Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Don't Tell a Soul - David Rosenfelt

I've read a few of Rosenfelt's previous novels (there are six) featuring lawyer Andy Carpenter. They are good solid legal mysteries that have held my attention.

Rosenfelt's latest Don't Tell a Soul is a stand alone novel. The cover is eye catching and seems to promise a good thrilling read.

Tim Wallace's wife died in an boating accident. He was the only witness and although it was ruled an accident, Detective Jonathon Novack doesn't buy it. He is sure Tim murdered her and is determined not to let the case go.

Since his wife's death, Tim has shied away from going out with his friends. On New Year's Eve they finally get him out to their favourite bar. It is here that a drunken man asks Tim if he can keep a secret. He then tells Tim that he murdered a woman in a neighbouring town and where he buried her. "Don't tell a soul. Now it's your problem".

Tim does go to the cops and the woman is found exactly where the stranger said she would be. Trouble is - the cops think Tim murdered her as well and the evidence seems to be stacking up to prove them right.

This was a good read that kept me turning pages but some of the scenes and plots just don't ring true. Rosenfelt does a fine job of planting red herrings but I was disappointed in the ending which seemed to finish up rather abruptly for me. I thought it was a great premise but it just didn't deliver the punch I thought it would.

Don't Tell a Soul had overtones of the plots of Harlan Coben's Tell No One and Gone for Good.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Home Sweat Home - Lynn Johnston

A For Better or Worse Collection

Okay okay I know - it's a collection of cartoon strips. But Lynn Johnston's strip is one I have read faithfully for almost twenty years. Home Sweat Home is the 35th collection.

Johnston is a Canadian cartoonist. The strip has followed the lives of the Patterson family. Their lives actually progress in real time. Johnston bases many strips on that of her actual family. Elly and John and their family have become a part of many family's days. The strip is not always after a quick gag or joke. Instead it deals with the everyday problems of life with a view to finding the lighter side. That is not to say that more difficult topics have not been dealt with. The coming out of one character who is gay caused many newspapers to boycott the publication of Johnston's cartoon. However For Better or Worse is carried by over 2000 newspapers around the world!

Sadly that is coming to an end. After 30 years, Johnston is looking to retire. In 2008 she has been blending past strips with new panels and will wind up existing story lines in the near future.

You can always follow the daily strip online here. Or go back to 2003 online and read forward to present day.

I've had fun over the years following the lives of the Pattersons and their family and friends. Many of the situations rang so true to life, from the death of a beloved pet to a child heading off to University.

This reader will mourn the demise of this comic strip.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sleeping With Ward Cleaver - Jenny Gardiner

Are you looking for just the perfect little paperback to slip into your beach bag?

Well, look no further than Jenny Gardiner's debut novel from Dorchester Publishing. The kitschy cover art and blurb by Meg Cabot promise a light fun read. It was the winner of Romantic Time's American Title III contest.

We meet Claire Dolittle, a married mother of five (!) who isn't too happy with her life, her husband or herself right now.
"I am not Claire anybody. I'm a cookie-cutter, nagging, middle-aged mother-slash-sexless housewife, fighting a date with destiny: sex with Ward Cleaver and eventual death and burial as a washed-up has-been of a woman."

Claire now views her husband Jack as lead character Ward Cleaver from a sixties sitcom. Ward was the master of his domain, dispenser of all wisdom for his family and somewhat humourless.What happened to the fun, spontaneous sexy man she married?

When an old flame, Todd, contacts Claire they start an email correspondence that becomes more than a little steamy. At the same time Jack is off to a business conference in Miami with his young new assistant Julia. When Claire offers to go as well, Jack turns her down. Is he having an affair??

Claire receives some unexpected advice from Todd- " What makes you happy, Claire? Is it anything that you actually do? Or are you spending your life with have-tos? Remember, all work and no play makes Claire a dull girl!"

Well, maybe Todd is right. Maybe she needs to change her outlook as well....but first off to Miami to find out what's going on at that conference.

Gardiner recreates many scenes that women with children can relate to - the mess, the scheduling, the demands, trying to hold an outside job and still hold on to who you are throughout it all.

Supported by a cast of off beat family and friends, Sleeping with Ward Cleaver is just what it promises to be - a fun read with a feel good ending that might just make you think twice about your own relationship!

Gardiner is also a writer for The Debutante Ball, a grog that features first time authors. Pretty funny stuff - check it out here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Chasing Darkness- Robert Crais

Crais returns with the 12th novel in the Elvis Cole series.

