Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hell's Corner by David Baldacci

Synopsis: Oliver Stone and the Camel Club return in #1 bestselling author David Baldacci's most stunning adventure yet. An attack on the heart of power . . . In sight of the White House . . . At a place known as . . . HELL'S CORNER


John Carr, aka Oliver Stone-once the most skilled assassin his country ever had-stands in Lafayette Park in front of the White House, perhaps for the last time. The president has personally requested that Stone serve his country again on a high-risk, covert mission. Though he's fought for decades to leave his past career behind, Stone has no choice but to say yes. Then Stone's mission changes drastically before it even begins. It's the night of a state dinner honoring the British prime minister. As he watches the prime minister's motorcade leave the White House that evening, a bomb is detonated in Lafayette Park, an apparent terrorist attack against both leaders. It's in the chaotic aftermath that Stone takes on a new, more urgent assignment: find those responsible for the bombing. British MI-6 agent Mary Chapman becomes Stone's partner in the search for the unknown attackers. But their opponents are elusive, capable, and increasingly lethal; worst of all, it seems that the park bombing may just have been the opening salvo in their plan. With nowhere else to turn, Stone enlists the help of the only people he knows he can trust: the Camel Club. Yet that may be a big mistake. In the shadowy worlds of politics and intelligence, there is no one you can really trust. Nothing is really what it seems to be. And Hell's Corner truly lives up to its name. This may be Oliver Stone's and the Camel Club's last stand.


First line: Oliver Stone was counting seconds, an exercise that had always calmed him.


My thoughts: This is the 5th Camel Club book. Up to now Divine Justice has been my favorite of the series. This one is running a close second, and will probably remain second because the Camel Club wasn't in evidence as much, even though they did help out and run into danger. I really got to know the members of the club in Divine and liked them all. This book was a thrilling read, fast placed, great escape.....a real page turner. I had to suspend belief at times but that doesn't bother me. The mystery was good. There were a couple of twists, one that REALLY surprised me.



Thursday, March 24, 2011

Beaglemania by Linda O. Johnston

About the book: Lauren Vancouver is the head of HotRescues, a no-kill animal shelter north of Los Angeles, but it's often human nature that puts her in the path of danger. Just like when she helps rescue four adorable beagle puppies that were dumped down a drainpipe at a nasty puppy mill. One of the mill's employees has a history of dog abuse-and a bone to pick with Lauren. And when he's found dead at HotRescues after threatening her, Lauren will have to sniff out the real killer to keep herself out of a cage...

Pet Rescue #1
Berkley Prime Crime
March 2011
On Sale: March 1, 2011
Featuring: Lauren Vancouve
298 pages
ISBN: 0425240215

First line: I am not a killer.

My thoughts: I love cozy mysteries and don't read nearly as many as I would like to, so I was really looking forward to this one. The name was cute and the cover fetching. The blurb says that adorable beagle puppies were rescued. In my head I had pictures of the adorable beagle puppies running rampant throughout the story causing trouble, laughter and warmhearted moments. Not so. They were barely mentioned. This disappointed me.

What was good were the details about animal rescue. This is a subject that is close to my heart. I liked the way HotRescues was set up and described. The mystery was a nice little cozy mystery with characters that I could relate to. I guessed who the murderer was early on, but that was ok. I liked Lauren, the main and most developed character. It dragged a little in the middle. Over all it was a nice light read, I'd suggest you check it out at the library.


Quote: I screamed. Had I made a huge mistake? As he launched himself toward me, I turned, protecting my throat with one hand and using the other, plus one leg, to shove him as hard as I could into the enclosure.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Decision Points by George W. Bush

About the Book: President George W. Bush describes the critical decisions of his presidency and personal life. Decision Points is the extraordinary memoir of America's 43rd president. Shattering the conventions of political autobiography, George W. Bush offers a strikingly candid journey through the defining decisions of his life.

In gripping, never-before-heard detail, President Bush brings readers inside the Texas Governor's Mansion on the night of the hotly contested 2000 election; aboard Air Force One on 9/11, in the hours after America's most devastating attack since Pearl Harbor; at the head of the table in the Situation Room in the moments before launching the war in Iraq; and behind the Oval Office desk for his historic and controversial decisions on the financial crisis, Hurricane Katrina, Afghanistan, Iran, and other issues that have shaped the first decade of the 21st century.

