Friday, October 31, 2008

Creepers by David Morrell

In preparation for writing his story, reporter Frank Balenger has joined a covert group of individuals who refer to themselves as "creepers" on their exploration of the dilapidated hotel in Asbury Park known as the Paragon. The "creepers" consist of Professor Robert Conklin and his former students, Rick, Vinnie, and Cora, and their mission is to infiltrate old, historic buildings without vandalizing or destroying them.

Besides the Professor, not many people know the sordid history behind the Paragon Hotel. The prior owner, Carlisle, an eccentric individual who suffered from agoraphobia, used surveillance techniques to monitor his guests. During the course of his voyeurism, he not only witnessed affairs but also brutal acts of violence and murder. In fact, one of the rooms was home to a mobster who supposedly stored valuable gold coins in a secret vault in his room. As a result, readers will soon discover the different motivations behind the expedition and ultimately that no one is who they said they are.

When they enter the hotel on this stormy October night, the professor and his clan suspect they will run into the usual nighttime creatures that inhabit these places, but little do they know the nightmarish hell they are about to encounter, including dead bodies, a woman held captive, a group of thugs, and a serial killer on the loose. Will any of them be able to get out alive?

I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed with Creepers at first, as the adventure and suspense started out slowly, but I am glad I finished it. If you can get through the first 70 pages or so, the plot thickens and intensifies, and Morrell keeps readers guessing until the very end.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Show No Mercy by Cindy Gerard

Jenna McMillan, a journalist, helped take down an organization that was doing experiments on children. Nine months later she is trying to get on with her life and forget about the man who saved her, Gabe Jones. Jenna decides it is time to get back to work and is offered an assignment in Argentina. Back where the nightmare took place.

Gabe Jones is part of a group called Black Ops, Inc. His part in the take down was motivated by revenge. One of the experimenters, Erich Adler, had tortured his love in front of Gabe a year before. He almost didn't get his revenge because of a feisty redhead named Jenna, who he saved and nine months later still couldn't stop thinking about.

Now Gabe and Jenna are back in the same place and Gabe saves Jenna once again from a car bomb. Gabe gets hurt and after being treated, they return to Jenna's hotel. When they arrive at her room, there are gunmen waiting for them. That is when they realize someone is out to kill Jenna and Gabe. Is it an old enemy or a new one? And will they survive long enough to realize their feelings for each other?

Another great start of a series by Cindy Gerard. The next title is Take No Prisoners. Her Bodyguards series is also terrific. The first book is To the Edge.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Matters at Mansfield (Or, the Crawford Affair) by Carrie Bebris

Fans of Jane Austen and cozy mysteries will enjoy the new book by Carrie Bebris: The Matters at Mansfield (Or, The Crawford Affair). This is the fourth in the series of Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mysteries.

Lady Catherine de Bourgh is determined to find a good match for her delicate daughter Anne. Good breeding and a considerable fortune are much more important to her than love so Lady Catherine has arranged for Anne to marry Neville Sennex, the son of a viscount. Much to everyone’s surprise Anne finally stands up to her mother and elopes with Henry Crawford!

Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam (cousin to Darcy and Anne) race to stop the marriage, but find they are too late. While returning home to face the rage of Lady Catherine, Anne is injured and must recover at the village of Mansfield, where too many people know of Henry Crawford’s past affair with a married woman. Lady Catherine and Elizabeth Darcy eventually meet up with the group and all learn that not only did Henry previously have an affair; he is also married to another woman!

Henry mysteriously disappears apparently afraid to face the consequences of his actions. Eventually his body is found…the victim of a duel or is it suicide? There are too many unanswered questions surrounding Henry’s death, and Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are determined to find the answers to help save Darcy’s cousin Anne’s reputation.

Fans of Jane Austen will enjoy revisiting the memorable characters of Pride & Prejudice as well as Mansfield Park. This is a nice cozy mystery written in Jane Austen’s witty style, and gives an interesting interpretation of what life might have been like for Darcy and Elizabeth after they married. While this book can stand alone, readers may wish to start with the first book in the series: Pride and Prescience (Or, A Truth Universally Acknowledged).

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Step On a Crack by James Patterson

Even though it is Christmastime, the funeral service for the former president's wife is full of the rich and famous. Noted celebrities and politicians have gathered at St. Patrick's to remember the former first lady. In the midst of the service, a group of cloaked, hooded, and masked men with teasers and guns take over, using the funeral services attendees as their hostages. Their demands are simple: they want $80 million dollars wired to an account in the Caymans or else New York's most famous will die.

