Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"I took a trip on a sailing ship and when I reached Jamaica, I made a stop."Song Lyrics

How can you not like a book with a title as original as this book has?

This relaxing novel could accompany the reader on a winter vacation, just thinking about the setting of a remote fishing village in Jamaica makes me long for the blue ocean and dread another New England winter.

Eric is the owner of a bar and of the ruins of a hotel which was damaged in Hurricane Albert. Now the hotel is cut off from the main land. As the story gets under way, Eric and his bartender, Shad, are surprised to see a woman on Eric's Island. Eric rows out and learns the woman, Simone, wants a place of peace and quiet. she will pay Eric to deliver groceries and requests to be left alone.

Shad is a person who people feel confident in revealing their problems and concerns to. He cares for Eric and the other people in his village. If there was a mayor of the little community, it would be Shad.

With little changing in their lives, Eric becomes fascinated with Simone. As the story progresses, we learn of her background and the reason she needs to be alone on the Island.

Life goes on and Simone becomes the talk of the village. Then, another change occurs, a number of men arrive and take steps in finding the political views of the residents.

The setting is well described and the leisurely pace of the novel allows the reader to slow down to the pace of life as described in Jamaica. I enjoyed this and imagined I was listening to appropriate background music and enjoying the ocean view.

Only in the barest of terms could this be classified as a detective story but with the author's skillful plotting, this was an entertaining novel.

Friday, November 25, 2011

"There is no great future for people whose faith has burned out." Rufus M. Jones

In Oslo, Norway, Henning Juul is a crime reporter, returning to work after a fire killed his six-year-old son and left him scarred. It also ended his marriage.

Henning is in the image of financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist from Steig Larrsen's "The Millenium Series, both men are quiet, determined and total professionals..

On his first day back, a young woman's body is found at a local park. The woman, Henriette Hagerup had the marks of a stun gun and was stoned to death.

Authorities consider this could have been a ritual killing but Juul disagrees.

He possesses that rare investigative journalist talent for seeing when things just don't fit.

Through the story, Juul shows his compassion when interviewing friends and relatives of the deceased. With his personal history of the loss of his son and his physical and mental scars, the reader has to feel for the man, and yet, he doesn't ask for sympathy.

We follow the police investigation led by Det. Inspector Brogulund and his attractive, intelligent assistant, Sgt. Ella Sandland who is dedicated to finding the killer and has no interest in her bosses insuinations.

Juul is a true investigator and finding the reason why someone would kill Henriette consumes him. The title of the novel has many meanings, not only was Juul's own flat burned but he shows the scars of the fire and internally, he has the fire in his heart so much so that the reader catches his passion.

The setting is well described as is Juul, who the reader can relate to and wish that they could witness his power of deduction and bring the guilty to justice. The author provides some twists and surprises that keep the reader guessing right to the excellent conclusion.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one." Bill Gates

In April 1868, a number of ships in Boston Harbor have their instruments fail simultaneously creating panic and great damage. Officials want to turn the investigation to the Harbor Police but one suggestion is to ask the professors at the MIT, which was about to graduate its first class.

We follow the students, including Marcus Mansfield, who are listening to the school's president discussing the new technology that would combine the city lights on a circuit, saving the time and expense of having to light each street light individually. The speech is broken up by trade unionists, claiming that this innovation is depriving many people of their jobs.

Thus, the theme of the novel, advancement in technology and cost savings against tradition and more jobs. Boston, at the time is philosophically linked to Salem and many Bostonians regard science as a form of witchcraft.

Another incident creates great havoc where downtown windows and glass seem to melt. At MIT, a professor claims that since this school is the only institution devoted to science and technology, they should investigate this second incident, even though there is public distrust.

Tradition and innovation also clash as officials turn to Harvard to investigate. Marcus Mansfield and a small group of friends from MIT form a secret group to find answers about the instruments failing and the glass melting.

