Tag Archives: paperback

Believe Me

A Mystery/Thriller Roundup

little girl lost

Little Girl Lost by Wendy Corsi Staub (William Morrow, $7.99, 400 pages)

This classic two-story thread mystery/thriller that draws from events in 1968 and 1987 makes the most of what can happen when serious life choices are made. Author Staub combines smooth writing, some shocking violence and lurking evil to keep her readers’ attention.

Well recommended.

bleak harbor two

Bleak Harbor: A Novel by Bryan Gurley (Thomas & Mercer, $24.99, 395 pages)

It’s a terrifying kidnapping of an autistic teenager at the center of this tale. The location is a small seaside resort on the Atlantic Coast where the year round families are deeply entrenched. Most of these folks accept the public personas of the neighbors they’ve come to know over the years. Guess again, danger is lurking!

Highly recommended.  A stay up all night reading page-turner.

39 winks small

39 Winks: A Maggie O’Malley Mystery by Kathleen Valenti (Henery Press, $31.95, 296 pages)

A third-person narrator shocks the reader on the first page, a very gory first page. A cosmetic surgeon is found at the breakfast table, face down in a bowl of Life cereal. To make matters worse, he’s gluten-free.  Quirky characters and plenty of pop culture references make the story feel connected to “the real world.”

Well recommended.

believe me

Believe Me: A Novel by J P Delaney (Ballantine Books, $27.00, 352 pages)

You guessed it, another violent prologue and this one is a flashback. The author employs a unique form of dialogue that’s as if it is taken from a theatrical script. An undercover call girl, no pun intended, works for suspicious wives who want to catch their philandering husbands. The writing is beautiful with amazing timing that creates tension, anxiety and confusion; in other words, a true thriller.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

Review copies were provided by the publishers.

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Just About a Moonlight Mile

Moonlight Mile (nook book)

Moonlight Mile: A Kenzie and Gennaro Novel by Dennis Lehane (William Morrow Paperbacks, $14.99, 336 pages; Harper, $9.99, 368 pages)

Dennis Lehane’s Moonlight Mile is a typical crime novel that weighs in as above average, but not enough to be considered a great work. The book relies significantly on dialogue. When an author’s story rests on a foundation of dialogue, the dialogue had better be good. In this case, it is strong at times but cheesy at others. All in all, the results are mixed.

While Lehane’s earlier novel, Live by Night, was a superb novel with a crime backdrop, Moonlight Mile is more of a stereotypical crime novel; although there are high points found throughout, it is basically “run of the mill.”

Private Investigator Patrick Kenzie and wife, Angela Gennaro, are caught up in the sequel to Gone, Baby, Gone, in which the enigmatic Amanda resurfaces twelve years later. As in any good crime novel, Russian gangsters are somehow prominent and, in this case, baby smuggling is the theme/motive. Dre, the Doctor that becomes entangled in the enterprise, is introduced well on into the story – which makes it a bit difficult for the reader to track and become emotionally involved. However, the doctor’s dereliction of duty provides an explanation for how and why everybody involved is involved. Sadly, the character development is lacking.

Kenzie and Gennaro struggle through the fact that they are in a relationship in which one person is shot at on a regular basis. Luckily, they remain attracted to each other. Okay.

While this is, overall, a good book with an exciting conclusion that some – or even many – will enjoy, I found it to be just passable. One would be better advised to pick up and read any Frederick Forsyth novel.

Recommended for less demanding readers.

Dave Moyer

Dennis Lehane

A review copy was provided by the publisher. Dennis Lehane also wrote Mystic River: A Novel.

Dave Moyer is an educator and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.

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A Seasonal Giveaway

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing and Hachette Book Group, USA we have a copy to give away of Sundays at Tiffany’s by America’s bestselling author, James Patterson.   He wrote this novel with Gabrielle Charbonnet and it’s being featured this month as a Lifetime original television movie, which will be shown on December 11th, 12th and on the 31st – check your TV listings!   Alyssa Milano stars in the Lifetime film version.

