Tag: book series

The Defector Book Review

I found The Defector by Daniel Silva intense. In fact the further into the book, the harder it was to put down. It was the first book I have read by Silva. If any of you follow Silva closely, you may have read the novel a decade ago. Since the book is over 450 pages and upon my dad’s bookcase, The Defector was the perfect companion for my week of waiting rooms and just plain waiting.

Book Series

The Defector is part of a book series. The series revolves around Israeli spy, Gabriel Allon. This particular thriller has a very large cast of characters. Indeed, I was a bit lost at first. Perhaps a reader needs to be more familiar with the series. Regardless, I found the story entertaining and I am glad it was close at hand.

Revenge for The Defector

The plot line revolves around the disappearance of the defector Grigori Bulganov. Unlike most men in hiding, Grigori flaunted his presence in London. Thus it was easy for the Russians behind his kidnapping to trick the Brits into believing a re-defection occurred.

However, Gabriel Allon did not fall for the ploy. He sets out to find the truth and the cloak and dagger commences. The twists and turns of the story were only outnumbered by the bodies left in the Israeli spy’s wake.

As referenced above, I believe reading the earlier novels would have helped. Silva does try to weave previous books into the narrative. But, I personally needed more. The large cast of characters demands a familiarity by the reader. One that I did not have.

Revenge is a great motivator. In The Defector both sides of the fight are driven by this most dangerous of emotions. As a consequence many lives are lost. The deaths are brutal but I did not find the writing too graphic. It is designed for entertainment with just a bit of politics thrown in. And lots of action.

Daniel Silva

Even though the novel is set in the 21st Century, Silva likens the fictional Russian government to the post-monarchy dictators and revolutionists of the early 20th Century. While a few scenes take place upon American soil, the bulk of the story occurs east of the Atlantic Ocean.

Silva’s writing subtly and not so subtly hints at the true differences between socialist and capitalist countries. He pulls no punches. Even a first time reader easily discerns his political leanings. In this respect Silva reminds me of the late (and in my mind, great) writer Helen MacInnes. Both write strong plot driven spy novels with plenty of twists and turns. Furthermore, both are unabashed proponents of freedom.

I am not sure how I have missed Daniel Silva’s previous novels. Granted thousands of books are published each year, but I should have discovered this series long ago. I enjoyed The Defector. Now I need to check out his previous works.

Book Cover of Daniel Silva's The Defector

 

 

 

Paradox Book Review

The latest Savich and Sherlock FBI thriller from Catherine Coulter that I have read is Paradox. Since these two characters are among my very favorites, it is only fair to warn you I may be biased. Nonetheless, I think Paradox is worth reading. There are plenty of psychological components to make it a thriller.

Coulter’s opening scene captures your attention. There is a break-in and an unknown man is found looming above a sleeping Sean Savich. His mom, FBI agent Lacey Sherlock, interrupts the kidnapping. The couple, familiar to many readers, race to discover the identity of the would-be kidnapper of their son Sean.

Parallel Stories

Simultaneously, Chief Ty Christie witnesses a murder from her back deck. She is helpless to do anything but watch since the event takes place in the middle of the lake. Coulter melds the two stories into one in prime fashion.

Christie is the protagonist for the parallel story line. Coulter does a good job with her character. She becomes a friend more than a love interest to another key character. This is refreshing.

Paradox

A paradox is a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement that when investigated may prove well-founded or true according to my online dictionary. There are multiple instances of paradox in this novel. All but one proved easy to understand.

People act against or outside their personality for a variety of reasons. Coulter is masterful at manipulating the actions of characters both main and secondary in ways that are paradoxical throughout Paradox. The title truly fits the story.

Earlier editions of the FBI series which featured Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock coupled thrills with steamy romantic scenes. Perhaps because the two are a married couple, Coulter has toned the action down quite a bit.

Furthermore, the relationship Ty Christie engages in does not meet the criteria needed to make Paradox a romance as much as a thriller. The book’s focus is that of a thriller joined with a bit of the paranormal and a hefty dose of psychotic killers. A good book to read- but perhaps not just before you sleep.

 

Wired Book Review

Julie Garwood is known for her romance novels. Earlier novels had historical settings. But she has moved into the 21st Century. Recently, I read Wired and it revolves around computer hacking. The protagonist is Allison Trent, a Boston College student and computer geek extraordinaire. And a hacker. But, mostly to do good deeds.

Liam Scott is FBI. He needs a hacker. Someone, somewhere is putting agents at risk. Allison Trent fills the bill. So he arranges to meet her. His offer of employment cannot be refused.

