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Monday, August 27, 2012

The Associate by John Grisham

The Associate by John Grisham
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (373 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Kyle McAvoy grew up in his father’s small-town law office in York, Pennsylvania. He excelled in college, was elected editor-in-chief of The Yale Law Journal, and his future has limitless potential.

But Kyle has a secret, a dark one, an episode from college that he has tried to forget. The secret, though, falls into the hands of the wrong people, and Kyle is forced to take a job he doesn’t want—even though it’s a job most law students can only dream about.

Three months after leaving Yale, Kyle becomes an associate at the largest law firm in the world, where, in addition to practicing law, he is expected to lie, steal, and take part in a scheme that could send him to prison, if not get him killed.

With an unforgettable cast of characters and villains—from Baxter Tate, a drug-addled trust fund kid and possible rapist, to Dale, a pretty but seemingly quiet former math teacher who shares Kyle’s “cubicle” at the law firm, to two of the most powerful and fiercely competitive defense contractors in the country.

Danger comes in the unlikeliest forms.

I know when I pick up a novel by John Grisham, I'll be transported to a new world. Okay, so that world looks a lot like mine, but still. The writing is tight and I'm immersed in the plot, trying to figure out who did it, why and how they're going to be caught. The Associate gripped me.

The thing I liked the most about this book was the main character of Kyle. Maybe it's because I could see a lot of myself in him. Maybe it's because Grisham wrote him in a way I could sympathize. Either way, I was a happy reader. Kyle is a law student and flawed to boot. He wants to be his own man and not live in his father's shadow. Thus, he makes lots of mistakes. And who can't relate to that? I've said, I won't do that--only to realize my folks weren't so far off. I also liked how Kyle kept his humanity. He's in a situation most people couldn't understand. He's being scouted by what seems like a firm, but it's nothing that he expects. I loved how he outwitted Bennie. The twists and turns really helped shape him.

Another thing I liked was that Kyle and his family weren't perfect. Dad, although, he's a good lawyer, is a horrible husband. He loved his wife, but couldn't handle her. Patty has her own demons and it's understandable why she's hard to deal with. But that fact made her more human and interesting.

I have to say, I wanted to see a little more between Dale and Kyle. I won't give too much of the plot away, but there could've been some serious steam there. I wanted to know more.

If you want a legal thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat, then this might be the book for you.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Win during our 5th Anniversary Party!

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Friday, August 24, 2012

The 13th Target by Mark De Castrique

The 13th Target by Mark De Castrique
Publisher: The Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense
Length: Full Length (250 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Snapdragon

When his wife dies of ovarian cancer, Russell Mullins quits the Secret Service to repurpose his life. He joins a Washington D.C. private protection company and is assigned to guard Paul Luguire, a Federal Reserve executive and its chief liaison with the U.S. Treasury.

Mullins and Luguire form a strong friendship. So when a police detective calls in the middle of the night with word of Luguire's suicide, Mullins doesn't buy it. His doubts are reinforced by Amanda Church, a former Secret Service colleague now in the Federal Reserve's cyber-security unit. She uncovered a suspicious financial transaction initiated by Luguire only days before his death. He authorized unrequested funds to be transferred from the Federal Reserve to a regional bank.Even stranger, after Luguire's suicide, Amanda finds the transaction has been erased from Federal Reserve records. The regional bank now shows the money wired from an offshore account in the name of Russell Mullins. Someone is setting Rusty up. And when the bank president is murdered, Mullins rockets to the top of the suspect list. As a tenacious reporter develops leads, Mullins follows a conspiratorial trail of killing and kidnapping that leads from a shadowy mastermind to the possible destruction of America's financial system.In an age of Wall Street meltdowns and downgrading of the U.S. credit rating, the secretive Federal Reserve has a pivotal role. Twelve targets are known. The clock is ticking. What, or who, is the thirteenth?

The 13th Target is a suspenseful and dark political thriller. Rusty Mullins is–or was–much more than a bodyguard, so when the guy he’s protecting ends up dead, he can’t leave it alone. It migh be a suicide, but he sure doesn’t want to believe it. And pretty quickly, he becomes even more motivated to figure out what happened, as he himself becomes a suspect. He’s as tough as nails, though, as well as smart and has friends in places to help. Intrigue blends with possible conspiracy here, in what quickly seems to be a government cover-up. We grasp that there is more than one ‘target’, yet the aim of the conspiracy seems illusive.