Here is the official synopsis of the book, and also a short excerpt –

An Imaginary Friend

Jane Margaux is a lonely little girl.   Her mother, a powerful Broadway producer, makes time for her only once a week, for their Sunday trip to admire jewelry at Tiffany’s.   Jane has only one friend: a handsome, comforting, funny man named Michael.   He’s perfect.   But only she can see him.   Michael can’t stay forever, though.   On Jane’s ninth birthday he leaves, promising her that she’ll soon forget him.

An Unexpected Love

Years later, in her thirties, Jane is just as alone as she was as a child.   And despite her own success as a playwright, she is even more trapped by her overbearing mother.   Then she meets someone – a handsome, comforting, funny man.   He’s perfect.   His name is Michael…

And An Unforgettable Twist

This is a heartrending story that surpasses all expectations of why these people have been brought together.   With the breathtaking momentum and gripping emotional twists that have made James Patterson a bestselling author all over the world, Sundays at Tiffany’s takes an altogether fresh look at the timeless and transforming power of love.

Prologue / Jane’s Michael

Michael was running as fast as he could, racing down thickly congested streets toward New York Hospital – Jane was dying there – when suddenly a scene from the past came back to him, a dizzying rush of overpowering memories that nearly knocked him out of his sneakers.   He remembered sitting with Jane in the Astor Court at the St. Regis Hotel, the two of them there under circumstances too improbable to imagine.

He remembered everything perfectly – Jane’s hot fudge and coffee ice cream sundae, what they had talked about – as if it had happened yesterday.   All of it almost impossible to believe.   No, definitely impossible to believe.

It was just like every other unfathomable mystery in life, Michael couldn’t help thinking as he ran harder, faster.

Like Jane dying on him now, after everything they had been through to be together.

This fantasy-romance tale in trade paperback form has a value of $13.99 in the U.S. and $15.99 in Canada.   In order to enter this book giveaway, just post a comment below with your name and an e-mail address.   Or you can send an e-mail to Josephsreviews@gmail.com with this information.   This will count as a first entry.

To enter a second time, tell us what you would like Santa to get someone you know this Christmas.   It doesn’t matter who it is, just as long as the gift is not for yourself.   It can even be for your dog or cat!   Just answer the question and this will count as a second entry.

In order to enter this book giveaway, you must live in the continental United States or in Canada.   If Munchy the cat picks out your name as the winner, you must supply a residential mailing address when contacted.   This book will not be shipped to a business-related address or to a P. O. box.   You have until Midnight PST on Thursday, December 30, 2010 to enter, so don’t delay! 

This is it for our typically complex contest rules.   Good luck and good reading!

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Nowhere to Run

The Insider by Reece Hirsch (Berkley Books; $7.99; 330 pages)

Reece Hirsch employs a confident narrator’s voice to draw in the reader in this, his debut mystery novel.   What seems to be a nice change of pace with opening scenes devoid of terror, soon shifts as a startling event culminates in a gruesome death.

The main character is Will Connelly, an aspiring fourth-year associate with a prestigious San Francisco law firm.   Will’s gullibility may be alarming to the reader.   He has a very promising future with the firm; however, for a fellow being considered for an equity partnership, Will’s short on street smarts.   Perhaps that failing can be attributed to four 2,400 plus billable hour years?   His dedication to work has left him without a steady girlfriend.   Will’s decision to go out and, on a whim, fall into a barroom pickup may just be a way to let off steam.   Questionable actions like this create not-so-subtle plot turns and complications.

The shifting story tempo continues as two Russian gangster-wannabes and the negotiations for a super-big Silicone Valley acquisition vie for the reader’s attention.   The notions of lurking threats, pain and criminal charges keep Will off-balance for the duration of the story.