President Bush writes honestly and directly about his flaws and mistakes, as well as his accomplishments reforming education, treating HIV/AIDS in Africa, and safeguarding the country amid chilling warnings of additional terrorist attacks. He also offers intimate new details on his decision to quit drinking, discovery of faith, and relationship with his family.

A groundbreaking new brand of memoir, Decision Points will captivate supporters, surprise critics, and change perspectives on one of the most consequential eras in American history—and the man at the center of events.

First line: It was a simple question. "Can you remember the last day you didn't have a drink?" Laura asked in her calm, soothing voice.

My thoughts: I decided to read this book to hopefully understand President Bush's perspective on things. I was attracted to this one because of the way it was written, each section focusing on specific decisions and the history leading to those decisions. I liked that it was written in an easy to understand way.
As I read I found his decisions to be well considered and intelligent. Thinking back I know I didn't always agree with his policies and the same thing was true as I read of them in this book, but by the end of each part I feel that I understood how he made his decisions and why it made sense at the time. The glimpses into his private family life were at times very moving.

This was a facinating look into the life of a president. Just think of the job any president has, the burdens he holds on his shoulders. Each president has to bear these burdens, run the country, help others, and keep his family close. This helped me see how Bush did all that.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Glass Rainbow by James Lee Burke

About the book: James Lee Burke’s eagerly awaited new novel finds Detective Dave Robicheaux back in New Iberia, Louisiana, and embroiled in the most harrowing and dangerous case of his career. Seven young women in neighboring Jefferson Davis Parish have been brutally murdered. While the crimes have all the telltale signs of a serial killer, the death of Bernadette Latiolais, a high school honor student, doesn’t fit: she is not the kind of hapless and marginalized victim psychopaths usually prey upon. Robicheaux and his best friend, Clete Purcel, confront Herman Stanga, a notorious pimp and crack dealer whom both men despise. When Stanga turns up dead shortly after a fierce beating by Purcel, in front of numerous witnesses, the case takes a nasty turn, and Clete’s career and life are hanging by threads over the abyss.

Adding to Robicheaux’s troubles is the matter of his daughter, Alafair, on leave from Stanford Law to put the finishing touches on her novel. Her literary pursuit has led her into the arms of Kermit Abelard, celebrated novelist and scion of a once prominent Louisiana family whose fortunes are slowly sinking into the corruption of Louisiana’s subculture. Abelard’s association with bestselling ex-convict author Robert Weingart, a man who uses and discards people like Kleenex, causes Robicheaux to fear that Alafair might be destroyed by the man she loves. As his daughter seems to drift away from him, he wonders if he has become a victim of his own paranoia. But as usual, Robicheaux’s instincts are proven correct and he finds himself dealing with a level of evil that is greater than any enemy he has confronted in the past.

First line: The room I had rented in an old part of Natchez seemed more reflective of new Orleans than a river town in Mississippi.

My thoughts: This is the newest in James Lee Burke's series featuring the New Iberia, Louisiana detective Dave Robicheaux, one of my favorite series. It is a Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Mystery and Thriller (2010). Being the Burke fan I am, I knew I would not be disappointed in this book. Boy was I right! Dave and Clete shined in this one as did Alafair. I wish there had been a little more on Molly but I got to know Helen a little better. As I've come to expect in the Dave Robicheaux novels, it is good vs. evil. Dave, who sees things in black and white, must find out who killed several young women. His unfailing compassion for the victims drives him. This was a great mystery, I didn't want to put it down. Dave had several obstacles to overcome as his personal and professional lives became entangled, placing those he loves in the line of fire. The end of this one was different, though. I was left hanging...the story ended...but it didn't. No epilogue either. Now I can't wait to see the next one.

I also enjoy the insight into the history, culture, and politics of Louisiana. Burke is a native of Louisiana and he tells it like it is. His descriptions of the scenery are to be savored. I reread these often.