Fans of Caleb Carr's "The Alienist" will enjoy this analytical and historical novel. The author has gone into great detail about the scientific process. Although admirable by itself, this can become ponderous to the non scientific reader, such as I am. I felt this slowed down the story and at times became almost tedious. While I enjoyed the history of the times and the characters who were very realistic, I would have liked the resolution to be given in a less wordy manner.

Given the originality, fine dialogue and research, I would rate this at 3 1/2, moving to four stars.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

"Pompeii has nothing to teach us."

In 79 A.D. a new Aquarius is appointed, Marcus Attilius Primus, after the prior Aquarius disappeared.

Unexplained water loss occurs in the cities near Pompeii and the Aquarius is sent to find the cause and to correct the problem.

Water was a vital commodity of the day and Attilius, an engineer, feels that his position is important and his work should be done in a scrupulous manner.

As the story begins, one of the wealthy residents, Ampliatus, a former slave, is putting one of his slaves to death. This young man was responsible for caring for Ampliatus's prized fish which were meant to be delicacys for honored guests. When the entire stock of fish die, the slave is blamed.

In an attempt to save this innocent man, Ampliatus's daughter goes to Attilius who demonstrates to Ampliatus the the fish died because of sulphur in the water.

With the excellent narration of Michael Compsty, the story follows as if we are experiencing events on the History Channel.

Attilius begins to investigate a possible fault in the aqueduct while certain officials attempt to stop him because they fear that he will discover that they mishandled the water supply and made huge profits from overcharging people for the water.

There is excellent drama as the action begins two days before the volcano. We follow Attilius as he learns of an upheaval of land under the aqueduct and observes early warning signs that a volcano will erupt.

This is a highly entertaining story that shows the author's detailed research into the times and the life in the city of Pompeii. The reader becomes interested in the history as the characters come to life and a momentous disaster becomes closer and closer to occurring.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Dawn, go away, I'm no good for you." Song lyrics

The story opens as a man comes downstairs and gets his morning paper and sees the headline that he is dead and his wife is missing.

After attending an event in honor of former FBI director, Sam Norris, his step-daughter, FBI Special Agent Mia Keeler, and her husband, District Attorney, Jack, head home. They're stopped on a bridge for an unknown reason. When they're ordered from the car, Jack attempts to resist and is shot in the shoulder, placed back in his car and pushed over the bridge. Mia is kidnapped.

Though wounded, Jack survives but with his car at the bottom of the water, it is assumed that he and Mia are deceased.

After seeing the headlines about his death, he examines himself and sees that his shoulder wound has been stitched up and there is a tattoo on his arm in foreign words that he doesn't understand.

With his old partner from his police days, they are at his home when a man tries to sneak in, not knowing that Jack isn't dead. They surprise the man but before they can question him, he escapes and jumps in front of a truck, killing himself.

Not long into the story, while Mia is being held captive, a man calmly informs her that she doesn't have long to live if he doesn't get his way.

What are the pieces to the puzzle? Who has kidnapped Mia and how could they have staged the abduction so well?

Jack has the tattoo on his arm translated and makes an admission that completely changes the course of the novel and brings a philosophical element into it.

The pacing is excellent and the characters described realistically. Things take a twist at the end while the reader finally gets a chance to catch their breath.

The book is worth reading for the fast paced story and the characters. A very creative plot that left me wondering how could this have happened?

Friday, November 11, 2011

"Every time you hear a bell ring, it means some angel's just got his wings." Francis Goodrich

It is 1937 at the peak of the Spanish Civil War with the guerrillas fighting against the Facist government in Spain. Robert Jordan, an American, possessing knowledge of weapons and explosives, meets a group of Spanish guerrilla fighters in the mountains.

Jordan is a dynamiter who has been sent to the area to blow up a bridge. Among the guerrillas is a young woman, Maria, who becomes attracted to him.

While the men who make up much of the freedom fighters speak of war, a man named Pablo appears to be in charge. However, it is his wife, Pilar who is the real force behind the group. Pilar is Spanish for pillar, is a symbol of the rock steadfastness of the group. During the early action in the story, it is seen that Pablo's resolve for fighting has changed and he often resorts to drinking.