Hirsch makes the city of San Francisco serve as the backdrop for the book’s action.   A trip to Silicone Valley and an outing on the bay round out the list of locations visited.   There is rarely a moment of downtime as the plot ensnares more characters.   Ironically, the Russian gangsters and the attorneys are portrayed as complex folks who want to climb the ladder of success and enjoy the fruits of their labors.

“With his immaculate gray suit and perfectly coiffed salt-and-pepper hair, he looked as if he had been genetically engineered to make board presentations.”

The Insider joins a group of this reviewer’s favorite novels that make San Francisco their home.   The other two books are Death in North Beach by Ronald Tierney and Jessica Z by Shawn Klomparens.

This book is highly recommended as an entertaining Grisham-like look at the pressures of corporate law practice.   Let’s hope most mergers and acquisitions are not as painful!

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A review copy was provided by the author.

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Suspicion

Once Wicked Always Dead: A Novel by T. Marie Benchley (M.M.W.E. Publishing, 296 pages)

“Ev’ry time you kiss me/ I’m still not certain that you love me…”   Doc Pomus/Mort Shuman

The story begins at the intersection of retribution and lonely street.   Well, not exactly, but it’s close enough to justify the reference – sorry Elvis and Terry.

Author T. Marie Benchley proudly proclaims that she hails from a family that included early exposure to classic literature as part of her upbringing.   Perhaps her reliance on excessively flowery language can be attributed to the literature?   The reviewer read an advanced copy/uncorrected proof; therefore, no direct quotes will be used in this review.   Let’s hope that Ms. Benchley has engaged a skilled editor to polish up her novel because there are enough malaprops to be exorcised, or is that excised?

There are several story tracks that intertwine in the manner that is currently in fashion.   The reader is horrified by a very vengeful, angry woman on the one hand, and on the other, is saddened by the plight of a faithful, devoted wife whose husband has neglected to inform her that he’s gay and has a lover.   These tracks have some serious continuity issues.   When they are paired with several non sequitur-like statements, it’s not clear whether this is an intentional device to draw the reader’s attention or a set up for later revelations.

Oh, I neglected to mention that the devoted wife just happens to be the only child of a very rich rancher – the ranch is situated on 45,000 acres in Big Sky country.   Back at the ranch there are men who have been hounding dad to sell out and they really don’t want to take “No” for an answer.

Although the plot lines are tied together in a knot worthy of a sailor, I suggest that prospective readers pass on this one.   My copy went straight to the recycle bin.

(Not recommended.)

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   An Advance Review Copy was provided by the publisher.

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It is Written

Last Writes: A Forensic Handwriting Mystery by Sheila Lowe (Obsidian Mystery)

Forensic handwriting experts and religious cults are not exactly a natural combination.   In this mystery novel, the expert is Claudia Rose and the religious cult is the Temple of the Brighter Light.   Claudia’s childhood friend Kelly seeks her assistance in determining whether the father of her exquisite toddler niece, Kylie, has kidnapped his daughter.   A warning note was left for the toddler’s mom who happens to be Kelly’s estranged half-sister.   These are folks who have had their share of family squabbles and trouble over the years.   Claudia must decide what is fact and what is smokescreen.

Author Sheila Lowe just happens to be an expert in handwriting analysis; therefore, the thriller is loaded with fascinating information one assumes to be accurate.   The reader can’t help sneaking peaks at the writing of friends and family wondering if there are clues to deeper meaning in their scribbles.   The psychological implications that accompany an analysis are used to explain the strange and confusing behavior of the folks who populate this tale.

This novel is filled with enough scary ideas and erratic actions to make it a page-turner.   Lowe’s mastery at describing subtle character aspects brings doubt and confusion to the reader who is tracking Claudia Rose’s progress in solving the mystery of Kylie’s disappearance.   To make matters worse, the threat of a religious sacrifice on the toddler’s third birthday puts a painful edge on the heart-wrenching tale.

Last Writes is more than a thriller, it is a morality tale designed for readers who are not afraid to look into the dark side of religious communal living.   Recommended to those who are up for the challenge.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A review copy was received from the publisher.