If you haven't read any of the books in this series I would suggest you start with some of the earlier ones. One of my favorites was In The Electric Mist With the Confederate Dead. Purple Cane Road was another. In Electric Mist more than any of the others, you get to read about Dave's connection to his private world, things he doesn't share. You see, Dave sees dead people. He says that the dead are with us. I find his glimpses interesting. In Glass Rainbow he sees an old paddle wheeler and the people on it beckon to him. Mystery lovers will like this series
.

Rating:



Quote:
"I sometimes subscribe to the belief that all historical events occur simultaneously, like a dream in the mind of God. Perhaps it is only man who views time sequentially and tries to impose a solar calendar upon it. What if other people, both dead and unborn, are living out their lives in the same space we occupy, without our knowledge or consent?"

McElligot's Pool by Dr. Seuss

Amazon.com Review: McElligot's Pool is a Seuss classic from the distant era before even The Cat In The Hat. It's a single poetic variation on the theme of adult skepticism that's no match for childhood faith and daydreaming. A small boy is fishing in the tiny, unpromising McElligot's Pool, a puddle that (as a passing farmer informs our diminutive hero) is nothing but a hole where people dispose of their junk. But the boy is all optimism: what if the pool is deeper than anyone thinks? What if it connects to an underground stream that flows under the town to the sea? Might not all sorts of fish then swim up the stream and be caught here? "I might catch an eel... (Well, I might. It depends.) A long twisting eel with a lot of strange bends. And, oddly enough, with a head at both ends!" The moral of the story is straightforward: "If I wait long enough, if I'm patient and cool, Who knows what I'll catch in McElligot's pool?"

First line:
"Young man," laughed the farmer,
"You're sort of a fool!
You'll never catch fish
in McElligot's Pool!"

My thoughts: This book was first published in 1947. Once again we follow Marco (From And To Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street) on an imaginative quest. When told there is nothing in the pool he imagines what could be. The delightful illustrations, which alternate between watercolors and B&W, picturing the ever more fantastic fish that might be in the pool are wonderful to look at. As always, Dr. Seuss' rhyming lines and nonsense words make this fun to read.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Play Dead by John Levitt


From the back: Mason is an an enforcer, ensuring that those magic practitioners without a moral compass walk the straight and narrow. Mostly he just wants to keep his head down, play guitar, and maintain a low profile with Lou, his magical canine companion. But Mason is down on his luck, and when a job with a large payout comes along, he finds the offer hard to resist.

Jessica Alexander, a practitioner of dark magic, tasks Mason with finding a missing woman and supposed thief. But the case leads to a bigger mystery involving an ancient spell book that can open paths to different worlds - something most practitioners would kill to possess. Mason and Lou are determined to keep the spell book out of the wrong hands, but that could mean sacrificing what both man and his best friend hold most dear.

First line: The rain was vicious, drenching the streets, bouncing off the pavement and running down the gutters. The wind had picked up, driving the rain sideways at times, and the bobbing red and yellow and black umbrellas danced erratically as the wind swept through.

My thoughts: This is the fourth book in the urban fantasy Dog Days series, and I thought it was the best yet. My favorite part of these books has always been Lou, the Ifrit/dog who helps Mason. Lou had some pretty big scenes in this one. I like that Lou, like Mason, seems believable. Mason is funny at times, seems a little slow on the uptake, wants to do the right thing for the right reasons and makes me root for him. The author's love of music, particularly jazz, is woven well into the fabric of the stories, into Mason's use of magic. I find this a unique feature and interesting. The other characters are well drawn, the world building is belivable, the mystery drew me along, page after page. The end of this one wasn't quite the happy ending I was expecting even though the practitioner society was saved. But what about our heroes? The cliff-hanger at the end left me a little heartbroken. It will be hard waiting to see what happens to them.

Rating:



Quote: "A volley of sharp barks brought me out of it. I looked down with some surprise and found Lou up onstage, angrily barking his head off. Everything rushed back into focus - Park Place, the bandstand, Dave and Bobby and roger, the crowd."

