Monday, August 31, 2009

Faces of Fear by John Saul

A year after his wife Margo, a former supermodel, commits suicide, plastic surgeon Conrad Dunn remarries realtor Risa Shaw. A move from Santa Monica to Bel Air throws Risa and Alison, Risa's straight-laced fifteen year-old daughter, into a new environment where the girls in her school treat getting a nose job as nonchalantly as getting a new pair of jeans.

Not surprising given his reputation, Alison's new stepfather has even been the surgeon of choice among her cohorts. In fact, when it becomes apparent that Alison is having trouble fitting into this new lifestyle, Conrad suggests that he can fix her problems with one simple surgery to augment her breasts.

While Alison is contemplating undergoing a surgery that she has been convinced will fix everything, all around Los Angeles, women have been mutilated in the most unusual manner. First, a murdered Starbucks manager had her breasts taken, then a jogger had her eyebrows removed by an unknown suspect, and even a young girl, whose ears have harvested, was found slaughtered in a parking during a late night rave.

Putting the pieces of the puzzle together is news reporter Tina Wong, who sensationalistic approach to reporting is getting her heat from not only the local detectives, but also her boss and Alison's father, Michael. Despite her tendency towards the graphic, Tina may be on to something when she notes that it is as if Frankenstein himself has come up from his grave to harvest a woman's most prized feature in order to put them all together to create the perfect person.

Mutilation, dismemberment, and organ harvesting...what's not to love? Even though the killer may be evident from the beginning, this book is worth reading just for the all the creepiness!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

Lara Lington has just seen a ghost. She is at her great aunt Sadie's funeral when it happens. When the ghost talks she claims to be Sadie and she demands her necklace. Lara is completely confused and has no idea what necklace. But Sadie is persistent and Lara agrees to help her locate her necklace.

First, Lara must stop the funeral so she claims Sadie was murdered. This brings outrage since Sadie was 105 years old. But Lara stays the course and it buys her some time. Her first stop is the nursing home Sadie lived at. There is a picture of Sadie there wearing the necklace. Now Lara knows what she is looking for.

But before Lara can do any real searching she must get her work life in order. She runs a head hunting business with her friend Natalie. Unfortunately, Natalie decided to take a vacation for who knows how long and now Lara is stuck trying to run the business on her own. It is made harder by the fact that Sadie keeps bugging her about the necklace, her family thinks she is crazy and her uncle has a secret. And to top it all off Sadie is hot for some random guy and convinces Lara to go out on a date with him.

What happens next is a series of events that are funny, touching and have a bit of mystery. Sophie Kinsella has written another fabulous book. I recommend all of her books. She also writes under the name Madeleine Wickham.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo

Linda Castillo's new thriller Sworn to Silence is a page turner! Chief Kate Burkholder returned home to Painter's Mill, a small town with a sizable Amish community, a few years ago when her mother was ill. The town council asked her to take over as chief of police because she is formerly Amish and might be able to bridge the gap between the Amish and English communities.

A serial murderer is back in Painter's Mill after 16 years. Young women are brutally raped and tortured before they are left bleeding to death. Kate's small police force is quickly overwhelmed, but she's hesitant to ask for help because she has a terrible secret that she feels is related to these murders and she will do anything to protect her Amish family. The town council interferes by bringing in the local county sheriff and a state investigator, John Tomasetti, and when the murderer isn't found, Kate is removed from her position. Determined to find the murderer, she continues investigating on her own. Tomasetti, also dealing with a terrible secret, knows she is hiding something, but the two feel a growing attraction with one another. Can they learn to trust each other, get past their demons and solve the case?

This book was terrific and kept me guessing until almost the end. Although set in an Amish community, this is not a gentle read. The book jacket says the author is already working on the next book in the series.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Dying for Mercy by Mary Jane Clark

Hosting a party of over 100 in his exclusive Tuxedo Lake, New York, mansion to recognize the work of St. Francis, the eccentric Innis Wheelock sneaks away from his guests. The next time he is seen is in his greenhouse, dead. It quickly becomes apparent that he committed suicide....by stigmata.

Attending the party is Innis and Valentina's friend and Key to America news correspondent Eliza Blake. Moments before his death, Innis pulled Eliza to the side to tell her that he knows she will do what needs to be done. Now, in light of his untimely death, Eliza ponders the significance of Innis's cryptic message.

Back at work, Annabelle and B.J. take note of a string of mysterious numbers that appear on a pot next to Innis's body in the few shots Eliza managed to capture with her camera phone. These numbers send Eliza and her crew on a wild goose chase to solve a puzzle of a scandal that happened decades earlier. With the body count piling up, can Eliza solve the puzzle and stop the killer before another heinous murder is committed?