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To the Manor Worn

Grace Under Pressure by Julie Hyzy (Berkley Prime Crime Mystery)

Veteran mystery writer Julie Hyzy moves to a new locale with this her first book in a new series titled Manor House Mysteries.   The setting for these tales is Marshfield Manor.   This stately southern home is more than just the setting for a mystery, it is a character in itself.   It is the centerpiece of a somewhat down-at-the-heels southern estate owned by the elderly billionaire, Bennett Marshfield.   The home is a mystery reader’s delight with a hidden staircase and a secret room.   The estate also includes a hotel, tea room and abundant grounds.   They, too, play parts in the story.

Grace Wheaton, the new assistant curator whose dream it has been to be part of Marshfield Manor, has been a visitor to the mansion since her childhood.   Little  did she think that being a curator would entail murder, extortion and secrets from her own family’s past.   The staff at Marshfield includes a highly opinionated, though thoroughly capable executive assistant named Frances and an earnest, well-trained head of security named Terrence Carr.

When the elderly head curator is brutally murdered, a series of demand letters for money comes to light.   Grace must prove herself trustworthy to Bennett Marshfield if she is to become the next head curator.   The story is quite engaging if not quite intellectually challenging.   Rather than a romance-based mystery, this is the story of several generations whose ability to trust each other comes into question.  

Author Hyzy provides a classic summer vacation read in Grace Under Pressure.   It is a perfect in flight read.   Recommended.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, and the cover of this book is exemplary!

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San Francisco Nights

Jessica Z by Shawn Klomparens (Delta Trade Paperbacks)

This debut novel by Shawn Klomparens became a must read when I finished his second novel, Two Years, No Rain.   The location and protagonist are quite different – this story being set in San Francisco rather than San Diego, and the main character a woman (Jessica Zorich) rather than a man (Andy Dunne).   What permeates both books is the slightly unnerving sense of impending danger.   There is an undercurrent that lurks in the background which the reader cannot ignore.

Jessica is an attractive red-headed advertising copywriter with a hesitant, non-committal approach to life that is not serving her best interests or desires.   She begins her tale by bemoaning the relationship rules she has invoked with her upstairs neighbor/sometime boyfriend Patrick McAvoy.   Their interactions could be labeled “Push Me, Pull You” after the Dr. Doolittle character.  

Patrick is not at all exciting for Jessica because he is stable, trustworthy and reliable.   The story picks up its pace when a tall mysterious artist named Josh Hadden fixates on Jessica at a party that Patrick arranged.   Sensing the attraction, Jessica enjoys feeling like the center of someone’s attention.   Josh is lusty, aggressive and deeply committed to his political beliefs!

Although Jessica has had difficulty with her romantic ties with Patrick, she makes easy transitions to a new job and a quirky semi-relationship with Josh, a lithographer who is intent on melding modern technology with the age-old art.   Her one life-long relationship is with her sister Katie.   These two sisters are portrayed as each other’s bedrock.

In Jessica Z, Klomparens dazzles the reader with his cinema verite style that brings the reader along while Jessica narrates her actions and thoughts.   Jessica oddly stifles her modesty, comfort and privacy when she is with Josh.   She becomes prey – her mouse to his cat.

Jessica’s lack of self-protection is truly naive and shocking.   Klomparens exploits the humanity that becomes apparent when we spend time with others – time enough to break through their public faces and expose the vulnerability that resides deep inside every person.  

This novel is insightful and persistent in its explorations of relationships.   It offers lessons about life that are both true and troubling.   Highly recommended although it is not light reading.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A copy of the book was received from the publisher.   Jessica Z is also available as a Kindle Edition download.

 

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A Tale of Two Cities

Silent Scream by Karen Rose (Grand Central Publishing)

Justice in June by Barbara Levenson (Oceanview Publishing)

Justice in June and Silent Scream have more in common than alliterative titles.   Each is a mystery/thriller set in a major U.S. city with a female protagonist that is devoted to her profession but has difficulty committing to a permanent relationship.   The cities where the action takes place are Miami, Florida and Minneapolis, Minnesota, respectively.   Both women are well-respected members of their communities.