Links:
John Levitt

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

Amazon.com Review: When Dr. Seuss gets serious, you know it must be important. Published in 1971, and perhaps inspired by the "save our planet" mindset of the 1960s, The Lorax is an ecological warning that still rings true today amidst the dangers of clear-cutting, pollution, and disregard for the earth's environment. In The Lorax, we find what we've come to expect from the illustrious doctor: brilliantly whimsical rhymes, delightfully original creatures, and weirdly undulating illustrations. But here there is also something more--a powerful message that Seuss implores both adults and children to heed.
The now remorseful Once-ler--our faceless, bodiless narrator--tells the story himself. Long ago this enterprising villain chances upon a place filled with wondrous Truffula Trees, Swomee-Swans, Brown Bar-ba- loots, and Humming-Fishes. Bewitched by the beauty of the Truffula Tree tufts, he greedily chops them down to produce and mass-market Thneeds. ("It's a shirt. It's a sock. It's a glove. It's a hat.") As the trees swiftly disappear and the denizens leave for greener pastures, the fuzzy yellow Lorax (who speaks for the trees "for the trees have no tongues") repeatedly warns the Once-ler, but his words of wisdom are for naught. Finally the Lorax extricates himself from the scorched earth (by the seat of his own furry pants), leaving only a rock engraved "UNLESS." Thus, with his own colorful version of a compelling morality play, Dr. Seuss teaches readers not to fool with Mother Nature. But as you might expect from Seuss, all hope is not lost--the Once-ler has saved a single Truffula Tree seed! Our fate now rests in the hands of a caring child, who becomes our last chance for a clean, green future. (Ages 4 to 8)

My thoughts: I love this book and have read it many times over the years to my classes. This book has been considered quite controversial and has even been banned on grounds that it "criminalizes the forestry industry." There are many activities to be found online to go along with this book. Or, it is just fun to read.

Quotes:
1."So I quickly invented my Super-Axe-Hacker
which whacked off four Truffula Trees at one smacker."

2. "Once-ler!" he cried with a cruffulous croak.
"Once-ler! You're making such smogulous smoke!
My poor Swomee-Swans ... why, they can't sing a note!
No one can sing who has smog in his throat."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Troubel Maker 2 by Janet Evanovich & Alex Evanovich

About the book: There's no smooth sailing for Alex Barnaby and Sam Hooker in the second volume of bestselling author Janet Evanovich's graphic-novel adventure, Troublemaker. Barnaby, Hooker, Rosa, Felicia, and Beans the St. Bernard set sail to the Florida Keys in order to find the wooden body of Baron Samedi that matches their recently acquired - and stolen - wooden hand. But in the world of petro voodoo a hand for a hand and a Baron for a boat is fair play. When the Happy Hooker disappears from its mooring in the Keys, Barnaby and Hooker have to find a way back to Miami with the stolen body of Baron Samedi. Ransom notes for the Happy Hooker, a sack of snakes, and a ticked-off chicken, leave only one place safe enough to hide a body... Hooker's mom's house - a situation that makes the sack of snakes look like chump change.

My thoughts: Another fun romp through unbelievable events by Janet Evanovich's Barnaby and Hooker. The only problem with this one, as with the first one, is that it is too short. The illustrations were simple, colorful and funny. I enjoyed the novels (Motor Mouth and Metro Girl) so much that I had to read these. I'm glad I checked them out of the library, though.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Darkness Under the Sun by Dean Koontz

About the book: The chilling account of a pivotal encounter between innocence and ultimate malice, Darkness Under the Sun is the perfect read for Halloween–or for any haunted night–and reveals a secret, fateful turning point in the career of Alton Turner Blackwood, the killer at the dark heart of What the Night Knows, the forthcoming novel by #1 New York Times bestselling author Dean Koontz. There once was a killer who knew the night, its secrets and rhythms. How to hide within its shadows. When to hunt. He roamed from town to town, city to city, choosing his prey for their beauty and innocence. His cruelties were infinite, his humanity long since forfeit. But still…he had not yet discovered how to make his special mark among monsters, how to come fully alive as Death.
This is the story of how he learned those things, and of what we might do to insure that he does not visit us.

First line: A week before his eleventh birthday, when Howie Dugley climbed to the roof of the former Boswell's Emporium to watch the normal people doing all kinds of ordinary things along Maple Street, he saw the monster for the first time.