Wired Attraction

The pair share a natural attraction. Thus, only a small bit of the plot revolves around the romantic tensions. Furthermore, this is not a sweet romance. So early on the question of will they end up in bed is answered.

Instead, Garwood focuses on the dangers to Allison Trent. Multiple people have it in for her. She thinks she can handle everything on her own. For the most part she can. But, Liam does come to the rescue a time or two. Garwood handles this in a way as not to offend women. Allison is not a scatterbrained character. But she has issues. She is way too forgiving.

The technology is vague. Perhaps Garwood does this on purpose. Other than sharing with the reader that her protagonist is a coder and a hacker, details are omitted. Technology is changing rapidly, so this keeps the story from dating itself. After all it is mostly a romance. As the reader, you know who is good and who is not right from the start. Thus, not a suspense.

I have read many of Garwood’s books, although it has been awhile since I have read a new one. Some are favorites to be read over and over. I enjoyed Wired. But I consider it to be in the good category. Definitely worth reading, but perhaps not compelling enough to re-read multiple times.

 

 

The Book Charmer Book Review

Every once in a while I want a book to escape in, so I can leave stress behind. I found The Book Charmer perfect for my needs. This delightful novel by Karen Hawkins provided an afternoon of pleasurable reading. The characters were easy to like and the plot straightforward if predictable.

Multiple Back Stories

There are three central characters in the book. Sarah Dove and Travis Parker are life-long next door neighbors in Dove Pond, North Carolina. The third character, Grace Wheeler has arrived in Dove Pond with the intention of staying just a year. All three neighbors form bonds albeit with reluctance on Grace’s part.

Key to the formation of friendship is dementia. Travis’ dad passed away from the disease and Grace’s foster mom is rapidly deteriorating. The two grudgingly work through initial dislike aided by this common ground. Furthermore, Grace’s orphaned niece brings the battle-scarred vet and overwhelmed guardian together.

Book Charmer

Sarah Dove is the book charmer. She brings a touch of mysticism to the story. Books talk to her and she listens.

As a member of the founding family of Dove Pond she has strong ties to the area. Unfortunately, Dove Pond is in decline. When a book whispers to her that Grace can save the town, Sarah does everything she can to entice Grace to stay beyond the short term.

Contemporary Topics

In addition to the backstory of dementia, Hawkins touches on the state of the foster system. Grace’s determination to raise her niece stems from her own experience as an orphan. Back flashes explain how and why Grace is so attached to her own foster mother, Mama G. Thus her willingness to leave her city job for small town life in hopes of easing the confusion of dementia makes sense to the reader.

An additional topic that is touched on is the overdose death of Grace’s sister. But, despite all of these difficult topics, The Book Charmer leaves the reader in an upbeat mood. The efforts of Sarah, Grace and others give Dove Pond the spark it needs. Plus, the development of friendship between the characters showcases the power of relationships even among those hiding or running from the past.

I loved reading The Book Charmer. Readers can escape for a few hours of pure fiction. This was the first Karen Hawkins novel I have read but it certainly won’t be the last. I look forward to more in the series.

 

The People vs. Alex Cross Book Review

After taking a multi-year hiatus from reading the Alex Cross book series by James Patterson I picked up The People vs. Alex Cross. If you are wondering why I stayed away, my reason is quite simple. The books were becoming way too scary! Thus, I had trouble sleeping. Especially after Patterson’s release of Cross Country. However, I missed the characters as well as Patterson’s writing. So, I picked up The People vs. Alex Cross. I am glad I did.

Multiple Story Lines

Patterson weaves multiple story lines together. First, Alex is on trial for murder. This part of the plot hearkens back to a previous book. One that I did not read. Yet, my enjoyment of The People vs. Alex Cross prevailed. Then there is the current case. And the current case is one that Alex shouldn’t be working on. But, of course he gets involved anyway.

For those not familiar with the Alex Cross series, Cross is a crime fighter with a background in psychology. He is married to his immediate boss and lives with his grandmother and three kids. All play a part in the book series. Featured in The People vs. Alex Cross is Ali, the youngest of his offspring.

The current case revolves around young missing blondes and various websites portraying harm to them. Thus, Patterson links the story to a current problem in technology, the dark web. For example, Patterson includes in his plot details on how video uploaded to the web can be altered. Even computer geeks can be fooled. This plays a major part of the story.

The People vs. Alex Cross

Furthermore, the theme of doctored video footage is carried across to the second story line. Incriminating evidence of Cross’ wrong doing in the form of video recording is presented to the court. But the precocious Ali discovers how an unaltered tape contains false information. Sometimes you can’t believe what you see.