Money makes this plot go around: and not just wealth but economics, the Feds, the internal operation of government departments and government controls.

Mullins is a great main character; flawed, but admirable. His friends are as distinctive, valuable to the storyline yet not slaves to it: they have their own lives, and so are completely believable as well.

This is as far from a light-hearted mystery as one can get: although there is a case to solve, it is more of a noir thriller. The overall complexity slows what would otherwise be a fast read, because it is truly engaging.

Volatile moments almost leap from the pages – truly giving many meanings to the word “thriller.”

Straightforward writing style keeps this from becoming a terribly complex puzzle; I do think it will be most enjoyed by fans of the genre.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Suzy’s Case by Andy Siegel

Suzy’s Case by Andy Siegel
Publisher: Scribner
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, contemporary
Length: Full length (356 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

A dogged and ingenious seeker after justice, New York attorney Tug Wyler is, at the same time, very much a law unto himself. A street-smart idealist and a born cut-up, he thinks on his feet in always unpredictable ways. Given the highly competitive nature of his specialty — a personal injury practice being no game for sissies — it’s worth it to him to grab the chance when a potentially lucrative edge comes along.

Enter Henry Benson, a high-profile criminal lawyer, with a file case of unsavory clients in need of just the sort of representation at which Tug excels. Clearly, it’s a pact with the devil, but when it comes to pitting his own comfort zone against a challenge, Tug’s an incorrigible risk-taker.

When Benson first hands off to him the case of the severely brain-damaged child Suzy Williams — whose mother has been pursuing restitution for her daughter for six long years against a resistant hospital’s defense team of lawyers — the actual criminal connection involved isn’t immediately clear. And what Benson seems to want from Tug is to shut it down. The verbal report to Tug, from Benson is there is no case — get us out of it gracefully.

Yet, once Tug meets the massively disabled but gallant little Suzy and June, her beautiful and resourceful mom, all bets are off. Then, without any warning and completely mysteriously, his soon passionate commitment to their cause thrusts him into a surreal sideshow of danger and violence.

Written in a quick, conversational style, Suzy’s Case is engaging and unpredictable. The main character, Tug Wyler, is an attorney – but hardly your garden variety type. In Suzy’s Case he hastily reveals himself as a quick-witted off-beat investigator. If anyone calls Wyler ‘Mr. Sensitivity’ you can be sure they are being sarcastic. He does – once in a while – let on that he can be a touch soft-hearted, but in the main he’s tough, sarcastic and politically incorrect. Ok, possibly he has a right to be – we find him going from worrying over a client’s injuries to (in rather macabre yet resigned fashion) planning a funeral for the as-yet living.

Repeat: Suzy’s Case is unpredictable.

Admittedly, I found the verb tenses/lack of harmony distracting- as well as some seriously long sentences. Style not incorrect but occasionally annoying. Mr. Siegel tests out things like making a list (literally, 1. 2. 3.) of items the main character is thinking and then also attempting to show a discussion via computer, using a different font. Although it does rather fit the conversational tone, it is also simply disruptive to the flow of the story.

Events are unpredictable, conversations are combative, some situations are downright heartbreaking. There is something of the hard-boiled style here- yet there is more. Descriptions exist, yet contribute to the rapid forward pace. It is ultimately engaging and interesting, and though I wanted to dislike it, I sensed this book – like the main character - just doesn’t care what I think. And that is part of its charm.

If you grab this book, it will grab you back. More than worth the read.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Girl in the Portrait by Rekha Ambardar

The Girl in the Portrait by Rekha Ambardar
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (14 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewer: Astilbe

Peggy Maynard goes down to the basement one morning to find her husband working on the painting of a young woman. He covers the painting as if to conceal it from her. Then, one day, both Will and the painting disappear from her home and from her life. This initiates a long journey of self-searching, while Peggy wonders why she didn’t see warning signs in her marriage, why she didn’t leave him before.

One day, Detective Byers, who’s on the case, tracks down a doctor who attended a former student of Will’s – Irma Vasquez. Eighteen years prior, she had a baby, and it appears the father is Will.