My thoughts: This was a quick read and a good one. I liked Howie, the child and adult, a lot. Koontz has always been able to do that for me, create likable characters with good hearts that I want to root for. I felt bad for Howie and the decision he had to make at his young age. This is not just a horror story it is a psychological thriller. This novella, only found in eBook form, stands alone well but I am glad that there is more in the novel What the Night Knows. (I have to get it off my wish list and into the house, soon.) The tension built well and kept me turning pages. The creepiness of the story held on all the way to the end. If you have never read Dean Koontz, this is a great way to sample his work.

Rating:


Quote: "There's always a parade, Howie. When it's something you can't ever join but only watch, then it's a parade"

Links:
Dean Koontz

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Riding the Bullet by Stephen King

About the Book: Riding the Bullet, the tale of a terrible encounter near a lonely graveyard, is, as the narrator points out, the kind of ghost story told around campfires. It's no surprise that no one tells such a story as well as Stephen King. From the moment Alan, a college student, decides to hitchhike to see his mother in the hospital (his car is out of action) and further decides to avoid the main highway where police might ticket him, you can imagine what's coming, and this makes what does come more awful and delicious. Josh Hamilton can't do a Maine accent (as who can not born to it?), so it's too bad he tried; everything else about this reading is delightful.

From Wikipedia: Riding the Bullet is a novella by Stephen King. This work marks King's debut on the Internet. Simon & Schuster, with technology by SoftLock, first published Riding the Bullet in 2000 as the world's first mass-market electronic book, available for download at $2.50. In 2002, it was collected in King's collection Everything's Eventual.

First Line: I've never told anyone this story, and never thought I would -- not because I was afraid of being disbelieved, exactly, but because I was ashamed...and because it was mine.


My Thoughts: What a scary, fun read. It's pure Steven King to take an ordinary person and put them smack in the middle of a nightmare. Being short I was afraid I would feel the story was incomplete, which is my feeling with most short stories I read. However the entire story is here. It had my heart racing as I flipped pages on my Nook. But as Alan's mother was fond of saying "Fun is fun and done is done." And so it is.

Rating:


Monday, March 14, 2011

And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street by Dr. Seuss

Amazon.com Review: Marco is in a pickle. His father has instructed him to keep his eyes peeled for interesting sights on the way to and from school, but all Marco has seen is a boring old horse and wagon. Imagine if he had something more to report, say, a zebra pulling the wagon. Or better yet, the zebra could be pulling a blue and gold chariot. No, wait! Maybe it should be a reindeer in that harness. Marco's story grows ever more elaborate as he reasons that a reindeer would be happier pulling a sled, then that a really unusual sight would be an elephant with a ruby-bedecked rajah enthroned on top. "Say! That makes a story that no one can beat, / When I say that I saw it on Mulberry Street." Time and again, Marco tops himself until he is positively wound up with excitement and bursts into his home to tell his dad what he saw on Mulberry Street.

My thoughts: Since Dr. Seuss' birthday is in March I thought that my Picture Books this month should be by the man himself. This one, first published in 1937, is one of my favorites. The pictures start out small and simple but by the end they are elaborate, spanning two pages each as you follow Marco in his quest to think of something really cool to tell his dad. In the end he simply tells the truth.

There was so much to tell, I JUST COULDN'T BEGIN!
Dad looked at me sharply and pulled at his chin.
He frowned at me sternly from there in his seat,
"Was there nothing to look at...no people to greet?
Did nothing excite you or make your heart beat?"

"Nothing," I said, growing red as a beet,
"But a plain horse and wagon on Mulberry Street."


What a great book for encouraging imagination! You and your kids will love the rhyme and rhythm of the words as well as looking at the details of the pictures.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck

About the book: John Steinbeck (Feb. 27, 1902 - December 20, 1968) embarks on a journey to discover America in the fall of 1960. He drives a brand new three-quarter ton pickup camper truck and travels with his dog Charley. His purpose is to learn something about the vast United States and write a book about his experiences.

First Line: When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was upon me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch.

My thoughts: What can I say, I fell in love with Charley, but enough about that. This book has been on my TBR pile fro quite some time. I can't believe it has taken me so long to get to it. I love Steinbeck's writing, the way he uses words to describe, his turn of a phrase, the quiet, unexpected humor in passages. I enjoyed this book, enjoyed the fact that it was so much more than I expected. I thought I would find a humorous look at America, and there were parts that were funny. I also enjoyed the descriptions of the beauty he saw in his months on the road. However there were parts that were sobering, that took a close look at subjects like civil rights, racism, war, and waste, all precursors to troubles we face today. I would suggest this book to anyone. Get it and read it.