Cole is a Vietnam vet who has set himself up as a private detective.With tongue firmly in cheek, he bills himself as 'The World's Greatest Detective'. Sidekick Joe Pike, also a vet, works with Cole, but doesn't have a lot to say. His actions speak louder than words.

Chasing Darkness opens with police discovering Lionel Byrd, an apparent suicide victim. On his lap is a photo album with detailed death pictures of seven women. Three years earlier, Byrd was accused of the murder of victim number 5. He was set free based on evidence provided by Elvis Cole.

The cops come calling on Elvis. Cole is adamant that he didn't make a mistake - Byrd was innocent. But the evidence seems overwhelming. Consumed with guilt, Cole starts reinvestigating. But the cops aren't happy with Cole poking his nose in. As far as they're concerned, the case is closed.

Cole is a modern day 'hard boiled' detective. He has very firm ideas on right and wrong and a strong moral compass. Crais' novels feature good strong plots and lots of action. Anyone who enjoys Robert Parker's Spenser series or Lawrence Block would enjoy Elvis Cole

Monday, July 21, 2008

Queen of the Road- Doreen Orion

The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband and a Bus with a Will of It's Own.

Okay, how could you not want to pick up this new title from Broadway Books ??? The cover and subtitle grabbed me, but I was captivated in the first 10 pages of this travel memoir from Doreen Orion.

Both Orion and her husband Tim Justice are practicing psychiatrists. Tim is still seeing patients in an office setting while Doreen consults from home for insurance companies etc. Tim is a busy guy, always with a project on the go. He enjoys the outdoors as well. On the other hand, Doreen is more than happy to stay in her pajamas, work from home, watch television and never leave the house. Her record is 118 hours in without stepping a foot outside. Two seemingly polar opposites.

Without quite knowing how it happened, Doreen agrees to Tim's dream - to travel across America in a bus for a year. That's right - a bus. But what a bus it is! (Take note that their bus ends up being the September centerfold for Bus Conversions magazine.)

Orion is an extremely funny woman. I was laughing out loud right from the beginning and wondered if she could keep it up throughout the book.....she did.

After an initial 3 week test run, they set out. Not everything goes quite to plan - the bus has some issues and so does Doreen - she's terrified of the bus.

With a fantastic sense of humour, Orion describes the trip, her relationship with Tim, the people they meet and the situations they find themselves in.

Just a few weeks into the trip they notice a shift in their outlooks and attitudes.

"Getting to the top of the bell tower reaffirmed for me that Tim and I were making new choices about how to live our lives and whether it was finding time for that climb or putting our careers on hold, we were doing things differently that we had in the past, giving us hope that the lessons learned on the road about what was truly valuable might just stick".

And this is really the essence of the book. How do you want to live your life and what is really important? As we follow Tim and Doreen's travels, you start to look at your own life and wonder what you could do a little bit differently.

It's also a love story. They are together 24/7 for a year. Although they already have a good marriage, they rediscover each other on the road.

Fascinating as well is the ongoing travelogue. The places they visit are detailed, and an appendix gives web addresses for many of the places.

I love a good travel memoir and this was one of the best I've read. This would be a great selection for a book club. There is a thoughtful list of discussion questions to get you started at the end. ( Oh - and a cocktail recipe at the beginning of every chapter!) As well, Orion will attend your book group - either in person or by speakerphone.

The idea of a boat trip was bandied about at the end of the book. Sounds like a great idea Doreen and Tim - can't wait to hear what adventure you embark on next! You can always follow along at Doreen's blog.

Friday, July 18, 2008

High Crimes - Michael Kodas

Subtitled: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed.

I actually listened to this in audio format. I think it had a greater impact than on me than reading it would have.

Sir Edmund Hillary conquered Everest, the highest peak in the world, in 1953. Since then climbers have flocked in droves to achieve this same lofty goal and the world has watched, fascinated with those willing to risk their lives to stand 'on top of the world.'

Michael Kodas, the author, attempted this climb in 2004. He was sponsored by the newspaper he worked for in Connecticut. This book covers so much more than his trip.

The title says it all. Hillary himself expressed disgust on the 50th anniversary of his achievement over the 'circus' that Everest has become.

Kodas exposes the underbelly of Everest. He details the many deaths on the mountain and follows one family as they search for answers. The thieving, greed and selfishness detailed are not as much as a revelation as they might have been. Numerous stories detailing rescues of climbers left for dead, passed over by many other climbers have been in the news.

