Monday, October 31, 2011

"I'd like to take each day at a time but sometimes several days attack me at once." Jennifer. Unlimited

Biochemist Emma Coldridge is in Arizona by the Mexican border. As a chemist for a lab that makes cosmetics, she's been looking for night blooming plants. Unexpectedly, she comes upon a stash of marijuana. Before she can make her escape, she's spotted and brought to the leader of the drug gang.

The the leader, Raoul LaValle, learns that she's a chemist, he informs her that his marijuana fields are infected. People who have come in contact with he plant are infected by a flesh eating toxin that brings a miserable death within nine days of exposure.

La Valle also deals in body parts and tells Emma that she must find a cure or be killed. Additionally, his mistress has been infected and he believes that the fungus came because the United States was spraying his fields to destroy the marijuana. Because of he need for revenge upon someone, he informs Emma that if she doesn't find a cure, he'll ship the next contaminated batch to the United States. He wants to spread disease to pay the United States back. He will also begin selling contaminated body parts to further infect people in the United States.

Emma is an ultra marathon runner and feels that she can escape and inform the authorities but she feels sympathy for the migrant workers who are forced to work in the fields and harvest the infected plants and she wants to save them.

She comes in contact with a college drop out, Oz Kroger who wanted to transport some drugs to earn money but is a man of conscience and when he sees the disease the plants carry, he decides that he wants to help Emma.

The story is well told, and the author provides enough evidence about chemistry and disease that the reader is convinced of the possibility of this really happening.

The drug dealers are truly villainous and the author gives a good point that in Mexico people really don't know who to trust. Were authorities acting on their own or are they hired by a competing cartel in order to take over the first cartel's drug operation.

The concept of the novel is original but the plotting could have been a bit stronger as Emma attempts to make her escape and a cat and mouse game begins. However, the reader does become emotionally involved and lost in the action as the chase is for life or death.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

"The alienist is no joke - He finds you cracked and leaves you broke." Keith Preston

In 1896, John Schuyler Moore, crime reporter for the "New York Times" is urgently called to the scene of a murdered adolescent boy in the east side of Manhattan. He had been summoned by his friend, Dr. Laslo Kreizler, a psychologist - or alienist.

At this time, Kreizler and Moore's friend, Throdore Roosevelt was the newly appointed police commissioner. They observe the murdered adolencent's being dressed like a girl and Roosevelt informs them that this is the third such victim and the crimes weren't publicized because they were all poor and no one cared what happened to them.

With rampant corruption in the police department and the idea that some police were taking payoffs from criminals, Roosevelt sets up a private task force to investigate and stop the killer. In the task force are Lazlo, Moore, his friend, Sara Howard, an independently minded woman who was a secretary in the police and two honest and intelligent police officers, Lucus and Marcus Isaacson.

The reader delights in the descriptions of New York around the beginning of the last century. The characters eat at Delmonico's Restaurant where notables such as Diamond Jim Brady and Lillian Russell dine. They describe the setting while passing such historic places such as Wanamakers Department store and Grace Church.

This police procedural is skillfully done with a huge cast of characters, many who were taken from the pages of history. The author also informs the readers of such advances as the new use of finger prints and criminal profiling. Caleb Carr is from the area where the story unfolds and his creative vision and research is evident.

"The Alieniest" is an authentic story that will transport the reader to a wonderful time in history and as I was enjoying the book, it was as if I was experiencing an episode of Walter Cronkite's TV show of the '70s, "You Are There."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Why do fools fall in love." song lyrics

In the rugged southern Texas, by the Mexican border, Danny Boy Lorca, a former boxer and alcoholic witnesses a brutal murder.

Sheriff Hackberry Holland had been notified by the FBI that a Federal employee had been abducted.

Danny tells Hack and his chief deputy, Pam Tibbs, that he overheard the killers refer to La Magdalena, aka Anton Ling, a free spirited Chinese woman who provided food and shelter for the impoverished people crossing the border. Danny also heard that the leader was a man named Krill.

Krill had been hired to find the missing Federal employee, Noie Barnum, as is Temple Dowling, a citizen soldier who employees a number of mercenaries. They believe that Barnum has information about the Preditor program and want to sell him to Al Qaeda.

The characters are bound together in their passionate struggle to survive in this desert area. The vivid Hackberry Holland has been compared to John Wayne in "True Grit." With the tension building smartly the sudden violence speeding the story along.

However, Holland tells of being a prisoner in the Korean war, which ended in 1953. Even if he was a twenty year old, this would make him almost eighty years old and it's difficult to see how someone of that age could accomplish the things he does in this story or for us to believe that his deputy, Pam Tibbs, had romantic feelings for him.