Rating:



Quotes:
* "Once Charley fell in love with a dachshund, a romance racially unsuitable, physically ridiculous, and mechanically impossible. But all these problems Charley ignored. He loved deeply and tried dogfully."

*“If manners maketh man, then manner and grooming maketh poodle”

*"For how can one know color in perpetual green, and what good is warmth without cold to give it sweetness?"

*“Submarines are armed with mass murder, our silly, only way of deterring mass murder”

*“The mountains of things we throw away are much greater than the things we use. In this, if in no other way, we can see the wild and reckless exuberance of our production, and waste seems to be the index”

*“We Americans bring in mercenaries to do our hard and humble work. I hope we may not be overwhelmed one day by peoples not too proud or too lazy or too soft to bend to the earth and pick up the things we eat”

*Less than a mile from the entrance I saw a bear beside the road, and it ambled out as though to flag me down. Instantly a change came over Charley. He shrieked wit rage. His lips flared, showing wicked teeth that have some trouble with a dog biscuit. He screeched insults at the bear, which hearing the bear reared up and seemed to me to overtop Rocinante. Frantically I rolled the windows shut and, swinging quickly to the left, grazed the animal, then scuttled on while Charley raved and ranted beside me, describing in detail what he would do to that bear if he could get at him. I was never so astonished in my life. to the best of my knowledge Charley had never seen a bear, and in his whole history had showed great tolerance for every living thing.

Links:

wikipedia article
John Steinbeck Exhibition Hall
Review from 1962

Trouble maker by Janet Evanovich & Alex Evanovich


About the book: Alex Barnaby and Sam Hooker are back together and fighting crime the only way they know how -- by leaving a trail of chaos, panic and disorder. Alex, an auto mechanic and spotter for racecar driver Sam Hooker, is drawn to trouble like a giant palmetto bug to a day old taco. Unfortunately she's also drawn to Hooker in the same fashion. There's no steering clear of trouble or Hooker when friends, Felicia and Rosa, need help. Rosa has gone missing, and in order to find her, Barnaby and Hooker will have to go deep into the underbelly of Miami and south Florida, surviving Petro Voodoo, explosions, gift-wrapped body parts, a high-speed swamp chase, and Hooker's mom.

A graphic novel, written by Janet and Alex Evanovich, and illustrated by Joƫlle Jones (Madame Xanadu), Troublemaker leads Barnaby and Hooker, from hit novels Metro Girl and Motor Mouth, through the palm tree lined, sun filled streets of one the hottest cities in the world!

My thoughts: The only problem with this is that it was too short. I can't wait to get my hands on the next one. The illustrations were as funny as the dialogue. If you read graphic novels or if you like Evanovich you'll love this one.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Lone Star Noir edited by Bobby Byrd & Johnny Byrd

Publishers Weekly, 2010-09-06: Divided into three sections (Gulf Coast, Back Roads, and Big City), Akashic's Texas noir volume offers mostly unknown names among its 14 contributors. Highlights include Joe R. Lansdale's darkly hilarious "Six-Finger Jack," in which a greedy Texan tries to earn $100,000 for killing a crook with more than the usual number of digits; James Crumley's sardonically funny "Luck," in which obnoxious twins push a killer over the edge; and Dean James's "Bottomed Out," about one man's twisted fight to keep his job. Solid reads by lesser known talents include Sarah Cortez's poignant Houston story, "Montgomery Clift"; Jessica Power's gripping "Preacher's Kid"; and Bobby Byrd's bone-chilling El Paso ode, "The Dead Man's Wife," more horror than noir. Some will wonder why the editors missed genre writers known for their Texas settings such as Sandra Brown, Jon Land, Jan Grape, Scott Cupp, Bill Crider, Laurie Moore, Nic Pizzolatto<, and Lewis Shiner. (Nov.) (c) Copyright. All rights reserved.