Peggy's search for her missing husband leads her to Queretaro, Mexico, where a startling discovery forces her to decide what her relationship with Will was truly made of, or if they ever really had one.

How well do you know your spouse? After twenty-five years together Peggy thought she knew everything about her husband Will but when he disappears under mysterious circumstances she’s forced to reexamine her assumptions.

I was sucked into this mystery before the first paragraph ended. Peggy’s conversation with the police officer investigating her husband’s disappearance expertly wove her anxiety, grief and fear into a few short sentences. It’s difficult to accurately portray the mixed, occasionally conflicting emotions the average person experiences when being interviewed about an alleged or potential crime but Ms. Ambardar captures this experience beautifully.

Peggy and Will’s relationship is described as “mellow.” They’ve been a couple for many years and while they care for one another their chemistry isn’t particularly passionate or romantic. While I’ve known people who ended up in this sort of situation there was something about Peggy and Will’s interactions that never quite felt genuine. Peggy’s memories of their years together made their arrangement sound more like a business decision than two people falling in love and creating a life together.

To be honest I expected it to end with the revelation that these characters were a lesbian and gay or bisexual man who married one another to give the appearance of heterosexuality. Had they been involved in a plot that wasn’t concerned with love and marriage this wouldn’t have been an issue but my misunderstanding of the nature of their relationship did dampen my enthusiasm for this story.

The actual ending wrapped up enough plot points to satisfy this reader but I still walked away from it wondering why Peggy and Will chose to remain together for so many years. This puzzled me so much I reread the story and was pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying it more the second time around when I could enjoy these characters for the individuals they were instead of spending so much time thinking about what I thought they should be doing instead.

The Girl in the Portrait can be read in one sitting. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a compelling mystery that is not easily solved and grows better each time you read it.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Foxhole by Jim Vanore

Foxhole by Jim Vanore
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (8 pages)
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Astilbe

This was Stan Nelchik’s first Father’s Day without his dad. The father of three girls himself, Stan was inherently protective, and came to believe in his father’s admonition that he was meant to be a “girl father,” not having the ability to handle a son.

“With boys, you gotta spit things out,” the senior Nelchik had always advised. “You can’t keep anything from them.”

But now, as Stan faces his first Father’s Day as a parent without his dad, he has to come to grips with the truth—his father, contrary to his own advice, had kept something from him, releasing it only on his death bed.

A visit from a stranger forces Stan into a decision that makes him realize just how difficult fatherhood can be—even when it doesn’t involve a member of your family.

Is honesty always the best policy? How does one balance telling the truth with protecting the innocent?

In some ways Mr. Nelchik has never stopped walking in his father’s shadow. Despite never serving in any wars or, to the best of my knowledge, being the victim of any crimes he has spent his entire adult life preparing for the "worst case scenario". For example, in one scene he tells his daughter, Sophie, to say something like this when she’s home alone and hears someone enter the house:

Hey Bruno, come and take the dogs for a walk, will you?”

So that, if the person walking in is an intruder, he or she will assume there are several dogs and a man in the house instead of one teenage girl. This attention to detail and personal safety is something most people don’t incorporate into their daily lives. The fact that the Nelchik family has carried on this tradition for three generations (even if Mr. Nelchik’s daughters are a little less enthusiastic about the idea than is their father or grandfather) intrigued me from the beginning.

Small details like this are what makes Foxhole such a treat, though. I started reading it expecting a much more action oriented plot but was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed slowly unfolding the mystery as the characters lived through one more seemingly ordinary day.

Foxhole shows in vivid detail how the decisions we make ripple not only through the rest of our lives but sometimes through the lives of our descendants as well. Rather than telling the reader what could or should have been done instead, though, Mr. Vanore leaves it up to us to imagine alternative futures for these characters. I cannot imagine a better ending to this fantastic little story.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Heartspur by Nancy Lindley-Gauthier

Heartspur by Nancy Lindley-Gauthier
Publisher: Eternal Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (157 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Jillian Trent falls for a cowboy–but not just a cowboy. He’s a champion of reining…from Texas, from money, and realistically, far out of reach.

Or is he? The moment he asks her out, Jill starts to puzzle over his ‘real’ motivation.

After all, a trail ride through the Catskills, overshadowed by the legends of ‘the Headless Horseman’ might seem romantic to some…or it might highlight some of the dangers inherent to riding–and love. And she knows there is a danger.

