Saturday, June 29, 2013

No Second Chance by Harlan Coben

No Second Chance by Harlan Coben

Dr. Marc Seidman only remembers eating a granola bar before waking up in the hospital after weeks because he was shot twice. His wife is dead and his six month old daughter is missing. When the ransom note comes to his father-in-law, Marc has lots of decisions to make. He goes to the authorities, which already suspect him of having something to do with the murder and kidnapping, and it results in a botched attempt to get his child back. Something doesn't feel right to Seidman though. Was one person responsible for everything or were there multiple crimes taking place?

This is my least favourite Harlan Coben book. It is completely unbelievable and the problem is that there isn't just one item that is unbelievable, there are many. For example, you visit a home in the country and try to sneak up on it with weapons. The home owner finds you and then after some talking, agrees to help you. Yeah I'm sure that would happen. This book was layer upon layer of farfetched plot lines.

My advice would be to save your time and find another book to read.

First Line: "When the first bullet hit my chest, I thought of my daughter."


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Louis Zamperini was an Olympic runner in 1936, competing in long distance, and thought to be the first man that would be able to break the four minute mile. Then WWII started, and Zamperini joined the Air Force, becoming a bombardier. Training in Hawaii, he became very close to his crew including pilot Russell Allen Phillips (Phil). As the crew worked together, learning the ins and outs of flying B-24 bombers, many men were dying from non-combat accidents. Louis and his crew went out to try and find a assumed plane that had gone down over the ocean when their own plane experienced troubles and also went down. The only men that survived the impact were Louis, Phil, and another crew member Mac.

Floating in the ocean, with only sharks and the odd bird as their companions, the three wonder when search planes will try to come and find them or if they'll die in their raft. After 47 days at sea, they finally see land only to be captured by the Japanese. They are taken as POWs and are treated without dignity, moved from camp to camp.

This book is a true story of survival. Physically being able to survive 47 days at sea with very little to drink and eat is unbelievable itself. Then captured as POWs, they must mentally be able to survive when they are constantly humiliated and degraded.

Like most biographies or autobiographies, I always find the first few chapters slow and rather dull because there's so much to explain about the character of the person. Once the story moved to the war, this story captured me. You know that Louis survives but you pull for him and hope that he goes through the least amount of hardship.

What I was very surprised at was the facts on the number of people that died from non-combat flights, significantly so. It makes you wonder what could have been done during the war if fewer men had died from accidents. Could it have ended sooner? It also makes me grateful that my grandfather, a navigator during WWII, came home without incident.

It's really no surprise that this book took 7 years to research and write. The amount of detail is extraordinary. There are accounts of POW life from a variety of sources. Interesting fact: Hillenbrand and Zamperini never met in person during the writing and publishing of this book!

First Line: "All he could see, in every direction, was water."


Friday, June 14, 2013

In the Shadow of the Banyan

In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner
Seven-year old Raami is a privileged daughter of a Cambodia prince. When the Khmer Rouge comes to power in 1975 her family is uprooted from the capital Phnom Penh and go to live in their summer home with relatives. Soon they are again moved out and what follows is a constant moving around.

Raami's story is heart-breaking as her relatives fall victim to the regime. Over the next four years she endures starvation, brutality and forced labour. She meets both the good and bad side of the human race. Raami clings to her father by remembering his legends and fables.

This is both a horrific book and an awesome book. Horrific in the fact that the story mirrors the author's true experiences and awesome in the beautiful writing. The reader can not help but fight along side of Raami and cheer her on at every awful turn in her young life. This is a beautifully wrought tale of human resilience.

First Line: "War entered my childhood  world not with the blasts of rockets and bombs but with my father's footsteps as he walked through the hallway, passing my bedroom toward his."

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Geneva Option by Adam LeBor

The Geneva Option by Adam LeBor

Yael Azoulay's star has risen quickly at the United Nations. She is responsible for negotiating deals with some of the worst people you could imagine. Her back-room dealing never sees the light of day until she starts dealing with Jean-Pierre Hakizimani, a Hutu that massacred Tutsi during the Rwandan genocide. Yael despises the deal that Hakizimani is being given and writes a memo to the Secretary General of the UN stating as much. The memo finds its way to the press where Sami Boustani, a New York Times reporter, runs with the story. There's more at stake than just the Hakizimani deal though. The UN seems to be planning something in Africa that could result in another war breaking out.