My Thoughts: I challenged myself to read more in the way of short stories this year so, since I like a nice noir mystery, I started with a book called Lone Star Noir. My favorite story in this collection was Cherry Coke which, at the end, seemed to veer toward the unknown. The first one, Phealen's First Case, was another one I liked as was Duckweed. Six-Finger-Jack was darkly funny in places. I did not care for the stories Catgirl and Bottomed Out. Reading this collection I was reminded of why I don't read many short story collections, they all left me wanting more, more story, more connection to the characters, more......
In the blurb above it says that "The Dead Man's Wife" was more horror than noir. I guess i just missed it. It seems sad and unsettling but after reading it again I just didn't see the horror. If you've read it and know what I missed please let me know.
At the end of this book there were short biographies and photos of each author. I liked learning more about them and their work.

Links:
Akashic Books
A Review at Dallas News

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Chasing Fireflies by Charles Martin

About the book: They have one summer to find what was lost long ago. "Never settle for less than the truth," she told him. But when you don't even know your real name, the truth gets a little complicated. It can nestle so close to home it's hard to see. It can even flourish inside a lie. And as Chase Walker discovered, learning the truth about who you are can be as elusive--and as magical--as chasing fireflies on a summer night. A haunting story about fishing, baseball, home cooking, and other matters of life and death.
First line: I stepped out into the sunlight humming a Pat Green tune, slipping on my sunglasses, and stared out over the courthouse steps.

My Thoughts: This 2008 Christy Award winner is the first Charles Martin novel I have read and I found that I liked. I will read more by this author. The parallel stories of a six year old abandoned boy, and that of Chase, who had been taken in as a young boy by Unc, and that of Tommy, Chase's cousin, are told intertwined with the digging out of family secrets that Chase is determined to bring to light. It is a beautifully written story of a father and son, of love of family, of sacrificial love. The sense of place is great. It jumped back and forth between the past and present but was easy to keep up with. The character of Unc was so well drawn and was such a wonderful person. One part of the book I just couldn't understand, a small part to be sure, had to do with an action Unc took. It was just so...un-Unc like. It is a spoiler so can't say here what it is but if you read this book you'll find it. I would suggest this novel to anyone, it was sad and sweet and ultimately satisfying. Just keep your tissues near to hand.

Rating:



Quote: "Inside you is a thing worth putting on a pedestal--worth putting out there for all the world to see. That piece of rock might been knocked around, roughed up a bit, considered scrap, and thrown on the trash pile...but that's only because they don't know what's on the inside. They can't see like Michaelangelo. 'Cause if they could, they'd know that there's something in there that's just waiting to jump out. Like there is inside you. I'm sorry for the hammer and chisel. I wish life didn't work that way. Just remember...the velvet cloth ain't far behind."

Links:
Charles MartinCymLowell

Friday, March 4, 2011

Jolie Blon's Bounce by James Lee Burke

Description: When a beautiful teenage girl is killed, the victim of a particularly savage rape, New Iberia, Louisiana police detective Dave Robicheaux senses from the very start of the investigation that the most likely suspect, Tee Bobby Hulin, is not the actual killer. Though a drug addict and general ne'er-do-well, Hulin just doesn't fit the profile for this kind of brutal crime.
But when another murder occurs -- this victim a drugged-out prostitute who happens to be the daughter of one of the local mafia bigwigs -- all clues once again point to Tee Bobby Hulin, and the cries for arrest become too loud to ignore. The dead girl's father, however, prefers to take matters in his own hands and sets out to find -- and punish -- the killer himself.
But before Robicheaux can solve these crimes and bring the killer or killers to justice, he is forced to battle his own inner demons, including a painkiller addiction, a habit that begins as the result of a brutal and humiliating beating he suffers at the hands of the mysterious and diabolical character known as Legion. A fixture in the area for years, Legion was once the overseer on a local sugarcane plantation and now gets by doing odd jobs. In temperament, however, he's still the malicious and malevolent bully he always was, a man defined by evil and seemingly possessed with supernatural skills of survival.
Added to the mix, and on the good guy side of the balance sheet, is Clete Purcel, a longtime buddy of Robicheaux's and a confirmed boozer and womanizer. Clete comes to New Iberia for a visit and is quickly drawn into the struggle between the various forces of evil in the town, including Jimmy Dean Styles, a black man intent on maintaining his empire of corruption; Joe Zeroski, a trailer park mafioso with palatial aspirations -- and of course, Legion Guidry, the devil incarnate, in whom Robicheaux finds himself facing a challenge and an enemy unlike any he has ever known. And soon, what began as a duel of wits has turned into a dance of death.