Nothing is what Jill expected, though. She’s fallen for a man and at the same time, become enchanted with a golden Haflinger. All her ambitions, for love and for her riding career, are at her fingertips. Yet, both are threatened.

Unfortunately, no one else shares Jill’s perception. Perhaps, Jill’s involvement in mystery writing makes her susceptible to seeing clues where there are none.

Will she put aside her self-doubt and trust? Or will that leave all of them in deadly danger.

She’s all dressed up and looking forward to dinner and a first date with Frank, a very good looking champion horse rider. Suddenly something spurts out of the woods onto the road and she almost hits it before she can get stopped. When she goes to check on it, she finds a horse. But where is the rider?

This author loves horses, rides them, and it shows in her story telling. I learned about horse shows, horse personalities, and a bit about how to train them. Jillian rides in dressage competition and she finds that some of the training techniques mean the rider has to adopt them, not just the horse.

Jillian's very attracted to Frank, but she’s not sure her affections are reciprocated. After all, she’s a mystery book reviewer that only shows a horse, not a rodeo girl. I would have liked to known a bit more about Jillian’s background. It wasn’t necessary, but it would have fleshed out the story a bit more.

This is like a cozy with horses. The story isn’t too deep, the characters are what keep you entertained, and when accidents start happening regularly at the show you begin realize they aren’t all “accidents”.

What grabs Jillian’s attention at the beginning was the fact that Frank almost died from a gas heater in his small unventilated trailer. When he says it’s not his heater, she begins to think these might be deliberate acts.

The author makes Jillian a young woman who is a bit insecure in her looks and with her horse. She also isn’t a very good investigator. She missed some clues Miss Marple (her mystery heroine) would have noticed. She didn’t give up, though. She kept searching for answers and it turned into a mystery bigger than I expected. The romance between Jillian and Frank is slow and sweet.

The best part of this book is the character development and the various types of people she has added to the story. Anytime you have a large gathering you get all types and she’s given you a run down on most of them in this story. It’s a pleasant read that left me with a smile at the end.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Chosen by Denise Grover Swank

Chosen by Denise Grover Swank
Publisher:  Self
Genre: Paranormal, Contemporary, Action/Adventure
Length: Full (366 pgs)
Rating: 5 Stars
Review by Poppy

Everything Emma Thompson owns fits in a suitcase she moves from one roach infested motel to another. She and Jake, her five year old son who can see the future, are running from the men intent on taking him. Emma will do anything to protect him even when it means accepting the help of a stranger named Will. Jake insists she needs Will, but Emma's never needed help before. And even though she's learned to trust her son, it doesn't mean she trusts Will.

Mercenary Will Davenport lives in the moment. Hauling Emma to South Dakota should have been an easy job, but his employer neglected to tell him about Emma's freaky son and the gunmen hot on her trail. Instinct tells him this job is trouble, but nothing can prepare him for Jake's proclamation that Will is The Chosen One, who must protect Emma from the men hunting her power. A power she doesn't know she has.

Will protects Emma and Jake on a cross-country chase from the men pursuing them, while struggling with memories from his past, his apprehension of Jake, and his growing attraction to Emma. Will's overwhelming urge to protect Emma surprises him, especially since it has nothing to do with his paycheck and possibly everything to do with the tattoo Jake branded on his arm. Rich and powerful men are desperate to capture Emma, and Will must discover why before it's too late.

Are you an adrenaline junkie?  Then you need to read this book! It hits the floor running, and never really stops.  I wasn't sure what to expect when I got this book for review. The author calls it urban fantasy, but it really isn't (I looked up the definition of UF ... yeah, I'm a geek).  It's really a paranormal action/thriller that I couldn't stand to put down.

Emma has had a rough few years, hiding out from the bad men who seem to want her son.  Thankfully, Jake has an early warning system, but it's starting to get a bit defective: where he was able to sense them with plenty of time to spare, now it's declining ... a few hours... even a few minutes.

We see them for the first time packing to run.  And they're too late -- the bad guys are already there. They meet Will, who's not what he seems, and he helps them get away. Sort of.

Emma is a great mom who will do anything, sacrifice anything (and really, she has) for her son, Jake, who's special.  He can sense things and see the future. Emma doesn't know why the men are after them, but it doesn't matter. She has a gun and knows how to use it. She's taken defensive driving lessons. She's as prepared as she can be for confrontation.