Everest basecamp is home to prostitution and drugs,theft and violence.

When I finished listening to the book, I went online and viewed pictures of Everest. It is breathtaking in it's beauty. I can see why people the world over flock here to achieve their dream. However it the sheen is tarnished.

In High Crimes, Kodas presents a well researched, detailed interview of many of the key players in the Himalayas and the ugly side of the mountain.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Flirt - Kathleen Tessaro

Newly released in June from Harper Collins Canada is Kathleen Tessaro's third novel - The Flirt.

From the cover art I originally thought the novel was to be about a woman flirt. I was mistaken....

The Flirt is set in London, England. We meet Hughie Armstrong Venables-Smythe in the first few chapters. A would be actor, he is perusing the classifieds and spies an intriguing advertisement:

"Unique situation available for an attractive, well-mannered, morally flexible young man. Hours irregular. Pay generous. Discretion a must. Please send photo and brief romantic history"

Hughie comes from aristocratic stock, but the family fortunes have paled and his name, posh accent, good looks and charm are what he's surviving on now.

We are quickly introduced to many more characters;

Leticia - Hughie's latest sexual dalliance - no strings attached
Rose - a young single mother waitress who is attracted to Hughie
Sam - a busy plumber currently working at Leticia's business
Olivia - the unhappy wife of a very wealthy man, Arnaud
Ricki - friend of Rose and Sam, gardener to Olivia
Johnathan - works for Arnaud - and hates it
Amy - Johnathan's perpetually pregnant wife
....and other supporting characters.

I've introduced the list of characters as in a playbill because that's the feel the book had for me. A delicious British romantic comedy. Somewhat along the lines of Oscar Wilde's play The Importance of Being Earnest. No farce, but lots of sly comedic lines and situations.

Everyone is living their lives, but recognize that they aren't really happy. Hughie is hired by Valentine and Flick. I won't go much further in divulging the plot. Suffice it to say that Hughie's new profession touches everyone's lives.

Each chapter is written from a different character's viewpoint. This did make the book hard to put down as I wanted to read yet another chapter before shutting the light off. Tessaro skillfully weaves all the stories together in a most satisfying ending - though not all as are you may have imagined.

There is some minimal sexual language used that may offend some readers.

This is a good summer chick lit book. If you like British authors such as Marion Keyes and Jane Green, you will enjoy Kathleen Tessaro. I read Elegance years ago and very much enjoyed it.

Monday, July 14, 2008

What Was Lost - Catherine O'Flynn

Oh wow - what an amazing little gem this book was! This was O'Flynn's debut novel. She's got a fan here that will be looking for her second.

The novel opens in 1984 and we meet nine year old Kate Meaney. She is a bit of a loner, preferring adults to children her own age. One of her favourite adults is Adrian, the son of a local shopkeeper. Kate is determined to be a detective. This is the driving force of her days. She carries a notebook and makes observations of all the people and situations she comes across. She has staked out both her neighbourhood and the new mall, Green Oaks. She decides to concentrate her time on Green Oaks. She shares her sleuthing duties with her little stuffed monkey. Until....she disappears.

O`Flynn's portrayal of this little girl is amazing. Her determination, earnestness, and curious mind are all vividly painted with words. I was somewhat reminded of Christopher - the main character in the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night. (Another really good read!)

Fast forward to 2003 at the Green Oaks Mall. It has expanded and is very large now. Kurt works as a security guard on the night shift. One night he inexplicably sees a young girl with a stuffed monkey on the security camera. When he searches, she is gone. Lisa, Adrian's sister works at a music store in the same mall. Working late one night, she gets lost in the staff only corridors and finds a stuffed monkey lodged down by a pipe.

Lisa and Kurt are both lonely and feel their lives are empty. They meet and their lives become connected by a long missing little girl. The development of the characters of Lisa and Kurt is excellent. As with Kate, you immediately feel a real sense of their lives.

Having worked in retail hell for many years, I found O'Flynn's descriptions of the mall, it's workers and customers to be spot on, very funny at times, but also very sad.

This book is as much about the mystery of what happened to Kate as it is about Karl and Lisa reclaiming their lives.

O'Flynn was listed for many prizes for this debut novel - and rightly so!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Mini Book Expo for Bloggers

Mini Book Expo for Bloggers is my new favourite site of the day!

Lex features books you can "claim". Then all you have to do is post a review within a month of receiving the book. Don't blog? No problem - you can send Lex the review and she'll post it on the site for you.