Readers will enjoy working with Eliza to solve the puzzle while they anxiously await the revelation of the killer's identity, as everyone in this story is a potential suspect. Dying for Mercy is a fast-paced novel of suspense that proves that Mary Jane Clark is at the top of her game and there is no slowing her down.

To see MJC's recent appearance on Good Morning America, please visit http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Books/story?id=8301369&page=1.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Charles and Emma by Deborah Heiligman

This biography of Charles Darwin, author of The Origin of Species, covers the expected topics of science and evolution. Its success, however, lies in author Deborah Heiligman’s presentation of the great scientist through the lens of marriage to his beloved Emma, a woman of faith.

That Darwin’s theory of evolution remains controversial is well-known, but the debate that it caused within Darwin’s own marriage and home life comes as a surprise and makes the biography a fascinating read about the power of love, marriage, family and inquiry.

Heiligman’s fascination with Darwin and his devotion to Emma comes naturally – she is a religious studies major, a lover of science, and very happily married to a writer of science and evolution. This book would be another outstanding selection for sacred institutions’ youth and book groups.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Long Lost by Harlan Coben

I made the mistake of starting with the ninth book in the Myron Bolitar series, Long Lost. As a result, there were several things that didn't make sense. Some series are better read in order, and this is definitely one of them. Readers new to this series should learn from my mistake and start with Deal Breaker.

That being said, Long Lost is still an enjoyable read that centers around former athlete and P.I. (I think...he is some kind of agent) Myron Bolitar who is just in the midst of ending a relationship when he receives a phone call from Terese Collins, a former lover who he hasn't heard from in seven years, asking him to meet her in Paris. Now free of commitments, Bolitar decides he is able to go.

When they reunite in Paris, Bolitar learns that Terese needs his help. She had received a phone call from her ex-husband requesting that he meet her in France because he has something to tell her that will change her life forever. Terese never got that information from Rick, because he was murdered before she got to him.

A blood sample at the crime scene reveals that Rick's daughter was also present at the murder, but Terese lost her only child years ago in a fatal car crash. Is it possible the child is still alive? Bolitar who will do anything to protect Terese and enlists the help of Wyn and Esperanza to get to the bottom of this suspicious crime.

Coben tackles at lot in his novel: stem cell research, embryo adoption, and terrorism, all which add to the interesting plot thread. If you have read other books in this series, please fill me in on what I missed!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Burn by Linda Howard

Jenner Redwine has won the lottery. But winning the lottery isn't all it is cracked up to be. First her ex-boyfriend brings a lawsuit against her trying to get some of the winnings. Then her absentee, good for nothing dad shows up and ends up stealing $25,000 from her. Then her best friend Michelle expects Jenner to pay for everything and Jenner finds out Michelle isn't the friend she thought she was.

Seven years later, Jenner has found her niche. She has moved to Florida and is very active in charities and has become good friends with Sydney Hazlett, a very wealthy socialite. Now Jenner and Sydney are booked on a charity cruise to Hawaii. Sydney is visiting a friend in California and meeting Sydney at the ship. But before Sydney gets there she is kidnapped.

Cael Traylor is hired to go on a charity cruise and find out if a man named Larkin is buying nuclear weapons. Larkin is the one running the cruise. He is also paranoid. At the last minute he rearranges the cabin assignments and Cael needs a new plan. Enter Sydney and Jenner. Their cabin is now located next to Larkin's. To get Jenner to cooperate with Cael, his team kidnap Sydney and lets Jenner know nothing will happen if she goes along with the plan.

Not knowing if Cael is a good or bad guy, Jenner goes along with the plan. Cael and her are to pretend to be lovers and Sydney stayed in California because she was sick. But not one to go along quietly, Jenner makes Cael as miserable as possible.

But soon Jenner realizes Cael is a good guy and starts to fall for him. But they need to stop Larkin before someone gets hurt, because Larkin has something planned that no one knows about. Something that could ruin the cruise for everyone and maybe end their lives!

A fantastic read by Linda Howard. After reading her last book, Death Angel, I was happy she is back to her great writing self!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Beach House by James Patterson

Taking the train in from NYC, Columbia law student Jack Mullen is greeted by his father, grandfather, girlfriend, and a police officer when he arrives in Montauk. He soon learns that his 21-year old brother, Peter, has died.

His body had washed ashore in East Hampton. When Jacks sees Peter's body, it is apparent that he has been badly beaten. Peter had been working that night parking cars at a lavish party for toy company mogul and CEO Barry Neubauer. The authorities are writing up Peter's death as an accident/suicide.

Plagued with grief, Jack is unable to accept that is brother's death was anything but murder. In attending to his brother's affairs, he learns of a bank account in his brother's name that held in excess of hundreds of thousands. How could a young kid who parked cars for a living obtain that kind of cash?

