Archive | September, 2015

Falling for The Scam

23 Sep

I quite like the Fox and O’Hare novels by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg. Witty characters, sexy plots and nimble pacing – these are the definition of a delicious romp. Wanted criminal Nick Fox and his keeper, FBI agent Kate O’Hare, attempt to pull off a complicated casino heist that takes Ocean’s Eleven and turns it up to a hundred. Populated by the usual crew of sidekicks, including Kate’s gun-thirsty dad, an out of work character actor, and a Somali pirate – the gang travels from Hawaii to Vegas to Macau and does it in style and with panache. Treat yourself.

A Flower for the Queen, or An Under-Gardener’s Adventure

23 Sep

An earnest under-gardener is thrust into a world of high adventure and intrigue when he is sent to South Africa on a secret mission to find the Strelitzia Reginae – a wondrous and rare flower that the king desires to present to his queen. A bit of a mixed bag in tone, the story is framed Princess Bride-like by an old narrator telling his life story. The mishaps and plot twists are almost comic, but the tone carries on with a straight face. The characters never came to life for me, and the plot twists are all nicely resolved. Some enjoyable descriptions of South Africa give the setting texture.
I’d give this 3.5 stars – worth reading if a friend left it behind on your coffee table, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to hunt this down.


Lisa Scottoline’s Latest Legal Thriller: Corrupted

23 Sep

Gripping legal thriller that humanizes people caught up in the justice system as juveniles. I haven’t read any of Lisa Scottoline’s Rosato & DiNunzio series previously but thoroughly enjoyed this. Bennie Rosato, a hard-boiled attorney, was unable to help her client when, as a boy, he was committed to juvenile detention. Now, as he stands accused of murder, she fights to ensure that justice is done. The personal and legal stories are told in a series of flashbacks. The descriptions of the law and the trials are well-done in a vivid and accessible manner.
Some aspects of the underlying story are based on reality – where kids were shipped off to a detention center and the judge who did the sentencing received kickbacks. Ms. Scottoline deftly arouses our sympathy for both the murderer and the victim, and keeps the reader engaged throughout. A must read for fans of legal thrillers.


England’s 17th Century Civil War: The Winter Prince

23 Sep

This book provided an interesting perspective into the civil war between King Charles I and Parliament in the mid-17th century. The story focuses on the relationship between Mary Villiers, the Duchess of Richmond, and Prince Rupert, who was a Lancelot to King Charles. I enjoyed this historical novel which features lesser known historical figures (to me, at any rate) than the Tudors. The palace intrigues, the politics and the battles are vividly portrayed. Mary, the consummate royal insider, balances the tension between supporting her king and trying to stop the civil war that is destroying her country, while resisting the love Rupert offers her in order to be faithful to her husband.
Rupert is a fascinating character and I’d love to explore more of his history.
Overall, a solid historical read and worth the time.


Insight Into King David in “The Secret Chord”

23 Sep

A historical novel by Geraldine Brooks exploring the life of Biblical King David, as told by Natan, David’s personal prophet and biographer. Richly detailed and historically accurate (as far as I can tell), the book illuminates this complex character. Ms. Brooks writes evocatively, conjuring up the feel of an ancient time. Trigger alert – there is at least one graphic rape scene, and much bloodshed.
Fans of The Red Tent and The Dovekeepers will enjoy this look at a pivotal Biblical character.

secret chord

‘The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster’ Lacks Luster

23 Sep

Delightful time travel concept, quirky characters, magic, mystery, murder…and yet not a delight. I never connected with the characters but the biggest issue was the overwrought writing. Writing that was so conscious of itself that it was jarring. For example: as the evil villain bursts in, dragging a knife across the kitchen counter, it is described as “creating a chilling sound reminiscent of a pair of charged socks being pulled apart.”
What? I mean WTH??
Or another – as the protagonist, Annie, is confronting her assailant: “allowing malice to etch her features one more time, and shuddering in revulsion…”
What? WTF??
The concept is engaging but ultimately the writing style was so over the top that I can’t recommend this book.


Don’t Judge a Book by Its Title: A Hoarse Half-Human Cheer

3 Sep

Feeling like I found this in a hard-boiled mystery “pulp fiction” from the 50’s – the quirky characters (from sexy dames, to bloviating mobsters to ex-soldier priests) and off-beat plot (a Catholic school expands too quickly, finding itself in bed with the mafia) have a slightly old-fashioned quality, as if it had all been written by an uncle of Carl Hiaissen who served in WWII…
The story contained lots of interesting characters and a fully realized world set in a post WWII New Jersey. However, I struggled with the one strong female character, who – for no good reason – slept with any and all takers. Her character is never explained, but just presented as if that is naturally what sexy (and smart) women do.
Mildly entertaining but overall, dated…I could see recommending this to my dad to read.