Sunday, April 26, 2009

Conspiracy in Death

Conspiracy in Death by J. D. Robb

I am slowly working my way through this series and am loving it.

There is a serial killer on the loose. He is no ordinary man but a skilled surgeon. He attacks the weakest humans, the licensed companions and sidewalk sleepers. He leaves a precise surgical incision exactly where an organ used to be. But there is no need for this as artificial organs are just as good.

Eve Dallas is assigned to investigate but comes up against a street cop with an ax to grind. Suddenly she not only needs to solve the case but needs to keep her job. Roarke is ever present and more than willing to step in and help Dallas with his brawn and his technology. Great read!

First Line: "In my hands is power."



In Golden Blood

In Golden Blood by Stephen Woodworth

Natalie Lindstrom is a violet, a person who can talk to the dead. She has stopped working for the government and is watched constantly. This makes finding any work almost impossible as this type of work is only sanctioned by the government. Natalie is a single parent and now her father has had heart surgery and has mounting medical bills.

When she is approached by a professor wanting her expertise in the Peruvian Andes on an archeological dig, it sounds too good to be true. She is to find the unrecovered treasures of Francisco Pizarro, a Spanish conquistador. Azure, the man funding the dig is obsessed with finding the treasure and Wilcox, the professor is not who he says he is.

Natalie finds dealing with the slaughtered Incans almost unbearable. This is a tale of greed, betrayal, murder and mystery.

I find this series fascinating. In this book the ability to talk to someone in the distant past and learn more about history was most interesting. Some of the book read more like a movie script but it was still a great read

First Line: "As he did every morning, Nathan Azure rose at dawn, dressed, and shaved in the musty canvas confines of his private tent, scrutinizing the aristocratic severity of his Mayfair face in a travel mirror to make certain that not a whisker remained and that every strand of blond hair was in its proper place."



Thursday, April 23, 2009

My Forbidden Face by Latifa

My Forbidden Face: Growing Up Under the Taliban by Latifa

Latifa grew up during troubling times in Afghanistan. She was almost finished her degree in journalism when her brother rushed home one day to inform her family that the mosque and school were flying the white flag of the Taliban. Latifa and her family never thought that the Taliban hold would actually come in to their town. Very quickly, life changes. All females are forbidden to travel outside without a male and must do so in a chadri, clothing that entires the entire body and only has mesh to see through. As every day goes by, more restrictions are added, more women are beaten and raped in the street, and more men are taken to jail or killed for petty crimes.

The atrocities and hypocrisy of stories like this always amaze me. The Taliban bans videos and does not allow men and women to be in the same room, yet it is perfectly ok for them to rape women as a form of punishment. How does this make sense? This certainly makes you feel thankful for things you take for granted.

In terms of the writing in the book, I found the narrative to be a bit disjoint. Latifa would be talking about the present time and then all the sudden go back about 5 years for a couple of pages before going back into present time, without much warning or warrant.

After continuous complaint that the world had forgotten about Afghanistan, I wonder what Latifa would say now, in 2009, with troops fighting in Afghanistan. Many Canadians soldiers have died over there, and I can't help but wonder if the locals just see Canadians as another invading force that isn't welcome.

First Line: "Someone knocks violently on our door."



Sunday, April 19, 2009

From Black Rooms by Stephen Woodworth

From Black Rooms by Stephen Woodworth

Natalie Lindstrom is back, living with her dad and her daughter, who is a violet just like Natalie. A violet has the ability to communicate with the dead by calling their souls. Natalie is approached by a man named Amis asking her to replicate several famous paintings by allowing the deceased painters to inhabit her body in order to complete the painting. Despite the large amount of money offered, Natalie turns down the offer. Then bad things start happening. The Violet Killer we were introduced to in the first novel in this series is released, and an ex-con accused of forging ends up on Natalie's doorstep with his eyes turning a shade of violet.

True to the previous three books in the series, this book is a fast paced thriller. Usually as the series continues, the books get worse and worse but this is definitely not the case. Even better, Woodworth isn't scared to kill off main characters, which constantly leaves you guessing. I'm interested to see where this series will go next (if it does?).

First Line: "On the day Bartholomew Wax had selected to kill himself, he called in sick at work to spend the entire day saying good-bye to his children."



Friday, April 17, 2009

Picking Cotton by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, Ronald Cotton, Erin Torneo

Picking Cotton by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, Ronald Cotton, Erin Torneo

When Jennifer Thompson woke up to find a stranger in her house and realized that this man was going to rape her, she promised herself that she was going to survive and do everything she could to catch this guy. She memorized his face and all his features before making a run for it. She identified Ronald Cotton as her rapist in both a photo and physical line up. Ronald Cotton was put in jail for his crimes. Except, Ronald Cotton was not the man that committed the crime. While Ronald Cotton was in jail, he learned that a man named Bobby Poole was confessing to the crime in jail, so Cotton tried to get this submitted to a judge to overturn his conviction. Instead, he got another rape charge tacked onto his sentence. Cotton spent 11 years in jail before DNA finally proved his innocence. He was let out of jail and tried to get on with his life. Meanwhile, Jennifer was consumed by guilt.