Will is, at heart, a good man.  That shows from the start, no matter what he thinks he is.  And Jake trusts him, so Emma allows him along, reluctantly.

This is a book where few things are as they seem, where no place is safe and there's nowhere to run.  The author doesn't give you more than a few paragraphs to catch your breath in between the craziness of the pursuit, and she's brutally honest about the way her characters feel.  I liked her writing style and her voice. The characters were all well drawn, completely three dimensional and believable.  The editing was wonderful and I never got tossed from the story for a glich or typo.  Sometimes, I worry when a book is self-published, but that's not the case here at all.

Five year-old Jake is old beyond his years, but I didn't have a problem with him not acting his age.  I was a bit taken aback when he ordered his mom around, but that was the parent in me rebelling more than it being unbelievable.

Will needs to sort himself out, and seems to do so on their insanely dangerous trip across the midwest.  The reason for things is slowly revealed, a prophecy is shared, the playing field is set.  A word of warning:  this book's ending is really more of a beginning.  While it does close the door on this particular plotline (running from the bad guys), it begins the more serious story of prophecy fulfillment.

The first thing I did upon finishing this book was go out and buy the next two in the series.  I'm hooked.  Bet you will be, too.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Greyman by Matt Chatelain

The Greyman by Matt Chatelain
Book Four of Four of the Sirenne Saga
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (292 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

In the fourth and final novel of the Sirenne Saga, Sirenne learns that he has been selected to lead the Abbey to the Greyman, who is thought to be the Devil on Earth. Sirenne has mastered electromagnetic flight and the ability to manifest objects and manipulate matter. Weissmuller has revealed himself and an uneasy alliance has been made. The world is falling apart and people are dying by the millions as Sirenne continues trying to understand what is really going on. The unstoppable Greyman is drawing near and an ultimate confrontation seems inevitable. Everything rests on Sirenne's final decision.

Paul is on the verge of solving the greatest mystery of all; the mystery of life.

The fourth and final book in the Sirenne Saga picks up exactly where the third book left off, so anyone wanting to read this book must read the previous three. The world is literally falling apart at the seams. Paul and Weissmuller have two tasks. First, they must find and protect the Other, a being the Abbey believes can destroy the Greyman. Second, they must then help the Other destroy the Greyman before all of humanity is lost.

I absolutely flew through the first half of the book. Everything was so chaotic and I had a myriad of questions racing through my mind. What, or rather who, is the Other? Was the Greyman really the force of evil the Abbey believed him to be? Would Paul and Weissmuller succeed before time ran out? What would happen if they did succeed? All my questions were answered, but most not in the way I expected.

Paul has been steadily changing and growing throughout the series. I think most of those changes were good and Paul retained many of the traits that made him so endearing in the first book. However, when the saga reached its conclusion, Paul was definitely not the same man and I found some of those changes to be deeply unsettling, particularly the way he comes to regard “weaker” lives. I cannot say too much about the nature of the changes that Paul undergoes without completely spoiling the mystery. I will say that it says a lot about Paul and his state of mind when Weissmuller is actually shocked by some of Paul’s actions. I understand the logic behind why Paul had to go through these changes, but I can’t help but mourn the loss of the character I’d gotten to know in the previous books.

Weissmuller also went through some interesting changes as the story progressed. When Paul first decided to bring Weissmuller along with him for the final part of his quest, I thought it was a huge mistake. After all, Weissmuller was a monster who had committed unthinkable atrocities. However, I was very surprised to see that Weissmuller had truly dedicated himself to helping Paul track down and confront the Greyman. His loyalty is unswerving. I didn’t think Weissmuller was capable of such a thing. Even more interesting was the confrontation between Paul, Weissmuller, and the Greyman. It is then they learn the reason why Weissmuller is the way he is. The answer is truly terrifying.

As I had hoped, O’Flanahan made an appearance in this book, but not at all in the way that I expected. I was completely unprepared for the revelations concerning O’Flanahan, though by now I should probably come to expect the unexpected from Mr. Chatelain’s writing. Everything I learned about O’Flanahan was definitely interesting, but again, I found myself sighing when I realized there was so much I didn’t know about him.

