Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Tomb by F. Paul Wilson

About the book: Much to the chagrin of his girlfriend, Gia, Repairman Jack doesn't deal with electronic appliances--he fixes situations for people, situations that usually involve putting himself in deadly danger. His latest project is recovering a stolen necklace, which carries with it an ancient curse that may unleash a horde of Bengali demons. Jack is used to danger, but this time Gia's daughter Vicky is threatened. Can Jack overcome the curse of the yellow necklace and bring Vicky safely back home?

First line: Repairman Jack awoke with light in his eyes, white noise in his ears, and an ache in his back.

My thoughts: This book kept me reading, I didn't want to put it down. I like Jack and will be reading more of this series.

The Morning Show Murders by Al Roker

About the book: As famous for his popular cooking segment on Wake Up America! as for his swank Manhattan bistro, Billy Blessing can add prime murder suspect to his impressive list of accomplishments. Because when one of the network’s top honchos ends up dead, it’s a poisoned serving of Blessing’s coq au vin that’s to blame. Billy knows he’s being framed, but proving it won’t be easy—not with his perky cohost involved in a brass-knuckles contract negotiation, a Mossad agent about to tell all on the air, and a ruthless international assassin arriving in the Big Apple. Now Billy isn’t so much concerned about staying alive in the ratings . . . as just staying alive. For the closer Billy comes to uncovering an international conspiracy, the closer he comes to being canceled—permanently.

 First Lines: The big guy lumbered toward me, waving the cleaver. Weeping like a baby.

My thoughts: I chose to read this one because of the name of the celebrity author: Al Roker. I love him on the Today Show so just couldn't pass this one up. I found The Morning Show Murders to be a fun, quick read and liked that there are moments of humor at the expense of those in the TV industry. I liked the main character, Billy Blessing. The other characters were well written as well. The mystery kept me guessing. If you are in the mood for a nice little cozy try this one.  

Union Pacific by Paul Colt

About the book: President Ulysses S. Grant dispatches Justice Department Special Services Officer, U.S. Marshal J.R. Chance to investigate suspected railroad construction fraud. Chance confronts a conspiracy that will stop at nothing in its quest to monopolize Union Pacific construction contracts and the lucrative right of way land grants. Chance, and the Cheyenne woman who saves his life, follow a trail that ultimately leads to the financial center of the plot in New York.

My thoughts: I didn't enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. This was because of the wishy-washy romance. The man was clueless and it became irritating after awhile. Otherwise it was an interesting historical novel. The mystery, finding who is the author of the fraud, is quite engaging. There was plenty of action and gun play.This ended in such a way that you know that another book is in the works. I'll keep this on the back burner and I might get the next one but it isn't a high reading priority.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Shadow Prowler by Alexey Pehov

About the book: After centuries of calm, the Nameless One is stirring. By next spring, or perhaps sooner, the Nameless One and his forces will be at the walls of the great city of Avendoom. Unless Shadow Harold, master thief, can find some way to stop them.

But Harold isn’t alone. An Elfin princess, Miralissa, her entourage, ten Wild Hearts, the most experienced and dangerous fighters in their world, and the king’s court jester all join him in his quest. These companions will form a bond of friendship and honor that must carry them over a series of frightful obstacles before they can reach their goal: Hrad Spein, the mysterious Palaces of the Bones. Only there will they find the key to undoing the ancient curse that hangs over their world and ridding the land of the Nameless One forever.

Reminiscent of Moorcock's Elric series, Shadow Prowler is the first work to be translated into English from Russian by the bestselling, new generation fantasy author Alexey Pehov.

First line: Night is the best time for my kind.

My thoughts: I have enjoyed heroic or epic fantasy since I read Lord of the Rings YEARS ago for the first time. Other than being epic fantasy this doesn't look like LOR. The main character, Harold the master thief, is a sort of anti-hero forced to go on this quest. The creatures, elves, goblins, dwarfs etc.) aren't drawn in a conventional manner. For example: dwarfs don't have beards, elves are not attractive, etc. I enjoyed meeting the characters and following them to the end of this the first installment of the trilogy. The world building was good. It was a bit awkward at times when Harold referred to himself in third person and there were a few other awkward reading moments but I assume that is due to being translated. Over all, I liked it and will read on.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

About the book: The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it -- from garden seeds to Scripture -- is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa. The novel is set against one of the most dramatic political chronicles of the twentieth century: the Congo's fight for independence from Belgium, the murder of its first elected prime minister, the CIA coup to install his replacement, and the insidious progress of a world economic order that robs the fledgling African nation of its autonomy.

First linesImagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened. First, picture the forest. I want you to be its conscience, the eyes in the trees.

My thoughts: Wow. The author did a wonderful job bringing me into the story. Her descriptions of times and places, her imagery and detail caught me up and wouldn't let me go. It broke my heart in places.  The characters were well filled out, each with a distinctly different voice. I loved the oldest daughter's knack of messing up a phrase (tapestry of justice, dull and void.) The father was a thoroughly unlikable man. I think he has made it onto my list of most hated fictional characters. The author did a great job of weaving this story into the history of Belgain Congo. Very interesting.  As much as I liked this one the last third of the book seemed to drag for me. I recommend this book.

Rating: A+

Quote: "Why why why, they sang, the mothers who staggered down our road behind small tightly wrapped corpses, mothers crazy-walking on their knees, with mouths open wide like a hole ripped in mosquito netting. That mouth hole! Jagged torn place in their spirits that lets the small flying agonies pass in and out. Mothers with eyes squeezed shut, dark cheek muscles tied in knots, heads thrashing from side to side as they passed."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu by Sax Rohmer (1913)

About the book: The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu is the first title in the famous series of "Yellow Peril" novels published by English writer Sax Rohmer, aka Henry Sarsfield Ward (1883-1959), between 1913 and 1959. The novel, like its many sequels, pits the "evil genius" of the Far East against the British Duo, Denis Nayland Smith and his sidekick Dr. Petrie.

First line: "A gentleman to see you, Doctor."
My thoughts: This is a book of it's time, racist and so not politically correct. Having been right after the Boxer Rebellion and opium wars I suppose it reflects the feelings then. Even so, I found it to be an entertaining mystery with a smart, inventive bad guy. As Nayland Smith and  Dr. Petrie, try to rescue several people around London the threat of attack by the evil  Dr. Fu Manchu, he (Dr. Fu Manchu) uses poisonous insects, drugs and various henchmen (called dacoits & thugees) to kill his victims.  I thought it was fast paced, a page turner that kept me reading. I enjoyed all the new-to-me words, which were easy to look up on my Nook! this is the last book for the Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge this year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Last Surgeon by Michael Palmer

About the book: Michael Palmer’s latest novel pits a flawed doctor against a ruthless psychopath, who has made murder his art form. Dr. Nick constantly on the lookout for his war buddy Umberto Vasquez, who was plucked from the streets by the military four years ago for a secret mission and has not been seen since.

Psych nurse Gillian Coates wants to find her sister’s killer. She does not believe that Belle Coates, an ICU nurse, took her own life.

Together, Nick and Gillian determine that one-by-one, each of those in the operating room for a fatally botched case is dying. Their discoveries pit them against genius Franz Koller--the highly-paid master of the “non-kill”—the art of murder that does not look like murder. As Doctor and nurse move closer to finding the terrifying secret behind these killings, Koller has been given a new directive: his mission will not be complete until Gillian Coates and Garrity, the last surgeon, are dead.
My thoughts: This is advertised as a medical thriller but it seems more like a political/conspiracy thriller with a little medical thrown in. Even so it kept me reading to see what would happen next. The killer was very creepy, and when I finally understood who hired him to kill regular people...well! The look this book gives into PTSD is interesting. It is a thing I think many of us don't fully understand. Nick, the central charater suffering from PTSD, was a good strong lead. I like that he a non-prophit counselor for the homeless and an advocate for other vets with PTSD working with them them from his specially equiped motor-home.  My favorite supporting character was Junie. Whe was a wonderful person with a good heart. If you like thrillers along this line I think you'll like this one.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L. Sayers (1926)

About the book: Rustic old Riddlesdale Lodge was a Wimsey family retreat filled with country pleasures and the thrill of the hunt -- until the game turned up human and quite dead. He lay among the chrysanthemums, wore slippers and a dinner jacket and was Lord Peter's brother-in-law-to-be. His accused murderer was Wimsey's own brother, and if murder setall in the family wasn't enough to boggle the unflappable Lord Wimsey, perhaps a few twists of fate would be -- a mysterious vanishing midnight letter from Egypt...a grieving fiancee with suitcase in hand...and a bullet destined for one very special Wimsey.