"Claim it. Get it. Read it. Blog it"

Can't get any easier or better than that can you? I was lucky enough to claim a book last week - stay tuned for the review of " No Such Thing as a Free Ride".

Friday, July 11, 2008

Nothing to Lose - Lee Child

Lee Child returns with Nothing to Lose, the 12th novel in the Jack Reacher series.

Jack Reacher is an ex military cop, 10 years out of the service. He has no home, not ties and lives his life by a simple rule. Leave me alone and I'll leave you alone.

He arrives in Colorado between two tiny towns, Hope and Despair. To continue his journey forward, he heads towards Despair. It is in Despair that his simple rule is tested. It is a cold, spare, tired town. Jack heads to a diner for something to eat before he heads on his way, but unbelievably he is ignored. No one will acknowledge or serve him. Suddenly four big guys show up and tell him to get out of town. Reacher, being Reacher, refuses to go. The Despair Police arrive, he is arrested, convicted of being a vagrant and unceremoniously dumped at the line dividing Hope and Despair. He is picked up by a woman cop from Hope.

Well, now his interest is really piqued. Back to Despair he goes under cover of night. This time he finds a body in the scrub by the side of the road. What is going on? He finds an ally in the Vaughan cop. There are more missing young men, a huge industrial plant that seems to be recycling metal and one man who controls the town and everyone in it. No outsiders allowed.

Reacher is the quintessential hard boiled hero. No backing down, his own set of morals and tough as nails. There are no great emotional revelations from this protagonist.

Nothing to Lose has a very strong military story line. Fellow Canadians will find the following quote funny; "Canada's army is three men and a dog. They probably keep their stuff forever"

And the following quote quite telling, " Canada isn't fighting in Iraq. Canadians had more sense."

I have enjoyed previous Reacher novels, but this one somehow fell a bit flat for me. Too much political comment. The seemingly disparate plots come together in the end, but all a bit too conveniently. This is still a really good series, but if you've not read any before you might want to start with another.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Fearless Fourteen - Janet Evanovich

Stephanie Plum is back in her fourteenth adventure in this series from Janet Evanovich.

For those of you who haven't hear of Stephanie Plum - well, you're missing out on a laugh out loud read.

Stephanie works works for her cousin Vinnie as a bond enforcement agent in Trenton, New Jersey. Her sidekick Lula is a former ' ho with a penchant for for spandex two sizes too small. Her boyfriend Morelli is a local cop. Stephanie also moonlights for Ranger, who owns a security firm. But best of all ( in my opinion) is Stephanie's family - especially Grandma Mazur. Her antics are hilarious.

Fearless Fourteen finds Joe's cousin Dom released from jail. Dom wants to lay his hands on the loot he stashed from a bank robbery - the reason he was in jail. The problem is - Dom's partners want their share too. Everyone thinks the key to finding the loot is in Morelli's house. And the ex partners think that kidnapping Dom's sister Loretta might trigger some action. This leaves her teenage son Zook with no parental figure. Joe and Stephanie take him in. Throw in Moondog (from previous tales), Gary the Stalker, Brenda the aging songstress, Bob the dog and it's really just non stop crazy situations.

The snappy one liners, the sexual tension between Stephanie, Joe and Ranger, Grandma's antics, and the lives of the folks in the 'Burg' all add up to a rollicking good read.

Although they can be read on their own, reading them in order (start with One for the Money) will give you the most enjoyment.

Pure entertainment reading that won't take you too much time but will deliver lots of laughs.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Broken Window - Jeffery Deaver

Lincoln Rhyme, Amelia Sachs and crew are back in the 7th book of this series by Jeffery Deaver.

Lincoln's estranged cousin, Arthur Rhyme is arrested on murder and rape charges. He claims he is innocent. Against his wishes, his wife Judy contacts Lincoln for help.

For those of you unfamiliar with this series, Lincoln Rhyme is a former police captain, injured on the job and now a quadriplegic. Amelia Sachs was a young aspiring policewoman who became Rhymes eyes as she "walked" crime scenes, gathering evidence for him. Together they have solved many crimes based on Lincoln's expertise with forensic evidence.

And that is what bothers Lincoln about Arthur's case - the evidence is just too perfect. The case seems airtight.

Some digging unearths two other cases similar to Arthur's. Further investigation leads to SSD - a data mining corporation. It seems the real perpetrator might be hiding behind walls of SSD.

Data mining is real and very scary. When you get to page 352, there's a dossier put together on one of the characters, listing literally everything. Purchases, habits, relationships, financial data, lifestyle, communications and lots more. It's quite frightening - think of all the loyalty cards you have, the debit and credit cards you swipe, the searches you do on the web.