The second half of the book moves at a much slower pace than the first half. The big climax concerning the end of the world happens when there are still quite a lot of pages left in the story. When I realized this, I wondered how much more could there be? It turns out there was a lot more. After Paul meets the Greyman, he and Raymonde, Paul's soul mate, embark on a new quest in order to discover the secret of life, creation and what it all means. Much is made about human beings and their ability to make choices. However, I have to say that there were many instances where people were pushed and prodded so much that they didn’t really seem to have much of a choice at all concerning the path they were practically forced to take. Despite this issue, I did find Mr. Chatelain’s complex theories to be very thought provoking.

The Greyman took me to some fascinating and unexpected places. The true mystery of the caves extended far beyond the scope of any murder, war, or conspiracy theory. When I started reading the Sirenne Saga, I never could have imagined how it all would end. The journey was interesting and I’m tempted to go back and read the other books with a new perspective. Fans of the Sirenne Saga certainly won’t want to miss the grand finale.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Appeal by John Grisham

The Appeal by John Grisham
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (355 pgs
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Politics has always been a dirty game.

Now justice is, too.

In a crowded courtroom in Mississippi, a jury returns a shocking verdict against a chemical company accused of dumping toxic waste into a small town’s water supply, causing the worst “cancer cluster” in history. The company appeals to the Mississippi Supreme Court, whose nine justices will one day either approve the verdict or reverse it.

Who are the nine? How will they vote? Can one be replaced before the case is ultimately decided?

The chemical company is owned by a Wall Street predator named Carl Trudeau, and Mr. Trudeau is convinced the Court is not friendly enough. With judicial elections looming, he decides to try to purchase himself a seat on the Court. The cost is a few million dollars, a drop in the bucket for a billionaire like Mr. Trudeau. Through an intricate web of conspiracy and deceit, his political operatives recruit a young, unsuspecting candidate. They finance him, manipulate him, market him, and mold him into a potential Supreme Court justice. Their Supreme Court justice.

The Appeal is a powerful, timely, and shocking story of political and legal intrigue, a story that will leave readers unable to think about our electoral process or judicial system in quite the same way ever again.
Shocking isn't the half of it.

I love a good mystery. Love when the story takes twists and turns I never saw coming. The Appeal has that and more.

There are only a few books I've read that really get under my skin. You know the types? The ones with unruly characters or twists that just don't seem right? Yeah, this is one of those books. I sat up until at least 4 am reading the book. I couldn't put it down. Krane Chemical has dumped a LOT of waste in places where it shouldn't have. Then it never bothered to properly take care of those sites. The chemicals invaded the water and in turn invaded the lives of the people living on the toxic land. This story hits home in a lot of places. The term "cancer cluster" is used a lot and rightly so. A lot of people have been hurt and killed. Grisham's storytelling in this manner is breathtaking. I felt the pain of the families. I wanted to join the lawyers, Mary Grace and Wes in helping them.

As much as I loved the lawyers for the plaintiffs, I couldn't stand the lawyers and the head of Krane Chemical. The guy drove me berserk. So full of himself, so willing to pamper those he loved while making miserable the people who just happened to be living on land his company polluted. There were times when I wanted to conk him on the head. There's a scene with a statue. It's described as being not terribly pretty or realistic and yet, he buys it to make his wife happy. Maybe it was because I wasn't in his position. Maybe it was because I know people who live in alleged 'cancer clusters'. Either way, he got under my skin.

I rated this book a 5, but there was one major issue I had with it. Now, before I explain the issue, let me tell you why I still think this book is a five. I won't disclose a bunch of the ending, but this book wasn't predictable. At all. I had thoughts as to where it would go and it didn't. Another thing is the book got me emotionally involved. I wanted to throw something at the end of the book. I did. Not because it was poorly written. Not because it ended too abruptly. Far from it. The ending didn't take the expected turns. It was written very well, flowed nicely and had me right in the clinch. The ending wasn't how I expected and it stayed with me. I thought about it later that night and the entire next day. I wanted it to turn out another way, but like life, things aren't always going to come out our ways. That's what made it a great book.

