Sunday, November 25, 2012

Mortal Prey

Mortal Prey by John Sandford
Clara Rinker was a hitman. Lucas Davenport from the Minneapolis police was almost killed by her in the past. Clara retired and went to Cancun to live. She was all set to live an idyllic life with her boyfriend and soon-to-be child when it all goes wrong. Her boyfriend is killed and she miscarried as a result of her injuries. She knows she was the target of the hit and now vows to kill all those responsible.

Clara returns to St. Louis in order to kill the four men she thinks ordered the hit. These men are extraordinarily protected and Clara uses everything at her disposal to kill them off. Davenport is brought in because of his association and his knowledge of her methods.

Davenport is in the middle of his own plans to marry the pregnant Weather and finish his new house.

This was one of the best prey books yet. Non-stop action and many thrills keep this story very much alive.

First Line: "The thought popped into her head as she lay in the soft-washed yellowed sheets in the hospital bed."

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell

A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell

It's the middle of WWII and Italian Jews have spread throughout Europe to try to escape the Germans and their own government. When Italy surrenders to the Allies, Italian Jews need to trek over the Alps to find freedom. Claudette Blum and her father have been separated from him mom and brothers but they must put that behind them to stay alive. They travel with other families and Italian soldiers that are also in danger. Claudette becomes smitten with one of the soldiers and he helps her and her father find places to hide in the countryside.

They meet many Italians and Italian Jews alike that want to fight against the Germans within Italy. One is Renzo, who takes on many identities to sabatoge the Germans and help hide Jews and the Italian resistance. His story is a tragic one as he's fought in a previous conflict and can't quite move past that.

I don't think I've read a book about Italy during WWII in the past and there were some quite educational parts of the book. There are also a lot of characters, too many. I had problems throughout the book keeping track of which character was which, which impacted my ability to completely enjoy the novel.

I found the last two paragraphs of the book the most meaningful. They explained that Hitler himself never fired a gun during the entire war. "One hollow, hateful little man. One last awful thought: all the harm he ever did was done for him by others."

First Line: "This is what everyone would remember about his mother: her home was immaculate."


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Play Dead

Play Dead by Anne Frasier
Elise Sandburg and David Gould are homicide partners in the Savannah Police department. They are called in when a mortuary assistant finds out one of his clients is not really dead but like a 'zombie'. Someone is drugging people to resemble the dead but their minds are fully aware. Creepy!!

Elise is a native Savannahan. Her father is believed to be a famous root doctor but she was left in a cemetery as a baby to die. Elise knows about Gullah and the spells and culture.

David is a stand-offish Yankee. He is anti-social. David was a former FBI agent when something horrible went wrong. He is very strange.

All these factors make for an interesting dark and creepy mystery.

First Line: "Savannah medical examiner John Casper believed in what scientists termed the cluster effect."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Carrot Cake Murder

Carrot Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke
Cozy Mystery
Hannah Swensen is the owner of a bakery in Lake Eden, Minn. Her co-owner Lisa and her husband are hosting a family reunion out at the lake and Hannah has offered to co-ordinate the meals.

Lisa's long lost uncle Gus shows up for the reunion. He skipped town 25 years ago, owing money and favours. He now shows up in a brand new car and flashing scads of money with lots of charm and smiles.

Gus does not show up for a family photo session and Hannah goes to find him dead. Hannah starts to unearth more than a few nasty secrets about Gus. Mike, her policeman boyfriend wants to collaborate with Hannah but it really is one-way street with Hannah feeding Mike the information but Mike clamming up when Hannah questions him.

Moishe, Hannah's cat is displaying some strange behaviour and Hannah tries to find out what is going on with him.

Fluke really enjoys filling in the narrative with boring long bits of minutiae. Apart from that this is not a bad story. And maybe a good carrot cake recipe to try out

First Line: "The Amen couldn't come fast enough to suit Hannah Swensen."

Monday, November 19, 2012

Plum Island

Plum Island by Nelson DeMille
John Corey, a NYPD homicide detective was shot and is now convalescing on Long Island.  When a couple, Tom and Judy Gordon, who he befriended are murdered, the local Sheriff Max asks for Corey's help.  John reluctantly sets out to find out who murdered his friends.

The Gordons happened to work on Plum Island, a US Agricultural facility researching dread animal diseases.  Enter all the agencies concerned, FBI,CIA and any others who want the public not to think some chemical terrorism is going on.

Corey solves this crime in a nail-biting thriller.  There are good bits and bad bits to this book.  The good is the story is a twisty riveting mystery.  The bad is that Corey is a chauvinist and too sarcastic for my liking and also some of the narrative is too long-winded ( the tour of Plum Island being a prime example).  I will seek out the sequel and see what Corey gets up to.

First Line: "Through my binoculars, I could see this nice forty-something-foot cabin cruiser anchored a few hundred yards offshore."

Friday, November 16, 2012

Cutting for Stone

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
This is an emotional saga which I could not put down.

Twins Marion and Shiva are born conjoined at birth. Their mother dies during childbirth and their father abandons them. Marion and Shiva are separated and raised by Indian doctors who are practicing in a mission hospital in Ethiopia.

