When I was a kid growing up in northern San Diego County in the Sixties and Seventies, we used to make a yearly trek to Disneyland. We'd also make oth...moreWhen I was a kid growing up in northern San Diego County in the Sixties and Seventies, we used to make a yearly trek to Disneyland. We'd also make other treks to points north, especially Long Beach. Up until around 1974 or so, northern San Diego County was a pretty podunk place, but Orange County was even podunkier. Going up I-5 (or I-405), you saw hardly any civilization until you hit Anaheim or Long Beach. Even Anaheim would have been nothing if it weren't for the cheap motels and coffee shops lining Harbor Blvd. to serve the crowds visiting Disneyland. The rest was orange groves. On the coastal side, Huntington Beach was nothing but oil wells that we would call "grasshoppers". The town I live in now barely existed. Most of the homes in my community were built in the Seventies.
California Girl by T. Jefferson Parker does a good job of capturing Orange County life as I imagine it was in 1968. Orange groves are starting to convert to suburbia. Drive-in churches come into existence. The beach life includes plenty of sex, drugs, and rock & roll. I recognized a lot of the landmarks described in the story. Unfortunately, it seemed like Parker was trying to squeeze in every detail about 1968 Orange County. The main characters' parents are acquainted with Richard Nixon. The murder victim was a follower/friend of Timothy Leary. We even get to meet a folk-singer named Charles Manson! Sometimes, you just need to stick with the details that are significant, not try to include everything.
Despite its historical accuracy and rich setting, California Girl was a bore. It took way too long for Detective Nick Becker to solve the murder. Heck, I knew who did it about halfway through. The "twist" wasn't even a twist to me. Don't even get me going about the part where Nick and Lobdell go down to Ensenada, Mexico to take their suspect back to Orange County. That whole sequence was completely unbelievable and implausible. I just didn't buy it.
Although I rarely give authors a second chance if I don't like the first book I read by them, I will try to read another of his works. I met him last weekend at the LA Times Festival of Books and he was quite personable. I've heard that he's a good writer and he does live in Orange County. I suspect I just got a lemon with California Girl.(less)
I've read two other books by Laura Lippman and really enjoyed them. I was really looking forward to her latest stand-alone novel, but ended up disappo...moreI've read two other books by Laura Lippman and really enjoyed them. I was really looking forward to her latest stand-alone novel, but ended up disappointed. It's supposed to be a suspense/mystery/thriller, but it offered little of any of those things. It starts off well enough. A madam in a suburban neighborhood is murdered. Heloise Lewis debates a woman in a store who thinks the madam was asking to be murdered. We find out fairly quickly that the reason Heloise jumps to the dead woman's defense is because she herself is a suburban, soccer-mom madam. Sounds promising, doesn't it? Instead of a story in which Heloise is fearing for her life/being stalked by a murderer/figuring out whodunit, we get a story detailing how Heloise keeps her profession separate from her personal life, the terrible childhood she had, and how her earlier life was generally effed up. Nothing happens until the very end and by that time, I just didn't care.
For what it's worth, Linda Edmond did a fabulous job of narrating and was probably the only reason I made it through this snoozefest of a novel. I'm not ready to give up on Laura Lippman. I just picked up one of her earlier novels on sale as an ebook. (less)
I really loved the first three installments of Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas series. Each book so far has been better than the last. So, I started Odd Hour...moreI really loved the first three installments of Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas series. Each book so far has been better than the last. So, I started Odd Hours with a great deal of anticipation. I was so disappointed. The story was flat and didn't make a whole lot of sense. Frank Sinatra is not a good replacement for Elvis Presley. I did like the ghost dog and the aging movie star, but they weren't enough to carry the novel.(less)
This book is even fluffier than the first book in the series, Elvis and the Dearly Departed. Its silliness wore thin for me. I think I might have been...moreThis book is even fluffier than the first book in the series, Elvis and the Dearly Departed. Its silliness wore thin for me. I think I might have been okay if it had been a mass-market paperback, but it was a $22.00 hardback. Thank goodness I won it through FirstReads. I can't imagine why the publisher thought it was a good idea to release it in hardback. Even more shocking, the Nook version is $13.20. Why? It's okay, but even if I really loved the Southern chick-lit mystery genre, I'd be hard pressed to justify spending that kind of money for something so short and fluffy. The book wasn't bad, I probably would have given it 3 stars if I hadn't been so ticked about the format.
I just laughed when I got the e-mail saying I had won this through FirstReads. I read the first book in the series a few weeks ago because it was offered free for the Nook. My mom wanted to borrow it, but I didn't have a paper version to share. I told her that it was good for a free book, but I wouldn't spend money on it. So, I'm getting another installment that I don't need to spend money on. Mom will be happy.