If you want a book that's got a healthy dose or reality mixed in with the drama and mystery, then this might be the book for you.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Broker by John Grisham

The Broker by John Grisham
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (357 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

In his final hours in the Oval Office, the outgoing President grants a controversial last-minute pardon to Joel Backman, a notorious Washington power broker who has spent the last six years hidden away in a federal prison. What no one knows is that the President issues the pardon only after receiving enormous pressure from the CIA. It seems Backman, in his power broker heyday, may have obtained secrets that compromise the world’s most sophisticated satellite surveillance system.

Backman is quietly smuggled out of the country in a military cargo plane, given a new name, a new identity, and a new home in Italy. Eventually, after he has settled into his new life, the CIA will leak his whereabouts to the Israelis, the Russians, the Chinese, and the Saudis. Then the CIA will do what it does best: sit back and watch. The question is not whether Backman will survive—there is no chance of that. The question the CIA needs answered is, who will kill him?

He might have pled guilty, but that doesn't mean he was.

Okay, so why would an innocent man plead guilty if he wasn't? That's what The Broker is about. There are a very few auto-buy authors for me. John Grisham is one of those authors. Once I sit down to read one of his books, I'm there for the long haul. I never know what will happen next and can't wait to find out how it happens.

Joel Backman did a lot of bad things. He brokered deals, moved money, oh and he had these disks. What are on those disks? That's what everyone wants to know. Joel managed to get his hands on a satellite system, but he refused to give it up fast. So the government intervened. Someone will off the man who has the secrets, right?

I knew going in this would be a tale full of twists and turns. I wasn't let down. There were times when I thought I had this story figured out and I was totally off. I love that in a book. I also got really involved in the story. I wanted to make sure that certain secondary characters were treated with dignity, and made it out alive. I can't say what all happened, but I am one satisfied reader. Joel might have done those bad things. He might have swindled some money and made promises no one can keep, but his evolution through the book made me root for him. I wanted to see him get his happily ever after. I thought about him and the secondary characters long after I had to put the book down - because I fell asleep. I wanted to keep reading but my eyes didn't cooperate. That's a great thing.

If you want a book that's got twists, turns and a plot you won't forget, then this might be the book for you!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Framed by Nancy Springer

Framed by Nancy Springer
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (13 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

For picture framer Veronica Phillips, the most dangerous thing that happens to her on a typical day is a sheet of glass breaking or getting cut by an errant wire. When a key comes out of the back of a picture she's redoing, Ronnie soon finds herself mixed up in dark warehouses, dead bodies and harsh scrutiny by the local police for getting mixed up in the crime. Can Ronnie prove her innocence in the murder case, or will she end up being framed?

What would you do if you found a key that had been carefully hidden in a picture frame? How far would you go to unravel the mystery behind it?

With only thirteen pages to work with there’s a limited amount of space that Ms. Springer could allocate to getting to know these characters in depth but somehow I walked away feeling as if Veronica, Officer Llewellyn, Lois and Ron were individuals I’d easily recognize if we were to run into one another on the street.

Puns were used just sparingly enough that I savoured each one and the dialogue flowed so smoothly it felt as if I was eavesdropping on someone else’s life. More than once a surprising turn of phrase made me smile and savor certain passages before moving on to the next paragraph. While it wasn’t what I had been expecting the ending fit in nicely with the tone established earlier as well.

Framed includes all of the elements of a great story but unfortunately they never quite came together satisfactorily. A decision from Veronica’s past that is referenced about halfway through this tale conflicts with other information we’re given about her character. I didn’t understand why her reactions to similarly mysterious events would vary so much in the span of a few months. After reading it again some of the confusion cleared up but I still wished more time had been spent explaining why she’d changed so much in such a short period of time.

Despite these issues Framed is the perfect choice for anyone in the mood for a mystery that will keep them guessing until the end.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The One Book of Etretat by Matt Chatelain

The One Book of Etretat by Matt Chatelain
Book Three of Four (Sirenne Saga)
Publisher: Matt Chatelain
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (301 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

The World on the Brink of Disaster

In Books One (The Caves of Etretat) and Two (The Four Books of Etretat), Paul Sirenne is led to discover a complex of hidden caves in the cliffs of Etretat, France. Chased by an immortal serial killer, and assisted by the Abbey, a thousand-year old organization, Sirenne, becoming an immortal himself, is given control of the caves, to prepare for an ultimate confrontation against the Greyman, the oldest immortal on earth. Taken by surprise, Sirenne and the complex of caves barely survive an attack by American mercenaries.