The story is told from both Jennifer and Ronald's perspective and portrays an extremely wide array of emotions. It also opens your eyes to the fallacies of eye witness testimonies and shows you how biased lineup picks can be. Our memories are not concrete, we can shape them around what we think/want them to be. This is an amazing story and reads very quickly, partially because the writing is so simplistic (I believe this detracts from the book a bit), and partially because it is such a captivating story. Hopefully some of the changes that have been made to how lineups are conducted in North Carolina will become common practice in all states and provinces.

First Line: "I used to walk to campus and back every day from my apartment in Burlington"



Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Paddle to the Amazon

Paddle to the Amazon by Don Starkell

This is the story of a father and son who travel over 12,000 miles by canoe. They leave from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Progressing down the Red River and on eventually to the Mississippi river down to New Orleans, along the entire Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean to Trinidad, up the Orinoco River and finally down the Amazon to Belem. The story is told in diary style by the father.

What an adventure!! From animals, to wild coastal waters, to foreign police, it was a roller-coaster ride. It was interesting to note that the people in the most abject poverty were the most generous. It was also curious how the Starells dealt with the police of Central and South America.

Don Starkell, the father, put his son in danger many times in order to complete their accomplishment. As a parent I do not understand this. The dangers were many and I think they were very lucky to come out of this alive. What also was a crying shame is that not one single person was at the end to greet them. There must be more to this story!

First Line: "If we'd known we were going to make it, the challenge would not have been the same - we might not have gone."



Monday, April 13, 2009


Illegal by Paul Levine

Jimmy "Royal" Payne is a small time lawyer with a tortured past. He was charged with contempt of court but is evading the charges and needs to leave town immediately. As he prepares to leave, he crosses paths with Tino Perez, a 12 year old Mexican with no papers and lots of energy to spare. Tino and his mother got separated while crossing the border illegally. Tino first robs Payne and then asks him to help him find his missing mother.

Payne, with Tino in tow, goes to his ex-wife whom he still loves for help. She gives him an ultimatum; either help the kid or go to jail.

What follows is a cross-border tale of corruption, greed and betrayal. Tino's mother has been 'taken' by the man whom she paid to get her across the US/Mexican border. She is first brought to a stash house and sent to work in a slaughter house. After she assaults the man attempting to rape her, she then finds herself in the clutches of Simeon Rutledge, a big time fruit grower. Illegal immigration is just a way to keep the grower's costs down.

Tino and Payne follow her trail and get involved with coyotes, predators, vigilantes, sex slavers and human traffickers.

I found the police actions in this book to be improbable. A policeman lets Payne escape perjury charges and later Tino gets the better of an Arizona cop. However, the story is so interesting, it really doesn't matter. The reader gets involved in the story and has to turn the next page and the next and the next to keep on going. A great fast-paced mystery!!

First Line: "Judge Rollins drew a handgun from beneath his black robes, pointed the snub-nosed barrel at Jimmy Payne's chest, and said,"Who you pimping for, you low-life shyster?""

Illegal at Chapters
Paul Levine's site



Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ultimatum by Matthew Glass

Ultimatum by Matthew Glass

Democrat Joe Benton has just been elected in 2032, a world that has seen global warning truly start to erode the coast line. One of his policy promises is a Relocation package that involves moving citizens from cities on the coast that have been wiped out due to the climate change. Benton believes he has the potential to be one of few presidents that changes his country, and possibly the world, for the better.

When the previous president calls Benton in to a meeting and tells him that the effects of global warming are much worse than what is expected, that if no changes are made, Miami will be under water and California will be forever in a drought, Benton's priorities must change. He learns that the government was in negotiations with China, the world's largest pollution emitter, to cut back emissions but that no progress had been made. Benton brings in his own team to learn about Chinese politics and how to best go about negotiations with them to reach a common resolution.

What results is a political thriller like none I've ever read before. Glass takes you behind the scenes and into the room of a president and his advisers discussing all the options and all the alternatives of a single action. It's obvious that a lot of research and thought was put into this book. I really appreciated how logical the arguments were and how I could agree with what both sides were saying. I'm definitely glad I wasn't in Benton's position. I don't know if I'd be able to make those decisions.

Since I'm not American, I had trouble keeping in mind which character was in which position and what exactly that position entailed (cheifs, secretaries, ministers, etc.). However, the balance of characters was great. Each brought a different view to the table. Despite being a large book, I was turning the pages wondering what was going to happen and the end had my heart racing as I tried to read as quickly as possible to find out how Benton was going to pull through.

This has been my best read of the year!

Buy from Chapters

First Line: "He came onto the stage just before eleven o'clock."



Saturday, April 04, 2009

Driving Sideways by Jess Riley

Driving Sideways by Jess Riley

Leigh has PKD, a kidney disease that required her to have a kidney transplant from a donor she knows only as Larry. Being skeptical that she'll live past the age of 30, Leigh sets out on her "Unfinished Business" road trip. Her goals: visit her ex-boyfriend, pick up her best friend in Colorado, visit the family of Larry, and find her mother who abandoned her when she was five. What results is a highly entertaining journey. Leigh encounters many problems, including running out of gas in the middle of no where and having her purse held hostage in exchange for giving a ride to an orphan girl named Denise.

This book was a lot of fun. The characters were very easy to relate to, despite their extreme circumstances, and the lessons learned could apply to anyone. There were a couple of parts that had me chuckling and I wanted more when the book was finished.

The only thing I don't like is that the author doesn't have any other books for me to read! I'll be sure to keep an eye out for another other books coming from her.

First Line: "It's strange how much you can change in one year."