Other than a great first chapter, I had a hard time getting through the first 200 pages of this book. The mysteries (two of them) really seemed to be...moreOther than a great first chapter, I had a hard time getting through the first 200 pages of this book. The mysteries (two of them) really seemed to be going nowhere and didn't seem connected at all. I didn't care about any of the characters. About 200 pages in, when everything starts to get connected, it becomes much more interesting. However, I never grew to care about the characters and a lot of the plot seemed too far-fetched and contrived. I liked how it ended, I just wish the journey had been better.(less)
As the parent of a teenage boy, this book made me really, really uncomfortable.
(view spoiler)[If you've ever seen the movie "The Bad Seed", you know e...moreAs the parent of a teenage boy, this book made me really, really uncomfortable.
(view spoiler)[If you've ever seen the movie "The Bad Seed", you know exactly what this book is about. It has exactly the same theme. (hide spoiler)] While the story seemed fairly predictable, it was told in an interesting way. Andy Barber, father of the titular Jacob, is on the witness stand testifying about his son. From his testimony, it's quickly apparent that he's discussing something that's in the past, but he's not letting us know what the trial is about. (view spoiler)[I thought Andy was on trial for something, or that he was being forced to testify about Jacob at some time after the original trial, but I was wrong. In fact, I was quite surprised to find out why he was giving testimony. (hide spoiler)] This framing device was quite interesting, but it was also frustrating. There are tantalizing clues about what has happened, but it's not spelled out. He lets you think one thing when the truth is really something else.
I really liked Grover Gardner's narration. He did the various characters really well and actually made it sound like he was someone testifying in a trial.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Let me just start off by saying that I don't read a lot of mystery/thrillers. However, it seems to me that one of the conventions of the genre require...moreLet me just start off by saying that I don't read a lot of mystery/thrillers. However, it seems to me that one of the conventions of the genre requires have some sort of cop/detective in a series of books that all stand-alone. (Unlike the fantasy genre in which all the books in a series need to be read in order.) When I'm browsing in the genre, I sometimes get confused as to who the writer is and who the detective is. In the case of "Vanish" by Tess Gerritsen, I think the story would have been better served to not have the series protagonists. The parts of the story told by Mila were horrific and compelling. The could have seriously stood alone in a novel or been told in juxtaposition to the story of one of the hostages at the hospital.
I found the series leads of Maura and Jane to be boring and cliched. They moved around the story in improbable ways and I never got a real sense of motivation from them. Despite my dislike of the lead characters, I did find the story very engaging and finished it in about a day. It kept me up late last night. I read the blurbs on some of Gerritsen's other books when I was in the bookstore and the premises sound interesting. I will probably read The Mephisto Club A Novel because it sounds like a particularly interesting story and I really liked the excerpt that was printed at the end of this one. For a good story, I can overlook the weakness of the generic leads.(less)
I really wanted to like this book more than I did. I was getting Nine Dragons signed at the LA Times Festival of Books and this poor author got stuck...moreI really wanted to like this book more than I did. I was getting Nine Dragons signed at the LA Times Festival of Books and this poor author got stuck next to Michael Connelly who had a huge line. Mr. Rice had no people getting his signature. The cover caught my eye and I asked what the book was about. It sounded interesting enough, so I got a copy.
While The Moonlit Earth has a good plot, it fell a bit flat for me. It tried to go too many directions and spent a lot of time at the end with characters explaining things to each other and trying to wrap up the disparate plot lines. It never really had a good, convincing bad guy either. I liked it, but I didn't love it and I doubt that I'll remember much about it a year from now.(less)
Because his last three novels were supernatural suspense, I was expecting this novel to fall into that same category. It didn't. The Prophet is a straight-up mystery/thriller. It's also a very masculine book that delves into brotherly relationships and football. In fact, it had way too much football for my tastes. I can say that I never figured out who the perpetrator was and was very surprised by the ending. However, there was way too much football.
I listened to the audio version of this book and the production was very good. Robert Petkoff is a very good narrator. However, I kind of wish I had purchased it in hardback so I could pass it on to my husband. I think he's like it. It's got brothers and football. It's got a lot of football.(less)
I have a lot of books to read. As a result, it is not unusual for me to have 2 or 3 books going at once. I’ll usually have one that I read at lunch, b...moreI have a lot of books to read. As a result, it is not unusual for me to have 2 or 3 books going at once. I’ll usually have one that I read at lunch, break and when I have to wait around for something. I’ll also have one on my nightstand to read before I go to sleep. “Web of Deceit” by Anthony Toro landed in my mailbox while I was in the middle of “Water for Elephants” and “A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier”. I actually finished “Water for Elephants” before starting “Web of Deceit”, but “A Long Way Gone” ended up languishing as I got caught up in the tale of a teenage girl who attracts the attention of an internet stalker.