Holland seems like Dave Robicheaux transplanted to Texas, like Dave, he is a widower, attends Mass, dislikes government agencies and criticizes those who use bad language around him.

Even with that, this is a wonderful read and as imaginative as a modern "Lonesome Dove." I recommend it with its colorful characters and with the exciting climax.

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Devil or Angel..which one..(are you). song lyrics

Undercover American climatologist, Martin Faber is kidnapped by a group calling itself Forces of Popular Defense. The price of his release is the immediate withdrawal of all NATO forces within 150 miles of Mount Ararat.

The chapters describe the actions of different characters with Martin's wife, Julia Alvarez narrating her own actions. This change in point of view is professionally handled by the author.

As Julia narrates her actions, there is an attempt on her life and she is rescued by Col. Nicholas Allen of the National Security Agency. He informs her of her husband's kidnapping.

Col. Allen believes that Martin left clues about how to save him in the message he was made to deliver.

Faber is being held by a group that feels they are the descendants of angels and are about to be returned to heaven. To do this, they must destroy the world and will be able to do so with something that Martin and Julia possess.

They have a pair of stones that are magical and enable the possessors to see things. In history, it was thought that these stones could be used to communicate with the angels.

The premise of the novel is difficult for this reader to accept. Javier Sierra gives great detail and an interesting Index of churches and places in history to support the idea of talking directly with angels.

This plot driven story has an interest but didn't convince me not to be skeptical.
If the reader wants a trip into fantasy with the idea of speaking to angels and see multitudes of evidence of why this might be feasible, this novel would entertain.

See above Amazon review. If you feel the review was helpful, please indicate "YES" at the end of the Amazon review.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The greatest event in the world is the arrival of grandchildren.

Meg Mitchell Moore's debut novel offers the readers a good study of a family with complicated needs.

Life in Burlington, Vt. seemed peaceful to the retired couple, William and Ginny Owen. Their eldest daughter, Lillian, called and informs them that she and her two children, ages three and newborn, are coming to their home and that she needs some time away from her husband.

Lillian doesn't share with her parents that her husband, Tom, had just slept with his assistant and a company function.

From life that seemed routine and peaceful, the home was suddenly in an uproar. Even more so when William and Ginny's son, Stephen and his wife Jane drive up without warning. Jane is seven months pregnant and both Stephen and she feel that they need a change of pace from their home in New York. Once again, the family ability to cope with change is challenged when a situation develops and the couple must extend their stay.

Rooms are changed and a pull out couch is activated for the sudden crowd.

Problems continue and the family seems to accept them but tempers are challenged with five guests in a home that had been set up for the retirees comfort.

The youngest child of the Owen's is Rachel, who has been living in New York. She also has difficulties and requests her parents to help.

The Owen's family's personal journey through the turbulent time is well described with humor and empathy with each child needing nourishment from their parents in different ways.

The author gives a good description of William and Ginny's realization that being parents bears responsibility that continues after the children leave home. The fact that the children have a safe place to go to when things are not going well is also a good lesson for all parents.

The characters and the setting were well described and the novel basks with fine literary flavor. The chaos was a bit long for me but the novel was enlightening and enjoyable.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"A sword is never a killer. It's a tool in the killer's hands" Seneca

Every now and then an author creates a book that is truly unique and causes the reader to think about what is being said.

John Hunter is released from prison after serving sixteen years for a murder he didn't commit. He's had plenty of time to plan his revenge for the people who framed him and get some overdue payback.

Bill Moore is a real estate agent in Florida. He's successful and loves his wife but wants more. One day he notices an email with the word "modified on it.

He doesn't think anything about it but soon a series of things happen. Suggestive photos of a co-worker appears on his computer and his wife sees it and accuses him of taking the photos. An appointment with an important client ends with the client not showing up and the man's secretary denies making the appointment. Then he becomes a suspect when a man goes missing.

Michael Marshall has written an intelligent novel that is a puzzle that must be solved.

It takes a while before we find a connection between John Hunter, the missing man, and Bill Moore.

The action moves along at a breakneck pace that seduces the reader and yet, nothing is as it seems.

The author brings up a good point about greed in society and the goal to get ahead at all costs. The dialogue is right on. Only the two main characters are well developed, the others are not much more than names. The plot is complicated and unpredictable and yet it's still unimaginably addictive.

Friday, October 14, 2011

"She's my little deuce coupe...she blows em out of the water..."

In a thriller so realistic that the events could have been taken from a futuristic newspaper reporting a doomsday scenario.

