What a book!

August 13, 2010

Many reads, King’s Reacher, Loving Nook

Filed under: Authors,Fiction,Nook — jacksheard @ 7:58 am
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I’ve been floored, but I haven’t stopped reading.

So many books by my favorites, and I seem to just bounce from one to the next.

I finished off a few old Michael Palmers, as well as his newest, “The Last Surgeon”.

I hit a cold spell, with  a few fantastic books:

“Storm Prey” by John Sandford; “Ice Cold” by Tess Gerritson; and “61 Hours” by Lee Child.

I’m missing something else I read in there, too, I’m sure.

Now I’m flying through the 1,000-page epic “Under the Dome” by Stephen King. Wow, it is awesome! I don’t like to talk much about a book I’m only a third the way through, but Barbie seems a lot like Jack Reacher, from the aformentioned Lee Child. Which, of course, is awesome.

Reviews to come. I’ll even try to get my son to review “Tom Sawyer”, the latest classic he tackled.

A question, though: How did I fall in love so quickly with a Nook? I didn’t expect to like it. Now I don’t know if I can hold a hard cover book again, without longing for my light, thin and lovely little Nook.

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May 16, 2010

So much coming!

Filed under: Authors,Michael Palmer,Non-fiction,Uncategorized — jacksheard @ 10:52 am
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Lee Child has a Jack Reacher book coming out Tuesday. Steve Martini has a Paul Mandrini book June 1. John Sandford has a Lucas Davenport book coming out, also on Tuesday.

I’m still catching up with Michael Palmer.

Oh my. Oh my. Oh. My.

We’ll talk soon.

May 10, 2010

“Second Opinion” by Michael Palmer

Filed under: Authors,Fiction,Medical Thrillers,Michael Palmer,Mystery — jacksheard @ 11:24 pm
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I really like medical thrillers.

I dislike hospitals. Don’t like being a patient or a visitor. Nothing against doctors, but I’d rather stay at home and be healthy.

But I like medical thrillers.

Michael Palmer and Tess Gerritson are two of my favorites in this genre. I crave my next Tess book. Luckily, I have a stack of Palmers to read to keep me going.

I’ve read a handfull of Palmer books, and I’ve not been disapointed yet. “The Patient” was one of the first books I read when I began reading seriously about 10 years ago. It was one that made me realize reading was awesome. I still list it in my top ten (theoritically, since I do not actually have this list).

However, Melissa and I realized we’ve only scratched the surface of Palmer. As we anticipated his most recent novel, “The Last Surgeon,” we decided to go back in his collection and catch up. I’ll eventually read them all — between new releases from “my authors” — but I started with “Second Opinion.”

And now the review (this was like the beginning of “Cougartown” — a long damn time before you get to the opening credits):

It’s great.

OK, expanding I can tell you it involves a hospital in Boston where many rich folk go to get fixed. And leave generous donations behind. When an important doctor is hit by car and left in a coma, his daughter begins looking into a few mysteriously suspisious situations. Of course, she finds some interesting tidbits, gets into some trouble and finds herself in the middle of a … medical thriller.

And it’s a good one. Maybe not on the level of “The Patient” … but maybe it is. I may have to re-read that one to remember why I liked it so much. But I’m sure I did. 

“Second Opinion” is fascinating for another reason. It centers around a character with Asperger’s syndrome — a condition I knew next to nothing about. It is very interesting how Palmer uses his personal knowledge of the condition (one of his children has Asperger’s syndrome) to create a character you begin to understand on a different level than many others. It is not often a main character is different in this way, and it certainly adds an element of surprise to even ordinary conversations.

Four stars out of five.

YOU MIGHT LIKE THIS BOOK IF: You like medical suspense thrillers, Tess Gerritson novels, or you’re looking for an author with a good catelog to spend some time with.

Link to Michael Palmer site.

Link to Asperger’s syndrome information.

April 17, 2010

‘Caught’ by Harlan Coben

Filed under: Fiction,Harlan Coben,Mystery — jacksheard @ 8:29 pm
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Ahhh. So nice to come home to a can’t-miss.

Harlan Coben is awesome. I can spend weeks reading a book half as long as ‘Caught’, then turn this one out in a few days. His style is simply perfect. His formula for success combines mystery, realism, humor, suspense and excitement. And it comes off marvelously.

‘Caught’ starts with a social worker getting nabbed in a TV show similar (actually, exactly like) the “Dateline” show where they trap men who try to meet up with teenage girls they meet online. There’s also this bit of the story where a different teenage girl goes missing.

And a cast of characters so worthy of a best of show. A few of Coben’s usual suspects show up in many spots: Hester Crimestein, Win and all the staff at MB except MB and a few others here and there.

The book keeps you guessing all the way … and that’s saying something for me. I pride myself on this fantastic ability to figure books out. Only those that offer way too many unrealistic twists at the end stump me. This one has twists, but they are all believable. That’s what makes these Coben books so damn good. They are realistic.

