Thursday, September 30, 2010

"Getting caught is the mother of invention." Robert Byrne

Harlan Coben's novels are a joy to read, in part, because they are so realistic that it's easy for the reader to put themselves into the story and imagine the action happening to them.

Social worker Dan Mercer is a giving person, coaches girl's basketball and helps seriously troubled teens. He thinks one of his teens may be in trouble and is answering a plea to come to her home for assistance. He arrives and hears a voice telling him to come in. He enters the home and walks into a sting operation run by reporter Wendy Tynes and coordinated with the police.

Wendy's goal is to catch sexual predators, publicly humiliate them and have them arrested.

She confronts Dan and tells him that she knows that the reason he entered that house was to have sex with an underage teenager. Dan tells her that she's wrong and that he's being set-up. She scoffs at this and tells him that that's what they all say.
There is a pre-trial hearing but no matter what the outcome, Dan is labelled as a sexual predator and faces public wrath.
This is a suspenseful, can't put down story where the facts come out gradually and the reader is kept on edge. We watch Wendy attempt to get the real answers but there's much more to the story and her life and reputation are at risk.

The characters are sympathetic and described in a believable manner. The novel is breathtaking.
Check out my review on amazon and if you agree, please indicate that the review was helpful. I also enjoy when readers put comments on my amazon reviews.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Things, like a walk in the park." Song lyrics

This story brought to mind Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood," due to the mixture of fiction and realism.

"The Things They Carried," tells of a platoon of soldiers and their experiences in Vietnam. It gives an interesting insight into the make-up of soldiers on active duty and serves as a comparison to today's army fighting in Afghanistan.

In the story, we learn what various soldiers carry in the field. Not only do they carry the usual equipment with which to fight the enemy but they are their own personal items and this is what makes them interesting. One man carried a sewing kit, another had a New Testament, still another carried Dr. Scholl's foot powder, men carried Malaria tablets and Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, the central figure in the story, carried the letters from his love, Martha, a college student back at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey. In a sad manner, we also discover that Jimmy was madly in love with Martha but that she didn't share his love and felt that their relationship was more like good friends.

The author also provides a picture of the activities the soldiers took part in when not in the field. We learn of Kiowa teaching a rain dance to Rat Kelly and another soldier adopting a puppy. This made the soldiers more real.

I enjoyed the book, which is made up of linked stories. However, it is more like a journal of Tim O'Brien's Vietnam experience. To me, it was more like a lesson in history than a novel and what appealed to me was the uniqueness and descriptions of the men who are my age and what they went through in the war.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Foreign policy is really domestic policy with its hat on." Hubert Humphrey

Counter terrorism operative Scot Horvath is working for a new secret agency that is buried deep within the Department of Defense and isn't burdened with answering to self-serving politicians.
Scot is asked to go after a man who had helped him in the past. The man is known as The Troll and is accused of being the mastermind behind the bombing of a bus filled with American college students in Rome.
Elsewhere, a cab runs down a young girl who had been out partying with her friends in Chicago. When the girl's family doesn't get any results from he police investigation, they hire a former Marine, John Vaughan, to investigate.
While that is going on, Scott believes that someone was attempting to pin this on The Troll. Scot wants to get proof and to punish those responsible. With The Troll's help, they prove that it was a set up and that there is a terrorist organization planning two more strikes in Europe after which they will be taking their terror to the innocent people in the United States.
In Chicago, John Vaughan teams up with Paul Davidson who is in the Public Vehicles division. They find a lead to a cab driver who ran down the girl. When they go to the cab driver's home, they find bomb making material and they learn that the cab driver is part of an undercover terrorist scheme that involves explosives.
The two cases come together with excellent action and suspense. Scot Horvath continues to be an enjoyable hero. He stops at nothing to get his man and is brave, patriotic and doesn't hesitate to use whatever means is necessary to get answers and stop the terrorists.
Please check out my review on amazon and indicate that the review was helpful.

Friday, September 17, 2010

"When marrying, ask would be able to converse...with this old age?"