Jack rounds the help of his high school friends to help him locate Peter's killer. His efforts are soon put on hold, as someone out there is working hard to make sure the truth isn't discovered. Jack and his friends will risk it all to bring about justice for Peter, even if it means taking justice into their own hands.

Beach House is another fast-past thriller from the prolific Patterson. The conclusion was a bit implausible, so this wasn't on of my favorite Patterson novels. Nonetheless, readers will enjoy the ride.

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

Winter in Wisconsin, 1907 is a stark, sometimes brutal sometimes beautiful season, words that can also be used to describe this novel. Catherine Land, a beautiful, but no longer young woman, has answered a newspaper ad for "a reliable wife." Ralph Truitt, aging, rich, and lonely has selected Catherine from dozens of replies, based on her description of herself as a simple and honest woman and the picture she sent, which is actually of her much plainer cousin India. Despite her obvious deceptions, Ralph goes forward with his plan to marry her.

The reader soon learns that both parties have ulterior motives in mind - Catherine to inherit Ralph's money and live in luxury with her much younger lover, and Ralph to use Catherine to bring his long-estranged son back home and quench his eternal loneliness. The novel quietly twists and turns along these plot lines while each of them realizes that fulfilling their deepest wishes may not be what brings them satisfaction after all.

Goolrick's writing is hypnotizing - his rich visual descriptions drew me in until I could hear, smell, feel and see through the character's eyes. The book quietly seethes with passion and teeters on madness, examining the human condition in all of its capabilities. While it is a book to be savored, it is suspenseful enough to keep the pages turning until the end. I highly recommend this book to fans of gothic or romantic novels, or anyone who is a lover of language. Some readalike suggestions are:

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier
My Antonia by Willa Cather
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Dancing in the Dark by Mary Jane Clark

In the beach community of Ocean Grove, NJ, Leslie Patterson's abduction is being scrutinized by police, as they believe she staged the whole ordeal in order to gain attention from her ex-boyfriend, Sean. Assigned to report on the story is Key News broadcaster Diane Mayfield, who had to cancel her family vacation and is on location with her two children and sister in tow.

Just when Diane feels she can gain the needed interview from Leslie, new developments break out: another girl, Carly, has gone missing, which has the community rethinking their feelings about Leslie. Carly, who was last seen leaving a babysitting-gig at one of the summer tent homes, was also a girlfriend of Sean's. Jonathan lies to police when he said that he paid Carly and she left their home alone. His wife also discovers he has been lying about when he came up from the city to stay with the family.

As the plot moves along at a satisfying pace, readers are introduced to several shady characters who have motive to commit these crimes. Firstly, there is Owen, Leslie's therapist who uses some questionable experimental research on his patients. Then there is Larry, Leslie's boss, who's troubled daughter committed suicide during the time she was a patient of Owen's. Arthur, the former Gulf War vet with known psychiatric problems who spends his time hanging around the boardwalk, seems very suspicious as well. Of course, don't underestimate the irony that the two girls who have gone missing were once involved with Sean.

There are some striking similarities, besides the author's name, of this novel to Mary Higgins Clark's work (which is not a bad thing). Aside from the New Jersey setting, like Higgins Clark, Mary Jane Clark likes to litter her plot with a ton of questionable characters that prevent even the most astute mystery reader from ferreting out the truth. Mary Jane Clark is definitely a capable writer with plenty to offer genre fans.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Now & Then by Jacqueline Sheehan

Fans of time travel fiction with enjoy Jacqueline Sheehan's new novel Now & Then. Anna has just returned from a trip. Her stay in Ireland was brief, but a mysterious woman gives her a small wrapped package which Anna tucks away. Hours after arriving home, her brother Patrick is seriously injured in a car accident that happened while he was on his way to pick up his 16 year old son Joseph from jail. Anna retrieves her nephew, but both are exhausted and decide to rest and see Patrick in the morning. In the middle of the night, Joseph has a dream and is drawn to find the little package in Anna's luggage. Anna is angry he would be snooping through her things, and as she grabs the package out of his hands, they are both pulled back in time to Ireland in 1844.

Anna and Joseph are separated, unsure of where they are or why, but they make friends and try to adapt to their new situation. Anna lives with a poor family in the country, becomes a teacher, and falls in love with Donal. Joseph is taken in by a wealthy English landowner, becomes a champion wrestler, and falls in love with Taleen. Anna eventually confides in her good friend Glennis who is determined that Anna find Joseph and return back home in the future. The pieces eventually come together that Anna and Joseph are there to break a family curse between generations of fathers and sons that has made life miserable for their family.

I enjoyed this story very much and loved the connections between the past and present. Recommended, especially for fans of time travel fiction.