Years ago, strong female leads would be hard to find in books. These days it seems to be the latest fad to write main characters that are female and kick ass. Yael is one of those, yet in no way fits in to the stereotype. She is a very exciting character. She's intellectual and can hold her own in a fight. She reaches out for help when she needs it, though that's rare. She also isn't predictable, which made for an even more exciting read.

I really enjoyed reading about the back rooms of the UN. LeBor did not portray the organization in a very positive light and I'm sure there is some truth to the corruption that exists at all levels. The extent to which LeBor knew the subject of the book was impressive. It's obvious that he has covered news stories in his journalism career that he brought in to the book. Having read books about both the Rwandan genocide (and specifically fellow Canadian UN peacekeeper Romeo Dellaire) and Bosnian war, I feel like I was a step ahead while reading this book. As much as I appreciated LeBor providing the back story, at times I felt it distracting. Just as I was turning pages quicker in anticipation of the story line it was broken up with a piece of back story history. Further to that, the number of acronyms used in this book was staggering. I found myself flipping back a few times to remember what SG, EGS, ECLF, DPA, etc. stood for.

This is one of the more exciting mystery thriller books I've read in a while. I'd love to read another Yael Azoulay book and see her kick some more ass. I recommend you go get the book and as I wait for the next Azoulay book to come out, I'll read this free short story from her!

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be part of this book tour.

First Line: "The wind rose and fell through the airshaft, roaring so loudly it seemed the building was breathing."


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis

The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis
Political Satire

Daniel Addison leaves Parliament Hill after having been a speech writer for the Leader of the Opposition to pursue a career in academia. He feels a bit jaded from his time in the Canadian political system and is looking forward to a somewhat more normal existence. The only thing he needs to do before he completely transition is find a Liberal candidate for one of the biggest Tory strongholds in the country, his new home, Cumberland. The incumbent of Cumberland is the current Finance Minister and very popular. It takes Addison a very long time to find a candidate before he happens on his new landlord, Angus McLintock. Angus is a Scot who teaches Engineering at the university and despises teaching English to Engineers because they don't get it. In exchange for not teaching English to Engineers, Angus agrees to become a for-sure loser of the Liberal party in his riding. Hilarity ensues!

It's not typical that you get to read a comedic book about Canadian politics. Usually most Canadian books are sub-par. This one, however, was very enjoyable. The characters were entertaining and the story line more so. Some things didn't make a whole lot of sense, such as why the Liberals would ask Addison to find them a candidate and then do nothing but ridicule his decision when they wouldn't have been able to find better themselves. But putting aside the small issues, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

First Line: "I am Daniel Addison"


Saturday, June 08, 2013

The Queen's Fool

The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory
Historical Fiction
Hannah Green is a young Jewess recently forced to flee from Spain. She is posing as a boy to help her father who is a bookkeeper. Lord Robert Dudley realizes she can foresee the future and she becomes King Edward's Fool. Hannah The Fool gets to go to court. She goes through the King's death and then Queen Mary's rise to the throne. On top of this is Princess Elizabeth's eternal scheming to get on the throne.

Dudley with whom Hannah is in love asks her to spy on both Mary and Elizabeth and thus puts her in danger. Hannah although she loves Dudley is also engaged to a man of her own religion.

All this intrigue makes for quite a page-turner. Hannah is only a young teen who must hide her religion and not play favourites among the Royals. Gregory really does try to portray Mary in a more kindly light then history has us believe. As for Elizabeth, what a skank! Could she have really have been this bad?

First Line: "The girl, giggling and overexcited, was running in the sunlit garden, running away from her stepfather, but not so fast that he could not catch her."

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Survivor in Death by J.D. Robb

Survivor in Death by J.D. Robb

Nine year old Nixie Swisher was in her kitchen getting an orange fizzy when her entire family was murdered in their sleep. She too was supposed to be killed, but getting that drink saved her life. Lieutenant Eve Dallas gets the case and keeps Nixie safe in her house while she hunts for the killers. Eve isn't very good with kids, adding to her stress as she tried to piece together the puzzle. This murder seemed harder for her to solve than some previous ones. The team had to grind data a bit more than usual, but that helped made the story more believable.

I enjoyed how uncomfortable it was having a kid around for Eve and Roarke. I hope Nixie returns in some later stories. Roarke says he wants kids with Eve eventually but I can't see her ever becoming a parent. Beyond that, I felt like the motive was rather weak. Why would multiple people agree to help someone with their revenge? It just didn't make sense to me.

First Line: "A late night urge for an Orange Fizzy saved Nixie's life."