Verghese spins an amazing story of these twins. This story involves the culture of Ethiopia and India, the medical problems of an African hospital, revolution, and the emotional development and interaction of the twins.

Verghese has written an elegant tale which has many many layers and leaves the reader still thinking several days later.

I read this for my book club. What a wonderful book to discuss!

First Line: "After eight months spent in the obscurity of our mother's womb, my brother, Shiva and I came into the world in the late afternoon of the twentieth of September in the year of grace 1954."

Forty Words for Sorrow

Forty Words for Sorrow by Giles Blunt
John Cardinal, a policeman from Algonquin Bay, Ontario has been demoted to burglary after pushing too hard in the case of a missing Indian girl. He is also suspected in tipping off one of the criminal bosses in the town.

When Katie Pine, the missing girl is found encased in a block of ice in a mine shaft Cardinal is brought into the investigation. His new partner is Lise Delorme from Special Investigations. She will help Cardinal but she is also investigating him.

Cardinal finds a disturbing pattern of young teenagers who have gone missing. When yet another one shows up missing Cardinal knows it is just a matter of time before he shows up dead.

Cardinal's wife is in a mental institution and Cardinal suffers along with her. The reader gets caught up in his personal situation.

This is a great mystery and I love the Canadian content

First Line: "It gets dark early in Algonquin Bay."

The Tale of Two Nazanins

The Tale of Two Nazanins by Nazanin Afshin-Jam
This story is about two very different Nazanins. The Candaian Nazanin Afshin-Jam is a runner-up to Miss World. She is Iranian-born and in the world of fashion and music. She competed for Miss World in China and was wondering how she could make a difference using her media attention. Upon the hundreds of e-mails she received was one from an Iranian teenager named Nazanin who was in prison because she had killed a man.

The Iranian Nazanin Fatehi has grown up in poverty. She wants only to learn to read and become a teacher. She has gone to school sporadically because she must help her mother to raise the other children or to take care fo her father when ill. Nazanin is caught up in a violent situation when she is cornered in a field with some young men who are going to rape her. She defends herself with a knife and stabs the man to death. She is imprisoned and sentenced to death.

Nazanin Afshin-Jam must battle the United Nations and a myriad of other organizations to get the Iranian government to stay the execution. The perseverance and sheer work effort finallly pays off.

We hear of these Muslim-based countries and their treatment of women. This story is but one but really brings home how little value is placed on the life of a female.

First Line: "I was sitting at the computer desk, wedged in between the kitchen and the dining room in the downtown Vancouver condominium belonging to my sister and her husband."

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Shanghai Murders by David Rotenberg

The Shanghai Murders by David Rotenberg

Inspector Fong Zhong of Shanghai gets a case where the body has been cut in to many pieces and the killer is nicknamed the Dim Sum Killer. Visiting the crime scene, Zhong notices that the body parts are pointing to different items, including the victim's wallet, which wasn't initially found at the scene. The victim winds up being a cop from New Orleans. Once his wife Amanda is notified, she is relieved because she had a poor relationship with her husband but decides to fly out to retrieve his body. Meanwhile, Zhong is being investigated himself, after the death of his wife.

There are many elements in this book that are just too convenient to feel anywhere close to something that could happen. Zhong and Amanda fall in love after a few days? I don't think so. Many parts of the book are also never fully explained. The last 3rd of the book was a struggle to get through and seemed to keep getting worse and worse.

There are three other books in this series, which I have, but will be passing along because I have no interest in reading them now.

First Line: "The body in the Hua Shan Hospital's morgue table looked as though it had all the right pieces - but they seemed to be in all the wrong places."


Sunday, November 04, 2012

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Cirque des Reves only opens at night, popping up in locations unannounced. It captures the imagination of many that visit. All the tents are black and white, with acrobats, a tarot card reader, an illusionist, and many other attractions. What many of the visitors and even most of the participants themselves don't know is that there is more going on at this circus than meets the eye.

Celia is a young girl with special talents. Though she has problems controlling them, she can move objects. Her father, world-famous Prospero, teaches her how to control and hone her skills. Then, Propero offers Celia up to his opponent Alexander in a game. Alexander must pick someone to compete against Celia, showing their magical abilities until one wins. The details are unclear.

As Celia grows older, she becomes the illusionist for the Cirque des Reves. Her opponent also works for the Cirque, but as an assistant to the man who starts the circus. His name is Marco. He learns quickly that Celia is his opponent but Celia doesn't find out for a while. The two create new tents in the circus, full of magical things, to compete against each other. They also grow to love each other, which will make the competition very complicated.

This book draws you in at the very start and takes you on a ride. I really enjoyed Morgenstern's story telling. The circus she created truly was magical and the reader really wants to know the intricacies of each tent in the circus, which are incredibly imaginative.

There were some character issues that had me confused. The two main characters, and opponents, Celia and Marco fell in love very quickly. Why? It was too quick and too convenient, which made it feel very fake. There were some weird character issues like this throughout the novel, though this didn't detract overall from the story.

First Line: "The circus arrives without warning."