First line: Lord Peter Wimsey stretched himself luxoriously between the sheets provided by the  Hotel Meurice.

My thoughts: This is my second Dorothy L. Sayers book and as it turns out the second in her Lord Peter Wimsey series. I read this one spicifically for the Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge. My favorite character in this had to be the Dowager Duchess even though her part is small. Her sharp comments and observations were amuesing. One interesting point is that Lord Peter suffers from "shell shock" or what we call PTSD now since his service in WWI. His character as well as others are rounding out here. The mystery was a good one with plenty of clues to muddy the waters including one false admission of guilt. I did find it a bit tedious in places due to the rehashing of incidents but over all a satisfying read for this challenge. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Velva Jean Learns to Drive by Jennifer Niven

About the book: In this spellbinding debut, Velva Jean Hart finds true love-and then risks everything to follow her dreams.

Set in Appalachia in the years before World War II, Velva Jean Learns to Drive is a poignant story of a spirited young girl growing up in the gold-mining and moonshining South.

Before she dies, Velva Jean's mother urges her to "live out there in the great wide world". Velva Jean dreams of becoming a big-time singer in Nashville until she falls in love with Harley Bright, a handsome juvenile delinquent turned revival preacher. As their tumultuous love story unfolds, Velva Jean must choose between keeping her hard-won home and pursuing her dream of singing in the Grand Ole Opry.

My thoughts: This story, which takes place in the Appalachians in the 30's & 40's, was a great read. It is a simple story of this young girl's life told in an easy to read fashion that touched my heart.  I enjoyed getting to know Velva Jean and look forward to her next book! The characters were interesting and some were colorful. The one character I wish had a bigger part in the book was the mysterious Wood Cutter, who befriended Velva Jean but mostly kept to himself in his cabin at the top of the mountain. I would recommend this book wholeheartedly!
Rating: A

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (1927)

About the book: M. Poirot, the hero of The Mysterious Affair at Stiles [sic] and other brilliant pieces of detective deduction, comes out of his temporary retirement like a giant refreshed, to undertake the investigation of a peculiarly brutal and mysterious murder. Geniuses like Sherlock Holmes often find a use for faithful mediocrities like Dr. Watson, and by a coincidence it is the local doctor who follows Poirot round, and himself tells the story. Furthermore, as seldom happens in these cases, he is instrumental in giving Poirot one of the most valuable clues to the mystery.

My thoughts: This story is told from the point of view of the village doctor who becomes a sort of Dr. Watson to M. Hercule Pirot. It begins with one death and quickly to another, that of Roger Ackroyd. As you follow the clues with the good Dr. and Pirot suspicions are cast on several of the characters. At the end Pirot calls them all to his house and announces he knows who the murderer is and gives him/her 24 hours to confess. What I didn't expect was the shocker of a twist after this announcement. Wow! 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Cat of many Tails by Ellery Queen

About the book: A strangler is killing Manhattanites, seemingly at random. The only common thread is the unusual silk cords that are used for the killings; blue for men and pink for women. Other than that, the victims come from all social classes and backgrounds, ethnicities, races, neighbourhoods, etc. The city is in a panic. Ellery Queen forms together a small group of people related to some of the victims, and some consultants, and works to determine the killer's reason for selecting these particular victims. When he finally realizes the thread that connects the victims, the murderer is revealed and peace returns to the city.

First line: The strangling of Archibald dudley Abernethy was the first scene in a nine-act tragedy whose locale was the City of New York.

My thoughts: This Ellery Queen novel, first   published in 1949, is the first I've read by this author. I enjoyed reading this vintage mystery. It was a puzzler that kept me guessing till the end then....there was the twist! At 241 pages it was over a little two quickly for me. The characters, victims and main, were well developed and sympathetic. I found the spoken language of the era entertaining and the layout of the story was engaging.

Note: While reading about Ellery Queen in Wikipedia I found that Ellery Queen is both a fictional character and a pseudonym used by two American cousins from Brooklyn, New York: Daniel Nathan, alias Frederic Dannay (October 20, 1905 – September 3, 1982[1]) and Manford (Emanuel) Lepofsky, alias Manfred Bennington Lee (January 11, 1905 – April 3, 1971[2]), to write, edit, and anthologize detective fiction.[3] The fictional Ellery Queen created by Dannay and Lee is a mystery writer and amateur detective who helps his father, a police inspector in New York City, solve baffling murders.