Amidst the talk of killing and the Republican offensive against the Fascists, we follow the activities of Robert and Marie. This mixture of love and war is another significant juxtaposition of the author. With the tender moments of these two characters, it is as though this might be what the guerrillas are fighting for. The government's totalarianism attitude cannot tell them what to do and that gypsies like Rafael, foreigners like the American Robert Jordan, and women like Pilar and Marie can all work and live together as equals.

Hemingway has a master's gift for dialogue. We don't just read the words he pens. It is as if we have been transported to the Spanish mountainside and are listening to the scenes such as Pilar and Pablo discussing a matador that Pablo was proud of seeing and Pilar envisioning the matador as the matador gazes at the crowd in the rink before he kills the bull.

Hemingway was a reporter in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, his characters are honest in their actions and loyal to one another and Spain.

The story mixes historical fact and speculative fiction in a most entertaining manner that readers will enjoy and feel they have read something of literary significance.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"There are no winners, only survivors." Frank Gifford


Fans of survivalist novels differ widely in their reactions to John Wesley, Rawles novel "Survivors."

The author's premise is to ask who will be ready when the stock market has a total crash, inflation skyrockets and dollars and paper money become useless.

Once super inflation takes hold, rioting and looting begin and only those who prepared in advance will be able to survive. The infrastructure of society is dissolved, gas stations run out of gas and the high tech gadgets that are so much a part of people's lives, become useless without electricity. Those who can trade food or materials such as lumber or gold, are able to purchase necessary items. Others resort to force or theft.

Andy Laine and his family are in the group which seems to be made up of current and former military people with a strong sense of Faith. In their case, they have stockpiled canned goods, weapons and live in an area in New Mexico with water and a source of energy.

The reader witnesses the agony of families who are effected by the rioting as it begins in many cities in the U.S. and elsewhere. In this instance, I would have liked to see more of the emotions of the characters such as when one character is told something about his daughter.

One difficulty I had with the novel is that the survivor group seemed too fortunate in their planning as one character finds a hidden room with certain essential elements. They also seem unwilling to share their idea of planning with neighbors and friends and I thought this was very unchristian and selfish but maybe they felt that was necessary for survival.

With the dregs of society such as paroled convicts and gang members joining the looters, I was reminded of "The Stand," by Steven King which pitted a force of good and honorable people against those who preyed on the less fortunate in the battle to see who would dominate the world.

The story moves between the different groups and suspense builds up, but some of the concepts were too extreme for me to accept. However, I was mildly interested in the story and wanted to see how it would develop.

To be entered in the giveaway of this novel, use above link to see the Amazon review and indicate 'YES' helpful.

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Friday, November 4, 2011

"Books are the ever burning lamps of accumulated wisdom." William W. Curtis


John Connolly writes about life in a small town in Maine and the affects on people's lives when a teenage girl, Anna Kore, becomes missing.

Randall Haight is an intensely private man. He doesn't want his past known because he and a friend, killed a young girl when he was age fourteen.

After serving eighteen years, Randall was released from prison. The records were sealed and he and the other boy involved in the murder, were given new identities.

Someone was mailing pictures to him that showed the barn door where he and his friend murdered the girl.

Afraid that he'll be made the scapegoat if he tells the authorities about his past, he hires Charlie Parker to put a stop to it.

Parker has been haunted by the death of his own small daughter for years but takes the case because Haight's attorney speculates that the person harassing Haight might be Anna's kidnapper.

Midway through the story, Charlie begins to get messages that seem to be from his daughter, urging him to be careful. Another spirit is visiting Haight for a different purpose.

Connolly writes in a literary style that is delicious to read, "...there are other places that speak of the ferocity of the sea, of communities sheltering behind buttresses of black rock and shingle beaches against which the waves throw themselves like besieging armies..."

There are a number of parallel story lines that merge together in a tidy conclusion with some interesting twists and surprises which add to the reader's interest.

Although not one of Connolly's best, I would rate this a 3 1/2 star, moving up to 4 star for the story telling and literary manner of writing.

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