Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Bricklayer by Noah Boyd

The FBI is desperate when a group named the Rubaco Pentad have successfully extorted three million dollars from them and killed four people. Not having any clue who could be behind these acts, they decide to enlist the help of Steve Vail, an ex-FBI agent who disdains authority. Vail works closely with Kate Bannon, an assistant deputy director of the FBI, to try and stop the Pentad's killing spree and to recover the money that the bureau has lost. Vail, at times reckless and operating outside the law, is similar to Lee Child's Jack Reacher. But, Boyd does not have Child's gift for great characterization and intense action. After reading all of Child's books, Boyd's chararacters came across as clunky and pale imitations. Also, it was obvious pretty early on who one of the Pentad's members was.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

CeeCee has spent a majority of her childhood caring for and worrying about her mother, who suffers from mental illness. In 1967, when she's twelve, she is whisked off to live with her great aunt Tootie after her mother is killed by an ice cream truck. Aunt Tootie lives in Savannah, Georgia, far from CeeCee's home in Ohio. In Savannah, CeeCee is immersed in Tootie's wealthy, colorful world of women--her neighbors, friends, and especially Tootie's maid, Oletta, who becomes a great friend and comfort to CeeCee. Despite her new surroundings, CeeCee's thoughts often turn to her mother. Will CeeCee be able to start anew in Savannah and be happy? While I enjoyed the setting and characters, I was expecting a deeper, more involved story because of all the advanced praise for the book. Very light and slight Southern fiction...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Death of a Valentine by M.C. Beaton

Hamish Macbeth has had quite a year. He finds himself at the altar about to marry his constable, Josie McSween, although unhappily. Earlier, Josie had come to Lochdubh to assist Hamish on his beat. Soon after, they found themselves investigating the murder of local beauty Annie Fleming. Annie, it seems, had many enemies, so Hamish finds himself with loads of suspects. He also wishes he could work on the case by himself without Josie's assistance. She, however, persists with fantasies of a perfect life as his wife and figures working alongside him will help her achieve her goal. Will Hamish be able to solve the case even while more bodies pile up--and stay a bachelor?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Through the Heart by Kate Morgenroth

Nora works at a cafe in a small Kansas town, caring for her leukemia-stricken mother. Timothy manages his family's wealth and lives in New York. By chance they meet and fall in love, which leads to someone's murder. Whose, though? The reader isn't sure, but through Nora and Timothy's eyes we see the development of their relationship, their feelings for one another, and the unhappiness their prospective family ties bring to their lives. With so many unpleasant people, the book abounds with victims and suspects. Finally, near the end, the crime is revealed. The hook of Through the Heart is definitely finding out who was killed, since most of the characters aren't likable.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Faces of the Gone by Brad Parks

When four bodies are found in a rundown section of Newark, reporter Carter Ross heads to the scene thinking that it might lead to a good story. Soon, he realizes that the four victims were from different parts of the city and that the reason for their deaths being spouted by the cops is wrong. With help from intern Tommy Hernandez, possible love interest Tina Thompson, and people he meets while working on the case, Carter races, with a journalist's zeal, to discover the killer's identity. The reader knows, however, that a man named the Director is behind the murders and has no problem killing again. Faces of the Gone is a debut novel that immerses the reader into the grit of contemporary urban America through the eyes of an extremely likable white reporter who can be both funny and serious. The book reminded me of Justin Peacock's A Cure for Night.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Love Letters by Katie Fforde

Quiet, shy Laura Horsley wonders what she'll do next when the bookshop she works at is closed. Taken under the wing of assertive literary agent Eleanora Huckleby, Laura finds herself in charge of a brand new book festival that will be held at Eleanora's niece's house, Somerby. The festival's main sponsor insists that they book famous Irish writer, Dermot Flynn, or else he'll withdraw his money. So Laura is sent to Ireland to persuade the publicity-shy author to attend. Laura worships Dermot's writing and finds that meeting him puts her even deeper under his spell. Does he feel the same way about her? While I adore Katie Fforde's books, this one had far too simple a story for me. I look forward to the next one, though.

Monday, January 4, 2010

My Favorite Books of 2009

Two first novels, a perfect example of the genre of women's lives and relationships and two books by veteran thriller writers make up the list of the books I enjoyed most this past year.

In alphabetical order by author:

Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child

Even though we're far into the Jack Reacher series by this point, Child proves he still has the goods in this unputdownable thriller.

The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall

The best mystery I read in 2009. I loved the book for its uniqueness--the descriptive Indian setting, the storyline and characters that were, at times, quirky.

The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil

Gosh, I wish there were more books like this one. I love novels set in small English villages with a great sense of place and cozy characters.

Runner by Thomas Perry

Perry has been writing thrillers even longer than Lee Child, but for some odd reason is not as well known. This latest book in the Jane Whitefield series is non-stop action.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

A book that deserves its bestseller status for immersing the reader into the complex relationships of three women (two African-American and one white) in the 1960's American South.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Down to the Wire by David Rosenfelt

Chris Turley, a reporter for the Bergen News, is skeptical when he gets a call from someone wanting to meet him to hand over information about a government official. When Chris arrives at the appointed spot, a nearby building blows up and he becomes a hero by saving five people's lives. Soon, Chris realizes there's a madman who calls himself P.T. that has a vendetta against him and will keep killing people unless Chris commits suicide. Chris along with the local police and the FBI race to find out P.T.'s real identity before more people die. Down to the Wire is Rosenfelt's second stand-alone thriller and is good, but I enjoyed the last two books in his Andy Carpenter series more (better main character), along with his first stand-alone, Don't Tell a Soul (better story). The book will be published in March.