Enter New York City homicide detective and former hostage negotiator, Michael Bennett, who has been called in to talk to the front man for the hijackers, a man who calls himself "Jack." Michael, a father of ten adopted children who's wife is dying of terminal cancer, needs this pressure like he needs a hole in the head, but he is determined to get the hostages out safely, no matter what the costs.

Michael and the police think they have the upper hand when the church's caretaker comes forward with a secret passage that they can use to raid the church. Unfortunately, the hijackers seem to be one step ahead, and this attempted raid leads to a few causalities. In fact, the hijackers demonstrate they are not kidding around when they send a few hostages out - the mayor who has been stabbed to death and a priest who has died in the crossfire. Will Michael be able to successfully negotiate with Jack before anyone else dies?

Readers will enjoy this fast-paced and intense read from Patterson. I also wanted to add that this story would would make an excellent feature film and I hope it gets optioned for a movie one day. It could stand up next to Die Hard any day.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Borrower of the Night by Elizabeth Peters

Vicky Bliss is a history professor. She is 6 feet, blond and filled out in all the right places. This makes it hard for her to be taking seriously. When she stumbles upon a book her boyfriend Tony is writing a review about, she discovers that the book might hold clues to a lost German artifact, a jeweled reliquary.

During a school break, Vicky journeys to Germany and stays in the medieval castle of the maker of the reliquary. The castle is run by his heirs, an unfriendly older woman and her shy but beautiful niece. Tony shows up and challenges Vicky to a contest. If he finds the item first then Vicky has to marry him and if Vicky does, she can do what she likes. What they didn't expect was other people looking for the item. Or the murder attempts. Or the secret passages. Or the fact that they would really find the reliquary.

I am a big fan of Elizabeth Peters and her Amelia Peabody series, so I decided to give her Vicky Bliss series a try. I like it. I have only read the first book but I really enjoyed it and look forward to reading the rest.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nova Swing By M. John Harrison

If you are a fan of the latest wave of noir SF, you are probably familiar with M. John Harrison, author of Nova Swing, the 2007 winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award, UK’s premier prize for science fiction literature.

This is a brilliantly painful book, unrelenting in its focus on bleak and grim characters, trapped either by their past or their present circumstances. The novel is populated with minions, molls, bar keeps and genetically-modified rickshaw girls all living on the borderlands of the city of Saudade, near the so-called “event site”, an anomaly of space and time that was caused when parts of the Kefahuchi Tract fell to the ground of a planet 10,000 light years from Earth.

Like all good noir, it starts with a gal in a bar in need of some help. The year is 2444 AD and Elizabeth Kielar needs something from the crash zone. Vic is the man who is going to help her. Vic Seratonin is a dangerous tour operator, who takes his clients into the ever-changing event site, often leaving with contraband artifacts he fences through Paulie DeRaad. Lens Aschemann is the Site Crime detective charged with halting this illegal trade. During his investigations of Vic and Paulie, he begins to suspect something even bigger is going on and coming out of the bathrooms at the CafĂ© Surf. And that doesn’t even begin to explain the streams of black and white cats that flow out of the site periodically.

I’m not sure this is a likable book. It is a cruel book, mysterious and unsettling. It makes you think … hard. It haunts me. Shades of Burroughs, Ballard and Dick, if that’s your thing, you’ll want to check this out. Highly recommended.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks

While serving in Iraq, Logan Thibault comes across a laminated photo of a young woman that is signed "E" on the back, which he posts on his platoon's bulletin board in hopes of returning it to its owner. Weeks go by and no one claims the photo, so Logan decides to keep it in his back pocket for safekeeping. Strangely, there are several moments during the war in which Logan could have died, but he somehow manages to survive every one of them. His friend and fellow marine Victor attributes Logan's "luck" to the photo he carries around with him.

Returning from the war and convinced by Victor that the woman in the photograph is his destiny, Logan and his dog, Zeus, venture to Hampton, North Carolina, a town that is run by the Clayton family, resolved to locate her. Eventually Logan tracks down Beth, a single mother to Ben, when he starts working at the kennel which she runs with her grandmother, Nana. Not sure were all this is headed, Logan does not tell Beth about the photo.