And so much fun, too. This book certainly has it’s laughs, despite the heavy themes. One character, upon getting fired from his high-dollar job, decides his calling is to be a rapper. A really, really bad rapper. (I’ll assume the raps were intended to be horrible, though I don’t listen to rap music much these days, and can’t picture Coben doing so either.) Picture a 40-year-old Vanilla Ice imitating Dr. Dre. Horribly. But very funny.

This book is fantastic. Read it. I can’t believe we don’t hear more about Harlan Coben on a 1990s-John-Grisham level. He is simply the best writer out there right now.

Five stars out of five.

YOU’LL LIKE THIS BOOK IF: You enjoy reading — mysteries, books, whatever.

Link to Harlan Coben site.

Oh, and I really like Harlan Coben. If you didn’t already, check out this gushing review of his Myron Bolitar series.

‘Evolution of a Sad Woman’ by Gale Laure

Filed under: Fiction,Gale Laure,Mystery,New Authors — jacksheard @ 8:11 pm

So I was surfing around, checking my Twitter for WhatABook, when I stumbled into a chat with author Gale Laure. She explained the idea of her book, and I was fascinated.

Here it is: A woman is murdered, and five men from her past — a cop, a lawyer, a priest, an actor-turned-cab driver and a former NFL football player — all come together to attempt to solve her murder. Sounded great.

This is Laure’s first book — something she went through a hell of a lot to get finished, I found — and it is published by an independent publisher.

As I read the book, a few things jumped out at me. First, the story is good. Not great. It has a few holes, a few “well, duh” moments. And at times it simply tries way too hard. But if you let those things go a bit, the story will keep you reading.

Second, the production value is low with this effort. Editing is poor at times, misspellings and inconsistencies are annoying and little things — like the spacing after a period and the amount of space here and there for no reason — aren’t as professional as you’d expect in a published work.

Third, the writing is at times choppy. A few points here: Sentence lengths are monotonous. For long sections at a time, sentences are all short. At times, more pronouns would help — there are so few, it’s as if they were avoided at all costs. This was the case in dialogue and narrative. It made the conversations seem completely unrealistic. 

Fourth, some things just don’t make any sense. A boyfriend goes off to school in the sixties, we’re told, and plays football. He is later upset because he has to get out of the game due to injuries … in the nineties. How long did expect to play football? Was he planning to retire at 65? These types of things bother me. I look for a timeline, and if it’s spanning many decades, it needs to add up. This didn’t.

However, after offering up those criticisms, I will say this: I wanted to know what happened. So I’ll give her that much.

But not enough to recommend this book as is. I found it hard to read, mostly unbelievable and unpolished. If a book editor spent a few days with this, I think it could be a great read. There will be a sequel, so maybe Laure will put together a more complete and polished book then.

One star out of five. (But an E for effort, with a great idea.)

YOU MAY LIKE THIS BOOK IF: It’s really a romance novel, which I know nothing about and have never read and what I described above is OK in that style. Also, if you watch “Law & Order” and say, “Yep. That’s how it really works in real life. Cops are just like that.”

But I like you.

Link to Gale Laure’s Web site.

March 21, 2010

100 stories for Haiti

Filed under: Uncategorized — jacksheard @ 9:31 pm

http://www.100storiesforhaiti.org/

Check it out. Review will come later.

March 20, 2010

“The Last Track” by Sam Hilliard

Filed under: Fiction,Mystery,New Authors,Sam Hilliard — jacksheard @ 12:25 pm
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A major goal of this blog is to introduce readers to new books and new authors. This is one of those times you’ve not heard of the book or the author, so take note.

This is Sam Hilliard’s first novel, and Sam, good start. This style of mystery is in my wheelhouse, right down the middle … and “The Last Track” hits a home run.

Mike Brody is a tracker, on the case of a missing teenager in the woods. A strong cast of characters surround him, and you’re left trying to find out who is good and who is bad, all while eagerly waiting to see if Mike succeeds.

Sam Hilliard has an ability to keep you guessing thoughout, not knowing who you can trust as a reader, always keeping the pages turning.

This opening act isn’t perfect. It does have characters who are inexplicably mysterious. This adds to the suspense, but at times makes the reader ask questions. It’s a minor issue and mostly all gets resolved in the end, though you never find out why some characters are this way.

Nothing stops the pages from turning. Like the best of Dan Brown and others, the action happens quickly in “The Last Track.” Start to finish of the mystery is four days, and a clever clock keeps ticking to let you know throughout. The lead character also has just a touch of supernatural ability, but not enough to be hokey.

I look forward to reading more about Mike Brody in future novels. He’s different than John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar and Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware. However, he’s got that same ‘read me’ quality these others have and you’ll want to know more.

On a sidenote: In a minor part of the book, the teenager being tracked explains something about running, and Hilliard nails it for me. Talking about runners in races who realize they aren’t going to win, but continue running, he writes, “Sean knew why they kept on in spite of the odds. Win or lose, the journey offered its own reward. Runners ran for the feeling of getting somewhere on their own steam.” It’s a small part, used to explain Sean’s situation and attitude. But it described my newfound love for running exactly.

Like I said, great work Sam. I look forward to more from Mike Brody and more mystery from this new author. Four and a half stars out of five.