Omar El-Khayali, a radical cleric has been elected president of Pakistan benefiting from millions of dollars from militant Aswan Fortuna. Fortuna hopes that with his puppet in Pakistan and the radical President of Iran, the countries would work together to strike against Israel or the U.S.

Dewey Andreas, last seen in "Down Under" is in Australia wanting a normal life after killing Fortuna's son. Now there are teams of killers looking for Dewey to pay him back for stopping their terrorist plot.

In the land between India and Pakistan a minor incident between two Pakistanian soldiers and the residents of a small village quickly escalates into a conflict with India.

The situation quickly spirals out of control as India seems more than ready and willing to respond to a Pakistanian attack.

U.S. fears that if India retaliated with their nuclear weapons, they could obliterate Pakistan but then China would enter the battle and the U.S. would have to step in and defend their ally, India.

There seems no viable solution until one of the straticians recommends a Coup D'Etat and Dewey is selected to carry it out with a small team of associates.

There is mounting suspense as Dewey and his men take the steps to carry out the plan. The successor must be selected and convinced of the merits of action to save his country, other militants must be taken care of and Dewey and his unit has one narrow escape after another.

This exciting story had me leaving other tasks to return to the book again and again to see how the story was progressing and how Dewey could enact his plan while fighting off the militants. There is a glitch in the action and Dewey needs outside help to complete the assignment and hope to return to a normal life.

I thoroughly enjoyed "Coup D'Etat" and highly recommend it to those looking for a nonstop drama with a heroic character who the reader will sympathise with and admire for his skill and determination.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"Memories are all I have to cling to. Thinkin about the things we used to have." Song lyrics

"The Things We Cherished" is an energizing experience that speaks of two love stories and a time prior to and during WWII when the world was in turmoil.

Charlotte Gold has a background in researching the Holocaust. She and Jack Warrington are in Germany to team up for the legal defense Roger Dykmans.

Germany hadn't been pursuing war crimes cases but the Department of Justice pressured them into action.

Historican uncovered information implicating Roger in selling out his brother, Hans, to the Germans who was attempting to help rescue Jewish people from Germany.

Roger isn't helpful in his defense so Charlotte and Jack travel to Wadowice, Poland, attempting to uncover anything to help with the case. They learn about Magda who Roger loved but was married to his brother, Hans.

The story moves back in time to 1940 and we observe what was happening in Berlin with the German round up of Jewish people who lived in constant fear of betrayal and being taken by the German authorities. Roger, who is not Jewish, came to Berlin as a student, to live with his brother, Hans and Hans' wife, Magda.

With moving back between time periods, Pam Jenoff, slows down the pace of the story as if lengthening the drama and allowing the reader to feel for the independent Magda who doesn't want to be a captive in her own home, just because she is Jewish. Then, with her husband away for much of the time, she and Roger become romantically involved.

The reader is rewarded for staying with the story when it slows down because the suspense and action pick up leaving the reader with a novel that is well worth the read.

Both Charlotte and Jack are fully drawn characters of whom the reader becomes attached and wishing that they would succeed in their goal and their lives. This is a heartfelt story with an ending that will remain in the memory of the reader.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"No love, no friendship can cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark." Mauriac

One of Det. Alex Cross's hated enemies is Kyle Craig, known as The Mastermind. He's escaped from prison and wants revenge against Cross. To put his plan in motion, he kills FBI agent Max Siegel and undergoes plastic surgery to make him look like Siegel, then he learns everything he can about Siegel's past.

In Washington D.C. Alex Cross has proposed to Brianna Stone. Shortly thereafter, he's called on to investigate an assassination of two of Washington's politicians who are under investigation for corruption.

When another killing takes place and this person was also under investigation for criminal activity, the killers are praised for being patriotic, and officials realize that it is a sniper team.

Kyle, posing as FBI agent Siegel gets assigned to the case and is able to move his plan for revenge into high gear. With Cross not suspecting anything from a fellow officer, there is excellent suspense.

The story is a page turner given that a person could assume another person's identity so well that even the other person's co-workers don't suspect that this isn't the person that they thought and that no one would bring up details of Siegel's past that wouldn't be known to Kyle.

With this skepticism, James Patterson shows that he is the master of nail biters because he still gets the reader's involvement in the case. There is the reality of the the past Washington D.C. sniper and the wonder of how Cross will find the sniper team and how he will stop Craig before Craig can take revenge against Cross and his family.

Monday, October 10, 2011

"You've got the magic touch." Song lyrics

A doctor is grasped by a man thought to be deranged, while the doctor was making rounds at the hospital. He feels a shock and soon finds that when he touches people who are sick, they become miraculously healed.

