Thursday, May 28, 2009
TITLE: FOREVER ODD
AUTHOR: DEAN KOONTZ
Details: no. 2 Odd Thomas Novel
I'm really liking the mix you are presented with in this series.
On the one hand you have the scary/horror element; a main character who can see ghosts and has other supernatural abilities and tends to be up against very depraved adversaries. On the other hand there is the main character himself, Odd Thomas; the kindest, most generous, unselfish and sensitive person you could imagine without ever being sickened by him. For me this combination is really working and keeping me hooked.
In this book, Odd is still trying to come to terms with Stormy's death when he is visited by the ghost of his friend Danny's father. When he goes to their house, he finds the father murdered and Danny missing.
Trusting his instincts he decides to try to find and rescue Danny on his own. A decision that brings him in contact with a very depraved adversary and puts his life in danger on several occasions.
Eventually, this quest leads to Odd making a life-changing decision that would have been unthinkable only days earlier.
A real page turner, which I read in just one day.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
TITLE: THE BLUE RELIGION
EDITED BY: MICHAEL CONNELLY
Details: A Mystery Writers of America Anthology
I don't think I'll ever be a big fan of short stories. They always seem to leave me dissatisfied. Just when I'm really getting into the characters and the rhythm of the story, it's over.
However, one thing I can say in favour of these anthologies is that they do give me an idea of what so far unknown to me authors are like. For that reason, I'll list the titles and authors of the stories in this book here, as well as their individual grades. The four I graded the whole book is the average of these individual grades. An interesting aside here is that the stories with the highest grades are by authors I already know and love.
* SKINHEAD CENTRAL by T. Jefferson Parker (4)
* SACK O' WOE by John Harvey (3.5)
* THE DROUGHT by James O. Born
* A CERTAIN RECOLLECTION by John Buentella (4.5)
* A CHANGE IN HIS HEART Jack Fredrickson (4)
* THE HERALD by Leslie Glass
* SUCH A LUCKY, PRETTY GIRL by Persia Walker
* FRIDAY NIGHT LUCK by Edward D. Hach
* THE FOOL by Laurie R. King (5)
* BURYING MR. HENRY by Polly Nelson (4)
* OATHS, OHANA AND EVERYTHING by Diana Hansen (4)
* THE PRICE OF LOVE by Peter Robinson (4+)
* CONTACT AND COVER by Greg Rucka (4-)
* RULE NUMBER ONE by Bev Vincent (4)
* WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD by Paul Guyot (3.5)
* WINNING by Alafair Burke (4)
* FATHER'S DAY by Michael Connelly (5+); a very welcome reunion with Harry Bosch.
Monday, May 25, 2009
TITLE: THE BOOK THIEF
AUTHOR: MARKUS ZUSAK
Details: Re-read for library Book Club
This is still one of the most beautiful and thought-provoking books I have ever read. It didn't lose any of its power during this second reading. In fact, I was sorry I had to rush a bit in order to finish it in time for the book club meeting tomorrow. I would have liked to take more time, to treasure the story and certain segments and sentences in it.
This is a book that deserves to be lingered over, a story that requires contemplation and thought. If a country goes to war and commits horrendous acts, does that mean that all the people living there are bad? Do small acts of unlawfulness (book stealing) cancel out a good heart? Why does heartbreak seem to follow some people around and why is there no reward for goodness?
This is the story of Liesel who is 10 years old when in 1939 she is brought to live with a foster family because her parents are (deemed to be) communists. On the way to her new home in Himmel street her brother dies and she steals her first book.
On Himmel street she finds love, friendship and more opportunities to steal books. She also encounters how evil and cruel people can be, how doing the right thing can leave you scared and in danger and discovers the pain connected with loosing everything.
A few quotes (from a possible multitude):
"The Germans in basements were pitiable, surely, but at least they had a chance. That basement was not a washroom. They were not sent there for a shower. For those people, life was still achievable."
"There were people everywhere on the city street, but the stranger could not have been more alone if it had been empty."
"I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race - rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words so damning and brilliant."
Friday, May 22, 2009
TITLE: THE HIDDEN
AUTHOR: TOBIAS HILL
This was a disappointing book, and in a way I'm sorry I felled compelled to finish it.
But the story always had potential and I kept on waiting for it to live up to what it seemed to promise. In the end though, it turned out to be an unsatisfactory read, with unsympathetic characters and a, to me, unresolved ending. I also felt there was to much philosophising going on, too much introspection and description and not enough action.
This is the story of Ben Mercer who leaves Oxford for Greece after his marriage falls apart. For a month he works in a restaurant when a chance encounter leads him to an archaeological dig near Sparta. The people working there are divided into two groups and the group that doesn't seem to want to know him is the one he yearns to join.
When they do accept and slowly let him in on their secrets he discovers that some people you are better off not knowing, that some secrets should remain unknown and that you should indeed be careful what you wish for. But by then he is in way too deep.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
TITLE: PLUM LUCKY
AUTHOR: JANET EVANOVICH
Details: A Stephanie Plum between the numbers novel
This was another wacky adventure with Stephanie and Co.
When Stephanie's grandma Mazur finds a bag filled with cash, she hightails it to Atlantic City for a spot of gambling.
But, a little man in green pants who had the money before her is after Grandma and that money, which he needs to ransom a horse. And the horse is being held by a mobster who claims to own the money.
Throw in Diesel, Lula and Connie and you have mayhem on every page, with a few laugh out loud moments.
Unfortunately there's not much of a role for Ranger and Morelli, but there was plenty to enjoy.
A great holiday read.