YOU’LL LIKE THIS IF: You enjoy suspenseful mysteries, John Sandford novels, long-running characters or are in the mood for something little different.

Melissa already reviewed this book, so this is the first two-timer on What a Book!

Link to Sam Hilliard page. This is also the first book from Buddhapuss. Find out more about them.

Link to Sam Hilliard’s Twitter page.

And a link to a book trailer video of this book.

March 1, 2010

‘Exile’ by Richard North Patterson

Filed under: Fiction,Lawyer/trial,Mystery,Richard North Patterson — jacksheard @ 4:04 pm

This book is hard to review. Here’s the book in a nutshell: American Jew defends Palestinian Muslim Arab charged with planning the suicide bombing assassination of the Israeli prime minister. Whew!

As far as lawyer/trial novels go, “Exile” is pretty good. When David Wolfe — the Jewish lawyer — is planning his case, dealing with the U.S. attorney and actually at trial, the book has a good pace. It has action. It is enjoyable.

When the author drops out of fiction mode and into history mode, at first you feel yourself get smarter. But soon I felt myself getting confused. A lot. I know very little about Israel’s history. I am the first to admit that. This book beats the reader to death with the repeated tails of, well, death. Death to Jews. Death to Arabs. Fighting between Muslims and Jews. Turf battles. All of biblical proportions.  

For this reader in particular, this made the book a struggle. I don’t mind a little history and knowledge dropped while I’m reading, but I want to catch a little story with it. For much of the book, I got bored. So many fictional characters and situations mixed in with real people and history, I was confused.

But, at the same time, the author dropped in some pointed political issues that aren’t limited to Israel. The idea within a country or religion or political group there are subgroups that really don’t like each other and sometimes problems — serious, troubling problems — arrise isn’t just a Jew-Muslim thing. Think moderate Republicans and right-wing Republicans. Or, more simply, the U.S. may seem so united at the Olympic games, but back home we’re as divided as ever in my lifetime. The book looks at the many different factions within each side of the Muslim and Jewish worlds and how they interact, or kill each other.

Now, this may be very interesting to you. If so, by all means, read this book. But if you’re simply looking for another lawyer-goes-to-trial novel, this may seem a bit too heavy for you.

I should also add it has an interesting love triangle mirroring the political thunderstorm. It has twists and turns and … well, it’s interesting.

I’ll give it two and a half stars out of five, but again, that’s just me. In the end, I liked the book. But it was a tad too drawn out.

YOU WILL LIKE THIS BOOK IF: You dig history-infused fiction about lawyers, Jewish-Palestine-Israel-Muslim-Arab history or … nope, that’s about it.

Link to Richard North Patterson site.

February 12, 2010

When you find yourself in a long, long, long, book … do you quit?

Filed under: Uncategorized — jacksheard @ 3:57 pm

I can’t quit on books. I’ve invested this much time already. I can’t give up. But I’m only half done and falling asleep after as little as ONE PAGE! I’ve read five pages in three days.

I’m in the middle — literally, the middle — of Richard North Patterson’s “The Exile”. I’m struggling. I didn’t sign up for a history lesson on Israel, Palestine, Jews, Arabs, etc. The book has such an interesting plot, but the extra history lessons repeated over and over are causing me to lose interest. He needs to get back to the point.

And the point of this blog is to ask a question: Do you give up on books? And if so, how far will you go before you do so?

January 22, 2010

Myron Bolitar series by Harlan Coben

Filed under: Harlan Coben,Mystery,Sports — jacksheard @ 9:08 am
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Trying to pick one of this series would be mighty difficult. So I’ll just do the whole thing.

Harlan Coben’s series stars Myron Bolitar, a sports agent who solves mysteries for his clients.

He’s a jock. He’s a ladies man. He’s a smart ass.

He’s cool.

He’s a lot of things I fancy myself as, so I love reading about him.

The books all have a sports theme of some sort. Here’s a quick rundown:

“Deal Breaker” (football)

“Drop Shot” (tennis, U.S. Open)

“Fade Away” (basketball, with the Celtics)

“Back Spin” (golf)

“One False Move” (basketball)

“The Final Detail” (baseball, with the Yankees)

“Darkest Fear” (no particular sport, more mystery)

“Promise Me” (again, less sports, more mystery)

“Long Lost” (international thriller!)

Through the course of these novels, Myron and his friends (one a former female wrestler and another an ass-kicking martial arts snob) go from sports mysteries with clients and problems with mobsters to parenthood, dealing with aging parents, struggling through relationships and — most of all — crazy situations.

One early annoyance is fake professional team names, but that gets rectified in the third book when he starts using real teams.

Coben has an amazing ability to mix suspense and thrilling mystery with a slice of humor that keeps Myron seeming real, despite his resume: Duke basketball star, Harvard law school, stint with the Celtics, sports agent and international superdetective.

And his favorite drink: Yoo-Hoo.

YOU’LL LIKE THIS SERIES IF: You’re a sports fan and like reading mysteries. Also, if you’re tired of mystery novels with the same tired cast of characters and detectives.

Series gets five stars out of five.

Link to Harlan Coben site

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