First line: Growing up during the 1940s in New Iberis I never doubted how the world worked.

My Thoughts: I am a big fan of this series so when I found Jolie Blon's Bounce as an audio book at a used book sale I jumped on it. In fact I purchased two James Lee Burke audio books that day. As I've come to expect from Burke, his ability to write a sense of place and make you feel it in your heart is wonderful. His characters are flawed and and so they are absolutly believable. Dave is a troubled and at times violent soul that is fighting himself as well as the evil in his world. The evil in this book comes at him on several fronts as he strains to remain sober and find the answers. Clete Purcel, his friend and partner (at times) is troubled in his own way but always there for Dave. This book was a page turner, the suspense is maintained and kept me looking for reasons to drive somewhere so I could listen to more of it. The narrator, Will Patton, does an excellent job with the voices and accents. All in all a great "listen."

Rating:




Quote: "It was dark where we stood under the trees, the molded pecan husks and blackened leaves soft under our feet, the air tannic, like water that has stood for a long time in a wooden cistern. The dying light was gold on the tops of the cypresses in the swamp, and the snow egrets were rising into the light, their wings feathering in the wind."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Dreadnought by Cherie Priest

Synopsis: Nurse Mercy Lynch is elbows deep in bloody laundry at a war hospital in Richmond, Virginia, when Clara Barton comes bearing bad news: Mercy’s husband has died in a POW camp. On top of that, a telegram from the west coast declares that her estranged father is gravely injured, and he wishes to see her. Mercy sets out toward the Mississippi River. Once there, she’ll catch a train over the Rockies and—if the telegram can be believed—be greeted in Washington Territory by the sheriff, who will take her to see her father in Seattle.
Reaching the Mississippi is a harrowing adventure by dirigible and rail through war-torn border states. When Mercy finally arrives in St. Louis, the only Tacoma-bound train is pulled by a terrifying Union-operated steam engine called the Dreadnought. Reluctantly, Mercy buys a ticket and climbs aboard.
What ought to be a quiet trip turns deadly when the train is beset by bushwhackers, then vigorously attacked by a band of Rebel soldiers. The train is moving away from battle lines into the vast, unincorporated west, so Mercy can’t imagine why they’re so interested. Perhaps the mysterious cargo secreted in the second and last train cars has something to do with it?
Mercy is just a frustrated nurse who wants to see her father before he dies. But she’ll have to survive both Union intrigue and Confederate opposition if she wants to make it off the Dreadnought alive.


First line: Down in the laundry room with the bloody-wet floors and the ceiling-high stacks of sheets, wraps, and blankets, Vinita Lynch was elbows-deep in a vat full of dirty pillowcases because she'd promiseh - she'd sworn on her mother's life - that she'd find a certain windup pocket watch belonging to Private Hugh Morton before the device was plunged into a tub of simmering soapy water and surely destroyed for good.

My thoughts: This is the third book in the Clockwork Century series by Cherie Priest. I read the first one, Boneshaker, last year and really enjoyed it. I liked this one just as much. I found the alternate history senarios to be facinating. At 400 pages this Civil War steampunk thriller didn't lack much to qualify for the Chunkster Challenge. This book went very fast for me, kept me on the edge of my seat with the action. Mercy Lynch, the main character, was a treat. I enjoyed getting to know her and meeting all the people along on her exciting journey west to see her dad. I only wish we had learned more about Theodora Clay, she is a mystery. A young woman escorting her eldery aunt west, she is knowlegable about guns and shooting but we are never told why. Maybe she'll show up in another Priest book. This was a fun read. If you like Steampunk or would like to dip into the growing Steampunk mini-genre, you should try this book.

Rating:



Quote: It's funny what they say about men in uniform - how people think women just can't resist 'em. Fact is, I think we're just pleased to see a man groomed, bathed, and wearing clothes that fit him.