TITLE: DE COCK EN DE MOORD IN DE HONDSDAGEN
(The Kok and the murder in the dog days)
AUTHOR: A.C. BAANTJER
Details: no. 69 De Cock Mystery
A few hours after he has been reported missing, De Cock and his side-kick Vledder find Petrus van Wijngaarden murdered. In the trunk of his car they find six dead puppies, perished in the heat.
Petrus was an animal rights activist who also delved into the supplying of young dogs to research facilities. He was also engaged in an extra marital affair. All in all there are more than enough motives for his murder.
When more members of the animal activist group end up murdered, it only increases the mystery. But true to form, De Cock does arrive at the right conclusions and unmasks the murderer.
These are fun mysteries. Of course they are all written according to the same formula, and they are not complicated or intricate. But they do make for an easy and fun reading experience.
And reading this book while I actually was in Amsterdam increased my enjoyment.
Monday, May 11, 2009
TITLE: WITHOUT FAIL
AUTHOR: LEE CHILD
Details: no. 6 Jack Reacher Thriller
Jack Reacher is doing his usual thing of roaming from here to there with no luggage, no address and no official documentation when he's tracked down by M.E. Froelich. M.E. is the former partner of his diseased brother Joe and heading the security team in charge of the vice-president elect. Death threats are being send to the vice-president to be, and M.E. needs Jack's help in assessing the risks and providing protection.
After a nearly successful assassination attempt the official enquiry goes in one direction while Jack is sure they need to look elsewhere. If he's wrong all effort and loss will have been for nothing.
As always, a very gripping and thrilling story, almost impossible to put down. There was one slightly disappointing moment though when all supposedly talented investigators missed out on a clue that stood out like a sore thumb.
TITLE: NIGHT-TIME IS MY TIME
AUTHOR: MARY HIGGINS CLARK
Details: Audio: 10 Cd's / 9 hours 55 minutes
Narrator: Kate Harper
Because I did listen to 8 of the 10 Cd's of this audio, the decision not to finish it took some time to take. It seemed a waste not to listen to the rest of it.
However, once I admitted to myself that I just didn't care how the story would end, and that I really didn't want to listen to anymore of it, that decision was easy enough.
TITLE: HET DERTIENDE STERRENBEELD
AUTHOR: UNNI LINDELL
Details: no. 1 Inspector Cato Isakson Mystery
Even though I scored this book a 4-, I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it. The mystery itself was certainly good. Men are being killed in Oslo, and underneath their bodies short notes with lines from a nursery rhyme are being found. In a country were serial killings are rare to non-existent, this creates a huge headache for Cato Isakson and his colleagues.
About halfway through the book it seem like the killer has been revealed, but thankfully things turn out to be less obvious than they seem.
It was the rest of the story that didn't quite sit right with me. Too large a part of the story was taken up by Cato's private life and problems for my liking. Yes, some part of his private life story tied in to the mystery, but I would have liked more attention to the detection and less for Cato's love and family life.
So, will I read more books in this series? I haven't made up my mind about that. I will be looking for books to bring home with me when I'm in Holland, and if nothing else peaks my interest I may pick up another Cato Isakson mystery, but I do not feel an urgent need to get one.
The Dutch have marketed this book as a "literary thriller"; for me it could have been less literary and more thriller.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
TITLE: AMERICAN WIFE
AUTHOR: CURTIS SITTENFELD
This book tells the story of the life of Alice Lindgren Blackwell, a small town girl who ends up being America's First Lady. What makes this a remarkable book is the fact that the character of Alice has been modeled on Laura Bush, with Sittenfeld trying to get into her mind and her heart in order to find out what motivated her and what kept her going.
It's a shame that I know so very little about the real woman, Laura Bush (although if she's anything like the character of Alice she would prefer it that way), and therefore have no idea how biographical this story actually is.
Did Laura Bush kill a young man she was in love with in a car accident? Did she have an abortion? And did she take a stand against her husband's war in Iraq? I just don't know, and I don't think I'm going to try and find out, because it wouldn't affect the way I think about this book.
It doesn't really matter how much of this story is based on fact since this is a beautiful story, examining what makes a marriage, why people stay together despite differences and how having different opinions doesn't have to mean you can't love each other or make a life together.
The only reason I marked the book a minus with the five is because there were times when Alice's tolerance, passivity and "anything for peace in my life" attitude made me dislike her and want to give her a good shake. But then, I suppose it's a mark of a good writer when her work evokes such strong emotions in me.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
TITLE: FATAL LIES
AUTHOR: FRANK TALLIS
Details: no. 3 Dr. Max Liebermann Mystery
When a young cadet is found dead in a military school in Vienna in 1903, an autopsy seems to suggest death by natural causes. However, there are some strange injuries, some old and healed and some fresh, on the boy's body, and they stimulate Inspector Oskar Reinhardt to investigate further, with the help of his friend Dr. Max Liebermann of course. Very soon they discover a web of bullying, abuse, secrecy and misuse of power with more than just one victim.
At the same time, Max's involvement with Amelia Lydgate appears to have come to an end, leaving him in the grip of strong feelings of jealousy and anger. When he subsequently meets the beautiful and passionate Hungarian violinist Trezska, he quickly falls for her charms. But there is far more to Trezska than meets the eye, and Max could find himself losing more than just his heart.
I wasn't overly impressed with either of the mysteries in this book. However, what ever strength the book lacked in that respect was adequately made up for by the descriptions of the society in Vienna, early in the 20th century. And I do love the way historically correct events and people (like Sigmund Freud) feature in these stories.