“Web of Deceit” starts off with a bang. Annette, a fifteen year old whose family has just moved from San Diego to Tucson, is sitting at her computer when she gets a creepy instant message. It becomes clear from the message that she is being watched. She even hears typing from her parents’ computer in another room. Days later, after a couple of creepy incidents and some paranoiac false alarms, she is kidnapped at gunpoint by her stalker. He’s a bit delusional and thinks he can have a relationship with her. The scenes that take place while she is being held captive are gripping and convincing. However, the deus ex machina ending is a bit rushed and not very believable. That said, I think it is an ending that young adult readers would like and expect.
I believe that “Web of Deceit” is best suited to a teen audience. Unfortunately, I don’t think many boys will be interested in it because of the female protagonist and all the relationship stuff. I think it would be terrific for parents to read it along with their teens to use as a jumping off point for discussing internet safety. In fact, I think it would have been really good to include an appendix that discussed internet safety, how to protect privacy and what to do when you think you’re being stalked online and/or in real life. Resources would be a big plus.
I think there were a couple of things that could have made “Web of Deceit” stronger. First, I think the e-mails and chat would have been better if they had been written the way teens actually write them. There is a whole online language that young people use and it doesn’t involve proper spelling and good grammar. Also, the teenage characters talked the way I talked as a teenager. I used “neat” and “cool” a lot as a teenager, and I still do. I’m middle-aged. Using just a little twenty-first century slang would have made the dialogue a bit more realistic. Other than that, I think “Web of Deceit” is a terrific first novel and I look forward to seeing what Anthony Toro does next.
“Breathing Out the Ghost” by Kirk Curnutt is an indescribable novel. The title sounds like a horror novel, but it’s touted as being a mystery thriller...more“Breathing Out the Ghost” by Kirk Curnutt is an indescribable novel. The title sounds like a horror novel, but it’s touted as being a mystery thriller. It’s neither. There is no mystery. There are no thrills. The action is minimal. “Breathing Out the Ghost” is really a literary study of how people cope or don’t cope with the loss of a child. We’re talking about the kids on milk cartons here; the ones they put out Amber alerts for. This book tells the cold hard story of parents left behind and what they go through. The one stark truth is that everybody reacts differently to the loss of a child.
This novel is told from different points of view. It starts with Colin St. Claire recording a message to his missing son, moves to a detective whose career is destroyed by his reaction to the case, then follows a woman whose 20-year-old daughter was murdered 15 years earlier and whose small town is now looking for a missing boy. There’s even one very disturbing chapter that is told from a pedophile’s point of view. I have to say that I could have done without that chapter. It was too graphic for me and I thought the author captured the pedophile’s thought process too well.
Author Kirk Curnutt does an amazing job of tracing Colin St. Claire’s slide into insanity that begins with the disappearance of his 4-year-old son in a Home Depot parking lot. I never really figured out if Colin expects to find his son alive or dead—it’s all about the search. He throws his life away to pursue a ghost of an idea that is his son.
It is quite obvious from Curnutt’s writing that he is very well-read. His language and allusions show that he has more than a passing acquaintance with great literature. I think “Breathing Out the Ghost” deserves to be ranked with the great literature of this generation. I certainly think it’s superior to something like “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy. Unfortunately, I don’t think it will get the exposure that it needs to draw the attention of literary mavens, the “deciders” of what is and what is not literature. That’s just a shame. (less)
"A Good Day in Hell" is non-stop action thriller that also examines the causes and the motivations behind violent behavior and the effects of violence...more"A Good Day in Hell" is non-stop action thriller that also examines the causes and the motivations behind violent behavior and the effects of violence on individuals, good guys as well as bad. I blasted through it in two days. I stopped reading only when I had to. I wanted to find out what was going to happen on the next page, but knew the next page would always take me one page closer to the end.
I'm not going to summarize the plot. This is the second book I've read by J.D. Rhoades and I enjoyed it every bit as much as the next book in the series, Safe and Sound. (Yes, I read them out of order.) I will absolutely be keeping my eyes open for more of Rhoades' books. His work has a depth that is rarely found in genre fiction. Action thrillers aren't my favorite genre, I'm mostly a science fiction reader who likes action, but it's a pleasure to step outside my usual favorite genre to read a book by J.D. Rhoades.(less)