VI fails to recognize her as a kindred spirit, and she is even more dismayed when he sinks into madness. Her mother mocks her plans, revealing that Margaret will always be burdened with the reputation of her father, one of the most famously incompetent English commanders in France. But worst of all for Margaret is when she discovers that her mother is sending her to a loveless marriage in remote Wales. Married to a man twice her age, quickly widowed, and a mother at only fourteen, Margaret is determined to turn her lonely life into a triumph. She sets her heart on putting her son on the throne of England regardless of the cost to herself, to England, and even to the little boy. Disregarding rival heirs and the overwhelming power of the York dynasty, she names him Henry, like the king; sends him into exile; and pledges him in marriage to her enemy Elizabeth of York’s daughter. As the political tides constantly move and shift, Margaret charts her own way through another loveless marriage, treacherous alliances, and secret plots. She feigns loyalty to the usurper Richard III and even carries his wife’s train at her coronation. Widowed a second time, Margaret marries the ruthless, deceitful Thomas, Lord Stanley, and her fate stands on the knife edge of his will. Gambling her life that he will support her, she then masterminds one of the greatest rebellions of the time—all the while knowing that her son has grown to manhood, recruited an army, and now waits for his opportunity to win the greatest prize. In a novel of conspiracy, passion, and cold hearted ambition, number one bestselling author Philippa Gregory has brought to life the story of a proud and determined woman who believes that she alone is destined, by her piety and lineage, to shape the course of history.

First line: The light of the open sky is brilliant after the darkness of the inner rooms.

My thoughts: I read The White Queen so I just had to read The Red Queen. I have to admit here that I am not a student of this time period so I don't know much about these people. I have to say that Gregory brought this bit of history to life for me, I am an official fan. I found Lady Margaret Beaufort as fascinating as she was self absorbed and unlikeable. It was interesting following her through decades of scheming and lying as she worked and plotted to get her son on the throne. I had to laugh a couple of times as she ranted against people counting out their sins but was unable to see these very same things could be said of her. My favorite character was Henry Stafford, Margaret's sardonic, careful, and wise second husband. The book was a little confusing for me. If you like historical fiction and/or Philippa Gregory's work, I think you'll like this one.

Rating: B+

Quote:"Yes, because you think God wants your son to be King of England. I don't think your God has ever advised you otherwise. You hear only what you want. He only ever commands your preferences. He always tells you to strive for power and wealth. Are you quite sure it is not your own voice that you hear, speaking through the earthquake, wind and fire?"

Philippa Gregory Lady Margaret Beaufort

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Wet Dog by Elsie Broach

Synopsis: On a hot, hot day, a good old dog just has to get some relief! Around the steamy country lanes, he sniffs and searches until he finds a chauffeur washing a shiny car, a baker scrubbing some sticky pans, and a florist spraying a pink bouquet. they're all getting ready for a country wedding, and this overheated pup just wants to plunge into the fun—and water! but will the wedding party in their fancy finery welcome this gotta-be-cool pooch? Zany characters, zingy lines, and high-spirited scenes abound in this witty and affectionate story by author Elise Broach and New York Times best illustrated book Award winner David Catrow.

First line: He was a good old dog and a hot old dog, as he lay in the noonday sun.

My thoughts: I picked this up at the library to read to my niece and nephew simply because the the picture on the cover called to me. I loved the simple funny story of a hot dog looking for some relief from the heat of the day.The pictures are charming, colorful and full of detail. Every time he found somewhere to cool off he would shake and drench everything around him. He was then a "sorry-dog." I smiled all the way through. I'm going to buy this one.

Quote:"Old Dog smiled his sorry-dog smile and wagged his sorry-dog tail."

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Devil's Right Han by Lilith Staintcrow

What is the deal here?? When I posted this all the content pulled together into one huge paragraph and I can't get it to stay where I put it!About the book: Meet Dante Valentine. Necromance. Bounty Hunter. She is short on sleep and not a happy camper. She’s just signed away seven years of her life – and her partner’s – to hunt down four rogue demons that have escaped from hell. Maybe she’ll find them. Maybe they’ll find her. Nobody said it was easy being the Devil’s right hand. Mass Market Paperback: 432 pages Publisher: Orbit (September 1, 2007) Language: English ISBN-10: 0316021423 First line:"It's for you," Japhrimel said diffidently, his eyes flaring with green fire in angular runic patterns for just a moment before returning to almost-human darkness. My thoughts: This is the 3rd book in the Dante Valentine series. I remembered the main story line but not too many details. This one reviewed a little without overdoing it, but it is not a stand alone novel. The story was not completed here either. I don't suggest this one unless you've read the others. It was a pretty dark, fast paced story, except for when Dante was was whining and having paranoid internal conversations. I'm not sure I'll read the next one because of this. I just didn't care about Dante like I would have liked to. Her continual whining at her demon Japh, left me feeling "meh": "'Just give me a minute, okay, and tell me why. That's all I'm asking. That's reasonable, Japhrimel. It really is. Just f.....g tell me. I need to know'" and so on and so on. Japh did refuse to talk to her, to tell her anything. I ended up skimming some. The world building was great, the characters were well developed. The history of Hediera and their Fallen, the history of the world and it's governments, the Nichtreven who are similar to vampires, the Hellsvront agents who can't quite be placed, imps, hellhounds, demons, The Deathless... were all interesting. I really liked this story, I just had a hard time with the heroine this time around. Rating: Quote:"Really, I scolded myself, you should have known that you'd end up in a stone dungeon with no facilities. That's how these things always end up, isn't it?"