The perpetrator is using this information to commit crimes and have someone else take the fall. He's always one step ahead of the police. Then he starts messing with their personal information and things take a turn for the worse.

The novel opens, closes and contains references to a case involving an assassin the Lincoln last encountered in 'The Cold Moon'. If you've not read it yet, you might find these references a bit confusing. I believe this is what the next Rhyme novel, due in 2010, will focus on.

Deaver is always a great read. The clues, evidence and the ingenious way they are used to pursue the case are fascinating. The Broken Window was very hard to put down at the end of the day.

I always enjoy finding a series that you can follow the character's lives as well as the mystery presented.

Fans of TV shows like CSI will enjoy this series. Faithful readers of John Sandford would enjoy it as well.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Sister - Poppy Adams

The Sister, published by Harper Collins Canada, is Poppy Adam's debut novel.

The novel opens with Ginny Stone awaiting the arrival of her sister Vivi, who she has not seen in over forty years. Ginny still lives in the family mansion in a small English village, but it has seen better days. It is crumbling around her and she has confined herself to four or five rooms. She has no television, no phone, no radio and no visitors. She never leaves the house. Provisions are brought by the son of one of the old caretakers every couple of weeks. She is obsessed with time.
" When you live by yourself in a house that you very rarely leave and is even more rarely visited, it's essential that you don't lose track of the time. Every minute lost- if left uncorrected - would soon accumulate to an hour, and then hours, until - as you can imagine - you could easily end up living in a completely erroneous time frame"

"What I fear is timelessness, a lack of structure in my life, an endless Now."

Ginny followed in her family's footsteps, becoming a renowned lepidopterist, a scientist who studies butterflies or moths.

Vivi on the other hand, yearned to escape what she saw as a limited and suffocating environment. Although Ginny is the older sister, Vivi was always the leader, the dreamer and the adventurer. The girls spent all their time together and seemed inseparable. Vivi seemed to take after their mother Maud - who loved company and entertaining. Ginny took after their father Clive - who was happiest when not with people.

Vivi does escape to London, where she makes a life for herself.

When Vivi arrives, the reunion is awkward. Their memories of childhood and their parents seem worlds apart.

The story is told from Ginny's viewpoint. We are tantalized by snippets from the past and then back to the present.

Adams has certainly done her research on the world of moths and butterflies. I must admit that I started skipping passages that detailed this. On the other hand, this detail just adds to drawing the characters of Clive and Ginny as this is their world.

Ginny's character is well developed. I was able to connect with her loneliness and confusion. The progression of her will as secrets, incidents and anger are exposed is very believable. Although we are left wanting to know more of Vivi's life away, this lack of knowledge is exactly what Ginny has. We can empathize with her confusion and unravelling.

This novel has a distinct Gothic feel about it. A delicious British tale of dysfunctional family relationships and the havoc they can wreak.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Sugar Queen - Sarah Addison Allen

Oh what a wonderfully enchanting story this was!

Josey Cirrini lives a very quiet life with her mother. She has no friends and pretty much lives to look after her mother.

Josey has a secret closet she escapes to . It is filled with junk food, romance novels and travel magazines.

She seems reconciled to this life until she discovers that Della Lee, a local waitress from the wrong side of the tracks, has moved into her closet. Della Lee refuses to leave as she feels it is now her destiny to 'fix' Josey's life. Josey has pined after the mailman for three years and Della Lee is determined to make things happen.

Della manages to get Josey to leave the house. Secretly, of course as Margaret, Josey's mother would not approve. Josey meets Chloe. Chloe is also at a crisis point in her life. Books are inexplicably attracted to Chloe and turn up everywhere she goes.

I love the following quote." Books can be possessive, can't they? You're walking around in a bookstore and a certain one will jump out at you, like it had moved there on its own, just to get your attention. .... Sometimes it's a comfort just to have a book around....For company of course"

Josey finally has a friend in Chloe and begins to discover the joy that living life can bring. Chloe needs Josey just as much. And Della Lee? Well she's still in the closet, occasionally slipping out in the night to scare the housekeeper. Except she's starting to look a little translucent.....

The Sugar Queen is just a delight to read. The characters are quirky and lovable. The story is pure Southern magic, letting us believe in love and friendship and well - maybe just a little bit of magic.

I have not read Addison Allen's first novel Garden Spells , but will be hunting it down - or maybe it will find me!