Despite the unanswered questions of why Logan came to Hampton, Beth becomes smitten with him, especially since he reminds her of her brother, Drake, who died while serving in Iraq. In addition, unlike Beth's ex and the other men she has dated, Logan is genuinely nice to her son. Meanwhile, local police deputy Keith Clayton, Beth's ex-husband and a man who Logan had a run-in when he first arrived in town, is determined to make trouble for the couple.

In typical Spark's fashion, much of the narrative is devoted to Beth and Logan's developing romantic relationship, but he also builds up much tension with the vindicative Clayton. Readers will anxiously be turning the pages to see what Clayton will do and what will happen when the truth is finally revealed. The Lucky One is another winner from beloved author Nicholas Sparks!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life by Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver is one of my favorite television chefs, and his new book Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life is wonderful. Using his own home garden as inspiration, this book is divided into seasons with recipes taking advantage of whatever is ready to harvest. Interspersed throughout the book are growing tips and fabulous photos of the food and his garden. Known for his simple, no-nonsense recipes that emphasize natural flavors, this book is sure to please!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Shortly after going through a painful divorce, journalist and travel essayist Elizabeth Gilbert decides to travel for one year in an attempt to discover happiness. Gilbert travels to three countries: Italy, where she eats, India, where she prays, and Bali, where she learns to love again.

In Rome, Gilbert indulges on everything from margherita pizza to octopus salad, from bread drenched in oil to tiramisu, and describes these foods so vividly that readers will be salivating when reading each description. In India, Gilbert lives in an Ashram where she learns the importance of meditation to cleanse in her soul. It is here where Gilbert seems to finally be able to let go of what was weighing her down. In Bali, Gilbert returns to the medicine man who predicted she would live with him to teach him English. She meets a new friend and embarks on a romantic relationship with a Brazilian businessman.

After Gilbert appeared on Oprah, there was so much hype built around her memoir. Women would carry Eat, Pray, Love around like it was their bible and comment on how much Gilbert's experience changed their own lives.

Honestly, I have to admit that I was somewhat disappointed in this book. I am in no place to judge Gilbert, as I have never been through a divorce, but I found her to be very needy in her relationships with men. It was her decision to leave her husband, so I had a hard time pitying her and perceived her to be selfish. If you read and enjoyed this book, please post a comment. I would really like to understand what everyone else saw in this story that I have seemed to have missed.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Importance of Being Married by Gemma Townley

Jessica Wild has just inherited millions from Grace, a lady she befriended at the nursing home her grandma was at. Grace would always ask about her love life and Jessica would always skirt the issue. Eventually, Jessica realized it wouldn't hurt to fabricate a date or two for Grace's benefit. Before Jessica knows it, she is being proposed to and eloping with her boss, Anthony Milton. Of course none of it is true and even though it has made Grace very happy Jessica decides to come clean. Before she can, Grace dies and leaves Jessica everything...under her married name, Mrs. Jessica Milton!

With the help of her best friend Helen, Jessica gets a makeover and tips on how to get the real Anthony Milton to propose in 50 days. Normally, Jessica might just forget the whole thing but Grace's beautiful home will be torn down and turned into business offices. So does it matter that she doesn't love Anthony or that she might be in love with someone else? Can she get the millions and still be true to herself?

I loved this book. There is a great twist at the end. It is the first of a trilogy and I cannot wait for the next two books to come out! Gemma Townley has made my list of must read authors!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ask Again Later by Jill Davis

Emily Rhode is a thirty-something New York professional whose mother has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. In response to her mother's diagnosis and without much thought, Emily has quit her job. This also affords Emily the opportunity to escape the on-again off-again relationship with her coworker Sam, a man she loves but can't seem to commit.

In addition to her concerns about her mother's health, Emily has been in therapy to deal with issues with her father Jim, who walked out on her family when she was five. Although Jim has been estranged from the family for most of Emily's life, he has been back in the picture ever since Joanie's diagnosis. In fact, he offers Emily a reception job at his law firm which Emily accepts.

Emily's new job gives her a chance to establish a relationship with the man who she never really knew in hopes of forming the family she never really had. Just when Emily is adjusted to the status quo, tragedy hits, and Emily starts to reevaluate her priorities in life.

Despite Davis's keen ability to punctuate moments of sadness with humor, for me, the plot seemed to drag on for most of the book. I wouldn't care to read anything by this author again, and I wish I could get back the 6 hours or so it took me to read this book!