Patterson’s viewpoint on police shootings is revealed to the discerning reader. However, this does not interfere with the book. Politics is an underlying theme and not a focal point.

Above all, I enjoyed The People vs. Alex Cross. Mostly because there is plenty of action and I could handle the suspense level. The struggle of good vs. evil lends interest for the reader. But no nightmares! Patterson includes just enough technology to pique one’s interest in a new type of sleight of hand. I find it absolutely amazing what can be achieved with today’s technology. And the technology lends itself well to the thriller genre!

The Last Second Book Review

Authors Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison writing the Brit in the FBI series have released a good summer read in The Last Second. Even though the plot leads us to the far corners of the world, the story line is easier to accept than that of The Devil’s Triangle also written by the duo. You can read that review by clicking here.

Familiar Characters

FBI agents Nicholas Drummond and Michaela Caine (Mike) are on vacation. Shortly after a visit with old friends Grant Thornton and his wife Kitsune, they spring into action.  Drummond and Caine leave their European vacation to go to the rescue of Grant.

Thornton is acting as bodyguard to Jean-Pierre Broussard founder of Galactus Space Industries. Broussard’s hobby is finding treasures lost at sea. He has just found the Holy Grail when he is betrayed. The Holy Grail is stolen and the ship’s passengers are left for dead.

New Villains

Ellison and Coulter believe in equal opportunity. Once again the bad guys are bad gals. Ex-astronaut Navaeh Patel believes she was rescued in space by aliens called Numen. Her henchwoman is Kiera Byrne. A formidable bodyguard with an IRA background.

The two women must be stopped. Not an easy task when one is a brilliant scientist bent on contacting the aliens who saved her life.

The Last Second

This action adventure novel would make a great movie. The twists and turns and subplots keep you turning the pages. Naturally, Drummond and Caine manage to solve each problem they encounter at the last second. Since there are multiple scenes leading to the apex, the duo have plenty of opportunity to display their skills.

There are a few subplots that touch on current events. First is the commercial space race. Second is the concern of an EMP. This type of weapon would send current civilization backward in time. New characters include a terrorist who in reality is an agent deep undercover. Thus, the authors stretch the imagination.

The Last Second is an easy read. The book is a great way to escape on a summer afternoon. The fast paced action dovetails with the two main themes. Saving an innocent life with the Holy Grail and the halting of space junk with the EMP are ideas with multiple layers. Coulter and Ellison give the reader something to ponder after the tale is told.

The Black Ascot Book Review

Book Cover showing a race horse

The Black Ascot

The Black Ascot by Charles Todd is an historical murder mystery. The book takes its’ title from the 1910 Ascot races. Because of the death of King Edward VII, all attendees at the Ascot races wore black. The murder takes place following a race day.

The accused, Alan Barrington, disappears after the inquest and before the case goes to trial. The majority of the book takes place 1921. This allows the author to incorporate bits and pieces of history from The Great War.

Scotland Yard

In 1921, Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge receives a tip. Alan Barrington has been spotted back in England. Rutledge convinces his superior to allow the old murder case to be reviewed. Even though Rutledge was not involved in the original Black Ascot murder investigation, he wants to bring Barrington to trial.

Shell Shock

Inspector Ian Rutledge begins the review by getting to know the victims as well as the accused. His investigation involves interviewing past Inspectors and witnesses. Many of these individuals were mentally and/or physically affected by The Great War.

Rutledge also suffers from shell shock. During World War I, Rutledge loses a close colleague. But the ghost of Hamish “talks” to Rutledge throughout the book. When the issue of the inspector’s shell shock takes a pivotal turn midway through the book, so does the case.

Charles Todd

Charles Todd and his mother Caroline team together to write both the Ian Rutledge and Bess Crawford series. Even though the list of published works is long, this was my first time reading a Charles Todd book. It will not be my last.

I love the combination of historical events and fictional murder mystery. Even though the Ascot races did not figure prominently in the book, naming the novel after the 1910 races was appropriate. A true blackguard caused the motor car crash taking the life of one and severely injuring another.

The expert writing not only kept the reader turning the pages, but also created a stand-alone book. I did not feel as if I were missing something by not reading previous titles featuring Inspector Rutledge. The intrigue of the plot combined with the well-developed characters made this one of the best reads of the 2019 year. I would not be surprised to find it on my end of the year list of favorites. (Click here for the 2018 list.)

The Black Ascot is highly recommended. Buy or borrow a copy today.