Mary Magruder Katz is a criminal defense attorney in Miami who briefly struggles with her revulsion at representing a man who is being characterized as a terrorist.   Her current boyfriend is Carlos Martin, a wealthy real estate developer with an excitable Latin-American temperament.  

Detective Olivia Sutherland, over in Minneapolis, is the only female member of the city’s elite homicide squad.   Olivia and her partner are assigned to a construction fire when the charred remains of a teenage girl are found among the ashes.   To complicate matters, Olivia must work with fireman David Hunter while investigating this and similar subsequent fires with murder victims.   David is not just any fireman; he’s a genuine hero who works tirelessly on behalf of battered women and he had a weekend encounter with Olivia that still troubles her after two and a half years.

Here is where the authors’ styles set these books apart.   Barbara Levinson, author of Justice in June, is a member of the judiciary in Miami.   This is her second novel.   The crisp, spare descriptions of the characters and location provide more information about the local weather and scenery than they reveal about the feelings that Mary and Carlos have for each other.   Mary’s lack of true trepidation following an attack and a break-in at her house are confusing.   Levinson’s writing seems to derive from the transcription of a journal or legal case notes.  

The story is engaging from a legal perspective.   It is a book that would make a good selection for a young person who is entertaining thoughts of pursuing a legal career.   However, there are moral challenges to the justice system in this tale that are guaranteed to disillusion the most starry-eyed future attorney or judge.   This reviewer was amazed that a story set in steamy Miami is so dry and passionless.

Karen Rose, the author of Silent Scream, has penned 10 prior novels.   Rose, like Levinson, is a resident of Miami; yet she has elected to write about Minneapolis, a city that to this reviewer seems short on passion with a surplus of lakes.   Rose’s history as a writer goes back to her childhood when she was an avid reader and began writing for her own enjoyment.  

Rose has a well-developed writing style that is lush and highly descriptive.   Her novels are labeled as “romantic suspense.”   I was a bit skeptical about just how romantic the story would be.   Bodice rippers are plentiful but a well-written story is another matter.   This is clearly a book for mature audiences; although, given the sex on TV shows and in movies that teens are now daily exposed to, it is relatively tame.   What’s unexpected is the meticulous character development.   Heroes and villains alike are given ample background, motivation and feelings.

Knowing there are 10 prior books by Karen Rose to read while waiting for her next effort makes the waiting all the better.   Sorry Judge Levinson, this reviewer needs more than just the facts, ma’am.

Take Away:   Silent Scream, in paperback, is the one to read this summer.   Recommended.      

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   Book copies were provided by the publishers.   

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An Open and Shut Case

There is nothing like a golden retriever.   I know, I know, it’s a big planet with a lot of wonderful things, but golden retrievers are the absolute best.  

This is the first book in the Andy Carpenter defense attorney series by author David Rosenfelt.   If you began reading these books in the middle of the series as this reader did, you will be rewarded by going back to the beginning and reading this one.   Rosenfelt serves up an engaging tale with plenty of mysterious layers and plot twists that are sure to hold the reader’s attention from the beginning to the end of this 292 page book.

The plot takes off after the untimely death of Andy Carpenter’s father.   Andy becomes a very wealthy man with $22 million and not a clue as to how his father came by this staggering amount.   He must go back in time to when his father, a former New Jersey district attorney, began his legendary career.   The book is a wonderful study in character and personal values.   Andy realizes that just because someone is a lifelong acquaintance and a powerful business man or politician does not preclude them from committing evil and destructive acts.

As with the other books in this series, Andy’s faithful companion, Tara, a golden retriever, rounds out the cast of characters.   A fun read – Woof!

Highly recommended.

Review by Ruta Arellano.   This book was purchased by the reviewer.

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