In Book Three, the world is in chaos. Countless disasters are occurring everywhere and a pandemic disease is killing all children in the womb. People and countries, desperate for a solution, are demanding Sirenne's immortality cure. Sirenne knows it's not the true answer and is desperately trying to solve the clues laid out by Maurice Leblanc and the Abbey, looking for the One Book. Changed by his immortality, he develops new senses which give him an increasingly different perspective on everything he sees. At the same time, all events seem to be converging on him. Weissmuller, the immortal serial killer is circling closer and closer.

'The One Book of Etretat' is the third in a four-book epic adventure following Paul Sirenne, an average man unknowingly manipulated into becoming the key in the final phase of a complex conspiracy spanning millennia. Inextricably woven into history, the series re-writes everything we know in a non-stop rollercoaster of a ride where nothing is ever as it seems.

The Sirenne Saga Continues

The end of the world is at hand. Can Paul find the answers he needs before it is too late?

There is nothing ordinary about Paul any more. His powers, as well as Raymonde’s, have developed at an incredible rate due to the fact that their immortality is genetic rather than simply induced by the spores in the caves. Their connection is more powerful than ever and together they can undertake amazing mental and physical accomplishments. As the world falls apart around them, Paul and Raymonde are burdened with the seemingly impossible tasks of saving the world and destroying the Greyman, an evil presence that has been tormenting humanity since the beginning of time. Their new found abilities are perfectly suited to the challenges they face, and I have complete faith in their abilities.

Weissmuller’s sections are an even bigger part of this story than they were in The Four Books of Etretat. His reflections go clear up to the present and are just as troubling as ever as he recounts the atrocities he's committed. Even more disturbing is the fact that Weissmuller’s involvement in Paul’s life extends much farther back than the murder of Paul’s parents. He has been in the shadows very close to Paul for years. As Weissmuller’s reflections began to record more recent history, it became clear that Weissmuller was someone that Paul knew, or thought he knew. Once I realized this, I had a strong suspicion as to who Weissmuller was masquerading as. Even though I was pretty sure I knew the answer, the impact was still crushing when everything was revealed. I could only imagine how Paul was going to take the news.

Even though I was saddened to learn Weissmuller’s current identity, I must admit that this is a character that, for whatever reason, I never really warmed too. Looking back, my misgivings are completely understandable even if I couldn’t exactly put my finger on the reason why I felt that way. Also, the tension between Weissmuller’s outward persona and a certain other favorite character of mine make even more sense now than they did the in the previous books.

When Weissmuller revealed himself to Paul, I was very surprised by Paul’s reaction, or more specifically, his lack of reaction. I expected him to be far more devastated. However, Paul was in a high pressure situation at the time, so perhaps the full impact of what Weissmuller has done hasn’t truly sunk in yet. I’m very curious as to how Paul will proceed with his new found knowledge in the final book of the series.

I also particularly like the sections concerning Norton, the ill-fated inspector from The Caves of Etretat. In the first book, Norton simply appeared to be a once brilliant inspector driven to insanity by his single minded pursuit of the Shadow Killer (Weissmuller). In this story, Norton’s tragic history is explained in greater detail as well as how Weissmuller systematically drove Norton down the path of madness. I truly felt sorry for Norton. He was a good man who didn’t deserve anything that Weissmuller did to him. These sections coupled with Weissmuller’s reflections gave me a much greater understanding of the people and events in this mystery.

O’Flanahan, who is still my favorite secondary character, is “missing” at the end of this book. O’Flanahan didn’t figure into this book as much as he had in the first two. When the world began to erupt into chaos and the caves were evacuated, he manages to evade Weissmuller’s grasp. It isn’t clear what happened to him, but I’m holding out hope that the bold and brash O’Flanahan will make an appearance in the final installment.

The One Book of Etretat left me breathless. So many pieces of the puzzle were revealed in this story that I literally couldn’t read it fast enough. Anyone wanting to enjoy this thrilling adventure absolutely must read the previous two books in the series first. Now that I know even more about the caves, their history, and Weissmuller’s involvement, I simply must know how it all ends. I will be reading the final book in the series as soon as I can get my hands on it. Anyone who has had a taste of the caves and their secrets is sure to feel the same.