The time of this Pulitzer Prize winning story is toward the conclusion of the Civil War. Families are receiving notifications about the death, capture or injury of their loved ones.
Wully McLaughlin returns to his parents' home after escaping from the Confederates where he had been taken prisoner. Some of Wully's war recollections reminded me of "The Red Badge of Courage."
While Wully is home, he visits the farm of Christie McNair. There is a small population in this part of Iowa and Christie is lonely. He and Christie form a relationship that makes Wully believe that after the war there would be a marriage.
Wully spends a brief time home and returned to his regiment. When the war ends, he returns for good and immediately goes to Christie's home. Christie is distant and won't look at Wully in the face. She doesn't want to see him and her coldness shocks him.
Not giving up, and feeling that Christie is the only one for him, he goes to her home again but secretly, only to find her crying on her front porch.
Unable to figure things out, on the road back to his family's farm he meets a cousin, Peter Keith. Wully asks Peter if he knows what is causing Christie such pain. Peter gets excited and tells Wully that he asked her to marry him when Wully was away. Wully finally gets that Peter had taken advantage of Christie and they have a disagreement which ends with Peter leaving the area in fear of Wully's reprisal.
The author describes what happens next when Wully returns again to Christie's home and how he tries to convince her that he'll take care of her and everything will turn out right. We also learn what steps he and his patents take so that the community won't scorn Christie for her pregnancy.
The novel offers a good description of the hardship of frontier life and what many settlers faced. There is a particularly well told portion of the story describing the difficult winter witnessed by an emigrant who went to her new husband's home and found that she was living on little better than a sty.
I enjoyed the story and the manner in which the author told the reader about live in the wintry Iowa area and what families went through. I did feel that the story meandered a bit and was overly long. Overall I recommend it.
Please check out the amazon review of this work and if you agree, please indicate that the review was helpful.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"To make a judgment, we need the answers." Michael Woods

See the above review on amazon and if you agree, please indicate that the review was helpful.
The prologue of the novel reveals a cat burglar who is stealing valuable jewels from Casey Dowling, the wife of movie star, Marcus Dowling. As the thief is leaving, she knocks over the console table and wakes up the Dowlings. Their marriage was on the rocks and Marcus realizes that he has a chance to murder his wife and get away with it. He kills Casey and blames the thief.
Another case involves a psychopathic killer whose motto is "Women and Children First." He kills women with their babies and then, needlessly, kills the baby. He becomes known as the Lipstick Killer and terrorizes San Francisco.
Detective Lindsay Boxer of the homicide division is working with her partner, Rick Conklin, to catch both killers.
As the Lipstick Killer strikes again, Det. Boxer intensifies her search but she is hindered by the lack of witnesses.
Spending more time together, Lindsay and Rick find their emotions toward each other mounting and they have difficulty in concentrating on the cases and not giving in to their growing physical attraction.
Lindsay is a well described character who is easy to like with her energy, dedication and courage. The plot had plenty of action and moved along swiftly but was predictable.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend, inside a dog, it's too dark to read." Groucho Marx

When I received this novel, my first reaction was that this was the book from which the film with Denzel Washington was made. I couldn't have been further from the truth.
Eli Canaan is a good man who tries to do all the right things like coaching children and encouraging them, putting the garbage out without being reminded and putting the toilet seat down after going to the bathroom. However, he does have one little problem. He loves to have intercourse and not just with his wife, Abagail.
Abagail has decreed that she and Eli will have sex 2.5 times per month since she read that and felt that it was sufficient. This is way too few times for Eli and he continues to have sex elsewhere, Abagail finds a Gypsy and casts a spell on Eli where her wish is that he never seeks another woman.
Unfortunately, as the Gypsy tells her, " careful what you wish for."
Poor Eli has the best sex ever with one of his usual partners, Mary, and just at the pivotal moment, he screams, "Oh God!" Then he wakes up in heaven.
Eli is confused and when he hears a voice and believes that it is God, the voice sounds like Orson Wells. Then he's corrected. The voice actually belongs to a cigar smoking person named Julius who is Eli's guide in heaven. Julius takes Eli on a tour where he meets other celebrities like Groucho Marx.
In an amusing story, Julius and Eli talk about life, cats and dogs and other people in haven. When Eli asks about other well know people in heaven, Julius tells him about the waiting lines for such celebrities such as Sartre and Descartes.
Later, Eli meets Freud and they discuss Eli's fixation with sex.
The story is very witty and I felt that I was reading some one liners that might be spoken by Don Rickles or Jerry Seinfeld.

Check out the amazon review and if you agree, please indicate that the review was helpful.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"Satan...may build a barrier about us, but he can never roof us in, so that we cann't look up." J. Hudson Taylor

Hurricane Katrina smashes into New Orleans with the "...explosive force several times greater than that of the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945."

The tidal surge explodes the levee system and devastates much of New Orleans. Hardest hit of all is the Ninth Ward, an area of occupied by many of the poor members of the city.
People filled the roads in their automobiles attempting to escape the storm and authorities were telling those people left behind to come to the Convention Center. However, there were no services there. Bodies were left outside, toilets didn't work, there was little food or water and the poor suffered worse than anyone.
Looting began and four black men broke into a number of homes that had withstood the storm. One home belonged to one of the more notorious gangsters in the city, Sidney Kovick. The looters took money, a gun, drugs and diamonds that were hidden behind the walls of the home.
Three of these looters were meth dealers and rapists. Other men were organizing into vigilante groups to protect their homes. Outside of Otis Baylor's home, his daughter recognized two of the looters as the men who raped her.
When one of the looters lights a flame, a shot comes from the dark, killing one and crippling another.
This tremendous novel details the heartaches and devastation of New Orleans after Katrina. The reader experiences the feeling of the city resident's desolation and frustration as we follow the hunt for the remaining two thieves by people who want to regain what had been stolen.
Dave Robicheaux becomes involved and shares our sorrow about the circumstances. The action includes his daughter, Alifair and his friend, Clete Purcell.
This is a can't put down book whose story will enthrall and haunt the reader.
(Please use the above link to go to the amazon review of this book and if the review is helpful, please indicate that at the end of the amazon review)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