Dr. Alan Bulmer is an old time family physician who delights with the personal touch and feels that getting to know his patients helps in the healing process.

When he notices this ability to heal by touching others, he tries to downplay his wondrous medical talent but as word spreads, people bombard his office and he has little peach. He can only use his ability for a limited time daily and when he is unable to help some people, there are occasions when the people become enraged.

His marriage is affected and only a few people stand by him as some people begin to call him a charlatan pretending to be a faith healer.

What a wonderful idea for the terminal ill to have a miracle cure and a second chance at life. This is an heart warming story were the author builds suspense nicely and spices his story with some very unique characters.

The conclusion was somewhat predictable but nevertheless, "The Touch" was a good read that won't be forgotten.

Friday, October 7, 2011

"Our love affair is a wonderous thing." Song lyrics

"A Hidden Affair" describes how strong can a woman's love for the man who promised to marry her, and how long can that love last.

Jordan Weiss is on a mission. She has resigned from the U.S. Dept of Intelligence and is searching for her old boyfriend, Jared Short, in Monaco.

She has an old address and when she finds it, she observes a young woman entering the building. She asks the woman about Jared. The woman is evasive and when Jordan returns to ask more questions, she finds that the woman has fled.

Jordan meets an Israeli named Aaron who is also following the woman. He suggests that he and Jordan join forces. They do so and eventually develop a fondness for each other while maintaining a professional mistrust.

Interestingly, we learn of wine making in the area and that wine was used as currency during WWII. We also learn something about the Nazis demanding the best wine and the locals attempting to deny the Nazi's of this treasure. What happens to the true vintage of wine becomes part of the mystery.

Jordan Weiss is a strong character and a good match for Aaron but she continues her search for Jared even though events prove that he didn't deserve her devotion.

Pam Jenoff writes an interesting story that is well worth reading. With some of the action in places like Monaco, I would have enjoyed more of a description of the setting of those scenes.

The historical premise of the novel is riveting and even the minor characters are completely realized.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"...the nightlife, is no life, but it's my life." Song lyrics

In a well told tale about life in the Appalacian countryside in North Carolina somewhere around the 1950s or 1960s, the author paints a picture of the struggles of life.

Luce lives by herself in the old Lodge. She's totally self-sufficient living in the building which had been a summer home by a man made lake. Once the owner had died, Luce took it upon herself to stay on and act as caretaker.

When her sister is murdered, the state places her sister's two childern into Lucy's care. She felt that she didn't really have any choice. It was either that or have them separated and placed into adoption agencies.

This is an example of Naturalism in literature popular in the early 1900 where the character's environment and heredity predetermine what will happen to them, leaving little that they can do to change the path that is already written for them.

Luce accepts the challange of caring for these tempermental, untalking twins. It makes the reader wonder how she can do this with no parental training, no financial or educational help and no support group.

In a scene that reminded me of Charles Frazier's "Cold Mountain," Luce takes the twins to her friend's home. When her friend places the children on her pony, the twins become normal little children again and utter their first words, the horses name, "Sally."

Bud is the children's father. He's a cold hearted killer. His lack of any trace of compassion and willingness to kill others with little prevocation reminded me of the excellent character Anton Chigurth from "No Country for Old Men."

As the story continues, Bud's path begins to converge with Luce and the children. As their paths come closer and closer, suspense mounts dramatically.

Charles Frazier is a wonderful story teller and has given us a book with rich characters for whom the reader develops a great deal of empathy. It is a book that the reader can get lost in and reaffirms the author's place as one of the best literary writers working today.

"It's only when the rich are sick that they feel the impotence of wealth." Franklin

"Sick Puppy" is not only a story of greedy politicians and builders who are destroying Florida's natural beauty, it's a story packed with colorful characters and wacky incidents.

Twilly Spree is a wealthy environmentalist who notices a person who we learn is Palmer Stoat, constantly disregarding the Florida landscape by throwing his gargage out of his car window. Twilly's reaction is to follow the car and when the driver is in a restaurant, to dump a truck' filled with garbage into the open convertable.

When this doesn't get his message of the results of inappropriately throwing garbage where it doesn't belong, Twilly escalates his tactics. In doing this, he meets Stoat's wife and she informs him that her husband in in the midst of working a deal to bulldoze an island that is filled with trees and animals, just to build a golf corse. The project is designed to enrich a builder who contributed to the governor's campaign, as well as benefiting her husband.

The characters were richly drawn and easy to imagine as was the unusual situations that they get into.

Hiasson plays with the reader and gives an amusing tale that is vastly entertaining. This is a good murder mystery mixed with humor.

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