January 2019 Wrap-Up

January 2019 Wrap-Up

The first month of the year flies by for our family and January 2019 was no exception. In addition to the many birthdays celebrated, a new great-nephew was born. He is the recipient of The Train Quilt which you can read about by clicking here.

New Projects

Winter is a great time for indoor projects. I live too far north to count on any extended outdoor time. This year has been colder than last, so the pruning of the grape vines is still on the “to do” list. But, I am still spending some time perusing through the seed catalogs both online as well as the hard copies received in the mail.

Tiles being knocked off from wallLest you think I have been lazing about, I am sharing some photos of my latest remodeling project. This is an easy remodel for the most part. I am stripping the wallpaper in the kitchen and breakfast room. Additionally, I am replacing the back splash over the cook top. Unlike the popular home remodel shows on television, I am striving not tear up the dry wall behind the tile.

My old wallpaper was beautiful. In fact one of my youngest daughter’s acquaintances once remarked on the homey feel the kitchen had. But, the wallpaper was over twenty years old and was dating the house.

In my travels, I had noticed the use of textured wallpapers in many of the hotels I stayed in. So I decided to look in that direction. I found some scrubbable paper with texture. As I am just starting on the tear down, I plan to provide full details in a later post.

Tile and wall paper samples in gray tones.
Some of the samples for the kitchen re-do.

Hobbies

The new projects include two of my hobbies. I have started a new acrylic painting. Usually when I paint a landscape involving mountains, the perspective is one of looking up. But this time I am attempting to look down from the mountain top. Definitely tricky.

I am also working on the design for a two-sided quilt. One side will be a panel quilt with a Bohemian look. The other side will be a modified Train Quilt. The train will be a circus train. Not politically correct, but fortunately newborns know nothing of politics.

Reading Selection

The seasonable weather is also offering a chance to whittle down the pile of books to be read. Of course this pile will never disappear since I continue to visit my local library and the neighborhood Little Free Library. But reading is one of my greatest pleasures. So no complaint intended.

Books read and not yet reviewed include the latest Stephanie Plum book (Look Alive Twenty-Five) from Janet Evanovich, Breakpoint by Richard Clarke and Everything for Everyone by Nathan Schneider. Two books reviewed but not yet posted include Pandemic by Robin Cook (which will appear tomorrow on Econogal) and Organic Hobby Farming by Andy Tomolonis.

I continue to read the Wall Street Journal. Our household receives magazine subscriptions as Christmas gifts, so I enjoy both The Economist as well as Better Homes and Gardens. Visiting the garden used in the latter publication was a highlight last summer which you can read about by clicking here.

While visiting my local library, I noticed a list of New Year’s resolutions for young readers. A full-page of resolutions centered on ways to expand reading. For example, the resolutions included reading a biography and reading various genres. I like this idea. So, I plan to incorporate some of the resolutions into my reading habits.

As always please feel free to share recommendations.

The Mitford Murders Book Review

Book Cover of The Mitford MurdersThe Mitford Murders

The Mitford Murders is the debut novel from Jessica Fellowes. Sort of. Fellowes is also credited for producing five companion books to the Downton Abbey British television series. From my research, the collaboration on the series is with a family member.

I have not read (or even watched) any of the Downton Abbey series. But I enjoyed the Mitford Murders and think a series of books revolving around these characters is in order. Of course there needs to be demand for this first novel for that to happen.

Fellowes has combined two of my favorite genres in The Mitford Murders. First and foremost it is a murder mystery. However, two of the central characters enjoy a sweet romance. For those not in the business, a sweet romance is one that is chaste.

Cast of Characters

The book revolves around a handful of characters. The working class and gentry are both represented with some overlap. Guy Sullivan is railroad police who falls for Louisa Cannon at first sight. He has ambition, and very poor eyesight. Louisa has some secrets and a real need to escape her current place in life. Sullivan helps get her to an interview which will lift her out of her current circumstances.

Nancy Mitford is the teenage daughter of a Baron. It is into this household Louisa lands. The two females are close in age. One on the cusp of adulthood and the other just barely arrived. A stilted friendship forms. Stilted due to the class structure of the British aristocracy.

The novel takes place following the First World War. Some of the characters were actual people. For example, the victim of the crime, Florence Nightingale Shore. But the events described in the book are pure fiction. The book solves the mystery but in reality, Shore’s murder is an unsolved crime.

This is a well written debut novel. Hopefully many will follow. Mystery series’ are fun to read. The reader becomes comfortable with the characters. There is room for development from the large Mitford household. Plus, the kindling relationship of Louisa and Guy.

Put this on your list of must read if you are a mystery or romance fan.