"Now and then an innocent man is sent to legislature." K. Hubbard

Twenty years after "Presumed Innocent," Rusty Sabich's is now a chief judge of an appellate court and is running for reelection.
When he finds his wife, Barbara, dead in her bed and waits twenty-four hours before calling authorities, something doesn't seem right. His old nemesis, Tommy Molto, the acting prosecuting attorney, begins building a case of murder.
Because Molto had accused Rusty of murder, once before, and lost the case, he wants to proceed cautiously this time. His assistant, Jim Brand agrees and offers to look into the case quietly.
Evidence is found that Rusty was having an affair but it isn't disclosed that it is with his former clerk, Anna. When questions arise, authorities look into what Barbara had in her medicine cabinet. One prescription had warnings that it shouldn't be used with certain foods or liquor. However, the night before her death, these items were most of the dinner menu. Now the question is, was this suicide, or murder or an accident?
Rusty is reelected to his position and then arrested for his wife's murder.
The reader sees the trial through the eyes of Rusty's son, Nat, who is also an attorney. In this manner, we see a legal interpretation of events and developments with Nat's view of those effects on the outcome of the trial. Importantly, we also see the consequence of Rusty's actions through the eyes of his only child and what is the result for the love and admiration that Nat had for his father.
The action moves nicely and the author does a fine job of making Rusty a sympathetic character. He seems like an injured, but stoic old warrior. As the novel continues, we are kept in suspense, wondering if Rusty is guilty or innocent.
Well done and enjoyable.
Please see my review on amazon and if you agree, please indicate that the review was helpful.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"Where are you, little star?" song lyrics

In this contemporary novel we see a young Hollywood starlet who is constantly going into rehab for drug and alcohol abuse. The starlet's name is Cherry Pye, aka Cheryl Bunterman.
Cherry is now age twenty-two and since she was age fourteen, she's been a popular star with a love for excitement that includes alchohol and drugs.
She's currently attempting a comeback after a drug related episode in Boston where she was high and did something on stage. By this time, she's had so many relapses that her parents and record producer, Maury Lykes have hired a double, Ann DeLusia, to fill in for Cherry when she becomes "indisposed."
A member of the paparazzi, Bang Abbott, feels that Cherry is headed for the same unfortunate ending as Michael Jackson and Bang follows Cherry around in attempt to get photos at the stages of her downward spiral.
Abbott meets Cherry and takes some photos but she takes off with his photos and cell phone.
Meanwhile, Ann is driving in Florida and has an accident. She meets a bizarre environmentalist, former governor of Florida, Skink and they form an uneasy bond.
Later, Abbott kidnaps Ann thinking she is Cherry. The family then tries to make the most of it at first, thinking of rescuing Ann but then there is a change of plan. They have hired a body guard who is searching for her. This man has a weed-whacker instead of one of his arms and is an amusing character. As he is searching for the kidnapped Ann, Skink is trying to find her to rescue her.
The story could be a plot of an Adam Sandler movie. Very funny and enjoyable.
See my review on amazon and if you enjoy it, please indicate that the review was helpful.

"If I can put one touch of ...sunset into the life of any man ...I feel I have worked with God." Gilbert K. Chesterton

It is the depression in East Texas. The Klu Klux Klan is active and many Texas men feel that if they smack their wives around, they won't have to answer for it.
Constable Pete Jones comes home drunk and beats his wife, Sunset. Then, while in the process of raping her, she reaches for his revolver and kills him.
Since the sawmill town of Camp Rapture is now without a law enforcement officer, at a camp meeting, with the help of her mother-in-law, Sunset is appointed as the new constable. She will be assisted by Clyde Fox and a new man in town who goes by the nickname, Hillbilly.
Soon after her appointment, a baby's body is found in the land of the only black farmer in town. Not long after that, a woman's body is found. She had been shot and was covered with oil.
To the surprise of many, Sunset takes her job seriously. She tries to learn the various parts of her job and to identify the woman. When she does, it adds complications to her own life. To add to her difficulties, she also has to resolve issues with her precocious fourteen-year-old daughter and to resolve issues with her mother-in-law.
The story was so realistic that I felt I could see the action unfolding before me. The author makes the reader care about the characters and I enjoyed the courageousness of Sunset and felt drawn to the difficulty of life at that time.

Currently Reading

Currently Reading
Broken Promise